Friday, October 28, 2011

Leftover Love - Reinventing Chicken Legs

I had four chicken legs leftover from the other nights dinner.  I had lots of roasted tomatoes left, too.

What else is in here?  I've got some carrots in the veggie drawer that have been there a while.  They're only just starting to get a little wiggly.  I've got some fresh asparagus that probably needs to get used for something before long, otherwise it won't be quite so fresh anymore.  I've got half a bag of pasta floating around.  Some frozen lima beans.  The nearly ever present bell peppers that I throw in almost everything for flavor and vegetable content, and good lord have I got cheese.  That's something that I've decided is more necessary in this house than just about anything else, cheese is.  It goes on and in everything.  Pup eats his weight in cheese, and B isn't far behind him.

I used shredded cheese, sour cream, parmesan  cheese, and some heavy whipping cream.  I pulled the meat off the chicken legs, then I boiled all the vegetables in a pot of salted water.  The carrots and bell peppers went in first, simmering until the carrots were crisp tender, then the lima beans and asparagus went in.  I only boiled them for about a minute so as not to cook the asparagus to mush.  I strained them out, but kept the water.  I cooked the noodles in the same water, to imbue some of the veggies' flavor to the noodles.  While that was going on, I cooked a couple slices of bacon to crumble up into bacon bits.  With a bit of bacon grease, I sauteed some minced garlic, added the veggies and chicken.  Once that was all warmed, I tossed in the cheeses and creams.  I reheated the roasted tomatoes in the oven, and just served them along side the pasta dish.

Sober Me Up Soup

Pup likes to name my creations.  This one was completed shortly after he'd worked his way through a six pack of PBR.  He ate two bowls and among exclamations of "this is so awesome, Mom!" he also avowed amazement that he had lost his buzz.

This is the recipe that I started with.

Mashed Potato Soup


  •  4 baking potatoes (about 2 lb.)
  •  4 slices bacon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 ounces shredded Monterey Jack
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives or scallions

·         1. Prick potatoes all over with a fork; microwave on high until cooked through, turning once, 12 to 15 minutes total. Let cool slightly and scoop out flesh, discarding skins. Mash with a fork. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp, turning once, about 10 minutes total. Let cool, then crumble.
·         2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth and light golden, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cook, whisking, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Stir in cheese, potatoes and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cheese melts and soup is heated through. Whisk in sour cream. Check seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Divide among 6 soup bowls and sprinkle each with bacon and chives.

This is not the recipe I ended up using.  

First of all, why would I nuke my potatoes in the microwave?  Ick.  Just ick.  I don't like anything out of the microwave most of the time.  My friend Rey over at I Am A G.R.I.T.S can cook in a microwave, but I apparently never figured it out.  Rey is a lot better at most things technological than I am.  We've lost count over the years of the times I've handed her some gizmo or other (including laptops, cell phones, and simple handheld games) and begged for help of some type.  At one point I gave her a laptop and and cried in exasperation "If you can make it work, you can keep the damned thing!"  She made it work.  It died an accident related death eventually, but she revived it for a second hoorah. 

Anyway... I got sidetracked.  Where was I?  Oh yeah!  Microwaves and soup. 

So, I do have a microwave, although I think I've used it maybe three times.  The only reason I actually have a microwave is because Beth moved out of the apartments about the same time we were moving in.  I've used it to heat up damp towels for aching muscles, melt butter, and pop popcorn once (which I burned... dammit).   I was not about to trust something as important as dinner to a microwave oven.  Besides, I have to pay for the extra electricity, and the gas is free.  

And step two, butter?  Why would I need butter?  If I am cooking bacon, there ought to be at least two tablespoons of drippings.  That would taste so much better, and I wouldn't be using up extra ingredients.  I actually had more than two tablespoons of drippings left after I cooked the bacon, so I saved the excess in my grease tin.  

So, I cooked the the bacon in the bottom of the pot I planned to cook in.   Cooked it to absolute death, I might add.  Bacon needs to be super crunchy for good bacon bits.  While the bacon was cooking, I peeled and diced my potatoes.  I didn't go buy four baking potatoes for this.  I just kind of eyeballed my regular spuds, and peeled as many as I thought would work.  I followed the recommended amounts for milk and flour to thicken the soup.  I have a bad tendency to add too much flour at first, then trying to thin the stuff out is a nightmare.  I figured I'd be a little more intelligent this time, and simmer it down to the desired thickness. I added just enough water to cover the potatoes, seasoned it up, and let it simmer until the potatoes started to crumble up into the soup.  I whisked it regularly to keep the gravy from sticking.  

