Food

Low Carb Pizza


One place in which my hearing isn’t a barrier is cooking.  I happen to be a low-carb affectionado and I follow a blog called Your Lighter Side.   Awhile ago I read about a chicken breast and cheese pizza crust.

I deviated a bit from the recipe by incorporating the herbs into the crust rather than sprinkling it on top.  For a time I thought that I put too much marinara sauce on top of it, but I think it just needed to cool a little more because later the crust was just fine, although a tiny bit salty for my taste.  It might well be because I brined the chicken breasts for a few hours in salt and Italian spices before BBQing them.
It is quite a tasty and filling dish.  If you’re into low carb, it is a nice opportunity for LC pizza.

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Life in the confidential lane


I can’t help it. I read some blog posts by a guy working in the drive through lane of a fast food restaurant who was ranting about the customers. As an employment lawyer I thought, “Man, I hope your boss never tracks this down! You’d be sooo fired.” As a human being I thought, “Wow, we all have our stories to tell!”

And then I realized that for most of my life I’ve worked with people in confidential situations. In large part, I could say, “Today I met this person who… never mind, I can’t discuss it.”

In fact, when I was in child protection work I could not even greet people walking down the street unless they greeted me first. And if they did greet me and someone was with them I could not say where I knew them from. I had clients who got mad at me for “snubbing” them. I finally told folks if they wanted to talk to me they had to make the first move and unless they told someone how they knew me, if asked, I’d just say, “Oh, we’re just social acquaintances.” I still feel that way, but now I live in an extended urban metro area so I almost never see anyone I know from the law office.

So did I tell you the one about the client who used to … um, no, I probably better not share that either, it might be too easy to tell who it was if you happened to have been there 40 years ago. No, really. But if you ever see someone have a seizure on demand and then get up and walk to a new spot in front of you and have a seizure again – it is probably an act. Just saying… not that it ever happened. Nope.

However, maybe I could talk about when I worked in the Emergency Shelter and we had this guy who hadn’t washed his clothes in so long they … never mind … um, that might be too descriptive too. And when we had to get him all new clothes because they sort of dissolved in the washer he was pretty good-natured about it.

I could tell you about the time I called the FBI about the person on the wanted poster – but it wasn’t the right person – and they were a pretty good sport about having to – um, but if I told you what the identifying mark was that might be too much information. But once we did find a kidnapped little kid from a wanted poster – and that was great. But I can’t really tell you what happened after that because it’s confidential.

You know, there are some jobs you just really can’t vent about. Yanno? At least not with people outside the field.

But I can say working for The Salvation Army was one of the best times of my life – that I helped feed and house more people, get more Christmas presents, Easter Presents, and Thanksgiving turkeys out that I knew existed. I made so little money I was poor as a church mouse, lived in a dump with my little girl wondering how to make ends meet but I loved that crazy job with the wild clients and the dotty staff. The one thing I remember most clearly is the pregnant lady who brought her kids in to eat and then passed out because she hadn’t eaten since her husband dumped her there. We kept her and the kids and it worked out okay. That’s too generic to be identified.

There are a million stories in the big city….and you probably are lucky to ever hear one of them.

Its a dog’s life


I ponder that it is a good thing there are basic minimums for toxicity before one’s dog keels over from ingesting, say, chocolate.

I’m for renaming Duke with his real name: Bandit. Everything is fair game for him. Today he’s snatched one pair of reading glasses, a kitchen towel, two tennis shoes (unmatched), a sock, and part of my chocolate flavored flax meal muffin.  I know there’s not enough chocolate in there to poison him, but there’s that sinking feeling when I realize he’s gotten on the table – again – while my back was turned,  has gotten the last bit of food and is now running and gulping simultaneously. I’ve never had a dog I had to watch so closely. He reminds me of a small version of Chet from the Bernie and Chet mystery series. I’m sure if he could, he’d eat tennis balls as well.

Family gatherings


The question of the week from Plinky is:  What kind of family gatherings do you prefer?

Right off the bat I must say my favorite family gatherings are where all the participants are still breathing.  Frankly, while the extended family may gather to offer tribute to an urn of ashes, it generally is not the most convivial of times.  Unless, I am told,  one goes to a Portuguese or Sicilian funeral when there’s a good deal of theatrics associated with the decedent. I’m advised it is akin to going to the opera. Friends who have married into these ethnic lines tell me I have not yet lived until I experience a real ™ funeral.  I must admit, that the only one that really appealed to me was the friend who had his cremains shot out of a cannon during a revolutionary war reenactment.

