FEAST OR NIBBLES? Marilyn Armstrong

Wednesday RDP – FEAST


We aren’t big eaters these days. A feast can be laid out on the table, but we merely nibble around the edges. I’m surprised when I meet an elderly but really fat person because generally, appetite diminishes with the years.

My son, just approaching 50, eats half as much as he did a few years ago.

Dining

We eat maybe half as much as we did a two or three years ago which is half what we ate 20 years ago.

Why? My best guess is we burn fewer calories and need less food. Garry still exercises regularly, but he doesn’t have a big appetite and when he tries to eat like he used to … usually involving piles of sushi … he will regret it. Very soon

Although we attend feasts — we have an invite to my son’s for dinner on Sunday and there will be enough food to feed most of Uxbridge — but we do not partake of them with the gusto of days of yore. The “getting together” is the more important part of the feasting. The talking and laughing matters more than the perfect dinner or dessert.

I have not determined if this is a good or bad thing. Maybe it is just “a thing” — neither good nor bad. Another one of those “it is what it is” occasions in the moving on of human life.

THREE-QUARTERS OF A POUND – Marilyn Armstrong

I was out of lunch meat, so Garry went to the deli. It was Monday and they were out of everything except (sigh) turkey breast. Not my favorite, but I’m betting today is a delivery day.

Garry asked the newest lady at the counter for 3/4 of a pound of turkey breast.

Like a deer caught in headlights, she was lost. She could probably “do” a pound — or half a pound. But what was 3/4? She obviously didn’t recognize it as 75% of a pound, or even that it’s likely the line between the half pound and full pound markers.

Schools don’t teach math in any way that might be useful to those they have taught. They have gotten into systems so complicated that no one under 40 can do any math in their head. They need a calculator. Even to subtract one number from another. Oh, and they can’t count on their fingers.

Eventually, the boss stopped what he was doing and came over to rescue her.

Garry came home. He commented that there’s a scale and surely the young women (in her 20s) could tell that there was a line between half a pound and one pound and that would be the three-quarter, right?

Wrong. She doesn’t know that 3/4 (of one) = 75% (of one). Have you ever tried to explain to a clerk how to turn 99-cents into a dollar?

“Look, I’ll give you a penny and you can give me a dollar.”

“It says 99-cents.”

“So that means that if I give you a penny, you can give me a dollar.”

“It says 99-cents.”

This is because she doesn’t understand that 100 cents (pennies) equal one dollar. We are worried that our “below age 40” youngsters aren’t going to vote. I’m beginning to worry that they can’t think. Apparently, thinking is no longer taught in any school. So if you don’t get a head start at home with the whole “thinking” thing? You’re doomed.

Vote? If they don’t know that 99-cents plus a penny equal a dollar, how can we expect them to vote? Or have a grip on the issues? Or even know what kind of government we have or want?

ABOUT THAT FOOD YOU’RE EATING … Marilyn Armstrong

Daily Topic Subject – Food Glorious Food
Game On – S2 Created by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!

“This twice weekly game will be 21 questions or in truth 16 flexi questions, because there will be five permanent that must stay in place at all times.

But apart from those 5 permanent questions, should you choose to reblog, then you can change any of the other 16 questions or create 16 of your own, that’s down to you, however you must stick to the Daily Topic Subject.

The Rules …
1] Leave the Permanent Questions [PQ] always in place PLEASE.

2] Reblog should you so desire

3] If you do reblog, a pingback would always be welcomed so l don’t miss it.

4] This is a non-tagger/ non-nomination game.

This is quite simply a small questions game. The questions are not that taxing, or they might be if you don’t like questions — as many don’t. If you don’t like questions, why are you even bothering with this? The questions are just here for trivia based fun.” So sayeth Guy


Q1] What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

Snails. It was a French restaurant. Garry said I had to try them. Disgusting. But Garry likes them. He also likes anchovies, so I suppose snails are right next door.

Q2] What was Cheerios original name?

It had an original name?

Q3] What is right when eating Pizza – eating the slice as it is, or folded?

