Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Musings

Our hard working instructors
I thoroughly enjoyed my cooking class on Friday evening:  Global Flavors: Cooking Under Pressure.

I was the only one in the class (8 of us) who uses a stove top cooker pressure.  Everyone else uses an electric plug in pot that sits on the kitchen counter.  I think they are called "Instant Pots."  Just like a stove top model, except that everything is programmed, and you can walk away from it and it will automatically shut itself off when cooking is complete.  That's handy for busy cooks who are perhaps juggling babies, children, homework or any other sort of distraction.  For the 'retired' cook, such as myself, I can afford to stick around and keep an eyeball on the pot.

In the space of two hours, our teachers made Aloo Gobi (a curry dish involving potatoes and cauliflower), Basmati Rice, Shawarma Roast Beef (yum), Hummus and lastly, and bestly, Lemon Cheesecake.  Yes, cheesecake!  And it was delicious!  Cooked in small ramekins, this particular recipe was not overly sweet and the texture was lighter than the dense cakes I often find commercially.  I found I prefer it lighter in texture.  The hummus was also the best I've tasted.  It was cooked from dried beans, which, according the the instructors, makes all the difference.  Apparently so.  I've always made my from canned and have never been super wild about it.

One of the best tips of the night was the link to Hip Pressure Cooking website for all things related: conversion charts, tips, recipes, advice and history of the pressure cooker.

All modern stove top pressure cookers are safe.  They are not going to blow up on you.  People are scared of them (I was) but there is no need.  One of my favorite uses for the cooker is to make soup stock, both meat and vegetable.  It is so fast and easy, and the results are an extremely rich stock that can be used in a variety of ways (soups, risotto, gravy and cooking rice).  Today I am making a cream of asparagus soup because I bought a huge amount of asparagus at Costco and I want to use it all while it is fresh.  I will use the veg stock I made in the pressure cooker last week.

Just about anything you can cook, you can cook under pressure.  But not diary or liquor.  Diary clumps and should be stirred into the dish when it is finished cooking.  Liquor will stay in the pot as steam and could ignite when you release the pressure valve.  Good to know.

And cooking garlic?  Not with this method.  It will lose all its flavor.  Add it in at the end after cooking.

There were some tips that were new to me, and wouldn't make sense unless you are familiar with a cooker.  Such as -- do not "quick release" the pressure in most cases following cooking.  Allow the pressure to reduce naturally before releasing the valve.  I did not know this.

One of the funniest parts of the class was when all the older gals talked about how the printing on the Instant Pot buttons was so tiny none of us could read it!  They need to make models for old eyes like ours.  You know, like those telephone key pads that are writ large.  The electric pots can be pricey because they are all the rage right now, and I don't like the complicated electronic settings.  They are also HUGE and would take up valuable storage space in the kitchen.  My pot fits in right next to the large pot I use for boiling pasta water.

There are many different ways to skin a cat, er, cook a meal.  When I was a working mom, the Crockpot slow cooker was my best friend.  Prep the night before, turn it on it the morning, go to work without a worry, and walk in at 5:30 to a finished and ready dinner.  Now, it's the pressure cooker, which allows me to cook my favorite dishes in a fraction of the time.  I've also discovered that cooking under pressure will often enhance the flavor of the food over conventional stove top cooking.  For instance, adjust spices when pressure cooking, or the spice will overwhelm the dish!

If you are PC curious, browse the internet.  Plenty of resources.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, April 14, 2017


Today could not have been more beautiful.  The roses are going gangbusters and the sun has been out all day. 

We began the day by successfully getting rid of our old (but very much still working) washer and dryer.  Sold them on a local Buy/Sell/Trade site to a very nice couple who are expecting a baby soon.  They got a great deal, and we got rid of excess stuff.  We promptly spent our earnings at Costco in the afternoon.

Friends are coming tomorrow for the weekend.  I know it's Easter, but I could not care less.  Or, as my daughter would say, I give zero fucks about it.  I bought big ass steaks, and a ton of asparagus to feed people.  Oh, and wine.  And gin, and assorted other alcohol.  (Did I mention we just sold our washer and dryer?  Steve said, "We've turned it into wine!")

