Two for $3



For most meals I do a little calculation in my head to see what the approximate cost is for the food that is on the plate, and accompaniments.  Over the last few years, the common number has increased from about a dollar to about a dollar and fifty cents, with more specialty dinners rising to two to three dollars on occasion.  Fortunately, leftovers contribute to lesser cost meals, so it pretty much all evens out.

These photos are of our lunch and dinner from one day last week, and it was interesting that they added up to just about three dollars.  As you might imagine, fast food from a drive-thru establishment holds no interest for us, so I don’t know for certain what the comparative cost might be, but I suspect that a burger, and perhaps a drink, would amount to more than three dollars, and that would provide skimpy nutrition, and for only one meal.

I’m not sure what made the above lunch so special, but NOLA Boy waxed poetically about it for about an hour after having consumed it.  And then he went to take his nap with a smile on his face!

I don’t set out to be miserly with our food budget; it just seems that to prepare nutritious meals produces deliciousness, with low cost as a “side effect”.

Having started cooking when I was about ten, this endeavour comes easily to me, but lately I have found that the plethora of appliances, and other helpers, that are available has really changed food preparation for the better.

Starting about in the mid-50’s, I watched (and helped) my mother produce fabulous meals with her two “helpers” – a Mixmaster and a pressure cooker.  That was about it for specialty items.

I cooked under her tutelage for years, and then started my own household in 1962.  A hard-working husband, and then a baby boy, required me to learn a lot more about how to cook entire meals, and be not just a sous chef.  Baby boys tend to grow up to be voracious eaters, and they have friends who found our home to be an attractive hang out!  I learned about quantity cooking – and then schooled said boy child in taking over the cooking for his friends.  He still does much of the cooking in his household using mostly his BBQ unit!

Over the subsequent years, I acquired a microwave oven, a stand mixer, a bread machine, slow cookers, a Nesco roaster, a rice cooker, and various smaller specialty electrical units, and cooking became a passion, as well as a necessity.

I learned to make my own yogurt and buttermilk, churn butter in the mixer to put on the sourdough bread, and cook just about everything from scratch.  It seemed invigorating to be able to produce such luscious foods.  In fairness, I did the butter only once – much easier to purchase it neatly packaged in sticks – but it was fun to give it a whirl.

Not long ago, I ran across my recipe for the sourdough bread and home-churned butter, with the notation on the bottom of the typed (on a typewriter!) page:  “All good sourdough bread deserves homemade butter”.  I remember typing that page on that typewriter from my tiny office in a house that we moved out of in 1976!

During those twenty or so child-rearing years, we were young and very active, so my repertoire included a lot of desserts.  Now?  Not so much.  Sugary items have lost their appeal, so we do not feel deprived, but I remember the many pretty items that graced our table nearly every night.

The last few years have become a cakewalk (pardon the pun) to cook for two elderly small eaters.  The biggest improvement is the result of having acquired the three- and six-quart InstantPots.  I still use my Nesco roaster, the toaster, and the Cuisinart Oven Central, but my set of Calphalon pots and pans, a stove-top steamer, the bread maker, and those marvelous InstantPots do most of the work now.  These fewer appliances provide me the ability to prepare the nutritious food that we know and love.

It really is a cakewalk to sidestep the frozen food and other pre-prepared foods in the aisles of the grocery store.  I am always amazed at the small amount of edible food that is available in a package that is purported to be sufficient for an actual meal; the packaging is more substantial than the nutritional value.

I understand that my available time to produce food is probably more generous than others, but the process seems so simple these days.  It is easy to cook more than is necessary for any given meal, which then provides an ingredient or two for another, slightly varied, menu for the next day, or the day after.

With modern storage containers and methods to reheat foods so that they taste absolutely first rate, I find that one good hour-long session of cooking can provide one or two components for a future meal or two.  This cuts down considerably on the time it takes to put together an attractive and healthy meal.  If freezer space is available, all the better to have one’s own pre-prepared foods on hand.

Here is dinner on the day of the above lunch.  It was equally as delicious, and as thrifty.  I urge everyone to allot some time to cooking food from scratch, to help to break the “fast food” cycle that is so prevalent these days.

You definitely will not be sorry.  ;->


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Summer is Over

It’s an addiction, I know.  I can’t help myself.  My cameras seem to have minds of their own, and one of them always seems at the ready to jump into my hands at the slightest provocation.

I had gone out into the backyard as the sun was disappearing to fill the water pond for any animals that may mosey by.  It is dry this time of year, so it is my pleasure to keep that supply on hand for the various critters that entertain us as they go about the business of living within our view.

The eucalyptus tree in the foreground, and the ash tree further back, provide a great deal of shade for that side of our yard during about half of the year.  The other half must be sustained by the eucalyptus alone, while the ash tree drops all of its leaves and makes new ones.

Out of sight to the right is a huge oak tree that will soon begin to drop acorns on the ground close to the house.  Sometimes they hit the roof – ka-wham.  Once the deer and javelina figure out that acorn harvest time is here, we will have more visitors.

I was really surprised at how lithe the javelinas are; they go over our fence with little more difficulty than the deer.  They both come pretty close into the yard, but if I open the door to go out onto the deck for a better shot, the deer sprint away.  The javelina just look at me, though, and then go back to their rooting.

