Pizza, Always Pizza

We have a fun tradition in our home related to following our favorite NFL football team. We eat the opponent. Each week during the football season, we check our Green Bay Packers schedule, find out who our Packers will play, and then choose a signature food from the opponent’s home city.

In a discussion completely unrelated to the NFL, more along the lines of Hey, Honey, What’s for Supper, we realized that pizza fills our needs for several of the Packers’ regular opponents. Detroit style pizza – from Jett’s, of course – is our go-to for eating the Detroit Lions. We’ve had Chicago style pizza for the Bears, Cowboy pizza for, well, you know, and occasionally even New York style pizza for the Giants or the Jets. Chicago style and Cowboy pizza both come from one of my other favorite sources, Papa Murphy’s. Do they have a pizza we could call New York style? I may need to look through the menu again the next time our Packers play a team from New York.

We do have other options, including molasses cookies for Detroit and steaks for the Cowboys. Since the Jets and Giants actually play their games in New Jersey, we’ve been known to get Jersey bagels for those occasions, too. But it’s nice that we can fall back on pizza for just about anyone our team may face. Pizza is always welcome on my table.

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Typical Autumn Day – almost

It’s a typical fall day at the O.K. Chorale. Mostly typical, that is. Temperatures were warm – reached 70 this afternoon! – so we raked and mowed and swept leaves. I did look up at the neighbor’s maple and think “We’re not done yet,” but it still felt good to get a lot of this chore out of the way. We dumped some of our leaves on the pile in the street for the public works department to pick up, and we dumped a few tarps full in the garden to insulate the soil for the winter.

The not-so-typical piece? It’s November. We haven’t had a true killing frost or major overnight freeze yet. I’ve been turning the heat off by day because it’s plenty warm without it. And we wonder – is this our new normal?

Halloween was a wonderfully warm evening for trick-or-treat. Amigo sat on the front porch and handed out candy for most of the four hours. He’s very friendly, and he enjoys interacting with everyone who comes along and says “Trick or Treat!”

The local college sent out students, mainly student athletes, to collect for a food drive. Soccer players stopped at our house. We introduced ourselves as alumni, gathered a few boxes and cans, and handed them a few extra bags in the hopes that they’d be able to fill them.

After a successful Halloween night, one in which we did not run out of candy, I took a look at the leftovers. To me, the bowl of tiny peanut butter cups shouted, “Cookies!” Oatmeal cookies, to be exact, but with chopped peanut butter cups instead of chocolate chips or raisins.

Perfect. An unseasonably warm day, followed by cookies made from leftover candy. Readers, how is your weather? Are you concerned about climate change, too? And what did you do with your leftover candy?

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Drumroll – Canning Begins!

It’s not a typical canning season – or a purely typical farmers’ market season – or even a typical garden season here at the O.K. Chorale. I’m in the middle of a Foot Surgery Summer, and that makes a difference everywhere.

I decided not to plant the whole garden plot, so Chuck decided he would put in a three sisters garden in the places I left open. Then he decided we usually have more than enough beans, so his part of the garden became two sisters: corn and squash.

I worry about being out of commission when the major tomato season arrives, so I actually started early. I made and canned barbecue sauce this week, and Chuck applied it to grilled chicken right away.

I also canned three bean salad. We still had yellow and green beans in the freezer, and fresh beans will show up at the market soon, so I pulled out my recipe file and made three bean salad, enough to last months. That’s the goal of summer canning, right? Make enough to feed the family for a length of time.

With Chuck’s help, I prepared some incredibly delicious strawberries for the freezer. That’s another task that may fall through the cracks as my foot puts me down: filling the freezer.

Then again, Chuck is stepping up to the plate, er, the counter and putting in time on the canning front. Footwork or not, we’ll feed the family. The pantry will be filled.

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Pistachio Pudding to the Rescue!

Chuck had a dream last night. I won’t analyze it, although I’m sure it has some parallels. The highlights are these:

We lived in a cramped place, and we were in a situation with a lot of anxiety. Chuck was working in the kitchen, I was struggling to get a box of something from the basement, and Amigo, just a toddler, played on the kitchen floor.  (La Petite didn’t make an appearance. Maybe she was at school.) When Amigo was young, he sensed anxiety and reacted to it in his own toddler-on-the-spectrum way. Chuck and Amigo collided, Amigo fell to pieces in a total meltdown. Chuck knew that the only thing to combat this meltdown was — pistachio pudding.

Long story short, he made pistachio pudding, put the toddler in the high chair, and all was well. Messy, but calm.

