Creamy Wild Rice Soup–what I’ve been making

This is a pressure cooker (Instant Pot) recipe I tried this week after seeing others recommending it.  They were right; it’s simple and scrumptious.

The recipe calls for carrots, celery, onion, and mushrooms; all chopped.  My own twist was to use dehydrated ingredients from my pantry.  It worked out great!  Oooh, the possibilities!

Here’s the link to the recipe: Instant Pot Wild Rice Soup

My assembled ingredients:

Wild Rice soup ingredients2 w RSR

(All of my ingredients are dry or dehydrated, except the mushrooms.  I only had canned mushrooms on hand, and didn’t want to postpone making the soup.)

What it looked like in the pot, before adding the water and cooking:

Dried wild rice soup w RSR

A bowl of soup!

Bowl of soup w

My dehydrated carrots were grated, which made them too small for the orange color to stand out.  Next time I dehydrate carrots, I’ll chop some of them instead of grating the whole batch.

This was my first experience ever with actual wild rice.  (The recipe emphasizes to use only wild rice and not a rice blend.)  It turned out perfect; thanks to the recipe and the pressure cooker.

While I savored the delicious soup, someone else chewed an old boot.  We were both happy.  

Myrtle boot w RSR

Gift idea!  Using this recipe, I’ve decided to package the dehydrated and dry ingredients into gift soup mixes for my family members who have pressure cookers.  I’ll be able to give it a label that says, “Just add water and margarine.”

Happy 2nd Anniversary to my Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

The Wednesday after cyber-Monday two years ago, this badass appliance arrived and changed my kitchen life forever.

instant-pot

Things I now make in the Instant Pot:  

  • Hard boiled eggs–that come out perfect every. single. time.
  • Refried beans–I may never buy canned refried beans again.  They take minutes in the pressure cooker, instead of hours.
  • Burrito fillings–In one pot I can thaw, crumble and brown the meat and then cook it with the spices and beans, to fill a big batch of freezer burritos.
  • Yogurt–Using a gallon of milk and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, I can make a big batch of yogurt to freeze in portions for smoothies on demand.
  • Applesauce–Apples + water + pressure cooker = applesauce in minutes, to be eaten and/or frozen in portions.
  • Soups— Some of my faves have simply been adapted from crock pot recipes.  Easy.
  • Wine!–My first batch of wine using these instructions came out fine, so I’ve got a second batch in progress.  I changed a couple of steps, to make it er, more drinkable.  Once I made the changes, I had something I would actually drink a glass of now and then.
  • Other foods–Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, pumpkin puree, spaghetti squash.  All of these take just one or two ingredients and a few minutes of prep time.

Meals–I’ve seen some pictures of amazing beef, pork, seafood and poultry meals from pressure cookers by first-time and novice users.  If you have several mouths to feed, I think the Instant Pot meal possibilities are limitless.

Desserts–Lots of people make desserts in their pressure cooker.  I’ve seen scrumptious photos of cheesecakes and other goodies, but I haven’t tried my own yet.  It will happen, though.

Adapting recipes to the Pressure Cooker — I’ve had great luck adapting crock pot (aka slow cooker) recipes to the pressure cooker.  It has usually been as simple as reducing the cooking time from hours to minutes.  There are some helpful conversion charts that can be found online.  Food colors and textures are generally more fresh and bright with the pressure cooker than the same dish cooked in the crock pot.

Here are some handy pressure cooking time charts for lots of different foods. https://www.meredithlaurence.com/pressure-cooking-101/cooking-charts/

Now, a little demonstration.

LASAGNE SOUP!

This week, I made this Lasagne Soup recipe.  (The link is to a pdf download of the recipe.)  A few views from the soup preparation:

The meat in the steamy picture below is browning quickly on the ‘Sauté’ setting.  

instant-pot saute buttonSaute a

Assembled here are the remaining ingredients to add to the browned meat.  

Lasagne soup ingredients2 a

All ingredients are now in the pot, ready for pressure cooking on the Beans/Chili setting.  That big chunk in the middle is a cup of frozen V-8.  Frozen ingredients can be tossed in frozen.  The pressure cooker takes it from there. 

