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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

  There are grander and more sublime landscapes – to me. There are more compelling cultures. But what appeals to me about central Montana is that the combination of landscape and lifestyle is the most compelling I’ve seen on this earth. Small mountain ranges and open prairie, and different weather, different light, all within a 360-degree view. Sam Abell

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Page 1 of my Alaska trip journal.

Non-Wandering Wanderer Memories

Yesterday I came across the journal I kept during my 30-day journey from Ogden to Alaska, most of which was driven on the Alaskan Highway. I thought I would blog about the trip this November as my time is precious – I’ve signed up to do NANO – that is write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’m writing a bird memoir, and when I did the Alaska trip, I was just beginning my late-blooming bird-watching passion.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

A white-faced ibis was the first bird on my Alaska trip birding list.

On the first day of my 2001 Alaskan adventure, I drove from Ogden, Utah, to Dillon Montana. It was July 27.

Like Ogden, where my journey began, Dillon is a railroad town. It was founded in 1880 by Union Pacific Railroad President Sydney Dillon, hence its name. Its location was selected because of its close location to gold mines then in the area, the first of which was discovered in 1862. And because of its large sheep-ranching community, Dillon, which was incorporated in 1884 and has a current population of about 4,000, was once the largest exporter of sheep wool in Montana.

The odd fact I still recall, because of research I had done prior to my journey, is that a circus elephant named Old Pitt was struck by lightning in the town in 1943, and was buried at the fairgrounds.

While I don’t remember too much else about the town, where I slept that first day on the road, I still have memories of my excitement about the coming month. And of course the birds I was going to see along the way.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Pit’s Fritztown News http://tinyurl.com/z64x46l One of my favorite bloggers, who writes from Fredericksburg, Texas. Today he’s talking about Day Zero of a road trip that appealed to me, and seemed to go with my Day 1 of my trip to Alaska, which of course started with my own Day Zero.

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“Too many cooks spoil the broth.” – Unknown, but both my grandmother and mother used to say it when one or the other got in their way in the kitchen. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like other people in my kitchen.

Everything tastes good when you're camping beside the Snake River in Wyoming. --Photo by Kim Perin.

Everything tastes good when you’re camping beside the Snake River in Wyoming. –Photo by Kim Perrin.

Get Out of My Kitchen

            Jean, my best friend in Tucson is a chef who worked in Europe when she was young and now teaches high school students to cook. Her food, which I sometimes get to share, both looks and tastes fantastic, especially her beef stew, which is the best I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Or watching wildlife with a good friend in Africa, which Kim and I did in 2007. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Or watching wildlife with a good friend in Africa, which Kim and I did in 2007. — Photo by Pat Bean

But Jean, although she’s always giving me a hard time about my kitchen techniques – like the fact that I use my dishwasher to store plastic bags and not for washing dishes — likes my food. That makes me happy because I like nothing better than cooking for people.

I consider myself an inventive cook and rarely make the same dish exactly the same way twice. It usually depends on what’s on hand in the refrigerator and pantry, and what ingredient or leftover I need to use before it goes bad.  I rarely throw food out, which is why at least once a week I make soup from odds and ends of veggies, meats and leftovers.

I call it Refrigerator soup. Thankfully I have an instinct about what ingredients will taste good together and it’s only once or twice a year that the mixed results don’t turn out tasty, well at least to me.

I also specialize – back from the days when I worked full-time out of the home and put dinner on the table for seven people every evening at 6 o’clock – in quickie meals*.

Still one of my favorites from those days is to mix Wolf Chili (I prefer no beans) with Hormel Beef Tamales (including the juice) in a casserole dish, throw some cheese on top, and pop it in the oven until it’s hot and bubbly. Sometimes I also throw in onions.

I fixed the dish for Jean once – and she loved it. Now when she gets a craving for it, she asks me to make it again, as she only makes food from scratch.  Chefs, you see, don’t open cans. Just us cooks do that.

Bean Pat: The ospreys have returned http://tinyurl.com/jp2pwlh This one’s for bird lovers, or anyone for that matter.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the Day. Check it out.

*Two other tasty, quick meals from cans.

            Noodles and Tomatoes: 1 can Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, 1 can tomatoes with chilies, and a generous splash of sour cream. A great late-night treat.

            Red Beans and Rice: Cook three slices of chopped bacon with one small onion, then add two cups cooked rice and one can Ranch Style Beans and red pepper or chili powder to taste.        

 

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Sixty Pounds for $10

Life is like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today might burn you tomorrow. -- Wikimedia photo

Life is like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today might burn you tomorrow. — Wikimedia photo

Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm. ~Ambrose Bierce

Green Beans and Jalapenos   

          Tucson’s Market on the Move, a program in which good produce destined for the landfill for a variety of reasons, was at my downstairs neighbors’ church this past week. They bought the regular: 60 pounds of food for $10.

Of course that’s too much for one family to use before the vegetables go bad, so, I was the recipient of a couple of zucchinis, a dozen or so tomatoes, about a dozen large jalapenos and a handful of green beans, that looked as if they needed to go directly into the pot or they would spoil.

