Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Kansas, Land of Aahh, the weather just changed again!

I made it safe and sound to Kansas to spend the next month with my mom. Jene and I had a good drive, down through Las Vegas then up through Utah and Colorado. The snow made life interesting when we stopped in Silverthorne, CO but it wasn’t too horrible. We made good time and it was a pleasant trip.

We got here on Monday night then spent Tuesday night in Kansas City so I could put Jene on a 6am flight back to SF. I could have posted sooner but I’ve been moping around when I wasn’t helping Mom. I miss my guy and I miss my cats. /sad face

However, the month will go by fast and I’m sure Mom and I won’t get as much done as we wanted to. Isn’t that always the truth? Jene will fly back here on April 2nd and we’ll drive back to Cali. Our plan is to go home by way of the Grand Canyon since he’s never seen it.

I do have a couple of restaurant reviews from my favorite places in KC. I’ll get them up in the next couple of days. I even remembered to take pictures lol.

 

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A wake up call

We all talk about how we need to eat healthier and exercise more. Some of us even poke around the edges and do try to eat better. (Jene and my journey through low carb and juicing is a good example.) However, sometimes you need to DO it now and not some time in the future. My whole family got that message loud and clear today.

Early this morning my mother had a major heart attack. She’s known her blood pressure was high and that she needed to lose weight but there was always a reason for putting it off. Now, we’re lucky she’ll still alive and it shocked us all.

We were lucky. Mom woke up feeling “off” and Dad made her take an aspirin before he drove her straight to the ER. They were at the hospital when the “big one” hit and Mom coded. Yeah, my mom was dead for a short time today. This vibrant, amazing woman who is my best friend was almost gone forever.

The doctors say the prognosis is excellent. Her heart is undamaged and strong. She now has four stents around her heart keeping the arteries open and a family who doesn’t want to lose her. My response to this? Start working on a way to help her eat better and lose the weight that’s putting so much strain on her heart. They don’t need me home right now. Mom is safe in the hospital and me being underfoot would just be extra stress for my Dad. But you better believe that I’ll be going home in the next 4-6 weeks and taking a bag of tricks with me to help her eat better.

I love my mom and I’m not ready to go through life without having her at the end of the phone.MomJeneKrisCalAcademy

This picture is Jene, myself and Mom at the California Academy of the Sciences last spring. I hope that the next picture I get to post will show us all much slimmer and healthier.

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Day Dreaming

I’m stuck in an apartment on the east side of San Francisco Bay. I have a little balcony, no place to really garden although I do have a few pots of herbs. I was day dreaming the other day of how wonderful it would be to have my own little homestead. I thought I’d share some of the things I would love to be able to do.

I’d definitely have a nice garden. I want to live somewhere with a long growing season so that I don’t have half the year where I can’t get fresh produce. I would have grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, green beans, squash and pumpkins. I would also have an orchard of fruit and nuts trees with a bee hive or two.

For livestock I would have chickens, goats and a milk cow or two. I might even raise a couple of hogs for slaughter. I’m still a little squeamish about killing my own food but I think I’d get over it if I was doing it to put food on my table. I might have some angora goats for wool and a sheep or two. I love to weave and it would be awesome to be able to spin my own yarn and create things. But I prefer cooking so I would rather spend my time concentrating on the garden and kitchen. πŸ™‚

I want to have a second “canning kitchen” in my house. That way I can have a stove dedicated to canning and still be able to cook dinner in the kitchen when I’ve got a batch of canning processing. I want a nice root cellar so I have someplace to store all my produce. Along with that I want a curing room so I can dry cure meats and sausages. A bigger smoke house would be awesome.

Of course, I wouldn’t have to work any job other than caring for my homestead lol. There’s a reason why pioneer women didn’t work outside the home… it was a full time job and then some!

I was watching the Outdoor Channel the other day and thought “Gosh it would be cool if they’d pay me to make a show about how to survive without prepackaged food!”