Lasagne soup ready for PC ainstant-pot bean chili button

After the pressure has released, add the rest of the water and the dry pasta, and set on ‘Slow Cook’ for 30 minutes.

Pasta water

instant-pot slow cook button

Then the soup is ready to eat.  Ladle some soup into a bowl and add a scoop of Cheese Mixture, which will start melting.

Lasagne soup ready to eat w

More About Electric Pressure Cookers:

Other brands.  You don’t have to buy an ‘Instant Pot‘.  There are less expensive models that do most or all of the same functions.  A couple of weeks after getting my Instant Pot, and having realized how amazing it is, I spotted a display in Walmart of their Farberware electric pressure cookers left over from Black Friday.  The Farberwares were $39.  I got some of the Farberwares for gifts.  Turns out the Farberware is everything the Instant Pot is, but without a separate yogurt button.  (It can still do yogurt.)  Aldi occasionally offers an electric  pressure cooker for $39, and I’m guessing it is just as user-friendly as the Instant Pot and Farberware versions.

Scary?  No!  Pressure cookers have been around for several generations.  I too was terrified of my grandma’s stovetop pressure cooker when it would shoot steam out the top like a locomotive.  Rest assured, the electric pressure cookers now on the market aren’t scary.  You can release the pressure manually, but otherwise, the operation is well contained inside the pot, with easy labels on the control buttons–labels like “yogurt”, “saute”, and “keep warm”, that do exactly what the button says.

Where to get pressure cooker advice:

  • Facebook groups:  There are Instant Pot groups on Facebook that are full of recipes and tips for using your pressure cooker.  My favorite group is actually for the Farberware model.  From the Farberware group, I’ve gotten recipes, troubleshooting tips, and discount codes for pans and other accessories useful with the pressure cooker.
  • Useful Websites.  Here are two sites I consult regularly:
  • Cookbooks (lots of them):  Every day, there are free Instant Pot cookbooks available in the Amazon Kindle store.
  • YouTube:  Lots of recipe and instructional videos are available on YouTube.

This 1949 pressure cooker commercial is done as a cute sitcom.  Much of the dialogue is even funnier now, 70 years later.  Mixed into the fun story are some great basic explanations of how a pressure cooker cooks.

[Teenage Carol:  “I wanted to cook the first meal, with mother just helping.  Like most elderly people, she had doubts.  But she finally gave in.”  Haha!]

The ‘nuts and bolts’ pressure cooker segments are found here:

  • At 9:50 how pressure cooking works
  • At 16:50 more pressure cooker facts and tips

[I’m dying to know if Carol and Jack ended up together. ❤ ]



If you prefer to not download a document, here is the text of the Lasagne Soup recipe:

LASAGNE SOUP
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
3 c. beef broth (I use 1 T. beef bouillon powder and 3 c. water)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. dried parsley
1 T. dried basil
½ c. chopped onion (2 T. if dehydrated)
1 c. V8 Juice
¼ t. pepper
¼ t. salt
2 c. uncooked shell pasta or rotini
1 c. of water
1. Brown meat in the pressure cooker, on the ‘Saute’ setting.  Drain.
2. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Add the rest of the ingredients except 1 c. of water and the pasta.  Cook on ‘Bean/Chili’ or ‘Manual’ for 5-7 minutes.  Let the pressure release naturally.
3. After the pressure has released, open the cooker and add the remaining water and pasta. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on the ‘Slow Cook’ or ‘Keep Warm’ setting until pasta is tender (about more 30 minutes).
4. Ladle the soup into bowls.
5. Drop a 2T ball of Cheese Mixture (see below) into each bowl of hot soup.  Serve.
*Makes apx 20 ladles of soup.
*The soup can be frozen in individual portions for a microwavable bowl of soup on demand.
Cheese Mixture
4 oz. Shredded Mozzarella
1 c. Cottage Cheese
¼ c. Grated Parmesan
1. Mix cheeses together.
2. Spoon 2 T. of cheese mixture into each bowl of soup.
*Makes apx. 30 scoops.
*To freeze cheese mixture, scoop in 2 T. portions onto cookie sheet and freeze. When frozen, transfer the portions to a freezer bag and place in freezer for later use on demand.
[Adapted from a crock pot recipe found at onehundreddollarsamonth.com]



Myrtle the 4-month-old foster pup came to my house this week.  She was interested in being my sous chef, until she discovered the heated throw on the couch.  Now she’s just a cute puppy head sticking out of a warm blanket.  She will be with me for about a month while her skin condition is treated.  Soon she’ll have a pretty furry face, instead of bare skin.