Be free! Live it up! Whatever works for you. I’ve also eaten it with a knife and fork (don’t faint, please).

Q4] In hot dogs which is better Ketchup or Mustard?

The VFW raising money with its own hot dog stand!

I don’t use either of them. Actually, I rarely use either of them on anything, but absolutely NOT on hot dogs. I like a little pickle relish if I have some. Otherwise, nothing is fine.

PQ5] If you had to explain to someone who had never cooked ‘Scrambled Eggs’ in their life – how would you explain that  …. through mobile phone text?

I don’t text. No, seriously, the other day I had to text something to make my car radio work. I realized I didn’t know how. I eventually doped it out, but I don’t text. I make phone calls. I write instructions. I used to write manuals for software and hardware. Sorry, no texting.

Although I make scrambled eggs, I’m not one of the world’s great egg cookers.

Q6] Watermelon – salted or unsalted which is better?

Salted? Seriously? Why? Who puts salt on watermelon? Is that legal?

PQ7] Who in your opinion is the best TV Chef? Explain why and provide links to support your theory.

I have no opinion. Never watched a single TV show starring any chef. Sorry.

Q8] How do you eat your Oreo Cookies – split apart or just bite into them?

I buy the thin ones and I never split them. Actually, until the thin ones came out, I didn’t like Oreos.

Q9] Everyone loves a sandwich, however when it comes to cutting them in half do you do so diagonally or straight?

I usually don’t cut them. I just start at one end and eat straight through. Anything left over goes to the most aggressive dog in the room.

Q10] Spaghetti is best eaten twirled around the fork or cut up with a knife?

That’s a personal choice. There IS no right way. Anyway, I break the spaghetti in half before I cook it, so it’s just easier to eat any old way.

Q11] Pecan – a simple word in itself and yet there is a huge controversial debate on pronunciation – so is it  “Pee-can or is it Pick-ahn?

Everyone I know calls it a pee-CON. Pick-ahn? I don’t know anyone who pronounces it that way. Maybe down south? Or out west? Or  … in Lebanon?

PQ12] What is your most favourite quote with regards food that sums you up the best?

You cook. You clean. I’ll eat and praise your greatness.

Q13] What is the main ingredient to Gingerbread Cookies?

Let’s get quibbly here. There is gingerbread and then, there are ginger snaps. There is no such thing as a gingerbread cookie. I make gingerbread and if I do say so myself, it’s pretty good and smells like heaven.

Gingerbread (mine)

I also bake — or used to bake — amazing ginger snaps. I didn’t invent the recipe — it came from a cookbook, but they are really good. These are a crisp, ginger-flavored cookie and is related to gingerbread by its primary flavoring — ginger.

For both of them, the primary ingredient is flour. In pretty much everything you bake, flour is either the primary ingredient or the second of two equal amounts. Very occasionally, a recipe will call for more sugar than flour, but I don’t bake things with that much sugar in it. I’m pre-diabetic and would like to remain “pre.”

Q14] Which country is the second biggest market for fast food – China or Canada?

I would bet on China simply because it’s huge and contains so much of the human race. Canada is a physically big country with a relatively small population, so I don’t think they’d beat out China for anything except maybe, moose. Canada definitely has more moose.

PQ15] What is your favourite meal to cook and explain why?

I don’t think I actually have one. There are so many things I can’t eat — or Garry can’t eat — a lot of the fun foods are not fun anymore.

Q16] What is venison?

Deer.

Q17] True or False – Beefsteak is a variety of Tomato?

Yup.

Q18] It’s Halloween, and you need to make a Jack-o-lantern, so you need to find a  … ?

A pumpkin that’s the right shape for your art. After that, you would want a knife and a scoop. Preferably a small and very sharp knife. Maybe something like a gouge — a round thing you might use to core an apple (there’s a word for it, but I don’t remember it). A thin line magic marker isn’t a bad idea, either, if you’re getting fancy.

For a final piece de resistance, you’ll want a candle and something with which to light it.

