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The Lovely Neighbor is getting rid of all her things in preparation for her house sale and a move to Virginia. I am sad to see her go. When her mother Merle died last month I knew TLN would not stay alone in that big house when all her kin are back east. If she had her way she would give us her entire household.  “Take something, anything!” she said today as I visited her to see how she was doing.  I told her what I really wanted was a recipe. Merle made an oyster dip which she served at every party and dinner. That is what I wished to take to remember her.

Whenever someone dies or goes away for good I want a souvenir of them. This is never something large or precious, nor is it merely a photograph. What I want is a recipe. Food is my means to recall someone I love and miss. Friends and family get associated with a dish or cookie or even a cocktail. One bite or sip brings them back to me.

I learned today The Lovely Neighbor’s late mother’s recipe is neither complicated nor haute cuisine. It consists of two tins of oysters, diced, combined with some diced tomatoes (also tinned) and a few dashes or tabasco. That’s it. The dip is served with Ritz crackers. It is not ‘gourmet’ but it works. Its aroma and taste brings back Merle. I miss her. I surmise whenever I have oyster dip I will remember her. This beats all the photographs in the album book.

I have many such food-memories associations. Most of them are simple fare. None were consciously set up to do the job; they merely happened. I have a cup of coffee, I think of Lena. One cup of tea and I hear my grandmother. I nibble some edam cheese and I Grandfather is alive again. “I smell olives” conjures loving memories of The Cajun.

I suppose this is another argument for lots of home cooking and haggaes. I don’t care too deeply for inheriting Grandmother’s furniture. Her recipe for Russian Chicken*, handwritten on an index card in large cursive penmanship, is something I really cherish.

Spo-fans are invited to share if they have a dish associated with a loved one.

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*Russian Chicken

10 ounces of preserves: apricot, pineapple, or peach. 

I package of Lipton onion soup mix.

1 bottle of Russian dressing (or make your own).

Mix the three ingredients together and pour over 4-6 chicken breasts.   Cover and bake x 90 minutes at 350F.

For too long dinner has been a clueless procedure of impromptu dishes which are a) not too healthy and b) not too inspiring. At the end of a very long day when I am too tired to cook my knackered mind remembers only 3-4 recipes.  Most of the time I have a ‘why bother” feeling and dinner may not happen at all. A week ago I decided I would plan a weekly menu. I riddled through my extensive cookbook collection and decided on the theme of ‘Midwest cooking’.

What is ‘Midwest cooking” you ask? This is mostly  simple hot dishes consisting of several ingredients put together into a casserole dish and baking it until done. They aren’t high-cuisine nor are they PC-healthy but they have the advantage of being quick to make, hot, and comforting. Like my men.

I made the following:

Asian Chicken with rice bake

Tator tot casserole

Tuna pot pie

Easy chicken 

Campbells Cream of this-that-or-another Soup is the base of each dish. I have never known anyone actually eat these as soup. They are the backbone of recipes found in any Midwest cookbooks. Cream of Mushroom reigns supreme, although the mentioned Asian chicken dish called for Golden Mushroom (don’t ask).

A can opener and a casserole dish are vital kitchen tools, for most ingredients come out of a tin (soup. tuna, mushrooms, or vegetables). The Easy Chicken dish called for generous amounts of paprika. Otherwise exotic spices are conspicuously absent.

The tuna pie and the tator-tot dish came out gloppy. Someone didn’t care for them and neither did I.  The Asian chicken is worth repeating. It consisted of putting chicken breasts on top of uncooked rice, adding soup-glob and bake it.

The Easy Chicken dish is pending with thirty minutes still to bake.  I told Someone (away at work) this evening I was having easy chicken and he wondered what sort of sordid app he came from. Actually the recipe is out of The Lutheran Church Women’s cookbook from Oshkosh WI, so the joke is on somebody I am not certain who.

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Gads, what a week. The work week combined with a few theatre evenings left no time for anything else let along read or write blogs. I feel slightly guilty and annoyed by my lack of postings. It helps to remind myself this is a hobby not a job.  

It’s Saturday, which means it’s time to dictate notes and charts. I have a slight stammer. This makes the dictation device dream up some rather amusing interpretations. For example, the medicine “Seroquel” comes out as “Sarah’s quill”. Frequently “Las Vegas” is translated into “Lost Vegas” which I don’t often bother to fix as I think that sounds better.

I recently discovered in a note (too late to revise!) the dastardly dictation device interpreted “medical updates” as ‘medicinal cupcakes’ :

“Dicky Purdy reports since his last appointment he’s had no medicinal cupcakes.”