Myrtle heated blanket

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a lovely Thanksgiving Day tomorrow!  Yes, it is a US holiday, but this is me ignoring countries and borders, and inviting you wherever you are, to share in the gathering of hearts.  And heck, have some people over for a big, delicious meal, too.  🙂

I’ve made pumpkin bread to take to our little gathering…the details of which are still being worked out.  Little details such as at whose house, and who will be attending.  Nothing like last minute planning.  Again.  This is how my family does things.  And I’m deeply thankful for them.

My pumpkin bread recipe:


PUMPKIN BREAD

Bowl #1

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t. salt

Bowl #2

  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 1 c. vegetable oil (or half unsweetened applesauce)
  • 4 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
  • 1/2 c. water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or line with parchment paper three medium loaf pans, or two 9×5 inch loaf pans, (the smaller pans work better for me).  Stir together the Bowl #1 ingredients.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl (Bowl #2), beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin.  Stir in contents of Bowl #1, adding alternately with water.  (‘Add alternately’ means to add the remaining ingredients in portions a little of each at a time.  For example, add about 1 c. dry with 1 Tbsp water, several times, until there’s nothing left to add.)
  3. Divide batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes (up to 60 or 70 minutes for larger pans).  Use toothpick test for doneness.  For best flavor and slicing, store wrapped overnight before serving.

Does anyone besides me have to wipe away tears at the last scene in Raising Arizona, with the Thanksgiving dinner?

 

Black Friday is for Football!

The morning after Thanksgiving, you’ll find me at the football stadium, shivering in the grey, chilly weather, and cheering the Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas.  It will be a sort of rematch of the game with the awesome finish two years ago.  Texas has a different coach this time around.  For Kansas, this will be the last game for a beloved, talented, competitive group of seniors, and the farewell game for our hard-working coach of the past four years.  Lots riding on the line for both teams.

There is no cold like stadium cold.  When it is 50 degrees and cloudy, it feels like 20 in the stadium.  We froze at this game two years ago.  That’s why my video was shaky at the start.  I couldn’t stop shivering.  This year, I’m prepared, with a totally awesome ‘Aldi Find’, a wearable sleeping bag!

Sleeping bag onsie RSR

Unfortunately, my family has strongly hinted that they won’t sit with me at the game if I wear this, so … other options are being considered.

After the game I’ll shop some of the best-ever small businesses, that just happen to be less than a mile from the stadium:

Update:  Looks like I’ll do a little online small business shopping, too.  Tilly and the Buttons is having a Black Friday sale on her sewing patterns. ❤  Link: https://shop.tillyandthebuttons.com/collections/all 

This is your brain on spicy food

Shun anything spicy, is what I did until I was well into my 30s.  Even the ‘mild’ sauce option was a no-go for me at restaurants.  Then came a New Mexico bus tour guide.  His explanation to us of why people get hooked on spicy food changed my food life, literally.  It’s because spicy foods make you feel good!  It’s an endorphin release.  So, the me who has always believed in the power of endorphins when it came to exercise and chocolate, resolved to test out the effect of spicy foods.

First, the important thing:  How do you get relief from the burning sensation when the heat gets to be too much?

  • Take another bite.  This will only cool things off for a brief moment, because eventually you run out of the food you are eating.
  • Drink milk.  This will soften the burn.  Other dairy works too, such as sour cream or cream cheese.  Milk had always been my go-to relief, and the tour guide confirmed it is the best relief.
  • Water and soda pop don’t work.  The soda actually magnifies the sensation.  The tour guide confirmed this, too.

milk carton sm x2

Ways to start adapting your palate to spicy foods:

  • Picante sauce.  If you usually get mild, try medium by using less sauce and keeping milk or sour cream at hand for a quick cool down.
  • Rotel tomatoes and melted cheese dip.  Aka, ‘Queso’.  Who doesn’t know how to make this tailgating staple?  It’s got your spicy hot flavor and dairy combined in one scrumptious dip.  Rotel makes several options for how hot you want it.

