Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Muslim Neighbors Gave Me Dinner

I had met my Muslim neighbors earlier this year when the husband/father came over to comment on my tomato plants. He invited me over to see the garden he had planted out back and challenged me to guess what he had planted. I was able to guess everything. When he learned that I am a fan of the kind of food they eat (very similar to Indian cuisine since they're from Pakistan), he said that he would bring me some biryani some time when his wife made it. I thought, OK, that'll be cool, but really didn't expect it.

I know that they have just come out of the end of Ramadan, so I know they are cooking more since they aren't fasting during the day now. My doorbell rang and I was surprised to see the husband at my door. He asked me where my tomato plants were and asked if I remembered that they were going to make me some biryani, that his wife had made some if I still wanted some.

Then I went over to see his garden and saw that he is growing okra in the front flower bed. His tomato plants, which were much smaller than mine were, are HUGE! Meanwhile, mine are dying out back. He had told me he was a farmer in the mountains. I obviously am NOT a farmer, even if my mother was. I decided to ask him if he can rescue my plants.

Back to the food, though. I was given a platter full of some of the best biryani I have ever had - I just LOVE Basmati rice. This had potatoes and chicken in it and a Tandoori chicken leg on top. They also gave me some mint chutney that she'd made. I did eat some with the rice and meat in a tortilla (I didn't have any naan), but I'm not really a fan of mint chutney. Still, the rice was delicious!! I finished what I couldn't eat for dinner at breakfast the next morning.
But, now I have a question. I know there are Muslim Bubblers out there, so this is a question more for you. I would love to do something for them as a thank you for being so nice to me and sharing their meal. I was thinking of making a uniquely American dessert to share with them. I would never consider offering a pork product, but I don't want to offend them accidentally, either. What I was thinking of making is a pan of apple dumplings the way my mother used to make them. I've included a photo here. It is just apples, cinnamon, sugar and pie crust (like might be wrapped around a samosa). No pork fat at all. I just want to know if there is any reason something like that might be the wrong thing to offer. I'd like them to know that I appreciated the meal they shared with me.

So, what do you think? Would apple dumplings be OK or should I consider something else instead?


The Chicken Biryani photo is from Wikimedia Commons and looks very much like what I given. Even the piece of chicken was the same color. But, no bay leaves.

The Apple Dumpling photo came from a website with the accompanying recipe and looks identical to what Mom used to make. She'd put eight dumplings in her pan and then pour the cinnamon-nutmeg-sugar syrup over it before putting it in the oven. What came out was a gorgeous and fragrant dessert surrounded by a thick, caramel-ly cinnamon sauce. 

A Pot of Chili on the Stove - or There Will Be

There are three quick meals I can make with the pound and a half of ground beef I just started browning. One is chili, one is green beans and meat and the other is meat sauce for spaghetti. I love all three of them, but don't feel like getting a second pan out to cook potatoes (green beans) or pasta (meat sauce), so it looks like chili will be the recipe du jour.

I like that I can make a huge pot of chili full of beans and meat (I know - no real Texan would call that chili, which is good since I'm a Jersey Girl) with loads of onions and peppers and tomatoes. So much goodness to be had in a single pot.

Sure, I could make biscuits to go with it - or have it over pasta similar to Cincinnati - but, I do enjoy it as it is from the pan in a bowl with some buttered bread and some cheddar cheese - maybe even a little sour cream if it's got some kick. I'm debating the "kick" as I write.

OK, debate is done and so is the chili. I used white kidney beans and black beans along with diced onions and diced bell peppers, a small can of Rotel tomatoes (mild), a large can of crushed tomatoes, a large can of diced tomatoes, three tablespoons of chili powder and a half a packet of red pepper flakes that Dominos gives when you ask for them. I only used half because they were so darned hot when I put them on the pizza!! I figured half would let me know they were there and still let me enjoy the flavor. I was right!

So, I'm now noshing on a bowl of red gold with buttered whole grain bread and a cup of coffee. Comfort food to the max!!

Originally published on yesterday.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Question About Goat Meat

I have a question that I've asked once before (I don't think it was here, though), but I don't think my question was understood well. Maybe it was poorly asked. I want to try again.

I enjoy Indian cuisine. I love curries, whether they are Makhani or Masala or Navratan. I might like them milder than many do, but I do like them very much. I've had chicken (my favorite), lamb and goat. I like all three meats. But, only the goat is cut up with the bones still in the meat. Often, I find that what I thought was a piece of meat is actually a very small piece of meat with a large piece of bone attached. I have to admit, it takes some of the pleasure out of eating that particular curry for me.

