Thursday, October 31, 2019

A sloffee day!

By Elizabeth Prata

Let me set the scene. It's raining hard, and it has been for a day. The metal awnings plink and ping as the rain goes from sprinkle to gushing stream. The dark is dark, almost palpable, as the outside gloom isn't relieved by any hint of any sun on any horizon.

Inside, the coffee pot perks and ticks. Medium roast coffee streams through the little hole into the waiting pot. My mug is warming with hot water soaking inside, waiting for the real liquid, the brown nectar. It will be a slow coffee day. Not gulping, not hurrying, but relaxing at the table, holding the mug between warming hands, sipping over hours instead of swigging over minutes, staying at home instead of rushing to work.

The humidity is hanging on, this rain seems to be the last hurrah of the long summer season. As the rain dwindles to a sprinkle over the day as it is predicted, the cool air will finally rush in. That will be a relief. When it finally reveals itself the sky will be clear, no haze hanging between the endless blue and my appreciative eyes. At night I'll see the Big Dipper glittering over the garage when I open my door. The Little Dipper hangs over the house. If I reach up I can touch them.

Let the Fall Break from school begin. Four days at home, enjoying these and other small and great pleasures. Slow coffee. Glittering stars. Snoring kitty. Pile of magazines. Tower of books. Crafting. Sermons, music, cooking. Naps.

Many of my friends are going camping, others are on a romantic getaway in the mountains. Others plan to catch up on errands, jaunting around with their kids, laughing and singing in the car. Me, I am in hermit mode, living quiet and plain, but full and happy.

During my grocery shopping yesterday I decided to try an experiment. I saw Nova Lox salmon trimmings on sale again. Kroger doesn't always have the trimmings, but when they do I love a good lox and bagel. Being gluten free, bagels have been off the table, literally. Being dairy intolerant, so has cream cheese. This was a loss. This week I'd decided to try some different gluten free products, expanding my G-F shelf from solely Kroger bread, to trying some other breads. I bought Canyon Ranch bread since it was on sale. Also Ener-G gluten free bread. I will compare.

Is there a dairy free cream cheese? Yes, Kroger now has two. As far as I know they didn't used to have any, so it's nice to have a choice. They are each $5, but I decided to try one. Lox on toast with 'cream cheese' coming up.

In that vein I also decided to try a lactose-free yogurt. Again, they are $5, most G-F and lactose free items are very expensive, and these were no different. But the individual servings cost less and will give me an idea of which brands I might like. I bought Califia Farms lactose free strawberry yogurt. It tastes fine, but is the consistency of milk, not the thick yogurt we all know and love. But sometimes I like to finish a meal with a fruit salad with a bit of yogurt. This will be OK, I guess, will I try a different one that is maybe thicker. Experiences in culinary adventures, for sure.

I watched a movie on Netflix last night. I am going to have to switch to pure fantasy movies, I think. All character-driven movies, at root, are a search for meaning. Since Hollywood produces God-free movies, the characters' search is ultimately fails. The movie was I'll See You In My Dreams. It is a quiet, serene, character study of an older woman (Blythe Danner, filling the role beautifully) whose aged dog has to be put down. This causes her loneliness to increase. Her husband had died in a plane crash 20 years ago and she retired from teaching just after the tragedy. Ever since, she has been potting around her garden, playing bridge with her three friends (who all live in an upscale retirement home) and going for walks alone.

What is life for? She placed the ashes of her dog on the mantel next to her husband's urn, and pondered her days. She makes unlikely friends with the pool man, and a man at the retirement home (Sam Elliott, who I LOVE) asks her out, and she begins reconnecting with her daughter. She starts a new routine and things look up- for a while. She seems on the upswing until a third item is seen next to the ashes of her other two, and now what? She and her friends plan a cruise to Iceland, and play another hand of bridge. Is this living? What's it all for?

It was a beautifully done movie and clean, but ultimately unsatisfying because it depicts in real time, that there is no meaning outside of God. Not even for entertainment. The unsaved search and search but there is nothing new under the sun. Ultimately, movies where the acting mimics real life are sad because it starkly brings home the search for meaning where there is none, unless the movie is a Christian film.

