Oatmeal

I'm feeling artsy today
I’m feeling artsy today

What says artsy more than a black and white photograph that started out as a digital photo that has been gray-scaled? Well, maybe one that has been grey-scaled and then had patches of color added. Perhaps I’ll try that later.

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I’m sure I am not the only person to think of this, but it was a new idea to me. I usually buy plain instant oatmeal so that I can better control my sugar intake. Normally I will zap it in the microwave and then add a packet of sweetener and a dash of cinnamon. It’s good. It isn’t great, but it is good. This morning I decided to try something different, so before zapping the bowl’s contents, I added a couple drops of orange extract. After cooking, I added my packet of sweetener, stirred thoroughly and ate the gloop. I love it! It is better than what I have been doing, and certainly better than the flavored stuff that you find in the grocery store. I’ll be making more experiments, vanilla extract is next on my list, but I’ll also be trying dry ingredients such as powdered lemon peel. This could make breakfast fun again.

***

Cindy and I were in Manchester, England just over ten years ago. She went as a presenter at an International conference, discussing drug courts, cooperation with other law enforcement entities and such. I took vacation time and paid my own way. We took a side trip to Paris, France on the way home. Perhaps I’ll post about that trip at some point, but for now I just wanted to set the background.

I was looking at pictures from that trip a couple of weeks ago and noticed that in some of the pictures taken in Paris, I’m wearing a shirt that is still in my closet. It doesn’t just hang there, I wear it fairly often in the summer. The point is, I seldom discard anything for which I still have a use. I gave up trying to dress contemporarily a long time ago. Cindy still tries to get me to be more fashionable, but it seldom works. I’m an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t plan to change unless forced to.

Catching up

Barn northeast of Brookston
Barn northeast of Brookston

I took this picture a few weeks ago, but just got around to posting it. I should spend more time on this blog, and take more pictures to use.

***

I tried a new recipe last night. Well, it was new for me. I think it turned out pretty good, and so did Cindy, so I decided to share it:

3 large, skinless chicken breasts

½ cup Poppy Seed salad dressing

1 tsp. lemon juice

12 to 15 Ritz Crackers (Roasted Vegetable)

Salt and Pepper

 Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Crush crackers, or use a food processor, to use crumbs as breading. Mix salad dressing and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Coat the chicken breasts in wet mixture, then in breading. Place the chicken breasts on a foil lined tray that has been oiled (I used Olive Oil Pam). Bake in oven for 55 minutes. The finished chicken was moist and cooked through.

 Smaller, thinner, chicken breasts might use less cooking time.

I hope it works as well for you as it did for me. I love trying new things, and I’m glad Cindy has a grateful palate.

***

I don’t think I’ve related this before, but if I have, please bear with me. I went to Menard’s a week or two ago to pick up some paint for Cindy. A very attractive girl/woman, college age I would surmise, asked if she could help me. I had the color and code number written down, so I handed her the slip of paper and asked for a quart of that paint. She fetched the paint and then asked, “Do you want me to shake it for you?”

Oh, the responses that went through my mind…but I settled for a non-salacious, “Yes, please.” I was raised to be polite.

***

 I’ve been listening to two CDs that I borrowed from the library. The first is Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben and Don Juan. I hadn’t heard Ein Heldenleben before, and found that I liked it very much.

I liked the second CD even better. It is Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in Respighi’s Belkis, Queen Of ShebaDance Of The Gnomes, and The Pines Of Rome. Wow. I’ll be looking to buy this music soon. I’ve heard The Pines Of Rome before, and I was really impressed with Belkis, Queen Of Sheba. There is a lot of classical music that I haven’t listened to, so I’m glad our library has a good collection.

Chicken Salad, my way

I took this picture this morning
I took this picture this morning

Cindy says that I procrastinate. Well, this isn’t our front lawn. Even I would have removed this stuff and packed it away long ago. Of course I still haven’t packed away our tree; though I moved it from the living room to the basement more than a month ago. I’ll get to it soon.

***

I made chicken salad for the first time in my life a few days ago. It grew out of a small misunderstanding. Cindy said I should make chicken salad for dinner, meaning a salad with a grilled or fried chicken breast cut up on top of it. I thought she meant a more traditional chicken salad.