All meats can be cooked with bone in or boneless, or I have always assumed. I know that when stewing, the bones provide added flavor. But, goat is the only one I've never found boneless in these kinds of meals. Can someone explain to me why the bones are left in when it is cut up into small pieces when the bones are not left in chicken or lamb, both smaller animals? Except for Tandoori chicken, that is. I'd really like to understand the reasoning.

Image from Wikimedia Commons. Previously posted to

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

More Rain Than Superstorm Sandy - 7 inches in Three Hours!!

July 29th was unbelievable!! I was given some cat scratching posts through FreeCycle and knew we were expecting rain, but when 1 PM came and went without much darkening of the skies, I thought it would be safe to go pick them up. I easily found the address and loaded them into the car and decided to treat myself to some breakfast.

I stopped at the Westmont Diner and found that they served breakfast all day, so I ordered my favorite, creamed chipped beef over potatoes with wheat toast and two scrambled eggs. While I was enjoying my meal, the man who was in the booth next to mine had his cell phone go off with one of those emergency tones like the Emergency Broadcast System does on television. He said that the storm was coming and it was a weather warning. OK. It still didn't look too bad outside, but I guess the rain was coming after all. Within five minutes, his cell phone went off again. It was a severe storm warning indicating flash flooding expected.

Well, they've said that before and the flash flooding I'm used to seeing is the kind they have out west where the water comes rushing out of the mountains or across the hot dry desert and into the ravines taking everything in its path with it. I'd never seen anything like that here in South Jersey where we have no mountains and we're maybe 50 feet at most above sea level. I knew the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River had mountain streams and running water, but our side was mostly flat and tidal. The what flooding we get is almost always because of too much pavement and poor drainage. High tides sometimes contribute if timed with the rainfall.

But, when it started getting much darker and I began to hear thunder, I decided to cut my meal short and head on home. I didn't even get out of the restaurant when the rain began. I started driving down Kings Highway which actually runs downhill about half of the way home and the water I was seeing rushing down the road and covering it from curb to curb was incredible. It was raining so hard, I was having a hard time seeing. Cars coming towards me would hit the water and blow it across my windshield completely blocking my view. I was only going 20 mph, it was that bad.

I got to Market Street and turned right to go home. That leads right into town after crossing Route 130, a major divided highway in the southern part of the state. When I got to the light, I noticed that cars weren't continuing through the light. I then noticed that cars were coming the WRONG WAY towards the cars that weren't continuing on. I suddenly realized that the road must be flooded so badly no one could get through. While all these cars were coming back towards us, they were turning into the motel that is right there to get off the highway. Suddenly, one guy in a white truck decides he's not going to turn around, so he just zips on past all the cars turning around and heads into the underpass. I have a gut feeling that the truck you'll see in the photos in this link are him. If so, then GOOD!! If that's what it takes to teach him to not be an idiot, then so be it. Here's that link.

Two of the pictures I have posted are of flooding near where I live that happened before yesterday. The one with the Metro Diner sign is looking west from Brooklawn Circle East to Brooklawn Circle West which, as you can see, is under water, as are a couple of cars stupid enough to drive through it. That was from a storm this past December that didn't
Brooklawn Circle West
dump NEARLY the same amount of rain as we had yesterday. It's because we have so much blacktop and concrete covering all open ground and the drainage is so poor, the water has nowhere to go. At the time of this event, it had the misfortune of being timed with a high tide and a full moon.

The next image where you can see a detour sign and several row homes is two blocks from my house. It is the intersection of Market Street and Broad. That photo was taken in 2009 - again, the rain fall was considerably less than we had yesterday. Honestly, this is what I saw when I came home that day. I'd never seen it before where the water was so high it covered all the sidewalks at that intersection. I usually go home by driving past these houses and
Gloucester City, Broad & Market
turning left two blocks later. I wasn't able to do that. Too much water and a car stalled out in the middle of it. Holy cow!! So, I had to turn left on Broad and then turn on to my street that way.

Finally, there is a picture of a section of town where you can see banners for Max's Seafood Cafe. That is the intersection of Hudson and Burlington. Max's is on one corner and the parking lot with these banners is on the opposite corner. Seeing that photo blew my mind. That WAS taken that day and I never thought that part of town would flood like that!!! I can't imagine what
Gloucester City, Burlington at Hudson
those houses' basements looked like after this was all done. 

