Saturday, April 29, 2006

Brief Update

I got my new computer up and running at work, but I've spent 3 DAYS! trying to get my new billing program working!!! I had to upgrade from TimeSlips v7 to TimeSlips 2006 (probably version 20,000) because mine wouldn't work on XP. I've been on the phone to tech support for HOURS, but I've finally gotten it figured out. Well... figured out in that I did manage to send three bills last Thursday. Woopteedoo. I need some time to figure out the intricacies of this program. Of course my regular work didn't stop while I was trying to do this.

Needless to say, I've been consumed with this problem and haven't thought once about posting. Heck, I never even cooked supper ONCE last week. It was Casey's pizza or some other crap that DH picked up to bring home all week. I was exhausted every day. Brain work is the absolute HARDEST work in the world.

On a bright note, we do have Quinten for 4 days. I picked him up yesterday and will take him back on Tuesday. Last night was just hamburgers and sweet potato fries, but tonite is Rosemary Chicken with new potatoes and smothered greenbeans. Yum! I'm soooooo looking forward to another decent meal.

I wonder if I'll have the energy to make dessert?

Take care.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sesqui Cookbooks

They're here! The West Bend Sesquicentennial Cookbooks arrived last week. We'll be sending out the pre-ordered ones starting this week. If you would like one, you can either let me know or go directly to West Bend's web site and order it. The price is a really inexpensive $12.00 plus $5.95 for shipping.

There are over 800 recipes along with photos of early West Bend. There is even a section called "Old Time Favorites" where each recipe includes a short description. This may be what the submitter remembers about eating it or making it or where it came from. My favorite was the ENTIRE 1946 Home Ec class submitting recipes they had received from their Home Ec teacher Miss Mabel Dinsmore. How cool is that!

Regardless of whether or not you are a native West Bender this cookbook will delight you with the variety of recipes. We've got a thousand to sell, so let's get crackin'!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Impromptu Concert

[Here's another post I meant to do this past week but got sidetracked with computer problems.]

What's the word for it? When something so different and strange happens, without a plan, and things just "click"? Serendipity? Maybe... it doesn't matter.

Northwest Telephone held their annual meeting this past Tuesday (April 18). This is where they feed you a pork dinner then bore you for an hour with their annual report before handing out the dividend checks and door prizes (usually glasses or a cup with their logo on them). I've moved past the "mis-matched dinnerware with logos on them" stage in my life (thankfully), they'll mail you the check, and even the free dinner isn't enough to entice me to endure the lecture. So, I stay home while DH goes. He says its for the check, but I know he secretly likes the free door prizes. (Which, incidentally, I immediately put in the Goodwill box.)

And there is also entertainment. Usually very good, local entertainment. This year was The Call Street Quartet, a barbershop quartet based out of Algona, Iowa.

So, at 9:00 after the meeting, we met uptown for a few drinks and conversation. It wasn't too crowded, only about 10 people were in there. But four men came in right after DH and ordered shots and a beer. After about 15 minutes, one of the men stood up and asked if we (the "crowd") would like them to sing! Yes - it was the Call Street Quartet! We of course all nodded enthusiastically and they commenced singing. They sang everything from gospel to doo wop. For TWO HOURS! Those guys really love their music and, boy, were they good.

It was a completely magical night. Good friends, good liquor and good music. I asked if they had a web site so I could post it here, but unfortunately they did not. But if anyone is in the area and would like more information on having them perform, the contact is Mike Scott (712-852-2842). I promise - you won't be disappointed.

Good night, sweetheart, well it's time to goooo... du dum doo dooo...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Farmers' Wave

We've all seen it. Well, most of us have. Maybe not a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite. But if you've ever driven on any rural road, you've seen it. The "farmers' wave". They're usually driving a pickup truck. When you meet one, they look right at you and raise their index finger off the steering wheel. That's all... just the one finger. That's a "farmers' wave". For years it amused me, then it perplexed me. I've seen it all over the United States, but I'll bet it's just as prevalent in rural Canada. One finger - that's all you get.

I believe I now know what the farmers' wave is. I've lived in rural and semi-rural places all my life. When you're on the road, you are always looking to see if you know the person in the car you're meeting. Because, if you do, you want to acknowledge them and just say "hi". Like when you meet someone you know on the street, you stop and visit for just a second. Men usually shake hands (or at least they used to) before stopping to visit.

