Archive for the 'Food' Category

“Pasta Pandemica” produces porch plunger

I had had a troubling, sad, and frustrating morning yesterday, and rather than going through all the motions of making my usual salad for lunch, I really just wanted to relax and enjoy some comfort food: a nice big bowl of mac and cheese with black pepper, onions, and tomatoes would be perfect… aaah!

However, on a recent WM run, there was no mac of any brand to be found, and when I went to Country Mart to scrounge for that and a few other items I had not obtained at the Supercenter, the only mac and cheese I could find was in those yellow Always Save boxes. I grabbed two, figuring that mac and cheese is mac and cheese, and it would surely be at least roughly equivalent to my standard Great Value Thick and Creamy version.

While the pasta boiled, I mixed up the cheese sauce as I always do. I have my own set of proportions memorized, so I didn’t bother reading the yellow box blurb. The problem was that for some reason it wouldn’t get thick. It just stayed “thin, watery, watery, watery.” Sigh. I stirred it more. No thickening. I added cornstarch and stirred it more. No thickening. I heated it in the microwave and stirred it more. No thickening. I finally gave up and poured the cheese “sauce” that was looked like warm orange soda over the hot, drained macaroni, and the result was just gross. Maximally disgusted, and not to mention quite hungry, I poured the whole mess into the right-hand sink, shoved it down with a wooden spoon, and ran the disposal. Sheesh! So much for comfort food at lunch. I made a sandwich and put it in a skillet to grill.

While my sandwich was heating up, I decided to wash the accumulated dishes. (Scott and I do use an absolutely inordinate number of dishes, all of which we wash by hand, our dishwasher being full of light bulbs…) In rinsing all those dishes, the right-hand sink began to fill with water, and by the time I was done washing – and had just flipped my sandwich – the rinse sink was 1/3 full of ugly tan water. Something was wrong.

The disposal seemed to be clogged. Ugh. I tried running it again. It ran, but none of the water went down. I pulled the plug on the soapy sink, and none of THAT water went down either. Sigh. Disgusted, angry, and hungry, I got out the plunger and plunged the ever-loving living daylights out of that rinse sink. Four times. With no effect whatsoever.

Scott offered to take over. I knew I needed to get away from it all, so I went upstairs to my desk where I was pretty sure I’d still be able to successfully do something useful. Scott worked for a long time and finally got the soapy sink to drain. When I went back down, everything had been pulled out from under the sink,

and he was using a juice glass to scoop slime water out of the rinse sink and into a bucket.

After quite a bit of disassembly and more analysis, Scott found that the pipe that goes from the disposal to the drain pipe under the left-hand sink (the upper white pipe in the photo above) was completely compacted with a solid mass of macaroni – and I do mean “completely” and “solid.” Well, okay, that would explain the clog and the backed-up sinks, but there had to have also been something wrong with our ancient of days disposal; it clearly had not ground up the floppy pasta, a task which should definitely have been well within its job description.

Scott’s further investigation (reading glasses, flashlight, wrench, rubber gloves, elbow grease) revealed cracks both in one of the fittings on the discharge pipe and in part of the disposal itself. Aha! Those would explain the drip we’ve been catching under it for about two years. Scott’s official declaration: “The disposal is broken and cannot be repaired.” And that was most unfortunate, but thankfully, as long as we didn’t put any food down the disposal, we could still use both sinks for washing and rinsing dishes.

But then My Hero researched and this morning bought a new disposal! He also considered installing it, but I encouraged him to consider using his time for other more pressing things and maybe asking our neighbor and dear friend, Mr. Bill, who is also an excellent plumber, what he would charge to install it. Long story short, Mr. Bill came this afternoon to install our new disposal, his wife LaShell came to talk with me while he did it, we now have a fully functional, non-leaking disposal, and in a day or two Mr. Bill will have his very own 9×13 pan of Batchelators. Which he may or may not choose to share with LaShell.

I am a big fan of letting wet things fully air dry before storing them, and that is why we have – in the midst of this pandemic – a plunger on our porch.