So, that's how it was on July 29th. I was soaked to the skin by the time I got from the car to the house. I really didn't have a clue that we were getting as much water as we got, but I knew it was coming down like crazy. I told someone that instead of it raining cats and dogs, it was raining dinosaurs and mastodons!!

This event was originally published at

Images are from local news reports published in our city's small-town paper. Gloucester City News

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blueberry Jam

I am about to embark on a culinary adventure. I have about 4 cups of blueberries on the stove cooking down with a teaspoon of lemon juice and about a half cup of sugar and between a quarter and half teaspoon of cinnamon (no cinnamon sticks). I have no pectin. I have no jars for canning. I do, however, have blueberries I'm going to lose if I don't do something soon.

I was hoping to go sugar-free, but apparently sugar is considered something of a preservative. But, the quantities of sugar most recipes were calling for was mind-boggling. As much or more than the amount of berries!! Some recipes called for lemon juice (probably another preservative) and others called for a cinnamon stick (that one said it helps preserve - but it also helps control insulin, so I'm in). I don't have cinnamon sticks and blueberries are dark in color, so ground cinnamon isn't going to be visible. I went with the approximate equivalent. 

Now, I have no idea how this will turn out. It will require tasting, I know. Some of it will go in the fridge and some of it into the freezer. Hopefully, I won't have to add too much more sugar (if the berries are sweet). But, I'm determined to do it and not lose these berries. I also eat plenty of PBJ sandwiches, and I like jam on toast, so this will work out. If it turns out well, I will plan ahead for the next time and have jars and lids on hand so I can make more and keep it longer.

I'm far from a culinary queen. I'm more like the kitchen jester. My mother was the cooking expert with regards to preserving and "putting away". She'd can, she'd freeze and she'd "make do". We had a large chest freezer in the basement dedicated to her garden produce and sales on meats and baked goods. Steel shelves were lined with the products she'd can - in fact, her canning kitchen was in the basement. A little four-burner gas stove from the 30s hooked up to a small propane tank and an old kitchen sink with drainboard hanging on the cinderblock basement wall. It was also her summer kitchen when it was too hot in the upstairs kitchen to cook what she wanted (before we had central air).

That's not me. I'm a hit or miss kind of cook. I can do it, but I tend to be lackadaisical about it. I like slow cookers because I can ignore them. For me, spending hours in a kitchen putting together a meal is shear torture. Yet, I like having home canned foods on hand. I miss that. I remember once I made 12 quarts of stewed tomatoes. I was so proud of those tomatoes. Actually, it was more than that, but I remember the 12 because my neighbor, who was helping me clean house, claimed she threw them out thinking they were trash. Yeah - the entire case of home canned stewed tomatoes. Personally, I think she took them because they were nowhere to be found at the apartment dumpster where she said she threw them. I never had her help me again. It wasn't worth it. (Some lessons are hard learned.) But, the ones I got to use were just fine. And, I even used iodized salt which it says not to do. I'm sure there's a reason, but I did it anyway.

I also made several jars of green tomato relish once. Why? Because my tomatoes refused to ripen! They were big, robust beauties, but they stubbornly refused to blush even when set on the window sill in a paper bag. And, I don't do fried green tomatoes, so I made relish. I don't do that, either, but I was able to give it away. At least I didn't lose those tomatoes. 

Anyway, the blueberries are on the stove on a very low flame cooking down. I need to mash them and stir them and make sure they're gently boiling because that is what brings out the natural pectins. I also need to taste them to see if I need more sugar. 

Wish me luck! So far, they taste pretty good with minimal sugar. I'm hoping.

Photo is mine. Previously published on

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Received My Appointment As a Board Worker

On August 13, New Jersey is having a special primary election to elect a replacement for Senator Frank Lautenberg who died while in office. There was a lot of talk about how much holding this election would cost since the general election is only in November, especially for a state whose taxes are already the highest in the country. Not to mention that it's usually Democrats who are accused of excessive spending and this is a Republican governor who chose to do this. I think I understand why he did this, but that still doesn't help with the overall cost..I'm pretty sure he felt that appointing a replacement would be a lose-lose situation. If he appointed a Democrat, the GOP would accuse him of being a RINO (some already have). If he appointed a Republican, the Dems would accuse him of not honoring the electorate's original party of choice. It's beyond my control, no matter why it was decided.

I was unable to work the regular primary because they didn't need all the people they used in last November's general election, so you know how it is - last hired, first fired. But, this time, because it's an election that doesn't normally exist, several people had plans to be away at this time, so I was called to work this election. The official appointment came in the mail on Wednesday the 31st, although I was told on Monday about it.