OR, these days, if you are a painter, you can skip the carving and paint the pumpkin. The good thing about painting is that a painted pumpkin doesn’t rot as fast as a carved one.

Q19] Are humans omnivore, herbivore or carnivore?

Omnivore unless you are a vegan. If you are a vegan, you’re a herbivore.

PQ20] Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones?

Nope. Food is not so important to me today. Time does weird things to appetite.

Q21] What is another name for Sweet Corn?

Maize.


And kudos to: https://aguycalledbloke.blog/2018/08/30/game-on-series-2-confidence-2/

MISS MENDON – AN OLD DINER LIVES AGAIN – Garry Armstrong

I know Marilyn has posted pictures of Miss Mendon, but I think (I hope) that I’ve gotten a slightly different “view” of the place.

The Entryway
Welcome!
Dinner!

In an area where there are few decent restaurants, Miss Mendon stands out as a good place to eat and the only place where you can get breakfast all day.

Behind the counter
Waiting to be seated

It was originally a Worcester dining car. A big one, because I’ve seen others and usually, that are smaller than Miss Mendon.

Miss Mendon began life as Miss Newport — Worcester Dining Car number #823. She has been repainted, re-tiled, given a bigger dining room and a modern kitchen. She’s had a long life and seen hard times, but despite everything, she has survived with grace and character.

Where the old diner meets the newer pavilion
Miss Mendon’s Pavillion
Three o’clock and time to pick up the car!

And today, I’m getting my new hearing equipment! More about that to come!

KITCHEN GADGETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My adult son has always been cooking averse. Kitchen challenged. He would grill when weather permitted, but otherwise, he ate food that came in packages. His culinary interest ranged from heating something in the microwave to heating something in the oven. When he discovered that frozen vegetables come in microwaveable steamer bags, his stove top became obsolete.

Then he discovered modern kitchen technology. He is now the proud owner of sous vide machine and a vacuum sealer (explanation coming), an air fryer (self-explanatory) and a pressure cooker (see “Top Chef” and other Food Network shows). Each contraption comes with its own recipes, manuals, and propaganda.

Every day now I hear about the wonders of these amazing machines. I also hear about the equally amazing culinary wonders they create. Each gadget has its own strengths and weaknesses and you have to learn what works well in each one.

For example, the sous vide machine is a device that cooks vacuum-sealed food in a water bath. You can bring food to precisely controlled temperatures and the water is circulated to ensure consistent temperatures throughout. The benefit of this technique is that the food is very slowly steamed, which seals in the moisture and enhances the flavors.

sous-vide-machineMeat comes out particularly well this way, cooked in marinades, sauces or just plain. In conventional ovens and grills, meat shrinks quite a bit in the cooking process because it loses liquid, and therefore flavor. This doesn’t happen with the sous vide (or with the pressure cooker). Oddly enough, the sous vide also excels at making puddings (including crème brûlée) and cakes (including cheesecakes).

My son’s next big boy toy, the pressure cooker, cooks food in liquid, under pressure, in a sealed container. This results in very rapid cooking, similar to braising. The pot roast that would take four hours on the stove or in an oven, would take just one hour in the pressure cooker.

The process also locks in flavor and moisture, as does the sous vide. The pressure cooker also bakes and makes other unexpected dishes. My son said that the brownies he made in it were moist and fudgy and awesome!

The air fryer sounds amazing to me. It cooks by circulating hot air around the food. So you can use a small amount of oil to create wonderfully crispy foods like fries and chips. Apparently, you use 80% less fat and get 95% of the flavor and crispness of regular frying. You can bake in this device as well.

air-fryer

If all this isn’t techie enough for you, these gadgets can also be connected to your iPhone or iPad. You can set temperatures and times on your phone and the phone will tell you when your food is done. This level of technology excites my son and terrifies me.

Anyway, now my son calls me several times a day to discuss the night’s meal. First I hear about the menu and techniques planned for dinner. Later I get a progress report or a call for help.

Finally, I get the review of the finished meal. We talk about any shortcomings or failures and try to figure out how to make it turn out better the next time. Sometimes this involves referencing a cookbook or an appliance manual.

