I See the Lights

I see the lights and wonder why?  It’s 9:30 p.m. on a weekday night and I’m unexpectedly driving through Atlanta.  I started noticing the office lights as we sped through the intersection at I-75 and I-285:  office towers with over half their lights on.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta Skyline (Photo credit: k1ng)

The Hungry Busy Worker

Who are these people who are so important that have to be at work long after sensible people are at home or more importantly in my mind; aren’t they hungry?  Did they start their day at 7 or 8 a.m. with a quick dash through McDonald’s for coffee and an Egg McMuffin.  Perhaps around 1 p.m. they ran down to the coffee shop in their building and grabbed a sandwich and Coke for lunch.  Then what?  It’s now 9:30 p.m. and they’re still toiling away.  Did they stop for dinner?  The coffee shop is long closed. Was nourishment a Snickers bar?  Did they take time to drive to a restaurant and actually sit down and enjoy a meal or were they now working with hunger pangs gnawing away their actual ability to do work efficiently?  I ponder and wonder but continue driving.

Some People Do Work at Night

Logically some of the lit offices are because cleaning services are in emptying trash cans, dusting picture frames and vacuuming carpets but certainly that doesn’t explain all those lights.  I’m going with a food theme here:  where do those cleaning people who work into the night eat?  Even if they have a break there’s probably not time to get in the car and drive somewhere for a meal.  What about those that rode to work on MARTA?  Do they ride with a friend to the Varsity?

All this thinking begs another question. Do people still bring lunch boxes to work (besides too skinny women with their cute insulated packs containing carrot sticks, an apple, ½ a multi-grain cheese and sprout sandwich, and a cup of low-fat yogurt which they are just too full to finish.) Oops forgot the overpriced bottle of spring-fed water but I digress.

Another thought does cross my mind; did that many people fail to simply turn off the lights when they left work?  Horrors!  I don’t want to think there are that many lazy inconsiderate people in Atlanta so I’m sticking with the working too late into the night idea.

As For Me

Enough, all this thinking and pondering makes me want to pull into a Dunkin Donuts for a late night treat but instead its home I go.  My bedtime is approaching.  Those overeager digital pushers can type on hungry and tired but as for me soon I’ll be warm, cozy and in my bed sipping an adult beverage.

The holidays are in full swing.  Cooking baking starts Thursday.  There will be recipes and photos.  If you’d like to be the first to see the recipes post your email on the “Follow Me” button to the right.

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The Nutritional Value of Ice

You would think everyone would know the nutritional value of ice after all it’s just frozen water and water has ZERO nutritional value.  Apparently that thought was lost on some government bureaucrat in North Carolina.  I offer as evidence a photo of the bag of ice I bought just before Thanksgiving.

Zero – Zero – Zero – Zero – Zero and Zero

What the ? !  Nutrition Facts for Ice? !  This is too much!  Has our nation’s education level sunk so low that consumers need to be told that ICE has ZERO calories?  ZERO – no fat either, or sodium. Potassium and carbohydrates are ZERO too, and let’s not forget protein, a solid ZERO as well.  Did some overzealous nutrition nut call the state and complain they weren’t getting enough information about the ice they bought.  Water that is “purified water from the mountains of western North Carolina” according to the bag.  I won’t go on a tangent discussion of what might have been purified out of the water – let’s just leave it as “purified.”

It was great ice – as ice goes – but truthfully I wasn’t expecting a lot.  Cold and tasteless is my favorite type of ice. I didn’t expect to have stronger muscles from protein or higher blood pressure from too much salt.  I was just buying ice for the holiday.

If you actually took time to read the Nutrition Facts above your sharp eyes and keen intellect might have wondered how there was 56 servings in one bag of ice.  It was a 20 pound bag!  I had never seen a 20 pound bag of ice before but when I need ice I’ll look for it again.  The bag had EZ grip handles at the top for carrying the bag home and as an added bonus the bag is 100% recyclable; just what you would expect from a company that distributes purified water with no calories from fat.