I have to be at the site by 5:15 AM so we can get the voting machines set up, put out the flag, post all the regulations where they can be viewed by voters, sign all the statements required of every board worker assuring that we will uphold election laws and similar statements. Plus, if we want to be paid, we need to be sure our signatures are in place. Then we set up the tables and divide the registered voters between us so that we know which part of the alphabet will sign in where.

It is really an interesting, yet tedious, process with color coded seals and code numbers having to be matched to the proper items to ensure integrity. When the polls close at 8 PM, anyone still in line will be allowed to vote, although I don't think that will be as likely during a special election like this one. If someone comes in and they're names aren't on the rolls, but they are sure they are registered, then we must supply a provisional paper ballot to ensure that their vote is tallied once their declaration has been verified. 

We will be on site for approximately 15 hours. If I am not loaned a car, my daughter will have to get up to take me and drop me off. No matter what, I will need to stop at the Wawa to get breakfast because there just isn't time to do it any other way. A nice big cup of coffee to sip on while I'm there, maybe a can of soda or two from home. Then, during the lunch break, there is at least one place I can go that is across the street, so if I don't have a car, I'll be OK.

The day before the election, I have to go to the municipal building to pick up all the books and keys that will be used during the election - I mentioned them above, with the color coded seals, etc. I will be responsible for getting it to the poll site without the seal being broken, but I have to get to the municipal building during business hours. My daughter will be at work, so I'll need my friend to take me or loan me his car.

But, that's what I'll be doing on Monday and Tuesday. It will be a long day and I might just be too pooped to post when I get home that night.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Breakfast is Better When Someone Else Makes It!

Scrapple with Eggs and Toast
TG asked me this morning what it is about breakfast that makes me enjoy it so much to want to go out to eat it. Frankly, I enjoy eating breakfast any time of the day, but when I'm in the mood for a full breakfast in the morning and I'm out, I would much rather stop to eat than make it at home. I'm just not ready to be standing at the stove cooking first thing in the morning. Even when I was growing up, when we had a full breakfast, it was later in the morning that we had it. Early morning was more toast and coffee. When I made big breakfasts for my kids when they were little, it was on weekends when I could make more at a later time. During school days, they had cereal and juice or grilled cheese or PBJ sandwiches before heading off to school. So, when I took TG to the airport this morning, I was looking forward to stopping and getting something to eat.

I've eaten breakfast at the Metro Diner two days in a row now. Yesterday, TG and I stopped for breakfast before doing some errands for him before he left today for Arizona to see a friend. I had scrambled eggs with scrapple and wheat toast and a side of grits
Buttered Grits
instead of potatoes. TG had Eggs Benedict with a side of scrapple. We shared a side of bacon.

Today, after dropping TG off at the airport, I stopped again at the Metro mainly because I wasn't able to find my glasses and thought I'd left them there yesterday morning. I didn't, but I still stayed for breakfast. Today I had a bowl of dried beef gravy with grits instead of potatoes and wheat toast. Of course, coffee is a given on both
Crispy Bacon
days. I had originally planned to stop at Wawa and get a bowl of eggs or a sausage egg and cheese croissant with coffee. 

I'll eat the gravy over toast, but I prefer it over potatoes. But, in recent years, potatoes haven't been kind to me, so I've been avoiding them when the option is available. So, when I have the option of grits instead, I take it. I eat grits like I eat other hot cereals. I put butter on it and I add a little sugar. Not a huge amount since I'm diabetic, but enough to keep the grits from being too bland. I've tried it with artificial sweetener, but it's not the same.
Chipped Beef on Toast

What's your favorite breakfast? Do you like any of these things?

Dave Milsom, Flickr - scrapple
Paul McRae, Flickr - grits
Wikimedia Commons - chipped beef
Wikimedia Commons - bacon

Friday, July 26, 2013

****Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake****

This is a recipe that is rapidly making the rounds on Facebook that I just MUST try. I currently have the  blueberries and I just love blueberries. I wanted to make jam, but I don't have the jars, so this is the next best thing. I tried locating a web page with a picture this delicious, but I wasn't successful.

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen, but do not thaw!)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9″ square pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients, mixing together with a fork until crumbly; set aside. In another medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, cream together the remaining butter and sugar. Blend in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Blend in the flour mixture and cream alternately, beginning and ending with the flour (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Fold in the blueberries. (The dough is quite stiff, so be patient as you’re folding in the berries! Don’t mush them up!)

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the crumble topping. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool, and cut into 9 large squares.

