New Irish Meal? OK

Growing up, I heard I was part this, part that. But, I recognise myself as  EuroMutt. As in, there is no one nationality that is more than another for my heritage. I can point to more than one country where my family came from. Have I looked too far into the history? No, because I can’t read all the languages I’d have to know. It probably didn’t help that that part of the family said that the children should never learn the languages because they “were in America, so you only speak English” and so the languages were lost to us. The rest other members of my family have already have. So, I never really have looked too much into my history. And I will say that I have had a bad time with ancestry.com mainly because there are mistakes made that we DO have records on and couldn’t change. Other issues are that we CAN’T even find the existence of family in their records but we know from photos of their existences. My daughter got so frustrated over it and tried to explain that to her teachers to no good results. Sighs.

But, something we’ve been kept to some heritages is food. In one case (where I learned to measure by sight instead of weights or cups) it means that the recipe has never really been written down. Many recipes are gone because of this. Other ones, only certain parts of the family make it because the rest just can’t get it right. Other heritages we have never really are much from or even heard stories from. This makes the kids want to explore recipes from cookbooks or websites. When I make some, the older members of my family start talking about remembering either their mom or grandma making it. Sometimes, we discover an old recipe; other times we start adapting.

So, for St Patrick’s Day for next month, I’m trying a new recipe: Bangers and mash. I found Irish Style Bangers at Aldi’s recently and this is something that the kids may like. Those are for the kids and I’m using a meatless sausage for me. The traditional gravy is an onion gravy. This is simple to make. So, this is one of those transitional recipes we all can enjoy. Especially with no ingredients that the kids dislike.

Onion Gravy

1 small chopped onion

2 Tbs all purpose flour, toasted

2 C vegetable broth

1/2 C White wine

3 Tbs vegetable oil, divided

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a saucepan. Once hot, add chopped onion. Cook onions until caramelized, stirring as little as possible. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until as smooth or as lumpy as you desire. Pour over veggies or meats.

 

 

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Multi Tasking meals

So, the boy did his first Music audition for college. He had two and is currently planning on going for a Bachelor of Musical Arts. Why? Because he is still not certain whether he wants to focus on Composition or Education. So, his decision is to go this route where he will see parts of both his first year. His current music teachers both agree with this option, as did the admissions person we talked to at the audition. Actually, the college one was impressed that he chose it for that reason. So, if your kid DOES want to do music but not sure what; recommend looking at that to start. This way, less need to add classes later since the core classes are already taken for the department. I am a little less concerned about what he wants to do. My big concern is whether or not he gets in. The older girl went with us and she talked to the one music professor and became excited again with music. She also got some good advice from the high school seniors who were auditioning that day. It was a nice thing to see.

We also ended up going to a small deli to get lunch while we were waiting for the auditions to happen. The girl got a chicken noodle soup that was hot enough she couldn’t eat it at first. The boy and my father both got meat and cheese sandwiches. Both said it was fine, though they both ended up having upset stomachs. I got a vegetarian sandwich. It was a couple cheeses and some veggies with both horseradish sauce and spicy mustard. It gave me my missed horseradish mustard I have missed. I even got to have an option of Marble Rye bread.

A hard part? The kids do not eat many vegetable based meals. So, there are not many veggies or grains out here. This has me trying to figure how to eat the way I want while having them eat. The girls already know that they will see more stress on veggies over meats, but I will keep some meat for them. It will just be a side or ingredient, not a main part.

Tonight, we did something that will end up being a regular option in the future. For the kids, they had chicken Parmesan. I had spaghetti with a tomato and mushroom sauce tonight, but could easily make it eggplant Parmesan. I know that there are more options available that can be both meat and vegetarian. I will touch on them also later on.

Up tomorrow, a broccoli, chickpea and rice bowl for me and a pork chop with broccoli and rice for them.

Quick and Simple Rice and Beans

It keeps trying to sprinkle here. The day is not too cold, but still is pretty gloomy. Not like the previous days. It feels too much like Spring still though. Right now, I’m on a cooking binge for the week. So, with the glut of food and packing being done, I still need to feed myself. My biggest thing is that I make enough of one thing that I can eat. Well, today, I just made a load of rice. I needed it for a couple different things and even still it was too much for the amount I made. I’m almost to the point of not having to cook for work meals for the next couple of weeks. My freezer is about to the stuffed point. So, that will help a bit. All my recipes I stretch to four servings, which gives me four weeks of options to eat. That’s also good when the recommended time to freeze foods seems to be a month to three.

