Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random-ness

I happened across a blog yesterday that must have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.  It was light, lovely, cheerful--although still unblogged upon.  And that was the moment it became clear--if I'm beginning to gaze longingly at blank blogs, it's way past time to finally change the look of my own.

I checked out the designer listed at the foot of the light and lovely blog, which led me to Blogger's new design wizard.  I struggled with letting the wizard doing it all for me (no, no, no!) and ended up with something that Salem Man graciously and accurately pegged as "bold".  I struggled and surrendered and finally let most of the default settings be the chosen settings.  I don't feel totally settled yet, so I may still make a change or ten.  We'll see.

It felt so good to finally stick a toe into my usual Summer routine yesterday.  Classifying the washing of blankets, rugs and cleaning the garage door as invigorating may elicit a giggle from some, but those are the kind of activities that can make my entire week.  Ever since Fran's pain filled journey began 3+ years ago, I've had a difficult time finding my rudder let alone guiding it.

How happy was I to finally go camping with N?  Extremely, greatly, intensely, exceedingly, exceptionally, excessively, to nth degree, too, too much, totally.  You get the idea.  First there was the problem of one of Fran's (hand delivered only pain med variety) prescriptions needing to be filled mid-week, then N's work having an important grant deadline unexpectedly moved up a whole month.  I braced myself for the disappointment, but we did it.  We both pushed and made it happen.  Whew!  Yay!  Who cared if it was sweatshirt and jeans weather at the coast?  Not us!  Although, a good list of rules for cribbage along with the Rummy Cube game would both be good things to add to the trailer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dutch Oven Meatloaf

Maybe next time I'll not only put more thought into what I'm going to say, but also make sure the camera is charged before we head out. {hurry, K, hurry, it's about to die!}

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Old Scout

The Miracle of Shared Pleasure

Garrison Keillor's weekly newspaper column.

A drizzly Flag Day and wet flags hang on their little poles stuck in the grass along our street. The child asks, "Why the flags?" So you talk about the meaning of the flag, that we Americans are one people, despite our contrariness, and you go on too long about this in the coffee-grinder voice of adulthood, but it's (click here to read the rest)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Children and dogs

A young mother and toddler, near the park playground, stood smiling and watching the pups and I on our walk yesterday. I have to admit, the three of us do have some humorous moments. Izzy bounds from one interesting spot to another, while Hope looks like a miniature bloodhound on an important search and then there's me--doing my best not to be hogtied with the twisting, retractable leashes. You're right, we should take some basic training classes together, but it's not on the schedule of priorities right now.

I had this feeling that the mother wanted us to walk over to the two of them, so her toddler could pet and meet the pups. While small dogs often look furry and adorable, they're not a sure bet for a child. I know our two aren't. Izzy hasn't been socialized with children and her first experience with a child wasn't a good one {smack on the head with a toy!}. Dogs probably don't forget those moments, plus they have that pack mentality of just knowing a small person doesn't have as much authority as an adult.

N and I have witnessed parents bringing their (very) young children to the dog park. We're not alone in being concerned. A child's first instinct, when they feel threatened, is to run and a bite or snap can happen quickly. I certainly don't want to be a part of a child's horrible first dog encounter memory.  I understand there are some good resources to help you and your child learn some basic dog safety tips (local Humane Society?), but a good rule to remember is, always ask an owner before approaching their pet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Driver's Training

I can still remember when Mr. Finstad, our driver's ed teacher showed us this film in class. Maybe I learned a few things--I haven't forgotten after all these years. :>)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wave

I used to give N such a hard time over his pet peeve--"the wave".  You know, when another driver is beckoning you to pull out in front of them or just generally get out of their way?  He would insist that there was nothing friendly about those waves, they were a method of impatient people getting you to do their bidding.
"Are you serious?!", I'd exclaim.  "They're just being nice, not rude."
Lately, I'm reconsidering.  The waves I've been seeing over the past couple of weeks have been of the "hurry up, you're in my way" variety.  Please tell me it's not a trend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Projects, projects, who's gotta project??

Honestly?  I had a vague idea of what this volunteer gig might entail.  Let me emphasize "vague".  I told myself that if nothing else, it would be a learning experience.  It's taken much more time than I imagined, but I have learned more about this video program.
My first indication of what I was in for, was when I downloaded all 2 hours worth of video onto the laptop.  The laptop (I mistakenly thought) began balking at the number of mpgs I had open at the same time.  After chatting with Salem Man, I understood it was the program having fits.  Sorting the files into their categories first turned out to be the answer, but the PC's dvd burner is probably better suited to the task of burning multiple copies anyway.
The project is the brainchild of our PE teacher.  One day she realized our school didn't have a set of definite playground rules known by all.  She talked to our principal and began the process of interviewing all of the assistants who have playground duty and then she took what she learned to the teachers and finally started the process of writing up a master list of rules.  Then she discovered that no one was reading or sharing the rules with students.  Her next idea was to make a dvd, using students to act out situations.  It's a great idea and I hope the teachers find the time to show it to their kids.  She did a great job--wrote a script that's clear and concise and shot short to the point video segments.
I just hope my end product with it's menus and arrows is easy to use, because that's the only way it'll get used.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grilled Steak and Spice-Steamed Potatoes



WEEKNIGHT KITCHEN
by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Friends,

Sometimes the eating-close-to-the-ground concept needs a night off. You want a piece of meat, a potato and maybe a salad — the stuff of old-time grillers' dreams. With a grill and a pair of tongs, you can have it all.

