Random musings—mostly food

I wish I could like quinoa

I’ve tried quinoa. In fact, I have a Pinterest board that I titled “It’s pronounced KEEN-wah!” The pictures look beautiful, and it’s so healthy for you. I tried it once, and that was enough for me. There is something about the texture that makes me shudder. That little pop/crunch when you bite into it. It’s probably the same reason that I don’t like caviar. I also don’t like the slight sweetness. I’m not sure why I don’t delete the board on Pinterest. Maybe it makes me look more interesting, or healthy, or something.

I wish I didn’t love sugar

You know it’s bad when you start wanting dessert after breakfast. I almost always eat a healthy breakfast. It’s usually one of three things: plain yogurt with dried cranberries (or fresh fruit in season), my homemade muesli, toasted slivered almonds, and a touch of granola for sweetness; steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts, cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup; or, unsweetened boxed cereal, fortified with muesli, nuts, and a little granola. Occasionally I will have eggs and toast, or pancakes with our homemade maple syrup. But, when you’re done with breakfast and immediately think about having a cookie, that’s bad. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s tough resisting.

As I told my friend Bella, I’m my own worst enemy. The holiday season starts me off with a bang. I try not to bake much during the year, except for birthdays and special occasions. I don’t like having the temptation around. I know I can’t resist the sugary delights. I will nibble and munch my way through hundreds of calories before I realize what I’ve done. Then comes Thanksgiving with the array of pies—pumpkin, pecan, apple. I never used to like pecan pie. Too sweet, I said. Until a few years ago. Now, I really like it. I really, really like it.

Then, of course, Christmas with all the cookies, fudge, gifts of candy from other people. I thought I got rid of all of that by sending it away with other people. So, what do I do? I made brownies the other day “for the kids.” Who can resist a slightly warm brownie? Or two. The next day, yesterday, I decided I had better use the bag of cranberries in the crisper drawer before they went bad, so I made streusel-topped cranberry pecan muffins. They were a big hit. Especially with me. I had two while they were still warm from the oven. The crunch from the sweet streusel combined with the soft cake and tartness of the cranberries. Oh my goodness. The good news is I probably won’t have any this morning, because I really only like them when they’re fresh.

Rachael Ray owes me for dinner

While perusing the January/February 2015 EveryDay with Rachael Ray, I came across the recipe for “Turkey or Veal Meatball Stroganoff.” It looked delicious, and sounded achievable, even for cooks with less experience than I have, which is to say, I feel that I’m a pretty good cook with years and years of experience in the kitchen. I should have trusted my instincts in at least one stage of the recipe. It said to soak the fresh breadcrumbs in milk while preparing the rest of the ingredients, and then to squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs before adding them to the turkey mixture. Have you ever tried to do that? It’s virtually impossible to have anything but a big soggy, slimy mess. I maybe got a tablespoon of milk out of it. Fighting my instinct to start all over with dry breadcrumbs, I added the mess to the other mess, and, voila, ended up with a big sloppy bowl of turkey goo. There was no way to “roll walnut-sized meatballs” with my hands, so I used my little cookie scoop and plopped them into the hot frying pan, whereupon, they immediately became “meat flats” (from my friend Cindy), instead of balls. At this point, I’m thinking, there is no way on earth that these grandkids are going to eat this. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to try it.

I had doubled the recipe, because it served four and we have seven people here. So, it took forever and a day to fry all of those “meat flats.” I had to keep the finished ones warm in the toaster oven while I finished the rest. To make a long story even longer, the sauce was thin, the sour cream wouldn’t incorporate well, and well, the meatballs had a weird texture. Big surprise. Oddly enough, the kids ate what was on their plates, with Kaitlyn even pronouncing that she loved the meatballs. What??? This is the kid who complains about everything I put on the table, if it isn’t pizza, spaghetti (no sauce), or plain rice. Go figure. I thought it was barely okay, and vowed to never make the recipe again. Or, in any case, I would do it my way, with ground beef, and no soaked breadcrumbs. And it definitely took longer than thirty minutes, especially the cleanup. Rachael, you failed me.

It’s almost maple syrup time

David is getting his “sugar shack” (see header picture) ready for the sap when it starts to flow. Last year, his second, on the Bear Swamp property, he made seventeen gallons of beautiful, delicious liquid gold. He had planned to sell most of it at our local farmer’s market. In fact, he joined and paid his dues, but with the moving of two houses, there was just not enough time to go even once. We had plenty of syrup for our family, plus lots of giveaways to friends and extended family, four gallons of which went to the old farmer on whose property he bowhunts. Mr. Eugene has diabetes, and he swears that since he started using maple syrup for all his sweetening, he’s been able to keep his blood sugar counts under control. That’s a lot of syrup for one man to use in a year’s time. Even with all the giveaways, David managed to sell almost $400 worth.