My biggest thing is that I’m making myself try new foods that I wouldn’t have previously tried. I’ve never made cabbage rolls or stuffed peppers before. Now, I can say that I have. It’s easier to make cabbage rolls and I find that I enjoy making them. It’s taken me many years (maybe it was the meat stuffing that didn’t help things) but I find myself even liking eating them. But, I make more filling than I have the patience to roll. So, what do I do? I take the remainder and either put it in soup or else with fried cabbage to make an unstuffed cabbage. That makes quick meals for work that nobody else seems to touch. It could also be that the night shift doesn’t find interest in others foods because they all bring their own. Either way, I get to enjoy it.

Another recipe I never ate growing up is this addiction of mine. I never had a reason growing up to know about rice and beans except maybe school, which did that spanish rice. I don’t think it had beans in it though. It was red and clumped into a scoop that went with taco day. It looked so unappetising and I always tried to avoid it. But, when made to choose between eating the taco and eating the rice, I ended up eating the rice. No, I don’t remember there being much flavor in it either. So, when I first considered seriously trying vegetarian, I read all about rice and beans. Such a staple that I had never heard of. So, of course I had to try it. For a while, I ended up just buying a box to make of it. It was bland or nothing but spice. This, this is mine and it’s a little creamier with a bite from the beans. Using the bean mix, all I need to do is reheat it enough to the same temperature as the rice. And for future reference, I’m in love with coconut milk. It is richer than the others, even coming out of the box. I do buy the shelf stable kind because it’s cheaper than the refrigerated. Since I’m already reading the labels, I keep an eye out for the kind without carageenan. I’m not really all certain about the health risks, but currently I just want something with a little less extra. And since they are the same price, I choose to go without.

rice and beans

Cajun Rice and Beans

Serves 1

3/4 C cooked Jasmine rice
1/2 C bean mix
1 Tbs cajun spice blend
1/2 C boxed coconut milk

Put all ingredients in a 1 qt saucepan. Mix together until the spice blend is coating all of the rice. Heat on Medium low. Scoop it in a bowl and eat it all up.

How soon is Spring?

So, instead of sleeping, I’m currently sitting outside with my bowl of oatmeal (lemon poppyseed), cup of dirty chai, and pajamas. Yes, outside where the entire world can see me and with sandals on for footwear. My pajama ensemble lately has been including socks, so I know it looks bad. But, with weather this warm after the cold streak, I think I’ll enjoy it before I get too tired. This makes for the perfect end for a day. Of course, it’s a bank holiday, so there are quite a few people who are enjoying this day too. I’m sure there are a few others who are calling off today to enjoy the day. But, a nice part about working at night, I can enjoy the day without having to cut into the money coming in. Vitamin D, you are so welcome right now.

Over the weekend, I went out at night (which technically is illegal where we went because it is marked sunrise to sunset) to go walk a park path with the guy. I found myself wishing there was a park setup where there wasn’t that risk of getting in trouble for those who do work nights and want to do that outdoors on days off. I understand that most of the city will turn a blind eye as long as you aren’t doing something really bad, but there can always be the day one either runs into someone who wants to be a stickler for the rules or is having a bad day and decides to enforce the rule. But, this also was nice to do because we got to talk and relax. We both were feeling cooped up with the only option being us being in my room for any type of privacy. So, the two of us really enjoyed and laughed more during our exploring walk. We’re also figuring other places to park his car so we can do long walks on my days off and get to just be together. He brought coffee and I told him about my idea for when I have the girls out here in an apartment this summer.

