Meditations on an ice cream scoop…and moose poop.

If I’m going to have dessert, I’m going to go all the way.  I don’t have to have a lot if it’s really high quality stuff.  So I find myself scooping out two bowls of Moose Tracks ice cream, into cute little blue and white porcelain Happy Neko bowls from Japan.  The scoop is sturdy, fits well into my hand, carves out the creamy goodness with ease, and never bends.

I think it cost five dollars and I’ve had it for years.

I consider how I have been before.  Whyever would I need an ice cream scoop?  I had a spoon, after all, and so what if it bent?  I could always bend it back.  Never mind the frustration and sticky mess caused by it almost every time.  What a way to begin a dessert.

So I’ve got my scoop.  As I wash it and put it in the drainer, I think about how the difference between an easy time and a hard time can be traced to one right tool or perhaps a right technique.  It’s not about skill, though that helps, or even money.  My scoop was cheap.  But it makes a big difference.

The spouse won’t call Moose Tracks Ice Cream by its right name, because it reminds her of moose poop.  It’s a nasty thing to be reminded of when you’re all warm and happy

from a good meal.

We decided to call it Denali ice cream instead.  That way it can be glacial boulders on clean snow.  No large, aquatic, messy moose needed.  Did you know that moose can get most of their food from water weeds during the summer time, and even dive for them like large ungainly antlered ducks?  Little moose are often frightened to try and often require persuasion.  Go look it up if you want a good laugh.

And here’s to well made ice cream, in moderate quantities, easily served into pretty bowls with a proper scoop.

 

Recipe for Simple Grilled Mackerel

Blue mackerel, cleaned and headless (can use clouded mackerel, Norwegian, etc)

Mushrooms

Kosher salt, black pepper

Heavy duty aluminum foil

Chop mushrooms finely, mix with salt and pepper.  Pack mixture into fish cavity.  Wrap each fish into a foil packet, sealing well at the edges.

Preheat grill to cooking temp.

Set packets on heat, medium works well, and close lid.  Open after five to ten minutes and flip.  Close lid again, cook for another five to ten minutes.  Test temperature according to your preferences, let rest for another ten minutes before unwrapping.

Serve on bed of rice with soy sauce.  Be careful not to swallow any bones.

 

Sunday Morning

It’s quiet, just the way I like it.  I wake up a bit late, maybe a half hour after I wanted, but I don’t worry too much because it’s Sunday after all.  I dodge cats all the way though morning routine – fluid exchange, shower, brushing hair, dressing.  Shinji, my 15 year old Siamese mix, plays his usual game of getting in my way, cris-crossing my path and then running away when I try to pet him.  Silly boy.  I’m glad he’s still capering like a much younger cat.  He was a rescue, his Other Mom died about a year ago.  It took him months to get over his depression.  Amazing how many people still think cats don’t love!

My slightly younger cat, a fine 12 year old queen calico, greets me out in the living room.  Everything is still a little chaotic this soon after my move and the house is still rather empty in certain places and cluttered in others, with painting supplies and tools on the bread making counter and paint cans scattered hither and yon.  Everything will come together, I know.

Eventually I say goodbye to the spouse and make it out of the house.  The morning is still fresh and new.  I back out of my steep driveway, careful to watch and avoid the parents having a morning walk, little kids attached by the oldest leash of all – their hands.  I smile at the pink clad youngsters.  Nice to see people being outside, just to be outside.  I pull out and head to my first grocery stop, gritting my teeth as I pass over the one mile of potholed road that bears little resemblance to a proper city street.  It smooths out just as I get to the store.

The aisles are quiet and the employees are fresh.  I catch a yawn or two.  I love being here at this time, when everything is new and organized and I don’t have to fight for my position in the aisles.  I start playing my favorite bargain game.  Recalling what other stores charge for things, I buy, or don’t buy, crossing things off my list as I go.  This can of chili?  There’s a screaming deal, I’ll buy extra to put by.  That condiment?  Stuff must be made of hand picked saffron for the price they charge.  I’ll get it at store number two.  And so on.  I get out of there with a total that’s way under budget.  There’s only one cashier, at the express line no less, and my cart is way over 15 items.  I chat with her as I help her get things moved through quickly.

On to the second store, where I pick up the things I passed over at the first.  I see a firefighter buying massive quantities of beans, I chat with him as I pick out my diced tomatoes.  Fresh salsa is in the offing, traditional Shaw family Scottish salsa.  Scottish salsa, you say?  Aye, and we used ta make it with onions and turrrnips, but t’was improved greatly after the New World was discovered.  Last minute, I remember the cilantro.  Can’t have good salsa without fresh cilantro.

I come out of the store smiling, still under budget.  It’s a lovely sunny morning.  An acoustic version of “Who’ll Stop The Rean?” comes on the car radio.  I answer the question – nobody stops it, you have to move away from it.  I pull into the drive and commence stocking the pantry, gently shooing cats out of the way, breakfast burritos on the brain.

