Java – The Joy Of

Good coffee makes the meal. Bad coffee will kill it.

I’m one of those people who really do appreciate good coffee. I am by no means an expert, but I do know how to make a decent cup of Java. It took me a while.

I admit I was spoiled. Both my parents knew the secrets to excellent coffee, but it was my dad who taught me to appreciate the joys of a perfectly prepared pot accented with Just The Right Amount of Sugar and, believe it or not, evaporated condensed milk.

Yep, my coffee life began with condensed milk rather than dairy cream. Probably because the former was a lot less expensive than the latter and we watched our pennies.

As I grew up and learned more, I found I actually prefer <gasp> Carnation Creamer. There is a richness that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.

I also learned that the process of actually making a decent pot of coffee is a lot more difficult than first thought.

I’ve tried most of the usual suspects but really only found my perfect solution in a Melita Pour Over pot or a Keurig. Since I no longer make large pots, I tend to follow the Keurig but have the option to use the reusable pod. There are lots of these types of machines on the market, just as there are lots of pour over pots and filter systems that I knew nothing about.

The truth is, everything changed when my place of employment replaced their old coffee bar system with one that used thermal pots. No more burned coffee. Joy!

Then, I happened to discover one of my coworkers ground his own beans and made his own brew. He was an excellent teacher – I still own my first coffee grinder.

Coffee is a joy reserved for weekday mornings when I’m trying to organize my thoughts or Saturday evenings with some seriously good TV.

I prefer Pike Roast or Donut Shop – no decaf for me, please. Both have similar profiles, but each has its own distinctive characteristics.

There was a point in time when I could get my hands on bags of the most wonderful Colombian Supremo beans that made an amazing pot of coffee. Even my dad was impressed!

Now I understand that not everyone enjoys their coffee the way I do. Some don’t care for it at all and others aren’t all that particular. In some way, it is a nice change of pace from the folks who are far more invested in the contents of the cup than I am. 😉

At the end of the day, a good cup of coffee can be the balm that keeps the rest of the world at bay. Even for just a little while.

Learning For the Joy Of It

I’ve been a long time fan of DIY shows. I started out watching PBS on Saturdays when the lineup included sewing, quilting, woodwork, and cooking – not to mention gardening. 🙂

I’ve had the pleasure of many, many different teachers who provided individual perspectives and skill sets that made me understand a concept or learn a process in ways that I might not have managed otherwise.

To this day I credit Nathalie DuPree with showing me how to use a food processor. I figured if she could make pie crust and biscuits in it, so could I.

Last week I told you about my adventures with Bluprint. Well, I’m happy to say they are continuing. I’ve enjoyed classes on candy making, bread making, quilting and a host of others – and I did it on my schedule.

I also enjoy my favorites on YouTube. We are entering Soup Season, so I’ve seen loads of ideas on some wonderful, tasty options. I can add my bread making skills to a pot of home made soup for a wonderful, hearty meal.

I’d like to encourage you to find a few minutes that you can spend relaxing and absorbing ideas, skills, thoughts that you can use in your life. It doesn’t have to be the same ones I do.

Creativity takes many roads and is different for every person. What you do to recharge your batteries after a long day’s work is as unique as you are. I know folks who prefer to pick up a book rather than a crochet hook – and that’s fine, too. The important thing is to feed that part of you that often gets neglected or put off until “later”.

Far too often “later” is an elusive idea that never actually comes. It resides just beyond the reach of our fingertips. Please don’t let that be your reality.

Tackling the Mental Pantry

Vocabulary matters in ways we don’t consider. It will help us or hinder all our hard work.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time lately checking out food lists, meal prep ideas, weight loss ideas (I refuse to use the word “diet”) among other things.

Why? Because I wanted to learn what tricks and tools worked and what didn’t.

What did I learn? Something I’ve always known: One Size Does Not Fit All. Or, one plan does not fit all.

The first thing that struck me was the reality that there really is no need for me to create a food list for you. That is something you should be doing for yourself.