Once the potatoes started to disintegrate, I turned the heat down to a low simmer to let it thicken up.  

I crumbled the bacon and added it at the last minute, along with some dried chives, served with a sprinkle of shredded cheese (whatever happened to be in the fridge), and  a dollop of sour cream.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicken Legs and Herb Roasted Tomatoes with Rice

This is another one of my menu selections for the month.  I've been silent on this for the past few days, because I'm not the only person who influences our diet.  Sometimes the Pup will order pizza, or Fin will invite us for a meal.  One night B actually had a specific request for Red Beans and Rice that I'd frozen a few weeks ago.

But, I'm back to using my little recipe do-jigger, and this is what I decided on last night.  It was simple to prep, and really cheap to make.  The chicken was only $1.10/lb, and I think the tomatoes were around $1.49/lb.  Rice is only a few cents per serving, and I always keep a cupboard full of herbs and spices.

I didn't follow either of these recipes exactly. Number one, fresh herbs don't keep.  If I toss half of what I buy because they wilt on me, what good is it doing me?  Yellow tomatoes are more expensive, and not very common where I normally shop.  I didn't feel like tracking them down due to time, frustration, and gas costs.  Besides, they don't taste all that different either.  And, instead of cooking the chicken under the broiler, I baked them at the same temperature as the tomatoes, turning them once halfway through when I put the tomatoes in to bake.  Everything finished at the same time, because I started the rice when I put the tomatoes in the oven.  I would suggest cooking the tomatoes a little longer, if you want them to be soft and smooshy all the way through.

Roasted Tomatoes w/Garlic & Herbs


  •  3 red tomatoes, halved
  •  3 yellow tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano      
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

·         1. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and place, cut side down, on a paper towel–lined plate. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
·         2. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Mist a baking dish with cooking spray, then arrange tomato halves, cut side up, in a single layer in dish.
·         3. In a small bowl, combine herbs, shallot and garlic. Add pepper, to taste. Spread herb mixture evenly over tomatoes. Drizzle with oil.
4. Bake in oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, top with fresh basil and serve.

Broiled Drumsticks


·         8 chicken drumsticks
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         1 clove garlic, chopped
·         2 tablespoons lemon juice
·         Salt and pepper
·         Position oven rack about 8 inches from heat source. Preheat broiler; line a broiling pan with foil. Pat drumsticks dry and trim off fat. Arrange in a single layer on prepared pan.
·         Melt butter with garlic and lemon juice over medium-low heat. Season drumsticks with salt and pepper. Brush each lightly with lemon butter.
Broil, turning often and brushing with lemon butter, until chicken is browned and crisp and has no traces of pink juices when pierced, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve drumsticks with dipping sauces.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Coffee Can Cannisters

I haven't been able to focus on much the past few days, because my head's been so fogged up with this fall cold.  But that doesn't mean I've been completely lazy.

I save things.  Random things, useless things, odd things... I'm a packrat, but I am not in need of reform.

Ok... maybe I am in need of a little reform.  I do save some ridiculous stuff for a ridiculously long time, but I just never really know if it won't come in handy one day!  Like trash  I save trash.

Let me just put in a small advertisement that I sincerely wish they were paying me for.  Cafe Bustelo is awesomesauce.  It's only a few dollars more than regular coffee (i.e. Folgers, Maxwell House) for the 36 oz cans, but it's espresso ground, dark roast coffee with a really rich smooth taste.  It's way cheaper than gourmet coffees, too.  Gourmet flavor, much lower price.  I'm in love.

These can's are sadly empty, but that makes them more useful.

A can of spray paint, some fabric, some string, and I think I can make these coffee cans pretty.  I have lots of them.  Did I mention I'm a packrat?

Today, I only did the big cans.  I want to do the little cans in a different color.  I also have this handy thingy-ma-jig called a Crop-a-dile.

It punches holes, does grommets, snaps, and other stuff I haven't quite figured out, yet.  I bought it a long time ago because I had tons of grommets and snaps left over in my Gramma's goody boxes, but nothing to put them on with.  I haven't used it in ages, but it turned up in a box the other day, and I got an idea. 

Yes, this is the same burgundy fabric as above, but the light in my kitchen washed it out something fierce in the picture. 

I've put grommets all around the edges, and cut an X into the center of a circle of fabric.  The circle is roughly twice the diameter of the cans.  I used my pressure cooker lid to trace the circles out.  The lines of the X need to be slightly smaller than the diameter of the cans.  

