Random Thoughts – May 2021

Sat 5/8

Writing has been difficult the past several weeks. Got no Mojo. Sometimes you just have to put your butt in the chair and start. And this morning I’m putting my butt in my chair and writing. My future best seller though is on the shelf for now. I’m writing but the book is just too much effort for what I hope will be a relaxing Saturday. So to write while keeping it light this month’s random thoughts are about my pantry.

Entering year two of the pandemic the pantry is pretty well stocked. A prepper wouldn’t agree with this statement but I’m not preparing for the end of the world. I just want to be prepared for the coming supply chain shortages. Remember last year when no one knew what the hell was happening and panic drove some to buy rooms full of toilet paper? Well the year ahead will be interesting and different from the beginning stages and perhaps more challenging.

I was at the grocery store and ground turkey is always on my list. A couple of trips ago the store had no ground turkey. Nada. Nothing. Zero. So I was quite pleased to see the store restocked with plenty of ground turkey. I was not pleased to discover a nearly 50% increase in the price. Your frugal writer didn’t buy any. Ground turkey is merely an example. Who knows what will or won’t be available? The reality is whatever you want to buy will cost you more. Hello inflation.

Labor shortages, supply constraints, high freight costs and increasing commodity prices all combine to create higher prices for you and me. I read somewhere that some of the biggest retailers and distributors are fining their suppliers for late or incomplete orders which will add more to the cost for us. Bizarre business strategy if you ask me but it’s happening. Prices inevitably will go up.

So under the assumption your pantry is decently stocked here’s what I would do moving forward.

Buy more of what you need when it’s on sale. Memorial Day is coming up which means a lot of picnic and cookout items will be on sale. Stock up.

Use food storage containers. We bought more yesterday. Keep any tiny creepy crawlers out of your stash.

Be willing to substitute when prices demand substitution. No ground turkey for me at $6.29 a pound. Instead I bought boneless chicken breast for $6.49 a pound on sale, regularly $8.49 a pound (yes it was a higher quality chicken and I wasn’t at Whole Paycheck Food Market).

Drink good Scotch.

Hope you like my list.

Veggie Burrito Spice Blend

Spice Blend for Veggie Burritos

2 tsp chili powder – 1 tsp cumin – 1 tsp smoked paprika – 1/2 tsp coriander 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 1 tsp garlic powder

Chickpea and Broccoli Burrito — https://www.badmanners.com/recipes/roasted-chickpea-and-broccoli-burrito

This blend of spices is literally stolen from the chefs at https://www.badmanners.com/. The last time I took a theme on a spice blend the author tracked me down and threatened something close to legal action if I didn’t give her credit and a link to her website. So this time around I’m giving credit AND three links. I’m also not going to write down any instructions for making a roasted vegetable and chickpea filling for burritos. I suggest you go to the original recipe at https://www.badmanners.com/recipes/roasted-chickpea-and-broccoli-burrito if you need detailed instructions.

My Tips, Hints, and not too Secret Secrets

A really good tortilla makes all the difference. But today I’m going to wrap this filling in a Greek style whole wheat pita for lunch. I tend to roast vegetables for at least 40 minutes with a good stir midway through to prevent sticking. You can also add more olive oil at this point too. I hope I have a lime in the fridge. The last time I made this filling The Boss used it as a topping for a Taco Salad. She liked it. I hope she was telling the truth because when you cook up a pound of dried chickpeas it is a LOT of chickpeas. One cup dried will produce between 6 and 7 cups of beans. I used about 4 cups for today’s mix. The other 3 cups went into a Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew (no link yet, recipe is still in draft form).

I used some metal pie pans as roasting pans because I didn’t want to use the big pan which is a pain in the ass to clean because of its size. Preheat your pan(s) before roasting. I leave the mixing bowl uncleaned and use it again once the veggies are roasted and done. Let the mixture cool for a bit, toss everything back into this bowl, mix well again to capture the spices that have stuck to the bowl and then adjust your seasonings.

Postscript

No lime. I used lemon instead.

I wasn’t kidding about using pie pans.

25 Vegan Soup Recipes – the First Mess

The Digital Devil told me I had dipped below 173 and I’m resisting the urge to overthink this. I can’t explain this bizarre behavior. It’s just part of my makeup, a tiny piece of me that tends to repeat over and over and over again. If the number goes up I’ll try to figure out why. If the number goes down my mind does the same thing. Why? Why is my weight going down? Is this merely a random fluctuation or can I pinpoint a reason for my successful weight loss/maintenance? As I wandered the internet I found a website post that had the answer I had been searching for.