The mind boggles. What on earth are medicinal cupcakes, I wonder. I did a quick search through my cookbook collection but came up without a recipe for such (although I thought “Chocolate beer cupcakes with whiskey frosting” came close).

A Google search took me to several dubious websites – most of them in Colorado – for nasty brownies and such.

A search for images conjured this:

medical_cupcakes

I asked a few of the women at work who are known for their cooking if they knew the recipe for medicinal cupcakes. One didn’t know but would ask her mother. Another one summarized all cupcakes are medicinal.

Whether or not cupcakes have salubrious properties remains currently unresolved. I will look into my journals JAMA, The Journal of Psychiatry, and Betty Crocker. I will inform Spo-fans when I am successful. I hope to find a reputable double-blind studies on the efficacy of cupcakes in the treatment of this,that, or the other –  OR the recipe thereof.

If Spo-fans happen to have a marvelous recipe for cupcakes – medicinal or otherwise – please pass it along to me and the other readers. 

I am pleased as punch to consider if one now Googles “medicinal cupcakes” they are likely to end up here at my blog.

Meanwhile I suggest the following:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/220447/chocolate-beer-cupcakes-with-whiskey-filling-and-irish-cream-icing/

It may not have any proven efficacy but the placebo effect is quite high.

I am watching my food intake and Someone is on a very strict diet. As a consequence the meals at Spo-house are minimum and austere. Nevertheless it is Hallowe’en, my favorite holiday.  Holidays involve food. Which is why I made me some Halloween trail mix.

Each year I put together a pastiche of nibbles to create a holiday trail mix, using ingredients apropos for the season. It is never quite the same.

This year’s ingredients included:

Reese’s pieces

autumn mix

pretzels

raisins (yellow and brown)

Cheez-it crackers

roasted peanuts

and

Count Chocula cereal.

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As you can see, this is a wholesome recipe. It is all-natural low-sodium lo-fat sugar-free organic cage-free low-cholesterol dolphin-safe and kind-to-trees.  Alas, there is no way to make ‘just a nubbin’ (as Father calls a small amount). When conflated the ingredients make for a king-sized titanic unsinkable Molly Brown bowl.

Someone has asked me to keep the wretched stuff in the pantry, hidden away, so he can’t see it; I am to get it out of the house ASAP.  I tried to assure him it is also gluten-free and high-fiber but this comfort was rejected forthright. So, it is off to work with it tomorrow. The women at the clinic are watching their figures. I fear they won’t be so grateful for this loving homemade goodness from the kitchen.

Perhaps I should freeze it for a later date. Alas, no one wants Halloween goodies in January and we don’t have a freezer capacious enough to receive it. I doubt even Sara Lee has such a freezer.

It is beginning to look like I may have to eat it all myself, in a noble sacrifice. To pass the time away I could try disassembling the dish back into its original constituents. I don’t recall ever eating Count Chocula cereal. Perhaps it would be a nice break from my matutinal oatmeal and no doubt just as wholesome.

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I spent some of the day tidying up email folders.  In one of them I found an email from Wayne J. AKA The Cajun.  It is a recipe for a proper martini.  “I smell olives” was one of his favorite expressions. 

Out of whimsy and in memory of the fellow, here it is – 

Ultra fine gin is a unique pleasure for me. My fave for smoothness and price is Bombay Sapphire, but 2 others stand out and can be relatively easy to find. Plymouth is a zippy juniper sensation.  The other two may turn some folks off: Hendircks is “infused” with cucumber and rose oil. (Makes an interesting martini) Magellan is naturally blue and is gaining popularity across the US. (The blue colour is likely the turnoff culprit.) Only the Bombay Sapphire bottle is blue.

All of these gins may be refrigerated since they’re so smooth they do not require water to weaken or reduce sharpness. Some folks freeze the Hendricks, but others insist freezing breaks down the natural flavors of the infusion.

Other gins like Gordon’s, or Seagram’s can make a good martini, should not be refrigerated, need ice to temper the sharpness, and also need a bit more vermouth to smooth it out.

A good martini with the fine gins: On the rocks – 3 to 5 ice cubes in a rocks glass, pour bit of dry vermouth and stir to coat the cubes. Pour remaining vermouth out and fill the glass with 3 oz. of fine gin. Rub the rim with a lemon peel, and add a large olive.  Straight up in a tini glass – pour ice and a little water in the glass to chill, (if you can freeze the glass, all the better) pour the gin into a mixing glass and add 2 or 3 drops of dry vermouth, add a twist of lemon zest and stir slowly. Remove the ice from the tini glass, drop in an olive (whatever size you like) and pour the martini (with the lemon zest) into the tini glass.