Since I had never made it before I went to the Internet to find a recipe. There are tons of chicken salad recipes on the net. Each one that I looked at had three things in common. 1) Each recipe called for chicken; 2) each recipe called for mayonnaise; and 3) I lacked some of the ingredients in each recipe. Since there were so many recipes to choose from, I took two distinctly different recipes and mashed them together, leaving out what I didn’t have on hand and making a couple of substitutions. Here is what came out of that process:

8 ounces of cooked, chopped chicken breast; two cups of chopped lettuce (I used 1 cup romaine and 1 cup iceberg); three stalks of celery from the heart, chopped; 1/4 of an onion, chopped; one apple, cored and chopped; 1/2 yellow bell pepper (or capsicum as the Galloping Gourmet used to call them), seeded and chopped; a handful of walnuts, chopped; one cup of mayonnaise; one teaspoons of lemon juice. Put the chopped ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the mayonnaise and lemon juice, then fold into the dry ingredients. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. The longer you let everything sit, the better the flavors blend. Cindy said it was the best chicken salad she had ever eaten, but she is occasionally given to flights of hyperbole. Still, it was nice to hear.

Day 352

Spoiling nature with trash
Spoiling nature with trash

I hate to see trash dumped in open areas, rather than recycling what can be recycled, or sent/taken to a dumping area. If you’re going to haul it somewhere, haul it to a proper site. That’s my serious statement for today.

***

I had planned on finishing this post earlier today, but I let myself get sidetracked listening to music. I sat down in the living/music room this afternoon and started listening to two fine cd’s, Champagne Jam by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and Credence Gold by Credence Clearwater Revival. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like the sound quality from the stereo is better since we rearranged the furniture in the living room. I could really appreciate the sound separation between the right and left speaker. It added to my appreciation of Have You Ever Seen The Rain when John Fogarty’s voice was just right of center with the organ coming from the left speaker. Those little things can add sunlight to my day. I just hope I have the speakers hooked up right…the organ should be coming from the left speaker, shouldn’t it?

The other reason it took me so long to get to this post is that I took the time to do the prep for tonight’s dinner. I decided to go with the hamburger casserole that a friend taught me to cook back in my single days. My memory is so bad that I’m not sure if it was Deb Warburton or Karen Siemon, but I’m leaning towards Karen. You just brown and drain a pound of hamburger. Chop anywhere from a half to a whole onion. Put them in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole. Cover them with a can of cream of mushroom (or cream of anything) soup. Cover that with a pound of tater tots. Preheat your oven to 350° and put the dish in, uncovered for an hour. The originally recipe called for adding green beans to the casserole, but since I don’t like them, I don’t use them. I do add a liberal amount of minced garlic, and occasionally mushrooms. The Casserole is waiting in the refrigerator for Cindy to call and say she is on her way home; then I’ll crank up the oven and pop it in.

***

The City of Lafayette has some new police cars. Well, I’ve seen them on the streets for some months now, but they are reasonably new. It took me awhile to figure out why they looked familiar, and then it dawned on me. They look like the official car Mel Gibson was driving in Mad Max. I haven’t seen the movie in a couple of years, but the coloring of the cars and the general body configuration make me think of that car. I hope the police in Lafayette don’t start thinking our society is as dystopic as that in the film. We may be approaching it, but we aren’t there yet.

Day 234

It’s one of those lazy mornings

I enjoyed my ride in the country so much this morning that I didn’t want to come home. It was also a good morning for taking pictures, and I took my share. There were places where the light and shadow made spectacular effects, but trying to capture them with my digital camera was a lost cause. It is on days like this that I really miss Kodachrome.

***

I’ve been switching the music around quite a bit today. When I climbed into the car this morning to drive Cindy to work, I put in one of Linda Ronstadt’s albums with Nelson Riddle. Those were three great albums. After I dropped Cindy off I switched to Led Zeppelin because that is who I really wanted to listen to. Cindy’s car was ready to pick up from the shop so I went back to her office to pick her up and take her to get it. That’s when I switched the cd to the early Beatles. When I got home I decided that one of Ian Tyson’s cowboy music albums was in order. I’m not sure what this afternoon will bring…maybe I’ll put in a Diana Krall DVD to watch.

