Category Archives: Food

All in for Fall

Fall has arrived here in Colorado. It seemed to happen almost overnight. Or maybe I’m just not as observant as I could be. The temps are now pretty steady in the 50’s at this point so the days of wearing sandals on the regular are gone, at least until March or April anyway.  The leaves are changing and as I’m driving around I’m treated to the sights of beautiful maples with rich hues of burgundy, gold, and orange.

Here’s what I am loving about this particular fall season:

  • Waking up to those dark mornings. I know, it sounds a little weird, but there’s a coziness I feel when I’m padding down the stairs in pursuit of a cup of hot coffee, of course, in the wee hours after a good night’s slumber and the house is shrouded in the quiet darkness. It’s peaceful and comforting. Though some mornings as a result I have to put up a pretty good internal argument against crawling back under those covers.
  • Cooking hearty meals and delectable, soul warming desserts. Recently, I made a recipe I’ve had forever and came up with a way to make it even more scrumptious. I will share that recipe at the end of this post. I also made my blogger friend CJ’s apple cake on Sunday and it was seriously the bomb! I highly recommend it! I got a lot of compliments from my co-workers when I brought it to work yesterday. It’s the perfect go-to for fall potlucks.
  • Bringing out the fall wardrobe. I was smart over the summer and picked up a few pieces while thrift store shopping to add to what I already had. My girly-girl side came out as I tried on different combinations of things to wear to work and when simply being out and about this fall.
  • Speaking of fall wardrobes, another thing I’m getting pretty psyched about is Halloween costumes. As I mentioned in my fall themed blog post last year, being empty-nesters has allowed us to re-claim this holiday for ourselves. I am currently pondering what costumes we will be donning this Halloween. Contenders are me as a good witch and Hubs as Johnny Cash (my version of super heroes for these times we are in) or “Blue Waves” (which we fervently hope come via our ballot boxes next month). Here’s us in our costumes last year…20171028_201957 (1)
  • Voting season: oh, so many reasons to be happy about this. Like perhaps there will be a surge in the number of Americans casting their ballots. Perhaps sane, rational, not geriatric and not all male candidates will be elected this time. Also that it-namely, the constant political ads and political junk mail-will be over on 11/7.

Now for that promised recipe:

French Dip Sandwiches

Disclaimer: I wrote down this recipe eons ago on a recipe card, and if I could credit the cook who I got it from I would, but I have no earthly idea who that would be.

Ingredients:

3 lbs. beef chuck roast

2 Cups water

1/2 cup Soy Sauce (I always use the low sodium kind)

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 bay leaf

3 whole peppercorns

French bread

Put the beef in the crockpot. Mix up all the other ingredients (minus the french bread of course) in a bowl. Pour it over the beef. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8 hours + if you like. Shred or slice (depending on the level of tenderness) the beef and put between two slices of crusty french bread.

My attempt at morphing the leftovers (which I froze last week and am thawing as I write this) into something even better is this: Slice yellow onions and saute them in butter. Drain the liquid from the beef and cook it in a saucepan, possibly adding additional water and beef bouillon. Heat up the slices of beef in the microwave. Put the broth in soup bowls and add the onions, then the beef. Top with shredded mozzarella. Cut up chunks of the french bread and toss it into the soup bowls. Voila! French onion soup, my way.

What are you jazzed about this fall season? 

 

 

 

 

Polly’s PSA for food bank donors

I write this post out of sheer frustration as an employee of a food bank.

My primary motivator, however, is to encourage the hell out of you to continue donating to your local food banks.

I know that folks who donate food to their local food banks have the very best of intentions. They recognize that they personally are fortunate to have enough food to eat each day. And they have authentic compassion for those who do not.

Like the blond and upbeat super couponer sisters who come into our food bank on a weekly basis with bags upon bags of food, paper products, and personal care products. Like the young mom with the darling toddler who brought in a large box of high quality food she found in the cupboards of her grandmother’s house after she passed. Like the kind folks who have brought in fresh produce straight from their home gardens to share with the low income senior citizens we serve.

BUT.

Some food donors are missing the boat when it comes to sharing their bounty with the poor and hungry in their communities.

Like the dude who came in a couple of weeks ago with three large, and very heavy mind you, boxes, of non-perishables.