Soup. I’ve eating more soup.

Laura Wright is a vegan cookbook author and blogger based in the Niagara region of southern Ontario, Canada. Her most recent post is 25 Vegan Soup Recipes and can be accessed at https://thefirstmess.com/. To be clear I haven’t tried any of these recipes yet but I needed a reminder to do so. Thus this post and link.

It’s like a giant Sticky Note that says “Hey, try these recipes. Also don’t forget you already bought her cookbook and it’s sitting on your eCookbook shelf.”

I actually forgot I bought Laura’s cookbook.

Saying Goodbye After 14 Wonderful Years

Goodbye old friend. Hello new friend.

The TOMC (The Old Man Car) era has ended. Our relationship started January 2007. I bought TOMC after going car-less for a few months. I lost my executive level job and the company car that went with the position. The company car was a brand new Ford Taurus. We were browsing at the local Carmax when the salesman said to me,

“Hey, we just got one (Taurus) in. You want to take a look at it?”

When we got to the car on the lot I looked at the price and said,

“I’ll take it.”

“Don’t you want to test drive it?”

“No.”

When I said goodbye to TOMC he had 72,500 miles on the odometer.

Today was an emotional day. It was hard saying goodbye to a faithful friend after 14 fabulous years. But by tomorrow I think I’ll be just fine.

Black Eyed Peas – Pandemic Version 2021

Aliens wearing headlamps skinning up a mountain somewhere Aspen CO

I make black eyed peas once a year for New Year’s Day.  For good luck and good leftovers. 

I was at the grocery store yesterday and a lot of the shelves were bare. New Years plus an upcoming Oklahoma ice storm with predictions of up to 8 inches of snow sent a lot of people to the stores to clean out the shelves. I didn’t realize at the time that this year there would be no Badass Black Eyed Peas for the New Year. Not a single package of ground turkey. The only ground beef in the meat section were 10 pound rolls. I was fortunate to find some 80/20 in the butcher case. This too was almost gone. I forgot the bacon. The celery looked bad (but I knew I had one stalk left at the house). This year’s black eyed peas was definitely a Pandemic Pantry version.

Before we get to this year’s throw together recipe here are a few odd tips and tricks for this year’s version.

  • The beans still need to simmer for several hours.
  • The beans get an overnight soak in filtered water and you will change the water several times before preparation
  • Everyone in the pool? No, not this year.
  • Unlike other chili recipes this recipe has hints of chili.  But due to limited ingredients this year’s black eyed peas will be more chili-like.

So now that you know this isn’t Badass here’s what I had to do.

1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp each smoked paprika, chili powder
1 T Mexican oregano
1 T cumin

1 14 oz can tomatoes with chilies
1 qt no sodium chicken broth (or more, see odd tips)
2 T tomato paste
1 lb black eyed peas
1 lb ground beef 80/20
Salt & pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

  1. Place the dried beans into a stock pot large enough to hold the beans when fully plumped up.  Rinse the beans with water several times.  Fill the pot with fresh water and soak overnight.
  2. In the morning drain then add fresh water to the beans. Change the soaking water at least twice.
  3. Turn burner up to high and heat up a large stock pot. When the pot is hot brown the beef and break up well. Don’t add any oil to the pot because you’ll have plenty of fat in the 80/20.
  4. When the meat is browned take off the burner and drain well.
  5. Bring the pot back to the burner and turn heat up to medium. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, garlic and saute until softened about five minutes. 
  6. Add the spices and saute another five minutes.
  7. Drain the beans (it’s OK if there’s a little water left).
  8. Now toss everything else into the pool.  Tomato paste, broth, tomatoes with chilies and the beans.
  9. The chicken broth needs to barely cover all of the ingredients.
  10. Bring to a boil then simmer for several hours with the pot partially covered.
  11. Check the pot and stir occasionally.  Add more broth as the peas cook and the dish thickens.
  12. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and your favorite hot sauce.
  13. Yum.  Makes about 10-12 servings.

More odd tips

Don’t add salt until the beans are cooked through and soft.  There is plenty of salt in the chili powder and broth so salt last.  As you adjust the seasonings you may want to add more chili powder and/or oregano.  I tend to use garlic powder (my less than top secret favorite flavor enhancer). I also added dried cilantro. I would have used beef broth but I didn’t have any. As the dish thickens add more broth (I had an open container of organic vegetable broth so this is what I used).

This dish might taste better on day two but I haven’t even tasted it on day one yet.

Texas Corn Bread of course.

