The Lace Tree

This pretty tree is in the parking lot of the Cancer Clinic where NOLA Boy gets his weekly chemo infusions.  For some reason the parking space that is in front of it is almost always open for me to slide into and enjoy the tree’s beauty through the windshield.

When it first blossoms, it is covered with those lovely flowers, but most of them are gone now that the summer heat is upon us.

Its beauty and simplicity never fails to bring a smile to my heart.

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Key Lime Pie Extraordinaire



This might look like an overkill amount of goodies to pile on such a small sliver of key lime pie, but the extraordinary deliciousness of it amounts to a quick satiety point!  The plate is very small – only 5.5″ – so there really isn’t a lot of room for the really hard core, high-caloried items involved.

Like we have done with cheesecake, we pour on the aged, and very thick, balsamic vinegar.  Coincidentally, a few shards of chocolate happened to be sitting right there on the counter, so on they went.  The strawberries, however, were the absolute star of the show.

We’ve each indulged twice, and only about a quarter of the key lime pie is missing, so it looks like we will be able to enjoy this treat for several more times.

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Simple Stir Fry

This is one of our most cherished dishes.  So simple, and so delicious.  The recipe is basically cooked rice with whatever veggies and meat you have.

Sauté the veggies, move them over in the pan, and heat the rice in the newly-vacated area.  Covered, it will heat quickly, so don’t walk away.  I usually spray everything with some distilled water to help quickly spread the heat around and moisten up the grains of rice.

Sweet onions, mushrooms, celery, and bok choy are my standards, and then whatever else is around – especially something with a bright color.  I keep a jar of roasted red peppers around for just such an occasion, but as you can see, I forgot to get it out this time!

Ring the dinner bell, and be glad of the paucity of dirty dishes to wash later!

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Joyce Rocks the River

Her first real outing! It is just a few miles from our house, but is an official photography “trek”!

Back doors open and the ceiling fan going = nice cool breeze wafting through.

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Dragon Teapot

This post is two-fold.

First is to share this fabulous piece of art.  I found it on a Steampunk site on Facebook.

The other is to show what hidden glory may be lurking in a photograph.  With the help of Photoshop, the wonderful patina became evident.

Here is the original, extremely attractive in its own right.  I loved the dusty look of “old”, but the colors that were lurking there just blew me away.

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Fun with Egg Wash

Sometimes the obvious escapes me; and other times it shines like a bright star!

Last night I made Judie McNuggets, although they are really lightly breaded, hearty strips of boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than smallish bits and pieces of chicken with a heavy coating of starch.

I had pretty much misjudged how much egg wash was needed and had quite a bit leftover.  My habit is to make a small puddle of leftover egg wash in whatever pan I am using, rolling it up, and popping it into my mouth as the “Cook’s Treat du Jour”.

But this time, the “omelette” was larger than usual, and just deserved to be treated more politely than just unceremoniously devoured.

The ensuing entity just screamed out for some color, so I plopped on some cheese, let it melt, and then added some salsa and bits of scallion.

The photo then gave me the idea that this was about the same size as a tortilla, so why not encase it in a softened, slightly heated tortilla (to make it pliable), roll it up, and have it for a quick on-the-go breakfast on the way to work, or a mid-morning snack at your desk.  Could be eaten at just about any temperature, so reheating not really necessary.

As these things go, after I had cut and shared the mini-omelette in the format you see above, I thought of a bunch of other things that could go on it before using it as a filling for a tortilla roll up.  That includes whatever is lurking about that sounds appealing to you.

This is a good way to add a bit of nutrition to a meal, and use up bits of things that are waiting patiently in your refrigerator.  Look on it as the easiest take-out ever!  ;->

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An Incredible Reheat

I couldn’t wait to share this photo and to expound on just how delicious it was.  If only restaurants could produce such flavor!

These were the remnants from two separate meals, but clearly they were all made for one another.  I just can’t say enough about this method of reheating leftover food so that there is not only no waste of food, but the effort involved is practically zip.  Way better than take out; no worries about who has had access to the food you are about to put into your system.  Also, no driving, waiting, or tipping involved!