And that's what the farmers' wave is - a handshake. In their vehicle, they look straight at you and raise their finger. It's their way of saying "I see you; I recognize your existence; I mean you no harm." One human to another. It's nothing more than an acknowledgement and I kind of like that.

Computer Stuff

Last week DH's computer puked up garbage and we were forced to call in the troops. As they carted it away to try and fix it, I decided I'd better do a little backing up of mine. My computer is the oldest and is the workhorse of the office. It contains all of our billing, forms, word files, data base for closed client files, etc., etc. In other words, if that baby crashed we'd be in a world of hurt. So when I got the error message telling me there was no more disc space for my backups I kinda freaked out. When I looked at my drive, sure enough, that little pie was almost completely blue! 20 fricking gigs, and it was full! Shit. This isn't the best time to have to shell out the money for a new set up, but it looked like there really wasn't much choice.

We bit the bullet and ordered a new system on Monday. And yesterday I took my old machine in to have the data migrated into the new one. Now I'm just waiting for them to deliver it and I'm a nervous wreck. Partly because there is literally nothing I can do, and partly because I'm scared that all of my files will be gone. Just - gone. I know that won't be the case, but with every new computer you always run into some kind of 19 cent assache and frankly I can't afford to have anything happen to my files.

Needless to say, my mind has been absorbed with computer stuff for the past week and a half and I've not been able to concentrate enough to post on here. Since Barry just arrived with my new machine, I think I'll go play for a while.

200 gig hard drive! Bet I don't fill that sucker up for a while!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter 2006


Yesterday was Easter and for the first time in 6 years we didn't have Q. I think DH and I felt a little lost all day long without him. Quinten is our grandson and we have been blessed to have been able to have him the first week of every month since he was 6 months old. But now that he's in kindergarten we must work around his school schedule and Easter vacation wasn't an option. Of course, we did just have him a week and a half for Spring Break, so I can't be too bummed out. But it just wasn't the same without him.

Nevertheless, we used the weekend well. DH turned the soil behind the garages and put the manure on the gardens and I planted flower seeds in the one. It was a perfect day - sunny and warm. I was really glad we did that on Saturday as it just poured on Sunday! Actually, we needed a little rain around here even though the Des Moines River is flooding on both sides of us from northern rains and snow melt. The area around here has missed all the rains that have been falling for the past couple of weeks and the farmers have been planting like crazy. I imagine they will have most of their corn planted by the end of April. That's a little early and they sometimes have to replant flooded out portions of the field later in May. But I imagine when you farm as many acres as these guys do, you have to get on it as soon as you can or you'd never get it all in. I'm glad I just have my two little garden plots to worry about and fuss over.

So it was just the two of us for Easter dinner. When DH told me he wanted ham for dinner last Wednesday I ran to the store to buy one figuring they'd be completely sold out. The only bone-in ham Billie had left was a 10 lb. Smithson spiral cut and the only thing that would hold it was my electric roaster. I cooked it on low for 5 hours and it was delicious. Needless to say, we have leftovers - LOTS of leftovers. (Thank God for my Seal-a-Meal!) I'll be on the look-out for leftover ham recipes for the next week. I also made the free-form apple pie that Don has been begging for. This time I got a picture of it! I had to use two crusts this time as the apples were much bigger than the last one I made. I did an egg wash and sprinkled some sugar on the top crust, otherwise it is the same recipe as before.

Dinner was simple and satisfying. No Easter eggs, no candy, no crying that his cousin got more eggs than he did. *sigh* Maybe next year.... I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Asparagus Angel Hair Pasta w/Shrimp


I wish I were one of those bloggers who posted daily. I don't know how some people keep up with it. I guess I just don't have that much to say. I only hope that you (whoever you are out there reading this) use an RSS reader so that you can see when I do post again. Not that I say anything much.

Anyway, I wanted to share this kick-ass recipe we fixed last night. It has such a strange mixture of ingredients that it really intrigued me. The original recipe didn't call for shrimp, but anytime I can sneak shrimp onto my plate is all right by me! Since I had all of the ingredients on hand (well... except for the lime.. I had to go buy one), I decided to give this a try and am I glad I did. Sorry about the shitty picture. I wish I knew how to take better pictures. A tip of the hat to BRENDAJST over at All Recipes.

