Friday, October 30, 2009

There will be no Halloween here this year. [sigh]

Halloween has been canceled here this year for the first time. I hate that this happened, but I've grown tired of some things.

I've grown tired of buying commercially packaged (in plastic) candies, which cost more every year as they shrink in size, sold in an additional plastic bag to hold the 15-20. I've grown tired of 100 kids coming into my neighborhood on one night/year to get the shrunk-in-size, commercially packaged (in plastic) candy. Only five kids (max) live on my block.

So, I thought to make cookies this year and package them in paper sleeves for trick/treaters. Then, I read that most mothers would throw them away for fear of poisoning, razor blades, or unicorn spittle as a recipe ingredient (They're ALL urban legends!)

I don't want to be the "Get off my lawn!" grinch, but I also don't want to waste 10 eggs making cookies that will get thrown away or support the industries that shrink their candy while increasing plastic packaging each year, or support kids from other neighborhoods taking advantage.

So, that's where it is on Halloween Eve, 2009. Em will be at work tomorrow night, and I'll retire to a room at the rear of the house to watch a movie or two. I, now, feel, officially like an old lady ... in my new loveseat recliner.

Be safe, trick-or-treaters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homemade Crispy French Fries and Tortilla Chips.

'twas Em's turn to cook yesterday, so I took out catfish because I love what he does with it. His typical MO, however, is to serve the catfish with mashed potatoes and creamed corn (from a can). We're getting majorly low on canned vegetables because we just haven't seen any sales on them for $.50 or less in like a year and we can get frozen veggies for less than current canned prices.

I was also thinking about how we used to buy catfish takeout when we lived in North Arlington and how that little hole-in-the-wall catfish place got deleted [maybe] due to the new mammoth Cowboy Stadium being built near there. Anyway, I was jonesing for some catfish with french fries and coleslaw like we used to get there. Our car is in the shop, but I noticed we still had some cabbage in the frig and a few russet potatoes in the pantry, so I asked Em if he'd mind me making a few different sides. He thought it a great idea, even asking if I wanted him to deep-fry the catfish. I love his pan-fried catfish and figured I'd use the fry-daddy for the french fries, so I told him to do what he's always done.

We absolutely LOVED the results. It was a meal slurped down in record time, giving me a real understanding of why people enjoy fast food so much. Deep-fried is NOT the healthiest, but, boy it packs a wallop of flavor.

I made the coleslaw early in the day so it could refrigerate for a long time. At that time, I also peeled the potatoes (three small-to-medium) and cut them into fry shapes. Then, so they wouldn't turn brown, I put them in a covered bowl of ice-water in the frig, where they sat until supper time (seven hours later). I also let a bag of frozen store-bought corn tortillas sit on the counter to defrost long enough to pry off maybe 8 tortillas for tortilla chip frying. Em's a major fan of tortilla chips.

Because Em's part of the meal took only 15 minutes and mine longer, I got going in the kitchen about an hour before we wanted to eat. I used this recipe as a base, and set out the cut fries to dry while I made the dipping sauce for them.


Used generic seasoned salt instead of paprika, onion and garlic powder instead of their salted versions, and needed quite a bit more water than the recipe stated for the recipe when cut down to 2 portions. Also, I added beer to the dip because I'd opened a beer to drink while making these things and because one of the reviewers suggested it.

Took the advise of some reviewers and did a double-fry. On my first fry, I put in plain potatoes with torn tortilla pieces for 2 minutes. That's all the time needed for tortilla chips. Laying out the potatoes and tortilla chips on yet more paper towels, I continued to do this until all potatoes had gotten the 2-minute first fry. I didn't notice the plain potatoes trying to stick together. Em was off playing Solitaire on the PC, so I brought him some warm tortilla chips to try as soon as I had some and he gave a thumbs up. I made a few more batches of tortilla chips while dipping the potatoes for their final fry. I also set the convection oven to 200 degrees to keep the french fries warm. Second dipped fry was four minutes and I stirred the fry-daddy a lot to keep the fries from sticking. There were two batches of dipped fries for the fries shown. There were a few more in the bowl in this picture, so we got 3 servings from the 3 smallish potatoes and *I* get to eat the leftovers today.

