Kitchen Clean Up

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Of late, on blogs, social media, news outlets and elsewhere, I’ve been seeing a trail of “clean up your kitchen” articles. Posts extolling the virtues of “clean as you go”. Acronym: CAYG. I find this funny because about three years ago in the depths of my salads-from-Trader-Joe’s-for-dinners-rut, I saw myself truly sink into a “sink” of dishes. I hated it, just detested waking up to it in the morning.

Yes, this rental came with a brand spanking new dishwasher but did I use it? Never. Seemed silly for a few utensils and a bowl. I went through a sad period where the sink piled up with bowls, utensils and so on. That drove me nuts, but I didn’t “see” it. It was shortly after my divorce of five years was finalized and my brain was on the fritz to say the least.

So for about one and a half years, almost two, I lived with it, having massive dishwashing parties of misery with myself and the sink every so often. I hated it, it was just crippling.

Photo  Source.

Photo Source. The link leads to a blog on organization btw.

Okay, mine didn’t include raw meat laying out but the two sinks were pretty close as far as “fullness”.

Fast forward to today. I must be healing. I’m now cooking some meals, not many, but I think the emergency surgery experience I went though in September/October of last fall has a lot to do with it. Being waited on hand and foot for four weeks in ICU, (not to mention being stabbed with needles so many times that all of the veins in my arms and hands vanished) must have shook my world up a bit. To the point that it slapped me out of my after-divorce-rut.

Photo Source.

Photo Source. This actually looks sort of like my sink area, minus flowers.

Thus, you’ve found some recipes or rather simple throw-together dinner concoctions on this blog lately and I’ve become a fan of “facing a totally clean sink/kitchen area” in the morning. It’s a complete joy and pleasure. I will not go to sleep with dishes in the sink. No, I still haven’t used the dishwasher, just fill the right side of the sink with suds, then rinse and drain on the counter. Usually they’re dry before I go to bed (we’re in a drought so it is about the only good thing I can say about it), so I can put most away. How nice is that?

I have to say, it really has been a rewarding endeavor and my wooden handled knives and wooden spoons from the Netherlands really appreciate not spending the night being water-logged in the sink.

End thought? Well, I don’t encourage emergency surgery or three weeks in intensive-care, but I do think any life-jogging experience can set you up to accomplish “great” though “small” behaviors that have a massive effect on your life.

In other news, we did have a full day of rain yesterday that extended into the night…yay! Came down steadily and actually rather hard a few times. But it will still have to rain almost continuously for months to even make a dent in this drought. In closing, I’ll leave you with this little laugh from Pinterest:

What made me laugh was what someone wrote when they pinned it: “I really want this one so I can wear it every time my ex comes to pick up the kids”. Lol. Oh, if you click on the link you’ll find more tops with humorous sayings as well as where to buy them if you’re interested (no affiliation). Hope you have a good day!

That’s Okay, Just Ignore Me

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Just like last year, the Queen palm is quite happy, producing abundant inflorescences full of seeds. And just like last year the “mow and blow gardener” is ignoring them when he should be removing them at the point they first opened. :(

If he doesn’t, the seeds ripen and fall creating a mound of sticky, slimy, rotting “fruit” that the ants love. Just what we don’t need. And of course he doesn’t rake the mess up after it falls, just let’s it all sit there till the grass grows up and over them creating yet another mound in the lumpy lawn. Once grass-covered he simply mows over them like it’s part of the lawn. If he would remove them when the first open they wouldn’t get to be such large, unwieldy bundles.

Since the beginning of September, I’ve asked him, in person, on five separate occasions to trim the darn things. The last time his response was that he’d have to get permission from the property manager (PM). (Insert a silent scream here.) What’s wild is that the PM already called him several times telling him to remove them, or so she said. When I last spoke with her, she assured me he’d take care of it this week.