As the operator of our small food bank, it was of course my job to go through each of these boxes, organize the items, and find places for them on our shelves. No big deal. Typically, this is a joyful task for me. I get to do it usually a few times each week. It’s kind of like Christmas, because I don’t have a bloody clue what goodies are going to be found inside. The only real difference is that the goodies are not for me.

Unfortunately, in this particular circumstance, only approximately 10% of the items in the three very large and heavy boxes (oh, geez, did I already mention that?) were, in my view, fit for human consumption.

Let’s see…what did I find in these boxes? I know your curiosity must be at least a tad bit piqued by now, right? There was an opened bag of goldfish crackers which expired in 2014. There were several cans of baked beans which expired in 2015. There were multiple containers of frosting with expiration dates in 2013 (I looked at the semi-see- through bottom of them and almost hurled). Then there was a half used up box of chicken broth that had expired in 2016. The “youngest” food items expired in 2017, and disappointingly, there were just but a few of them.

Now, I fully comprehend that many non-perishable food items are technically safe for human consumption anywhere from 3-5 years past their expiration dates (I check the Eat by Date website regularly). However, I also know from experience that the seniors who come in to our food bank usually take a second or two to check expiration dates, and more often than not, they will choose the items that have not reached their expiration dates quite yet over those items that have. And really, I have too much respect for the palates of our senior clients to put food items that are a year or more past their expiration date on our shelves.

Thankfully, the dude who brought in all of that worthless, inedible food is the exception and not the rule. 

I couldn’t help but ponder, as I was going through these boxes full of food, the amount of time and physical effort undertaken, not just by me, but by him as well, to lug all this food into our food bank. What a colossal  waste of time and effort, right?! That day was most certainly the most frustrating day I’ve had at this job of mine.

So, here’s the deal: please keep being your wonderful selves through donating your food items (and don’t forget the toiletries which, btw, food stamps do not cover) to your local food banks. Just choose to have some respect for your hungry beneficiaries and take a half second to actually check the expiration dates on everything as you are packing it up. Make a choice to eat (potentially at your own risk, depending on the item) or discard those items that have long ago expired. Donate those items that have not yet been opened too. Use common sense. Ask yourself if you would want your elderly aunt to consume those crackers that expired in 2015. If the answer is no, then don’t waste your valuable time and effort and the valuable time and effort of your friendly food bank employee or volunteer by donating it. Eat it or chuck it!

Anyone who has the impulse to say to me “beggars can’t be choosers” can stick it. That really is a phrase that ought to be outlawed. The dear folks that come into food banks do not deserve to be called beggars. They have not chosen to be poor. They would much rather not have to come into a food bank. It’s demoralizing. Many of them are subsisting (or trying their damn best to) on less than $1500 a month from Social Security or SSDI. Often, their rent or mortgage payments are 50% or more than what they get each month. Doesn’t leave much for food, does it? They deserve good quality, not-yet-expired food to eat. Just like the rest of us.

 

The food of winter: Chili

I love chili. Making it, eating it, experimenting with it. It’s one of those rare dishes that almost everyone I know loves. It’s especially perfect during these winter months when you are chilled to the bone. I remember as a kid, when my mom would make a big batch, I’d watch my dad slather on what had to be a good tablespoon of butter onto each Saltine to accompany his hearty bowl of chili. To my dad, everything is better with butter.

One of the few things I remember my dad’s mom making was chili. Only hers was different than all the rest. She added chunks of celery and spaghetti. It was more of a soup than a chili, actually. It smelled and tasted delicious.

My oldest spawn has always been a fan of chili herself. Every year, while we were living in Wisconsin, there was a chili cook off sometime in February. She and I always talked of attending, but for whatever reason, we never did. I regret that.

When Hubs was on a rotating shift schedule and the spawn were elementary school aged, I remember heating up a can of Hormel chili (no beans) in the microwave to create chili dogs for supper sometimes.  My oldest and I loved this messy treat, while the youngest was perfectly happy with a plain old hot dog.

So in that spirit, I’d like to share with you the version of chili I came up with earlier this week. Hubs and I agreed it was the best chili I ever made, so I thought it only right to share it with you all.