I slid the cans through the X bottom first, and slid the fabric up nearly the the rim of the can.   Then I folded the fabric over, threaded some braided hemp twine through, cinched it up, and tied a bow.  

They don't look quite as I anticipated.  Originally, I was going to have the cans sitting in sacks, cinched up around under the lids, but the circles I cut out weren't big enough to come up as high as I liked.  They're dressed up some at least, and it's really easy to change if I decide I don't like it as well as I thought I did.  I'll label the tops once I figure out what I'm going to put in them.  

I think I'm going to use the smaller cans for mine and B's hot teas.  These big ones *might* be big enough for flour, iced tea bags, and rice.  

Chicken Soup, Hot Tea, and LOTS of Tissues

Yeah... it's that time of year.  The weather takes a sudden nose dive, temperature wise, and every last soul in the house is sick.  Fevers, aches, snotty noses, the works.  We're shuffling around looking like extras from Night of the Living Dead.  Hot tea, lemons, honey, and whiskey.  It worked for my Gramma, and it'll do for me.  But, it doesn't do much for my concentration, unfortunately.  I was making excellent time on the most recent job M sent my way, then BAM!  The cosmic Emeril threw some cootie bugs into the soup pot of my life to season it up.  Ugh.  We're all so fuzzy and muzzy that we barely can string sentences together.  Of course it doesn't help that we sound like we've got lemons stuffed up our noses.

On the bright side, B's new unit seems to be buckled down more tightly than the last one.  It's seemingly more organized and disciplined.  That makes me happy.  Granted, the new hours suck, lol.  One night he had to report at 0200, the next morning was 0400, and I have no idea what's going to happen next week.  He'll be going to some training courses around spring.  I guess that means we'll still be here at Hood, but if the unit is better, maybe B will be happier here than he has been.  Me, I can be happy anywhere.  I'm like one of the air plants they used to sell in the 80's.  I've got no roots to tear up, and I don't have to take time to put down new ones.  I just hope they don't keep us here for years on end.  I get so restless.  But, anyway, there's no sense borrowing tomorrow's troubles today.  I try to tell myself that a lot, but I don't listen too well.

I've been trying to stay away from people who aren't already down with this bug.  Fin came over yesterday evening with her midget.  Midget kept wanting me to hold her, but I didn't want to get my face any closer to hers than necessary.  The night before this mess decided to tackle me, Fin made some really yummy crock pot chicken stew and invited us over for dinner.  I pitched in some rice, and she filled my tupperware with stew and sent it back with me.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.  In retrospect it was a friggin AWESOME idea, because everyone knows chicken soup is good for colds, and I don't have to cook it.  Because, I don't even feel like cooking.  That's just plain sorriness, right there.

We had our first community clean up day the day before the cold got a hold of me, too.  It was kinda fun, though extremely disorganized, poorly executed, and poorly communicated.  Really, would it have killed them to give folks a little more information?  Or to be punctual about the community "formation"?  But, it was fun once everyone that was going to participate got out and got moving.  Housing didn't provide nearly the equipment that was necessary for the type of landscaping they wanted done, but we did what we could with what we had and called it good.  Supposedly a Sgt Major was inspecting later, but as far as I know (s)he never showed.

I think they ought to do the neighborhood cleanup more than twice a year.  Right now it's fall and spring.  Once a month, or once a week would be better.  It would maintain a higher level of neatness at all times. It would provide a more regular and frequent medium of introduction and interaction in the community.  We're so mobile, twice a year really doesn't instill any sense of community other than the meeting and greeting we do on our own.  And, it would be less of a chore, I think.  Less of an out of the norm ordeal.  I felt sprung on, really.  I had no notice, no chance to alter my normal routine to accommodate for it, and was more disgruntled by that than by the work itself.  Something more regularly scheduled would also become a part of a regular routine, and less ... I dunno what word I'm looking for, but I think you know what I'm getting at.

Anyway, really exciting news, I know.  Not much really exciting happens in my hermitage, but there you have it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Belay that tedium, stern about and hoist sail for the open sea...

Sitting here at my desk, trying to work, wind pouring through the open window, and my attention wandering at every opportunity, I'm obviously not accomplishing as much as I ought.  I haven't even accomplished putting on real clothes.  I've been in my flannel PJ pants, squishy slippers, and a flannel shirt all day.  I should top it off with a lumpy knit beanie to cover up this psycho bed-head I've still got going on, because I'm not about to wet my hair and sit in this wind.  Yeah, yeah, I could close the windows, but I don't wanna!  It's a fabulous 66 degrees in my house right now (factor in wind chill and it's probably 63 or 64), and I don't really want to mess with that.  Besides, if I turned on the heat, I'd only set it for 65 or so anyway.