I never really thought of myself as a “pioneer woman” but I guess in many respects I am. I’m going back to my roots of making my food by hand, growing it as much as possible myself and preserving it.Β  It’s so satisfying to open a jar of home canned chicken stock and know “I made this.”

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Never the way you planned it…

So I had these great plans for the way my week was going to go… And of course, life got in the way and messed up my lovely plans. I did get my chickens brined but they wound up being oven roasted instead of smoked. I wasn’t happy enough with them to take pictures and post about it. I will say that it DOES make a difference to boil the brine. The seasonings really take on a new level of depth when the meat soaks in the brine. I also discovered that saying “Honey, take the chickens out of the brine and let them dry in the refrigerator.” is not the same thing as “Honey, take the chickens out of the brine, put them on a rack, put the rack on a baking sheet, and let them dry in the fridge.” The first one leaves out a step and the chickens wind up sitting in their own juices which makes the skins take a long time to crisp up. My sweetie is an amazing help around the kitchen and this is NOT a criticism of him, just a reminder to myself that I must be precise in my instructions lol.

I was going to make pickles today but that fell through too. Jene’s mom had hip surgery this morning (it went fine) and I didn’t sleep well last night. Then today was hectic and even taking a three hour nap left me wanting to go back to sleep. The only thing I’ve accomplished is eating a bagel, taking a bath and shaving my legs. So with luck I will get pickles made on Friday or Saturday. I will definitely write a nice big post about that project.

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Life

I’m sure some of you have noticed that I’m not managing to post nearly as often as I had been. Life has just been keeping me busy with other things. I got sick and between that and work I just haven’t been cooking much. This week Jene and I are living off the left over brisket (which we cubed up and smothered in BBQ sauce last night) and spinach pie this week. I made Puto last night but otherwise, I haven’t cooked since Monday. I suspect I’m going to have to dig out some of my recipes and post them without pictures just so you have something to read when I’m not cooking lol. I have lots of good stuff to share too. Does anyone have any special requests for flavors/recipes you’d like to see? Anything you think I should be aware of such as websites or recipes to look for? I know I have lots of readers but you guys sure are quiet! Post comments, give me feedback, ask questions πŸ˜€

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A quiet night at home

It’s the end of a long, busy week. I’m tired. I saw my ankle surgeon today and he’s happy with how my foot is healing. On the way home from the doctor I picked up a couple of rotisserie chickens with the idea of peeling the meat off the bones and making a casserole. Yeah… that didn’t happen lol. Jene and I stood in the kitchen eating the chicken right out of the plastic container.

Most of the time I regret not having children. But nights like tonight make me glad it’s just Jene and I. We spent an hour snuggled up on the bed, ate standing up in the kitchen and we’re now sprawled on the couch to watch the Olympics.

Sometimes the plans of the day fall to the wayside and that’s ok. I have a wonderful husband who loves me and three snuggly cats to keep us both company. Tomorrow I’ll get back to cooking but for today, I’m going to lean on my hubby and just relax. πŸ™‚

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Kittehs!!

So I didn’t write a post last night…Tonight’s post isn’t about food either. It’s about my other favorite thing in life, KITTEHS!

I am the resident crazy cat lady in my apartment complex and my land lady let me know she needed some with with some kittens that she had rescued. I would guess they might be all of 4 weeks old right now. They’re small but walking and eating well. They are also completely adorable. So I was over at her apartment giving her advice and knowledge about caring for kittens. I had entirely too much fun and I’m currently working on convincing myself that I don’t need to add two more cats to the three I already have lol.

There are four kittens in the litter, one male and three females. Their names are Gizzy, Dizzy, Nala and Socks. Socks in the male and featured in this picture.