The oatmeal was the first time I made it, and I didn’t do any measuring. I wasn’t even sure it would work. So, no recipe for this. I figure that closer to easter I’ll post a final recipe on it. That way, I know that it is right. It does taste quite like a lemon poppyseed muffin. It’s what I find funny, but so many like the tops of muffins. I find the best part is the bottom. I think there’s too many extras added to the top, so you miss out on the actual flavor and texture of the muffin. But, this oatmeal is fitting in perfectly with the weather I’m sitting in. I usually end up sweetening my oatmeal by adding flavors. Jams and chocolates are quite sweetening. My maple and brown sugar oatmeal is a distinct difference. Wait, maybe not since I’m really trying to eat it for the maple and the molasses flavorings. I am finding myself buying a lot of local stuff which ends up either being the same price or less than going to the grocery store. I know adding the girls will have my costs go up because the local meats are much higher, but I think that we can make it. They have all requested having meats still be in their diets, so this is going to be my compromise. It makes having a tight budget for food to begin with hard, but I will figure a way to do it. They just have to grab my old pans and pots to cook the meat in. My jam area in my fridge is growing from the selection I have, but I’ll hit TJMaxx as long as they still have my one jam. Darn it, I blame Ribena for my blackcurrant addiction.

I think I’ll try to end this with my new vinaigrette recipe. It’s worked quite nicely on both salads and the other part of my bean salad base.Yes, there are two different vinegars, but I’m kind of realising I’m a vinegar addict. I have more vinegars than anything else. I do need to get some more oils, but I see a vinegar and start drooling. Both of these are sweet vinegars, so they play nicely together. It does darken the look of the food, so if you are not wanting that, then change the vinegars to your liking. I won’t put servings on anything with dressings because I don’t pay attention to how much I use at once and I know everyone uses different amounts per item.

 

Malt Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 Tbs. Malt Vinegar (I used London Pub, but Heinz also makes a killer malt vinegar)

2 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

1 tsp. Black currant Preserves

Pinch Kroenig spice mix

Pinch Hickory smoked Salt

Olive Oil with black Truffles

Add all ingredients before Olive oil to a jar. Add olive oil to the top. Add lid. Shake until emulsified. If it doesn’t get to the thickness of your liking, add more olive oil. Shake again. Enjoy. Remember to reshake each time you use it because they WILL separate.

Shopping Saturday

Since moving here, I’ve been trying to figure more and more ways to enjoy cooking and eating. My favorite thing now is to do a Saturday shopping trip. It usually ends up being an all day ordeal because I get up too late. I need to get downtown by nine am to do all of it in one day. But, yesterday, I just did not want to get out of bed. I just wanted to sleep and enjoy the warm weather. So, I still have a bit to do shopping wise before I can do all my cooking. I’ll end up spending even longer awake on Monday after I finish work from tonight to get it done. Luckily, it’s only a couple more things. And, I grabbed more milk from the store today that I keep forgetting to buy.

I only have twenty dollars for shopping this week to spend after semi monthly rent. Well, I have $1.50 left. Which is cutting it so close. I am so glad all I need to get now is from the bulk bins and it’s all small amounts. I did splurge, which made the dollar amount go less for groceries, by exploring the Glass outlet store across from the Farmer’s market. They had all these Halloween items on super cheap prices. I ended up getting two glass coffee mugs that were cute Halloween themed, listing Zombie to Human, a shot glass that I really did not need for my collection (I didn’t get the more expensive one that I’m hoping will still be there in a couple more weeks), a needed measuring beaker for recipes that list mls for liquid measurements, and a candy bowl.

image

That there is my fridge that is next to my bed. I should add the red sticks are coffee stirrers I use for my perfume that then become room fragrances, especially when the heater gets turned on (which hasn’t been that often really). I’m already using my candy bowl as a way to remind myself to grab my snacks before work. I am trying to take one caramel and a candy bar to get my sweet tooth fix. I’d gone the previous week to Ollie’s and picked up a bag of Cadbury’s dark chocolate and mint bars for less than two dollars. The way I’ve been eating them, it should last me the rest of the month and then I’ll just have to hope they have another bag option like that. To be honest, it does help a lot to have a bag to ration out for a while instead of shopping for a bar or three every night because it’s available and I’m having a craving.

But, I’m also making a slow small buying of things in there that I still need from the outlet store. They do have a good selection of lower priced items. But, it’s mainly bakeware I need left. That and I’m thinking of getting some seasonal glasses for uses. The easter ones are all greens and blues with purple on them. I just wish they had St Patrick’s patterns. Maybe after the holiday they will. I didn’t get any of the snowflake patterned ones only because I was using my hands to carry everything. But, I ended spending six dollars there. I should add that one of the coffee mugs is going to the boy simply because he’ll get a kick out of it.