LUNCH UPDATE: These fries do NOT stay crispy through nuking. Still tasty, though.

Forgot to take a pic of the final meal, but did get one of the tortilla chips.

The fries came out as golden as the chips, were crunchy on the outside and almost liquid on the inside. At first bite I wanted to say, "They're not DONE!", but they started out HARD, NOT liquid, and tasted DIVINE".

I sprinkled salt on both the french fries and chips after cooking and before eating, so not only were these foods unhealthy due to being deep-fried, but unhealthy due to added salt. In addition, the process was pretty messy and used quite a bit of paper toweling to suck up excess oil. /just sayin'. Still, once or twice/year ...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THREE-FIFTY [350]. The time is NOW.

All over the world, people have been making their voices heard fighting climate change.

Their photos are on Flicker.

I'm unable to attend or hold a 350 event today due to other commitments, but I've signed the pledge at Check it out; get involved.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Make a Delicious Difference.

Hat tip to my longtime friend, Judy, in Chicago.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Freezing Sweet Potatoes.

Today was the first day in a long time without rain or totally cloudy skies, so I started the day by washing clothes to hang outside.


The two gigantic sweet potatoes that I mentioned on September 3rd have been curing, and it was time to do something with them today. I chose to freeze them because we're going to have a gazillion of others soon. That was a multi-step procedure.

There are several ways, but I chose to boil, slice, freeze. To fit in my largest pot, I had to do some cutting to the elephant man's head. I was able to boil the other one, but chose to freeze it in two separate containers, as my intent was to freeze the equivalent of one sweet potato in each container. After boiling, the skin was removed (to the compost pile) and the sweet potato sliced into what one sweet potato might resemble sliced. THEN, the slices were tossed into a large bowl of water to which lemon juice had been added (think 1/4 c lemon juice to one quart water). This was to preserve color.

I used the same lemony water for every batch. The first time I noticed slices rising to the top, I assumed they were "woody" and tossed them on the compost pile. Photobucket
Towards the end of the day, MOST rose to the top, so I no longer discarded floaters.

The lemony slices were set on paper towels to drain before freezing.

Made more crockpot granola today also. I took the recipe I'd used to make oven-baked granola (before I learned about the crockpot recipes) and just used the crockpot for it. Six cups of rolled oats plus all the other stuff I added at random just because I thought they'd taste good fit into a 9" high cannister.


The very last batch I put into three-thick paper lunch bags and labeled it "TWO sweet potatoes ... for pie." Em desperately wants me to make sweet potato pie, but I look at our middles and think, "We don't need pie." I'll make it sometime this winter whether we get our middles down or not.

I moan a lot about how the yard's out of control, but some areas are pretty perfect:

Tossing in a picture of Em simply because I can. It's part of a program to get him to smile for pictures.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - Supporting the environment without spending a dime.

Today is the day that bloggers concerned about climate change have been asked to write about climate change in some way. The Blog Action Day sponsors offered tips and more tips to break through any writer's block. They also gave us plenty of lead time, despite which I'm writing this at the last minute.

In my first mention of Blog Action Day, on October 1, I mentioned how we are saving money and the environment by getting our electricity from 100% wind. For us, because we live in North Texas, that's a possibility. It may not be where you live, but there might be other ways that you can save money and save the environment at the same time. Since the economy is in the crapper worldwide, I decided to include just a few ways to spend NOTHING and help the environment at the same time.

Use your library instead of spending money and wasting resources on something you might only use once. They’ve got books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and newspapers lined up for you to borrow for free. If there’s something you want that they haven’t got, ask a librarian - they can get it in for you from other libraries, or put it on a purchases list.

On your way to collect your library "purchases", do all the errands you can in that part of town. If you're driving, drive INTENTIONALLY; make each trip as petrol-effective as possible.

Find ways to support environmental causes that don't cost you anything. For instance, for every E-card you send through Care2, you preserve one square foot of rainforest.

