Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Fruits of One's Labor

Two meanings, for me, that particular phrase:

I have three children, that's three separate incidents of labor...they are my fruit, so to speak. And the countdown is on...less than a month until my special little fruits return to school.  Get this: I will have two children in high school and one in his last year of elementary.  Most of the time, I don't really believe it...I don't certainly feel that old.  Anyway...

I have a garden, and it is that time of season to begin the harvest and reap the fruits of those labors, so to speak.

My father-in-law calls me yesterday and asks if I'd like sweet corn.  Sharing the fruits of his labors, as it were.  Of course I say yes, all the while wondering what the Bejesus I'll do with all this corn.  Remember, we planted three rows in my parents' garden and we are now picking all those as well.  And there's only so much sweet corn one can really eat before the ol' digestive system just shuts down.

In my humble opinion, planting and maintaining the garden is the easy part.  Even harvesting is simple...and gratifying, as well.

But, preserving?  Yeah.  That's the not-so-fun part.  Or, at least, the more difficult, time-consuming part.  However, much more gratifying than harvesting.

When your father-in-law gives you three dozen ears of corn and your mother gives you an ice cream bucket full of roma tomatoes...you do what any sensible person would do.  You freeze it.

I happen to have one of those food mill thingies that allow me to press food like tomatoes through a sieve of sorts...and the juice comes out, separate from the pulp and seeds.  Handy-dandy.  And this tomato juice will be used later in the fall for chili, beef stews, etc.  Unfortunately, the food mill I have has only one strainer, a very fine mesh one at that, and is really only good for juice - not an optimal product for other yummy tomato things like salsa and spaghetti sauce.  Alas.  I'll just have to go the old-fashioned route with the next round of tomatoes, blanching, peeling, and deseeding by hand.  Just like Ma and Pa Ingalls, I guess.

The corn, though, is simple as pie (which, as I think about it, is not really *that* simple.  Pie can be really complicated). 

1. Shuck it.
2. Cut it off the cob.  Sharp knife or serrated bread knife work awesome.
3. Mix into a big pan with a pint of half and half and a pound of butter.
4. Bake it at 350.  Stir every 20 minutes.
5. Remove and dish up into freezer baggies.

I really do love this time of year.  Between getting kids ready for school and preserving food for the fall months ahead, I feel as if I am experiencing my own renewal of sorts. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

A New Adventure

The Phantom Menace
Attack of the Clones 

Revenge of the Sith 
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens

All Star Wars movie titles.  Pretty succinct, but with enough wordage to pique your interest, yes?

That's kind of what I was going for with today's blog title...and while it doesn't really fit in with the jargon of the SW franchise, it's got that same edgy terseness.

At least, I think so.  Just agree with me for now.  It'll make me feel better.

So.  You've heard that saying, "it's not what you know, it's who you know"? or "things happen for a reason"? 

How about this one: "Oh, dear gods, what did I just do?" Well...

Less than a week ago, I purchased a food truck.  No, I don't plan on carrying on Fred Hickory's legacy of Original Ozark Mountain BBQ.  I do plan on driving around, though, and feeding people out of this truck.  

I'm learning a lot about filling out forms, deciphering legal jargon, and jumping through hoops.  It's nerve-wracking and stressful and exhilarating.  We've got one naysayer as of right now, but most people are overwhelmingly supportive.  Like, it makes me want to cry supportive.

I imagine there will be quite a bit of talking about this little project for the next little while.  I've been asked to do an event on September 5, so it would that's my rollout date!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Pool And Then Other, More Important Stuff

Today was one of the hottest, most humid days so far this summer here in Iowa.  Pretty unbearable, really, until I decided to take my two youngest kids to the local pool. The first time I go every year always gives me pause because I'm really looking at two things: swimsuits and tattoos and the trends I might notice in each.

If I were to write about my own personal history of swimsuits, it would be very simple: no bikinis, two maternity swimsuits, a host of forgettable one-pieces, a MiracleSuit, and then in my 30s, I began to wear the Lands' End look popular for many, many mothers across the nation:

Thank you, Lands' End.  She is lovely.
Don't get me wrong, this is a cute outfit.  I love the color and paisley is one of my favorite patterns.  The straps are adjustable for comfort, and the underwire supports big boobs. The bright pattern distracts from the baby pooch leftovers, and the comfy shorts provide upper thigh coverage so that a.) other swimmers don't see upper thigh stretch marks and b.) I don't have get a bikini wax.

And for the past decade, this type of suit was enough for me.

And then I turned 40, and I don't know what the hell happened.  Maybe it's because I started a little bit of running, maybe I'm not as embarrassed about my upper thighs, maybe it's because I just don't care anymore.  Whatever the case, this year's suit was a definite departure.  For the first time in many years, I ordered a suit that did not come with adjustable straps, an underwire bra, and shorts or a swimskirt.  For the first time in many years, I had to pay attention to my bikini line.


No, not me.  Some hot model at ModCloth.com.
This is what I wore to the pool today. And I admit, I loved it!  It's not really a suit that makes me feel sexy, per se, but I feel glamorous in it.  I feel like a 1930's throwback, and I dig that.  So, hurrah for a new pool look this year.

Now, the trends.  Lots of skin, lots of bikinis.  Yes, naturally, the teens and non-moms do the two-piece thing, but there are also a fair amount of moms who happen to have the body for a bikini.  And they are doing it.  They're also doing it without farmer tans, so I think there's a bit of artificial tanning that goes along with wearing a two-piece to the pool.  

