IT’S APPLE SEASON! TIME FOR WALDORF SALAD – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve always loved Waldorf salad. It was originally made at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhatten in 1893 and it has been really popular ever since,

It’s probably my favorite salad and the only reason I don’t make it more often (it’s pretty easy) because usually, I’m missing a key ingredient. Like apples, walnuts, or celery. In this case, I already had apples and walnuts, so I sent Garry to the store for some sour cream, celery, and raisins.

Some people serve it in layers with lettuce as a “cup” at the base, then the apples, nuts, celery, and raisins plus a big dollop of dressing on top and a drizzle of brown sugar on top. That’s too much like dessert for a dinner dish, at least for me.

It is a great light dinner for a hot summer day, though you really can’t get good apples until September. Crunchy apple are the difference.

What kind of apples? Green, red, yellow, but most important: CRISP. I’m not a big MacIntosh fan. I think they are a bit too mushy. I prefer Gala and Macoun. Even Empires which are maybe a little bit too hard, so you’d probably have to cut them into smaller pieces. You can also use a mix of whatever your favorites happen to be.

Also, I know my husband. He mixes everything anyway, even when I don’t want him to because I think he should taste each item separately. That’s when I’m being fancy, which gets increasingly rare as the years trundle along.

At least one person suggested adding truffles. I have never eaten a truffle. I think a truffle costs more than gold, so I’ll skip it, thanks. It’s not part of the original recipe either. There is an almost unlimited number of ways you can dress this up or down. I like it the way I make it, which is pretty much the same way as it was made in the late 1800s.

A few things have changed over the years, mostly the dressing. People get very creative with the dressing. I don’t get all that creative because I basically like the original recipe, which is mayonnaise. All mayonnaise.

These days, many cooks use vanilla yogurt or plain yogurt. Or sour cream. Or a mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise. I got funky and went with a combination of avocado-oil mayonnaise and sour cream (50-50), but that’s my choice. You can make your own choice.

Also, I used raisins because I prefer them to sliced up grapes.

So here’s my recipe, made the easy way because all of my recipes are easy to make and even easier to clean up afterward. You can serve this as a light dinner or as a side dish. It’s a nice lunch, too.

This recipe makes enough for 4 as a side dish, two as a dinner dish.

Ingredients:

Three apples (green or red or yellow or one of each). Cut them into small pieces. Don’t peel them but remove the core.

1/2 fresh lemon

1/2 cup raisins (dark or yellow, take your pick)

3/4 cup slightly crushed walnuts

Half a cup of very thinly sliced celery

1 egg white

Spice mix: Sugar, a pinch of cumin, a pinch or two of hot paprika. You can sprinkle the spices on the walnuts of put the walnuts in the spices.

Directions:

Cut up the apples. Put them in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the apples to keep them from turning brown

Put an egg white in a small dish. Mix the walnuts with the egg white. Pour off any spare egg white. You only need the egg white to make the walnuts sticky enough to put the spices on them.

In a small pan (line the pan with aluminum foil to avoid extra washing), mix the walnuts with the spices and put them in a toaster oven, put them in it for four minutes at medium heat. If you don’t have a toaster oven (doesn’t everyone have one?) you can put them in a full-size oven — or throw them in a pan on the stove (use a little olive oil so they won’t stick). Toast for three or four minutes. NOT longer. Don’t let them burn.

Slice a few small pieces of celery as thin as possible. Throw them in with the apples and mix. When you are done toasting the walnuts, mix them in with the apples too. Add the raisins to the bowl with the apples, celery, and walnuts. Mix.

Dressing:

I used 1 cup of 1/2 cup avocado-oil mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of sour cream.

You are supposed to serve it in a “cup” of Romaine lettuce. I didn’t have any lettuce and it tasted fine free of lettuce. If you prefer using yogurt, that’s okay with me.

We had it for dinner because Garry was starving and this was ready to eat. It was delicious. Garry got over-excited and bit his tongue. Ouch.

Some people serve this with cold cooked chicken and other people add salt and pepper. I forgot the salt and pepper and didn’t miss it. I also didn’t have any chicken. Someone weird suggested adding marshmallows but she must have had too many small children. Marshmallows do NOT belong in a salad.