 

Shaw Family Salsa Recipe

6-8 pickled jalapenos

1 large can diced tomatoes

1/2 small red onion

1 handful fresh cilantro

6 cloves garlic, peeled

Salt to taste

Plenty of Cumin

 

Blend thoroughly, can store in fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Snack Hack: Honey Mustard Pretzels

As I was in the grocery store looking for a decent snack, I incubated a new idea.  I absolutely love mustard pretzels, but they are usually $2-3 more than I want to spend, and several extra ingredients more than I want to eat.  An idea started incubating and now it’s hatched!

Why not make my own mustard pretzels, I thought?  So I did, and now you can too.  I like making my own snack foods when I have time because I like controlling the ingredients.

DSCN1596


I used:

1 bag of sourdough pretzel pieces, 15 ounces

Plain yellow mustard, 1/2 cup

Honey, 1/4 cup

Small bowl, whisk, large mixing bowl, sheet pan.


I started by measuring the mustard, then made a kind of cup in the mustard by coatingDSCN1598 the sides with it.  That way I could pour the honey into, straight from the jar.  I did this with half my mustard so it would fill a half cup measure in total.  It was really easy to clean the measuring cup afterwards!

Similarly, I poured a little water into my mixing bowl first, so the honey would have less chance of sticking there, too.  Don’t use much here, a quarter cup at the absolute most.  I whisked it all together then added the other 1/4 cup of mustard.  I gave it a final whisk.

I poured the pretzel pieces into the large mixing bowl, then poured the coating on top, mixing it all thoroughly with clean hands.

DSCN1600

I placed the coated pieces on the baking sheet in a single layer, then baked in the oven for 60 minutes at 250 degrees.

Stir them every fifteen minutes or so.

If your pretzels are still damp, they may need a bit of drying on the counter or in a warm oven.  I live in a dry climate so don’t have that issue.

 

I found these to have a milder flavor than my favorite brand, but I liked the price and DSCN1601ingredients a lot better!

You can, of course, alter this recipe to your own tastes.  You could add cayanne or garlic, both would be amazing, change the mustard type to something else, or dream up something interesting like using ranch dressing mix as part of the recipe!

Happy crunching.

 

via Daily Prompt: Incubate

Energy Balls and a new guitar

I’m taking a bit of a break from Inktober to bring you, by request, my recipe for Energy Balls.  They are a no-bake snack that can be customized infinitely and make a great alternative to expensive energy bars.

Dry ingredients:

Six packets instant oatmeal (can use flavored or unflavored)

2 TB instant coffee (I use Bustelo packets)

2 TB sugar (white or brown)

3 oz Craisins or raisins (1 small bag is fine)

2-3 oz black sesame powder ( can use ground flax seed or protein powder)

1 TB pumpkin pie spice

1 jar creamy peanut butter, any kind (can use other nut butters)

Instructions:

Mix all dry ingredients, including Craisins.  Make sure they are broken up.  Then fold in peanut butter and mix well.  Roll into walnut sized balls and chill in the fridge.

This recipe gives you protein, some vitamins, some antioxidants, and a little caffeine.  It’s infinitely variable.  You can add nuts, chia seeds, flax seed, other kinds of dried fruit, you name it.  You can change the spices, leave out the sugar, whatever.  The possibilities are literally endless.  I also like to add whey protein powder at times, chocolate flavor.

 

Guitar UpdateDSCN1466

I have purchased an Epiphone Les Paul Special II, the limited edition in wine red.  I named her Rosie.  She’s a little beat up but I can tell you she feels so good in my hands – the right weight and everything.  I love how she sounds even when she isn’t plugged in.  Here’s what she looks like:

Right now I’m plugging directly into my computer instead of using an amp, though I have my eyes on a Peavy I’ll be getting in a few weeks.  I run Linux, and use Rackarrack and Tuxguitar.

I’ve learned: how to tune using a digital tuner, how to strum with a pick (sort of) and two basic chords.  I’m even having fun while making awful noises!

 

 

Now that’s a spicy lollipop!

Mexican kids are tough!

That’s what I always think when I look at the candy section at my local carniceria.  Not only does it carry things like custom-cut meat, tortillas, and drinks, but there is an ever expanding candy section. I feel lucky to be living in Southern Arizona. If I didn’t, I’d be missing out on a lot of great flavors.

Why do I think those kids are tough? For one thing, half their candy has cayenne in it. One of my favorite kinds is a paste made with tamarind, chili powder, and sugar. I also like the lollipops that are fruit flavored once you get through a layer of chili and salt. Another thing I tried recently is candied barrel cactus. That was good, as was the candied sweet potato. Both were chewy and moist on the inside, rather like a good chunk of dried pineapple.

Mexican candy has interesting and unique things in it. I love the goat milk caramel, for instance, which brings back memories of my childhood – I milked a goat every day. I will admit, I haven’t gotten used to the salted, preserved plums, called saladitos. It’s just too much salt for me. I tried, though! Another thing I’ve learned to do is eat jicama strips with chili and lime. It’s also good on apple slices. Go to any Hispanic oriented grocery store and you’ll even find a liquid preparation of brined fruit chili powder just for drizzling over things.