Do try the flat iron steak here. It's a cut from the chuck or shoulder of the steer. For me, flavor always trumps tenderness. Chewy it might be, but the flat iron's flavor is just super. Thinly slice it before serving and you'll have very good, tender meat at maybe a third of what that rib eye could cost you.

GRILLED STEAK AND SPICE-STEAMED POTATOES

Serves 2 generously and multiplies easily

The Rub:
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried basil
3 tablespoons vodka, gin, rum, or whiskey
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
The Potatoes:
2 to 3 medium red-skin, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved, then cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons butter
The Steak:
2 rib-eye, top sirloin, or flat iron steaks cut 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick
1. Preheat the gas grill to high on one side and low on the other. Or burn a pile of wood charcoal until it has gray ash covering it. Pile the charcoal at one end of the grill, with a few of the coals at the other end. Blend the spice rub ingredients together in a food processor. Rub one third of it into the potato slices, then spread them out in a single layer on a large piece of foil. Dot with butter, seal the foil, and set the packet on the grill over low heat. Cook 30 minutes, moving the potato packet around the grill so the heat is not too intense. Add coals as needed.

2. As the potatoes cook, rub the rest of the spices over the steak. Heap more coals on the grill so one side becomes very hot.

3. Place the steaks on the hottest part of the grill and sear both sides. With tongs, shift the steaks to a cooler part of the grill and continue cooking, turning often (to encourage faster cooking), until they are within 5 degrees of the desired degree of doneness on an instant-reading thermometer stuck into the center of the meat.

4. Remove steaks to a serving platter, and let rest for 8 to 10 minutes. When you let meat rest, juices settle, the steak finishes cooking and generally it tastes far, far better than cutting into it straight off the grill.

5. Open an edge of the potato packet and poke them with a knife. If they're tender, turn them out onto the platter next to the steak. If not, reseal and cook longer.

LYNNE'S TIPS

In this season of toss it-on-the-grill, get a char and finish cooking fast, there's a basic rule of thumb that's good to remember. The slower you cook proteins the more juiciness, tenderness and flavor you get. So sear over high heat, but cook low and slow, whether it's a steak, a piece of fish, or an egg.

By the way, along with the potatoes, a great accompaniment to the steak is grilled charred scallions. Trim off roots, moisten a handful of scallions with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and grill over high for a few minutes, until they're browned on one side. Remove to a plate and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Old Scout

Garrison Keillor's weekly newspaper column.

Hanging Out With the College Crowd

A fine rainy day in Minnesota, and of course we should be discussing regulation of banking and the credit-default-swap market, but something in me wants to walk under a big black umbrella to the cafe for a skinny latte and eavesdrop on the college crowd, who, despite the lousy job market, seem as ebullient as ever. I live near an art school where you can learn conceptual sculpture and also near a community college where you can major in auto body repair, so the cafe draws all types. School's out in a few days and the cool winds of freedom are blowing. Just the other day I heard a cool young man talk about maybe heading out to ... (click here to read the rest)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Breakfast=fail, Dinner=success

It was as if I'd forgotten how to cook hashbrowns and eggs entirely.  Very sad (especially for Jonathon!)!  Then dinner rolled around.  Not only did I have plans, but they worked out past my expectations.
Yay!

Kalyn's Recipes

Cheesy Zucchini with Garlic and Parsley

(Makes two servings, can be doubled or tripled, recipe adapted slightly from Food to Live By.)

2-3 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (if zucchini are large, cut in half or fourths lengthwise, then slice)
1 T olive oil
4-6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
pinch sea salt
2 T chopped flat parsley
2 T grated parmesan
1/4 cup grated mozzarella

With stove set to medium, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid. Add sliced garlic and saute about 1 minute, until you start to smell garlic. Add squash and stir to coat with oil, then cover and cook 4 minutes, stirring once or twice. After 4 minutes, check to see if there is a lot of liquid and whether squash is tender. Cook 1-2 more minutes, uncovered until zucchini is tender-crisp and liquid is evaporated.

Sprinkle squash with salt and chopped parsley and stir to wilt parsley. Add parmesan and stir until it melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the squash, cover pan again and turn off the heat. Let sit 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and serve hot.