For best success, I have found that investing in quality cookware is key.  If this meal had glued itself down to the pan, then I would be less enthusiastic for the process.  But an amazingly simple procedure allows me to do this repeatedly in this 12″ Calphalon covered frying pan.

One trick I have learned is to pre-heat the pan.  This can get dicey because it makes no sound, and there are no lights to tell you when the pan is hot.  So what I do is put the burner on medium-high and put in a couple of tablespoons of distilled (so there are no minerals to cook out onto your pan) water, and then put the lid on while it pre-heats.  Depending on the relationship between the pan and the lid, you may hear a bit of rattling as the water creates steam.  This is your cue to know that it is ready.

Depending on the food to be reheated, you might want to put in a bit of oil in the pan.  When this is deemed appropriate, I use just a thin film of avocado oil because of its tolerance to high heat.  Maybe it is my imagination, but I also feel that it does a better job, somehow, than generic oil.  Olive oil has a much lower tolerance for heat, and is not recommended.

The next two steps may sound a bit out of the ordinary, but I have found them to be invaluable for achieving success in this endeavour.

After your food has been safely ensconced in the pan, grab your trusty spray bottle of distilled water, and give everything a good coating of moisture.  This creates the steam that will help to heat all parts of the food, not just concentrating on the bottom parts where they are touching the frying pan.  Steam is your friend.  ;->

Next – pop on a tight-fitting cover, and turn the burner OFF!  This allows the food to heat up gradually instead of the bottom layer becoming way too hot, with the potential of burning.  After three to five minutes (set a timer), turn the burner back on at a low setting and monitor the progress until the food is at the perfect temperature for dining.

At this point, evaluate what toppings might add to the overall ambience of the items.  After I took this picture, I sprinkled a bit of grated Cheddar cheese on the rice, plopped a nob of butter on the beets and black kale, and sprayed the chicken with a bit more water to moisten up the BBQ sauce.  Another minute or two – while NOLA Boy set the table – and we were enjoying a fabulous dinner that required almost no effort!

Take out just can’t compare!

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My Latest Crush

It’s easy to be tempted into concocting delicious combinations of ingredients while we are sheltering in place, but with that possibility comes the ever present danger of the dreaded weight gain.  Probably most of us would not welcome any additional avoirdupois climbing aboard our bodies for a free ride.

Some months ago (about the same time that the cost of our favorite ice cream [Talenti] jumped up to $6. for a PINT!), I discovered the wonders of tapioca pudding.  After cutting the amount of sugar in half, and then forgetting it completely in the next batch, I found that if there were no sweetening in it at all, that left room for any topping or mix in, sweet or even savory.  Mixed half and half with the ice cream worked really well, too.

At some point, fairly quickly, I started experimenting with different add-in items, and found almost anything was more interesting than just the sweetness of the ice cream.  Peanut butter and granola was particularly satisfying.

Crumbled Graham crackers and a sprinkle of cinnamon, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, or gingerbread spice – WOW – that was a big surprise at the satisfaction level.

A drizzle of maple syrup, or a small amount of any kind of delicious jam, marmalade, or jelly, some chocolate chips or syrup, concentrated orange juice, tart cherry juice, or pomegranate juice concentrates, crunchy nuts, or anything that appeals to you, provides a very satisfying experience without a huge caloric intake.

I won’t bore you with all of the things I have tried, but as of this writing, I can’t think of a single one that was not repeatable with glee.

Above you see my current “crush”.  The red and white stuff is crushed candy canes.  I got it already in that format from King Arthur Flour when they cleared out their holiday items.  I don’t see why this couldn’t be easily done with a hammer or meat pounder and some sort of containment cloth, utilizing perhaps any leftover candy canes from the holiday season at the end of the year!

Since the ingredients in tapioca pudding are tapioca, eggs, milk, and a sprinkle of salt, and it is super simple to put together, I always have a big container of it in the refrigerator – for experimental purposes, you understand!  ;->

With this super simple and mild-flavored dessert on hand, you can be incredibly innovative with a topping of small proportion, while having the underlying goodness working for your body’s benefit.

Did I mention pistachios or roasted pecans?  ;->

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Nuts to Cookies

Oh, my!  Don’t they look innocent?  They are supposed to be cookies, but they are, in reality, delicious little islands of nuts, dates, and cranberries surrounded by a minimum of oatmeal cookie dough, and quickly baked to perfection.  Three dozen of these beauties landed on the counter and in the freezer after a short baking session.