Finished!

You can add sunflower seeds. You can use pecans or almonds instead of walnuts. Just not peanuts — they have the wrong flavor.  You can get very fancy, but I have no patience for fancy anymore. I’m just glad when things come out well and we enjoy eating it.

If you want more, you can double the recipe, or just add more of each item. It’s easy to make, it tastes great and it’s sort of like a desert, but without all the sugar and fat.

HOW MUCH IS THREE-QUARTERS? – 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?

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: What’s For Dinner

It’s been an interesting eating week. I got tired of cooking. To be fair, I’ve been tired of cooking for at least 10 years, but Garry doesn’t cook and apparently, isn’t planning to learn. I decided to try something new and buy a lot of cold food we can use for salads and sandwiches.

I was going to cook some redfish for dinner, but I’m tired and headachy, so I made sandwiches and the fish will wait for tomorrow. I’m not all that fond of redfish anyway, even if it is from the Gulf of Maine.

I THINK I’M TIRED – Marilyn Armstrong

I blame it on the dogs. Basically, I blame everything on the dogs, but this one is actually their fault. Specifically, it’s Bonnie’s fault because she is the nonstop barker.

Bonnie the unstoppable barker

We have lots of other issues, but if Bonnie did not feel — after sleeping through the night like a rock — the need to bark continuously from dawn onward, I’m pretty sure I’d have a better perspective on life in general.

Duke

After three hours of intermittent barking — she has a routine. A few barks to wake me up, five to ten minutes of peace which is exactly enough time for me to drift off — after which the barking recommences. This goes on and on for hours.

This makes me cranky. It doesn’t wake Garry because he’s not wearing hearing aids. It is all aimed at me. I’m pretty sure if I ever got a complete night of sleep, I’d feel better. I could be wrong, but I believe sleeping an entire night would help.

If the weather is nice, Garry will (when poked) put them and their water outside. Sometimes, when he does this, I sleep for almost the whole day. I’ve got a lot of broken nights with which to catch up.

So that’s bad enough, but we haven’t really gone seriously shopping for about a month. We’ve just been “filling in” shopping. A little of this, a replacement for that. Mostly, I didn’t mind because it’s summer and we don’t eat as much as we do in colder weather.

Cheese!

Yesterday’s conversation about cheese woke up my taste buds. By the time I got through looking at pictures of cheese, thinking about cheese, wondering if there was new cheese just waiting for me to try … I needed cheese.  I wanted Brie, Jarlsberg, Bleu cheese, and Cheddar. I wanted pub cheese, but without the hot peppers.

Moreover, I wanted sharp flavored cold cuts. I’m trying out the hot capicola ham as well as a couple of types of salami. I thought they would all go well with any kind of cheese. I also wanted sliced cucumbers and ripe tomatoes with Asian Ginger dressing to drizzle on the big, flat Portabella mushrooms.

Raw edible portabello mushrooms with herbs on wooden board

I even bought a new kind of pepper that’s a combination of red and yellow. It looks like Van Gogh painted it. And bright yellow summer squash with fresh redfish from the Bay of Maine.

We really went shopping. Which means I had to go through the fridge and throw away all the stuff that was never getting eaten and Garry had to haul the wagon upstairs three times, which is a lot of hauling. Now, though, he only hauls it to the main floor entry and I run it upstairs on the chair lift. (They have many uses.)

When I finally managed to find places to put everything, I realized I was exhausted. I had moved was past tired to a new place. Good thing dinner was simple. Sesame crackers, pub cheese, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, plus hot capicola and a side of ginger ale.

I have fresh cherries, plums, and strawberries waiting for me, too.

While realizing I was seriously tired, I also realized Duke’s tick collar was too tight. He isn’t fat, but he has thickened up. He has a mastiff head these days to go with the pushed in muzzle and lopsided ears. I’d love to see his DNA.

I couldn’t loosen the tick collar and eventually had to cut it off. I realized that quite likely Bonnie and Gibbs need new collars too, so I sighed and ordered three of them. Back to broke. Again.

My right wrist has had it. My right shoulder is patched with lidocaine and the rest of me is full of Tramadol. I might be fine if only Bonnie would let me sleep!