He spared me! (with apologies to the “food queens” of spreadsheet fame)

The other day I got home from church to find Andrew – who had already gone to his church’s early service, come home, and mowed and weed-eated the yard in preparation for hosting a big “off to college tomorrow” cookout with his friends that evening – quite busily doing something (???) with a couple of flip-top boxes on the dining room table. Spread out on the table beside the boxes were numerous cans of pineapple, quite a few granola bars, several cans of pork and beans, a bag of mini pretzels, and an odd assortment of other food items.

Andrew said with a grin and a shake of his head, “I spared you.”

“Spared me what?!?”

“Well, I wanted some boxes to pack stuff in to take to college… and then I remembered that we had all those flip-top boxes on the [Yellowstone] camping trip… but I couldn’t find them in the playroom, so I went out to the camper, and guess what?”

“Uh… what?”

“I found ’em! They were full of food!!!”

“Oh, NO.”

“Oh, yes.”

“What kind of food?”

“Well, all this. I salvaged what I could, but there was a whole lot more: bread and muffins and bagels and fruit…”

“Oh, my goodness! I guess it was really…”

“Yeah, it was REALLY nasty!”

“That stuff’s been sitting out there in the 90-degree heat for over a MONTH!!! I can only imagine what it looked like.”

“And smelled like.”

“What did you do with it? Is it in the outside trash or in the kitchen trash?”

“I dealt with it. The worst of it is outside. A little bit’s in the kitchen trash. This is the part that’s still usable.”

So as I said, Andrew definitely spared me, and I am so very thankful. I do HATE to waste food – actually, I hate to waste anything: food, money, opportunities, supplies, time – but I’m really glad I didn’t have to face/smell/sort through/deal with/clean up after all that rotten, moldy stuff. It’s surely nice having a professional cleaner in the house; especially a smart, handsome, friendly one.  = )



“Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah…”

And her name is Patty. Unfortunately, there’s no telling where Dinah ran off to, but she’s probably with that banjo-playing man friend of hers!

We are getting ready for a family camping trip of some substance, and here’s what I’ve prepped and stored/frozen in gallon zip-locs (quantities in parentheses) so far:

White Chili (2)

Chili (2)

Chex Mix (3)

Creamy Italian Chicken (2)

Creamy Cheese Potatoes (2)

Buffalo Chips, low sugar (1)

Buffalo Chips, regular (2)

I think I have only one more item to make and then we’ll call it good. I clearly need to add gallon zip-locs to my Walmart list. My list is staying short because I’ve been going there at least once a day this week.  = )  We may also need to borrow another cooler!


“I feel the earth. move. under my feet…”

If you’re trying to decide what dessert to bring to that upcoming potluck, and if you’ve been thinking along the lines of super moist, sinfully rich, and deliciously chocolatey, look no further. Earthquake Cake is the ultimate answer to your baking conundrum.

Here’s the recipe Andrew adapted from (WARNING: Diabetics and heart patients should probably skip this one.)

Earthquake Cake

1 cup coconut

1 German chocolate cake mix

3 eggs

1 ½ cups water

½ cup oil

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter, melted   (I told you it was rich.)

2 ½ cups powdered sugar   (And decidedly NOT low-carb.)

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 cups chocolate chips (We use semi-sweet, but milk chocolate would be fine too.)


Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9″ x 13” baking pan. Spread coconut on bottom of pan.

In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Beat 2 ½ minutes on medium speed. Pour batter over coconut.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Pour cream mixture over chocolate batter.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

The final line of the actual recipe says, “serve warm with ice cream,” but it stands alone just fine, either warm or at room temp or even (don’t ask me how I know) by the spoonful straight out of the fridge at bedtime. In any case, I suggest a small serving size indulged in slowly, so as to maximally savor the full richness of Earthquake Cake.  = )

There are several YWAM bases in Hong Kong

Jessica serves at one of them. One of the other Hong Kong YWAM bases has a food pantry and is the sometimes recipient of miscellaneous food donations, which it both distributes to homeless people in the surrounding community and shares with its staff. I was talking to Jessica this evening, and she showed me a box of lychee fruit sitting on her table. I had never heard of lychees (also spelled litchi), and on the off chance that you’ve never heard of them either, here is a picture I pulled off wikipedia (with instructions that I cite the author of the photo, which I will gladly do: By I, Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0, 1024px-litchi_chinensis_luc_viatourJessica told me that that other YWAM base in Hong Kong was given. . . are you ready? 1.5 metric TONS of lychees! That’s 3306.93 pounds of fruit!!! And even if you have a food pantry, I guess 1.5 metric tons of anything is a heckuva lot of it to use before it spoils. So that base has shared some of its lychees with the Harbour City base where Jessica works, and I guess all the staff members got their share lychees.