When Chuck woke up this morning, he came downstairs and made pistachio pudding. Inspired by his dream solution, he wanted to have pistachio pudding with lunch. It wasn’t that easy, though. Monday is typically our grocery shopping day, and our supply of milk was low.

Enter Daisy the Doomsday Prepper’s stockpile of sorts: dry milk! I had some! I only use it for baking bread and occasionally making oatmeal, so of course we had plenty in the cupboard. Chuck read the directions on the package, mixed up two cups of milk, and made pistachio pudding.

Amigo thought the dream was hilarious, and he could picture himself playing on the kitchen floor in our old tiny duplex. Pistachio pudding was a hit with lunch, and we continued on with the day. Chuck and Amigo grabbed the peanut butter jar to return (that’s a whole different story, and you probably know the background, readers), and headed off to shop for groceries.

Readers, has a dream ever inspired you? Serious or wacky, tell us!

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Why Amigo and Chuck do the Grocery Shopping

Amigo and Chuck have been doing the family shopping for a long time. By now, we consider it routine. They rarely take me along, which is okay, I guess. Maybe. Why?

  1. Chuck worked in grocery stores in the past; he knows the tricks of the trade.
  2. Chuck knows how to bag groceries. When I do it, it’s a mess.
  3. They make the list in order according to the store layout.
  4. They’re fairly efficient and cost-conscious.
  5. Chuck is a good cook; he’ll look through the departments with menus in mind.

But the main reason they take on the shopping without me is this: I’m a closet prepper. When I see something we use and it’s on a major sale, I tend to buy a  lot. Like, “Ooh, baked beans are marked down! I think I’ll buy six cans.” Or I might think, “Jello? We don’t use much jello. But then again, if we’re sick we don’t want to make an extra trip to buy jello and chicken soup. I’ll grab a few boxes – like, maybe, five.”

Then there are the loss leader prices: the ten for $10 deals. I’ll reach for the shelf and hear Chuck saying, “Dear, you don’t have to buy ten to get the good price.” And I’ll shake my head, think “Busted! again,” and only get a few.

In support of my own contributions, I’ll remind you that I’m both gardener and canner. We rarely buy vegetables at the store because we buy veggies in season at the farmers market all summer and fill our freezer. I make and can pickles, tomatoes, tomato sauce, jams, and more.

So, readers, how does grocery shopping shape up for you? Who is the main shopper, and why?

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Butternut Squash Soup

The storage area that is usually cool and dry is, well, neither. Thanks to an unseasonably warm October and a streak of rainy days, the back hallway is not a good place to store my vegetables. I disposed of two potatoes, a large red onion, and half of a butternut squash this morning.

Then I cleaned the containers and added the little “dryers” that come in packages. Does this do any good? It can’t hurt.

And then I made soup with the remaining half of the butternut squash. I used my standard recipe and cut it down to match the amount of squash I had left. Here it is, folks, without adaptation. This is a lot of soup; use a BIG crock pot if you make the whole thing.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 4 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces(estimated amount: 10 cups)

1 large apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch pieces1 medium white onion, diced

1 large carrot, peeled, diced

2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

3 1/2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Directions: Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray. In cooker, toss squash, apple, onion, carrot, curry powder, salt, and white pepper. Pour broth over vegetable mixture. Cover; cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Use immersion blender or remove small amounts of soup (3 cups at a time) into blender to blend until smooth. Add brown sugar (and milk or cream, optional) while blending. Turn heat setting to high. Cover; cook for another 30 minutes. Serve. Enjoy.

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Shortages and Pantry Raids

The latest shortage: certain ink cartridges. Or so we thought – and then we discovered Chuck had “remembered” the wrong number for our printer. We’ll return the wrong one and hope that maybe the office supply store has the right one in black and in color.

I keep seeing blank shelves in the grocery store. Fortunately, we’re fairly well stocked. Chuck teases me a little (more than a little) about my prepper tendencies, but stocking up makes it easy to keep on cooking.

Pantry Raids are easy ways to create a side dish or an entire meal – and tonight it was a side dish. I chopped up two apples leftover from cidering and simmered them on the stove with cinnamon sticks (a bonus included in an auction lot of canning supplies). Simple, delicious: a perfect pantry raid.

I predict more pantry raids, of course, as shortages go on. The unseasonably warm October weather is keeping my tomato and tomatillo plants giving, so we may have more tomato soups or salsa.

And so it goes, readers. I hope your pantries are full and your families are healthy.

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Freezers are the New Toilet Paper

First it was toilet paper. Then we went through stages of shortages: baking supplies, yeast, eventually canning lids, and even compost bins.