The wind is really something today.  Gusts up to 50 mph according to the weather warning I got today, holding steady between 26-36 mph.  If I close my eyes, the passing cars sound almost like rushing water.  The clanking gates (because it is absolutely pointless to try to keep closing them) slamming open and closed at will with a clank of metal and clunk of wood, the fabric of my curtains snapping with sharp cracks, or ruffling with soft woofs, the creaks and groans of trees, and the hooting whistling of wind through the drain pipes all make me think of ships underway.  Mainsails billowing out with bellies full of wind, the clanks, clunks, clinks, and groans of rope, wood, and pulleys.  I'd like to be in the tops,  wind and sky all around, like a bird with a foot stuck in a tether, soaring on the breeze but not quite able to cut loose and fly.

Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that during typing breaks, when I just can't sit here anymore, I sit outside and read:

It's a very good book, the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora.  This one is mostly pirates, though Locke and Jean are thieves of a different variety.  Quite accomplished thieves at that.  They have appeal in the same way that Robin Hood was appealing.  They have a code of conduct and moral right that they adhere to strongly, it's just a little bent from accepted norms in some aspects.

B's been gone since lunch.  He and Pup had to go meet with some Sgt Major about assignment to a unit, since they're currently without one.  Pup is scheduled for WLC at the end of the month, so they'll probably postpone his actual assignment until after he completes the program, but B should have some more solid information for himself by the time he gets home.  I sincerely hope that improves his mood.  He's been stumping around like Hagrid, alternately touchy and morose.  Ir's not done much for my mood either.  Pup and I have been tiptoeing around him or exchanging raised eyebrows in passing, but neither of us really know what to do to snap him out of it.  Maybe with some clear direction and a sense of what he's going to have to look forward to or at lest expect in the coming weeks will do something to put him back on course.  Right now, he's like a boat with sails up, but no one at the helm.

He was something close to excited, bordering on agitated, when he told me he had to go to this meeting this afternoon.  I really hope they give him something that makes him smile, though so far he's all Woot Woot! at the beginning of a new thing, or "I love that guy" when he get's a new person in his chain of command, but that quickly devolves into "bullshit" and "fuck him".  I told him to hope the best, and expect the worst, and hopefully he'd get a happy medium he could live with.

We'll see.  I guess I need to get back to work.  I've wasted a good hour.  Blah... maybe I'll just wander off for a hot back with my book so I can defrost my toes.

Mondays suck

I saw this today, and it sums it up pretty good, I think.

I'm just in some kind of funk or something.  I don't even know where to begin grousing about them in order to sort my thoughts enough to set what's irritating me to rights.

I'm restless.  I feel twitchy, itchy, fidgety.  I can't sleep, even though my eyes feel like sandpaper right now, and I know tomorrow is going to come way too early.  I can't focus on work, because I've got squirrel syndrome.  I keep looking out the window, alt-tabbing to surf the web for random stuff or forgetting what I alt-tabbed for and getting lost on Facebook.

It's not just restlessness.  I feel frustrated and a tad worried, too.  I probably just worry too much, but that's a family tradition.

One of the things that's been irking me:  a typical day for B.
0500 - get up, drink coffee that I preset for him before we went to bed, and chain smoke before PT
0530 - leave way too early to get to PT, which doesn't start until 0630.  Chain smoke and bullshit
0630 - PT
0700 - wake me up (usually with a cup of coffee in hand, because I'm not human till after two cups)
0800 - eat the breakfast I made for him, take the vitamins I set out for him, and usually play games on his phone, smoke, and/or bullshit with the pup before formation.
0830 - leave for formation
0900 - formation
0930 - or thereabouts he's usually home, parked on the couch playing video games.
1330 or 1430 - leave for closeout
1400 or 1500 - closeout
1530 - or thereabouts he's usually home, parked on the couch playing video games until I tell him dinner is ready.