We’re hoping this year’s weather will cooperate and give a bounty of sap. We don’t have as many maple trees on this property, but our next-door neighbor has eleven acres, and they told him he could tap all he wants. Plus, our former neighbor and friend is letting him tap trees there, as he has done the past two years. And the couple who bought our house is letting him tap there, so it all depends on Mother Nature.

Speaking of Mother Nature

It’s -5°F here in central Ohio this morning, with a wind chill of -22°. They cancelled school again this week. Tuesday, which was supposed to be their first day back from Christmas break, was cancelled due to icy road conditions and snow. So, January is starting out like a bitch. Let’s hope it isn’t as bad as last January. Our furnace is pretty much running non-stop. We don’t have the wood-burning insert now, just a fireplace, which is so inefficient. We won’t even have a fire when it’s this cold, because you send more heat up the chimney than you actually get in benefit. I really miss that woodburner. Hurry up, Spring!

See you soon,

Susan

SIMPLE MUESLI

4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup oat bran

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup dried Zante currants, raisins, or your choice of dried fruit (I prefer the currants)

1/4 cup brown sugar

Toss all together in a gallon Ziploc bag and store in airtight container.

12 thoughts on “Random musings—mostly food

  1. The meatballs sound like my grandmother’s Swedish meatballs. I hadn’t made them for years, but I did for some friends before Christmas, and they were a huge hit. And they’re so easy. For one thing, although bread and milk is involved, there’s no squeezing excess milk out. And you start by cooking a pile of onions, that go on top of the casserole before you put the nutmeg laced cream sauce over everything. I may may them again this weekend, just because.

    Oh — and Grandma always made hers as little patties. As she put it, “It’s quicker. Who wants to stand around tending to a bunch of little meatballs that don’t keep their shape, anyway?” A sensible woman, don’t you think? If you want the recipe, I’ll send it, but I won’t be offended if you don’t.

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    • Linda, I believe this recipe was a variation on Swedish meatballs. It had many of the same elements. I’d love to have your grandmother’s recipe. Obviously it is a proven long-time favorite. I would have a lot more faith in that than one I found in a magazine. And, yes, I think your Grandma was a very sensible woman. 🙂

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  2. Damn, but it would be fun to live close enough to you to have coffee together! This post killed me. First of all, quinoa looks weird when it’s cooked, with those little white things that could, in somebody’s fertile imagination, look like worms. However, I had to learn to like it after being browbeaten into cooking it numerous times by my ridiculously health-conscious sons. Once I made tabouli with it instead of using bulge/couscous, I was a convert, but I still don’t really relish it unless it’s loaded with other stuff. I have heard that quinoa loaf is fabulous, but I’ve heard the same thing about zucchini bread, and that never ended well for me.
    But it was the sugar thing that cracked me up the most! You and Erma Bombeck have a few things in common, seriously. I am EXACTLY like you. Intellectually, I disdain sugar. Look way down my nose at it. I have even said, countless times in my life and in public, as well as to medical doctors for their questionnaires, that I am salty rather than sweet. It’s a lie – I’m both. But while I never covet chips right after breakfast, that does not hold true for ginger cookies, oatmeal cookies, banana bread, marshmallows, or (in my most shameful moments) spoonfuls of brown sugar. They (whoever they are) say that cravings are the result of your body missing something. So maybe I’m short on…sugar??
    Your meatballs sound like my felafels, only when I tried to fry my chickpea balls, it was in the deep fryer and the entire contents had to be tossed afterwards due to the total disintegration of the little buggers. I know now what I did wrong, but it had nothing to do with milky bread. I think it’s just plain odd that you were instructed to squeeze out the excess liquid. How about just not putting so much in in the first place, hey Rachel??
    Read an article the other day about how Quebec has established a Fort Knox of maple syrup, the better to protect producers from the highs and lows of production, and also because world-wide demand for the stuff is rising. Apparently France is licking their chops over it, and I guess that’s true, because I actually found some in the tiny little grocery store in the village, which was nearly as astonishing as if I’d found Alberta beef there.
    And that windchill! I get regular updates about how lousy the roads are in Calgary and how Anne nearly got frostbite just walking to the Safeway and…I think to myself, what a wonderful world I live in where it never goes below about 25(F). And that I can choose not to endure a northern winter. Sorry.
    xoDeb

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  3. Deb, if you lived close to me, we would both be fat as pigs, or ridiculously slender. Well, you already are. Anyway, you would either inspire me to bake my buns off (hehe), or you would have me out walking everywhere. Of course, I would have to live where you are, because it just isn’t that much fun walking here.

    You’re right about Erma Bombeck. I cut my teeth on her books. You know, she was an Ohio native, born and raised in Dayton, which is about an hour from here. It’s been a long time since I read any of her books. I should probably revisit them.