To give you an idea of the size of these sprays, the fence next to the palm is six feet tall! So these babies are big.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe mow and blowers come every other Monday. So Monday February 16 was their day. While taking the garbage out today, two days later, I also noticed that the inflorescences STILL hadn’t been cut. Turns out he trimmed the Mexican Windmill palm of several layers of dead branches which was needed but not immediately. As a result of almost four+ months of gardening neglect, the spikes are now huge, ripening and beginning to fall to the ground. They must each weigh at least 100 pounds. And there are three of them! I go through this every year and yet it seems “all new” to the same gardener every single year. Hence the title of this post.

On a totally different note, I just thought I’d let you know about a wonderful little site that’s great and cheap, if like me, you’ve said good-bye to cable (or in my case, never said “hello” to begin with) and are pinching pennies. It’s https://acorn.tv/. Costs $4.99 per month and has lots of British offerings that may not be picked up by the BBC. And aren’t British programs often far better than our U.S. network broadcasting? IMHO.

Got all of the Doc Martin series (only partially available on Hulu), William and Mary (also featuring Martin Clunes) as well as Martin Clune’s Wildlife and Rosemary and Thyme. You can binge-watch to your heart’s content, it’s quite lovely.

Also found Wild at Heart, a production where a family that goes to South Africa on holiday, falls in love with it and stays. Though I do have to say it turns a bit “soapy” on the way through the seven series. Still, fun to watch for the animals and environment. There’s a load of other shows, so check it out if you’re on a budget and looking for new programs. Seriously, lots of other programs, go and have a look!

Well, that’s it for today. BTW, if you’ve got a ton of snow and cold, please, oh please wish it this way. We so need it or it’ll be the longest summer and shortest winter in history. I’m serious! And thanks for stopping by, it means a lot to me. xox

Fagioli Neri Italiani

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Back in January I gave you a quick “recipe” for Black Bean Slop Mashup. I really should have shown more respect for it by calling it something nicer like Frijoles Negros. But I didn’t.

Since then, I’ve played around with black beans a bit more and found a delicious combo that I like even better. I present Fagioli Neri Italiani. Yes, an Italian spin on the little recipe which really can’t be called a recipe in my mind because it’s just a riff on a general idea.

But I have to say, it tasted so good! It all started when I “discovered” a grocery bag in the garage holding two lonely cans of what I thought were salt-free tomatoes. Had planned to make the Frijoles Negros again. Only problem, just one was salt-free, the other was sans salt but flavored with Italian ingredients. Hmmm? Possibilities flooded my mind and Frijoles Negros went out the window. In the end, this is what happened:

Fagioli Neri Italiani
1 medium red onion coarsely chopped
1 – 3 T. olive oil
2 – 3 cloves of finely sliced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
1 can black beans rinsed using a fine sieve
salt and pepper after tasting
Optional:  Italian Sausage either sliced or casings removed and crumbled

I rough chopped the onion and put it in a pot with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Cooked them over medium heat for a few minutes so they lost their hard crunch but weren’t translucent. Halfway through I tossed in the garlic. 

Next, I added the tomatoes. The black beans followed (free them of the gas-causing elements by rinsing). I let this all come to a boil then simmer away for a good hour so the beans and tomatoes would break down. If the beans are drying out toss in some water or stock, scrapping down the sides. I also smashed some of the fagioli against the side of the pot to help them along. The kitchen smelled wonderful.

When sufficiently broken down, I tasted and added a couple of turns freshly ground pepper and a bit of sea salt from it’s grinder, maybe 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons (you may wish to add more, but I’m still watching my salt intake). Then I covered the pot and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. Dinner was served and it was delicious. I really liked the Italian seasonings.

This easily made 3 large servings btw. Next time I may cook the beans from scratch (slow cooker recipe here). So many reasons to: cheaper, total control of the salt, no BPA from the can. Browned Italian sausage, crumbled or sliced, could easily be added to the pot to satisfy the meat-lover.