I am thrilled that my son has discovered the joy of cooking. He has branched out and is now looking at cookbooks and recipes online. He has actually used the stove. He’s learning the proper way to sear meat and sauté onions. He’s thrilled that he’s eating healthy (he’s on a diet). He’s even more thrilled that he’s saving money.

He rarely eats out when he used to go out several times a week. He’s also saving money because buying raw ingredients is cheaper than buying prepared foods. He can’t believe how much money he used to waste!

I’m happy to be able to talk about food and cooking with my son. I love cooking and have been a foodie since before that was an actual word. But it was not a subject I could share with my son. Now we share recipes

So, if you want to share your love of cooking with your non-cooking son, son-in-law or husband, go out and get them a cool kitchen appliance and sit back and enjoy the show.

MANHATTAN SHRIMP CHOWDER – Marilyn Armstrong

All that cream and milk didn’t make Garry’s tummy happy, so I decided to try a different chowder. I didn’t have more clams, but I had frozen shrimp. You can make this same chowder using any seafood from shrimp to haddock. I think shellfish is easier and less likely to fall apart, but it’s entirely a matter of your taste — and what you can find in the freezer section of your grocery. Unless you know a fisherman.

I have almost as many problems with tomatoes as Garry has with lactose. I can sometimes get away with eating it once in a while … so I figured I’d give it a try.

Aren’t allergies and sensitivities fun? Sometimes cooking for a family gets to be like tiptoeing through a minefield. He’s allergic to carrots. The other one is lactose-intolerant. I can’t eat anything acidic.

That one over there has diverticulitis and his wife recently had a gastric bypass, so she probably won’t eat anything. I want to serve it all with a good crusty bread, except someone is bound to be on an anti-gluten diet.

Of course, shellfish allergies are common, so before you serve it, check and make sure you aren’t going to make someone horribly ill. One horribly ill guest can totally ruin an otherwise good dinner.

It’s one of the things I do NOT miss about a larger family. Garry and I have enough eating issues. Add a few more people and I’d give up cooking.

I ultimately created the simplest recipe I could. It is hellishly hot here. My kitchen is the warmest room in the house. After I start boiling stuff, it becomes a steam room, so simpler is better. The shrimp is pre-cooked. The hardest part of this recipe is chopping up the vegetables.

The chopper I bought based on Judy Brown-Dykstra’s recommendation is turning out to be one of those “how did I live without it” goodies. All my diced vegetables are perfect, exactly the right size, including the potatoes. It’s a miracle!

My entire life of cooking I have suffered from unfortunately chopped vegetables. Whatever I chop first is fine, but for each subsequent veggie, my chopping becomes more erratic.

With this lovely little chopper, it’s so tidy and organized. The only thing it won’t chop is celery. It refuses.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound shrimp – cooked, shelled, with tails removed
1 large onion, diced
1 medium pepper (pick your color)
1 cup of chopped celery
2 potatoes, washed, skins on, boiled 15-18 minutes, drained
1 teaspoon crushed thyme
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
hot sauce to taste (green or red, whatever suits your palate)
2 cups Clamato juice
1/4 cup smoky steak sauce
1-14 oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
4 slices bacon, cut small and fried almost crispy

Note: Vegetable amounts are all “more or less.” You can use more onion, less pepper, more pepper, carrots, corn. It’s entirely up to you and will not change the way it tastes very much.


Because I was using cooked shrimp, all I had to do was defrost it and remove the tails, then put it back into the fridge.

I scrubbed two Idaho potatoes, sliced and diced them and put them in a pot to boil. While they were cooking, I diced up the onion, pepper, and chopped the celery. I put it all in a bowl. I measured out the Clamato juice, the steak sauce, pulled 4 pieces of bacon from the fridge, chopped it up and put it in a pot to fry. When it was mostly done, I threw in all the chopped vegetables and cooked them in the bacon fat for about 10 minutes. Then, I added the garlic.