Rotel page2

old-bay-seasoning-6oz

  • Hot Italian sausage.
    • Make it your go-to pizza topping.
    • Substitute it for ground beef in homemade Spaghetti and Lasagna.
  • BBQ Hot Links.  Almost every barbecue restaurant around here offers hot links on their menu.  It’s my standing order.  For home cooking, I like to buy my spicy hot links here.  https://www.yodermeatsks.com
  • Spicy jams and jellies.  If you don’t see them on your grocery shelf, try the nearest farmer’s market, or order it online.  I order from Simply Homemade, a maker in Minnesota.  She and I have been friends for several years, because of her hot pepper jellies, and our shared love of ’60s music.  (Scroll down on her page for the hot pepper jellies.)  The jellies are great on buttered toast or Ritz crackers.  To control the heat, first spread a layer of cream cheese, then dab the jelly on top of the cheese.

Grow your own?  For the first time, I’m trying to grow peppers.  Apparently, I got them planted too late in the season, so I haven’t been able to pick any yet.  There are a bunch of little growing peppers and blossoms on the plant, so I’m trying to keep the plant from freezing.  I badly want my first-ever harvest of Poblanos.

Run


More from the web on spicy foods and their mood-elevating effects:

1.  From Northwestern University.  “Now that we know why peppers are hot, you might be asking yourself, “Why exactly would anyone seek out this burning sensation?” The answer to this question can be found in the way our brains are wired. Capsaicinoids trick the brain into thinking it is being burned, which is a painful experience, through the transmission of neurotransmitters. Remember, earlier when I said your neurons play telephone. Well, when your body senses pain somewhere like the tongue that message has to make it to the brain. The message is sent from the location it is initially generated to the brain through a network of neurons by talking to each other via neurotransmitters, which are essentially chemical messages. One such message produced by capsaicinoids is substance P, which transmits pain signals. The brain responds by releasing another type of neurotransmitter known as endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural way of relieving pain by blocking the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. Additionally, the neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for a sense of reward and pleasure, is also released. In essence, for some people eating large amounts of spicy food triggers a sense of euphoria similar to a “runner’s high”.  Source:  http://helix.northwestern.edu/blog/2014/07/your-brain-capsaicin

2.  From MedicalDaily.com. “If you haven’t jumped on the Sriracha bandwagon yet, maybe you’ll want to after reading this. Spicy food, that oh-so-tingling, burning, get-it-out-of-my-mouth food, actually induces a natural high minutes after eating it. And hey, the spicier the better.

Chili peppers in particular contain high levels of the substance capsaicin, which causes the burning sensation in spicy food. The chemical has been proven before to work as a topical painkiller for arthritis, and also forces the brain to release endorphins. “The endorphins work to block the heat,” Paul Bosland, cofounder and director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, told ABC News in 2012. “The body produces them in response to the heat, which it senses as pain.” The result: a strong head buzz and numbness.

Some research even suggests capsaicin in higher levels can have mildly hallucinogenic effects. According to History, Mayans used them over 9,000 years ago as stimulants, while today’s chili eaters have reported seeing objects that weren’t even in the room and losing feelings in body parts.”  Source:  https://www.medicaldaily.com/pass-spicy-food-4-ways-get-high-without-any-drugs-whatsoever-323588

3.  Chile Facts‘ is a useful information page on the various hot peppers.  http://chilefacts.nmsu.edu/


So there you go.  If you’ve always shunned spicy foods, you may be denying yourself a great dose of endorphins.  Pour yourself a big glass of milk, and try to expand the limits of your taste buds.

And yes, the title of this post comes from the 1980s commercial.  It’s still true.