ADULTING 101 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I read a fascinating article from Today, on Facebook. It was written by Meghan Holohan on March 29, 2019, and is titled “ ‘Adulting’ Class at Kentucky high school teaches crucial life skills.”

What a great concept! I’ve always thought high schools and colleges should offer life skills classes so kids aren’t left totally unprepared when they move into adulthood (that is if their parents don’t prepare them, which most don’t).

In the Kentucky school, ‘Adulting’ seminars were offered and the response was overwhelming and positive. Parents were as thrilled as the kids when the project started blowing up on the internet. Seniors could choose three out of eleven workshops to attend with the goal of gaining more general knowledge and specific skills needed to help them navigate their lives after high school.

The classes offered were awesome and totally practical. Some of them were: Dorm Room Cooking, How To Interact With the Police (I’m assuming it’s an inner city school), Healthy Relationships and Boundaries, It’s Money, Baby, i.e. Personal Finance, Writing a Resume and Cover Letter, Filling out an Application, Basics of Checking and Savings and When you Need to See A Doctor.

The first class to fill up was dorm room cooking. The Police were the second most popular and the third was Healthy Relationships. Apparently, a lot of young girls were not sure how and when to set boundaries in a relationship and what you should and should not expect — or accept — in a relationship. If you don’t see good relationships in your life, I guess you need to be taught what a good one looks like and how to get it. Very sad.

This school’s adulting classes are hopefully the start of a new trend. I looked online and found an adulting class for millennials that teaches them ‘survival’ skills like monthly budgeting and how to open a wine bottle with a cork. A library in Oregon offers “Adulting 101: Basic How-To’s for ages 16-25.”

Apparently, neither mainstream schools or parents are preparing kids to take on the world beyond home and high school.

I’ve read several conflicting explanations for why kids today seem so clueless when it comes to basic adulthood skills. Some blame it on the fact that so many kids continue to live at home through their 20’s, and even later. But one article pointed out that in the 1940s, people lived at home in even larger numbers and for even longer periods than recent generations. But those kids also did chores and were given adult responsibilities while at home, so making it in the real world was not a problem for them when the time came.

That points to late 20th-century parenting as the problem.

One author argues that both parents usually have to work crazy hours just to provide good lives for their families, so no one has time to teach life skills to their kids. Another author blames helicopter or snowplow parents who treat their kids like delicate, pampered snowflakes, do everything for them and expect nothing from them.

Another school of thought blames high schools, which used to teach skills like cooking, shop, and bookkeeping but now don’t. My husband had a great home economics class and learned how to cook as a teenager. He was the only boy in a class full of girls! Win, win!

Another author argues that every generation of young adults is equally ignorant of life skills and that most people learn them in the field, as adults. I had never cooked a thing until I reached law school and had my first apartment. Many kids don’t have their own checkbooks when they live with their parents and so they don’t learn how to manage one until they are living and working on their own.

I’m not sure which theory I believe, but I agree with the person who said that whatever the root causes of their egregious lack of ‘adult’ knowledge, the kids today should be commended for trying to learn what they realize they don’t know.

Hopefully, there will be a big spike in enrollment in the Adulting School that has opened, which offers classes in cooking, sewing, and basic conflict resolution. I know some adults who could use those classes. I know many career women who don’t know the first thing about cooking, except ordering out. I still can’t balance a checkbook.

Where do I sign up?

THE JOY OF COOKING SHOWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The less I cook, the more I watch cooking shows on TV. I particularly love baking shows and I haven’t baked in years. But I’m obviously not watching these shows to improve my cooking skills or to learn new techniques or even to collect new recipes. I think for me, it’s more of an outlet.

I did once replay a Bobby Flay show a few times so I could write down his recipe for baked meatballs. We still use this as our go-to meatball recipe and it comes out great every time. But that was the exception, not the rule.

Bobby Flay

Since menopause, I’ve had to watch my weight (I fortunately never had to before).

I gain easily so I had to pay attention to what and how much I ate. Then over a year ago, I had to start taking Prednisone and I slowly gained ten pounds over the course of 15 months. This is a common side effect of Prednisone. Most people gain a lot more than I did, but I was actively ‘dieting’ to keep the weight gain down to a minimum.