If you click on the link above, you’ll find a recipe for cooking black beans in a slow cooker.. I also think I’ll use fresh oregano and basil or marjoram. You could easily add more garlic or leave the cloves whole and up the count as much as you like. Garlic cooked this way would be so good.

As a side note, I’ve noticed that some recipes call for washing beans before using and some don’t, so some people must not be affected by the gas. As you’ll notice, I’m not one of them. Interestingly, “Beans contain a triple sugar, stachyose; a quadruple sugar, raffinose; and a five sugar, verbascose that we cannot digest. We are missing an enzyme that is required to break down these sugars. When the beans get to the colon, the bacteria in the colon begins to ferment these sugars producing gas in the process.”

Supposedly your system can “learn to digest them” if you start with small amounts on a regular basis. Here is a link to read about “7 Ways to Avoid Gas from Beans”.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a caution concerning red kidney beans which contain a toxin if they’re undercooked. “By soaking the beans overnight and cooking them on high instead of low, you’ll neutralize the toxins, but you can also boil kidney beans for 10 minutes prior to putting them in the slow cooker just to be sure.”

This little experiment opens the door to all kinds of other flavor pairings like assorted Middle Eastern curries, Asian inspired ingredients and so on. Remember this little rhyme from ages ago?

“Beans, beans, The magical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you toot!
The more you toot, the better you feel,
so let’s eat beans with every meal.”
(Source.)

Water, Salt and So Much More

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Well, we’re 30+ days into the new year and I’ve already been reading articles here and there about people whose New Year’s resolutions are falling by the wayside. I think this is probably part of the reason I don’t set any. If I want to change something, the most logical way to do this is to just begin…”just do it, now”. New Year’s resolutions simply seem to make change more of an event than it should be. It seems to put more pressure on one. At least to me.

This seems especially true in the area of health. I just calculated that we have 300+ days to go till the next new year. That sounds overwhelming when faced with a resolution and just makes me want to crawl under the covers.

For example, back in December, I noticed I was drinking less and less water which isn’t good for many reasons. As a result I wound up practically inhaling one to two glasses by 4 or 5 p.m. So I made a mental note that whenever I was near the bathroom to stop in and drink half a glass of water. The glass in there holds 12 ounces so this meant I was consuming about 5 to 6 ounces each time.

Over the course of a day, and I’m just “ball-parking” it here, I wind up adding at least six 8 ounce glasses of water to my consumption.

Last week I found something interesting on just how much water you really need based on your weight. On The Lemon Bowl blog I found this post in which Liz notes that your daily requirement for hydration “should be half your weight in ounces”. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you need 80 ounces of water a day which is ten cups.

My other to just do, is keeping the amount of sodium I consume down to 1,200 mg per day. Having recently heard that the government will not only be cracking down on the tons of sugar in everyday products, I read that salt was also going to fall under scrutiny. This makes me quite happy because the amount of sodium in store-bought products is astronomical.

I’ve noticed more and more food blogs as well as recipe sites are including nutritional info on their recipes which I think is great. One problem. Do these bloggers and sites know just how much that is for assorted people? For myself, I’ve set the max at 1,200 mg. per day.

A recent example I found was a dish billed as healthy. It’s a nice six ounce white fish with homemade salsa topping which, of course sounds delicious, but the salsa bumps the dish up to 1131 mg sodium per serving! That would leave me with 69 mg. Sorry, but I’m just not willing to eat only six ounces of fish and call it a day. Why do people dream up recipes with such high sodium scores?

Who knew February was American Heart Month? I didn’t. This post is a total coincidence which started as thoughts about New Year’s resolutions.

BTW, here’s another interesting info graphic. Sorry, couldn’t figure out how to copy it to fit on the page. Here is a link for anyone interested in low sodium cookbooks. And here is a link to 60 recipes from “goredforwomen.org”. Here you’ll find the mg. of sodium per serving for many popular canned soups and the names on the labels can be very misleading like Campbell’s Healthy Request soups. Yikes.

