Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday 27 October 2015

I know it's been awhile since I've posted one of my toaster oven events.  If you're not familiar with my original plan, here's the link from December 2013.  My plan was derailed with my mom's death and the subsequent on-going travels to help my dad, but I'm thinking I may resume this feature.  I'm not sure I'll remember to do it regularly though, but I'll try.

In the past, to catch you up, I'd posted about the first, and most obvious thing I could fix in the toaster oven - toast!  And in that first post, I told about how I don't have a 'normal' oven, and showed pictures of the very large toaster oven I found at Walmart.  It was very shiny and clean on the inside back then.  With my absences, my guys were, well, guys, and these two guys choose to know nothing about cleaning, so my shiny, clean toaster oven is now anything but.  I have thoroughly scrubbed one rack, having to use one of those soapy scouring pads and a whole lot of elbow grease and time to get it that way.  I'm not going to show any pictures of the oven for awhile - I need to find how to really clean the inside, and spend the time to clean the other rack.

The other items to date, have been a two ingredient cake, a prime rib roast, baked potatoes, a turkey pot pie (though that wasn't done as a specific TOT event), a mixed fruit pie, bbq country ribs (not as a TOT event either), and that's as far as I got.  Not very far indeed.  I need motivation to cook more so I will attempt to progress with a weekly (hopefully) entry for my Toaster Oven Tuesday.  Here's the latest, another very easy sampling:

It began with this ready-to-bake meal purchased from Costco.  While still frozen...
 ...it is removed from it's package to be placed in this dish. 
 This is an 8" x 11" I think, which is absolutely perfectly sized and shaped for the lasagna.
 I gave it a quick spray ... you know how cheese and tomato sauce can stick!

Frozen lasagna in the dish.
I covered it with foil, and left it on my stove-top to thaw.  Though the instructions say not to thaw, I've discovered that thawing is the secret to baking this in a toaster oven, and having it actually reach the internal temperature shown on the box without taking twice the time.  Had I thought of it earlier, I'd have prepared it to this point a day ahead so that it could thaw in the refrigerator (IN the glass baking dish).  I wasn't thinking ahead, so had to do what I could; it was still not completely thawed and didn't take too much longer as I used my toaster oven's convection feature.

Wouldn't you know! I didn't even think to take a picture of it after it came out.  It looked great!  It was baked covered with foil until the last 10 minutes according to the directions. The last 10 minutes without foil gives it a chance for the cheese to brown and get a little crispy, but just a little.  I served it with a green salad, green beans, and garlicky biscuits...I'll highlight the biscuits another time :)

Now, someone may ask or be thinking, 'why not just leave it in the container it comes in?'... The package gives no toaster oven instructions.  Probably because most ovens aren't this large and the potential fire hazard given the baking container is cardboard with a plastic film that is left on instead of foil. Additionally, I just like how it cooks better in the glass dish. I also know that it isn't going to overflow this glass dish.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Today's View

As I was sitting here thinking about my lack of goals - always a weak point - I decided I'd just do a little bit of a pictorial with a few comments.  

My creativity space that is sorely lacking a clean, open space to work in.  I really need the cabinetry that was originally planned for the wall where the printer is.

I've been craving something gooey and sweet.  This was making its rounds on social media so I thought I'd try it.  I needed two cans of peaches but had only one so used a can of fried apples as well.  It wasn't as ooey-gooey as I'd hope, but still, it tasted good.  Next time: a smaller pan, I think I'd like it 'deeper'.

These still need to be done. 

These are clean and dry and just need to be put away - plastic doesn't always dry in the dishwasher, so that's why they're on the counter.

It's not 'perfectly' cleaned off, but it's far better than it was first thing this morning.

"To Be Posted" accumulates all receipts to be entered into Quicken, "Ready to file" is after is has been and/or reconciled.  Posting done, filing not done.

This got dusted but not polished...another day.

This part of the bathroom got cleaned!  The toilet and floors did not.  Ideally (in my world) even this would be cleaner - this was all new about three years ago but in my absence, and with our awful water, there is build up around the fixtures that needs a little more elbow grease and de-scaler applied.
This is just a taste of a few areas around the house.  My mind is as scattered as these photos - every room has an area or areas that need deep cleaning, not just surface cleaning.  Who knew it would be so hard to get back on track?  The dust is prolific - I could dust half a dozen times a day.  

I fight with myself between "playing" at whatever hobby calls me and striving to get caught up on all that needs to be done with the housework.  I get frustrated constantly doing the same chore over and over and over.  I know, and accept, that as a 'housewife' it IS my first priority to care for my home, but the frustration is deep of dealing with what I perceive to be inconsideration from the others living here.  I'll give one example that weighs on me.
The 6-bag laundry sorters.

