Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend cooking: yams & apple casserole, roasted broccoli, mashed potatoes

I am making yam and apple casserole, baked potatoes, roasted broccoli. To warm up the house, and my belly.

Someone gave me the yams, and apples, and also red potatoes.

Using yams is always kind of a struggle. They are a hard vegetable to deal with, literally. They take a long time to cook, they're hard to peel, and so on.

When I receive gifts of food from thoughtful friends, I use them. So when I received apples and yams so of course I googled "apples and yams." Recipes abounded. I am making two casseroles, one for my friend who gave me the ingredients.

The apples had to be cored, peeled and sliced, and the yams boiled, cooled, peeled and then sliced. Yikes, a lot of work. You layer the sliced apples and sliced yams. In a small saucepan mix cornstarch, apple juice, butter, brown sugar and lemon juice. Pour over the apple-yam layers. Bake, like, forever, and baste constantly.

There is only 5 minutes left on the timer and there is a lot of juice left. So much I wonder if I doubled the cornstarch. We will see in the end. I'll take the casseroles out and let them rest, and see how much juice remains.

While the oven was on I roasted broccoli too.

As for the red potatoes...they had been accidentally frozen. My friend gave them to me saying, "See if you can do anything with these. I'm going to throw them out." I love a challenge.

Unfortunately, this was not challenging. LOL. All I did was google "I accidentally froze red potatoes."

The first search result was from a frugal site, which was responding to a question, "what can I do with accidentally frozen potatoes?" I love the internet.

The red potatoes had been frozen whole, in a Ziploc. I squeezed them hard. The starch separates, and a lot of water came out. The skins slipped off easily, too. The meat turned a bit gray, but oh well.

I crumbled the meat into a baking dish and popped them in the oven with the other stuff I was baking. This would continue drying them. I did not add any spices, salt, butter or milk. Just a pile o' potatoes, baking uncovered.

When the edges were getting a bit brown and crusty I took it out and let it cool. I decided to make mashed potatoes out of them. Add milk, salt and butter. I think they came out OK. I like potatoes any way they're served. I am giving half to the friend who gave me the potatoes and she will let me know if they are palatable.

It's a gorgeous day. I am going to add oil to the car, and clean the interior. I'll zip over to the friend's house and deliver the food. Then I plan to vacuum my apartment and then take a nap. I want to read this evening, with tea. It's the weekend and life is good.

Nope, the casseroles are still too juicy. Maybe I did forget to double the cornstarch. Or the recipe makes it this way. I'll never make this again, it's taken hours. My personal favorite-to-try recipe I found this morning is a spicy African yam-peanut soup. I'll do that next time, if I ever get yams again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drill sergeant on the playground

What a gorgeous day today was! Fall in northern Georgia is just great. No humidity, days in the low 70s, clear night skies with sparkling stars.

I had my car in the shop for a few days and I got it back this afternoon. Just in time, I ran out of cat food and litter this morning. I made a run to the Dollar Store and the local grocery store. The prices at the Dollar Store are admittedly extremely helpful, but it's sort of a depressing place. I wouldn't trade it though, for having to drive to a Wal-Mart or a Target in Athens.

I bought broccoli which will be roasted. I think roasted broccoli is the tastiest vegetable alive. Unless it's spinach salad with boiled eggs, feta and mushrooms. Or a spinacci, a sauteed spinach--lemon-garlic with mushrooms and softened feta stuffed into a toasted pita. All those are on the agenda for the weekend. I already made pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.

I cleaned the kitchen so it'll look nice when I come home and collapse tomorrow afternoon, lol. I have some books on the docket and I plan to take some walks and look at the sheep, morning glories, clouds, birds, chickens and anything else that crosses my path.

I think I'll wash the car too. It's been five years. It's due.

I was on recess duty today. Usually the kids are like spilled marbles, rolling everywhere randomly, the scene punctuated by the occasional shriek. So when a gaggle of about 8 or so kids lined up against the chainlink fence and looked listened to a kindergarten boy who was yelling at them, I perked up. I nudged the other teacher on duty and said, "Hm, something is going on there."

The lineup of kids was toward me and the drill sergeant boy was back to me. He was gesturing fervently and saying something loudly. Then they all saluted the drill sergeant boy! After that, they all broke into a run around the pavilion. They were doing laps! The boy was drilling them.

I asked him later,

"What were you doing?"
 He said, "Training them. Making them exercise."