This is particularly frustrating because I love food – I love to eat and I love to cook. I once created a whole line of baked goods for a business that never took off. I’ve put together several of my own cookbooks and I used to constantly look for new recipes to add to them.

One of my own recipe collections

I tried to cook something ‘interesting’ every night when my husband was still working and I came up with creative ways to use leftovers. Recently my husband was warned he was about to become pre-diabetic. He had to lose weight, cut down on sugar and alcohol to prevent it from happening.

He lost 30-pounds and is now as obsessed with maintaining his weight as I am. So no more rich sauces and cheesy dishes for us!

Recipes I adapted or created for my defunct English Dessert business

We got an air fryer (which I highly recommend) so we can still have French Fries and crispy chicken wings without any fat. But most nights we eat plain grilled meat, a baked potato, and vegetables.

Tom does the grilling and I occasionally roast something in the oven or cook an actual vegetable recipe, as opposed to plain, boiled or steamed veggies.

Air Fryer

But my love of food and creative cooking has not diminished. So I get my foodie fix by watching TV. My favorite shows these days are The Great British Baking Show, The Best Baker in America, Masterchef, and Masterchef Junior and Top Chef. I find that these shows have the best cooks and bakers and the nicest contestants.

The level of skill and knowledge is very high, as is the spirit of camaraderie as well as competition. The plating and decorating is usually impeccable and creative. Also, the shows have the classiest hosts and judges and the best production values.

Best Baker in America winner last season

I’m still amazed that an eight or nine-year-old can bake a macaroon or an éclair without a recipe, in one hour, even if they’ve never made one before. The amount of baseline skill and knowledge this implies is mind-boggling. The complex and imaginative dishes the food show contestants come up within an hour or less blows me away. I can’t seem to create dishes in anything in less than an hour and my dishes are far from sophisticated, mouth-watering of beautiful to look at.

Masterchef Junior contestants

These cooking competitions are at a level way above mine. I couldn’t even begin to copy any of their recipes. Tom and I have always longed to learn how to plate elegantly, but we’ve never gone beyond making a vegetable puree and serving it under each piece of protein, a common practice on cooking shows.

The decorations on TV seem to require lots of planning and extra ingredients and we never seem to get around to even trying. I wouldn’t know where to start making those colorful ‘drops’ that appear on so many artistic plates. And who keeps fresh parsley around just to use as a garnish? I buy it if I need it for a specific dish and it only lasts a day or so in the fridge before it wilts and becomes useless.

I love watching skilled people, even amateurs, do their magic in the kitchen. I love hearing the judges’ critiques, which teach me what the dishes are supposed to look and taste like.

While I’m not going to try to duplicate what I see, I am a more educated restaurant goer and a more attentive home cook. That, along with the hours of enjoyment I get watching my cooking shows, is enough.

RDP Saturday: GOURMAND

SHRIMP SKIMP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Skimp

“What is this?” she asked him as he portioned out dinner on the plates.

“Hot and sour Chinese fried shrimp,” he said proudly.

“I sense the Chinese part, although as hot and sour goes, it’s not really that,” she commented, “But where is the shrimp? And for that matter, are we out of hot sauce too?”

“We were a bit short on shrimp. I couldn’t work out the sour part, so I just made do with what we had. Since I skimped on the shrimp, I added extra vegetables.”

“I haven’t found a single shrimp yet.”

“Maybe I skimped a bit too much,” he admitted and went fishing in the pan. “Here’s one,” he announced proudly. “Wait a minute, I think I see another one in there. No, that’s a water chestnut. There’s got to be another one in here somewhere…” as he trailed off.

“Listen. You can cook anything any way you like,  but if you don’t have the ingredients, maybe try a different dish?”

“Okay. We’re having hot and sour fried mystery shrimp with Chinese vegetables. Is that better?”

“It isn’t hot. It isn’t sour. And you didn’t fry anything,” she pointed out, using her well-worn chopsticks as she plowed through dinner. “It tastes okay, but you need a new recipe name. It is shrimpless. Fundamentally, it’s missing all the key ingredients. It tastes okay, but… Well, I’m not sure what it is, exactly. Pass the hot sauce. Maybe use chicken next time? You won’t have to skimp quite as much.”