The upper section where I hang clean laundry as it comes from the dryer.  Grunge towels are kept on the upper shelf, baskets (notice there's only one - the other is in the 17 year-olds bedroom STILL with clean clothes that were to have been put away & basket returned), and clean rugs.
In my mind (and it would work with their cooperation) I have a laundry system.  It IS in place, just not followed.  I have asked ONLY that they bring their dirty clothes on a daily basis and place them on the washing machine.  One of them walks right past the washing machine to get to his car!  Once there, I will sort them into the respective bag so that when any bag is full enough for a load, I will do that load.  Ideally, I would be doing no more than a load or two every day.  Nope! One piles his laundry up in one area of the bedroom floor, the other leaves his wherever he removes it on his bedroom floor.  One is 61, the other is 17.  Eventually, and often after I either go ahead and gather the laundry myself or they eventually carry their big armloads down, it gets to the washer, where I then have a much larger task of sorting and by then all the bags are full and need to be done, so it becomes a marathon day or two of laundry.  Mind you, I'm only asking for their clothes!  I gather towels, bedding, etc. because those are done separately.  

That concludes today's ranting and whining.

I just had a series of texts from Nick - his school had a special career outing event today.  He had to be at the school cafeteria by 7:30 this morning dressed "business casual" and it was mandatory.  They were bused from the school to the event location.  He texted because, the event is now over, but the bus driver was no where to be found!  About 10 minutes later, he texted that the bus was finally there, so it'll take about 20 minutes to get back to the school and then he gets to come home for the day.  He'll be hungry as he had no lunch with him and it'll be after 1:00 p.m. before he gets home.  

He's doing well in most of his classes with As and Bs, but Spanish, that's another story.  This is his 2nd year of Spanish, and he finished the semester with a D!  After talking with two other mom's, one's son is at a different high school and the other's son is at a private school, both also taking Spanish, and their sons are also having the same problem and they've talked with other mom's too whose children are having a problem.  We wondered if there isn't a city-wide problem with how Spanish is being taught in the schools.  

I'd better go work on something - one bite at a time :/

Monday, October 19, 2015

This Week

If anyone wants to know what I have been doing all week since my last post, this is it.

I've worked some more on recipe and menu review, tossing, saving, tossing, saving - haven't used any of them to cook by yet.  

I've worked on updating my stamp album - after 14 years I'd forgotten what I'd done with it, and what supplies I need in order to have it organized and up to date. I need to purchase glassine envelopes and window mounts.  I have yet to put things back into the closet from whence one box of related materials was hiding....behind EVERYTHING of course.

I've also resubscribed to a genealogy site..for six months, and hopefully I'll make good use of my subscription.  With my back and forth traveling since Feb. 2014, I let it lapse and haven't worked on my genealogy at all, and the company emailed an "offer I couldn't refuse", though I almost did.  I spent an hour or two yesterday poking around again.  I haven't dug those boxes out yet.  Heck, I don't have to, they're still taking up space in the middle of the guest room.

Then of course, are the normal mundane chores of housekeeping...not my forte' but I attempt to at least keep a few things up.  Flylady says 'sweeping the middles, still blesses the family', or something like that.  If she only knew.  The housekeeping in my head never equates to what actually gets done :/  I'll have to go back to her site and see what she says about the 2" thick carpet of dust atop the bookshelves and under the beds.

Oh, and don't forget the time I wasted (that's why the housework didn't get done) playing Pirates of the Caribbean on PS3 - I'm sure I'm being prodded to quit as the game has frozen on me each of the last two times I've played it.  I will say, all the dishes, except three utensils sitting in the sink, are clean and put away aside or in the dishwasher to be cleaned.  I'm not sure said dishwasher will survive until we decide to get that two-years behind original planning kitchen remodel done - remodel isn't even on the docket.

There were outings to do some shopping; today was a Costco run so that took up the entire morning - I should remember to NOT go on Mondays! 

 Those are the highlights, now, off to pay the bills and figure out what to have for dinner.  If you didn't catch that, I'll be multi-tasking by thinking while paying the bills, could be dangerous.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stamp, Stamp, Stamp

These days, when someone mentions "stamps", I doubt the first thing that comes to mind is postage stamps.  And most certainly, the first thought would not be postage stamp-collecting.  Rather it would be the type of stamps that are either self-inking, or that you smack onto an inked pad before placing on paper or card stock.

But I'm one of those old-fashioned weirdos ... I collect postage stamps.  Well, sort of.  My stamp collection is a bit like my recipe collection...I have them and rarely use them, and lately a bit like my fabric 'collection' that is better known as my fabric stash for quilting.  My canceled stamps collection point was overflowing.  And what do you do when that happens?  You soak the stamps off the envelopes.  Of course, you don't have the entire envelope - that would be silly unless it was something like a first day cover or otherwise something special and unique in which case you wouldn't dare soak the stamp off anyway, but rather, one has previously torn off the corner of the envelope with the stamp intact, tossed it into the 'stash' and otherwise ignored the whole process.....for um.....would you believe 14 years?  Yeah, big time collector here, hehe.

