Archive for January, 2009

Going back to work today after enjoying a nice day at home, celebrating in my own way the good works of Martin Luther King and the upcoming inauguration of our first president of African heritage. I also read on

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Not so cold this morning. Several times lately I’ve walked to work when the wind chill was 16 below zero. Yep! 16 Below. Of course, it was much colder in South Dakota and other states north, but 16 below will do it for me. Several other days it was below zero, but the number -16 was the coldest, and those two days my forehead began to hurt long before I made it to the library! I haven’t figured out the best way to wrap up the forehead. I’m covered up to my eyes already, and I really must see to walk. Hmmmm…..dilemma.

I’m in my usual favorite spot, sitting under comfy covers with my computer, drinking my warm creamy coffee. I woke up hungry (again!), so I ate one-half (really, only one half!) of a cookie. My kitty is sitting next to me in the bed doing her grooming thing. Susie and I have lived together just a little over two years; she was 12 years old when her owner died unexpectedly. I wasn’t sure how we would work out together, because all was so new for her. But I believe if I could understand her language, I would understand her to say she is fine.

It has been another exciting week for me as far as food goes. And yes, I really get excited with food, sometimes doing that little “happy dance” in my chair, humming a little tune. Last weekend I made a really good tuna casserole. I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but to me it has been wonderful! The recipe was a “quick fix”, so I used a can of cream of mushroom soup. There was also a can of tuna (duh), frozen green peas, cheddar cheese, and whole-wheat pasta involved. I used my favorite penne pasta, and there are two servings still in the freezer. Hmmm……I think I could eat some right now.

Earlier this week I decided to try Larry’s ideas for the best guacamole, and I did well! The little chunks of avocado make it extra special and gourmey-i looking . I took it for lunch one day, along with a serving of that diet soup that was so popular in the 1980s, made with lots cabbage, other non-starchy veges, chicken broth, and tomato juice. I made a batch of that soup several months ago and I still have several servings left in the freezer. I find that even though I try live within a diet including very little meat, I eat cheese, whole-wheat pasta, avocados, crackers, fruit, olives, etc., and sometimes really go for a few days without many vegetables. One serving of this soup is at least two good servings of healthy veges. For me it is a good staple, because there is only a very little chicken broth in each serving.

I drove to Lawrence one day to meet with the University of Kansas Maps Librarian, to learn a little bit more about how they arrange their map collection. After a few hours there I met with the Government Documents Librarian and we ate lunch at a nice little restaurant in their Union. I had the cobb salad without the chicken but with lots of blue cheese dressing. Now, you know this is one of my favorite meals when I go to a restaurant! This meal was special not only because of the company and stimulating conversation, but also because we both had dessert. She had a chocolate cake of some kind, and I had vanilla bean flan. My oh my it was all I could do not to lick the plate!

Later in the week Donna and Tara C. and I went to the Bluemont Room on our own campus for lunch. The food there is OK, pretty mediocre. Just so many carbohydrates! They offer a small buffet with lots of starchy vegetables. This day they served ham, creamed potatoes, rice, chicken a la king (with noodles), starchy vegetable mix, and cooked broccoli. There were two pasta salads in the very small salad bar, and then the soup was chicken and noodle. I guess all the carbs are cheaper, and I don’t have to go there if I don’t want. What I enjoy is taking time in the middle of my day, going to a restaurant with table cloths (which does a lot to help keep down the “clanking” noises that we often have in restaurants), and being able to finish the meal with a little dessert and someone pouring my coffee. It is just very relaxing to share a meal with friends in this room during the middle of a busy day.

Then last night I went out to dinner with Tara C., Sara, and Jennifer. What a hoot! I laughed so much and we talked and talked. And no, I had no alcohol. None. Yet I must say I still did my share of talking. I had the tossed salad topped with Atlantic salmon – topped with crunchy tortilla chip slivers and finely grated jicama (at least I think it was jicama). Atlantic salmon is an over-fished fish, so I usually avoid it. But as I’ve said before, here in my Kansas town there is very little choice when it comes to seafood, which is one reason I eat less of it than I would like. Sure, the grocery store has wild caught from the Pacific, but it is processed in China. I worry about fish processed in the polluted areas of China, but I sometimes buy it anyway because it seems many days there is no way to act socially conscious when purchasing seafood here. I know I know, I should give up meat of all kinds! But you know I still fail in that effort for right now, so eating less, much less, is my start for this year. Again. So, I ate the salmon and salad, and shared my time with friends and good conversation. And yes, some silly conversation. A great evening!