Source: Facebook and Examiner New England Food

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Twerking is Outta Control!

This is one of the funniest things I've seen! Personally, I think twerking is kind of ridiculous - isn't this what they were doing on videos for "I Like Big Butts" and "Baby's Got Back" before it even had a name?? And, who gave it this name?? 

Anyway, this little gif is just hilarious!!! Although, I hope her owners don't let her outside when she's doing that. All those Toms will have a field day!! Here's the link to it since it doesn't seem to be working as an automated image.  Be sure to watch!

Does anyone know the history of how this behavior was named? I'm curious.

Previously published on Bubblews.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Finally Made Beef Rouladen

I've been watching television for a couple hours - something I haven't done in a couple months because we had the digital antenna disconnected so we could use the DVD. I needed the diversion. I even cooked dinner tonight and proceeded
to burn the shit out of the beef broth I had used. I mean, who knew beef broth could even burn!!! So, yeah, thankfully the rouladen were still edible because they weren't the cheapest cuts of meat (although they were a manager markdown at the end of the store's day). It is actually an easy recipe, but the only other time I made it I used Mom's electric stove. I HATE gas stoves. No matter how low I have it, it's still a direct flame. I can't just let it simmer and braise.

Seriously, though, rouladen is so easy to make and tastes great. I used thinly sliced bottom round steak, spread stone ground mustard on each one, sprinkled some diced onions on (recipes usually call for sliced onions), laid a bread-n-butter pickle slice down and topped it with a strip of bacon. Then I began rolling from the pickle end and used toothpicks to hold them together. Browned them on all sides and poured in a 15 oz can of beef broth. There's no way that broth should have evaporated (I even had a lid on it) and scorched, but it did. It didn't when I made them at Mom's. But, you thicken the gravy and they're just so tender because they've cooked like this and they're thin. With Mom's, I used cube steaks that I pounded thinner. But, I found these really nice bottom round steak slices and went for it. I have four in the freezer, already filled and rolled, to do again later. I think next time I'll use the slow cooker with the electric base and the oblong pan. I think it'll turn out better.

But, I don't like pickles and I like this. It's seriously good! Here is the recipe I used:

Time 65 minutes
Serves 4
• 1 1/2 pounds flank steak 
• German stone ground mustard, to taste 
• 1/2 pound thick sliced bacon
• 2 large onions, sliced
• 1 (16 ounce) jar dill pickle slices
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 1/2 cups water
• 1 cube beef bouillon
How to make it
• Cut the flank steak into thin filets; about 1/4 inch thick and 3 inches wide.
• Generously spread one side of each filet with mustard to taste. Place bacon, onions and pickle slices on each filet and form into a roll. Use string or toothpicks to hold the roll together.
• Heat a skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Place the rolls in the butter and sauté until browned.
• Pour in 2 1/2 cups of water and add the bouillon cube; stirring to dissolve the bouillon cube. Simmer the rolls for about an hour. Thicken the gravy as you desire.

This was DELICIOUS!! I first made this while I was living with my mother as her caregiver. I don't like pickles, but I love what they did to the meat! The gravy was rich and flavorful. I wish I could have replicated it this time. But, I have more for next time waiting!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Should all weapons be banned in the USA?

Just so you know, I'm not a 2nd Amendment nutjob, although I believe in the right of citizens to own firearms. However, I do think we have a problem. We have a popular culture that glorifies violence (Rambo, Terminator, movies with graphic depictions of the effects of being shot, violent video games, etc.) I personally own a single shot .22 rifle that was my father's. I would love to be able to go target shooting with it. But, my state is so paranoid about all weapons that I have to have permission just to walk out the door with it. But, I also don't think it's necessary for the general public to own automatic weapons. There is no real need for them, whether for hunting or sport. 

If you want to have fun shooting one, go to an open gun range where you can rent the use of one for fun. You don't need one in your home. I can see allowing collectors to own such things because they're attracted to the technology that helped create and improve them. People have passions and not all passions lead to violence. Some people love steam engines. Others love old cars. And others love firearms. There is no easy answer. Current gun control doesn't work. Chicago, where no one was allowed to own guns until recently, is loaded with gun violence. How did gun control help there? It didn't. There needs to be a better answer - one that doesn't punish the law-abiding owner of firearms. They've basically created a new class of criminal - one that turns otherwise law-abiding citizens into felons simply because they own a gun that was legally purchased.