Some of the stamps
The back story.  Isn't there always a back story?  My grandfather, God rest his soul, passed away in 1970...on Christmas Eve of all times!  I loved my Grandfather, he was kind, and warm, and loving, but also firm, and sometimes legalistic in his faith (playing cards were tools of the devil).   He left me with a couple hobbies...must be in the DNA.  One is genealogy.  He got me hooked on finding out about my Norwegian ancestors.  Until I realized that was only one-fourth of the equation of my make up and started researching Germany and Sweden too.  He also left me interested in collecting stamps.  Not as a serious investment by any means - I doubt I have much of anything worth more than the paper it's printed on in the least, and no more than a few bucks more at most for any given stamp.  The big values in a stamp collection are more in marketing the tools than in the stamps I think, unless you happen to hold one of the few rarities in the world...I DON'T!!!  And it's just as well given how much attention I've paid to my "collection" - it's collected more dust these past 14 years than it has stamps!

A foreign stamp that DID soak off.
Stamps drying
Something I discovered after not working on this for so long.  You know all those wonderful peel-and-stick stamps we love because we no longer have to lick that yucky glue that came from who knows where or from what?  Welllllll, they do not come off by soaking in water!!   I know, I tried! 

The photo of stamps drying is of some of the older stamps which did soak off the envelopes.  Foreign stamps still soak off pretty well.

I learned that initially when the peel and sticks came out, a two-layer glue process was used.  The first layer right next to the stamp was water soluble which was then topped with a rubber-based glue.  These can be soaked off fairly easily.  But somewhere, I think I read around 2002, all self-sticking stamps were done with a single layer to save cost, and that is no longer a water soluble glue so it doesn't come off.  In part, it was also to cut down on fraud and re-use of stamps that missed getting canceled.

With that frustration, I went to my trusty computer and once again befriended Google to find out what philatelists now do when collecting modern stamps and how they handle the glue problem.  I also discovered that stamp collecting (or should I say, local supply stores) has nearly gone the way of the dinosaur.  I live near one of the largest cities in the country...there are only a handful of 'coin & stamp' stores-none close, and the one in my local town, no longer carries any stamp products - only coins.  What I did find in my Google search is that there are two camps of how the new stamps are handled.  

The first camp simply leaves the stamp on the envelope and trims very close to the stamp and then mounts it onto the album page.  I'm not keen on that idea as it adds just another layer of lumpy bumpies in the album which can affect other stamps.  And, you can't see the back to see if there's a watermark - sometimes, that's important.

The second camp uses a much more involved process, and it's messier and it adds cost to the process.  But it sure does make your house smell good!! for days!!  It was a learning process for me, and I'll have to re-do some of the first ones I did because they're still gummy on both sides of the stamp.  

A brief explanation is that Bestine (a solvent/thinner) can be used to soften the glue which can then be scraped off.  As an alternative to Bestine, Pure Citrus Orange can be used.  It's environmentally safe, and is the by-product of orange oil, and while it's a pressurized spray, it doesn't use the fluoro-carbons that supposedly damage the environment. This product is sprayed on the back of the envelope side (though on a few I sprayed it on the stamp side because the stamp was affixed to plastic or cardboard and it worked just fine) where it feels oily and turns the paper transparent, loosens the glue and you can peel the paper from the stamp.  All of this is done over table-protecting material, and I used clean paper toweling for the next step of scraping the glue residue from the back, using an old credit card.  The first batches I did, I wasn't changing the toweling often enough and that's how the gummy stuff attached to the front side of the stamp - lesson learned!  Once they are cleaned of the glue, they can be set aside, I use a clean towel, to dry.  While not wet like water, they are wet from the spray which seems somewhat oily but once dry, they are truly dry.  The site I discovered this on, also mentioned using talc to 'dry' any remaining residue, but that didn't seem a good option as I'd rather just do a better job of scraping the gunk off even if it means using a little more of the spray.  I did use a little corn starch on my hands now and then because they felt tacky, but was concerned it might draw bugs over time though the citrus smell might counter that so used it sparingly and thinly and brushed my hands off well.  I didn't find anything addressing what affect (or is it effect?) the spray (or Bestine) has on the stamp in the long run.  Will it change the color twenty years down the road?  Will the stamp disintegrate at some point?  Will the orange smell stay forever?

Interestingly, I already had a can of this spray as I love the smell and use it when I clean the litter box - I just give a single squirt of the spray above the litter box and it's sufficient to block kitties' odors.  I went through an entire can though on these stamps, so had to go buy more.  I thought I'd bought the last one at Walmart, but they didn't have it when I went, but I found it again at Smart & Final.  It's a little over $5 per can but for my normal use, that lasts a long time.  And I don't intend to let my stamps get so out of hand again.