  Laughter is the valve on the pressure cooker of life. Either you laugh and suffer, or you got your beans or brains on the ceiling. – Wikipedia photo


Laughter is the valve on the pressure cooker of life. Either you laugh and suffer, or you got your beans or brains on the ceiling. – Wikipedia photo

I seldom eat green beans. Frozen ones taste like tough twigs, canned ones taste like mushy scum, and I usually overlook them when I’m buying fresh veggies. When I saw these fresh green beans, my mouth suddenly watered for the green beans my Southern grandmother used to cook, back when people weren’t so concerned about salt and fat in their diets. My mouth watered. .

So it was that I cleaned and put all the beans, about enough for two people, in a pot with water, salt and two slices of cut-up bacon, and then boiled the mixture until the water had almost evaporated and the beans were soft, not at all like the crisp, little cooked veggies I normally prefer.

I don’t know whether it was thinking about my grandmother’s kitchen or the flavor of green beans the way she cooked them, but I felt I had died and gone to heaven and was sitting across the table from the grandmother I had lost when I was 10. I devoured both helpings of the beans and wished I had more.

I later stuffed the jalapenos with a cream-cheese ham mixture, after the pain of cleaning out the seeds and halving them – my eyes burned and my throat choked up painfully during the process and quite a while afterwards – but the result was worth it.

I made spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes, and stuffed the zucchini with mushrooms, cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on my blog how much I love cooking – and eating.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Blog pick of the day. Check it out.

Bean Pat: Foggy and Frosty http://tinyurl.com/mrkohbt Winter art from one of my favorite places on earth, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

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Pampering Myself

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anyone else?” RuPaul

Pancakes with sour cream and strawberries for a cool morning breakfast, topped off of course with a cup of dark, cream-laced coffee. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Pancakes with sour cream and strawberries for a cool morning breakfast, topped off of course with a cup of dark, cream-laced coffee. — Photo by Pat Bean

Hot Bath and Pancakes

It was cool, sweater weather this morning. So after I took Pepper for her morning walk, welcomed Dusty for her day’s stay while her mom worked, and fed and tidied up after the four cats I’m looking after twice a day while their mom’s gone for the week, I decided it was Me Time..

Still a little chilled, I soaked in a hot bath with a book until the water cooled, and then fixed myself pancakes topped with sour cream and strawberries. I used to fix this for dinner sometimes when my kids were young.

Life is good. I think that’s what the two dogs thought, too. After they had their morning romp through my apartment they curled up and became couch potatoes.

Two couch potatoes. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Two couch potatoes. They had their eyes closed until they heard the click of the camera.  — Photo by Pat Bean

Bean Pat: Nature Has No Boss http://tinyurl.com/kgtn33s An oystercatcher’s breakfast.

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This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzanika, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzania, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. “ — Flash Rosenberg

When You Drink It with a Straw

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.-- Selfie by Pat Bean

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.– Selfie by Pat Bean

I drank gobs of coffee when I was a deadline-writing reporter. There was always a coffee cup near my hand. And I liked it black as sin and as strong as a desert sun at noon.

But after years of the habit, my stomach complained. So cold turkey, the same as my mother did when she quit smoking at 76 because the blinking things became too expensive, I gave up coffee.

After a couple of headachy days, I felt fine – except that I was no longer sleeping very well at night. I conceded that the headaches were a result of my coffee abstinence, but didn’t relate the sleepless nights to a lack of the beans. I mean coffee is supposed to keep you awake, right?

Then a couple of months later, when I had a late meeting to attend for work, I decided to have a cup of coffee. I’m not sure the caffeine helped my alertness, but for the first time in weeks I slept all through the night.

Hmm. I thought. I should have known. I have never been one to react like the crowd. So I went back to drinking coffee, only this time in moderation. I now drink two strong cups of “good” coffee – call me a coffee snob if you like – daily, and generously lace the liquid ambrosia with half and half.

No more stomach problems, and sleepless nights only when I can’t turn off the little gray cells.  Even coffee won’t stop that chatter.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat http://tinyurl.com/nvbteas  Fairytale Rooftops.

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A Seedy Question

     “A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth or perfections is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life. – Lewis Mumford

I bet you can easily guess what kind of seeds come from this California poppy. -- Wikimedia photo

I bet you can easily guess what kind of seeds come from this California poppy. — Wikimedia photo

Mystery is the Spice of Life

OK. You’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth.  “It’s the thought that counts and not the gift,” my mama drilled into me.

But do you know what these seeds and spices are? I think I've correctly guessed all but the top right. The two white ones are just special salts.

But do you know what these seeds and spices are? I think I’ve correctly guessed all but the top right. The two white ones are just special salts. — Photo by Pat Bean

I took the lesson to heart, which is probably why I get disgruntled when I hear anyone complain about something that was given them. That’s just downright rude – but then I have no problem with re-gifting as long as the giver never finds out, and one truly believes the gift is something someone else can truly use. Is this hypocritical?

That said, I’m puzzling – not complaining – over a recent gift I received from a friend. She’s a chef, and she knows I love to cook. So she gave me some special spices, individually packaged in plain white envelopes.

Then she laughed, and said that I add to figure out what the spices were.

I guess it’s a good think I love to solve mysteries.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: Story Fix http://tinyurl.com/m5cq2t2  Great blog for writers, and this post is a gem, even if you don’t like barbecue.

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