I thought about it this evening. Can I get 8 or so kids to stop what they're doing, at recess, line up, look at me, listen to me, do what I say, AND salute me?

No. I cannot.
Well played, young boy. Well played.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Murray the Cat is One Year Old

Today I'm making split pea soup, roasted cabbage, black beans N rice, and apple crumble. I still have pumpkin muffins left over from a few days ago. This will be the basis for meals this week.

I like pea soup because it's hearty and SO easy to make. I discovered boil-in-bag rice when a friend dropped some off when I had the flu. Boil in bag, where have you been all my life? I'll add black beans and celery and a bit of hot sauce. The apple crumble is because apples were on sale, 3 for $1.

The weather is turning fall-like here in North GA. I read on Twitter a funny line that encapsulates the situation:

"The nights know it's fall, but the days haven't committed yet."

The nights are in the upper 40s/low 50s but the daytimes are still in the upper 70s/low 80s. It's hard to dress for such a wide range of temps. But I'm not complaining, The days are warm enough I don't have to turn on the heat yet at night. Best of all, the humidity is gone. The nights are so clear I enjoy standing in the yard when it's dark, just looking at the clarity of the stars, moon, and planets. In rural GA there are no ambient lights to compete with the glory of the heavenly lights.

Murray the kitty was born sometime last October. The neighbor who lived here at the time, noticed the kitten living under the shed, and was often cold or hungry. She started feeding him. After 8 weeks or so, she had him fixed and attended to be the local vet. He was still an outdoor, yard cat though.

Once you start feeding an animal, it's my position that he is your responsibility. It's cruel to teach the animal to depend on you for food ad water and then take it away. At one point in early January last year we were predicted to have exceedingly cold temperatures, near zero, which is unheard of for this area of the south. The weather forecasters were advising people to bring in their animals, to the house, the barn, wherever. I asked the neighbor if I could bring Murray in, just for the duration.

Ha ha. The duration is ongoing almost a year later. Keeping Murray inside with me was fine with the neighbor, and eventually she moved away anyway.

At first, he was standoffish with me, and minimally affectionate. I could see he wanted affection though, even when he was a yard cat. He'd come bounding out from under the shed, his home, when I drove in from school. I'd groom him at the picnic table, and pet him. He would only stand it for a few minutes though. He was too preoccupied with being alert for noises and predators and danger. Let's just say he was skittish.

But I could see the cat he wanted to be, and when I brought him in, I started a program of behavior conditioning.

When he came up to me for petting, I pet him but I always let him go before he fussed. Leave 'em wanting more was the motto. Plus, I wanted him to know he wasn't trapped.

When I groomed him with the comb (clipping nails came later) I stopped before he fussed and I immediately praised him and gave him a treat.

I left him alone when he decided on what spot to take for his naps. He chose the blue chair in the bedroom and I made sure it was always available to him, so he'd know he had a safe place to sleep.

It took a long time before he would climb on the bed to sleep with me and cat Bert and cat Luke. He just started doing so in the last month or so. I'm so excited when he comes up but I try not to manhandle him too much, but pet him to acknowledge him and let him know he's welcome, and then I just let him sleep where he wants. Increasingly, it's been closer to my head. He started at the feet, for 2 or 3 minutes. Then by my knees for 5 or 10 minutes. Then by my shoulders for an hour. Now he feels comfortable enough to sleep near the pillow for as long as he wants. Usually till 4 am and then he sits on the back of the couch and whacks pictures off the wall, sigh. I said he was growing, but not perfect ;)

At first I thought I'd have a problem with Murray and Bert. Bert is aloof, mild mannered and private. Murray of course, immediately gravitated to Bert. They snarled a few times because Murray likes to scare Bert by leaping on him while Bert is snoozing. Of course this is aggravating to Bert.

But Murray settled down into the pecking order and the three are downright chummy. Most days, lol. I have to remember that Murray is only just turned 1. He's still a kitten and will misbehave and pull pranks as kittens do.

I still believe that three cats is too many for me and overloads this apartment, But I would not trade his life for my comfort. He is a precious l'il thing and as long as he is alive I'll take care of him, and love him. He is my little snowball ghost kitty!

Here, Bert on the top bunk and Murray relaxing below. This would not have happened 9 months ago.

Impromptu kitty condo!

Doh! Murray leaps up and scares the kitty litter out of Bert! And Murray looked so innocent a moment ago!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Of crowns and castles

We were working on the letter C. We had to look at the pictures on the paper and circle the ones that started with C. This was one of the pictures.