In between each addition, I washed whatever was dirty because I really hate a messy kitchen. Even if I’m not doing the cleaning, I still hate the mess. I’ve cleaned a lot of horrible kitchens and I may not be the best cook in the world, but I am absolutely the neatest, cleanest anywhere.

A couple of minutes later, I added the Clamato juice, tomatoes, and steak sauce and brought it all to a boil. I added the thyme and just for kicks, threw in some Za’atar because it has become my “I can’t cook anything without it” spice mix. I added a bit of salt, a splash of white pepper and stirred. Tasted it.

I grabbed my favorite Arizona Gunslinger Smokin Jalapeno Red hot sauce. Tasted. Added a half a dozen drops more.

Ahh.

Brought it back to a boil. Garry had brought home some focaccia bread and I turned on the toaster oven. It was just waiting for my “go” signal.

I added the shrimp. With one minute remaining on the toasting bread, I yelled “DINNER!” and all the dogs came running. I always wonder about that. Do they believe I’m doing all this cooking for them? Or is it some inherent DNA-based optimism given to all dogs?

I yelled louder and Garry stopped watching baseball and came to the kitchen to claim his dinner.

Dinner was a success, or as we put it around here: “So far, so good.” No one’s stomach has erupted. Yet.

The dogs are still waiting for their servings and lucky dogs, there is enough left so they can have at least some of the soup with their kibble tomorrow. Maybe I’ll let each one have a shrimp, too.

What didn’t I use?

The original recipe calls for an additional 1/2 pound of miscellaneous seafood such as mussels, clams, scallops, squid, or even haddock. I didn’t want to make that much food. When you add the extra 1/2 pound of seafood, you also need an extra cup of Clamato juice.

The full recipe should feed six, with second helpings. The way I made it, it will feed four. As an appetizer, six or eight probably. I have a very full quart of leftovers for tomorrow.

I used fresh diced tomatoes rather than stewed because I prefer them. I left out the carrots because I was tired of chopping and my wrists were beginning to hurt.

I didn’t use red pepper flakes because I like my own hot sauce. I think you could probably use fish broth rather than Clamato juice, but then you’d need maybe half a cup of tomato paste. Clamato juice seemed easier and it comes in a bottle with a screw-on lid. Also, you can buy it in a spicy version.

NOTE: Many people like Clamato juice mixed with iced vodka, so your alcoholic preferences could affect your choice of Clamato juice.

Good crusty bread is the winning complement to the chowder.

You can change the recipe to suit allergies, personal taste — and what you happen to have on hand. Aside from the chopping, it’s easy. Get the little chopper and it’s about 50% easier.

If you want this to be a bisque, run it through a food processor. Voila, bisque!

NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER – Marilyn Armstrong

A long chatty recipe with notes

I cook dinner every night, but my usual efforts are sleek little dinners that are easy to cook and even easier to clean up. Every once in a while, I get a buzz and decide I need to try something new.

Last week, I bought some frozen New England clam chowder. It wasn’t bad. I added a bit of extra half-and-half (that would be a 50-50 combination of milk and cream) and some za’atar and it was pretty good. But it wasn’t great and for $5.99 for a pint, I figured I could do that. Better and a lot cheaper.

Today we went to the grocery store. We picked up all the stuff I was supposed to buy the last time I shopped but forgot. Then I bought what I needed for the clam chowder.

Let me start by saying — there isn’t a recipe for New England clam chowder. There is a recipe for each person who ever cooked it. Sometimes two or three. After reviewing a dozen or so, I realized that they all included the same ingredients in various amounts which didn’t seem particularly precise:

Chopped onions  I diced up one-and-a-half big onions.

Chopped celery About a cup or a bit more.

Bacon (cut into small pieces) It was whatever I had left over from the last time I made a big breakfast … about 6 slices.

3 cups (more or less) of clams with clam juice *

* Long note: All the recipes I found used canned clams. I don’t like canned clams. They taste like the tin they came in. I used frozen, pre-cooked clams. Canned clams come in clam juice. Frozen clams don’t. And I forgot to buy clam broth. To create something liquid and clammy, I defrosted the frozen clams in chicken broth. I figured that soaking the clams in the broth was bound to make it taste clammy. It worked.