Before you panic, consider: Who knows you best? What do you like to eat? What do you hate to even think about eating? What are your allergies?

I’ve been developing a questionnaire that will hopefully help you get an idea of what you like, don’t like, are interested in, etc. This is based on an old Graham Kerr project that made me sit back and think about food. Not just the “what’s in the fridge?” question, but (no pun intended) food for thought about, well, food.

Combine that with whatever eating plan you’ve chosen for yourself – or are considering – and you will have the foundation for meal building blocks.

The second thing to consider is this: If you don’t live alone, your eating plan will have to include the other members of your home. Why? Because unless you want to set yourself up to fail, your meals should include everyone in your home.

That is one reason I refuse to use the word “diet”. That word has negative connotations everywhere. It is thought of as temporary. A punishment. Something you do that isn’t enjoyable or fun. Sort of like “exercise”.

Yeah, that word. 🙂

So, in the meantime, I’d like you to think about what you have in your pantry, where you like to eat, what you like to eat and what you might like to try.

This isn’t homework in the sense that you will be graded. It is homework in the sense that you will be setting yourself up to succeed and enjoy a new adventure.

🙂

Food. The Adversary?

There is a lot of propaganda out there regarding food and cooking.

From the outright lie that cooking is hard and the only way to master it is to allow someone else to do the heavy lifting for you, to the pervasive idea that food is the enemy and you are in a constant battle to survive.

Let’s look at the first one for a moment, shall we?

Cooking can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be and, most importantly, with innovation and technology, it is a lot easier than Grandma or even Great Grandma had it. Heck, even Mom had issues with equipment.

Unless you expect to be a 5 star Michelin chef doing hundreds, if not thousands, of meals every day, (and if you are that’s amazing) most household cooking is pretty straightforward and reasonably easy to do. If you know how.

If you know how.

One of the things that literally stopped me in my tracks was discovering that Home Economics classes are pretty much extinct. The idea is that you need to know how to look something up more than you need to know how to feed yourself.

What!???????

I hate to break it to you, folks, but if you can’t feed yourself, the rest is not necessary. Let alone possible.

Yeah, I get it – it is unknown. Scary. Smelly. Icky. Takes time you’d rather spend doing something else. Or…… maybe it is something you don’t know if you actually like until you find out how to do it?

Why that particular line of propaganda? Simple. Food companies needed to convince buyers to buy their products. All those cans of vegetables, boxes of mixes, packets of frozen foods needed to be purchased to make money for the companies. As time went on the advertisers got busy finding incentives, excuses, reasons, why you just couldn’t spend All That Time In The Kitchen cooking a meal when all you had to do was pull it out of the freezer, dump it in the oven and TaDa! Dinner. Not exactly cheap, but a easy.

Food as the Adversary came a long a bit later. It was a byproduct of discovering how Humans eat and what happens to their health over time.

When I was a kid mercury was a huge problem in canned fish. Saccharin was thought to cause cancer. Fat was the Biggest Bad Guy out there. Except you need a small amount of fat to make your body (a machine) work.

Thanks to a combination of intentioned advertising, misunderstanding, ignorance and the growth of the health conscious community, society took on a lot of questionable ideas about healthy eating.

Sadly, some of those ideas are still around today.

Yes, mercury is a no-no in your food. Fake foods like saccharin sound like a great idea, but the way the human body reacts could be worse than just eating the sugar. Or the salt.

Which reminds me. Thanks to the proliferation of fast food shops and basically eating out, most people have no idea what a proper portion of anything is or even looks like.

It is no wonder people have issues with food.

There’s a lot to explore here. I am not, and never claimed to be, an expert or a professional food person. What I am is a consumer who cooks and eats. And I want to learn more and share what I’m learning to make sure I can feed myself and keep my health without either going broke or driving myself crazy.

If you’d like to join me on this journey, let me know by clicking below. Send me a comment. I’d like to learn your thoughts as we work our way along this journey.

A Simple, Easy Dinner

One of my Very Favorite dinners is so simple and easy you’ll want to make it often.