I'll have to find a genre that is so outside of real life that the movie doesn't fill me with sadness for the futility of life by the end. Cartoons? I wish there were more movies like Up and Inside Out and Toy Story and Monsters Inc. Or maybe I'll try to get into a superheroes movie. Old movies! That's the ticket! Classics. Only problem is, when I turn to Netflix in the genre classics, all the classics in the first tier are movies I originally saw when they came out, lol. Groundhog Day, Schindler's List, Indiana Jones, Rocky, ...all still fresh in my mind despite they being 25-40 years old. I guess I need to go back farther for the real "classic" movie.

I used to love movies. I bought Roger Ebert's movie review books every year, scoured the newspaper for new releases in the independent and foreign categories, was thrilled with VCRs came out and spent a lot of time at Blockbuster. Yes, I am that old.

I'm listening to Chopin channel on Pandora, contemplating making poached eggs on G-F waffles, and sipping my coffee. Four days at home, how lovely.

I hope you all have a great day, whether it is working day or rest day or busy day, or whatever kind of day. Because you know? It's all good under the Son.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Food prep: Week of October 28, Hippeas, baba ganouj, reading

By Elizabeth Prata

I didn't do any food prep last week. Sometimes you just get tired of it, you know? I also had a temporary crown on my broken molar and it hurt. I didn't feel like eating much.

This week will be a bit different than usual because we have a Fall Break from school starting on Thursday. I'll only be at work for 3 days. This week I did some cooking on Saturday and I'll finish the rest today.

Baked fish. Some white sole was on sale for 97 cents. Three fillets, so, 33 cents each. I baked them along with other stuff I was putting in the oven. Remember, the oven takes a lot of electricity, so if it's on, don't use it for just one thing. Stuff the oven with all ya got.

I roasted some butternut squash. I halved them, scooped out the seeds and strings, brushed each side with oil, sprinkled salt and pepper and cut side down, roasted them till soft. When cooled, I peeled and put into a container for later. They will be a nice side dish. Or, I might try making butternut squash pancakes.

I poked three small eggplants and put them in the oven whole. They are the last 3 my friend at church gave me from his and his wife's garden. When a knife goes through them easily, they are done. I let them cool and peeled the skin. Later I'll make baba ganouj, a Middle Eastern eggplant dip.

I also put in a gluten free pizza and ate that for breakfast and for lunch yesterday. :)

Later I'll make chicken salad. Kroger has picked, roasted chicken for sale in tubs, and I like that it's clean and I don't have to mess with cleaning a whole chicken or handling a raw one to cook. I'll also make chicken and vegetable soup for lunches.

Dinners: Baked fish fillets, butternut squash, baked potatoes. Also, I picked up some seafood salad and that will go on toast with a side salad. So this week proteins are the usual eggs, and chicken, fish, seafood salad, and one serving of leftover tofu (I'll stir fry with rice sticks and broccoli). I put a fried egg on top of a spaghetti squash with tomatoes and it was good. I think a fried egg goes good on anything.

Lunches: chicken salad, soup, fruit. I have strawberries and kiwis and some mandarin oranges this week.

Snacks: fruit, pumpkin seeds (loaded with protein and good for low FODMAP), Hippeas which are chick pea puffs I found on reduced sale, soy nuts.

Speaking of Hippeas, a bag containing 12 snack sized bags was on sale for $2.49. That brings each bag to 20 cents. That is a great price for a snack item. I like to spend no more than $1 for a protein serving,20-30 cents on a piece of fruit, and about 20-25 cents per snack. If you break it down like that I find it helps manage the budget.

I bought two bags of Hippeas. I brought one to school and left one at home.

I liked them, and they are gluten free and low FODMAP. Only 12 net carbs and 6 grams protein. Win! I never find gluten free stuff this inexpensive. So I looked them up online and they are massively expensive. The same bag of 12 on Amazon sells for $20. Kroger sells it for $16.

This week I see the bags are on reduced sale again, BUT, it was a bag of 6, not 2, for $3.50, not $2.50, bringing each small snack portion from 20 cents to 58 cents. Someone got wise. I am glad I bought the two bags when I did. Lesson: when you see an item you suspect to be normally expensive (like GF products always are), buy them and buy a stockpile there and then.

For my 4-day school break I plan to read. I got Beautiful Swimmers from the library. When I was living aboard our sailboat and cruising through the Chesapeake, the book was recommended. It's about the Chesapeake watermen, as the oyster and crab fishermen of that region are called. I guess since I've waited 20 years to fulfill that recommendation, it's time to actually read the book! I got it from the library on inter-library loan. (free!)