2 cups of half-and-half  OR cream. Most people use half-and-half to keep from everyone from getting sick from all that fat. Full cream? I wasn’t sure we’d live through the experience, though we would die happy.

An undesignated amount of potatoes, cooked, peeled, and diced. The recipes called for you to boil the potatoes in the clam broth — followed by a lot of comments from people complaining the potatoes were insufficiently cooked.

I hate it when the potatoes are hard. I cooked the potatoes separately, peeled them after they were cooked. This is usually easier than peeling them before cooking, though this time because I was using small golden potatoes, not so much. Then I cut them into cubes.

At this point, I had a big bowl of chopped celery and onions, a bowl of chopped up raw bacon, a bowl of defrosted cooked clams soaking in chicken broth. A jar of chopped garlic. A bottle of za’atar. Sea salt. White pepper. Butter.

I put the pot on the heat, threw in the bacon, added a lump of butter and waited for the bacon to brown, which it didn’t seem interested in doing. I got tired of waiting, so I added the onions and celery. Stirred and waited. More waiting. More stirring.

I turned down the heat to medium. Stirred some more. Eventually, I got tired of standing there so I turned up the heat and added the potatoes and clams. Stirred some more.

The phone rang. Did I know how to clear a used (my used) Roku so my granddaughter could use it? No, I didn’t, but they probably would have instructions on the Roku website.

I took the phone with me to the kitchen making a quick stop to rinse the potatoes off my fingers. Peeling the potatoes was messy.

The phone rang again. Kaity thought she’d found the information on the box in which the Roku came. It sounded right to me and I wasn’t in a good place to start googling how to reboot a Roku.

Meanwhile, I decided to use cornstarch instead of flour as a thickener. I have not had good results using flour as a thickener. Maybe it’s me, but it always turns into a gloppy, lumpy mess. But I’m great with cornstarch. I put a couple of tablespoons of starch into a cup, added a bit of cold water and stirred it. I set it aside for when I would need it.

I added half the clammy chicken broth to barely cover the vegetables, clams, and potatoes. That was when I tripped over Bonnie and knocked the liquid starch all over the kitchen. Not her fault, but still, there was cornstarch everywhere. Cabinets, floor, dishwasher, me.

Garry wiped. I appreciated his wiping.

When everything seemed to be barely boiling, I added the two cups of half-and-half, salt, pepper, and za’atar.

I stirred it and left it to simmer. I put together another batch of starch and water (two tablespoons cornstarch and just enough cold water to mix it). I did not knock this one on the floor.

This was also when I realized I needed to heat up the rolls (nice crusty ones) and I needed Garry to come and taste. He came. He tasted. He said: “Hey, that’s good.” Great praise indeed, though to be fair, Garry is a really good eater as long as it doesn’t contain peas, lima beans, oatmeal, or cut corn.

So I tasted it too. It was good. It is rare for me to make something from scratch without a real go-to recipe and have it come out better than I expected. Usually, my first try is disastrous or at least, not quite right.

I turned up the heat and when the liquid was thinking about boiling, I added the starch and it thickened up. The toaster bell went off. Dinner! I had created some better than average New England clam chowder. We ate. We ate more than we usually eat and it was delicious. A bit heavy. And there’s enough for another meal. I’m not going to do that much cooking for one little meal, after all. But tomorrow night? Frozen pizza. I don’t think my stomach could handle two days in a row of chowder.

We have to make choices, don’t we? Sometimes, the price of something especially yummy is a borborygmus tummy.

Don’t you love that word?

Editorial addition:

I think I’m going to try and find a non-cream-based shrimp bisque. Shrimp is always available frozen and usually pre-cooked and relatively inexpensive. if I can keep the cream out of it, Garry’s gut won’t explode and I won’t feel like a blimp after dinner.

So far, though, all the bisque recipes are as full of cream as the chowder. There’s gotta be another way! More research!