So, then I went to the farmer’s market. Last time, I went in, did a little browsing and felt so nervous with the shopping I either avoided looking at the vendors or talked too much.This time, I felt a little more comfortable. Or else it was because my stomach was better filled than last time. So, first tip that will seem obvious: Always eat before you go shopping. But, don’t eat to full. I started talking to a few more vendors and asked more questions. This led me to new discoveries. So, second tip: Ask about what they are selling. I found out the vendor who I’ve been getting my cabbage from really grows it to make cabbage rolls, which was why I was buying it. He ended up showing me what to look for to get the best for rolling. Other vendors have a return policy for money back when you return the container that was used for the product. So, I have two dollars possible to get back once I finish my honey and jams. The third tip is: If you don’t see something you are looking for, ask. I have one vendor bringing me a specific variety of fruit because I wanted to buy some next time I’ll be there. I heard a couple other people asking about other things they wanted to other vendors and they told them that they would bring it the next time because they were just waiting for someone to want the items. Also, they will let you know when something is in season and when they will be harvesting things.

Remember, farmer’s markets do not hold just produce. Those caramels you saw in the candy bowl; I bought them from a vendor there. The farmer’s market here also has coffee roasters, a bakery comes in, honey vendors, a clothing shop (I am not kidding!), a preserves stand, some floral vendors (they are mostly selling succulents and bulbs right now), and a dog treats stand. I can’t wait for this spring when everything goes outdoors and there are supposed to be even more people. Wait, I just thought how many more options I’ll have. I do think I will search out the vendors I see who are here already, but I’m a little nervous still about making new contacts to shop from.

As I was going home, I finally got to discover the little grocer that goes in front of one of the many churches I pass to go downtown. It is not a joke that there are a bunch of churches in Toledo. I can honestly say I live within a mile of six different churches, at least. But, I realised after I left that I had forgotten to buy an onion. Why I want an onion is still up in the air since I hate cutting them, but it’ll get used this week. So, I spent a little bit getting sold by a young girl and ended up getting the onion I needed and a grapefruit. The grapefruit is really an outside item because my last memory of that was my grandparents having me try one for a breakfast. When I didn’t like it because it was too tart, they told me to put some sugar on it to taste better. I remember it didn’t and they got upset I wasted it. I haven’t gone near one since. So, this will be an interesting thing to try.

I forgot to pull something for dinner that night. So, I ended up eating one of my stews that were supposed to be for work and the mac and cheese I’d left at home instead of taking to work. Otherwise, it probably would have been make a quick meal from the pantry. I do think tomorrow will have some zucchini from my dollar Kroger produce hit. Beyond that, it’ll be cooking and sleeping. More the sleeping than cooking.

Bean Salad base

I have to admit to a new salad addiction.  I don’t know if it’s more a case of needing different textures or wanting something simple that I can use to adapt to different flavors as desired. But for me, this is the simple thing to keep in my fridge and pull out some to build a new salad or add to soup or polenta. Even simpler, it’s all canned. I still need to try the green beans as fresh, but it has worked nicely so far. All the beans are ones I regularly keep on my shelf for cooking anyway because those are the ones that I find the most use or munches for. Mixing them together this way ended up being a guaranteed win. I’m pretty sure that a different mix of beans would work if you wanted a different texture or flavor.

Growing up, I never had bean salad. For family functions, I don’t remember it ever being offered.  Of course, according to the majority of my family, the only place a bean is worth eating is when it’s a side of baked beans from a can. At school, I know I would have turned it down and I don’t think it is offered anywhere these days. It was a situation of too unusual of a food. Yet, this is a recipe so many people would have kept in their recipe files and taken to picnics. I was first introduced to it at a previous job and was completely revolted by the smell from opening the vacuum sealed bag. I could not see why  someone would want this coagulated blob of beans and veggies. Seeing it out in a bowl in a deli department sends me to the same sense of shuddering and nausea. But, this is different.

