The Jade Beetle

He thought he was all alone on the back step, but he didn’t reckon that I had been out for the first time procuring victuals to help us through this hard time and would be making a couple of trips from car to house, passing him on his own industrious quest.

Mostly I got the “green blur”, but then he decided to settle down, and we compromised on this shot of him sitting still for his portrait.

We see so many close ups of creatures in the wild on the television and computer screens, that these encounters are not unheard of, but always a thrill when I can see a beautiful creature like this sharing my own world.  I just wish that my presence didn’t strike terror in his poor nervous system.

One wonders . . . how does he see this encounter?  Presume he has no idea that I am totally in awe of his beauty and mean him no harm.

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Sourdough Mojo

What seems like an eternity ago, I started having difficulty with my sourdough bread. It defied me at every turn.  I was so discouraged.

I experimented with recipes for regular yeast bread, and finally evolved a really good one that utilized potato flakes and masa harina.  I experimented with different herbs and spices (surprisingly, lemon pepper was my favorite).  These test loaves were delicious!  They toasted up beautifully, but . . .

They just weren’t sourdough, and NOLA Boy was suffering in silence, I could tell.

Even though I had captured my own “yeastie beasties” from the air when I made my starter in the San Francisco Bay area, it just wasn’t happening here in the desert.

So I finally broke down and ordered a sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour.  It took quite a few days, and a lot of feeding, but I think I’ve gotten a nice starter going now.

It has been a long, dry spell for NOLA Boy, but he is gobbling down the French Toast, and a half strip of pre-cooked bacon, now every morning for his “Breakfast Immedia” when he first gets up.  (Real breakfast comes later.)  This puts a big smile on his face, as he imagines himself sipping chicory coffee at Café DuMonde in Jackson Square.

One of the loaves in the above picture has somehow disappeared, but the other is just about to be brought into service.

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Eating Triscuits and Cheese with an eFriend

This is just a quick little FEEL GOOD fun post.

We have been watching excellent video after excellent video from Tristan Higbee of SUVRVing, who is chronicling his exceedingly interesting hiking and mountain climbing adventures, mostly in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and California.

We were enjoying one of his videos from about three years ago just now, and indulging in a little Triscuit, salami, and Cheddar treats, when lo and behold, he broke out almost the very same thing to munch on for his dinner.  We had already eaten all of our (Original!) Triscuits from the plate, and I was too lazy to stage replacements.

If you are at all interested in seeing the beauty of the western states, you won’t go wrong in spending some time watching Tristan’s very well done videos.  His narration is just simply mesmerizing; we can’t seem to stop watching them at every opportunity.

See you there!  ;->

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Petite Pan Pizza

About two years ago, my sourdough starter took a header, and we’ve been without ever since,  But now I am trying to get a new sourdough starter going.  It is slow going, so I’ve been making smallish bread things to nibble on.

A couple of weeks ago, Amazon kindly sent us four Calphalon mini-pizza pans and four tiny loaf pans.  The mini-pizza pans are very cool – very non-stick, and small enough for the dough to be easily coaxed into a proper size and shape.

Above is last night’s pizza.  We each nibbled up half of our individual “pies” last night, so a nice lunch awaits us on another day.

The crust was too thick, and the “focaccias” that I had intended for the other two to be, were too high.  The two small plain loaves were okay, but more “taster” size than anything useful.  But the toaster and the Cuisinart Oven Central provide crispness as needed.

Needless to say, we are sheltering in place as much as possible because of NOLA Boy’s vulnerability, but we have plenty of supplies and food, so it really isn’t much different from our regular routine.  I should be able to drive soon, so resupplying shouldn’t be a problem when the time comes.

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Onion Soup Like No Other

As readers have probably noticed, I am an incredible sucker for Penzey’s Spices.  There is an absurd number of jars (at least 30!) within my reach as I sit at my place at the kitchen island to eat, plus some random spices/herbs that I have acquired from Trader Joe’s and Amazon.

The stove has at least fifty bottles within reach when I am cooking, and there are “back up” jars stashed all over the house, still in their boxes, to say nothing of the ones that are ready to put directly into the motorhome, should the opportunity arise.

Much as I love to cook and present delicious foods to others, mostly it is the ability to experiment with the different possibilities, especially with something that is otherwise fairly bland, that rings my chimes.  The above soup is an example.