Yes, there is bullshit involved in the military.  I know this.  I worked for them for 5 years, and for 5 years after that I worked in local government.  But, it's standard issue bullshit.  You ignore it, let it roll off, get over it, whatever.  Especially when all you do for most of your paid days is play video games.  Why would you let that standard issue bullshit bother you all to hell and back?  Ok, so you had to work CQ detail Sunday and Monday when everyone else got a four day weekend.  Guess what?  You are the most useless MOS in the Army, stateside.  Overseas, yes you would have stuff to do that is relevant to your MOS.  Over here?  Not so much.  Not unless they instate martial law on the populace and the infantry is called out to subdue the masses.  But if I had to make a rough estimate, B only actually has something to do one out of four days.  But he needs a vacation, he's pissed off, he's this, he's that.  Really??  You have a cake job right now.  STFU.

Another thing that's been under my skin is POG this, POG that, I'm the infantry.  Rah rah rah.  K.... you're the infantry, but you can't pass weight and tape.  He got his panties in a bunch because he got skipped over for WLC, even though all the other infantry guys in his unit are going.  He brought this to the attention of his 1st, and his first pushed his packet, got him through.  He just had to pass weight and tape.  He's supposed to be able to pass weight and tape at any given time.  He's supposed to be able to pass an APFT at any time.  Can he?  Heck no.  He comes home, sits on his ass and plays video games all day.  I have begged him to come get me on days he's got nothing to do, and we'll go to the gym, go to the track, go any damned place and do any damned thing.  He's always got an excuse.


He still talks about SF and Rangers like it's going to happen.  WTF?  HOW?!  You can't do it if you won't get off your ass.

When he finds out he has to meet standards, he wraps up in plastic wrap, trash bags, and two layers of clothes, and he, Pup, Fin, and I all go to the track so he can try to pull a miracle out of his ass by sweating off a few inches.  Now it's down to some kind of wire, he's motivated, but last minute -- literally 12 hours prior -- emergency maneuvers are not going to save you when you're a full 4% over, at least.

So when he failed weight and tape, his first said no waiver.  Because if B couldn't pass weight and tape to get in, the other possibility was to pass weight and tape at completion of WLC.  B's on a profile for a knee brace and own pace PT.  There wasn't much point in sending him in the first place if they have to do anything strenuous physically.

Speaking of that knee... what has everyone -- from me, to medical, and all his friends who are in good condition and have experience with sporting injuries -- been telling him?  Wear the brace, keep active, low-no impact cardio, and targeted exercises to strengthen the supporting tissues.  That does not mean bust out 30 laps on the track in one night in a desperate, half-baked attempt to lose what you should've been working to keep off these past few months you've been home, then doing jack and shit all the rest of the time and wonder why your knee hurts like hell and you can barely walk the next day.  It doesn't mean taking the brace off because you've had a good run of days, then going to play football.  Because you know what?  Football is high impact.  You know what else?  You haven't been conditioning the muscles and supportive tissues, so you're not strengthening the fubar-ed joint.  Now, you've probably reversed whatever good had been done, and you're back to gimping around on a joint that will barely support your weight.

But you still say rah rah rah I'm the infantry, I can take on those dirty POGs.  Really?  Because the most exercise I get is up and down the stairs doing laundry, but if we kept my pace from start to finish, I think I could outdistance him.

I don't know whether to laugh at him, slap him, or mollycoddle him.  I'm at a loss.  And I don't know if he's taken into consideration the downsizing coming up.  He needs to do something to mark himself out, or he's going to be marked to go home.  And that's where my worry comes in.  Right now he's spending over our means, because he has a private account to draw out of that he ratholed while he was deployed.  I've been trying to work only out of the two joint accounts.  One is where his pay is deposited, and the other is where my pay (erratic though it is) is deposited.  Without both of those incomes, we'd be underwater.  As it is, I can barely keep our heads up.  Once his secret stash runs out, he's going to have to do some curtailing.  And that's if he doesn't get a medical discharge or get booted in the downsizing.

But instead of making himself exemplary, he's wallowing in self-pity because he's getting crap details.  He's an E3 with no specific purpose in the rear.  What else are they going to have him doing?  If he wanted a job to do every day that was relevant to his MOS, he should've chosen something a little more flexible.  I know, I'm not doing myself any favors by laying awake at night trying to come up with contingency plans for what to do and where to go when he can't pass the APFT and get's put on warning or something, or for when they decide an 11B with a gimped up knee isn't really very useful and medically discharge him.  I've talked to him about a sideways move to a different MOS, but he's got SF and Rangers on the brain.  Baby, you're over 30.  You're going to be competing with kids half your age almost.  You need to be hopeful, keep dreams alive, but you also have to be realistic.  Especially with that damned knee.