This ended up being a discovery from the points of needing to use up a vinaigrette I had made for a different salad and wanting to figure some easy ways to add some sides to my meals. I wanted to have a “salad” and knew that I would be lazy too often to want to pack a green salad every night. The thought of either having all these dishes to wash the next morning and having to make seperate containers for my greens and my dressing because I wanted sharp bites instead of wilted from macerated in dressing for hours salad. So, I swallowed my revulsion of the remembered vision and decided to make one of my own. Best thought: face fear head on.

My main tip is that you rinse the beans very well. Normally, I rinse each can a minimum of four times. An easy way, keep the lid and top the can with it after you fill the drained of juices can with water so it can be shaken. Once you do that, you can also use it to strain out the water until your water comes out as clear and thin as it went in from your faucet or bottle. Because I do understand some people’s desire to not ever use tap water. This way, if it’s cheaper to get full salted canned veggies, you can get as much salt off as possible. At the same time, keep an eye out for sales to get the no salt added veggies or the fancier salt canned ones. They usually go on sale the same as the rest, but that really depends on the store you shop at.

Bean Salad

1 C Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)(Mine were from Goya this time, but can be from any brand)

1 C Black beans (Mine were store brand, so yeah)

1 C Dark Red Kidney beans (Mine were another store’s brand)

1/2 C canned Green beans

Vinaigrette (Recipe after)

Rinse all beans until clean from canning liquids. Place vinaigrette in bottom of bowl. Top with the beans and green beans. Mix to coat all beans. Enjoy.

 

Vinaigrette

2 Tbs Rice Vinegar

1 Tbs plus 2 tsp Orange juice

1 tsp Lemon juice

1/2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Cranberry relish

Olive Oil (mine had Truffle flavoring included in it because it was on sale for $2.99)

Mix together the first five ingredients. While still stirring, add enough olive oil to emulsify into your desired thickness for a salad dressing.

 

 

Strange sleeping patterns

Recently, I was having a couple different discussions about my sleep. For two people I was talking to, it dealt with how much I slept both during the week and per day. With the other, it was the timing of my sleep. My body has learned over the years how to adapt to strange situations on sleep and I do think it has a favorite set point that it tries to get back to. I’ve also learned to keep track of my depression by making sure that I get enough sleep when needed. Since there are so many factor to keep track of in staying healthy, I can only imagine how many people let some slip to the side. For me, sleep can not. Especially living in this area where there are seasons where I have to find alternate ways to get enough sunshine.

With the timing of sleep, I should mention that I normally sleep during the day. If I sleep at night, most things wake me up and I cannot get a steady sleep. The constant noises and such that people make during the day allow me to drown them out so that I can sleep all day if needed, or at least until my alarm goes off for work. Except for when its cold enough that I need to keep my drapes closed, I even sleep with the window uncovered to let sun seep onto me. To compensate for the light, I use a blindfold to keep it from my eyes. Yes, things like people doing sudden loud things or arguing will wake me. But, if I don’t have to work that day, I’ll put in earplugs to keep those distractions muted.

The amount of sleep surprised the people I talked to. One felt like I wasn’t getting enough on a day to day. To explain, I get home on days off in the middle of the morning. As soon as I get in, I get in my pajamas and go straight to sleep because my alarm is going off at 2:30pm. So, on those days, the most I’m getting is four hours. Why so little? I work a twelve hour shift per day and it takes me about two hours each way to get to and from work thanks to public transportation. Along with that, I make sure to make something to eat when I get up and the rest of my daily routine. Occasionally, I’ll sleep in an hour. But, then something gets cut from my routine. Usually, that ends up being eating. So, then I’m hungry on my way to work and end up buying something to eat from the space between the bus stop and work. On my day off from enough days working, I will admit to only getting up for the next twenty four hours only to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, I’m asleep. If I don’t work too many nights in a row, I’ll just stay up during the night to keep myself in that schedule of sleep and wake. Exception to that is Saturday. That day I go shopping  because the farmer’s market is open.

There are a lot of studies being done on how much sleep people need and should someone sleep off a sleep debt. I find it works for me, but others it may not. Just like they are discovering that some people need more than others in amounts of sleep. Perhaps my years of constantly changing my schedule for sleep has made my body grab whatever it can receive and be effective at what it is given. Or maybe there’s still too much caffeine running through my systems on some days that it just can’t sleep too much. Nah.