Asparagus Angel Hair Pasta

1 (16 oz.) package angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb. shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 (14.5 oz. ) can chicken broth (you could substitute all or part of this with white wine)
1 tsp. dried dill weed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed (I only used one)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded queso asadero (white Mexican cheese) (didn't have any - used Kraft 5 Cheese Italian Blend)

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until al dente; drain.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and tomatoes, stirring to coat. Pour in the broth and continue cooking uncovered 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half. Add the shrimp and warm through.

3. Place the pasta in a large bowl and toss with the asparagus, shrimp and tomato mixture. Season with dill and pepper. In a separate bowl mix the avocados, lime juice and garlic powder together until blended.

4. Serve pasta with a dollop of the avocado mixture and top with shredded cheese.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Free Form Apple Pie


Inspired by Ivonne’s Apple Crostata, and because I had three Braeburn apples to use up, I decided to make my own version of free-form apple pie. I think I’ll call it:

Sally’s Free Form Apple Pie

- Apples (I had three Braeburns)
- Pre-formed pie crust (I had one of the Pillsbury ready made pie crusts left over from my chicken pot pie the other day. What the heck – it was better than I could have made.)
- Flour (about 2 or 3 tablespoons)
- White sugar (about 2 or 3 tablespoons, depending on how sour your apples are)
- Brown sugar (about a tablespoon)
- Salt (a pinch)
- Cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons)
- Allspice (about 1 teaspoon - I didn’t have apple pie spice or I would have used that)
- Nuts (about a handful, chopped – I thought I grabbed the walnuts from the freezer but got the pecans instead. It was still good.)
- Raisins (about a handful - because Q wasn't here, and I could)
- Butter (about half a stick, cut up and scattered over the top of the filling)

Line a baking sheet with tin foil, spray it with Pam and unroll your pie crust on that. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl (except the butter) and spoon onto the crust. Put the butter slices on top. Bring the sides up together as close as you can. I did use an egg wash because I wanted the crust to stick together, but I imagine a little water would do the same thing. Then I brushed the rest of the pie with the egg wash.

Cook in a 350 degree F oven for about an hour or until the crust is browned nicely.

Man! Was this sucker good! DH is already begging me for another. I think I want to make something chocolate next though. Anyway, this couldn’t be easier. I hope you give it a try.

P.S.
Sorry I don't have an image of the finished product. In an effort to try and take better pictures, I turned off the flash and just tried using natural light. Therefore the picture didn't come out as it was dark by the time we ate it. Some day I'm going to learn how to use this camera!

The Chronicles of Narnia

Today I bought “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. Ostensively it was for my grandson, but I knew I wanted to own it the minute I heard they were making the movie. I’ve loved the Chronicles of Narnia books for years and years. I read the series long ago, when all I’d ever read was Science Fiction and Fantasy. C.S. Lewis’ story about Narnia is an engrossing read and I urge you to pick up the books and give them a try.

I’ve heard this book and movie is an allegory for Jesus Christ but I’m not seeing that. It’s a fantasy for cripes’ sake. ALL fantasies use good vs. evil as their main plot lines. But, symbolism aside, it’s a heck of a watch. The special effects are amazing, the costumes brilliant, the acting (by the main characters) compelling and the story line extremely satisfying. It had me crying and laughing in all the right parts. The battle scenes were a little frightening for young ones. But if they liked Harry Potter, then they’ll like this because good triumphs over evil in the end. It kept DH awake for the whole movie, and that's a plus.

It was a good movie and I’m glad I bought it to add to Q’s collection. It's escapism at its finest and I only hope they make the rest of the series into movies.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Little Housekeeping

You might have noticed that I've finally added links to the sidebar. It's taken me all morning to figure out how to do it, but I did it! FYI, all of the sites I have listed have RSS feeds. I don't add any sites to my favorites anymore unless they provide a syndication feed. This is the ONLY way to keep up with your favorite sites. No more trying to remember which folder you put that really interesting post in. When the site owner writes a new post you know about it instantly (if you have your reader open, that is). Ain't technology grand?