As you can see, he’s a gorgeous little boy. He’s one of the two I want to adopt. He’s fun, brave, and out going. His sister Dizzy is a pretty little brown tabby with a white chest and neck. She was too busy playing to sit still for a picture.Β  She’s the other one I want to adopt lol. The final two sisters are gorgeous too. Nala looks like Dizzy but without all the white. She’s much quieter and shy. She’s a snuggle bug and loves to purr. Ellisha is probably going to keep Nala and Gizzy. Gizzy is also quiet and snuggly. She’s white with a grey tabby head and a grey tail. Those two will be a good pair for a person not used to owning cats.

The tan fur behind Socks is Sophia, Ellisha’s Lhasa Apso. She is a complete sweetheart with the kittens. She nudges them a bit with her nose but it’s friendly and curious. She also lets the kids suckle a bit and doesn’t complain. I don’t really like dogs but I like Sophia. I even let her lick my face, TWICE!

So instead of cooking and posting last night, I was busy being a kitteh toy. And it was worth every minute! πŸ™‚

 

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Too tired to cook!

So today is the end of my first full week as a gainfully employed human being. Oy! I am beyond tired at this point. It’s been over 2 years since I worked a full time job and it’s taking some time to adjust to it. My 70-year old father was telling me earlier today how he went to bed at 130am and was up again at 630. Dude, I’m 38 and can’t even come close to doing that!

For those who don’t know me personally and may not have read my intro, I have Multiple Sclerosis. It’s an auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system and causes permanent nerve damage. One of the problems with this is that it’s my body’s immune system that is attacking me so it’s like having a permanent case of the flu… well, at least the complete exhaustion that goes with having the flu. I wake up most mornings (after 10-12 hours of sleep) feeling like I’m wearing lead clothing. So for me to return to a full time job has been quite an undertaking. My husband, Jene, has been amazing. He’s supportive, loving, and rubs my back at the end of the day πŸ˜€

When I started work the two most popular questions were 1. Do you think you can handle full time? and 2. How’s it going to effect your blog? Well, to answer those questions… I’m handling it ok. I seem to be good at it and have gotten really positive feedback so far. My blog.. well, that’s been a challenge lol. I’ve found something to write about every night this week but tonight, I’m just too tired to cook and too tired to come up something to do with cooking so I’m writing about being too tired to write!

All in all, I think I’m going toΒ  be ok juggling job, home, and blog. I just might have some nights where my post consists of talking about some of my personal experiences outside of cooking. You might learn a bit more about my goofy cats, Sasha, Hugh and Mew… You might hear about how I enjoy crocheting and a mention of what I’m currently working on. If anyone has any (reasonable) questions about me that you want to ask, post a comment and I’ll answer them in a post sometime. This is a family blog so be nice!

The Princess MewMew Wigglebottom in all her furry glory!

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The joy and the sorrow of leftovers :) (edited)

After writing this yesterday I realized I left out some bits of information, like why I hated one dehydrator and loved another one. All I can do is plead exhaustion and brain fog lol. Work was nothing but tech issues all day and my brain was fried. So I’ve gone back and added some information that you might find useful. πŸ™‚

So the obvious joy of leftovers is that there is food ready and waiting to go when you get hungry. The sorrow is that I really don’t have anything to write about today lol. So I thought I’d write about food dehydrators since I mentioned them yesterday.

The basic idea of a food dehydrator is to dry food for preservation purposes. Some models are vertical and have a fan either on the top or the bottom of the unit with the trays stacked over or under the fan. The horizontal models feature a fan at the back of the unit that blows fan over the trays.

I grew up with my mom using a dehydrator to make everything from beef jerky and dried fruit to fruit leather (think home-made fruit rollups.) Her dehydrator was the horizontal model with two separate units stacked on top of each other and a wood butcher block top. On wheels, it was perfectly sized to fit at the end of the kitchen counter or double as an extra piece of counter top. I have no idea where she got it or the brand name. She’s had it for over 30 years and it still runs like a dream. I want it when she dies lol.