If you know of other ways to spend NOTHING and help the environment at the same time or know more organizations that provide you a service for no charge while supporting the environment, please include the information in the comments.

Friday, October 09, 2009

President Obama Awarded 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Not too many folks have listened to the representative of the Nobel Committee, apparently, because I see talk all over the internets of "but, he hasn't DONE anything", and "Hope isn't enough!". These folks didn't notice, like my cousin, Jim, who wrote me last year to say that "my guy is NUTZ with all his talk of nuclear nonproliferation." Jim, (just like the Nobel Committee) knew how to check out Obama's website.

Congratulations, Mr. President and good luck to you.

Accepting ...

The day after, inquiring minds want to know WHY Obama was selected. Nobel Representative explains:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Maybe I really HATE gardening.

I really enjoyed starting the gardens this year (in March). The weather was cool, Ken had rototilled the plots for me, and I could spend just 15 minutes/day pulling out the grasses that really wanted to grow EVERYWHERE. I wasn't even bothered by fire ants. I don't know where they went, but I didn't see ONE.

By No. 1's wedding (end of May), my turnip patch was full of grasses AND fireants which prevented me from removing the grasses without consequence. The peach trees had fruited by then, but the peaches didn't smell like peaches this year, so I didn't even bother to protect them from the birds.

Heavy rain followed by mosquitoes and HOT, HOT weather seemed to team up to prevent me from making any progress in removing the grasses that insisted on growing everywhere in the gardens. The fire ants seemed to multiply until it seemed like any/every attempt to remove the grasses resulted in 25-30 fire ant bites. Then, I got chicken pox, lip fungus, and 25-30 more fire ant bites just trying to pull stuff back so Em could mow around the beds. I don't call that fun.

Squash borers destroyed the zucchini, summer squash, and spaghetti squash, mealybugs infested the heirloom tomato plants as well as watermelon, cantelope, and cucumber that survived the squash borers. Fungus attacked the green beans, opposums have been eating the melons, and now some kind of wasp is boring holes in the ground where I'd planned on planting fall turnips.

Yesterday afternoon, two tween girls came to our door asking if we needed any help with yard work. They had a lawn mower, they said. I told them that I didn't need mowing, but that I had considerable weeds (actually grasses) to be pulled in my gardens out back. They lasted 40 minutes on slow and sloppy, but gave me the impetus to do some of it myself now that cool weather is back. I lasted fifteen minutes on deep and thorough. Then, last night monsoon rains returned (to stay the week). By the time the gardens stop being slushy, the mosquitoes will be thick and the fire ants EVERYWHERE again.

Certainly can't say I saved any money gardening this year. Soil amendments alone WAY exceeded the cost of vegetables in season. Sense of satisfaction was negligible, as well. Early on I had the glow, but nature just had a way of putting me in my place.

At the beginning of the season, I watched the following video on Square Foot Gardening and thought, "That looks too sterile for me. Stuff isn't even grown in dirt!" Right about now: I can't find ONE fault with a garden that produced lots for the family, didn't require any weeding, and didn't involve insect bites.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I support the public option in health insurance reform.

If you do, as well, take a few minutes to tell Congressman Boehner, who says he's never met an American who did.

Just replace my info with yours and click send.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Blog Action Day - October 15, 2009.

I've put this on the sidebar, but I'll put it here, as well.

Topic this year is Climate Change, and I'd forgotten (as is my way) to mention that we hit the end of our 6 month contract with Gexa on September 19. Remember back when I posted this?:

[begin quote of article]: offers
100% renewable power
February 12, 2009 launched to market 100% renewable power, it said yesterday. The new site will mimic the firm's established site where some green power plans were already available but CEO Brent Moore told us yesterday that it makes more sense to market such deals separately.

Consumers that want green power search for it and thus are likely to be drawn to a site with only those products.

"We strongly believe in renewable energy efficiency and feel will be extremely well received by customers looking for the best in green and environmentally-aware products," said Moore.

The new site launched yesterday with the firm starting an advertising blitz through the internet and more traditional mediums.