I take a pork shoulder steak, season with salt, pepper, dried sage and dried garlic. Place it on a broiler pan and roast in a 350 degree oven on the first side for 45 minutes, then flip (season as before) and continue in the oven for at least another 30 minutes, 45 if you want them more caramelized.

I use my broiler pan to catch any fat that melts and drips off. If there is room on the pan – often times not – I put the potatoes there. Otherwise, they are on a separate rack in the oven. Depending on the size of the spuds, you may need to put them in the oven earlier than the pork.

You can add a green vegetable or a side salad with a simple dessert and there you go!

Food, Glorious Food!

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.     

James Beard

I am a Foodie who enjoys cooking.

I love the variety of flavors, colors, textures, and smells. I love the possibilities.

I recently became acquainted with a group of folks who are embarking – or continuing to embark – on a health/weight adventure. Some have been on this road for a long time, while others are relatively new to it.

Health and weight concerns are serious issues and there are tons of things to consider. One is how you feed yourself and not make yourself ill.

I have friends who are gluten intolerant, have various food allergies and sensitivities that make eating out not only questionable, but in some cases downright dangerous.

For those folks who have little or no real knowledge about cooking, feeding yourself out of a microwave or a drive through can be counter productive. And expensive.

As I thought about all these things, and looked at my experience of them, I started to wonder if there might be a way to share information that would help folks get more comfortable in the kitchen and find ways to create satisfying meals without a lot of stress.

Now, I know that the Internet is up to its’ figurative eyeballs in food blogs, but most people have no idea where to begin.

I’m thinking about this in relation to this blog. Would you be interested in joining me on a new food adventure? Leave me a comment below. Thanks!

The Unsung Hero of the Kitchen

The Slow Cooker

Yep, you read that right. The slow cooker is the unsung hero of the kitchen.

While the Instapots and the Air Fryers of the culinary world are selling like hotcakes, the real workhorse in the kitchen is that simple, handy, dependable piece of electronic crockery that sits on your counter producing flavorful, healthy meals day after day, week after week, year after year.

What? You don’t own one? Or, you do, but you never use it? You don’t really know how to use it and what you have tried has been a bit…eh.

Oh my…

Slow cooking can be dump and go, but there are a few things you need to know to get the results you want.

You can roast in them, but you do need to remember to NOT add any liquid. Why? Slow cookers don’t reduce liquids in the pot unless you leave the lid off or open on a side. That means all the moisture in your food stays in the pot.

One of my favorite things to use the slow cooker for is to roast a turkey breast. I put it in the pot, no seasoning or water, put the lid on and set it for LOW for 8 hours. When I come home at the end of the day, I have a perfectly cooked, tender and juicy roast turkey breast – and the skin is usually browned and a bit crispy, too.

Pot roast is a great option, but you do need to put the vegetables on the bottom of the pan. That way they get the benefit of all the juices in the meat and cook properly. Don’t add a lot of liquid! I’d keep it down to a half a cup. Any more than that and the meat isn’t roasting it is swimming.

Applesauce can be a great on the back burner kind of project, too. I’ve even seen homemade ketchup made in a slow cooker and heard of people making apple, peach or pumpkin butters in the pots.

Looking for some great resources to use your slow cooker? America’s Test Kitchen has done some serious research and put together some great recipes. They have some sound advice for various types of food.

FoodTV has done a couple of articles on Slow Cooker Recipes. The Most Popular Slow Cooker Recipe on Pinterest was great reading – and sounds good, too!

You can make side dishes for those busy holiday meals, set up the cooker to keep ciders and other drinks hot and ready, use the cooker to melt chocolates for homemade candies.

I’ve been know to get large family sized flats of chicken and cook them all in the cooker ready for packaging for freezing. Quick, easy, simple. And I don’t have to keep an eye on it. 🙂

Don’t forget to get a box of liners for use with your slow cooker. They make cleanup a breeze!

There is a reason this simple appliance has been around for such a long time. Get yours out and give it a go. You just might find it has become your favorite kitchen tool!