So to go back to discussing what I use for dehydration… Once upon a time I used a little round food dehydrator that I can’t even remember the brand of. What I will say is that I used it once, hated it, never used it again. There were a couple of reasons I hated it… 1. the round trays were SMALL and not designed to hold large pieces. So if I wanted to dry strips of something, it wasn’t going to happen. 2. while the fan moved the air, it did NOT heat the air. By using unheated air, the drying process was incredibly slow which is bad when working with something like jerky which can spoil quickly. So when I decided to get serious about dehydration about four years ago, I bought a MUCH better dehydrator.

I own an Excalibur 3900 horizontal dehydrator. I LOVE this machine. It’s got 9 trays that pull out and total about 15 square feet of drying space. This model does not have a timer (available on newer models) but it has a nice thermostat and does a good job of providing even heating. I’ve included a picture although mine is solid black. The reasons I love this machine are basically the reasons I hated the other machine. The large horizontal racks allow plenty of space for large items, such as zucchini or beef jerky slices. The thermostat heats the air and improves both drying time and drying quality. You also don’t have to worry about food poisoning from jerky that took too long to dry. (This isn’t such a problem in dry climates but is difficult in humid ones.)

You might be wondering what I’ve made using this nifty kitchen gadget… The most popular is beef jerky. I don’t know anyone (other than those poor vegetarian/vegan people out there) who doesn’t like beef jerky. It makes great gifts too. Stick a batch in a plastic bag, stick a bow on it and people are happy for hours (even days if they can manage not to eat the jerky all at once.) I’ve also dried fruit and made tomato leather.

I suspect you just blinked at the idea of “tomato leather.” If you take your tomatoes, puree them, add some seasoning and spread the mix on (the solid sheets you can get) racks in the machine, you can create a dried tomato paste. It’s a fabulous way to add tomato flavor to soups, stews, rice pilaf, etc without adding any extra liquid. The flavor becomes very concentrated and gives a gorgeous tomato flavor to food. This is also a good way to preserve the flavor of your summer home-grown tomatoes. I love tomatoes and always plant a ton of the each year. This year I have something like 9 plants producing and expect to have an insane number of tomatoes to process shortly. πŸ™‚

So now that you know a little (very little lol) about dehydration, I’m going to go eat some of that leftover lasagna πŸ˜€

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A Pain in the Neck

Literally… I have a pain in my neck and can barely move my head. Fortunately movement is not required for typing. It IS required for cooking so I don’t think I’ll have anything to blog about food wise today. So I’m going to talk about some ingredients that I’m mulling over what to do with.

I wentΒ  to the store the other day and bought a 5 lb container of whole milk ricotta cheese, a HUGE bag of whole milk mozzarella cheese, and some marinated artichoke hearts. I see something where I drain the chokes and put some sort of cheesy, ooey gooey topping on them. But, I can also see taking the cheese and mixing it up to make stuffing for cannelloni. Instead of using pasta sheets to make the cannelloni I’d use slices of squash rolled around the cheese. Of course with that much cheese I could do it both ways and still have some left over lol.

I guess I should explain that I don’t usually buy that much ricotta at a time. However, the big tub was on sale for 50% off and that made it cheaper than the 3lb container. I do tend to buy mozzarella in large bags when I can find whole milk already shredded. Whole milk cheese is SO much better than part-skim. It’s richer, creamier and all around tastier because they don’t remove some of the fat. As I mentioned in an earlier post, fat is flavor. (Maybe I should have that tattooed on my muffin tops lol.) If you remove the fat from a food you remove some of the flavor. I get a little obsessive about this. I cook with heavy cream, butter, whole milk cheeses, bacon fat, etc. It just adds so much more flavor to the food.

Anyway, now I have all this ricotta and mozzarella cheese to use up and haven’t been able to settle on an idea for it. In fact, my brain has short circuited so badly today that I had Ruffles and French Onion dip for dinner. mmmmm. I’m going to hate myself later but it sure tasted good!

At any rate, this isn’t much of a post but it’s all I’ve got for today. Have a wonderful weekend. πŸ˜€

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