I noticed I had slowed down on reading so I made another reading schedule. It is so easy to come home and veg out, watching mindless TV (Current fave: Flipping Boston, a home renovation show). My schedule isn't as demanding as in the summer, obviously, since I am working now and am legit tired when I arrive home. So I eased up my normally aggressive reading schedule a bit but did put a schedule on the fridge, minus a page number count, just as a reminder of which book I want to read more of that day.

Saving Cinderella by Faith Moore
The Believer's Joy, M'Cheyne
Margaret Paton Letters
Selina Duchess of Huntingdon
Biblical Doctrine, JMac
Idols of a Mother’s Heart by Christina Fox
Internet Inferno by Michael John Beasley
The Vanishing Conscience, JMac
Beautiful Swimmers: The Chesapeake Watermen

Some of these are books from summer I have not finished. Time to get them read, and not let 20 years go by! For I do not know what tomorrow holds!

Here are the winners of the The Winners Of 2019's Wildlife Photographer Of The Year Competition Have Been Revealedcontest, they are cute and funny!

And the winners of the Comedy Wildlife Photography competition

Have a wonderful week ahead everyone!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Frugal Cooking: Scallops, pea greens, tomato and avocado

By Elizabeth Prata

I posted this photo of my dinner with commentary on Twitter and Facebook:

Bay scallops sauted in lemon butter, atop a bed of pea greens, with garden tomato and avocado topped with salt and pepper.

It looks good to me, and I hope to you. Light, fresh, maybe even expensive.

Here is why it wasn't. It was a frugal dinner.

The scallops were $8 per pound. I bought a quarter of a pound for $2, and split them into two meals. I try to keep my proteins to $1 per serving.

The pea greens were part of a huge tub on sale that also contained baby spinach and baby kale. It's called protein greens. As you might know, if there is a sale sticker on it, I buy it. I had never had pea greens before but it didn't matter, I buy what's on sale and worry about liking the item later. It turned out I loved the pea greens and I look for the sale sticker every time I go now. $2 and I'm in. Normally it's twice that price so that was a great deal. I used about 30 cents' worth to put under the scallops.

The tomato was a garden tomato with juice and taste just this side of heaven, and was a gift from a friend. Free.

The avocado was part of the regular sale at Kroger, one of the produce items on markdown in the red net bag. Those cost 99 cents for anything in them, and in this case it contained three huge Florida avocados. I used 1/3 of the avocado. At 33 cents per avocado but using only a third of it, it cost 10 cents on the plate.

Throw an estimate of using about 20 cents' worth of butter and negligible amount of lemon juice to saute the scallops, and that concludes the cost per plate portion of the roundup.

The total cost of the meal was about $1.75.

I didn't plan ahead, I had the scallops and time restrictions for using up fresh fish governed my choice of the scallops for dinner tonight. When I was given the tomatoes today I determined to eat one of them immediately! I looked around the fridge and counter and thought what would be good paired with tomato. I wanted to keep the tangy deliciousness alive and not cook the tomato nor drench it in salad dressing. I saw the avocado, which also has a short shelf life, and decided the creaminess would be good with the tang of the tomato.

Finally, just adding scallops to a plate isn't all that appetizing. They are manila and drab looking. So I threw some greens on the plate for color and crunch. That's literally how I came up with the dinner for tonight.

Use what you have. Use what will go stale first. Don't be afraid to cook without a recipe. Also don't be afraid to buy what's on sale and figure out what goes with what later.

This was a good, light, inexpensive but satisfying dinner. Buon appetito!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

My week, and food prep for Oct 14-18

By Elizabeth Prata

Happy Fall!

Last school week as a weird one. We had teacher workday on Monday which I look a sick day, and Tues-Wed were half days for the kids. I took a personal day Tuesday to get my gas heat turned on for the winter. The rule is now that you have to be at home to let the guy in. No more leaving the key under the mat and let the guy come do it alone.

So I didn't really do food prep because I knew I'd be home two days. I made a lentil soup on Tuesday to get me thru on Wednesday and Thursday and on Friday I go do new grocery shopping anyway. I'm usually so glad it's Friday I don't care what I eat by then, lol.

This week I've got scallops which I'll saute up in butter and lemon. I'll serve that with a green protein leaf salad: this mixture of greens at Kroger is made with organic sweet pea leaves, baby spinach, baby bok choy leaves, baby kale, mizuna. I really like the pea leaves. I score some orange cherry tomatoes which will go into the salad.