Olives? Any stuffed olive will do, but just be aware that those stuffed with onions or garlic introduce their own unique flavours to the mix. I strongly suggest avoiding those stuffed with blue cheese. They tend to leave an ugly oil slick on the surface which is not appealing to many. Some old-timers prefer an olive with a pit, so go fig.

Either way, enjoy.

There I finally did it. Whew!

Wayne.

I spoke with my parents yesterday, who asked me what was new and exciting. Later that night I ran into chums whom I have not seen in ages and they too asked me for all my news and updates. In both encounters I drew a blank coming up with something noteworthy to tell them. I work, exercise, read a bit, wash and repeat.

For some time I’ve wanted to write something weighty and numinous. For an equal amount of time I’ve waited for something interesting or recondite to come along to provide me with a topic. Life is an adventureless tale. I wrestle with no inner demons; my main worries in life is getting deadlines met and when are we going to fix the hole in the laundry room ceiling.  There is nothing ‘coming up’ like the annual winter holiday.  It is hardly worth writing about.

I prescribe to some podcasts; two of them are along the line of male self improvement. I suspect their target audience is men younger than I; I don’t need advice on how to establish a career or how to win friends and influence people or (worse) how to pick up the babes. What I want is a podcast for fifty year olds who are trying not to become frumps.

This morning I decided to shake things up a bit and cook something new and adventuresome. I split some superannuated avocados in half, scooped out the pits, cracked open some eggs into their recesses and baked the lot for 15 minutes. I’ve already learned:

a) Next time use less ripe avocados

b) Scoop out a bit of the flesh to make room

c) Discard some of the egg white. Or use smaller eggs

d) Leave the skins on !

e) Don’t presume Someone wants one.

 

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This oatmeal-less breakfast is probably the highlight of my day; the rest is downhill.

As uncle used to say “I lead a dull life”.   🙂

Two days ago I made apple spice infused bourbon by making a concoction consisting of boiled apple juice, cored apples, water, brown sugar and with spices cinnamon and cloves. When cooled I added 2 cups of bourbon. Today I will strain out the bits; the spiced bourbon mixed with ginger ale makes a delightful autumn cocktail.

One is advised not to use the good bourbon doing this. Not having such rubbish at home, I went out this week to obtain ‘some cheap stuff’.  I found an inexpensive (plastic) bottle of “Ten High” which is new for me, not having seen it listed in the whiskey magazines or with my whisky-chum Ralfy (not a good sign, this).   Here’s what a whiskey blogger writes about Ten High:

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TEN HIGH

“Ten High, which can’t decide if it wants to be a bourbon or a blend, seems to have thrown in the towel on trying to be respectable and is just fine being that cheap-ass brand on the bottom shelf.  Well good, ‘cause that’s what it is.  I remember being at a friend’s house and having them offer me “a bourbon.”  This friend was a decent guy and one that, historically, had a favorable opinion of bourbon and its brands.  A rocks glass with three ice cubes and a pale, but okay-looking whiskey was presented to me.  I gave it a sniff and was greeted with an assault on my sinuses.  “Well, the Lord hates a coward.”  Brutal, burning, and bad, I asked what in the hell it was.  “It’s an old bottle of Ten High that my grandfather had, so it should be really good.”  I checked the bottle:  the classic, plastic half gallon that many of these bourbons are showcased in.  “Exactly how well do you think a bad whiskey is going to ‘age’ in a clear, plastic jug?”  Anyway, that’s my Ten High story.  Have I had Ten High since?  Well, yeah.  I’m not a snob.

Twitter follower RJ in Warren puts it very well:  “There is only one reason you should know what Ten High tastes like.. and that’s if for some reason you find yourself at the liquor store with less than $10 in your pocket, and discover you left your wallet at home.  My house is a far enough journey that buying whatever I could find for under ten bucks seemed like a better option than going to retrieve my wallet and returning for a decent bottle.  Turns out it is possible to spend $8.95 and feel like you were completely ripped off.  My taste buds will never be the same”

BlueKitchen reader Bob echos the sentiment:  “not a straight bourbon…still lists itself as a Kentucky Bourbon…maybe so, but can’t hold a candle to a good straight Kentucky.”

So, it’s unanimous…Ten High is pretty shitty.’

 

Well !