***

Last night I cooked one of my old standard casseroles, Sausage and Rice. I’ve had this recipe for so many years that I’m not sure where I originally got it, but it may have been from Debbie Warburton. Like any good simple recipe it can be changed without destroying the underlying goodness. I’ve made many changes to it over the years. Here is the version I made last night:

3 cups cooked rice. 1 lb. bulk sausage, browned and drained. 1/4 onion, finely chopped. 1 can condensed tomato soup. 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese. 1/2 tsp. powdered beef bullion. 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning. Dash persillade.

When cooking the rice, add the bullion powder, Cajun seasoning, and persillade to the water. When rice is cooked and a sausage is browned and drained, arrange in alternating layers in a greased casserole. Top with onion. Pour soup over. Sprinkle top with cheese. Cover and put in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This is the first time I added the Cajun seasoning and persillade. They gave a kick to final product that Cindy and I both enjoyed.

Day 130

A simple summer picture

I love days like this. I suppose that is the reason I chose to use this picture from this morning, rather than the other three I had taken. One of the others had a barn and another had a piece of rusting farm equipment. Both are good pictures, in my opinion, but this simple shot is my favorite. The others will most likely end up on my Facebook page in the near future.

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When I woke up this morning I could tell that I was in the beginning stages of developing an ingrown toenail. Then I remembered that I no longer have that toe. Even knowing the reality, I could feel the nail growing into the side of the toe. Very weird!

***

About a week after I got out of the hospital I decided to try creating a dish that had been thinking about for a while. It is my version of Nachos, and I tried it because Cindy seems to love them. This is what I did:

1 lb. of ground chuck, browned and drained of excess grease. 16 oz. of Picante sauce (I used mild because Cindy sometimes has a bad reaction to spicy food). 1 can of Campbell’s Nacho Cheese soup. 1 cup of chopped yellow peppers. 1 tablespoon of minced garlic. 2 or 3 green onions, chopped. Tortilla chips (I prefer the lime flavored kind). Sour Cream. Ground pepper and salt.

After browning and draining the ground chuck, add the Picante sauce and increase the temperature to thicken the sauce. Then add the can of soup and mix well. When that has heated well, reduce the heat and stir in the peppers and garlic. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Serve by layering a plate with tortilla chips and covering with the nacho mixture. salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the chopped green onions and sour cream.

Cindy said she loved it, but I think that the next time I cook it I will cut the amount of Picante sauce by half and add 8 oz. of salsa. A recipe is never set in stone.

Day 69

Cement posts

I have lived in Indiana all my life, with the exception of thirteen months in Germany thanks to Uncle Sam. I have been in many of the other states. I have seen cement posts like these in lots of places, but I don’t know what they are for. To me they look like a gate might once have hung from them, but I’m not sure. To make matters more confusing, there is a third post to left of these two. I should have backed up and gotten all three in the photo. Lost opportunities.

I received good reviews for a side dish I made to go with the fried chicken. It is a rice salad, modified slightly from one I have done in the past. My recipes change as time goes on. Here is what I did last night:

I cooked 1 cup of brown rice in 2 cups of orange juice, bringing to a boil, covering and turning the heat down to a simmer. After about 45 minutes the rice was done. I transferred the rice to a bowl, covered it and put it in the refrigerator. Then I chopped up two stalks of celery, three mini-peppers (yellow and red, not hot), and about half of a red onion. I folded that, along with a small can of corn (do they call it an individual serving?) to the rice, and returned it to the refrigerator. By the time the chicken was fried, the rice salad was ready. As I said, people liked it. I want to try a fruitier version sometime, using apple juice (or maybe cranberry), along with using fruits instead of the celery, peppers, etc. I’m thinking grapes, cut up pears and oranges, maybe other fruits. If I try it, and it is good, I’ll post the recipe here.

I need to clear up a couple of things from yesterday’s post. 1) Instead of vultures, I should have said buzzards. It occurred to me around midnight that buzzards come back to Hinkley, Ohio every year. I believe they are turkey buzzards. 2) I thought many of Cindy’s friends would be coming over to see her, but only one turned up, and she didn’t stay for dinner…and she isn’t a buzzard.