After a long wait and diligent searches, I now have a pretty good supply of canning lids. I canned chicken broth yesterday, and I didn’t even worry about having enough lids.

I found a compost bin, FREE, on curbside, last summer. Talk about luck! We’ve had to bungie the top down to keep the raccoons out, but heck, that’s a small price to pay to have found an actual replacement bin for the one that broke.

Last weekend, I saw a (cue the ominous music) small puddle under one of our chest freezers. After further review, Chuck and I concurred that the freezer was, in fact, dead. We moved as much as we could into the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and the smaller chest freezer. Then, we called Robin. She said yes, of course, we could bring over a few things to keep in her freezer for a little while.

In the meantime, we reflected. We decided an upright freezer might meet our needs better, so we did our homework the way we always did: online. We made notes of stores that claimed to have something we liked in our price range and in stock, and then we hit the road to make our purchase – or so we thought.

The web sites for Lowe’s and Home Depot did not correspond with the inventory. Two other stores had such convoluted and complicated web sites that we said nope, not going to even go there. With aching knees and sore feet and major disappointments, we were close to losing hope. And then the smart phone apps (search for: Upright Freezers Near Me) found a store name we didn’t recognize. Grand Appliance. Non-descript, but if they had the inventory, we were willing to buy. We followed my phone’s navigator to get there, rejoiced that they were still open, and to make a long story short, found what we needed and ordered it!!

We’re expecting a delivery within two weeks, as opposed to September and October as suggested elsewhere. They’ll take the old defunct appliance with them. After that, we’ll relieve Robin’s freezer and repack our new one! And that, my friends, is a relief.

Toilet paper. Yeast. Compost bins. Freezers. What’s next? I don’t really want to know. Readers, any predictions for the next shortage?

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So Many Berries!

The original post title was “Too Many Berries,” but I decided that there can never be too many fresh berries in June or July. Or in August, for that matter. We buy strawberries or blueberries at the farmers’ market, barter for cherries from a neighbor, and pick raspberries in our own backyard. Our backyard isn’t big, but we’ve devoted about 15 square feet behind the garage to a raspberry patch. It’s a good year for my raspberries; we pick almost every night, and we’ve even had enough to share with Petunia and Robin, our mothers.

Most days Chuck and I add berries to our breakfast cereal. Amigo likes yogurt parfaits with vanilla yogurt, berries, and granola. I made vanilla ice cream last week to go with berries and a bit of whipped cream. We’re currently out of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream; that should tell you something about how often we’re eating berries with our dessert.

I froze 3 containers of strawberries. I’ll be able to use those in midwinter when we’re craving the taste of really fresh fruit. I made strawberry jam AND strawberry jelly. The mush left over from the jelly making process is in the freezer; it’ll add a nice pink tint and a hint of strawberry flavor to one batch of our annual applesauce.

I also froze a small container of raspberries. I’ll freeze blueberries when they come into season in Michigan and we’re drowning in delicious U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hey) flavor. Meanwhile, we need a few more options.

Despite the heat (88 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit today, ugh), I’m baking angel food cake. With or without whipped cream, that will taste delicious with any kind of berries from the backyard or the neighbors or the market. I plan to make lemonade tomorrow, too. The juice from the bowl of strawberries or raspberries will be an awesome addition to the plain lemon drink.

That’ll take care of a few more berries, but I could use more ideas. Feel free to suggest ideas that also incorporate rhubarb. I gave away two plants, and I still have too much rhubarb. Good thing it’s delicious!

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Rhubarb-Pineapple Cobbler

The rhubarb is in season, to put it mildly. I put a batch in the freezer today and made a cobbler with rhubarb and a can of pineapple tidbits. It pays to keep a full pantry; I had the pineapple on hand already. Two confessions: I made half the recipe, and I don’t know the source. I had this in a file folder.

4 cups frozen or fresh rhubarb, thawed, drained. 4 cups cubed pineapple (about 2 20 ounce cans). 2 cups sugar, divided. 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your favorite alternative: mine is whole wheat pastry flour). 1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), cubed.

Directions: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine rhubarb, pineapple, and 1/2 cup sugar in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Let simmer until juices are released and a syrup forms. Pour into buttered, 2 quart casserole dish. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine flour, remaining sugar, and butter, Mix with hands until the butter forms coarse crumbs. Distribute crumbs evenly over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top. Serve warm. Excellent with ice cream on top!

My family’s review: awesome! They’re not (quite) tired of rhubarb – yet.

When you strained the pineapple, I hope you saved the juice. I plan to make a sweet and sour sauce that incorporates rhubarb concentrate and pineapple juice, among other ingredients. If it works, I’ll share!

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