I know there will be strong and divisive thoughts about this and I do understand. But, honestly, a gun CANNOT hurt anyone without someone else making it. Nor can a car or a knife or any number of objects that have been used as weapons. We expect people to use objects in an appropriate manner, not thoughtlessly, recklessly or irresponsibly. Yet, virtually every case we've heard of lately has been caused by careless people who simply didn't think of negative consequences (leaving loaded weapons where children can reach them, allowing them to play with real guns - guns aren't toys, not checking to make sure the gun isn't loaded before using it as a crutch or before cleaning it). If you can't treat them with the respect they deserve and teach your kids that they ARE lethal when used improperly, then you really shouldn't have them. Plain and simple.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Someone you met randomly who's made an impact on your life.

The visitors' gate at USP in Draper.
I wrote this during a blogging challenge.

There are a couple of people I met randomly who made a huge impact on my life. The first would have to be my now ex-husband. There is nothing more random than meeting someone at the Utah State Prison when you're doing a friend a favor and going there with her square dance group for special socialization dances being provided a certain group of inmates. I mean, seriously random. She had asked me to go with several times and I kept saying no. I had no interest in going to the prison for any reason. She then uttered the fate-filled words I've never forgotten: "Look at it this way, Wendy. At least they can't ask for a date." I met him that night.

Never expecting to have a good time, I went along with her plan and found myself actually enjoying myself. I didn't dance, but ended up playing pool with a couple of guys who felt sorry for my friend and me sitting idly by doing nothing. I discovered that these guys weren't really any different than guys on the outside, despite whatever their reasons for being there might be. Although I have that proverbial hindsight we've all heard about, going through the entire experience, good and bad, helped make me who I am today.

The second person who had a huge impact on my life would be my friend TG. I've mentioned him before. I had worked for about a year when he was hired. He was quiet and shy and all the women were talking about fixing their daughters up with this recent graduate of Villanova. I didn't think one way or another about it other than several of us doubted he or the other guy would stay in our little office since they both had just earned Masters Degrees. Well, we were right about the one guy - he left after a week when another job he'd hoped for came through. But, TG stayed. In fact, TG outlasted me, staying with the company 12 years before being laid off after most positions were sent overseas. 

At any rate, the randomness factor was that he was just so much younger than me that I never ever considered being friends with him. But, one day shortly after he started, I was running up to the break room and saw him standing all alone at the bottom of the stairs looking lost. Well, I've been lost before. I've been odd-man-out before. I introduced myself and welcomed him to the company, never thinking anything other than I didn't want him to feel locked out of things. Over time, he began sending me playful emails or popping up suddenly on the other side of my cubicle wall to tease me about one thing or another. He began asking for rides to company functions and eventually began calling me at home. Not being used to that kind of thing, I was freaking out. I didn't know how to handle it. But, the boy grew on me and we became hard and fast friends. When I left the company, we began to travel together. It is because of Tom that I went to Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Salzberg, Dublin Republic of Ireland, San Francisco, Savannah, Oklahoma City, Cape Cod, Montreal, Quebec City, St. John New Brunswick Canada, Belfast Northern Ireland, Ayr Scotland, Chester England and Conwy Wales. We haven't done much traveling since he was laid off, but I have such good memories of where we've been that I can't complain.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Early Morning Wawa Run

I woke up around this morning and was wide awake. After my potty run, I knocked on Deb's door to ask for the car keys. She wanted to know why and I said I wanted to go to Wawa and get breakfast. She also wanted a coffee and asked if I would get gas in the car for when she left for work later. No problem.

I left home, stopped at the gas station and got her gas. Then went to Wawa up on Market. My brain just didn't work this morning. She had asked me for an English Toffee cappuccino, but I couldn't find it on the touch screen when I was ordering food. Turns out it was a separate machine next to the soda fountain. So, I had to re-enter my order (breakfast burrito and a sugar-free vanilla latte). I went to get her coffee, grabbed a cup and started filling it when I realized I had used a cold drink cup instead of a hot drink cup. Plus, I overflowed the foam. Ugh!! One of the ladies came out to help me clean up my mess and we stuck the clear plastic cup inside of the paper hot cup. Once I got that taken care of, I went back to the ATM and withdrew money to pay rent and then went to the front to pay for everything (you have to pay for your food first - too many people were taking the food and leaving without paying). Of course, I forgot the coffee that I'd gotten for my daughter - it was sitting back by the ATM machine. The lady who'd helped me clean it up was also checking me out. She is the one who noticed I didn't have it. OK, so there was my third strike of the morning. My brain just wasn't working at all!!

Finally got everything paid for, my breakfast burrito was waiting for me on the counter as was my latte. I put the burrito in the bag with my apple fritter and took it with both drinks out to the car. 