Moore isn't sure if it will achieve the same volume as -- that now has commercial offers in 20 states -- but he believes the green site will be a success. is starting in Texas where the parent firm has its roots and hopes to follow the original site on its path to other markets.

The eventual goal is to run in every state with deregulated power and natural gas markets, said Moore.

Firms with residential offers on the site include Green Mountain Energy, Gexa, TXU Energy, First Choice and Bounce Energy.

The commercial retailers are the same as those on the firm's original site: TXU, Reliant, Mid American, Cirro Energy, Glacial Energy, Liberty Power, Star Tex and Gateway.

Customers wanting 100% green power options usually pay a premium for them but Moore sees that changing. His firm hopes competition spurred by the website will help drive prices down as the firms offering green plans realize they can win more volume through the website if they do, he added. Moore saw that happen on the firm's main website.
[end quote of article]

Six months ago, we went with Gexa and got a rate of .125/kwh, lower than that offered by our (at the time) electricity provider, TXU, AND received 100% renewable power, as well. We recently signed with Gexa for 12 months at .105/kwh. Rates for wind keep going down as more folks get on board, and even Em (who had reservations six months ago) agrees that Gexa has served us well the past six months.

I just can't imagine excuses any more for NOT going with clean energy when offered clean alternatives that are LESS expensive than the polluting ones ... even in Texas.

So, mark your calendar for October 15th and start thinking about your contribution to a discussion on climate change.

Corn Tortilla Quiche and Carrot Cake Cookies.

I'm subscribed to's Daily Dish Email newsletter. I'm also subscribed to their Healthy Bites and even their Slow Cooker Email newsletters (both of which are delivered weekly). I get a few other cooking-related newsletters, as well. Sometimes all it takes is an idea to jump-start a kitchen experience and these folks offer me two things I like: 1) the ability to reduce/increase number of portions with all ingredient amounts modified to fit, and 2) the ability to read reviews of people who've tried the recipe and/or modified it to fit either what they had on hand or what they thought they'd like better. Then, like everyone else, I modify to fit what I have on hand or what I think we'd like better.

Last week Em and I grocery shopped and one of the items on sale (with a coupon, as well) was flour tortillas. Em didn't think we needed to buy them because we have tortillas in the freezer, but I told him we have corn tortillas and I wanted easy access to flour tortillas, too. I haven't made corn tortillas from scratch yet, but I have made flour tortillas. As much as I like the homemade ones more than the cheap on sale with a coupon ones, I appreciate the convenience factor.

Today's daily recipe was Corn Tortilla Quiche. I thought about those corn tortillas in the freezer and took them out to defrost just long enough to pry 6 or 7 of them off the stack, returning the rest to the freezer.

As usual, I read a bunch of reviews and did my thing, which was to use about half a pound of hot (spicy) pork sausage, about 3/4 c frozen spinach (the last of a package), 3/4 c (the last of a package) frozen shoestring french fries (diced), half can of rotel (drained), cool whip instead of cream, only 1 cup cheese (all sharp cheddar), 1 T of cottage cheese (all I had) with the rest of the 1/2 cup sour cream. I'm not a fan of corn tortillas [That's Em's favorite], but I really enjoyed the taste of this quiche. We ate half of it for Em's before-work meal. Something to think about if you need a recipe that cleans out the frig.


Just because we were talking about it when No. 1 came over to go for a walk on Tuesday, I made two dozen cake-mix cookies this afternoon, as well(using expired cake mixes). I added a tsp of baking powder and a tsp of baking soda to the mix in case it needed more lift, but otherwise stuck to Mary Hunt's cake mix cookies recommends. My balls were more like 2" than one, so I baked them for 15 minutes, and used parchment paper because every time I read "on ungreased pan", I know they're gonna stick and you can see that they did.

Tasted pretty good. I chose a carrot cake mix, used vanilla for the extract, and put powdered sugar on them just like Mary suggested. Made 2 dozen large cookies which tasted much like my grandmother's gingerbread cookies. Next time I think I'll try frosting them.