I asked the student, "What is this one?"
Pause. Then:

"It's a castle hat!"

 I definitely love kindergarten!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My drive home

Come along with me on my drive home from school. It is 6 miles, down one road, and passes many beautiful sights.

It's rural here, and the pastures in any season are gorgeous. Right now it is still in the low 80s and the overnight temps are in the low 60s. There has been little rain, though, and the fields are brown. Pardon the dimness of the photos, I took them while driving at speed through tinted dark glass... Oh well.

Leaving school, the skies are blue-blue-blue with gorgeous puffy clouds.

I whizz past pastures with occasional barn.

There's one of our County school buses. Hello Driver!

Poor barn! Poor shed! Needs repair...

Chicken barns! Agribusiness dominates the local economy, with poultry production particularly important. Farm gate is over 300 million for this small county. Horses are also raised here.

Approaching Gholston's Stand, so named (the oral tradition goes) because of a skirmish between county settlers the Gholstons and their neighbors, and the local Creek Indians, in the 1700s. Read about the tale here. Still loving those clouds.

The traffic is a killer.

A large, fine home. With a fantastic rock wall.

A nearby farmstead. Getting close now.

One of the other county schools. I live close by. I hear the opening and dismissing bell, the busses crank up, and the children at recess.

There's Ralph's Farm Stand. Hi Ralph!

A church on every corner. Literally. There are two other churches within stone's throw.  Both are mine, we own two buildings. This one is sad...hardly anyone goes.

My street. Man, I really need to clean my windshield.

The shed on the property. And the small herd of sheep. Hello sheep!

I'm home. 6 miles, 10 minutes, from a great apartment to a great school and pretty all the way. Life is good!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Fall: flu, cool air, and roasted veggies

I've had the flu all week. It's not fun and it's not pretty.

No I never get the flu shot. I have not had the flu since 1984 so avoiding a drug that I haven't needed for 30 years is a plus, in my opinion.

I was feeling OK Monday night. Some friends stopped by. They brought me a donut on the way home from Athens, and we talked in the driveway for a while. I came back inside, cleaned up (ate the donut) and went to bed. I woke up around 2AM a different person.

From Tuesday through Thursday I was one sick puppy. I went back to work Friday but probably shouldn't have. I'd never been out of work for three days in a row, let alone four, so I sure showed the flu who was boss. Meanwhile my colleagues at work were quietly Lysoling behind me.

This morning I'm very weak but finally the fever is good and gone. For a while there I thought it was a defective thermometer, permanently stuck above 100. It does work though. The mercury is finally down below 99 now.

One of the hardest things about being sick alone is the work. I still had to clean the kitty litter box and feed the darlings, and at least do the minimal things to keep the house going. I have to do all the clean up now from the sick week- take out the trash, disinfect everything, do laundry. And just when I'm at my weakest. I'll take it slow.

I also feel bad because both my work and my school need helpers today. School is holding a yard sale and needs workers to help set up and take down. I don't mind the cool/cold and I would have helped set up in the pre-dawn hours. Church is having homecoming soon and they need workers this morning to clean the inside and outside of the church. Just when I think I'd like to go help, I get dizzy and weak from simply standing up too quickly.

The weather changed dramatically since yesterday. It went from humid and warm to freshly cool with a nip in the wind. The low tonight is supposed to be 41 degrees...the heater guy isn't coming until October 9. That means I'll do some baking and roasting to warm up the place. It won't take much to make the apartment snug. A friend gave me two bags of jalapeno peppers and I seeded them Monday. I'll roast some, and as for the others others I'll toss into a cornbread muffin mix. I got buttermilk at the store yesterday. I'll also bake some potatoes and dream up a casserole too. Maybe I'll try some jalapeno poppers. I have the feta...

Even though it's dark and windy out, when you step outside it feels so good to breathe in that fresh crisp air instead of breathing the hot air like when you open the oven and get a blast in the face.

Choosing just the right of the joys of fall.
EPrata photo

Color series: Yellow

Color Series: Blue

Color Series: Red


Faded tiger lilies. EPrata photo

Canola field. EPrata photo

Sunflower closeup. EPrata photo

Farmer's Market tomatoes. EPrata photo

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Color Series: Red

Here are two more from my color series. I did blue the other day. Here is red

Faded red. EPrata photo

Red. EPrata photo

Red berry. EPrata photo
Red balloon girl. EPrata photo