I must admit, though, there’s a lot of food after a funeral or memorial service, as if food in some way propitiated the gods of the Ever After so as not to claim yet another of those present still generating brainwaves. Or perhaps it is easier to send a tuna and noodle casserole than to actually know what to say. So, generally the eats are good if a member of the family gathering is no longer doing the inhale/exhale thing.

Still, when it  comes to family gatherings where everyone still has a pulse and when all the family participants have their hearing aids tuned up, it is great fun to listen to the little ones squeal in tonal ranges that can almost shatter fine crystal and leave some of us howling on the floor with a blown ear drum because the hearing aid didn’t respond quite fast enough with the sound damper.

Being a boomer who needs augmentation, let me tell you what’s so great about it. When your relatives get into spats during the family gathering, the hearing aid has an “off” setting or can conveniently be removed and stuck in a pocket.  Note: just be sure to remove it before washing the item of clothing as those little suckers are expensive! And even if you do hear the disagreement, pretend you didn’t, cup your hand behind your ear and go, “Eh? What did you say?” and the participants will usually look at each other, turn in unison and say, “Never mind…” and look for a different mediator.  And really, if the kids are squealing you may still be suffering from a bout of tinnitus and not be able to hear a bloody word.  Reminder:  Lip reading is only correct about 1/3 of the time.  You can amaze your friends by looking at them with a confused expression and repeat what you thought they said.  

Oh, yes, back to family gatherings. I did greatly enjoy going to my brother’s home for his 70th birthday.  Here’s something of a replica of what happened to his cake with all 70 candles on it.  No, it is not his picture.  He’s quite the handsome devil, he is.

At any rate it was wonderful seeing his children and grandchildren – none of whom were in the brain liquefying scream age range (thank heavens!)   My nieces were delightful and the great-nieces and great-nephews were simply the best!  I’ve found we have a budding David Copperfield in the family!  It was all quite remarkable.  I don’t remember one family fight.  Then again, I didn’t always wear my hearing aid.  Sometimes I believe in the prophylactic approach.

So, what about y’all?  What kind of family gatherings appeal to you?  I’d love to finagle an invitation to my eldest niece’s 4th of July BBQ in Georgia sometime.  Maybe. There are a few hundred people who attend and I might get lost in the crowd.  But then I could go hang out with her two Rottweilers and her Black Angus pet calf named Lucky.  And sweat a lot.  And be served boiled peanuts.  Do I want boiled peanuts? Deep fried pickles?  Then again, maybe I could attend by video camera?

Happy Holidays to all of you who are attending family gatherings!

One hand clapping


What is the sound of one hand clapping? Of liquid turning into droplets and expanding through space with a sound something like “Kerfloof!”  Is there a name to that sound?  I’d be satisfied, I suppose, with the science behind the event.

I used to be a diet soda addict. Now I rarely drink one. Last night I opened up a can of Diet Cherry DP. (You’ll see why this is relevant soon.) I tend to drink everything at room temperature, so I just popped the top and was running around, moving laundry and stuff from the ground floor to the top floor. On the last trip I took a few hand-held items and the recently opened room temp DP.

I swear, I just grazed the dog gate with the can.

Visualize a cartoon explosion.

The can made a strange sound which defies description – sort of like a wheeze and cough – and flexed like a wild thing. A mist of droplets erupted, filling the air around me, shooting up the walls and staircase raining on the floor, attacking the walls behind me, splattering the front door, shooting across to the oxblood leather recliner. All in a heartbeat.

I just stood there as the mist settled around me.. dripping off my glasses. The dog raised his head and looked up at me as if to say, “Whatever happened, I am NOT responsible.”

This is a white on white house. Beads of Diet Cherry DP (which, by the way, are a lovely sort of translucent claret color) trickled down the walls and pooled on the light wood of the stair treads.

While I was washing walls, doors, floors, stair treads and almost anything else in the eruption area, I noticed the soda can’s little pop-top lid buckled outwards. Apparently that scrape had set the warm soda’s bubbles into geyser mode.  The remaining sip was flat as distilled water.

This, plus the color, put me in mind of a time when I was in my late teens and came home rather late one night. I noticed a bottle of strawberry wine made by a relative which was sitting on the counter. As I eyeballed it, it seemed to me to be “working” like I remembered home canned tomatoes could be “working” (spoiling, rotting, turning to poison with botulism) and I picked it up to get a better look at it. Was this what wine was supposed to look like?  It was a mystery to me.