Pandemic Pantry One Bean Chili

chili madness

See Three Bean Chili Madness for my odd tips and tricks for making chili. Or not. Up to you.

It’s snowing today so clearly chili had to be made. I made a trip to the grocery store yesterday but didn’t have chili on the brain so I was missing some ingredients. I know I had two green peppers in the fridge but somehow I used them both yesterday. No worries because part of the Pandemic Pantry mindset is to use whatever is on hand, improvise, and try not to waste any food. So if you don’t have two cups of leftover sauteed onions and peppers sitting in the fridge, it’s OK. Use a fresh pepper. No stewed tomatoes? No problem, use what you have on the shelf. Sub ground beef for ground turkey. Let your provisions and imagination be your guide.

1 T extra virgin olive or grapeseed oil
1 /2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups leftover sauteed onions and green pepper from last night’s dinner of faux fajitas OR 1 large green pepper
2 tsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
1 tsp each oregano, paprika, chili powder, cumin
1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 cup low sodium beef broth

1 small can mild green chilies
3 T tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 lb ground turkey
Salt & pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

  1. Place the dried beans into a stock pot large enough to hold the beans when fully plumped up.  Rinse the beans with water several times.  Fill the pot with fresh water and soak overnight OR use the quick soak method of bringing to a boil, cover and let sit for one hour.
  2. Drain then add fresh water to the beans.  Bring to a boil, add your soup recipe seasonings, then lower the heat down to a simmer.  The seasoning for the beans is based off my Sopa de Frijol con Vegetal soup recipe.  Leave out the tomatoes until later.  (No salt and no chili powder yet).
  3. Allow the beans to simmer for several hours.
  4. In a different large stock pot heat the oil and saute the onion, celery, and green pepper (if using fresh) until softened. Add the garlic (fresh or powder) and saute for another minute.
  5. Add the meat and brown.
  6. Add red wine and cook off the alcohol.
  7. Add the stewed tomatoes and break up the tomato chunks into smaller chunks. Add tomato paste, stir well and simmer until mixture thickens.
  8. Time to toss everyone else into the pool.  Spices, tomatoes, chilies, broth, cooked beans.
  9. Simmer for several hours.  Stir occasionally.  Add more broth if the chili gets too thick.
  10. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and your favorite hot sauce.
  11. Yum.

More odd tips

Don’t add salt until the beans are cooked through and soft.  If your chili powder has salt in it I would add after the beans have softened. The recipe will make approximately eight servings. You need Texas Corn Bread with this or ANY chili. I’m not kidding. As always this chili is mild because you can always add the heat but if you make the chili too spicy to begin with…good luck. I had some kidney beans but decided not to put them in this chili.

This recipe is not in the book pictured.  But I always flip through the book to see what other cooks put in their chili. Besides, I love the cover.

Mid-afternoon seasoning adjustments

You’ll need more than one cup of broth. I’ll end up using between one and two cups to get the consistency where I want it to be. I might change the OR for garlic powder and fresh garlic to AND. Added more onion powder, chili power, dried cilantro, salt and pepper. The beans are soft and will get softer because I’m letting the chili go another two hours on the stove.

The Pandemic Pantry – Election Week Update- 11.08.20

Sunday 11/8

To be honest I’ve not paid much attention to the Covid-19 numbers very much for quite some time. Yesterday though, the numbers caught my attention:

Holy Crap Batman!

My initial reaction was shock. But my thoughts quickly came back to food and preparing the pantry for the next lock down.  I’m using this blog to maintain my personal pandemic pantry list and it is not intended to be THE LIST to follow.  (At least I won’t forget where I put my pantry list.) IMO there are several reasons to keep your pantry well stocked:

  • government mandated lock downs.
  • self-imposed periods of sheltering in place either from direct exposure to an infected individual, becoming infected or living with an infected person, rampant uncontrolled viral spread in your community and/or social unrest.
  • Panic buying/hoarding.
  • Supply chain disruptions due to Covid-19 outbreaks at various points in the supply chain and/or panic buying behavior.

We just survived the worst ice storm imaginable and several days without electricity teaches you a thing or two. So I’ve started a list of non-food pantry items which over time will consist of stuff you need to have around when the lights go out. My shopping the past several months included picking up one of this and one of that to build up and back up the pantry. So here’s what the Pandemic Pantry looks like today with the supply on hand in parenthesis. Zero = no backup.