What’s Next for Nutrition Labeling

What lame-brained government official decided that ice needed a nutrition label and wrote that law into their regulations?  What’s next?  Nutrition labels on kitchen faucets?  However will we know if the water we drink can make us fat (Hint, it’s not the water it’s what we put in the water that’s making us fat.)  A shot of bourbon does tend to add to the enjoyment of ice but even after several shots of bourbon I can still tell you it’s the alcohol not the ice that’s causing me problems.

Grow up legislators! Ice is not the enemy of America.  Assume we consumers have a bit of common sense.  I don’t mind being reminded by an ice cream container that there’s lots of fat and sugar.  I will have fewer and smaller scoops if I take the time to read  the label; but ice, get real.  Requiring  the nutrition facts about ice to be printed on a bag; that’s government intervention gone too far.  It’s time to revolt and take back our frozen water and our sanity.

I’ll stop ranting by the next blog – if you’re not already being notified when new blogs are posted fill out the Follow This Blog box in the right column.  In the meantime, do you have a pet peeve about labeling – or water?

 


Food experimentation – Juniper Berry

It’s time to experiment – time to shake the jarred spaghetti sauce off the taste buds.  Time for Juniper.  That sounds so positive yet I haven’t yet tried to the Juniper Berries I bought this weekend.  While at the farmers market my husband asked me to buy some ordinary spices.  Once confronted with a barrage of spices at the spice wall I panicked.  I had no idea what most of the spices were or how I would ever use them.  Still my life needs more than salt, pepper and garlic so I closed my eyes, spun around three times and grabbed Juniper Berries.  Now it’s time to learn about them.

My total knowledge is that they’re the flavor in gin.  That’s a bit disturbing because I don’t really like gin.  Oh well – onward.

First a caveat.  As I was researching Juniper Berries a couple of sites do say that they should not be eaten by young children, the elderly, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding or people with kidney problems.   ‘nuff said – proceed with caution.

A Bit of Juniper Folklore

Juniper berries

Photo credit: St. Murse

On the upside side, during the Middle Ages, Juniper, even just the scent, was thought to ward off the plague and not just plague but witches and other evil spirits as well.  I’m not sure when I’ll need to ward off the plague but I now have a supply of the berries around just in case.  I may know a few witches, but that’s a discussion for another blog.

Herbal remedies were the medicine of the Middle Ages and Juniper was right in the mix – fighting urinary tract problems, gallstones and there was even a remedy for gout.   Those folk were just as meddlesome in the 1500s as we are today; never able to leave well enough alone.  Since the Juniper was already being used for urinary problems a Dutch pharmacist had the idea of creating a diuretic drink.  He called it gin.  At this point my brain has a mental image of a gypsy wagon and self-professed medicine man traveling the countryside with his latest cure for snake bites…no no wait – for whatever ails you.  Gin as medicine, as bad as gin tastes I should have realized the connection sooner than I did.

As a spice Juniper is the only one derived from conifers; it’s a female seed cone.  Now my mental image switches to the Grape Nuts ads from the 70s with Naturalist Euell Gibbons munching on a pine tree.

Common Juniper Berry Uses in Cooking

I did find the reason I don’t typically cook with Juniper Berries.  Besides gin, Juniper is mainly used in northern European cooking especially in strongly flavored meat dishes such as wild birds and game meats.  To go along with those game meats you’ll also find Juniper flavoring cabbage and sauerkraut.

Since I have the berries and with no plague epidemic in sight I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe I can make.  Using the same method as I did when I found the berries on the spice rack I closed my eyes and picked a random recipe.

English: Rabbit shape Français : Silhouette d'...

Barbecued Rabbit

Serves 4

1 Young Rabbit, jointed – If the neighbors should see me crawling through the garden wearing a pith helmet and carrying a shotgun I mean them no harm it’s just so I can test this recipe.

4 oz. Mushrooms, chopped

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1 tsp. each:  Chopped Parsley and Chopped Chives

4 Juniper Berries, crushed (do this at the last-minute because they quickly lose their aroma)

2 tbsp. Oil

1 tbsp. Gin

Salt and Black Pepper

1. Make deep incisions in each piece with the tip of a sharp knife

2. Place chopped mushrooms atop the rabbit pieces

3. In a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients until well blended.  Pour over the rabbit. Coat thoroughly then marinate for 2 hours, turning the pieces from time to time.