The CDC recommends less than 2,300mg for the average person, 1,500 for people over 51 (or about half the the U.S. population). But in reality, the current intake averages more like 3,300 mg! See the info here from the CDC and this is from 2010. There’s an infographic showing a very conservative breakfast, lunch and dinner plan here. Total for the day? 3,160! No wonder so many people have high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

I also found it interesting to find that “salt” and “sodium” do not mean the same thing, but they are often used interchangeably. Salt, also known by its chemical name sodium chloride, is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature and is used to flavor and preserve food. Sodium is one of the chemical elements found in salt.

More info, courtesy of the FDA:

“USE THE PERCENT DAILY VALUE (%DV) TO COMPARE PRODUCTS

The %DV tells you whether a food contributes a little or a lot to your total daily diet.

  • 5%DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving is low
  • 20%DV (480 mg) or more of sodium per serving is high

I also liked learning the meanings behind the labels on packaging:

“You can also check the front of the food package to quickly identify foods that may contain less sodium. For example, look for foods with claims such as:

    • Salt/Sodium-Free → Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
    • Very Low Sodium → 35 mg of sodium or less per serving
    • Low Sodium → 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
    • Reduced Sodium → At least 25% less sodium than in the original product
    • Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted → At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
    • No-Salt-Added or Unsalted → No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium-free. Check the Nutrition Facts Label to be sure!”

Courtesy of:  http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm315393.htm

Well, now that I’ve bored you to tears I’ll leave you with a wee bit of inspiration :)

As If Pinterest Wasn’t Enough…

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I was going along, minding my own business and sorting through emails today when I fell into a rabbit-hole called zergnet.com. Billed as having “movies, gaming, entertainment, sports, food & drink, men’s lifestyle”. The real trap is “food and drink”. Been here in the past and I think it’s even worse than Pinterest. At first even I couldn’t remember how I got there, because as I said, it takes you on a ride down quite a rabbit-hole where one thing leads to another and yet another. But I finally traced my way back a Tasting Table email I received. They have some goodrecipes and food info. Like one on mushroom broth made with dried shiitakes but without salt.

Some of the links hook you up to websites like bettycrocker.com where you’ll find things like slow cooker recipes with the inevitable (gag) one to two cans “cream of ?” added. But overall, it’s a nice ride with a lot of recipes and other food info from many sources. For example, you can find recipes with more fake ingredients than real ones in them like the “Mock Wendy’s Frosty” with 66 calories. Well, yes, it has very few calories because it’s nutritionally devoid of any real food. The majority of ingredients that go into it, I wouldn’t consume alone much less in concert with each other. Then there are informative links like finding out just what’s in McDonald’s fries. Personally I’m taking these videos with a grain of salt since they’re made by McDs. You could also view how McRibs are made.

Something that insures a McRib sandwich will never cross these lips. Seriously. Watch the video link above the photo, “how McRibs are made” and you’ll think twice. On a much healthier note, along with eating less and less meat (beef, lamb, etc.) over the past two plus years, I’ve managed to incorporate some beans (aka little fiber bombs) into my diet, as in the main ingredient. I’m much more of a green bean fan than a “bean” fan. Don’t care for refried beans, kidney beans or pintos, so this was a challenge for me. As a kid my only exposure was via my mom’s chili. But even back then, I slid any kidney beans I got back into the pot whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking or spit them into my napkin. To this day I buy the smallest half can of kidney beans when I make chili. It’s what you would call a token concession to an old family recipe. Even then I’ve been known to slide a few to a dog or two back in the day. Oddly enough, I really like black beans. How that happened I don’t know. Love black bean soup too. About a week and a half ago I concocted a combo (one couldn’t really call it a recipe) with those as the main ingredient. Black beans. I loved it. “Black Bean Slop Mashup” :) 2 cans of black beans (.73) 1 can no/low-sodium, diced tomatoes (.84) 1 chopped red onion (1.29) 3 peeled, sliced cloves garlic (.15?) 1 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chopped (.60) Wash the beans off really well in a fine sieve to get rid of the gas-causing element then dump all into the pot. Heat. Smash some of the beans and cook over low heat for one hour. I actually let it go longer so the beans would start breaking down.  It cost $4.19 and yielded 3 big servings. Would have cost less if I used a red onion from a bag vs. a single one. That’s one of the concessions one makes when ordering from Von’s delivery service. Once dished up, I did add a bit of salt. The second night I had it, the flavors had really melted together. Yum. I made it again today only I added two fresh tomatoes that needed to be used up. Chopped up, skin, seeds and all went in the pot. (See note below about the tomatoes.) For the first serving, I left out the can of tomatoes. But I’m itching to change it up a bit. So tomorrow I’ll include the can of tomatoes and maybe some BBQ sauce. A can of flavored tomatoes may be appearing a future version. Plus I may succumb to dry beans to save even more money. Was also thinking rice, like Basmati (which I love and buy in twenty pound sacks at Costco though I just read that the classic Royal Basmati has been replaced by Kirkland’s own brand. Fail Costco.).