Ugh.  Grr..  *sigh*

And I don't even know whether or not to hit publish on this, because it feels like one great big whiny tantrum, but damnit I'm frustrated, tired, and completely at a loss as to how to light a fire under him.  He's bitch bitch bitch when it comes to the retarded crap he can't control, but when it comes to what is within his realm of authority he seems to be apathetic.  When I asked him what we were doing for exercise today, he said it'll depend on what we do for PT in the morning.  He knew already they didn't have PT today, because of some inspection or other.  It was a cop-out.  When I asked him what he planned to do about getting back to where he could pass the APFT, he said there's technically not one.  It's being revised, yes.  But I bet you dollars to doughnut the old SOP is in effect until the new SOP is agreed upon and authorized.  And the longer he puts off getting back into shape, the harder it will be.

He started his coffee cup thing again, but I have to chase after him about it.  He damn near refuses to drink water, even though we made an agreement:  water all day (after coffee), tea with dinner.  Today he admitted to a soda when I was giving him the hairy eyeball about the huge glass of tea he had poured after dinner.  I had only seen him with one cup (literally an 8 oz cup) of water all day.

I don't want to have to be a nag or a harridan.
I don't want to have to chase after him like a child.
I don't want him to lose another opportunity to advance simply because he won't step up.
I don't want to be another cause for him to be irritated and bitchy all the time.
I don't want to be irritated and bitchy because I'm doing all of the above.
I don't want to be up the proverbial creek with no paddle either, though so if it comes down to it, I'll take being a bitch over being rudderless in the storm.

I feel like I've been most of those things these past couple weeks.  Don't get me wrong, I love him to death and this isn't some kind of warning knell of discord in utopia or anything like that.  These past couple weeks have just been very stressful.  I don't even know if he realizes how much stress some of these things causes me.  I don't even know if I was this stressed while he was deployed, because I knew that everything on that side of the world was out of my hands.  I had to either let it go or have a heart attack.  I feel like I can't let this stuff go, because it can be controlled.  Weight can be lost.  I lost around 80 lbs.  Injuries can heal if you give them time and proper care.  Endurance can be increased.  Wind can be regained.  All the things that are bothering me right now are within his power to change, and are necessary changes if he wants to get to do any of the things he swears he's going to.  But will he make the changes?  Will he work for it?  Or has he just gotten complacent and decided to roll over.  Que cera cera,.  Bull shit.

I wonder if he'd make a halfway decent house husband if I left him a detailed inventory of what needed to be done in a day?  Gods what a thought...  But, I'm still hovering at around 3%, maybe 4%.  With pup's help, I could make weight and meet entry PT requirements.  I've got a master's degree in psych.  OTC, a commission.  I haven't given up on the concept.  I need to decide one way or the other soon, though.  I'm almost too old, if I'm not too old already.

Can I just go beat my head on a brick wall now?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unearthing this Life: Boiled Cider and Apple Dumplings

Unearthing this Life: Boiled Cider and Apple Dumplings: Even during our busy school schedule, I'm still putting up some goodies for winter treats and hassle-free dinners. In the past two weeks...

I must try this. It sounds so good, and apples are in right now! *drool*

French Onion Soup in Bread Bowls

This was on my menu further down in the month, but last night seemed like a good night for it.  I usually leave the weekends free of typing so I can do more time consuming cooking or be lazy, whichever seems more appropriate.

Sunday started off pretty lazy, then when I realized all this week would likely be devoted to typing, I decided I should go ahead and pull out one of the more time consuming recipes I had planned for later in the month.

French onion soup takes no time at all, honestly.

2 cups of onion sliced into slivers
4 cups of beef broth or beef bullion prepared
2 cubes chicken bullion
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
a pat of butter
a bit of pepper

Melt the butter in the bottom of a pot, drop in the onions and cook covered over medium heat (not hot enough to caramelize) until they're soft and golden.  Stir them now and again.

Dump everything else in the pot, and bring it to a simmer.  Let it simmer for about 15 or so, so all the flavors can mingle.

That's all there is to it.  It's cheap, easy, and super good.

The bread bowls were a little more time consuming.  It took me around 3 hours total for those.

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

Punch dough down, and divide into 8 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 4 inch round loaf. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water; lightly brush the loaves with half of this egg wash.

This was just after I pulled them out of the oven for their second egg wash.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg mixture, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.

Done!  They were so pretty.  All but one.  The ugly one had to get eaten right away  with butter.  B and I split it :-P

To make bowls: Cut a 1/2 inch thick slice from top of each loaf; scoop out centers, leaving 3/4-inch-thick shells. Fill bread bowls with hot soup and serve immediately.