 

Tomatoes–what I’ve been growing

This is my one tomato plant I grew this season.  It was supposed to hide in the middle of the 10-foot planter, surrounded by marigolds, vincas, petunias and alyssum.  Instead, the tomato plant went all ‘Little Shop of Horrors‘, and took over the planter and pushed the marigolds out of the box, and choked off most everything else.  It has grown out of the planter on all sides.  The plant is about 15 feet wide.  There is a wire tomato cage buried somewhere in the middle.

Tomato plant 2018

In mid-October, we had a surprise early freeze, with snow, so I bundled up the plant with a series of blankets and tarps, two nights in a row.  (No homeowners association rules here, thankfully.)Tomato plant 2018 covered RSR

The snow covered the ground and the tarps all night.  The windchill was in the 20s Fahrenheit.  The snow and freeze broke four very old weather records.

Now we are back to sunny warm afternoons and chilly but not freezing nights.  The plant came through the freeze mostly okay, and has a boatload of green tomatoes currently ripening on the vines.

Some of the tomatoes got scarred from the freeze, but continued to ripen.

Freeze scars aw RSR

The scars have so far been confined to the surface.  The inside growth pattern is odd, but the taste is normal.

Freeze scars sliced aw RSR

The planter faces south and gets a full day of sun.  With luck, I’ll get another dozen or so tomatoes before I have to give up on the growing season.

My foster garden helper got adopted by her forever parents this past week.  The little digger was with me for almost 6 weeks, and gained 12 pounds during that time.

Butterscotch dirt2

Desert Trip; has it been two years already?

Two years ago this week, I went to the best music festival ever–Desert Trip.  I tried writing about it when I got home, but it was all too fresh and overwhelming.  Two years later, it still seems surreal.  But it’s now easier to condense it down to the high points.

This was my first time to see Bob Dylan in person.  I was on cloud nine, hearing Bob sing Like A Rolling Stone and Tangled Up in Blue.  Earlier in the week, he’d been awarded a Nobel Prize.  On this night the Nobel Prize poet treated us to new/alternate lyrics to Tangled Up in Blue.

IMG_20161014_1958424_rewind-w

The next night, Mother Nature provided a stunning real time harvest moon as a backdrop to Neil Young’s performance of Harvest Moon.

Harvest Moon2

This was my first time to see Neil perform live, and I couldn’t have been happier with his set list and performance.  He’s a rebel!

My fave song of Neil’s set was Long May You Run.

Sir Paul had my other fave song of the festival, when he called surprise guest Rihanna out onto the stage to do Four Five Seconds.

Each night had amazing fireworks at the end.

McCartney fireworks

On the third night, guitar windmills whirled,

and pigs flew.

IMG_0182-w

I had a general admission ticket, and decided not to fight for a spot at the front of GA, which was a dense crowd pushed up against a fence still far from the stage.  So I took a spot near the back, where everybody was relaxed and had room to breathe.  I could set my beach chair in place, and then go get a drink or food and easily get back to my spot.

My watch spot Desert Trip RSR

When I say I was far back from the stage, I mean, the performers were like ants on the stage.  I didn’t care.  The sound was great, and so was the vibe around me, and there were excellent video screens.  It felt relaxed, like a concert in someone’s back yard.

Stones arrow

(The band on stage is actually those teeny tiny people in the lower center.)

Accommodations

I opted for tent camping, of course.  This was my little outdoor paradise.  I had cool neighbors all around.  Some brought their own guitars for campsite jam sessions.  It was pure contentment when at the end of a long, amazing day, I would lay down and drift off to sleep hearing people congregated at nearby tents, singing and playing guitar.

Campsite-a

The tent village was well organized.  On my arrival, I was assigned an ‘address’, and driven to it with my stuff by a nice guy in a golf cart.

I took my Esbit alcohol stove, and prepared a few simple meals at my campsite.  One was Curry Cashew Chicken Rice & Veggies in broth.  I adapted this recipe from the amazing backpackingchef.com.  For the veggies, I used carrots, broccoli and cauliflower; all dehydrated at home in advance of the trip.

Curry rice chicken soup from Backpacking Chef

I also took my Bemco backpacker oven, and made myself a couple of scrumptious campsite pizzas.  I’ll save the campsite pizza details for a later post.