Just as I was holding it up to my nose to get a really good look, the cork popped out in a rotten strawberry wine geyser.  Please note, my mother’s kitchen was bone white done in an eggshell finish.  I smacked my hand over the top of the bottle (but not before the wine shot up to the ceiling and over the entire kitchen) and it shot between my fingers like Old Faithful. While saying, “Shit! SHIT! SHIT!” I’m trying to get the bottle over the sink, while slipping and sliding in the strawberry wine all over the floor.

Once I was able to towel off enough that I would not leave a boozy trail through the house, I tiptoed to my mother’s bedside and whispered rather urgently, “Mom. Mom! We have a problem.”  She rolled over, inhaled the scent of horrific strawberry wine and groaned, “Oh, my God! You’re drunk!”  Not hardly, Mom, not hardly.

It took hours to clean the kitchen. My Dad ranted and raved that the bottle could have exploded in my hand and killed me. (Who knew?) In the end we had to repaint the kitchen, using sealer to keep the red wine stains from bleeding through.

However, Diet Cherry DP does not permanently stain walls!  And since there’s no sugar in it, there’s no sticky residue. And the bottom stairs are now squeaky clean.  As are the walls and the floor and the door and the …

So what is the sound of liquid gone mad?  Is it something more than the sound of one hand clapping?

Samovar tea


Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…. uh, wait a minute….

Once upon a time (in 1916) a little house was built in the 500 block of 5th Avenue in Anchorage that one day became the home for the Kobuk Coffee Company. In the late 1960’s Patsy James opened a shop called Goldpan Gifts in that location and it evolved from candy and Alaskan artifacts to today’s Kobuk Coffee Company.

Of course, when there’s a building this old it goes through various paint jobs and permutations.  Kimballs dry goods is no longer there – its a cafe now, but thank heavens it was there when the Anchorage Performing Arts center was built or there’d likely be no Kobuk Coffee Company it its present permutation. There was a long, hard fight by the owner of that building with the loving support of the Sourdough Anchorage community to keep that one building in place.Today, it is the only historic building left standing on the corner while the Performing Arts Center and groomed lawns, brick paths and flowers have taken over the rest of the large area. Sometimes the good guys still win.

There’s is nothing that can describe the sights in that quaint little shop nor the heavenly aromas that greet you at the door. In fact, if it wasn’t for fear of crashing into all the fine china and bric-a-brac one might swoon from sheer joy. This place was one of my favorite destinations in Anchorage. Why? Because of the Samovar Tea!  And what’s that, you might ask? Well, I’m about to tell you, Padawan, I mean Cheechako.

Samovar tea is named after the Russian samovar in which tea was brewed and from which it was served. The Kobuk usually has a nice selection of samovars in stock. And Samovar Tea is able to be brewed in one. It’s got a Black Caravan base so you’ll be fully caffeinated (a doctor friend I know drinks a pot before a long shift and says he’s bright eyed and bushy tailed all night!) and warm as toast during those long Alaskan nights.

What makes this tea different, however, is the difference between a spice tea like Market Spice and Samovar Tea.  Wow!  Ignore the steeping directions. Put your wondrous Samovar Tea in a large tea ball, add hot water, and wait for 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes!  It will not be bitter. The almost syrupy, hot, spicy, sweet tea (there’s no sugar in it) will roll around on your tongue like nothing you’ve ever tasted before in your life.

In fact, I’ve managed to addict people all over the country (and possibly around the world) to the joys of this incredible spice tea. I used to believe Market Spice was the ultimate. There is no comparison.  All hail Samovar Tea!  It’s a million dollar recipe held secret by this one little tea shop.  I worship at it’s feet.

It is tea season again and I’ve ordered a pound of my beloved Samovar Tea. Kept in airtight tins it keeps well over the year, but one must have a new infusion come autumn. It is steeped in orange, clove, cinnamon and heavens only knows what else and it is like drinking the ambrosia of the gods!

So, if you are in Anchorage for a visit, take your high limit credit card and stop by one the best little tea, coffee, candy, and bric-a-brack shops in the world. If you’d rather not fly, boat, or drive up there and still want to try my favorite tea, they now express ship it out. If you want to impress your friends for the holiday season you can buy a pound (in 1/4 pound containers) and they will be amazed at the wonderful smell emanating from your gift. Sorry, my friends already get it so you’ll have to find other people to impress.

The usual disclaimers – I have no financial interest. I’m merely a bone-deep fan of the best little tea shop in the world.

