Saturday, December 29, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Final Posting

   Well, I haven't blogged in over a month, which brings me to the topic of my last blog for this blog. Blogging lately has become more of a chore than a joy. When I spoke to a counselor this year, she kept asking the question "And how does that serve you?" which was quite aggravating after the third or fourth time. Like "That made me mad!" and she would say "And how did that serve you?" But basically, it was another way of saying "So how's that working out for you?" If it's working, keep it;.iIf it's not, lose it. And so, this blog, which started out with a fascination that people out there in the world wide web could actually read my words moments after posting, and with much enthusiasm and glee, has dwindled down to something in the back of my mind I feel guilty about if I don't post regularly. So, to use the shrinks lingo, it's not serving me anymore.
   While I thought "Upsides to the Down Economy" was a good idea for a blog, it did actually incorporate a negative (Down Economy). I have had fun these last couple years blogging about food, finances, entertainment, ways to save money, philosophical meanderings and just stories of my past. So, with the old year, I say goodbye to this blog and perhaps I will start a new one. I would like to concentrate in the future on travel writing, inspirational writing and screenwriting. And, to end on a positive note, I would like to share an idea someone posted on facebook. Take a big empty jar, vase or bowl and each day write down one good thing that happened to you that day. At the end of the year, you will have a jar full of little bits of gratitude to be thankful for. And best of all, it's absolutely free. The best things in life often are.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Turkey Every Which Way

   It's the week after Thanksgiving and you know what that means! Turkey every which way. While of course there is nothing wrong with the standard turkey sandwich (on a soft roll with Miracle Whip, turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce), with a twenty pound turkey there are more leftovers than one knows what to do with.
   These are two recipes I have used over the years which are always a hit with the family. They are from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, whose recipes I enjoy for their simple goodness. These are recipes I imagine a farmer's wife cooking after a hard day's work. The turkey soup gets an added bonus from any stuffing that is clinging to the carcass, and I throw any leftover stuffing in as well, towards the end of cooking. This a kind of a labor-intensive recipe because when you heat up the leftover turkey and let it cook for hours, it falls apart and there are all kind of turkey bones and strange bits that end up in it, but there is really no getting around it. After I cook it, I drain the stock from the meat and bones,separate the bones and let them cool and then pick the meat off and discard the bones. Although it says to add any little bits of leftover turkey to the pot, I feel this isn't necessary, since there is a ton of meat that comes from the carcass alone. After the stock cools, scoop off the fat and add the turkey meat back in, with some egg noodles and heat up.
   I decided to go all out with the leftovers and chopped up some romaine lettuce and made a dressing out of the juice from the cranberries and olive oil. I mixed the drained leftover cranberries into the salad, with chopped walnuts and blue cheese and it was a yummy complement to the hearty turkey soup. With the turkey tetrazzini, I have made a note to double the recipe of Veloute Sauce, which is never a bad thing! Here they are:

Turkey Soup 7-8 cups

1 Turkey Carcass
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
2 stalks celery, cut up
6 crushed peppercorns
(I also add a couple bay leaves and a chicken bouillon cube.)

Break the turkey carcass into pieces and put them in a soup pot with any small pieces of turkey that you can spare. Add 8 cups of water, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover partially and simmer for 3 or 4 hours. Strain the broth and cool it quickly, uncovered. Chill it and remove the fat when it solidifies or scoop any fat off the surface with a spoon. Add salt to taste before serving

Turkey Tetrazinni

4 cups (1/2 lb) cooked spaghetti
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 TBL dry sherry
salt to taste
1 recipe Veloute Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
8 or more slices cooked turkey
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish and spread the cooked spaghetti in it. Stir in the nutmeg, sherry and salt into the warm veloute sauce and set aside. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft. Spoon half the sauce over the spaghetti. Place the chicken slices and mushrooms on top, and spoon on the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Veloute Sauce

2 TBL Butter
3 TBL Flour
1 cup hot chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir in the flour and blend over moderate heat until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook 2 minutes more. Pour in the cream, add salt and heat thoroughly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ On Old Eggs and Iced Tea

Monday Monday... I realize it's not Monday, but Monday mornings I like to get a jump start on the week by preparing food and beverages for the week ahead. I brew some iced tea for my husband Zeke (with the handy dandy Ice Tea Maker Christopher got me for Christmas), whip up a pitcher of Gatorade for Christopher and hard boil some eggs for a quick and easy snack, mostly eaten by A.J..  Sometimes I also, make up a big pot of steel cut oatmeal, which I re-heat for breakfast throughout the week. Although it takes a little time and effort to prepare these items, it's easier to do it all at once, rather than making individual glasses of iced tea or Gatorade.  The hard boiled eggs- the incredible edible "perfect food"- are great to have on hand for an instant, high quality, protein blast.

To hard boil eggs: first try to use "old eggs"; eggs more than a week old peel easier. Place in a pan and cover with at least one inch of cold water. Let the water come to a boil (don't forget about them as I have done). Let boil 1 or 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Cover and let sit in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, refrigerate and enjoy. You can eat them plain, with salt and paprika, devil them, or take out the yolk (the high calorie part of the egg), and stuff with hummus for a low cal snack. I sometimes throw in a slice of hearts of palm or a cherry tomato, for a little crunch.
   The old egg part reminds me of a story my mother told me about when her sister Cody was getting married in Tuscon, Arizona. She was helping my Aunt Lil was prepare food for the reception. Well, they were trying to make deviled eggs, but the first batch they attempted didn't turn out because the eggs stuck to the shells. So, my mom and Lil went out in search of some more eggs and wound up at a grocery store where the manager told them "Ma'am, I can guarantee these eggs are old."
Kind of like mine. On that note... happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ Of Salt and Pepper