Generally, if you order French Onion soup from a restaurant, it's served with crouton dropped in it and a slice of cheese over the top of the bowl.  This cheese is usually some variety of soft white cheese.  

I used Havarti, and popped the bowls back in the oven under the broiler to melt the cheese over the tops of the loaves.  

In case you're wondering, there are about 15 cups of flour in a 5 lb bag.  So you could get about 16 of these rolls per bag.  it comes out a bit cheaper to make them yourself.  Not a heck of a lot, but a bit.  If you buy fresh bakery rolls, it comes out a lot cheaper to make them yourself.  (and these are bigger!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maple Glazed Ham

This actually was the scheduled menu for last night, but it was going to be paired with cauliflower carrot casserole.  I couldn't find cauliflower at Sam's, though, so I had to sub the side for something I did have on hand:  grits.  I was NOT going back out among the masses again yesterday.  I lost a whole day to shopping, and if you live on or near a military installation, and you have ever accidentally had to go shopping on one of the pay dates, then you know exactly what I was dealing with.  I usually try to do my shopping mid-pay period to avoid that mess, but I had enough to last and kept procrastinating.  That's what I get, huh?

So anyway, I found this recipe on a budget friendly recipe website.  It's so easy, anyone can do it.  And I mean anyone.

That's a center cut ham steak, bone in.  I got a package of four for $5, but a single steak is four servings.  They're cured, so they're fine in the fridge (unopened) for a few months.  If I decide I won't use them before December, I'll chuck them in the freezer.

You need:

center cut ham steak
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsps dijon mustard.
1 Tbsp cider vinegar.

(note:  you wind up with way more glaze than ham to put it on.  The glaze would easily be enough for two or three ham steaks.  I'd suggest 2 Tbsp syrup, 1 tsp mustard, and 1.5 tsp vinegar if you're only doing one steak.)

Ok, that's what the recipe said I was supposed to use.  About the only thing I actually used from that recipe was the ham steak, because they're cheap.

I don't keep maple syrup.  The stuff is expensive, and I'm just as happy with Karo syrup or el-cheapo pancake syrup.  I used maple flavored pancake syrup.  You could probably use reduced fruit juice if that makes you happy, or flavored syrup (think orange glazed ham... yummy!!)

Again with the dijon mustard.  I used spicy brown mustard.  You could probably use yellow mustard and it wouldn't really change the taste much.  Not when you see exactly how much is going on the ham (not even a tsp, if I guessed right from how much mix I had leftover).

And cider vinegar.  I figured what was important here was the vinegar be flavorful and maybe sweet.  I wasn't going to buy cider vinegar just for one recipe.  I have rice vinegar (also sweet) that I use in a lot of the Asian recipes I make.  So, I used that instead.  I would bet that white vinegar would've worked, too, but might've given a little more twang to the glaze.  I went for sweet just to be safe.  You could probably use a vinaigrette to the same effect, because the vinegar just seemed to cut the syrup and mustard, and allow them to blend together.

Turn on your broiler.  Line your broiler pan with foil, and put the ham on it.  Glaze the ham with the mixture. Pop it in the broiler for a few minutes (it took mine 6) until the ham gets golden/brown spots on it and the glaze is bubbly.

Take it out, flip it over, glaze, put it back in for a few minutes, and you're done.  Bam! So easy.

For the grits, I made four servings (I think that's like 3/4 cup of grits and 3 cups of water, but don't quote me on that.  Check your label.)  But, I didn't use the full amount of water, because I wanted them thick.  They still didn't turn out as thick as I had hoped.  Better luck next time.

Then I put them in a pie pan, chopped a green onion into them, seasoned them with garlic, salt and pepper, then covered them with a thin layer of cheese, then popped them in the oven until the cheese was browned and bubbly.

Again, SO EASY!

I had about a single serving of ham left over and maybe 3/4 of a cup of grits.  Sounded like breakfast to me.

This morning, I pulled out 2 ramekins.  Chopped the ham covered it with grits and cracked two eggs on top of each.

I baked them in the oven at 350 till the eggs were almost set, then turned on the broiler and cooked the tops.  I was trying to get an over-easy egg without the frying part.  It mostly worked.  They were more over medium, but they were yummy.  I'm out of leftovers, though.  I think tonight is going to be French Onion Soup in Bread Bowls :-)

The Road to Hell...

It's paved with good intentions, or so I've heard.  I must be over halfway there after the last couple days.