Autumnal Pumpkin Cauldron


Remember that picture of the Queensland Blue Pumpkin?  I found out it is a cross between a Hubbard Squash and a Cinderella Pumpkin and very good eating.  So, for yesterday’s Celtic Harvest feast at the Grove, I got up early, carved away the top, cleaned out the seeds and stringy bits and stuffed it with meats and veggies and spicy marinara sauce, then baked it at 350 for four hours in a deep pan with water in it.  Of course, the blue was long gone by the time it was done, but the capped pumpkin was a wonderful cauldron to hold in all the rich goodness stuffed into it.  And it was relatively easy to take in the large, stout baking dish – heavy, and a bit awkward to carry, but better than whacking the lovely pumpkin into pieces and putting it in a huge bowl or something,

So here we are with a look into that lovely cauldron of goodness.  I want to tell you that driving from my place to Manchester, NH was an effort not to park the car and start eating!

And it was almost all consumed by the end of the night.  Only five small plastic containers to go home with the attendees.  Yum!

Its buddy is a “Red Warty Thing” squash and I’m planning on cooking that for Thanksgiving – stuffed with sweetmeats and possibly nuts slivered over the top when it is served.

Wheat and Weight Loss – or Gain


Over the past 3 and half years I’ve lost 120 pounds of fat. I know it is fat rather than lean mass because I check the percentile of body fat. During most of this time I have been a strict low-carber which means meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, and limited dairy. No grains – nada – and darn little in the area of nutritive sweeteners unless called for during sports activities.

Cameron Diaz is reported to weigh 120 pounds.  Imagine what it would be like to have to carry her everywhere you went.  Pleasant view, perhaps, but not much fun – at least not for me.  Especially if I had to carry her purse, too.

Early this year I started stretching my carb boundaries. After all, I was in weight training 5 days a week – also cardio.  It was INTENSE.  Grain crept back in – a little here, a little there.  It has a way of filling a spot you didn’t know needed filled. Full, but not for long – it goes away quickly. And oddly enough, despite working like a draft horse at harvest, I was not losing weight or fat.

Made contact with the Wheat Belly concept and concluded it was time to go cold turkey again.

You have no idea how hard it is to start stripping away all the things with wheat in them.  I’m back to analyzing – can I have this product if it was made in a factory where wheat is also processed?  And I had gotten used to forays (now and then) into sourdough bread.  For god’s sake, the second ingredient in licorice is wheat.

Still and all, in the time I’ve been being uber careful I’ve lost 2 pounds. 38 more to go.  Repeat after me.  Wheat Belly!  Wheat Belly!  Wheat Belly!  Read the Wheat Belly Blog if you’re really serious about weight loss – and keeping it off!

 

Autumnal Musings


It is October and the trees are turning color, the hydrangeas have reached peak color – sadly more of a muddy brown this year – and it would be really nice if it stopped raining so I could get some nice photos before all the color is gone.

Because I can’t go around with my trusty little camera (which I’ve misplaced) and my big camera needs to go in for it’s annual adjustment, I find myself eating orange things to feel the autumnal effect.  For instance, spiced pumpkin coffee using almond milk and vanilla protein powder – and lest y’all go “Yuck!” I have managed to addict a number of skeptics because it is yummy! Today I moved on to pumpkin pancakes made of almond meal and they were “Nom! Nom! Nom!” as my grandkids say. Then there are the flaxmeal pumpkin “muffins” that I have to eat while protecting myself from the canine in charge who wants it.  (He’s got good taste.)  He also ended up with one of the muffins.

Since I’m missing the autumnal feeling, I’m posting a photo taken out by Smolak Farms last year.

Beer


In general, I am a non-drinker.  I have been told that drinking wine is good for the body and the soul, but to be frank – bleh!  So now and then I try beer.  Why beer? Well, wine is alcoholic and so is beer.  It must be the booze, methinks, that is healthy, although some think it is the grapes.  To quote my daughter, “Whatever…”

Today I was looking for burgundy for a Burgundy sauce for a pot roast and the little “package”‘ store had a whole area of what the owner referred to as “beer geek beers” I decided to examine.  In the melange of brews I found one worth a try.  Gorzet (Gooseberry ) Wheat Ale.  It’s an ancient recipe, which appeals.  It’s from Scotland, which also appeals (me being a Celt).  And what a great list of ingredients – including gooseberries, bogmyrtle and meadowsweet.  Who could resist?

I took it home, cooled it down and … gee, our ancestors really had something going here. Normally I take a couple of sips and then pour it out as too bitter and nasty to be endured.  Now I find I will go buy another one sometime. Maybe for Mabon. Not wanting to rush the alcohol consumption or anything, one every couple of months should be just fine.  Right? $3 for 11 oz, is a wee bit steep, then again, maybe I’m “lost in the 50’s” eh? Or is that the 1650’s, considering the age of the recipe.