4. Bake until cooked through, turning from time to time; basting with the remaining marinade. Serve hot.  The recipe was cooking over coals – I’m guessing about a 350 degree oven will work – check after 15-20 minutes.

A Final Thought

Blacklight Gin and Tonic

Photo credit: _fluffy

I may have to rethink my distaste for gin since I discovered some people consider it a remedy for arthritis.  I see more Juniper Berry experimentation in my future.

What’s been your most successful food experiment?  Let us all know in the comments section below.


Why I love Champagne

Champagne

Photo credit: mschot

Actually I don’t particularly like champagne.  It’s the aura champagne evokes that I love.  I know the preferred drink of American’s is beer and wine.  But there was a time when champagne was queen.   It was a time of gangsters, molls, satin dresses that hung to shapeless female forms, jewels and furs.  It was the 30s.  Even though some members of my family will swear that I was roaming the earth with the dinosaurs I’m actually not quite that old. I wasn’t around for the heyday of champagne and speakeasies, not even as a baby, but I, like almost everyone else alive today, “know” about those times from the movies.  When it comes down to it – it’s all about persona, about appearance.

The Non-Movie Addict

If it wasn’t for TCM (Turner Class Movies) I could have basic television – or no television at all because I do have a library card and I know how to use it.  You’re shaking your head and about to say Netflix or other computer generated way to download movies.  The problem is I’m not a film fanatic – I don’t know the classic movies or even the B and C grade movies.  You won’t find me at the midnight showing of some important film noir.  All the black and white films I now enjoy are because I stumbled across them on TCM.  Since they’re black and white that means early film years which means they were serving champagne by the gallons to lithe young women and tuxedo clad men.

A Short Guide to Move Alcohol Use 

Cocktail by candle light 1: "With some of...

In case the clothes weren’t enough of a clue here’s a hint – gangsters drank beer, cowboys had shots or an occasional swig and beautiful people sipped champagne.  They swirled champagne served in delicate glasses from breakfast through dinner and late into the night.  And of course they were svelte.  Svelte is something I am not, nor can I even aspire to be because slender and lithe and those words are not part of my bodies vocabulary.  Svelte usually implies tall as in the svelte model was 6 foot tall and was considered overweight at 100 pounds.  Svelte is not just a hair taller than 5 feet.

Cropped screenshot of Myrna Loy from the trail...

It’s so seductive – glamorous settings, bedrooms bigger than my house, grand staircases everywhere, chauffeur driven cars, not to mention Myrna Loy and William Powell.   Naturally in the ultimate chick flick An Affair to Remember  (or the 1939 version Love Affair) the pink champagne in the ocean liners bar encourages Nickie and Terry’s romance.

Technically champagne has to come from France and even though we Americans had been producing wine for some time our wine heyday didn’t arrive until the mid-1970s so I’m assuming what the movie stars were drinking was real champagne.

Champagne and Me

Since I am not a connoisseur come News Year’s Eve I’ll be drinking sparkling wine and incorrectly calling it champagne. To be truthful there is one way I like champagne; the ever popular Mimosa.  Orange Juice and champagne, a healthful drink, or at least I want to think that.  I’d think more deeply about that thought but after two Mimosas I’m fast asleep, cradled in the arms of Gary Grant.

Mimosa

Photo credit: prettywar-stl

What kind of movie drinker are you?  Champagne, a shot of whiskey, beer or what about “shaken not stirred.”

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A Carbohydrate Sort of Day

It didn’t start out to be a bread and cobbler bake-off that that’s what happened.   Summertime is not my favorite time for turning on the oven so it was odd that I found myself in the kitchen both simmering a soup and baking up a trio of carbohydrate laden foods.  How did this happen?  I’m not sure because even with air conditioning it just feels wrong to heat up the house mid-summer days.

There we were with mushrooms and a few onions optimistically purchased for a meal that never got made.  Time was running short for the mushrooms; too late to add to a salad but still viable when chopped and hidden into something.

 Not a Carbohydrate –  but Still Part of the Day

My easiest solution: a mushroom/onion soup or  as it turned out an onion/mushroom soup.  There’s no written recipe it’s all about what’s on hand the day the soup is made. This time I was heavy on onions.