I wonder what the future holds for stamp collectors.  Email and social media has certainly had an affect on the hobby and the USPS has it's problems.  Maybe my kids or grandkids will inherit this and some day it might be worth something.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sourdough and Memories

Do you like sourdough?  I do and I have great memories of my paternal Grandpa making sourdough pancakes for breakfast on a Sunday.  He'd make them "dollar size", and they were so, so good.  

At different times over the decades, I have maintained a sourdough starter.  At some point, *when* I have my new kitchen, I will get a new one going again.

As I've decluttered my recipe *collection*, I came across some of my Grandmother's recipes.  She probably lost her original starter after Grandpa passed on Christmas Eve 1970.  We thought we were going to lose her too, she grieved so deeply.  Her sons, my bio-dad and uncle, cleared out her cottage-size house, she was in a rest home for a time, lived with my uncle for a time and eventually was well enough to purchase a small mobile home not too far from where she and Grandpa had lived and was looking to get a new starter going.  

I don't think this was her original recipe, and am pretty sure it is not.  It came from an unnamed someone who wrote "I've copied this just as it was in the magazine." and I'm guessing that was well after Grandpa's passing.   I'm copying it exactly as it was written, punctuation and all, except [ ]:


Put 1 cup milk in a glass jar or crock (no metal) & allow to stand at room temp. for 24 hours.  Stir in a cup of flour.  (To speed process cover with cheesecloth & place outside for several hours to expose to wild yeast cells floating in the wind)  Leave uncovered in a warm place, - 80 [degrees] is ideal - for two to five days, depending on how long it takes to bubble & sour, near pilot light on gas stove is good.  If it starts to dry out stir in enough tepid water to bring it to the original consistently. Once it has a good sour aroma & is full of bubbles it is ready to use.  Cover & store in refrig.
Try to maintain about 1 1/2 cups of starter.  Each time you use part of your starter replenish it with a mixture of equal parts of milk & flour.  Leave at room temp. several hours or overnight, or until it again becomes full of bubbles.  Then cover & store in refrigerator.  Use at least once a week.  If not used for 2 or 3 weeks spoon out & discard about half, then replenish as above.

In my Grandma's handwriting, there is a recipe for Sourdough Bread.  With that recipe, are other directions for a starter:


Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Stir in 2 cups lukewarm water, 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 t. salt & 1 T. sugar.  Beat till smooth.  Let stand, uncovered, at room temp. 3 to 5 days.  Stir 2 or 3 times daily; cover at night. (Starter should have "yeasty" not sour smell) Cover & refrigerate till ready to make bread.

I have many other recipes from my Grandma, or should I say clippings and a few she likely made.  At this point in time, I don't remember many dishes made outside of Grandpa's pancakes.  Grandpa loved to fish for salmon, and I recall eating it with them, but it doesn't have the same memory.  What I do remember from their house, is the smell of coffee, oh, it always smelled good.  And they had the Tupperware salt and pepper shakers with copper donkey holder (it looked like this one).  I'm always reminded of it when I smell pepper.  

Do you have childhood memories of foods associated with special people?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Not So Ruthless

I got on a pretty good roll with getting some quilt work done, but then got side-tracked yesterday.  I'm not really sure how, but I did.  It could be it was that box of magazine recipe pages and notebooks sitting close to my bed that started calling to me.  I have a LOT of things that call to me like that!

It may look empty, but much of the contents are still on my work surface.  There IS less, but I'm afraid I was not as ruthless as I could or should be.  I still have in my mind to create weekly menus from which I'll do my weekly general grocery shopping and monthly Costco shopping.  I had put together some of those weekly menus before, and they were in this box, but need to fine tune them some and put together more.  I like trying new recipes as I get tired of the same old meals over and over again.  The biggest problem though right now, is not having my full kitchen.  So this may all go back into a box, albeit a smaller one.  

I am happy to declare that I did get rid of quite a bit of the recipes.  Some just no longer appealed to me, and some I knew would not appeal to Marty or Nick.  Marty doesn't like rye so anything with rye or caraway had to go.  Nick is allergic to peanuts, so some of those went, but some I kept figuring I can substitute cashew or almond butter in.  Some were just more complicated, used  pricey or unique ingredients or tools which I've determined I don't have time for now.  You know the ones - they come from Gourmet, or Sunset or Bon Appetit.  Some foods no longer agree with me so some of those got tossed, but unfortunately, I had a real problem getting rid of all those recipes that could pack on pounds, you know, the comfort foods and desserts.  I've found that those from Cooking Light are sometimes just a little too light for our tastes.  Not that we couldn't stand to eat a lot lighter!

SO much clutter to wade through; how did it get this way?  One bite of that elephant at a time!  
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