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Archive for March 10th, 2012

Saturday morning

What a dingy morning. So no roadtripping. Which is OK, since I can compose this post.

So it’s been two months now since I’ve become gainfully employed again, and I feel like I’m starting to get back into my old routines. Like my traditional Saturday morning. I used to set the alarm clock for 9:30 AM, so I could get up and make myself breakfast, then eat whilst listening to Car Talk.

Well, I’ve still been staying up late on Friday night and letting myself sleep late on Saturday. But I’m starting to get to bed by 11 lately, and this morning I woke up about 8:30. Which gave me plenty of time to watch this morning’s Craig Ferguson I DVRed. And instead of staying in bed to watch the episode of Red Eye I DVRed like usual, I got up and turned it on in the living room. Then I listened whilst making breakfast. And coffee. I’ve got it worked out so I can do a new pot once a week, so there’s a lingering coffee aroma the whole weekend.

What’s with the coffee machine, you may ask? Well, a while back the coffee pot broke. But the coffee machine itself still works perfectly well. I could have tried getting a new coffeepot, but being lazy (and cheap), I found one of my metal pots that fit and have used that ever since. I was making smaller batches more frequently, but doing it once a week is working out nicely. I was leaving it just out the whole time, but eventually decided it would be better to store the extra in the fridge, which I now do in a large plastic bottle.

By the way, I drink extremely diluted coffee. One cup of brewed coffee, with about three cups of water added. Two “cups” like that each morning. There’s a method to the madness. You hear about how we should drink more water. This is my way of doing it. It also forces me to take a break from the computer occasionally, if you know what I mean, or I’d sit in front of it all day.

As far as making the coffee, I have a few tricks I’ve picked up over time.

1) Add salt to the grounds. Not a lot, just a few shakes from a shaker. Maybe a eighth to quarter of a teaspoon? It doesn’t go through the filter, and reduces the bitterness. If that’s your thing.

2) Add spices to the grounds. My favorites are cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Sometimes all, sometimes only one. Usually at least cinnamon. Cardamom is frighteningly expensive (about $10 a bottle), but you need very little in the grounds. About the same amount as the salt. I bought 3 bottles back in 2004 (they were on sale), and I’ve only used 1-1/2 of them.

For breakfast, my old reliable is eggs with potatoes. You fry some cut up potatoes, add some veggies and/or meat, add spices, cook some more, add the scrambled eggs and stir, cook until done. Yummy, and only one pan to clean. Did I mention, lazy?

I’ll use one of two pans: non-stick or cast iron. The non-stick, of course, is the easiest to clean. But it’s so big that it overfits even the largest burner. Which is fine if you want to cook something, move it off to the side and cook something else. This morning, I felt more like using the cast iron. I’ve got a set of four, and the largest fits just right on the largest burner.

Funny thing about the cast iron. They’re Mom’s, and she would wash them with soapy water after cooking with them. I know, some of you are screaming. I was so surprised that Mom didn’t know about seasoning cast iron. I was able to clue her in, but I can’t help but think of all the years lost of having the pans nicely seasoned. They’re still great to cook with, though, and getting better all the time.

For the potatoes, often I’ll use canned. Sometimes whole ones that I chop up, sometimes sliced ones. But fresh potatoes are so (relatively) cheap, that I’m using them more. I saw somewhere (on The Chew or Rachael Ray) how you could make your own hash browns with a grater. Word to the wise. Don’t use red potatoes. They’re very watery and you’ll end up with mush. Use a firmer baking potato. Maybe Yukon gold. I haven’t tried that yet, I’ll let y’all know when I do. Plus get a box grater. I used three different cheese graters, because they got clogged so quickly.

All I have on hand right now, though, is red potatoes. So I just chopped two medium ones and made home fries, which I like just as much. The last time I did this, the potatoes were still a bit raw, even after frying. This time, I popped the chopped up potatoes in the microwave for about 3 minutes. The end result was much better this time.

I didn’t use any meat, but I had so many veggies I didn’t miss that at all. Half a green pepper, a small onion, half a stalk of celery and a carrot. I don’t think I’ve used celery or carrot in breakfast before, but I’m keeping them on hand more often since they’re a good base for other stuff. I could have added broccoli, but thought I had enough stuff. The spinach I didn’t feel like defrosting. And I don’t have any zucchini right now, which is another favorite I like to keep on hand. Let me give you the favorite veggies list:

1) Onions

2) Peppers (green, other colors less often since they’re so expensive)

3) Zucchini

4) Broccoli

5) Spinach (frozen, since it’s such a bargain, fresh on occasion)

6) Potatoes

7) Carrots

8) Celery

9) Mushrooms (canned, fresh ones when they’re on sale)

If I have them on hand, I can always throw something tasty together for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Better if you have rice and/or noodles, as well as beans. A decently stocked fridge and pantry will be your friend forever.

On to spices. Garlic foremost. Usually powdered or flakes or in a jar. But I realized how cheap fresh garlic is, for how much you use. Plus I saw a nice trick about grating garlic cloves. Much easier than slicing, and the result releases more of the garlicky goodness. Other spices I added were salt and pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes, and thyme. After the potatoes got nice and brown, and the onions got translucent, I added the scrambled eggs.

I only do scrambled. I don’t like eggs any other way. Integrated, not segregated, that’s my motto. If you like them overeasy or sunnyside up or somesuch, feel free. But it’s harder to do as a one pan meal.

To the eggs I added parsley and tarragon. Two spices I highly recommend keeping on hand are thyme and tarragon. Thyme was Mom’s go-to spice, and it’s become one of mine. It’s great to add to almost anything. Tarragon is one of my go-to spices. It’s wonderful with eggs, as well as chicken and fish dishes. I made a creamy fish soup a while back and added a lot of tarragon, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever made. Others disagreed, but I liked it a lot, so more for me.

If you have a whole foods type store in your area, avail yourself of it for spices. Bottles of spices in the grocery store are usually $3 to $5. Thyme and tarragon fall into that category. At the local whole foods store, where you can get spices in bulk, I’ve gotten enough to fill the same sized bottles for less than 50 cents. Still dried, but much fresher. Nowadays, being able to add lots of flavor to food for very little money is even more important, and a fantastic way is spices and herbs. Get fresh ones if you want to splurge now and then. I’m also thinking of trying to grow some, which is another cost saver.

I also put in half a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies at the end that I had on hand. It was from cheesy salsa I threw together last night for chip dipping (some Velveeta and milk, melted in the microwave, then into it some of the tomatoes with chilies).

How’d breakfast turn out? Pretty good. I wouldn’t say restaurant quality, at least for looks, but as long as it tastes good, that’s what counts for me.  Sometimes it’s a bit of a curse to like your own cooking. Oh well, the burdens of talent. 😉

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The Red Barn is on the  Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation, about 30 miles southwest of Okeechobee, near the northwest shore of Lake Okeechobee. It was important to the beginnings of the Seminole cattle industry. Should you ever take a circumnavigational trip around the Lake, it’s an interesting detour. I recommend such a trip, as you get to see a lot of undeveloped Florida and remnants of tourism from back in the day. The barn was built in 1941 or 1942. The original corrugated metal roof was replaced in 2005 after Hurricane Wilma passed through. The barn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. See more photos here.

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