    It’s nice to know that you have a sweet tooth, too. Another thing we have in common! I also look down on sugar. Hahahahaha! No, I don’t, and I’m not even going to pretend. 🙂 I have been known to lick the lid on the honey jar when it gets empty. Hmmm, spoonfuls of brown sugar…now that’s something I hadn’t thought of. When I was in school, a hundred years ago, our cafeteria cooks made peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches. I guess they didn’t have any jelly. They always served them with chili, which sounds weird, but was actually a pretty good pairing.

    Ugh, yeah, I forgot about the little white rings from the cooked quinoa. Bleh. Maybe I could get past it, if I found the right recipe. But, I’m not sure I want to be that healthy.

    Yum! I love falafel! There’s a restaurant not too far from here that makes great ones, and they have the best hot sauce to dip them in. I’ve never tried to make them myself, although I’ve got a couple of recipes for them.

    You should be sorry for living in paradise! Especially when I’m stuck here with awful weather. Seriously, the sun shines, on the average, only about 70 days a year. It can be very depressing. Maybe I need a sun lamp. But when the sun does shine, I have nice big windows to sit by and soak it up.

    xoxo

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  4. So, you’re in Central Ohio — near Columbus, I wonder? I get there now and then (good friends and an annual art retreat — I’ve been hit and miss on that one, but I try!).

    First, thanks for all the lovely comments on the Gypsy. I love it when you visit. You asked about the “guiding word.” Just a word or area on which to focus (which wouldn’t be a half-bad word) during the year. Instead of a resolution!

    And yes, I’d be happy with just the cheese plate!

    I’ve been going through the same sugar thing you are. I still have some now pretty-hard cookies sitting around and I don’t touch them, but I do have a box of Maple Fudge stashed in the cupboard. If I don’t open it, I’ll be fine. If I do — trouble! And thanks for the Museli recipe.

    Do your best to keep toasty — I know it’s hard — we have the same sub-zero windchills and 0-ish temps. I went out today and thought I’d freeze — and yesterday did a 180 on the way to book club. (No one harmed, thank goodness!) I was so happy with our Green Christmas….

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    • Hi Jeanie! Yes, I live outside the little town of Marysville, which is about 35 miles northwest of Columbus. Marysville is the home of Honda America and Scott’s (lawn products). Next time you’re coming to Columbus we should meet up, if you have time. I’d be happy to drive over there. 🙂

      You’re welcome! It’s always a pleasure to read your posts! I feel the same about your visiting here. You always make me smile.

      I eat that muesli on almost every breakfast food! I even put some in my oatmeal if it’s too thin. It adds a little texture and crunch. I don’t put it on eggs though. Haha.

      Yesterday was awful! It didn’t get above 10° until evening when it slowly started warming up. This morning it’s still only 16°, but the wind is still howling, and the school just called to say they’re having a two-hour delay. Oh well, I’ll get more computer time this morning. Have a great day, and stay warm!

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  5. Those kids are going to still be going to school in July.

    I’m not a big Rachel Ray fan… I mean her recipes, of course. She’s cute as can be, but her recipes don’t usually appeal to me. I’m more of an Ina Garten pupil. 🙂 I love her recipes and Giada, too. Her recipes usually work well.

    I feel the same way about quinoa. I just can’t warm to it. And don’t get me started on sugar. It is the demon of all demons. And now they can’t say enough bad things about it. First it was fat and now it’s sugar.

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    • I’m telling you! Don’t I know it!

      I realized that I had never actually used any of her recipes, and now I know why. The only reason I take her magazine is because it’s cheap. I’m not going to renew it. I love Ina too! Every one of her recipes I’ve made have turned out fabulous. I think because, number one, they’re simple, and number two, she cooks for real people.

      I won’t buy any lowfat/nonfat products. All they do is replace the fat with sugar. Even when they demonized eggs I never quit eating them, and now, of course, they have been vindicated and are being touted as the healthy food they never stopped being. To me, the egg is the perfect food.

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  6. Here I am, with the Swedish meatball recipe.

    I got so excited about that, I forgot to tell you about my favorite baked oatmeal. For one thing, it uses maple syrup as sweetener. For another, you make it the night before, leave it in the fridge overnight, and then bake it in the morning. There’s nothing like smelling something baking in the morning without having to do a lick of work.

    I vary it from time to time. I’ll add a cup of berries, or chopped pecan and apple, or fresh peach and almond. Use your imagination!

    I

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    • Thank you, Linda! I will be trying the Swedish meatballs soon. As soon as the memory of those other ones leaves me. 🙂

      The baked oatmeal sounds perfect for busy mornings. All four of the grandkids love oatmeal, so I will try that one soon, too. Oatmeal is so adaptable to different add-ins. It’s always been one of my favorite meals. When David was still working and traveling, sometimes I would even have it for supper with some toast. Yummy comfort food.

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