Not sure. Any thoughts on the BBQ sauce or any other ingredients? Chili powder and chili flakes are not an option per my stomach. Anyways, no pic, sorry. But really? Photos of black bean slop? :)

Brrrr!

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For the last week plus temps had dipped into the low to mid 60’s (15’sC) during the day and low 40’s (4’sC) at night. It’s hard to type when your hands feel like ice cubes which is kind of an oxymoron. “Feel” and “ice cubes”, get it? If they’re ice cubes how can they feel?

Continuing on, I’ve had the heat on every single night because I was so cold. Uncharacteristically, I even turned it on a few times during the day which I rarely do. Don’t want to see my gas bill for the month. Anyhow, today it’s 85F (29.5C)! This is the kind of weather that starts the cold and flu season going. Ugh.

Over the weekend, I ran across an interesting article on the “anniversaries” of historic events that are coming up this year. To the day I die, I’ll always remember watching the moon landing with my parents and brother on a television in the lobby of a hotel in Rome, Italy on July 16, 1969.

Source.

Remember how long it took for NASA to figure out Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” because it was so garbled?

This year commemorates the passing of Vincent Van Gogh on July 29, 1890. Did you know he sadly only sold one painting in his lifetime? Recently, his “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies” sold for $61.8 million to a Chinese movie mogul. Must be a lot of money in Chinese movies.

I know you were expecting one of his paintings, but I find his drawings enchanting. No reliance on color to carry them off, just movement and brushstrokes, so much done with so little. Though I must confess that the painting below is a real favorite,

(if it’s possible for one to have only one favorite).

November will see the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s presentation of the Theory of General Relativity to the Prussian Academy in Berlin.

Photo Source.

Photo Source. Love this photo!

For more anniversaries (and there are a lot), see this link. You’ll be quite surprised.

Happy New Year!

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Since I didn’t do anything special for Christmas, I decided I had to at least attempt something celebratory for New Year’s so I made Salmon Roll-ups. The cool thing is that you can store them till needed in the freezer. Just like my ham and cream cheese roll-ups! Delicious!

Didn’t take a picture of it since I didn’t set up a whole platter. It’s just me after all. The photo above is sort of what they looked like but made with salmon not ham. Here’s the video recipe for you. It’s from Rouxbe.com (MSN) which doesn’t have any link to the video that I can copy and paste into this post so it will play here. So just click on the link “video recipe”.

Oh, and while I was hunting for an image to get the idea of what these little bites of heaven looked like, I found a few other interesting recipes along the same line here, here and here. Oh, and here. Here too!

I hope the coming year will bring happiness and joy, leaving all sadness and despair at the door. Of course that won’t happen but I can wish. And so I wish you the best year yet! Thank you for dropping in to visit.

Magic

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Amersfoort, Netherlands

Amersfoort, Netherlands

The magic of distance and friendship.