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Ingredients:

1 lb. beef stew meat

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 small cans tomato sauce

1 can black beans, drained

1 can chili beans, drained

1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes

Chili powder, to taste

Chihula hot sauce, to taste

Heat up the oil in a skillet. Brown the beef. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. It’s ok to leave it reddish inside. Plop it into a crockpot. Add cans of tomato sauce, black and chili beans, and Ro-Tel tomatoes. Sprinkle in some chili powder and Chihula, to taste. Give it a good stir and set the crockpot to low. After a long day of work, walk in the door and savor the aroma. Pat yourself on the back for taking the approximately 20 minutes this morning to put this deliciousness together. Chop some yellow onions and get out the shredded cheddar and sour cream. Spoon up that chili into bowls and add the flourishes to your liking. Eat up!

And if you’re a family of two like we are, give yourself another pat on the back, because later in the week, or heck even next week, you will have a night of no cooking, because this chili freezes very well in individual plastic tupperware thingies.

Wednesday’s weird-ish wisdom

In honor of it being Wednesday, and on account of having a head full of snot (I hab a heb code at the bobent) along with a shit-ton of half baked blog post ideas in there as well, I write this post today. True focus is eluding me.

There. I have successfully lowered your expectations. Now things have nowhere to go but up, right?

Like all of us, I am a work in progress. I am also subject to change. Call me flaky. Whatever. In my 50 years on planet earth, I have nonetheless developed some amount of wisdom.

I always enjoyed Oprah’s column “What I know for sure”, which was planted at the end of each monthly magazine her empire churned out. It may still be a feature, but for whatever reason, I no longer subscribe. Anyhoo, here’s my own personal take on it:

What I think  I know for sure:

That we all need something to look forward to. It helps motivate you to get out of bed every morning, put one foot in front of the other, and navigate the ups and downs of daily existence.  Even if that “something” is  just a cupcake you’re going to enjoy on your afternoon break at work. Or a dinner out with friends. Or a family barbeque. Or a church picnic. Okay, secrets out. Food is indeed my biggest personal motivator. 

That not all my blog posts are as good as I think they are as I hit that “Publish” button.  Which sucks. But it also pushes me to pen a better post tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

That regular exercise, even my moderately paced 25 minute walks around my neighborhood, makes me feel better and more capable, both mentally and physically.

That children in preschool and elementary school should be taught compassion in schools. As an actual part of the curriculum. We need more of that wonderful shit if we are going to have the good future we all want for this world.

That it is of extreme importance to me as a creative writer and human being on planet Earth to maintain my sense of curiosity about all things, big and little. My feeling is that if I lose this essential part of myself, I will cease to exist. Because I would die of boredom, of course.

That I will never regret starting this blog. I figure at the very least, it will be considered a legacy for my spawn and any spawn that have spawned or will spawn from my spawn. And if I made anyone laugh, that’s just the frosting on the brownie.

brownie

That the most depressing phrase that seems to be trending is the following: “It is what it is”. The only upside, according to me, is if you allow it to turn into this one: “Let it Be”. Because sometimes that is the best and most simple thing you can do in a situation in which you feel you have little to no control.

That the concept of a “Gap Year” for 50 year olds, of course should most certainly become a thing. I speak from experience. Nothing could have been better for me, upon moving to Colorado one year ago, than pressing the pause button on my career. I’ve had time to work on improving myself through reading, volunteering, and creative writing via this blog. I can see much more clearly now.

Okay, my song brain has kicked in, so I will just leave you lovely folks with this…and you can sing along because the lyrics are attached!

 

Polly’s party game

I think it’s high time I bring out the pinata and play a game with my blogging posse (clearly I have yet to get the letter “P” out of my system). What do you say peeps?

Image result for images of pinatas

 

It’s important to me that you understand that next to my sheer enjoyment of expressing myself through creative writing via this blog, I am finding the connections I’ve been making with my followers and other bloggers meaningful and inspiring. Plus, I’m positively pining to procure your perceptions.  Clearly, Playful/Pubescent Polly is at the reins of this pinata pony now. Okay, time to proceed.

6 questions. Nothing too preposterous.

First, here’s a pic of my petunias (it’s entirely possible that I have ADHD, but that’s another post entirely. Someday. If I remember to pen it.)

20170627_152424
Check out the sad little white one in the front. Guess petunias aren’t perfect either.