The recipe was purloined from one of my favorite cooking/baking blogs.  I made a few substitutions, i.e. coconut sugar for the brown sugar, and five-grain rolled cereal for the oatmeal.  I couldn’t find my cardamom, so I used allspice and garam masala.

If you want to fall in love with an easy-to-stir-together cookie, AND have the self control not to eat all of them immediately, give these guys a try.  I had hoped there would be some to take on a picnic soon, but it seems that putting them in the freezer did not deter us from gobbling them at a rapid rate!

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Owl – 2020

For the last couple of weeks we have been hearing the familiar hooting sounds of our own personal owl.  There haven’t been any replies, so guess he is a loner.

I’m not clear if this is our usual guest at this time of year, or if this is a different one.  He is in the same spot in the tree, so maybe that’s his “spot”!  His ear “fuzz” looks a bit different to me, and the feathers on his chest look like a different pattern.  But maybe it is the time of year for change.

The Chihuahuan Ravens have been harassing him on and off all morning with their squawking, but he just blinks and suggests that they “buzz off” and leave him alone.

He seems not to mind if I make those click-y noises at him, but I’m sure he would rather get back to his nap.

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Fried Rice and Asparagus Medley

Almost no words needed here.  Every morsel shown was delectable.  There were only two ears of corn, and they both disappeared, but there is a small amount of the rice and two Chicken McNuggets al a Judie in the refrigerator for lunch today.  Who will get the split pea soup, and who will get these yummy leftovers.  NOLA Boy is asleep, and I have the key to the refrigerator – so it may be no contest at all!

I made that rice originally the other day with slow-simmered beef broth, and it was heavenly.  The added asparagus, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and egg incorporated in there just added to the deliciousness of it. I also added two heaping tablespoons of pico de gallo for some zing.

I thought it would be a bit flat without more veggies/scallions, but it was entirely satisfactory just like that.

The Blue Cheese Yogurt dressing was perfect as a dipping sauce with the chicken strip.

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Fry Bread

One of the problematic corollaries of making sourdough bread is that some of the starter is wasted while getting it in tip top shape, and more is lost if you do not bake often.  Since I am in the early stages (only three loaves so far) of getting back in the swing of things, I am still in that mode.  I don’t like to waste things, so took the advice of a vlogger and tried making “fry bread” out of the discard.

It looks pretty good here, but with no salt at all in it, the taste was not pleasant.  Also, it absorbs oil at an astounding rate, and gets way too brown before the center is cooked through.  So I will continue to experiment since otherwise I will need to toss the discard for a few more loaves.

On the next batch yesterday, I tried out different things with each little piece, but I was totally unimpressed with any of them.  Mostly they just sucked up oil, and super greasy things are just not that appealing to either of us.

Deep frying these bits would probably provide a better outcome, but that’s just not something I’m willing to do.  If I can get over my aversion to deep frying, there are probably many possibilities.  I’m thinking of adding onions, salt, and maybe some other of my Penzey’s spices, perhaps some masa harina, to see if I can come up with something like hushpuppies.

Suggestions welcomed.

My loaves are coming out on the pale side, despite starting with a 500-degree oven.  First loaf was too hot for too long, and got a grey-ish cast to it, but otherwise was fine.  The next two tries, I turned the heat down after the initial oven spring, but they were entirely too pale overall.  They tasted fine, but that luscious browned ambience is sorely missed.

Because of the sudden shortage of flour, I made these loaves with all purpose flour instead of my usual artisan bread flour.  I still have some of this specialty bread flour, so will try switching to that to see if it makes a difference.

Thank goodness NOLA Boy is big on French toast.  I seem to have the base ingredient for a whole lot of it lately!

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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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Red and White RV

I just can’t seem to resist these rounded, bus-style vehicles!  This is a grab from a trailer for the 2006 Robin Williams movie “RV”.  This isn’t the title RV from the movie, but instead is the one belonging to some wanna be friends.

These sleek buses look so very racy, even when in a still photo!  The eponymous “RV” was just too ugly to show!

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