Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A report on salt

A few years ago, my sis and her husband gave us a cool collection of salts for Christmas. We use Maldon salt as our daily salt so my sis knew we’d enjoy trying other kinds of salt.

Then we moved and honestly I forgot about the salt—it sat in the back of a cabinet after we moved from Boston to Overland Park, and moved again to our home in Leawood. But when I was organizing our kitchen cabinets a la KonMarie, I ran across the salt and decided it was now or never. So I put the container on the counter and we started experimenting.

To be honest, I had no idea if the colors would translate to differences in taste but mostly they didn’t. Some were saltier or in the case of the smoked salt, smokier. But the main difference we noticed had to do with how fine the grain was and whether the color of the salt discolored our food.

We started with the one on the far right, the Murray River Pink Flake River Salt from Australia and both liked it. I especially liked the texture because it’s flaky like Maldon.

Next, we used the Hawaiian Red Alaea Fine Sea Salt—and boy was it red. It looked like paprika on our food! The taste was fine and the red added a little punch of color to things like eggs.

The Cyprus Black Flake Sea Salt from Cyprus was utterly black—it looked very black on our food and it stained our fingers. So we moved on.

I’m not a fan of most smoked flavors so the next one—Viking Oak Mountain Salt from Denmark—was and is all Kent’s to enjoy. He likes to add it to meat, he says it’s a nice flavor. I’ll take his word for it.

The Himalayan Crystal Pink Mountain Salt from Pakistan was probably the most subtle of all the salts and also had the finest grains. It was a very pale pink, the kind of pink that doesn’t really show up. It wasn’t nearly as pink, for example, as the Murray River Pink Flake River Salt.

Finally, we’re currently using the Qab-nab Taab Sea Salt from El Salvador. It’s also got very fine grains, and a nice mild taste.

So there you have it, a report on some interesting salts. Thanks, Amy and Greg, this was a fun gift!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Spiders and spiders and spiders, oh my!

Two years ago, I shared a photo of a honking big spider that built a gigantic web from our pergola. We named him/her Ralph and left it alone.

A descendant of Mega Spider built another web out there last summer, but I never did get a picture.

This year we have two. Such riches of spiders, it's a wonder we have any bugs at all. But Saturday we did go ahead and break apart the webs because we were cleaning windows and screens and the webs were in the way. Not to worry, though, one of  Ralph's great-great offspring had already rebuilt by the next morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The rest of the Blue Apron meals

Spiced meatballs
I thought I'd go ahead and finish up my review for all three meals we've now cooked and eaten through Blue Apron. On Monday I wrote about the salmon, which was truly yummy and my favorite of the meals so far.

Tuesday night, we had the spiced meatballs with summer squash salad you see in this photo. It, too, was quite good although probably my third favorite of the three meals. It's in third place not because of any deficit of the meal or recipe but because the other two were so good.

Last night we had the chicken stir fry which Kent had cooked ahead on Sunday. We figured of the three dishes, it would probably store the best for a couple of days and we were right. The rice is cooked in water plus a little reconstituted coconut milk and that added a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the meal. It's a slightly spicy dish, and I think if we were to make it again I might want to dial the spice up just a little bit, although honestly it was yummy as made.

We've skipped delivery this week (remember, we weren't sure if we wanted any more meals) but the following week, we'll be trying these:

  • Tomato-basil burgers with green bean/tomato salad
  • Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken with Rice
  • Whole Grain Spaghetti with Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Mascarpone Cheese

I'll let you know what we think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A fond farewell

Six years ago, I was wearing these shoes when the water main burst and flooded our place in Boston. Little did I know at the time that these shoes would be nearly the only shoes available to me for the next five months.  They served me well, as Cole Haan shoes often do—in fact, they were the second set of this particular style that I bought. The other pair looked more like athletic shoes because they were white and black rather than the grey and maroon you see here.

I’ve worn them a lot. In addition to them being the only shoes I had for a while, and then one of two pairs I had while our apartment was reconstructed, I continued to wear them for the next several years as my go to pair of casual shoes.

But in the last few years, I’ve noticed that one of the shoes squeaks. Even though I can’t see it, I suspect that the sole has a crack that runs the width of the shoe and that’s what’s causing the squeak. It’s enough of the squeak that I don’t wear the shoes much anymore. I think I’ve worn them twice in the last 12 months. So it’s time to say good bye to them. What I can’t decide is if someone else might like them in spite of the squeak or if it’s time to toss them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I thought I outgrew this

I’m recovering from a sinus infection and ear infections. Yes that’s right, ear infections—I used to get them as a little girl but once I got my tonsils out at age 9, my ears didn’t bother me again. Well until now.

I was pretty sure I had a sinus infection, now that I know what they feel like. And I knew my ears were very uncomfortable and clogged. But when the doctor looked in my right ear, she murmured “Hmmm red.” Then she looked in the left ear: “Also red.” Then up each nostril: “Red” and “Red.” Only my throat was spared a bit. She looked and said, “Pink, pink, pink oh there, there’s the red.”


I’m finishing up a round of antibiotics and while I’m glad I live in a time when they are available, I sure don’t care for the side effects. People have been asking me if I’m feeling better and the truth is not so much. As my sinuses and ears quit hurting so much, I was feeling all the gastric side effects. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing we have two bathrooms in our house.