I also learned that, like me, Jessica can’t beat her husband at the game of Splendor, and the process of opening a bank account in Hong Kong is unbelievably convoluted and frustrating.

Jessica was eating lychees for breakfast, while Andrew and I were eating pizza (homemade by Andrew!) for supper. Such is family life on two sides of the world.

Jeopardy question: What is “plus 3.0?”

Answer: Your scale’s display of net change (in pounds) the morning after you spend several hours visiting with your pastor while partaking of an abundance of chips and salsa before, during, and after your main course of a chicken chimichanga (minus guacamole and sour cream), rice, and beans.

Menu de la soirée

We had a Life Group leaders meeting here with a potluck dinner. I am absolutely terrible at planning group meals, parties, and such like that. I always just tell folks “bring whatever you want and it will be fine.” I’m not good at the theme thing or figuring out what goes with what, and I never know how to answer the eternal “what do you still need?” question.

So I decided to make a main dish (Ham and Hash Brown Casserole), a big salad (Susie’s Sunshine Chicken Salad), and a dessert (Judy Daniel’s Peach Cobbler). Georgie said she’d bring deviled eggs (they have lots of chickens) and fruit. Terryl said she’d bring her wonderful rolls, and Jessica hadn’t said what she’d bring. I figured we’d be OK.

Terryl walked in with rolls and a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. She was followed immediately by Jessica bearing an ultra-rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. This left us with one main dish, one salad and THREE desserts! No one complained about that. It was all quite tasty and no one left hungry.

Mystery solved!

I week or so ago, after what can only be described as a significantly extensive delay, I made chicken enchiladas. I had actually baked the chicken while Katie was here (she left mid-January), intending to prepare and serve the enchiladas while the five of us were all present. I am pretty sure we all like them, and in our family it’s rare to find anything (food, games, habits) that everyone likes. The only hold-up was that I first needed to shred the chicken. Shredding chicken is a bit of a time-consuming pain, and I had eight breasts to shred, so I kept putting it off. After they had sat in the fridge for a few days and I realized I just wasn’t going to get around to shredding them, I moved them to the freezer, and then between spending precious time with kids, traveling to Minnesota for surgery, and having less energy than usual for several weeks thereafter, they stayed frozen and ignored.

But one day I got industrious and pulled them out. I armed myself with cutting board, monster fork, and podcasts, and tackled the chicken. Eight shredded breasts later, I decided to go ahead and assemble the enchiladas, and when I did, I realized that when I baked those guys so many weeks ago, I had planned to shred the four cups’ worth that I needed for enchiladas and cube the rest for other recipes. Oh, well. It turns out that I now had eight cups of shredded chicken. I shoved four cups’ worth into a big zip-loc and returned them to the freezer, and I used the other four cups’ worth to, at long last, make the ever-lovin’ chicken enchiladas.

My doubled recipe made four pans of five each, plus one big pan of eight, and I baked one of the small pans for our dinner that night.

We all sat down, thanked God for the enchiladas, cheese dip, chips, and homemade salsa, and dug in. While I slowly savored some chips and salsa, the guys started saying things like “Wow. That’s spicy.” And “Pretty hot!” And “Did you change the recipe? These are a lot, um, ‘warmer’ than usual.”

And I assumed they just didn’t know what they were talking about. I took a bite of my enchilada, and it tasted about the same as always. Josiah said, “Well? Did it hit you yet?”

“Uh. . . no,” I replied, chewing, but then suddenly my mouth was absolutely on fire! I grabbed my water bottle and chug-a-lugged for all I was worth.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I knew I had made them exactly as I always do, so why on earth were they so exceedingly, unbearably hot? I pulled out the recipe and reviewed it. Had I somehow doubled something I shouldn’t have? Well, doggone it, even if I had blown it, we weren’t about to throw away all the money spent buying the ingredients or all my time spent making them. We’d just have to eat them over time. And we had four plus more meals of them in the freezer, all just as scalding hot. Sigh.