Remember the days when salt and pepper consisted of Morton's Iodized Salt (with the little girl with her galoshes and umbrella) and Black Pepper in a red and white can? Those days, thankfully, are gone but now the choices of salts and pepper can seem to be overwhelming. I never use pepper out of a can, now that I've discovered fresh ground pepper. The oils and peppery taste is released when you grind them, just like coffee. The stuff you buy in a can could have been ground a while ago, and to me, it's tasteless. I also enjoy crushed red pepper, especially on pasta and pizzas, to spice things up a bit. Salts can vary in size, color and taste depending on the body of water from which it was extracted;. they are like oysters in this regard. Good old table salt has its place, but I've come to really love Kosher salt, for its flaky texture and saltier taste, especially when cooking. Sea salt, now rather common, is more delicate and finer in texture. I find I need to use a lot to get enough salt. Super fine salt (Morton's) is perfect for popcorn, coating it more thoroughly than regular. We brought some coarse, red volcanic salt back from our honeymoon in Maui. It is supposed to be served with the Luau pig (but how often does that happen?) so I've put it my salt grinder for everyday use. My daughter A.J. brought some pond salt with goat pepper home from her trip to the Bahamas and it combines the best of both worlds- salt and pepper. It is a moist salt and needs to be kept covered, lest it dry out. A dash of it is the perfect addition for everything from scrambled eggs, to soups to grilled meats and veggies. The only problem is, we're going through it at an alarming rate! Salt, a rare commodity in ancient time, is a fun seasoning to experiment with, trying different varieties. It adds so much to any dish (as long as you don't overdo it) at negligible calories so- go crazy, and spice up your life!

My Collection of Salt and Pepper Shakers

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ BB Cream- Hype or Hope?

   I had been hearing buzz about BB Creams so plunked down $12.99 at my local CVS and tried Garnier BB Cream, which had been recommended by Oprah magazine. It was the cheapest of the bunch. BB Cream is a new idea in skin care- a hybrid product that provides sunscreen (SPF 15) with a moisturizer that remedies discoloration, dullness, blotchiness and dryness. Sometimes, before tennis matches, I would mix foundation in with my sunscreen, because the sunscreen alone was very white and made me look like a ghost. This is a similar idea, but in addition to sunscreen, there is Vitamin C and mineral pigments to brighten your skin. On the package, it claims to be a "Miracle Skin Perfector". Well, claiming anything other than something Jesus or one of the saints did to be a miracle is a tall order, but when I tried it I was pleasantly surprised at how much better my skin looked. I would use this every day for foundation, as it allows me to skip the step of putting Oil of Olay on first. I don't always use foundation during the day, but as I get older and my skin gets blotchier, with more sun and age spots, I feel I should do my fellow citizens a favor, and try to look presentable. I also found it brightened up my skin.

According to the back of the Garnier box
"90% had a more even complexion"
"93% saw a more healthy glow"
"96% saw smoother skin"
and, the best thing is, the results are immediate.

   So, my conclusion is, BB Cream, especially if you live somewhere where sun exposure is a concern (like Miami) is a great time-saving, life enhancing product. Not a Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich Miracle, but pretty darned close.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ What TO Wear This Fall

   I love looking through magazines like In Style and getting ideas for outfits, preferably with items I already own in my closet. Putting outfits together has NEVER been my forte. My sister Kelley wanted to sign me up for the TV show What Not To Wear, if that gives you any idea of my fashion (or lack of) sense. My solution to fashion-challenged genes? I look through the magazines and when I find an outfit I like, I tear it out and save it for future reference. These are either outfits I would like to buy, or outfits I can put together with existing items in my closet. I take the picture of the outfit and attach it with a safety pin to the item that would make it work. Sometimes I need to add an item to complete the look, othertimes I have everything I need. This way, it's a no-brainer when it comes time to get dressed. Since I usually just reach for the same old outfits time after time, this is a great way to mix it up.

I'm good to go with this outfit, substituted a Blue Blazer for a Camp Shirt

I need to get some Pants to finish this outfit

I need a Top to go with this skirt

   Fall is the perfect time to go through your closet and get rid of stuff that is stained, faded, frayed or just has to go! You can do your own version of What Not To Wear, although it helps to have a merciless friend (thanks Kelley) to help you. Donate to your favorite charity and get a tax write off as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Upsides to the Down Economy/ On Nuclear Medicine, Spaghetti Squash and All That Jazz

   Just a quick post to tell you another great thing about Melba Toast. It's cheap! Two boxes at my local Publix are only $3! That's $1.50 each. I just found a box hidden in my step daughter's closet. The cellophane was open and a couple crackers had fallen out and the Melba Toast still tasted fine- I guess since they are hard in the first place, they don't really get stale. I have had the opposite effect, while storing them in a cooler. They will get soft and mushy.
   Also, I did use the leftover spaghetti squash with some leftover bar-b-que pulled pork. I heated them up, added hoisin (Asian Bar B Que sauce), chopped cilantro, chopped scallions and some salted peanuts and mixed the whole mess together and it was delicious! Really yummy. I will be buying more spaghetti squash this fall, but will steam it next time, instead of microwaving it. On HcG, they wouldn't let you microwave food since it supposedly changes the molecular structure of foods and when you microwave stuff in plastic, you have to worry about the plastic leaching out into your food. I don't know if I buy into that whole argument, but I do believe, the closer we can do things the way our ancestors did (with no processing or microwaving etc...) the better off we are. With the increase of cancer, you have to think it's something we are doing (or eating) in our modern lifestyles. Looking forward to eating squash, pumpkin this fall, plus the beginning of tennis, bunko and all that jazz.