Onion Mushroom soup

Bowl of Onion Mushroom Soup

An Overview of the Soup

Sauté the onions and mushrooms – put in a stockpot with beef stock (or chicken if that’s all that is around) add a can of beer, salt, pepper and a few other spices (rosemary and garlic are good).  After it’s been bubbling for a while decide what else is needed.  This time I tossed in some finely grated carrots but I’ve added grated potatoes before.  One time there was no beer so I used red wine.  There were no complaints from soup lovers that day.  At some point add rice or quick cooking barley.  Finally for a gourmet touch swirl in some cream about 5 minutes before serving.

Experimental Carbohydrate Baking

As long as I was already in the kitchen and there were still ingredients around I decided to do a bit of baking experimentation.  Yes I was on shaking ground.  Baking is so much more precise than tossing random items into a soup pot but what the heck.

  1.  Beer Bread – the usual recipe but I substituted oatmeal for ½ cup of the flour.  The bread is a bit coarser this way but still tastes great and I feel like I’m getting some fiber in my diet.
  2. Banana Bread – I know most recipes call for chopped nuts but none were in the house so I macerated (don’t you love that word – it sounds so much better than soaked) some dried cherries and dates in rum.  Since I had 4 large bananas instead of 3 regular sized ones I had to adjust the other ingredients.  All in all the bread came out well; I could have added more fruit.  Tasty the first day it was even better then next day once the flavors had done whatever it is flavors do overnight.
  3. The only way I experimented with the Blueberry cobbler recipe was to add extra blueberries.  I do think blueberries are my favorite fruit so the more the merrier.

Carbohydrate Cooking Resized

My big baking surprise was the banana bread – because of the extra ingredients I didn’t think it would ever get done.  It was 2nd in the oven but came out after the cobbler had cooled enough for a sane person to eat (that’s quite a long time – the cobbler is really really hot just out of the oven.)

As a “use up what’s on hand” carbohydrate cooking day it turned out well.

Food is fascinating – its history, methods of cooking, even family stories about food.  I like food and everything about it.  If you enjoy food too and would like emails when I post more blogs – click on the button on the right.


Way too much finger food!

Assorted forks. From left to right: dessert fo...

Last week I watched one granddaughter eat her breakfast.  It’s obvious she has eaten way too much finger food–she doesn’t know how to properly use a fork.  Of course proper use of a fork depends on which side of the Atlantic you’re on.  Since I’m on the western side I expect the fork to be held in the right hand, if needed the fork can be moved to the left hand to hold food steady while it’s being cut with a knife which is now in the right hand.

I thought granddaughter #2 was ok eating cereal but then I discovered even though she can use a spoon when milk is involved she prefers her cereal handpicked directly out of the box.   Thank heavens she doesn’t try to put her peas on her knife and shove them down her throat. All is not right in the acceptable manners world.

English: Picture of Waffle ice cream cones fro...

First my idea of finger foods:  grapes, ice cream cones, hamburgers, French fries, cookies, apples, and begrudgingly chicken fingers.

What I do not consider finger foods for anyone over the age of 4 are spaghetti, cereal, cooked vegetables, Ramen noodles, sausage patties, slices of cake, pork chops, cole slaw, and most especially waffles with syrup.

Finger pulling on waffle

While I was contemplating her finger eating habits I actually saw her use a fork.  Horrors!  Thumbs that can text 10,000 words a minute should be able to wrap themselves around a fork in a proper manner.  When held correctly a fork, in my opinion and I feel most of the civilized culinary world, should not be mistaken for a stabbing instrument.  A fork should never be held like a weapon unless supper rises from the plate and starts to attack the diner.

Hand holding fork

Did proper cutlery technique go the same way as tying a shoelace?  Based on the amount of loose shoe laces I have seen recently it would seem parents today are too busy to waste their valuable time teaching a skill.  It’s easier to just tie the laces each morning and hope that once they become untied the child will not trip before arriving home.   Much knowledge can be gained from computers but some basic skills just have to be passed on from one generation to the next.  Time spent learning to tie a basic knot or hold a fork correctly is not time lost.

