October Random Thoughts

I was feeling kind of down about the whole Stupid Boot thing. I saw a picture from the downtown farmers’ market on Facebook, and I was really bummed. It doesn’t feel right to stay home on Saturday mornings when I could be marketing. So…Chuck arranged to go grocery shopping at the store that has a small market in its parking lot on Sundays, and I was much, much happier. He’s a sweetheart, that man of mine. 

The haul – just right!

I stopped at the Democrats’ office to pick up a Tony Evers for Governor sign, and the greeter at the door didn’t greet me. She apologized almost immediately; she said I looked like I belonged there. Trying not to read too much into this; it’s the first election cycle in a long time when I haven’t been actively involved.

I used up the last of the zucchini from the picture (above) with a batch of zucchini chocolate chip cookies inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’ll use the rest in tomorrow’s beef stew. 

We emptied the basket in my closet that we call the Goodwill basket. We toss things in to donate, and when the basket overflows, we take inventory and take it in. We had some excess kitchen supplies, too. Purging feels good. 

So here we are, in mid-October. I’m very limited in my walking ability, but I’m coming to terms with it, sort of (see above). Readers, what is October bringing to your life?

Scrappy Cooking – Cooking with Scraps

There once was a TV show “Scraps.” I tried to follow it, but they’d only made a few episodes. When I saw that the head chef from “Scraps” had published a cookbook, I ordered it right away. 

Once upon a time, during a summer when I had access to my kitchen for canning, I made a very scrappy tomato vegetable soup. I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains. I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: added herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store the boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste (to mitigate the sweetness of the fresh tomato remains), salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. By the way, those tomato skins were dried in the oven on a low heat and then eventually frozen. We used them often. Scraps? They’re tasty and priceless.

What (not?) to Wear

It was Friday. Friday! Casual Friday! Jeans abounding in the office! Green Bay Packers colors! Or Brewers? The Brewers were playing at 3:15 that afternoon. My kindergarten and first grade teacher friend was torn: Packer or Brewer gear? Or pink, for Breast Cancer Awareness month? She’s a Packers fan, Brewers fan, and a breast cancer survivor. Oh, the dilemma of what to wear! 

Sunday, I was thinking along similar lines. I have a new Brewers tee shirt. Should I wear it today? They play at 3:30 against the Rockies. Maybe I could wear it to school tomorrow. The boss has been lenient when there’s a game on. But wait – I want the Brewers to win today! If I’m lucky and they play well, I won’t need to wear the colors on Monday. I can wear them later in the week as the playoffs continue! 

Oh, teachers. We dress like geeks at times – think holiday “Ugly” sweaters. But in October, who can choose? Readers, what are you wearing – baseball colors, football colors, or breast cancer pink?

And More Apples!

You’ve heard about the apple-gathering run. I had a boatload of apples in my minivan for about a week. I’d covered the whole batch, boxes and buckets, with a tarp to discourage the fruit flies. Sunday, we started the cider making day. 

The Cortland apples in the beer boxes came from the second orchard. “Someone drinks a lot of Busch Light beer,” Husband announced to nobody in particular as he saw a pile of boxes along one wall. “The bar down the road drinks a lot of Busch Light,” the orchard woman told us. The boxes are sturdy, and the bar hands them over free of charge, and it works for everyone. I lined the boxes with plastic bags because…well, see for yourself.

The beer boxes and the first four buckets were bargains because they were “seconds.” Imperfect. Scratch and dent. Whatever term you want to use, we got a deal on the apples because of it. Some, maybe most, had been windfalls – apples that fell on the ground before they were picked. Maybe that’s why I found so many apples that looked great to me, but were included in the bargain boxes. 

The finished product!

Does it look like a lot? It is. This batch got squeezed into the space remaining in the refrigerator and freezers. I brought a gallon to work; it was a hit! Crock pot, no spices, just warm and delicious cider on a cool and rainy day. It’s extra special because some of the apples came from the tree in front of the office. 

In other words, perfect.