So much for that nice meal.

The only thing I could think was that I must’ve somehow put in too many cans of chopped green chilies. I thought sure I had only put in the required two, but maybe I put in four by accident. . . ? If so, there wouldn’t be any left on the canned goods shelf in the playroom, because I always buy them four at a time. I left the table to check the playroom stock, and, lo and behold, the mystery was solved! There, right in front of God and everyone, were two cans of chopped green chilies, but when I looked more closely at the labels, they both said, “CHOPPED Fire Roasted GREEN CHILIES.” Aha! No wonder we all had steam coming out our ears.

I later called my friend, Tracy, who is known for her love of all things Mexican and spicy, and asked if she or anyone she knew would be interested in chicken enchiladas that are guaranteed to clear your sinuses and everything else on the way down. She said she had such friends and she would love to take them off our hands. So I will take those to her. In the meantime, still having in my freezer an extra four cups of shredded chicken, on my next Wal-Mart run I purposed to buy the rest of the items (that I don’t keep stocked) needed to make an edible double batch:

30 flour tortillas. . . check

16 oz. Mexican blend shredded cheese. . . check

2 cans black beans. . . check

1 large can green enchilada sauce. . . check

2 small cans chopped green chilies. . . uh, not so simple.

EVERY can of Great Value brand (read “cheap”) chopped green chilies said “Fire Roasted.” So THAT’S what had gone wrong! I have bought Great Value chopped green chilies for years and years, so I must’ve just grabbed them off the shelf as usual, without noticing the small “Fire Roasted” comment on the label. [Note: When I shared this story with Katie, she said that maybe the error wasn’t my fault at all. While she was home for a month over Christmas break, she did some of our grocery shopping for me, and maybe she grabbed the four cans of grossly overheated chilies.] I would have to go with a more expensive brand, but get this. There were four brands of chopped green chilies on the shelves, and three of those brands offered ONLY the “Fire Roasted” version. I ended up buying brand #4, “Hatch,” whose chopped green chilies were marked “Mild.”

And I made 28 more enchiladas and put them all in the freezer. We will probably try them in a couple weeks, and we all expect that they will be deliciously edible.


We now interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue to bring you this late-breaking and vitally important information.

If you like to eat pears, you will wait all summer for them to appear in your grocery.

If they appear in your grocery in the fall, they will be on sale for $1.47/pound ten days before you have a trip planned.

If they are on sale for $1.47/pound ten days before you have a trip planned, you will buy four of them, assuming they will ripen in a few days and you will either get to eat them or take them with you on your trip.

If you buy four of them, they will not even begin to ripen before you leave on your trip.

If they do not ripen before you leave on your trip, they will still be on the counter when you get home.

If they are still on the counter when you get home, they will not have ripened.  Indeed, they will still be so hard that you dare not bite into them, for fear of chipping a tooth.

If they have not ripened in the two weeks since you purchased them, you will choose to leave them on the counter till they do.

If you choose to leave them on the counter till they do, you will never, ever get to eat your sweet juicy pears.

If you never, ever get to eat your sweet juicy pears, you will actually have three options remaining:

1.  throw the pears away

2.  obtain some recipe that calls for rock-hard pears

3.  save the pears to use as lethal weapons if the 2nd amendment is overturned

Moral of the story:  Buying pears that are as hard as baseballs is an effective way to waste money.

Would Tanora know?

Having decided that I should do more around the house now that I’m no longer a homeschooling mom, today’s major task was making a batch of Tanora’s white chili.  It calls for two teaspoons of garlic powder, and I was out and so substituted squeeze garlic.  The problem was that I had NO IDEA how much to use, and so I just upended the bottle over the pot and squeezed for about a second.  I don’t think anyone will really comment on how garlicky it is, but I suppose I really should look up that substitution for the future.

I now have four three-person meals of white chili in the freezer plus a bag of it to take camping.

Plan for tomorrow:  recycling center, some small laminations at Staples, bank, Wal-Mart, Harter House, loading, unloading, and putting away the groceries on my own, some possible time at the creek, and writing.  = )

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