For coffee, I took my travel french press mug–a nice gift from my brother.  By loading it with ground coffee and water each night, I had a nice cold brew ready each morning.

French Press

More sights from my little home and the totally awesome tent village:

IMG_20161013_2313453_rewind-w-ANIMATION

For the campers, there was a pop-up downtown with general store, cool vintage boutiques, food vendors, hair salon, game room, entertainment, outdoor games and more.  I could have spent a lot of time here.  The downside was the typical US festival price gouging, but only at the general store.  $12 for a dozen eggs?  Nah, I’ll walk a few more steps and get a scrumptious pancakes and sausage breakfast for $5 instead.

Campers Center food vendors

There was a cool upcycle boutique.  I borrowed this shirt idea for my brother’s birthday gift when I got home, using a t-shirt from his favorite local band.

IMG_20161016_1302535_rewind-w-ANIMATION

One vintage boutique had a type-in ‘Guest book’IMG_20161016_1301236_rewind_kindlephoto-27061867a-w

There were dozens more pop up restaurants, pubs, shops and activities in the main festival area.  One was a vintage vinyl record shop, where the line just to get in the door was never short.

IMG_20161014_1727111_rewind-w

One vendor served ice cream floats in these awesome metal cups.  The cup is now a permanent part of my camping kit.

IMG_20161015_1817459_rewind-w

The taxi bikers were creatively shielded from the dust.  There’s an awesome review I’ve linked to at the end, that tells all you need to know about the dust boogers.

IMG_20161014_1435120_rewind-w

Along with dust boogers, there was the near-permanent dust tan.

IMG_20161015_0912406_rewind-w

Another totally awesome high point of the festival for me, was meeting up with a cross-country friend.

IMG_20161015_1704339_rewind-a

Sure, it was hot, but I managed to keep my clothes on, unlike some people.  What the _?_

Desert Trip pants on fence-a

During the 3-day festival, people were speculating on who would perform at the next Desert Trip.  A Led Zeppelin reunion was universally mentioned.  Some thought Springsteen and a few others from that next generation of big stars.  Others I thought of were Eric and Ginger as Cream, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Paul Simon, and Ringo Starr.  Anyway, the answer to date, is that Desert Trip was a one-off.  I’m good with that.  While I’d love to go again, I can’t think of another lineup that I’d be as excited about as the original.

The best music festival ever deserves the best review ever, and here it is!  Seriously, I read it while on my trip home from the festival, and had to hold my hand over my mouth to stifle my laughter so as not to annoy the people sitting around me.    http://www.apparentlythismatters.com/2016/10/desert-trip-review.html 

To that I can only add that I went; I experienced; I got the t-shirt(s).

Shirts2

Desert Trip wallpaper RSR mark

Sky beam RSR

And that’s enough reminiscing for now.  Next week…a sewing project.

Dehydrating home-grown tomatoes; trying to speed things up.

Confession:  I don’t like fresh tomatoes very much, except in BLT sandwiches, which I love.  The tomatoes I grow are mainly for dehydrating, for using later in breads and other recipes.  This year I only grew one tomato plant.  It became huge (as in Little Shop of Horrors) but it took forever to start producing.  Then it started producing tomatoes like crazy.  The picture below is the yield from just one day.

IMG_20180925_162947491a

I let the tomatoes sit for a couple of days after picking, and then it was time to prep this batch for the dehydrator.  Normally I would hand-dice them.  Dicing the first batch is always fun, but after that, the dicing becomes drudgery.

This time, I tried speeding things up by using a hand-crank food processor.  I roughly cut the washed whole tomatoes into quarters, 8ths, and 12ths, depending on the size of the tomato.

IMG_20180930_111331459a

I put the large cut pieces in the processor, 2 – 3 tomatoes at a time.

IMG_20180930_111540227a

It took 40-45 turns of the hand crank.  After about 25 turns of the crank, the tomatoes were reduced down so that the rest of the cranks (15-20 more) were super easy.  IMG_20180930_111802484a

The result was small, rough chunks of tomato, similar to diced size, and a lot of liquid juice.  IMG_20180930_111924249a

I strained off most of the juice.