I sat down at my computer and created a spreadsheet to represent a pay period, then sifted through my recipes, and searched recipes online for stuff to try, tried and trues, and some random experiments.  I plugged in the titles on their respective dates, complete with sides and trimmings, compiled a shopping list, printed out recipes, and created a do-dad to hang on my wall to help keep me on track.

We'll see how long this lasts.  Who knows, I might stick with it!  I know, I know!  I've already deviated by not sticking with my plan, but hey!  I'm actually sticking to the recipes on the list!  That's something, right?  Right!?

I sewed three pieces of card stock together with embroidery thread to make two staggered pockets to hang on the wall.  The top pocket had recipes to come, the bottom pocket has my menu schedule and recipes I've tried.  At the bottom of the recipes we've never had before, I write whether or not they're B approved.  So far I'm using it, although it won't necessarily be in the exact order I planned it on the schedule.  I wasn't able to get everything I needed from Sam's, so I'll need to make a trip to either the store between now and next pay day.  I spent roughly an entire month's grocery budget in the single trip, BUT I was able to get large quantities of dry staples that I won't have to replace again for more than a month.  And the savings on said bulk dry goods was enough to make it worthwhile.

For example, these two ENORMOUS bags of pasta.  The egg noodles are 5 lbs for $6.40, and the veggie noodles are 6 lbs. for $5.40.  1 lb of Muellers egg noodles is $3.50, so for all intents and purposes, I've saved 50%.  *grins*  And I'll be using these bags of pasta for a *while*.
Those are my toes.  I wear a size 8.5, so I don 't have little bitty midget feet.  Now, I need a bucket LOL.

How long can you love leftovers?

Apparently I can love leftovers for quite a while.

Remember that tomato soup that morphed into something like pizza stew and was going to become something like lasagna?   It didn't.  It became something else.

B was supposed to go to WLC (warrior leadership course or something like that), but he couldn't make weight.  So he's back on a diet.  He uses a coffee cup method.  I used to use Bento Boxes, because they're cute and fun, and I like to play with my food.  His coffee cup method is the same principle of portion control, just less entertaining.

So, I wanted something yummy I could put in a coffee cup and didn't require me to go to the store, because quite frankly we were broke, and payday wasn't until yesterday.  I still have tortillas, the leftover soup, some leftover soup beans, and that sausage-cheese-salsa dip.... hmmmm.

I dumped it all in a pot (except the tortillas), and let it simmer together for a little while.

The initial dumping looked pretty gross.

Yeah... ew.  I was sincerely hoping it would taste better than it looked.  It looked better after it all melted in together.  But the first view was a little off-putting.

Then I took the tortillas and folded them into a lightly oiled muffin tin.  I baked them at 400 until they started to brown on the edges.

I steamed some rice, then layered rice, tortilla cup, soup-stuff, rice, tortilla cup, soup-stuff.  It was good.  I have no idea what to call it.  Coffe cup lasagna?  Heck if I know, but it was most assuredly edible. lol

Cheap Eats! Soup Beans & Cornbread

At about $2 a bag (although I remember when they were less than half that), maybe $1 for some boiling meat, and a few cents for the cornmeal and an egg, you can have a huge pot of soup beans, a wedge of cornbread, get full, and not have to worry overmuch about how much fat you just crammed in your belly.  With only 1/2 gram of fat per 1/2 c, and approximately 8 cups cooked, there's only about 8 grams of fat in the WHOLE pot. Sweet, huh?  Of course, you'll be adding fat with the boiling meat, but I usually get a package of smoked pork necks.  There are 3-4 necks in a package, so I get enough for 2 or 3 pots of beans.  (I LOVE MY FREEZER!!)  I usually pay $2-$3 for a package.  There are also smoked turkey wings for those who don't do pork.  I am not sure how much those would be, though.  

They're also super simple.  There are two ways you can do them.

Traditionally, you soak your beans overnight in just enough water to cover them.  In the morning, sort through and pull out all the stuff that shouldn't be in there (I've found a rock or two in my bag before) and rinse off the beans a few times to get rid of any dirt that might've gotten into the bag during packing.  Then you simmer your beans with the boiling meat in them (seasoned to your liking) until their good and tender. 

Alternatively, you can rinse them well, give them a few good shakes to sort out the rocks, and cook them really slowly for several hours with the boiling meat to make up for the soaking time.  

Either way works to the same end.  

Bake your cornbread and serve on the side, or I like to put my beans on top of my cornbread and mush it up into a yummy glop.

Super cheap, super filling, super yummy.