Then I swung by the landlords' house to drop off the rent money and came back home. I left Deb's coffee in the car because I knew she'd drink it on her way to work. She left about 10 minutes after I got home. I enjoyed the burrito, but I think I'll stick with their bowl of eggs from now on. I love their eggs!!

I also stopped at the gas station on the way to Wawa to put gas in Deb's car so she could get to work. 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, but the store I was at is IDENTICAL to the one in the photo.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is Barbecue (BBQ) to you?

THESE are BBQ ribs! (Wikimedia Commons)
I've been to places that specialize in BBQ where they smoke their meats over a slow wood fire, usually mesquite, and then have BBQ sauce on the side for those who want to add it. Because of the prevalence of the sauce on many menus, a lot of people think that BBQ means "covered in sauce".

Now, I'm not from the south, so I did grow up with that assumption for the most part - that it's the sauce that makes something BBQ. Then I attended my first chicken BBQ fundraiser dinner (popular around here) and there was no sauce to be found anywhere. That's when I learned that true BBQ was the cooking, not the sauce. The sauce was the accompaniment. And the chicken was delicious! 

I went out to dinner another time with a friend and had BBQ chicken and ribs. My dinner companion had asked if the ribs were cooked in the oven or on the grill. He was told by the owner that they were grilled. They weren't. Not only were they not grilled, they and the chicken were drenched in sauce. Apparently, that was this cook's idea of what BBQ is. It's not that it didn't taste good. The chicken was apparently cooked on the flat top and had some browning to it and the sauce was good, not too strong, sweet or spicy hot; but over all, this was NOT BBQ ribs - it was just ribs with BBQ sauce on them. I ended up taking those home to my friend Tom. I ate the chicken as well as the broccoli (cooked exactly as I like it) and the applesauce. I had plenty to eat without the ribs.  

So, as I asked up front, what do YOU consider BBQ? Is it meat cooked over an open flame or on a grill? Or is it just meat with BBQ sauce? Or is it some combination of the two? And, what is your favorite kind of BBQ? Whether that is meat or cooking style, I don't care. I'm just curious.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

California Roast, Baby Carrots and Creamy Garlic Pasta Shells

I bought a California Roast a couple Saturdays back. It's not a cut that is usually seen around our area. In fact, I have only ever seen it in one store, and that is the little full service grocery that opened in town just over a year ago. They have a fully operational butcher shop in the back and the meat appears to be cut on site. At least, the beef does. Anyway, they have these California Roasts that are supposedly more of a chuck roast, but a different shape. I guess like they have tri-tip roasts out West, but not here in the East. 

I usually buy bottom round roasts, but I haven't found any good prices lately. And, this kind of roast cooks down into a more tender piece of meat than the bottom round does, although the bottom round is prettier to cut. It cuts more neatly and evenly.

Still, I got this really big California Roast with the intention of having it the next week. I'm glad it was still good because it took me five days to get to it! LOL 

I put it in the slow cooker around noon, poured the dry onion soup mix over it and then added a can of beef broth and added some baby carrots. I turned it on high and left it to do it's business. By 4PM, the house was smelling very roasty. I checked it and saw that it was cooking well. I poked the carrots with a fork and was happy that they were mostly cooked through (carrots can be stubborn at times). 

Debra came home and my stomach was growling terribly, so I decided to try to put something with them because I didn't want to bother making mashed potatoes. I found a Knorr side dish pasta that we had bought when we went shopping a month ago and that's what I made. In less than 15 minutes, we had dinner ready to eat. I was surprised that I liked the Creamy Garlic Pasta because I really don't like garlic. But, this wasn't a heavy garlic flavor - it was very mellow and actually quite good.

Last of all, I had two slices of bread with the gravy I made from the roast. Yeah - really. That was something we used to do when I was growing up. Usually, we'd tear up the bread before putting the gravy on, but my plate was empty, so I left them whole and thoroughly enjoyed that little trip into the past. 

So, then I put the roast is back in the slow cooker with the remaining gravy. I let it continue to cook until it fell apart, then I shredded it. I wanted to pick up some Kaiser rolls so we could have hot roast beef sandwiches, but that didn't happen. Instead, I enjoyed some with tortillas.

This was previously posted to I've made some grammatical adjustments to account for a later posting date.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Foods that Trigger Old Memories

What do chocolate chip cookies bring to mind for you? Baking with Mom or Dad or Grandma? Snacking after school?