On its own, it might be known as Cream of Onion, but that would definitely not tell its story.

For those interested, here is the sequence of events that produced what turned out to be an absolutely fabulous lunch soup.

I had been making a rich beef broth from a couple of steak bones in my smallish six-cup slow cooker, so when I took the broth out, I plopped in a sliced-up gigantic sweet onion.  It was so large that it filled the whole pot!  But as they cooked, the mass reduced to about a third of that, so I had at least two cups of THE most delicious golden onions to put with the rich broth I had just made.

Surely French Onion Soup would ensue, yah?  That had been the plan, but . . .

Nope, that didn’t happen.  Once the brain and stomach got together, they decided that this soup needed to be much heartier, and there were all those lovely, already cooked potatoes, and those giant mushrooms in the refrigerator just begging to be included with the fresh broth.

So . . . to make this into “Cream of”, I mixed up a slurry of powdered whole milk and flour, with some liquid milk to moisten it, and everything came together quite gloriously.

On a lark, I grabbed the wedge of Danish Blue cheese, and we sprinkled tiny bits of it onto the top of the soup and let it melt into the melange of deliciousness that was already there.  That was definitely just the finial that was needed.

I don’t remember which of Penzey’s Spices I put into the soup while I was cooking it, but what you can see on top is “Salsa & Pico”, which is quickly becoming my “go to”, all-purpose sprinkle when I want just a touch of “South of the Border” flavor, but not full-on Mexican.

For a deepened body for otherwise “vanilla” soups and dishes, I liberally include Trinidad, which is a lovely combination of salt, lemon peel, garlic (small amount – YAY!), cloves and ginger.  It is supposed to be used with a bit of oil as a marinade, but I find that a generous sprinkle improves many dishes with this “just right” touch of brightness.

It deepens the feeling of the dish itself without projecting its own personality.  But oftentimes, that ambience seems to be just what is needed, so adding more at table can produce the satisfaction of “just right”.

And the best part?  There is still enough of this wonderful soup left in the refrigerator for another lunchtime extravaganza!


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Blustery Day Chicken Soup

It was a dreary day today.  We are so spoiled with abundant sunshine on most days, that it is necessary to have chicken soup when the weather is less than perfect.

Fortunately, there was a vat of chicken broth simmering away on the back of the stove.  This seems to be the time of year when there is always some sort of bone broth brewing back there.  I ladle it into as many dishes as possible.

Carrots, celery, deydrated onions, red and green peppers, the home-brewed chicken stock, light chicken breast meat, Mexican fresh salsa, and left over angel hair produced this delicious remedy for the overcast skies.

A loaf of French bread from Safeway is providing abundant possibilities from morning French toast, garlic/herb toast, and this fabulous avocado toast.

Vive la France!

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Why is Steak Cheaper Than Hamburger Meat?

On most Fridays, our local Safeway store features either Rib Eye or New York Strip steaks for $5. a pound.  Good ground beef is usually more than that, so we eat a lot of steak!

The New York Strips are completely boneless and without a lot of excess fat.  The Rib Eye steaks (above) have a bone, but that is not all bad.

We are not big meat eaters, so part of what you see above sufficed for each of us for a dinner, and then I used what was left in a stir fry.

This left the bones, so they went into my 6-cup Nesco slow cooker filled with water, and that sat on the back of the stove, bubbling away for most of two days.  Cooks in the olden days had such a pot of stock going on the back of their wood-fired stoves all of the time, and just kept adding things to it.

I didn’t do that, but I DID add water from time to time, as I was scooping out a ladle of it here and a ladle of it there to enrich whatever was bubbling on the burners, or to make a quick lunch of “Soup du Jour”, i.e. whatever leftovers (meat bits, veggies, rice, pasta shells) were about, along with a modicum of this delicious, slow-simmered beef stock.

Last night, I was heating up some leftover pasta sauce that was mega thick with burger and Italian sausage meats.  There was a plethora of veggies in there, too, so the last of the very condensed stock evened out the consistency quite nicely.  The extra flavor of the broth brought quite a nice richness to the sauce.

And, yes, there is still about a cup of sauce left, which will likely be turned into a couple of meat/bean burritos, or a bowl or two of chili – maybe for lunch today!  ;->

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