In my continuing bonanza of lentils my friend gave me I'll try to make some lentil burgers this week instead of soup. I've never been successful with making bean burgers except with this one recipe for black bean burgers. But I'm gonna try!

I also got a load of fruit: a bag of clementines, some trays of blackberries for 99 cents, yay, and strawberries. Hummus will figure into the mix, with gluten free crackers.

Last week there was a marked down case of seltzer water for $1.59. I have been getting into liters of carbonated water, but it goes flat before I drink it. So I took a chance on the case and boy, I really like the fizzy water. I like sour too, so the seltzer doesn't bother me. There aren't any extra ingredients, no sodium or anything, so this week I bought the case at the full price. I'm constantly drinking it. I'm going to have to budget an extra $2.79 per week for this seltzer water.

Turkey slices were also on sale so I got some for lunch sandwiches. That's about it for food prep. I'll let you know how the hunt for the holy grail of edible bean burger recipes goes.

There are a number of things that make me happy, small things. But I live a small life in a small apartment, so it matches.

My landlord is thoughtful. When he swapped out the garage doors for new ones, he realized the location of the handle would make it unreachable for me when raised. So he added a short rope. After a number of years of pulling, last week the rope finally wore through and broke off. Forgetting this, I came home, raised up the door, drove the car in, and turned to reach for the rope. Oops, the door handle was out of reach. Looking around the garage, I found a half of a curtain rod, you remember, the metal ones with the curve on the side. I used that for a week but it was unwieldy to pull when you're carrying things, and I'm always carrying things. So I put on my thinking cap. I did not want to buy a whole length of rope for only one foot. But I do have zip ties! I strung together a few of those and voila. Solving my little issue made me happy.

I love a full fruit bowl. I love fruit so it feel good to have a bounty. It makes me feel rich. Fruit makes me happy

Mid-century mod Ben Siebel Iroquois pottery Harvest Time serving pieces
During the 1950s, Iroquois introduced a line called Informal by industrial designer Ben Seibel that had a round shape with "a stretched look." Each piece was decorated in either a two-tone white with solid color (with or without design decals) or in plain white with decals. The set consisted of approximately 25 pieces and included patterns such as Blue Diamonds, Sleepy Hollow, Steller, Teuton, Tiara, Rosemary, Lazy Daisy, Harvest Time, Old Orchard and Bombay-Green. The colors in the collection were earthy and bright and included mustard, apricot, avocado yellow, blue, bean brown, nutmeg, cantaloupe, charcoal, dark-green, lemon, lettuce green, oyster, pink, red, turquoise and white. The ware was "flameproof for cooking," a new concept in dinnerware.
I also LOVE my Iroquois mid-century bowl and I love to actually use it. Mine is Harvest Time pattern. Mid-century pottery and design makes me happy.

Regular readers know I love hot tea. In the cool fall and winter months I drink lots. I like a variety. My acquisitions this week included Honey Lavender which I got for way reduced price on Amazon warehouse deals. The Warehouse is damaged but still usable items, like the box the item was in is dented, or something minor, not affecting the actual item. But the slight damage means the store can't sell it as "new," so they mark it down and put it in the warehouse. Look for "Warehouse Deals" at the very bottom of the landing page at Amazon. That's why the tea has a sticker on it that it has been inspected.

I also got the ginger turmeric for free using my accumulated points. The Throat Coat is delicious and really smooth on the sore throat. I picked that up this summer when it was on sale at Kroger, knowing I'd need it this fall when the inevitable sinus infection arrives with the kids at school.

Getting deals on tea makes me happy.

As for my tea selection, well...nuff said!

I love tea, lol. A stocked tea bar is a pleasure to me.

I cant say the following exactly makes me unhappy, but it certainly makes me sad for the person. Seen at the grocery store last week:

This person had as many liberal bumper stickers as you could find on any car. Liberal candidates, liberal icons, liberal slogans from liberal fake news...but the one about Jesus caught me the most.

"Do you honestly think Jesus would own a gun and be a Republican?" Well, in one sense no. He was above political parties. He was not of this world. On the other, He certainly would not be a Democrat, all for killing babies. As for the gun, the disciples always carried weapons. We know that Peter did, he lopped off Malchus' ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. They weren't to use them as weapons as a default, but to have them was normal. Swords could be used for cutting wood, cutting food, or brandishing for self-defense, but certainly Jesus would not contradict His stance on the heinousness of offering babies to Molech as a Democrat.

Oh well, people are funny. They hold funny notions.

How was your week?