This is a photo taken by my penpal/friend of many, many years, Heleen. It’s from the terrace of her home in the old double-walled city of Amersfoort.

Growing up, my mom always made sure I was in the Brownies and Girl Scouts since I was quite shy. At one meeting the troop assistant asked if anyone was interested in a penpal. Well of course, everyone clamored for a name. However she only had one.

You see, she had requested a penpal from some service at her college, but received a little girl instead of a college-age teen like herself. Since our troop was mostly ten year olds, the assistant decided to raffle the name off. She had us guess a number between 1 and 30. I picked 21 and luckily “won” Heleen.

We have had the remarkable good fortune to stay in touch and even visit each other quite a few times. She is a well-known architect in the Netherlands. Being an artist myself, we get along very well. In fact, even if we haven’t seen each other in years, we can just pick up like time stood still. It’s a very rare gift that I feel privileged to enjoy. I’m very fortunate.

Wishing you magic and a very merry Christmas!

Rain!!

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Living on a reasonably busy street that is also the main route when emergency vehicles need to rush from one end of town to the other, I’ve grown used to the pretty constant noise of cars. But to illustrate just how long we’ve gone without regular rainfall I was shocked today at just how much wet roads amplify tire noise. Yes, shocked.

Ordinarily it’s just a kind of white noise that one gets used to and ignores. But as I sit here today typing, it sounds like the cars have snow tires on. Very strange.

We’re still enjoying a nice, even, soft rain. Very much like the kind we enjoyed all day last Friday which lasted well into the night. And like Monday and Tuesday. Today’s precipitation seems to be the same kind of medium, not heavy rain. It’s been falling pretty much all day. This is a really good thing since too much of a downpour would cause landslides in all the areas that had wildfires this last year.

I took a look at yesterday’s post and was surprised to find the falling snow flakes that I had turned on in WordPress last year had returned! They really help with the holiday mood. That or I’m just easily amused. Probably the latter.

On that note, I’ll share with you some interesting links I’ve come across. The first is QuizSocial.com. I just took a test to see if I could pass the test to become a U.S. citizen. I got 8 out of 10 so I passed.

You could try “how well do you Disney movies” (apparently I don’t know Disney well, only got a 4) or “which classic Hollywood beauty are you” (I got Marilyn Monroe) or “how old is your soul“. I did ace “how sharp is your memory” so it’s not all bad. The only thing I’d like is to know what the “right” answers were when I got one wrong.

Next, a link that will put a smile on your face. I did for the participants. 

There’s also this link, it’s a Friskies commercial but I think it’s pretty well done. 

And lastly, I apologize if this is a repeat, it just is really sweet and magical. 

Why Insurance and Craziness

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If you ever wonder why you pay and pay and pay all those insurance premiums month after month, year after year, I’m here to tell you why. $370,000 is why. That’s what the hospital charged for three weeks “room and board” in their critical care unit. It doesn’t include any tests, doctors, ambulance trips, the week at the interim care unit or the three weeks of visiting nurses. It is only, as stated, room and board.

Do you need some help getting up of the floor? Some smelling salts perhaps? I completely understand your passing out after reading about just a small portion of my bill. After I recovered from seeing it, I ran some numbers. Taking my monthly Blue Cross premiums for the last seven years, I found they averaged about $700 per month, including yearly deductibles. If you only apply the room and board costs for the hospital, I will have been “reimbursed” for over 40 years of premiums!

So yes, this is why one carries insurance. It’s kind of like a game of Russian Roulette. You may never get to the one chamber in the gun with the bullet, but if you do and you eat the bullet, as in have a major illness, you will be really happy to have the insurance.

I won’t even get started on how utterly obscene that bill is. Especially since it doesn’t include all the other services that will be added to it over a seven week period. I dread adding them all up, which I’ll have to do for 2014 taxes. It’ll probably reach half a million dollars. Can you believe that?

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