There is another big oak tree by the front of the house, and the deer nibble what they can from the back yard tree, and then go along the side of the house, and hop nimbly over the fence into the front yard to start snarfing up the offerings under the front yard oak.

They do this mostly at night, so it isn’t easy to see their path, but since there are a lot of oak trees in the yards around here, I presume the deer prance out into the street (looking both ways first) and continue on some set route that they have.

It seems to work for them, as this has been going on for the 16 years we have lived in this complex!

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This is my very best customer for our delicious food!  ;->

The EXIF data is 1/30 sec at ISO 50, ƒ2.2, but most importantly, this was 0833!  And look at those bright eyes!

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Bingo Rolls

NOLA boy LOVES cheeseburgers, so I am always trying to find interesting combinations of grains to add to the sandwich buns I make for this purpose.

One of the things I have been using for a while is big instant potato flakes.  I can’t really tell what these flakes bring to the party, but I’ve been having really good luck with them in the bread.

But when I make the bread into sandwich buns, they are too fluffy to be useful unless they are toasted.  So I’ve been experimenting with different add-in ingredients.

A recipe on a favorite blog a few weeks ago, prodded me to use oats for a chewier roll.  I didn’t have any oatmeal, so I used our rolled five-grain breakfast cereal in place of oats.  I used too much, and the rolls were certainly good for standing up to a burger, but they were denser than I really wanted.

So I’ve been experimenting.  Yesterday’s output was “just right”!  The add ins were a quarter cup each of bulgur and cornmeal, plus a half cup of the usual potato flakes.

I put the bulgur in with the fluid so it would have a better chance to absorb some of the water, and not be “cracked wheat”.  I put the cornmeal and potato flakes in with the flour at the beginning, too.  Everything seems to have worked out just fine.

At baking time, I slathered some egg white on an even dozen perfectly raised buns.  Six of the rolls got the sesame seed topping, and the other six got the “Everything But The Bagel” topping that I get at Trader Joe’s.

The “bagel” topping has a fair amount of garlic bits in the mix, so I stick with the sesame variety.

There will be a roast chicken for dinner tonight, and these rolls are a favorite for chick-sal-sand!  ;->

So why do I call these treats Bingo Rolls?

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Remember NEWTON?

Fall has come to the Southwest, and with it comes the urge to purge clothing, so I started rummaging through drawers of Apple tee shirts that I had put away some 25 years ago when I retired from the working world.

When we moved in 1998, many items were left behind at The Salvation Army and other charity establishments, including the tee shirts that had been worn.  But that left about half a dozen tee shirts, a couple of sweat shirts, polo shirts, canvas carry bags, a large canvas duffel bag embroidered with the beautiful rainbow apple of old, Swiss Army knives, a pair of compact Nikon binoculars, an REI waist pack, a rain shell pullover, a lined rain jacket with my name embroidered on it that I wore for many years, a lovely, soft red pullover sweater with a V-neck, and other miscellaneous goodies that I had acquired during my tenure there.

There are probably more items that I have squirreled away in boxes in our storage room, but some are still in use today. I won’t bore you with a complete run down of how these items are used today, but I am proud to say that even after all these years, the quality of the items has stood up.

But to mention a few . . . I keep the embroidered rain jacket in our motorhome for emergencies, along with the binoculars for spotting wildlife.  DH kept one of the Swiss Army knives in his bicycle kit, and another in the motorhome.  Now that he no longer is able to ride his bicycle, that knife is kept on his workbench, ready for action.

So – all that to say that it was really fun to put on the Newton shirt yesterday.  As I was looking at it in the mirror, many thoughts flooded my memory of those days in Cupertino, but then I wondered if I took a picture of the shirt in the mirror, could the writing be read normally, or would it still appear reversed?

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Bunny Escape Route


The bunnies (mostly cottontails) hop in and out of our yard, taking shelter under our workshop or under the house via a tiny opening around the air conditioner compressor.  We’re pretty sure that a squirrel that has been around for many years also lives under the workshop.  We don’t see him as often, but I think he is getting older, and, like us, just stays home more now!

Over time, there were little openings in the fencing that afforded the bunnies the privilege of entering quickly from the path, but we had the fencing all spiffed up.  Thus new holes had to be made for their ingress and egress to safety for “here there be tigers” – or at least coyotes.

Bunnies are just so cute – they never fail to evoke a smile.  All they need do is just sit there and look adorable!  ;->

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Just Say “Hi”

La Encantada Shopping Center is one of my favorite venues for snap, snap, snapping!  Subjects abound.  Every direction I look, there are “pictures” waiting for me to gather up.

Earlier this week, we were fortunate enough not only to get excellent news from the doctor, but also to be able to spend some time in the Apple Store participating in an excellent free lecture, and then still had the energy to enjoy peering through the viewfinder to my heart’s content.

I won’t lie – this place is a treasure, and securing satisfying shots for me is a slam dunk, but just as we were heading out, I saw the above scene in the distance.

It wasn’t until I was processing my shots at home that I realized how marvelous this particular one happened to be.  I hadn’t seen the shy smile on the girl and the tiny wave from the passing toddler as the shutter released, but sometimes a stream of sunlight does wonders, and I’m just lucky enough to be there at the same time!

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