Pandemic Pantry Items – Last Updated 11.08.20

  • Mayo (1) Mustard (0) Salsa (1) Ketchup (0)
  • Pickles (1)
  • Canned tomatoes in 14.5 and 28 ounce cans.  Diced, crushed, diced with green chilies and stewed (8)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (1)
  • Brown and white sugar (0 and 1)
  • Bay leaves, dried oregano, basil, and parsley (0)
  • Onion and garlic powders
  • Salt (1) and black pepper (0)
  • Baking powder, baking soda, corn starch (0)
  • Parmesan cheese (1)
  • Bread crumbs (plain, Panko, seasoned) (1)
  • Dried pastas (10 lbs)
  • Dried beans such as brown and green lentils, pinto, black, adzuki, mayocabo, yellow and green split peas, black eye peas and cranberry (5 lbs)
  • Canned beans such as garbanzos, black, black eye peas, pinto, great northern, navy (10)
  • Broth, vegetable, beef, chicken (3)
  • Rice – multiple varieties like basmati, brown, Texmati, arborio  and plain long grain white (6 lbs)
  • Flour and corn tortillas (0)
  • Wheat germ (1)
  • COFFEE ground (0) — K-cups (50ish)
  • COFFEE FILTERS (0) — I suggest owning a single cup drip cone.
  • Tea (120 tea bags all green decaf plus a few normal ones for me)
  • Nuts (1)
  • All purpose and whole wheat flours (or alternative flours if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • Canned tuna (6)
  • Canned green chilies (1)
  • Oats (0)
  • Cornmeal (0)
  • Dried fruits (1)
  • Whole grain and fruit/nut bars (20ish)
  • Dry cereals and granola (0)
  • Crackers (3)
  • Vinegar (red wine, white wine,Balsamic, white Balsamic, apple cider, etc.) (1)
  • Oil (besides EVO, vegetable, avocado, corn, etc.) (3)
  • Peanut butter (2)
  • Jelly and/or fruit spread (1)
  • Glenmorangie 10 and 14 Single Malt Scotch (2)

Non-food Items Paper

  • Paper towels (66 double rolls)
  • Toilet paper (56 double and MEGA rolls)
  • Tissues (16)
  • Napkins (2 small, 2 large packs)

Hopefully you’ll find this list useful. Personally while updating the list I’ve thought of items to add to this list and to my shopping list. Stay safe, stay well.

Pandemic Pantry – 08.02.20

So besides protecting yourself, you should be prepared for more lock downs, supply chain disruptions, economic woes, travel restrictions, social distancing, civil unrest, and other challenges. That means keeping your supplies of critical preps — water, food, medications — topped up, and not letting them get too low.

Always keep on-hand enough supplies for a sudden two-week quarantine in your home. Really you should try for three months of supplies, but two weeks is the minimum. This stash will also insulate you against surprise supply chain disruptions.

Jon Stokes at theprepared.com

Victoria Australia has declared a State of Disaster. Some schools opened in Melbourne on July 14. In-person classroom school lasted less than one week. The school has been cleaned but remains closed. Contact tracing is still in process. Last week Victoria reported over 2,500 new coronavirus cases up from 2,200 the week prior. While I maintain pretty strong personal measures to avoid possible exposures I admit I’ve gotten complacent with shopping for the pantry. It’s a false sense of security because the majority of my recent shopping trips have been fruitful with minimal shortages noted on the store shelves. Reading about the situation in Australia and seeing pictures online of people standing in a long line on the sidewalk waiting for entry to a grocery store was a wake up call.

Like Jon Stokes says, be prepared for a sudden two week quarantine. Depending upon local conditions it could be longer. Make sure your pantry has back ups for truly essential items (coffee and single malt scotch are good examples). When you’re shopping don’t think about immediate needs. Think about being cooped up in the house again for weeks and pick up a few extras. Last week I bought four pounds of penne pasta (on sale!) and am now well stocked on dried pastas. I also have ample supplies of frequently used herbs and spices.  Bay leaves anyone?

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I also have enough oregano to last for months because I bought a back up when I already had a back up.  There’s plenty of chicken and ground meats in the freezer.  Plus there’s the turkey…

Like I’ve mentioned in the past, we seem to be in pretty good shape in Oklahoma with shortages and supply chain issues.  Disinfectant wipes though have been in very short supply and are hard to find.  But true friendship shines in the pandemic.  Our friends dropped this off a few days ago.

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True friendship is sharing your supply of disinfecting wipes.