IMG_20180930_112230171a

Then spread the chopped tomatoes on the dehydrator sheets–using the sheets with mini perforations to hold small pieces of food.  [Tip:  I wipe the sheets with a trace of vegetable oil.  It makes the dehydrated morsels easier to remove from the trays.]

This batch of tomatoes only took two dehydrator trays.  If I had diced them by hand, they would have filled 4 – 6 dehydrator trays.

IMG_20180930_112830263a

The next step was to plug in the dehydrator and let it run for a few hours.  A batch is done when the tomatoes feel hard or rubbery, with no wet or squishy pieces.

The dehydrating process for this batch of tomatoes took about 6 hours.  By comparison, a batch of hand-diced tomatoes would have taken about 10 hours to dehydrate.

IMG_20180930_113915723a

The yield of this entire batch fit in an 8-oz jam jar.  By comparison, a similar number of hand-diced tomatoes that I dehydrated last week, filled a pint mason jar.

Jarred tomatoes

This batch yielded almost 4 cups of strained juice.  The juice is a bright red-pink color, which I suspect it is packed with Vitamin A and other nutrients.  Not wanting to discard all of that nutrition, I poured the juice into a muffin tin and froze it.  I’ll try substituting the juice for the liquid called for in bread recipes and Mexican and Italian dishes.  This will be something new, as I’ve used a lot of juices and wheys as substitute liquid in recipes with great results, but I’ve never tried it with tomato juice.  I’m curious to find out if the tomato juice adds an interesting, or weird flavor.

IMG_20180930_113037865a

Conclusion:  Using a food processor to chop the tomatoes is faster, but hand-dicing makes nicer looking pieces, and a bigger yield.

Post-script:  After I wrote this post, I had another nine tomatoes ripe and ready to dehydrate.  This time I tried an electric food processor.  That made a better consistency of chopped tomato than the hand-crank processor.  There was still a lot of liquid, though.

I also tried the immersion blender on a couple of the tomatoes.  That was a no-go; it instantly juiced them.

ELO via Amtrak

In August I traveled to Dallas to see a Traveling Wilbury and his Electric Light Orchestra.

As it should be, ELO’s full sound filled the huge American Airlines Center arena.  The light show was the most extravagant and spectacular that I’ve seen; as it should be for a band called the ‘Electric Light Orchestra’.  There was no bad seat in the house.  There was no empty seat in the house, either.

ELO crowd

My seat was in the nosebleed section, which was fine for ELO’s show only because their sound and lights filled the arena spectacularly, as I knew they would.  The songs were all familiar.  The entire concert was a big, fun sing-a-long with the band and 20,000+ of their biggest fans.

 

Me-made concert outfit (partly):

I’d packed my fun green reflective bicycling dress to wear to the concert.

But as I was getting ready for the show, practical considerations won out.  I was going to have to walk 1/2 mile from my lodging to the TRE transit shuttle that drops off at the concert arena.  I didn’t want to make that trek both ways in a dress with wedge sandals; the return trip in the dark.  So, I opted for a pair of knee-length shorts, flat sandals, and this comfortable floral blouse that I recently made and wrote about last week.

ELO outfit RSR

The blouse has just one reflective bit… the button in the back.  So, anyone sitting behind me who tried to take a flash picture, may have gotten my button reflection instead of the stage.  But who in the nosebleed section uses flash at a concert?  Probably no one.

Back closureBack closure reflection

As for the concert, it was a lovely, lovely night.  Everything was perfect.  (Except for the guy sitting next to me, who had pulled up an ELO set list on his phone, and kept announcing what song was coming up next.  Grrr.)  But this guy below sure didn’t bother me.  The crowd all around me was really into the show, which made it that much more fun.

IMG_20180813_224351809

For the best sampling of Jeff Lynne’s current ELO live show, I recommend the “Wembley or Bust” live CD-DVD set.  I ordered it after I got home, and am quite glad I did.

 

Travel and lodging

The drive to Dallas for me is a straight 6-hour shot down through the middle of Oklahoma, all on Interstate-35.  It’s a boring and crowded highway.  There was a lot of rain in the forecast too, which I didn’t relish driving in.  My solution was to drive to Oklahoma City and then take the Amtrak ‘Heartland Flyer’ the rest of the way.  Turns out it is a scenic, relaxing train ride.