Anyway, I do hope you click the links and read the wonderful blogs they contain. I think you'll like them as much as I do.

(Maybe I'll even add some of the other blogs I read - other than food blogs - someday. Like Go Fug Yourself, Everything is Wrong With Me or Daily Adult Joke. Maybe.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

P.S.

That does NOT, however, including baking. Baking is pure chemistry. I don't mess with chemistry. ;)

My Life - Part 2

When we moved into the Peterson house, Mom immediately remodeled the kitchen then promptly stopped using it. Oh, she didn't completely stop cooking. She still made breakfast... sometimes... on a Sunday. And I'm sure she must have made suppers occasionally, too. I just don't remember them. Since we were two doors down from the nursing home all lunches were eaten there. Mostly I remember eating out every day. If not at the nursing home, then at a local cafe.

Mom was so anal about her new kitchen that she wouldn't let me cook anything. I finally begged her enough that she did let me make cookies at around age 13 or so. But I was given strict instructions not to "mess up" her kitchen, or else! Then she left and went to the nursing home. Luckily I could read and follow the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag for Toll House Cookies.

So, slowly (very slowly) and carefully I made my first batch of cookies. Heeding my Mother's warning, I would use a measuring cup or spoon, wash it, dry it, put it away.... then get it back out for the next ingredient! THAT is how I baked for years afterwards. I swear to God. Luckily that piece of perfectionism finally fell away. I can now wait to wash my utensils until after I'm done. (But... ahem... I do have three measuring cups, four sets of measuring spoons, dozens of spatulas and lots of mixing bowls. OK, so I'm anal too.)

When I was around 18 years old, the cook quit - right before serving dinner. Mom turned to me and said "Get in there and serve - you're taking her place." (I might have had something to do with the cook walking out... I can't remember...) Then she promptly walked out the door! (Do you see a pattern here?) Talk about "baptism by fire". Luckily our other cook was a real gem. (Thank you, Nyda Gleason.) Since I didn't know the first thing about cooking, she taught me everything. Basically, when serving 40 people, you just open up bigger cans. (That's a joke...) The hardest part of cooking for 40 is getting everything done at the same time for serving. I still struggle with that aspect, but it doesn't make me cry anymore.

I worked as a cook at the nursing home for about three years off and on and grew to really love it. I would start about 4:30 a.m. getting whatever meat we were serving ready to go into the oven by 7:00, then make and serve breakfast. After breakfast, I'd do the dishes and start on the sides to serve at lunch as well as the dessert. We served lunch at 11:30 (I would dish up and the aides would deliver) and I would help feed those that needed help. After lunch I'd do the dishes (again) and get supper ready and in the refrigerator for the night shift to serve. Maybe it was just soup and a sandwich, or maybe it was a casserole. This was where I learned that literally anything can be made into soup. The night ladies were responsible for putting it in the oven and serving it. Then I would clean up and scrub the kitchen floor. By 2:00 I was out of there. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. And it was the best way EVER to learn how to cook.

It was during this time that I had an epiphany. There are only three ways to prepare a meal: boiling, frying or baking (roasting). That's it! Everything else is just flavoring. What herbs and/or spices you use or what gravy or sauce you put over it gave each recipe it's unique flavor. What region of the world you live in determines what spices, herbs or sauce you use depending on the ingredients you have available. I learned to smell a spice before using it. I knew what my meat tasted like with just salt and pepper on it, so how would this stuff taste on it.

That's when I stopped depending on cookbooks for my recipes. Not completely mind you, just mostly. Today, I cannot follow a recipe exactly. Maybe it's just because I don't have an ingredient listed. Or maybe I just think that adding this one thing would be good. (Like those tomatoes that are spoiling in the 'fridge.) This doesn't make me a bad person. This just makes me a cook. And that's all I'll ever be - just a cook. ("I'm Harry... just Harry") (Sorry, Harry Potter overload from the grandson.) I'm not a gourmand. My taste buds just aren't that discerning. But I'm a damned good cook! And I have my Mom to thank for that. Even though she was of the "sink or swim" school of teaching, in her heart she knew I had it in me. I think she would be proud of me now. Thanks, Mom.