Other candy is made with coconut, peanut, tamarind, various forms of chocolate, and marshmallow. You can even find chocolate dipped corn flakes sold in little bags, the same way M&Ms are sold. I haven’t tried everything there is to try, but there sure are a lot of interesting flavors out there!

I think the coolest lollipop is sort of mango flavored, covered with a spicy layer, and shaped like a chicken.  They are fun to eat and a balanced flavor.  Really!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lollipop/

Finally, summer’s here! Have some Switchel.

You may be wanting to know exactly what switchel is.   Basically, it’s a mix of water, ginger, vinegar, and sugar.  Sometimes fruit juice is added.

When I first encountered this beverage, I thought it tasted strange. However, the more I drank it, the better I liked it. I learned that it was a common hot weather beverage in Early America, and that intrigued me. I’ll write more about its history later but first, here’s how to make it.

Switchel is simple to make. You start with cold water and add apple cider vinegar, sweetener of some kind, and fresh ginger. It’s refreshing, replenishes your potassium, and helps your digestion. It’s a great recovery drink for after a work out. Though the spicy, sweet and sour flavor may be a bit odd at first, it’s certainly well worth getting used to!

Here’s a good recipe to start with.

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons brown sugar, 10 ounces cold water, and minced fresh ginger to taste.  

Variations:

Make ginger tea and add the vinegar and sugar.

Use honey.

Use maple syrup.

Add a splash of fruit juice, such as blueberry or cherry.

Sometimes I will make a strong ginger tea and chill that to make my base with. Other times I’ll simply add chopped ginger to my vinegar-sugar-water mix. Or, as mentioned in the recipe, I might add some fruit juice for variety. I’ve even drunk it warm! Your choice of sweeteners affects the taste. So far I like pure maple syrup or plain white sugar the best. You could also use honey, molasses, or stevia. You may want to limit your sweetener, though I wouldn’t recommend eliminating it at first. Personally, I plan to keep a big jug of it in the fridge this summer, especially during the hot, sticky monsoon months.

Personal experiences:

I have found it to have an energizing effect, somewhat like a mild energy drink. I usually digest things better after I’ve had some, too. I have some digestive issues and the ginger helps the muscles in my stomach and gut move a bit more slowly (link) so I digest things more thoroughly. Plain ginger tea does the same, particularly when I eat the chopped ginger as well as drinking the liquid. My body seems to crave the vitamins that are found in the apple cider vinegar. I tend to like {this brand}, though you can buy it at your local grocery store. If possible, buy it organic with the “mother” still included, though I’ve had great results even with the purified, pasteurized variety.

The history of Swtichel:

As mentioned before, this was a farmer’s drink in early America, but many people liked it. It was believed that the ginger had a warming effect that would lessen the shocking effect of cold water on the stomach, while the sugar and vinegar were there for flavor. It was basically an early sports drink.

Since it’s so easy to make, why not try some today?

If something more traditional is more to your liking, here is how to make a simple ginger beer.

First, start with ginger tea. That’s easy to make – steep chopped ginger in hot water for five minutes or so. Make it nice and strong.

Mix the tea with sugar to taste. Perhaps a cup of sugar for a gallon of ginger beer.

Once it’s cooled to body temperature, add a half teaspoon of yeast. Simple baking yeast is fine.

Evenly divide the mixture into two clean 2 liter soda bottles. Put a slice or two of ginger in each one to strengthen the flavor. Fill the rest of the way with plain water. Leave an inch or so of space at the top of the bottle for “head room.” Cap the bottles tightly.

Leave the ginger beer in the fridge overnight, or until the bottles feel hard. The yeast will carbonate the sweet ginger tea and make it into a simple ginger ale, without building up enough to form alcohol. This makes a great cold drink for a hot day!

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Final

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/final/

Mellow Spice Cookies

Need a quick snack that you can share with friends?  Have a deepseated yearning but don’t want to pay high prices or eat a million preservatives?  This recipe will heal that void.  It’s is a variation on a basic recipe but I find it quite delicious.  These cookies are very quick and easy to make.  Depending on how you make them, they are slightly chewy, rather like a soft snickerdoodle.

You will need:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)

2 sticks (one cup) butter or margarine, softened but not melted

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

2 Tb spices (pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, or whatever you like)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the brown sugar, spices, and baking powder.  Cut the butter into it.  Add the egg.  Mix well.  Add the flour till it turns into a crumbly dough.

Roll dough into balls about an inch and a half across, place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, top will be soft when it first comes out.  Let cool.  Makes about 2 dozen.

These cookies are also great if you substitute vanilla extract and Craisins.  I find that they are a little chewy but crispy on the bottom.  You could experiment with different spices.  I want to try some with Chinese Five Spice, or maybe just ginger and cinnamon!  Though they are far from a health food, it’s well known that having more culinary spices in your diet can help heal certain conditions.  So it’s worth a try if you were going to have cookies anyway!

Troubleshooting

If they spread too much, either the butter is too warm or you used too much sugar.

If you can’t mix the dough, either butter is too cold or you’re using too much flour.

If you are using margarine, use stick margarine like Blue Bonnet or it will be too soft.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/heal/