Tandoori-Spiced Chicken Thighs
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook


Try this to prove that Indian food isn't really that hard, after all. Lime wedges and cilantro are a must for serving and some extra Greek yogurt is really good too. We had a dal (spiced, stewed lentils) inspired by this recipe, and some interesting homemade flatbreads that were sort of like naan, which you can look for ready-made in large supermarkets.

Serves 4

1 small onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 oz plain lowfat Greek yogurt (or substitute regular plain yogurt), plus additional for serving
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (10 to 12), fat trimmed
Garnishes: Lime wedges and fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except chicken and garnishes in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Put chicken and yogurt mixer in a gallon-sized heavy-duty zipper bag. Seal bag and turn to coat the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator, turning bag occasionally, for at least 4 hours, and up to 12 hours (I did 6 hours).

Line a broiler pan or baking sheet with foil and preheat broiler to high. Arrange chicken on foil in a single layer (discard the marinade, but there's no need to scrape the excess off the chicken) and cook 5 to 6 inches from heat, turning once, until just cooked through, 12 to 17 minutes. Serve with lime, cilantro and additional yogurt.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Old Scout

A Great Nation Immobilized

June 1, 2010

I flew home from Washington Monday night, looking at live pictures on the BP website taken by an underwater robot of the greasy waters of the Gulf, and how's that for a Metaphor of Our Times? Aboard a Delta Airbus at 37,000 feet maneuvering around giant . . . (click here to read the rest)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Country Road

The perfect ending to a work day for me?
It's driving home on the curvy, tree lined road home with no pushy cars behind me.
This time of the year it can be rare to experience that, but these past couple of weeks I've only had 2 days with cars on my tail. Makes me happy, because their nagging presence in my rear view mirror kinda ruins the whole effect.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I shoulda known better

I had a short list of things to talk to my doc about today. One of which was what to do with these allergies I've been experiencing for the first time (at least to this degree). I've been using a combination of things to ease the symptoms with good results. But, boy oh boy, do I know right away when it's time for the next dose!
"What are you using?", Dr. H asked. As soon as he uttered that question, I realized what I'd done.
"Afrin", I replied.
I told him that I'd been using it longer than the recommended 3 days in a row and he reminded me about the addictive properties of nasal spray decongestants and the rebound effect. Ugh! I KNOW this! I've known it for years! I can't believe I did it. Bleh.
I guess the instant relief was too good to pass up . . .

Friday, June 4, 2010

My little helpers

I'm not sure when I knew, maybe the first time I understood my Mom's explanation as to why I was mutely hiding behind her legs to a friend, "She's shy.".

Oh how I longed (and still do) to NOT be shy. I can remember watching Carole LaRoy captivate a big group of classmates in kindergarten, with her demonstration of "silent talking".
"Big deal!", I thought to myself. I do that all the time. Yup, I learned resentment of extroverts early on. All by myself. No one had to teach me. :>P

I know I missed many opportunities (of the social variety) over the next 4 decades and I hated it. I read books and articles and would even successfully push myself from time to time, but it was oh so painful.

It took a humiliating event in a store, where I couldn't find N, panicked and sought refuge in the car, to make me understand it was time to get help. I made an appointment with my doctor, explained myself and asked for help. Of course, he had to suggest counseling and I promised to seek it (which I did later). And then he wrote me a prescription. No, it's not a miracle, but what an improvement! How I wish I'd followed through and done something years ago!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Monday's dinner - a keeper (rerun)

 (I originally posted this last August, but wanted to share it again. I was hankering for a taste of Summer for dinner tonight and this hit the spot!)


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About a month ago, I purchased Cook's Illustrated's, "The Best Skillet Supers".  I love their cookbooks and will probably continue to accumulate the ones that make sense for the two of us.  On Sunday evening I put together the following recipe (with Mom and Lise's help), "Chicken and Couscous, with Fennel and Orange".  It was such a nice, comforting segue into fall cooking that it was easy to pick-out a second recipe for Monday dinner, "Sauteed Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Yellow Squash".  I did a few substitutions and was worried I would ruin the recipe, but it turned out delicious.  I was careful to give the Delicata Squash I substituted for the zucchini several minutes longer in the pan, but the cut-up Romas I used weren't that much different from cherry tomatoes.  Oh!  And I added about a Tbsp of minced shallot with the garlic.
Here's the recipe:

"Sauteed Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Yellow Squash"

4 (5-6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp herbes de Provence
Salt and ground black pepper
3 Tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
2 Medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 Medium yellow squash, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 Medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 tsp.)
1 Pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves.

1)  Pound each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform 1/2" thickness.  Place the flour in a shallow dish.  Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with the herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper.  Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.
2)  Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Carefully lay the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, 6-8 minutes.
3)  Flip the chicken breasts over, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the thickest part of the chicken registers 160-165 degrees, 6-8 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, tent with foil and let rest while cooking the vegetables.
4)  Add 2 tsp more oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the zucchini and squash and cook until well browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes and capers and cook until the tomatoes are just softened, about 2 minutes.
5)  Off the heat, stir in the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a large serving platter and serve with the chicken.