For me, I remember "running away" from home through the orchard to the chicken farm where Mrs. Hurff almost ALWAYS had chocolate chip cookies and milk on hand in her big farm kitchen. While I was noshing away at this delicious treat, Lil would be on the phone calling my mother to make sure she knew where I'd disappeared to. You see, although my mother loved to bake, cookies weren't ever on her baking list. She'd make pies and cakes and apple dumplings, but not cookies. And, I'd never drink milk at home, but in Mrs. Hurff's kitchen, there was just something special about all of it. 

Do you have a chocolate chip cookie memory? Or some other similar memory that a particular food brings back?

Photo Credit - Comstock photos

Previously posted to

Monday, July 15, 2013

What is your favorite kind of Sweet Treat?

I love Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, but I was recently able to get some Blue Bunny Bordeaux Cherry with Chocolate Chunks that was excellent for far cheaper than a small container of B&J. Unfortunately, I eat it if I have it. So, I can't do that very often. I also like cheesecake and English toffee. I love that crunchy buttery goodness especially when the chocolate is cold and solid, not warm and soft. I hate chocolate that is soft and melty. I won't even eat chocolate chip cookies that are warm.

As far as cheesecake is concerned, my absolute favorite cheesecake is White Chocolate Raspberry! OMG - that is just absolutely DIVINE! Plain cheesecake is top notch, but WCR is beyond heavenly!

I mentioned chocolate chip cookies, but my favorite by far is a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut followed by Starbucks' Oatmeal Cranberry Raisin. Of course, I really shouldn't eat either one, but who doesn't disobey dietary rules once in a while??

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sausage Gravy - you know you want some!

I'm making Sausage Gravy for my very late breakfast. I've been wanting some for a while now. I finally bought some sausage over the weekend so I could have some. A couple pieces of buttered whole grain Toast and gravy and I'll be in hog heaven!! Making this gravy is really very easy. I like more gravy in mine where some places have more sausage than gravy. But, I'll give you the basics and you can adapt to your own tastes.

1/2 lb of breakfast sausage (you choose your own variety that works for you)
scant 1/4 cup of flour to sprinkle liberally over the browned sausage
about 2 cups of milk to pour over after the flour/sausage mixture has cooked to desired brownness

Stir frequently to get the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan and to keep the gravy from developing lumps. Cook until the desired thickness, then serve to your heart's content. Obviously, you'll need more ingredients for more people, so double or triple them as needed. But, use a deeper pan if you're making a lot. And, season with salt and pepper if you desire. Sausage can be salty, so I wait until I taste it. Or I add salt to my plate.

(Previously published to in real time. No time editing made.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I love being waited on!!

I stopped by my landlord's house  one day when I got done taking my daughter to work and running to my doctor to pick up a letter excusing me from jury duty. They're not home, but I knew their one son would be since he didn't leave for work until 1 or 1:30. I actually was hoping they had coffee made (they usually make more than they drink, so there's almost always some left) and I was right. I was also hoping I could bum a couple of postage stamps. Then the son asked me if I wanted some scrambled eggs. Heck, yeah! I was hungry and had planned to come home and cook. Now I wouldn't have to! So, I got to have hot coffee, scrambled eggs and a couple pieces of toast before I came home. Really, not a bad gig if you can get it.

Originally published on in real time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leftovers for dinner

We had tacurritos one night for supper. By that I mean that my daughter made what I usually make as a burrito filling but instead of adding cheese and salsa to it, she had the shredded cheese and salsa on the side and chopped tomatoes and spinach to put on top of it in our soft tacos made with whole wheat tortillas. She also had some tofutti sour cream, which I can assure you is actually quite good. She said we would have leftovers the next night, so I figured it was either going to be exactly the same thing again or she'd use the tortilla chips as a base and make nachos. I considered doing that myself, but I didn't.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dinner at home! It had been so long!

My daughter cooked dinner recently and planned to again the next night. I have to admit, I love when someone else does the cooking! The first night she made breaded steak with broccoli and a cheese and broccoli pasta side. I so enjoyed that meal!! The next night we had pork chops with mashed cauliflower and broccoli with cheese. It turned out to be really good! She had a doctor's appointment that morning and that afternoon we went together to reschedule another appointment and pick up a few more things from the store. She also wanted me to invite my guy friend, so I sent him a message to let him know. Unfortunately, he decided not to join us.

If anyone wants to respond, I'd like to ask you if you always have dinner at home or if it's only once in a while? What kinds of dinners do you enjoy most?

Originally published on in real time. Verb tenses have been adjusted accordingly.