Tattoos?  About the same.  Everyone has them.  I didn't see any new or unusual tat placements this year.

There's my yearly pool assessment.  Done.

Oh, before I forget, a couple of new developments around here in our neck of the woods:

1. We sold our camper.  We'd had it for nearly ten years, and hadn't taken it out in the last two.  So, maybe that phase of our life is over...but hopefully not forever.

2. And oh, yeah, we bought a food truck.  So, there's that.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Let's Caramelize Onions!

I admit, caramelized onions don't sound terribly appealing.  Probably because onions are juicy and pungent and a bit spicy.  And it's hard to get past the word caramelized without seeing the word caramel, which brings a sweet, brown candy or sauce to mind.  Hard to put those two things together, I grant you.

In the culinary world, caramelizing is a process to bring forth the natural sugars found in most fruits, vegetables, and meats.  It's what happens when you cook a hamburger or a steak - why the red meat turns brown.  It's why bread browns when it's baking.  And it's why onions get delicious.

A note: Chop more onions than you think you'll need.  They'll reduce and cook down quite a bit, and you'll look at the amount and think: but I cut so much more than that! Yeah, you did, but still.

I julienned my onions for this process, but really any way will work, as long as it's fairly thin. A mandoline is a great tool for this, as you'll get consistency.

This was seconds after I'd dumped my yellow Vidalias into a medium-heat cast-iron skillet.  Cast-iron is not a must, but I prefer it.  There's about two tablespoons of butter all melty underneath the onions.

Here's the onions at the half-hour mark.  Notice the change in color...there's a lot of action going on in those first thirty minutes.  I stirred the onions about every so often, and I added a bit of water once to lift the browned bits up.  I wanted to see how dark these could get, so I left them in, but they're certainly delicious at this stage.  A little salt and pepper would not go remiss at this stage either...and because I had it, neither would a dash of Herbes de Provence.  C'est Français!

There.  I pulled them off the heat fifteen minutes later when I decided I'd caramelized enough. As you can see, they've cooked down quite a bit...I mean, remember what the pan looked like 45 minutes ago?  There's a few onions getting quite dark, near burned, even though I'd turned the heat down to a practical simmer.

However, all's well that ends well.  These were so good!  They work excellently as a burger topper, but I did them on a grilled cheese sandwich with sauteéd mushrooms, blue cheese crumbles, and Muenster cheese.  Wow.  Rich, savory, umami flavor all over the place.

Huh.  I actually started salivating just now.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The 4th of July In Which We Celebrate Great Britain and Walmart

It's high time for flag-waving and patriotic singing and chanting...because it's Independence Day holiday weekend, and you know what else that means.

1. Cookouts.
2. Fireworks.
3. Drinking (for some of course, not all).

These three things are in no order of importance, and depending on who you're talking to, one activity may take great precedence over the other two.  Some choose to celebrate our birthday by drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and Budweiser, some choose to celebrate it by roasting hot dogs and hamburgers, and some choose to celebrate it by shooting off bottle rockets without their parents' permission...

That last one? That was my husband, mid-1980s, and yes, he burned himself badly.  He did not tell his parents and tried to soothe the burn with a milkshake from Burger King.  They eventually found out and yes, he got in trouble.  That, too, is what the Fourth is all about...doing things with your cousins/siblings/grandparents that your parents would NEVER give permission for.  Looks like I should edit the above list.

1. Cookouts.
2. Fireworks.
3. Drinking.
4. Getting into trouble with family members that were NOT your parents.

So. Let's get to the point of this post.

I don't usually celebrate Walmart.  In any form, on any holiday.  But, on a shopping excursion there recently, my niece showed me this:

I love pineapple and I love coconut. And I love them together as well.  This was a beverage that was too too hard for me to pass up.  Zero calories, also?!  Now, that is a bee-you-ti-ful thing.  Yes, I know, probably chockablock full of preservatives and chemicals that are really bad for me...but let's let that slide for right now.  It's America's birthday.

By itself, this is a nice, refreshing, tropical beverage.  But...as you should know by now, I have a hard time leaving any thing by itself.

So, here's my birthday gift to you, America!

I first attempted to mix the flavored water with a rogue bottle of ginger schnapps I purchased some time ago.  The schnapps were too syrupy, which made the drink too sweet, overall.  Then, I developed this concoction:

2 oz gin
Splash lime juice
Pineapple-coconut flavored water (fill the rest of the glass...adjust of course, depending on the size of glass)

I'd have garnished it with a lime wedge, but then I would have had to cut them.  Ain't nobody got time for that right now!

For me personally, this drink is delicious.  I'm already a fan of the floral notes of the gin (originated in England, so hurrah, Britain!), and the carbonated flavored water as a tonic replacement gave the drink a nice, fruity tropical twist.  The lime juice is a personal thing, as I simply like the lime tang.

So, there are you are.  When everyone else around you is guzzling Coors Light, Busch Light, and Lime-A-Ritas***...make one of these.  If anyone gives you a hard time about being un-American whilst you're drinking these, remind them that the pineapple-coconut water comes Walmart, and Sam Walton is about as American as it gets.  And not only that, but gin was birthed in England, a country we had to fight for our independence and is hence the whole reason we are celebrating this holiday at all!


***The author of 'Be Food' would like her readers to know what she is not against PBR, Budweiser, Coors Light, Busch Light, or Lime-A-Ritas, per se.  She is simply employing an oft-used archetype for humor's sake.  Carry on.