Evidently toaster warmed pastries have taken the place of bacon and eggs or other meals that require the use of a knife, spoon and yes a fork.  I have observed from the plethora of popcorn, frozen pizzas and burritos ahead of me in the checkout lane of the grocery store that the new “normal standard of eating” is microwave food which is meant to be eaten as finger food

Officially I’m now “Old.” The lament of the crotchety generation is now mine “What’s happening to our children?  They don’t act the way I did as a child.”

Waffle With Syrup

Citizens of the culinary cutlery world unite.  Text a child instructions for using a fork!

Thumb nxt 2 frk. Nxt fger tp v frk.  Othr fngrs ndr frk. Gnte jab sml bts v fd.  Eat. Tlk w parnts.  Njy.

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Fun Summer Food for Kids

It’s July and hot and if your children are typical they’re starting to get bored.  Here are a few recipes that are a mother’s delight.  If you have a child that camps with a youth group or attends summer camp you probably know most of these recipes but I’ll bet you haven’t thought about making them at home.  They may be considered camp food but for a midsummer treat any child will enjoy these snacks at home too.

Starting with the Gross Names but Great Tasting Recipes.

Fudge

 Armpit Fudge

½ Cup powdered Sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

2 Teaspoons cream cheese

Dash of vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in a baggie being sure it is tightly sealed leaving as little air as possible inside the baggie.  Place baggie in armpit to soften the ingredients.  Squish until well mixed.

Raisins

Strange isn’t it – most of the Gross Named but Great Foods have raisins in the recipe.

Ticks on a commode seat

1 canned pear half, cut side up.

A Tablespoon (or so) of peanut butter spread around the top of the pear. Then sprinkle the raisins on the peanut butter.

Ants on a log

Celery with peanut butter spread down the center. Sprinkle the raisins on the peanut butter

 The Sweet Treats

English: Picture of Waffle ice cream cones fro...

Mushed Non Ice Cream Sundae

Instant pudding mix –  place in large baggie – add milk per directions.  Squeeze and mush baggie until done.

Spoon pudding into ice cream cones.  Top with whipped cream or your favorite sundae topping like nuts, cherries or even, yes, even raisins.

Banana Boats

Split one banana lengthwise.  Leave skin on.  Fill with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips; oh heck throw in a few raisins too.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  Traditionally these are placed on the embers of a fire but you can just as easily bake in the oven until the marshmallows and chips are melted.

Speaking of Fire – there’s always an Edible Fire the little ones can make

You’ll need pretzel sticks laid out in a triangle shape. In the center place shredded coconut as the tinder to start the fire. For a flame use either candy corn or red hots. After you have enough “flame” toss on some Tootsie Rolls as the bigger logs.  Enjoy your hot yet cool dessert.

Everyone wants Ice Cream – here’s one recipe made 2 ways.

A teaspoon. The length is about 14 cm.

 Ice Cream in a Bag

1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
2 quart size baggies
1 gallon size freezer baggie
FYI:  Since you’re mixing the ice cream by hand the mixture does get cold so consider wearing gloves.

Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in one of the quart size bags. Seal tightly, allowing as little air to remain in the bag as possible. Place this bag inside the other quart size bag, again leaving as little air inside as possible and sealing well. By double-bagging, the risk of salt and ice leaking into the ice cream is minimized. Put the two bags inside the gallon size bag and fill the bag with ice, then sprinkle salt on top. By now you know to let all the air escape and seal the bag. Shake and massage the bag for about 5 – 8 minutes, making sure the ice surrounds the cream mixture.

When the ice cream is done pull the smaller baggie out and rinse off the salt before opening.

If you have several children around consider Coffee Can Ice Cream

The downside of this method is finding the correct size cans. The ingredients are the same, but should be be doubled or tripled because the coffee can holds more liquid than the baggies. Put the mixture in a standard size coffee can and seal with the plastic lid, then place that can inside a larger “economy size” can. Pack the large can with ice and salt, and seal with the lid. If your larger can does not have a lid you’ll have to improvise with a cover that fits tightly and will stay on while being pummeled about the yard.  Your children can roll the can back and forth on the ground until the ice cream is set. The time required to set the mixture will vary depending on the number of servings in the can.

Sparks from campfire

No children around, no campfire,  no problem, become a child again with these fun summer foods.  Do you have a silly summer recipe – share it in the Reply section below

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