My mentor and I had coffee together yesterday afternoon, and that was very nice. I had prepared a container of dried figs and fried peanuts for our snack, and we both enjoyed those. I bought the raw peanuts in Lawrence (though I buy them often here at People’s Grocery, too), fried them in canola oil, topped them with sea salt, and mmmmmm………!! We both really enjoyed them. Since I tend to over eat these peanuts, the few I brought back to the library I gave to a student I know who also loves to eat really good food. Temptation gone!

And Tuesday night? After retuning from Lawrence? I prepared one large scallop I purchased at The Community Mercantile. That one scallop cost $2.35, which is why I only purchased one. But believe me, it was a big ‘un! I called my brother to find out exactly the best way to cook it so that I did not overcook it. So I seared it in butter, turned the heat down low for a couple of minutes, removed the scallop from the pan, added a little more butter to the pan, along with a little lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Poured it over the scallop and served that along with a sweet potato and cabbage. Oh my I wish I had another scallop to cook for supper tonight!! The plate looked like it came right from the cover of a true foodie magazine. Really, it was delicious. Perfect. Thanks Johnny!

I’m not sure I’ll do much cooking this weekend because my freezer is pretty full with lots of good things already. I’ve got more pasta with organic tomato sauce and lots of cheese. Black beans and pinto beans. Homemade mac and cheese. Cabbage soup. Homemade stew with a just a little bit of chicken in it. I have one bagel in the cabinet that would taste good with that soup. And I also have one large fresh beet and a new package of fresh goat cheese should I want to make that been salad I like so much. Anyway, after working at the library for several hours today, then getting my hair cut, I believe I can skip another trip to the grocery store today!

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Really cold again this morning. But then, I live in Kansas! I have a nice heavy coat that will keep me warm later today as I walk to People’s Grocery(my own co-op!) and then to the library to work a few hours at my desk. So, it’s all good.

Speaking of “good”, so is this second cup of coffee I’m drinking this morning. Oh my goodness! As you know, I really love a cup of coffee, especially on a cool morning. And if it was cool outside and not so freezing cold, I’d go out and sit on the front stoop. Nope! This cozy warm apartment suits me better right now!

I’ve had some good times with meals this week. My neighbor had another wonderful party this week and invited me for a bit and encouraged me to drink the wassail. I have not had wassail in several years, and on that cool night it was absolutely delicious! He had a little more alcohol in his (my recipe is mostly fruit juice with a little alcohol, and I believe his recipe is more traditional), so I didn’t have too much. But it was so fantastic! Not too sweet with slices of apples floating around.

There was his famous guacamole and chips, and one of the guests brought a loaf of homemade bread, which I smeared with goat cheese. Oh my oh my! I’m not the biggest fan of bread, but this combination was amazing! I ate two pieces like that and wanted a third, but there was only one loaf, only so much goat cheese, and other guests. I guess I was suppose to share, huh. My friend did his usually “grilling of the meats” ceremony on his mighty Weber, and everyone crowded around for that. I have decided to eat less meat (more on that later), so I made sure I only had two ounces, and I chose the bratwurst. Now, out of the chicken, beef burgers, and brats, surely the brats were the least healthy. However, I had never tasted one and several people I know really like them, so I gave it a try. Only one-half of a 4 oz. bratwurst link. Honestly! And it was tasty, but too greasy for me, like hot dogs often seem to be. Of course it wasn’t the cook’s fault, they just are loaded with fat. After all, he grilled them, and you can’t cook less greasy than that!

And as usual, he had fascinating guests. I always learn so much from his guests, what they do for fun, where they have traveled, what they teach at the university, and etc. Often I spend time talking with the students, because they really enjoy talking about what they study as well. But this time……sigh……I just sat near the guacamole and bread and goat cheese! Almost the whole time I was there.

OK, confession time again. If you have followed this blog at all, you know several months back I set out to become a true pescetarian again. And I didn’t do well. But I really want to eat healthier, and I believe less meat, for right now, could be a good compromise. So this week I started with the goal of no more than 4 oz. of meat in a day. So if I plan to have a little at lunch, I can only have a little at supper. Two ounces each time at the most. And this week I did just that!

Remember the roast I prepared for New Years Eve? After it sat in the pot all night long, it was very tender. I have a scale for weighing food, and after cutting up what looked like 2 oz. or smaller size chunks of the roast, weighing each piece to confirm that it was less than 2 oz. (and there was great success with that effort), I cut up each chunk into bite-size pieces and placed them into a baggie. Then I spooned in the carrots, onions, parsnips (lots of those. yum!) into each bag with the meat and ended up with 5 servings in the freezer. I had that meal twice at lunch, served with another vege on the side and a piece of fruit. What a special treat in the middle of the day!