I also discovered that today marks 7 years since the little Lucy dog came into my life.  Best dog (best animal) I've ever known.  That girl makes me happier than a pig in shit.  And that's the truth.

This week also brought news that my daughter and her family have secured housing in Ft. Collins, CO. and will be moving July 1.  I'm a little shaky, as I have never been further than 140 mi. away from the 'kids.'  But I'll breathe through it, because it's going to be a great move for them, and an adventure, and a way that they can thrive financially.  Their current town's average home price is $800k.  Forget about it.  They are joining the on-going exodus to enjoy affordable living.

Tonight I'm attending a class at our Food Co-op on Pressure Cooking.  I've fallen for the pressure cooker, especially for making broths and soups.  It cooks artichokes really well, too.  I'm looking forward to learning how to convert regular recipes into PC recipes.

So, I'm intentionally skipping any world news, because it is so dismal and I can't bear it.  Can you?  I didn't think so.  Better to stick to the garden and everyday mundane tasks that keep body and soul together.

Off to my class!

Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Musings

On Thursday we had our first personal training session at the gym in 5 weeks.  I felt GREAT afterward. So, I did stuff this weekend:  My husband and I worked in the yard.  I sorted through paperwork.  I cleaned up my desk.  I made the beds.  I made a yummy soup.  We did grocery shopping.  I visited mom and took her on a walk.

My husband cut roses from our abundant bushes and put them in vases all over the house.  I love him for this (and other things).  I got drunk on strawberry lemonade and vodka.  I pet the dogs and appreciated them for the loving beings that they are.  People who have personal relationships with animals know what I mean.

I read two essays by Anne Lamott on aging.  They are miraculous, and funny, and give me great peace.  She's deeply committed to Jesus, and that's okay with me.  If this is where she wants to assign her great love and equanimity, so be it.  I'll go with it.  It's  her rock, and I appreciate that she feels this way.

I listened to Judy Collins sing Amazing Grace.  A gift from God, or the universe, or the Great Goddess.  Whatever.

It was a few days filled with action to counter the craziness that is this existence in this world, at this time.

After weeks of deep and pervasive lethargy, this energy feels good.  

As I write this, I gaze at two photographs of my daughter: one when she was 8 weeks old, in her father's arms, and the other when she was 3, dressed in her Easter dress as she discovered the treats in her Easter basket, her blond ringlets hanging loosely around her face. 

Like a honey bee, buzzing around a glass of sweet Chablis, I experienced the best that life has to offer.  

That's the key: to notice and to appreciate when good things happen.  They happen all the time if you know how to be open to them.  They seem especially sweet when they follow a period of low energy and lack of enthusiasm for anything.  The Weight is heavy for many of us right now.  There is much to fret about, and we do it, with great gusto (I'm thinking Facebook).  I get so weary with it all.  The list of evil characters grows longer by the day and so I must look for the people who inspire.  The writers, the artists, the musicians, the humble and the spiritual.  Those who delight in a walk along the shore, or through the redwood forest, or by watching the birds at their feeders.  The people who share their garden photos -- the spectacular cacti in Arizona and the palm trees of Los Angeles.  The chickens running loose in the far north of California and the splashing waterfalls of the Sierra.

I hope you are finding your moments.

At Great Pond
the sun, rising,
scrapes his orange breast
on the thick pines,
and down tumble
a few orange feathers into
the dark water.
On the far shore
a white bird is standing
like a white candle ---
or a man, in the distance,
in the clasp of some meditation ---
while all around me the lilies
are breaking open again
from the black cave
of the night.
Later, I will consider
what I have seen ---
what it could signify ---
what words of adoration I might
make of it, and to do this
I will go indoors to my desk ---
I will sit in my chair ---
I will look back
into the lost morning
in which I am moving, now,
like a swimmer,
so smoothly,
so peacefully,
I am almost the lily ---
almost the bird vanishing over the water
on its sleeves of night.

Mary Oliver

Short But Sweet

I took a very short getaway with my daughter and grandkids.  We flew to our old stomping grounds in Santa Cruz, CA.  It was supposed to be t...