The Pandemic Pantry – Shopping Day 07.02.20

The original Household Executive order from an earlier Pandemic Pantry post has now been amended twice.  The following is the Amended Household Executive Order for grocery shopping:

You are now allowed to go to more than one store per week so long as I need or want something that you cannot find at a single store.  You no longer have to shop with the old people and are permitted to go at times when store traffic isn’t busy. You will always wear a mask and keep your distance from everyone else in the store. You may wander up and down the aisles like you usually do (but do it quickly).  You no longer have to abide by the original “do not shower before going and decontaminate immediately upon return” section of the original decree.  The decontamination protocol is suspended for the time being but may be reinstated at any time in the future without advance notice.

When you return from the store you will wash your hands for 20 seconds then put the groceries away.  Place the bags of grocery items on top of the newspaper on top of the kitchen island.  Any and all paper and plastic bags will not be recycled.  They will go into the garbage along with the newspaper that covered the island surface.  Disinfect the items you think need disinfecting.  If you choose not to disinfect an item I must be informed of these items and agree not to touch them for 72 hours.

Don’t buy any more tuna.

The grocery store was not busy at 3:00 pm but busier than I expected.  I managed to find everything on my list.

  • Toilet paper and paper towels were well stocked.
  • Cleaners and disinfectants aisle was not.
  • Meat was plentiful.
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, bagged salads all in ample supply.
  • Dairy, cheeses, eggs were well stocked.

But the best part of my shopping trip had nothing to do with food.  I estimated around 90% of the customers were wearing masks.  I only wish more of us would care more about the health of others and wear masks.  The number of grocery stores I shop at now is a short list.  The behavior of both store management and the customers pretty much determine where I shop.  As an example at the liquor store I’ve been shopping at for over 16 years  all of the employees wear masks.  If you decide to shop indoors you must wear a mask.  Despite the fact this store offers curbside minimal contact purchasing I like shopping in store.  Plus the times I’ve entered the store I’m typically the only customer there.  Apparently most of the other customers prefer curbside or delivery.

Stay safe.  Wear a mask.  Don’t go to these places or events:

Serious7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day 2020 – Pandemic Version

Father’s Day 2020 – Pandemic Version

Dad died nearly 24 years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long. When I started writing this I honestly believed the words would come pouring out, the memories would be sharp and events that happened so long ago would feel as if they happened yesterday. Well, guess what? I’ve been stumbling over my words, all of my memories are somewhat foggy at this point, and few events stand out as worthwhile things to write about. When you write as much as I do not having anything to write about (especially on Father’s Day) is odd. But the more I think about this I remember the thing I want to write about. I want to tell you about Dad’s Old Car.

“I had this habit for a long time, I used to get in my car and I would drive back through my old neighborhood, a little town I grew up in. And I would always drive past the little houses I used to live in…and I got so I would do it really regularly, for years. And I eventually got to wonderin’, what the hell am I doin? And so, I went to see a psychiatrist (laughter), this is true!…and, I sat down and I said, ‘you know, doc, for years I’ve been getting in my car, and I drive back to my town and I pass my houses late at night and, you know, what am I doing?’ And he said, ‘I want YOU to tell me what you think you’re doing.’ So I go ‘that’s what I’m paying YOU for.’ So he says, ‘well, what you’re doing’ he says ‘is that something bad happened, and, you know, you’re going back, you know, thinkin’ that you can make it right again. Something went wrong and you keep going back to see if you can fix it, and somehow make it right.’ and I sat there and I said, ‘that IS what I’m doing.’ And he said, ‘well you can’t’.”

Bruce Springsteen

Dad’s Old Car was a Chevy Bel Air. It was a turquoise and brown Chevrolet Bel Air, the brown being the various rusted out spots scattered where rust happens to an older car. The car was bought used. Dad never bought new cars probably because he couldn’t afford new cars. As much as I think fondly of that car now, as a kid I could hardly hide my embarrassment for the fact our family had to drive a beater. I was angry too. When I got my driver’s license the car insurance premium soared to an unaffordable level for a family of six having trouble making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck. Dad asked me to surrender my license which I agreed to. When the insurance company got proof from the motor vehicle agency I no longer had a license, they lowered the premium back down.

One day when I wasn’t being lectured or yelled at or yelling back I asked Dad why he never bought new cars.

“A car gets you from point A to point B. That’s it. You can spend as much as you want or as little as you want. They all do the same thing.”

“Now the neighbors come from near and far
As we pull up in our brand new used car
I wish he’d just hit the gas and let out a cry
and tell ’em all they can kiss our asses goodbye”

Used Cars – Springsteen

It’s funny the things you think about, the memories that come alive on certain days. And while we’re on the topic of Dad’s Old Car here’s an update on TOMC (The Old Man Car). TOMC hit 70,000 miles last year. On Father’s Day 2020 this is where the odometer sits:

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Thanks for the life advice Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

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