I’ve also eaten black beans (I really like the way I flavor my beans with a little onion, chili powder, garlic, cumin, and a little molasses that makes them just a tad sticky), and once this week I added only 1 oz. of ground beef. Why bother, you ask? I’m not sure. I’m hoping that continuing with just a little of the meat now and then will halt those cravings I use to get when I would eat way too much. It’s not just the environment that concerns me, it is also my weight. And as I get older, um, cholesterol can be more of an issue. Want to watch out for that as well!

Oh yes, and I’ve also eaten my own homemade guacamole. I love my guacamole, but I think I like Larry’s better. Maybe he’ll share the recipe?

Today I am already soaking pintos, and yesterday I made cornbread for a sick friend of mine, and while pouring the batter into the pan to cook, I poured a little into two custard dishes to bake myself two corn muffins. Oh my! I cannot wait for supper tonight to eat those beans with a little raw onion, accompanied by my homemade cornbread. And maybe the last of my leftover cabbage? Wow! It’s not even 7:30am and I’m drooling over supper already! That’s sad. Oh maybe not. I’m over…..hmmmm…..over…….oh my……..well, I’m over 40. OK, way over, but that’s beside the point! And I guess if I enjoy my meals so much that I dream about them, that is really a good thing. Because I have to eat. And if I can find that much pleasure in the basics, maybe that means it is easy for me to find pleasure in this life. Yes. That’s it. Now my thinking of food so much sounds like a positive characteristic. Right?

I mentioned using plastic baggies for freezing my meals. I try hard not to purchase plastic, but I have not figured out a good alternative for freezing my food. I have a few plastic containers that I get at the grocery if I purchase a pre-made salad of some kind, but there would be a pocket of air frozen with the food if I used those. Not good. Last night I bought mayonnaise, and the only glass jar I can find is Kraft in a smaller jar. I’d like to buy the larger amount (costs less per ounce that way), but all the larger containers are plastic. So I always purchase the smaller Kraft.

Question: Any ideas on freezing individual meals in a non-plastic container with no air pockets?

That’s it for me today. Actually, there is a lot more food to discuss, but I know I can go on and on and on and…….well, you know!

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Welcome to our new year!

Happy New Year everyone! It’s been a wonderful day for me. I’ve played on the computer, watched a good movie (Office Space) some of the students at work recommended to me, visited with my neighbor for a bit, shared some of my beet/apple/goat cheese salad with him, and watched junk TV I recorded earlier in the week. I cannot remember the day I did so little of nothing. It was absolutely fantastic! Plus, the cold I brought back with me from Virginia has proven to be very mild. Thank goodness!

Last night was fun, too. Tara C. came to eat supper with me and there I sat, for over two hours, good conversation and good food. Even if I prepared it, and even if the meat was a little tough (should have slow cooked it for about another 45 minutes I think), it was a wonderful evening. First we ate Greek salads with lots of feta. Then I served the roast cooked with onions, carrots and parsnips. I had never cooked parsnips with my roast, but that’s a keeper of an idea! Scrumptious! I fixed green beans with a little thyme and red wine, all thrown in with onions and mushrooms previously sautéed with lots of butter. I boiled potatoes and served with garlic butter and parsley flakes. A little red wine, of course. And for dessert I made those simple lemon tarts I’ve mentioned before. I just hope she enjoyed the evening as much as I did.

She left before 9:00pm to meet more friends, I cleaned the kitchen, and fell into bed pooped out and was asleep by 10:00pm. Yep. Slept right through to the new year. I enjoyed it, too. The library has been opened this week and we have been a little busier than I expected. I’m glad we were there for the faculty and researchers who try to come when parking is a little easier. Even though there were people there needing our services, it was still rather quiet and a good time to get tasks completed and my desk cleaned. Well, maybe not cleaned, but it looks better than it did before I left for my Christmas vacation!

As I look at this past year and forward to 2009, I think about my blessings. A job I really like. The ability to help people find the information they need. A small apartment that is dry and cozy and safe and easier to keep at a comfortable temperature because it is not very big. A family that I love and to whom I feel very close, even though we are many miles apart. Friends in many places: Virginia, North Carolina, Kansas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and elsewhere. The ability to read a good book. And on and on.

This coming year I want to do good things, not just for my career, but for those around me. I believe I’m in a position to do just that if I stay focused. But even while I’m trying to stay focused and keep up with the world around me, I sure look forward to more moments of goofing off and watching junk TV!

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