1)If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

P: To be a butterfly with great hearing. A purple one, because most of the time that is my favorite color. So everyone who sees me thinks I’m all pretty and innocent. But what they don’t know is that I have supersonic hearing. And when I fly on back home I can turn back into myself and write down everything I heard (to later be used as fodder for my blog posts), because unlike the version of myself sans wings, I also have hyperthymesia.

thanks Wikipedia

2) Dogs or cats?

P: For me, it’s dogs all the way! There is a reason people why the word “dog” is simply “God” spelled backwards. And just like God, dogs love all of us unconditionally. Cats are a whole other ball of twine from my perspective. They are a persnickety lot. Plus I’m allergic to them, or 88% of them anyway. On top of that, “Cat” spelled backwards is “tac” which is not even a word. Except for “Tic Tacs” which isn’t a real word either, just a minimally enjoyable mint.

3.) Would you rather see John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen in concert?

P: Well I’d totally be thrilled to see both of them, as their songs contributed to the soundtrack of my pubescent years. But since I have to choose, I pick “The Boss”. For practical reasons primarily. Springsteen is the oldest of the two, thus statistically (don’t judge me, I’m not a mathematician for Pete’s sake) more likely to croke prior to Johnny Cougar. Time is of the essence here.

4) Who would play you in the movie or t.v. version of your life?

P: Mary Louise Parker or Winona Ryder. Keep your pessimistic opinions to yourselves please. A girl can dream right?

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10-composite-winona-ryder

5) What’s your current platform?

P: I am on a path to my own personal new reality, transporting myself in a creative writing vehicle that doesn’t always follow the road signs.

6) Pick what you perceive as the perfect ingredient for the best dessert: Pineapples or Peanut Butter.

P: Totally depends on the day as I love them both. Pineapples are awesome because they look really cool and they are the official fruit of Hawaii, or so I presume. And I really want Hubs and I to go there someday. And they are healthy (I did mention I may have ADHD right?). Probably even a superfood. Peanut butter is awesome because of the texture, plus it is a good source of protein. So it’s a total toss up.

Pineapple
See I told you it was a Hawaiian delicacy!

So here’s my plan: I’m going to rest on my laurels sipping a pina colada while beating my pretend pinata to death until it explodes with candy while you peruse this post and provide me with your perspectives. I’ll be as patient as I can be (which is not very).

Peace out Peeps!

P.S. Sorry I couldn’t resist. I had to persist.

Put some yummy in your tummy

20170321_125009 (1)My name is Rhonda and I am a foodie. I love shopping for it, making it, and especially eating it. For over a week, I was craving mexican food. Now, the hubs and I are within walking distance of a fabulous mexican restaurant (El Mirador), but I had the urge to slip into “domestic goddess” mode, so I came up with my own mexican dish last night. I found a recipe for a chicken enchilada bake on Pinterest which I tweaked to suit our palates in the best way possible. And here it is….

Ingredients first:

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts

Taco seasoning mix

1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (should always have this in your pantry IMHO)

So…put the chicken breasts in your crockpot. Sprinkle them with a generous amount of taco seasoning mix. Crack open your can of Ro-Tel and pour it over the chicken. Add a little bit of water. Cook on low for 6 hours or so. Be sure to enjoy the aroma.

Take chicken out of crockpot. Shred it with forks.

Now for the rest of the ingredients:

2 cans black beans

1 can green chilies (more if you like)

2 cups of shredded mexican cheese

2 cans red enchilada sauce

Green onions (I used a couple of bunches of them)

1/2 package or so of corn tortillas

Then you take a 9×13 baking pan and do some layering, like you’re making lasagna. Start with pouring about half  a can of enchilada sauce into the pan. Rip up some corn tortillas in half and lay them on top. Then 1/3 of the black beans (rinse and drain them first), 1/3 of the green chilies and green onions, then 1/3 of the chicken and 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Then do another layer of the tortillas, 1/3 of the enchilada sauce, beans, chilies, green onions, chicken, then more cheese. Do a third layer of all, then top with more tortillas and pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then take the foil off, cover with some more shredded cheese and bake another 10 minutes. Once it’s out of the oven, you can top it with whatever you like. I used some diced up avocado, sour cream and salsa.

If you enjoy a good mexican dish, you must try this. It is sooo good. And it leaves lots of leftovers. Speaking of leftovers, I think it’s lunchtime.

Happy cooking, friends!