But now all parts of me are doing better and I’m hopeful that this round of ear infections was just a momentary aberration and that I don’t have any more issues with my ears. I think it’s probably too much to hope for that my sinuses stay clear.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blue Apron—a review

Warning—lots of photos ahead

Have you heard of Blue Apron? You can read about it here, but basically it’s a subscription food service that delivers the ingredients for three meals ready to be cooked. My friend Magpie was given a week’s worth of service from Blue Apron but she forgot to cancel so ended up having it for a second (maybe third) week. So Blue Apron gave her a week of free meals to give to a friend; when she asked around, I raised my hand.

The recipes this week
Kent and I have talked about the rut we tend to get in when planning meals. Neither of us have much energy during the week to cook involved dishes, even though we both like to cook a lot. So we will cook several meals on Sunday and then fill in with quick hits like omelets (which I learned to make like a champ from my grandmother) or something similarly quick. They're tasty meals and fill us up just fine but after a while, we’re bored. When we’re bored is when we order carry out sushi or just flat go out and that’s not necessarily good for either our budget or our bulges.

So the idea of Blue Apron interested us both. Our delivery came Friday and Kent’s cooked up two of the meals today—we just finished one and the other one is in the fridge for later this week. We still have a third meal to fix, spiced meatballs with garlic toast and summer squash salad.

All the food
First thing: You get everything you need to make the three dishes, and the food is fresh. The produce looked amazing as did the salmon and chicken. The Thai basil was wonderful, and the paper bags have tiny plastic bottles with screw top lids that hold the red wine vinegar and ponzu sauce.  Our three meals are:

  • Spiced meatballs
  • Stir-fried ginger basil chicken
  • Seared salmon and panzanella

The food comes slightly prepped. For example, the salmon had been skinned and the chicken for the second dish was diced, and everything was already measured. You still need to chop, cut, etc. but that's only to be expected. Kent—who is quite handy in the kitchen—thought that some of the prep time given might be a little optimistic. The chicken dish prep time was listed as 15 minutes but took more like 20. We'll see how the meatball dish goes.

Tonight we had the salmon and I would change only one part of it. The salad portion has croutons in with the tomatoes and corn but to my mind it wasn't needed. In fact, Kent only made half the croutons which still seemed like a lot, and we ate the rest of the bread (which had been baked with olive oil and then rubbed with a clove of garlic) as a side dish.

We got to try some things we haven't been able to get here before, like the Thai basil. The peppers in the salmon dish were shishito peppers, which neither of us have heard of and they were perfect for the dish. Also heirloom cucumbers, which we've wanted to try but can't get here.

More photos:

Chicken stir fry

Salmon dish ingredients

Salmon dish salad

Net/net, we like this well enough to try a few more weeks. Thanks, Magpie!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Make a dragon want to retire

I’ve never loved summer heat the way a couple of my friends do. They positively glory in heat and humidity and find my dislike nearly impossible to understand. I don’t mind summer temperatures, but when the humidity reaches 80% or more, then it’s just impossible to cool off and I feel sticky and gross.

This summer has been very warm and quite humid—you know it’s bad when the temperature is in the high 80s but the heat index is over 100. And I know I’ve mentioned that some of my runs have been downright miserable. I’m not exaggerating, I’ve gotten overheated to the point of nausea and have had to walk for a bit in the vain hope of cooling off just a bit.

I’m not alone. My granddaughter has struggled with heat exhaustion this year, to the point of throwing up and feeling generally miserable. I feel for her. I remember struggling with the heat in basic training. I was in southern Alabama from mid-July through late September and that heat was no joke. I had to drop out of a couple of training runs just to throw up because I got so overheated. You can imagine how that went over with my drill sergeants.

I’m probably always going to be sensitive to the heat. At least now I can walk for 30 seconds or so while on a run and not have a drill sergeant yelling at me and calling me names.

Here's a little Bruno Mars for you again--he's so hot, he's cool.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

So this happened today

It’s hot here in Kansas. Really hot, with heat index values over 100 F most days. That in turn can lead to some pretty terrific thunderstorms with a whole lot of rain. We’ve had so much rain this summer that we haven’t bothered to have our sprinklers blown out. Why pay to do that when we’re getting enough rain that everything is growing like crazy (and in fact, it’s been hard to get out to weed because the ground is so wet)?

Anyway, the forecast today was for sunny, hot and humid, but rain wasn’t in the picture until later tonight. Surprise! We had what sure seemed like a microburst on our street—nearly straight line winds and torrential rain but the weather radar barely showed anything.

As it was raining and thundering, I walked to the kitchen to start working on lunch when BOOM! A pretty good sized branch landed on top of our pergola and startled the snot out of me. Then five minutes later, the sun was shining again as if the storm had never happened.

So I opened the patio door and noticed a man standing just inside our backyard. Well it was our neighbor from across the street, and he too had seen the branch fall. Like me, he thought it was a pretty good sized branch but he’d thought it fell on our house.

And 30 minutes after all that, Kent was able to get on the ladder, crawl onto the pergola (thankfully it's very sturdy) and tug and shove the thing until it gently fell over the edge and landed on our patio. We’ll have to get it all cut up and bagged tomorrow so that it can get put out with the rest of the yard trash on Monday.