I had a taste of it prior to dumping a few cups into the witches brew.  It wasn’t that bad. It had a great kick, enough to bring tears to my eyes. I thought it quite reasonable as a mixer. It is not quite as good as listerine as a mouthwash, but as a disinfectant I bet it beats Pine-sol by a country mile.  Jolly good fun!

It was a full weekend between social activities and getting caught up at the office. Whenever either happens, my time for writing and reading blogs dries up quicker than rain in the desert.  My mind feels dried up as well; the Muses left early for their winter holiday with the Fates.   This leaves me with the Norns for inspiration and consultation.  Of course, they want me to write about the winter solstice.

As I drove to work this morning in the predawn, I remembered this week is the ‘darkest week of the year’.  I rather like the winter solstice. I suppose my Northern latitude genetics makes it so.  I try to make it a quiet peaceful time, with plenty of candles to welcome the returning sun.

Unfortunately this year’s Winter Solstice tranquility is being marred by all the Mayan nonsense.  I would readily dodge it all by turning off the media, but patients keep bringing it in as a source of angst de jour.

 

th

 

Someone (not my Someone) recently pointed out the similarity between f the Mesoamerican calendar and the Oreo cookie.  Rather than prescribing tranquilizers, I am going to tell the new-age anxious to make Oreo truffles:

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36   OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided

1  pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened

16oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

RESERVE 1/4 cup cookie crumbs. Mix cream cheese and remaining cookie crumbs until blended.

SHAPE into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm.

I plan to ‘celebrate’ this week with as much peace and quiet as possible. Someone (my Someone) is always concerned my mania for lighting candles will burn the house down. This would be a fine ‘end of the world’ indeed – our own little personal Gotterdamurung. Thanks Norns.

So that’s all the Spo-thoughts on his bright but brief winter morning. I will try to keep you abreast of the news if I happen to see any Mayans or Oreo cookie sightings.

I don’t eat treats anymore (alas), but it is Christmas time. I suspect The Personal Trainer will allow me a little Christmas cheer.* With visions of sugarplums dancing in my head and an armful of my cookbooks I am brainstorming which sugar cakes will be made this season.

This year I hope to make some old favorites and something new and adventuresome.  The traditional cookies are a no-brainer:

Mother’s infamous gingerbread-cookies

Grandfather’s “S” cookies

and

Snickerdoodles   (red and green sugar)

Picking out the ‘new and adventuresome’ cookies is the challenge. You would think there only so many ways to combine flour, sugar, oil, and a few spices, wouldn’t you? Going through the my cookbook collection and various cooking apps, I am becoming overwhelmed by the countless number of cookies. I feel like an employer who put up a ‘for hire’ sign only to receive thousands of resumees and CVs. Nevertheless, it’s a fun task, figuring out which ones to try.

Like Jane and Michael Banks writing their advertisment for a perfect nanny, The Cookies of Christmas Present should meet some criteria:

They should be ‘fun’ to make. Cookie making should be fun, not a drudge. I suppose I am saying long, complicated Martha Stewart/it takes special equipment/takes 3 days to create etc. are too much work for a cookie.

They should be festive, suggesting “Christmas time”.

They should be ‘fabulous’ so when presented to others, there is a ‘ooh!” response.

Ideally, these new cookies should be freezable or at least have a long shelf-life. I wish to eat them over a long period of time.

And

They shouldn’t have coconut  (I am allergic).

I realize these are not very specific.  But I will recognize a potential when I see it.

If any Spo-fans have some favorites, please pass them on!

 

*And if he doesn’t, I’ll tell the Grinch to flake off.  

It is time to prepare a pretty prickly pear punch for our pink party.

 

In our part of the country prickly pears grow like weeds. Prickly pears produce fruit that have a bright pink liquid, almost fuchsia in colour. It has a sweet taste, almost like cotton candy or bubble gum. Prickly pear products are always good for supper invite. A bright fuchsia sorbet or margarita is met with ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ and a few ‘what the hells?”.

The first step: picking prickly pears from public property plants, of which we have plenty.

This is best done in the morning before it gets too hot and before passers-by want to know what the hell you are doing.

What to bring on a prickly pear pick – 

Tongs 

A bucket

What not to bring on a prickly pear pick –

Daisy Duke Shorts

Harper

The fruits of my labor.

Apparently I am a tad early as many were not quite ripe. But this morning’s endeavor is merely the ‘first sweep’. Tomorrow I will get more.

Then comes the task of cleaning and mashing and cooking.

More to come!

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