Pauls Valley train stationPauls Valley downtownOklahoma scenery2

Ardmore stationGainesville station

The night of the concert, I stayed at a hostel in Irving.  This was my first-ever stay at a hostel in the US.  I booked the hostel through Hostelworld.  The girls’ room in the hostel slept 6.  When I checked in, the three bottom bunks had already been spoken for.  So this was my view from the top. 🙂

Hostel room

I enjoyed chatting with several fellow hostel guests, who were all passing through the DFW area for their own various  reasons.  I loved the hostel stay, better than a sterile, isolating hotel room.  The hostel was an easy walk to and from the commuter train station, where the TRE train took me straight to the concert venue–the American Airlines Center arena.

Irving train stop

TRE regional commuter train

The next day, I took the TRE back to Fort Worth, where after an afternoon of sightseeing, I boarded Amtrak for the trip back to OKC.  Ft Worth station sign

Here’s the ‘Heartland Flyer’ arriving in Ft. Worth to take us back to OKC.

Amtrak train approaching Ft Worth 2Amtrak train arriving Ft Worth

My departing view of Ft. Worth.Departing Ft Worth

Once the train was on its way, the cafe car opened.

Amtrak cafe car menu

For dinner, I ordered the spicy Buffalo chicken tenders and wine.  It hit the spot.  Each time I see this picture, I want that meal again.

Amtrak meal

Amtrak was also an excellent choice for the return trip, because the weather got severe as we progressed toward OKC.  Strong storms, heavy rains, tornado warnings and a massive area of flash flood warnings even caused all area trains to be ordered to shut down on the track to wait for a bad cell to pass.

Trip interrupted.

Our train arrived at the OKC station about 2 hours late, which meant I would be driving the rest of the way home after midnight, through flash flood warnings all the way.  Instead, I did a very adult thing (for me), and got a value-priced room in OKC for the night.  The storms had wreaked havoc with street lights in town.  It was a dark and eerie quiet drive from the Amtrak station to the hotel.

The hotel I chose is a huge once-fabulous sprawling complex.  As I was waiting my turn to check in, the old maintenance man told me stories about famous athletes and performers who had stayed there back in the day.  He and the hotel were absolutely charming.  The hotel lobby hints at its grand past.

Hotel lobby

The hallway leading to my room revealed that the hotel hadn’t fared so well during the storms.  They’d taken on some water.  Bags of concrete had been used as sandbags, doors were propped open for drying out, and carpet had been pulled and piled in the hallway.  I didn’t care because I was so tired.  I felt bad for the hotel.

Hotel door sand bagHotel water damage

My room was nice and comfortable for the price, but when I ventured over to the door that opens out to the courtyard, I discovered the carpet along that outside wall was wet and squishy.  I didn’t care.  I was tired, and I wasn’t going to need to go out that door anyway.

Wet carpet

In the bathroom was a relic from its past as a luxury hotel–the toilet telephone.  It still works.

Bathroom phone

The next morning, I got up well-rested, and drove home.  There were places on the interstate where flood water had obviously been up on the road.  Staying in OKC had been the right thing to do.

Now, back to the Traveling Wilburys for a moment:

A fellow music lover told me that the Wilburys had intended to keep getting together to make music from time to time, and to possibly add new members.  So I’m thinking, should Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan convene the next generation of Wilburys?  Who should the new band members be?  Should their music follow the same style and formula as the original Wilburys?  The departed original members can’t be replaced or mimicked.  But do it right and their spirit will be there with the new guys.  I have a few ideas of who should join Jeff and Bob and make some new Traveling Wilburys music.  I’ve grouped them in threes, to keep the band at five members:

Option 1:

  • Robert Plant
  • Gillian Welch
  • An Avett brother

Option 2:

  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Dhani Harrison
  • Carlene Carter

Most of these are really huge stars, so why would they want to do it?  Well, you don’t get much bigger than Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and a Beatle, so the standard has been set.

The county fair and a campout

The night before my recent trip to the vintage clothing store, I went to the county fair.  I enjoyed looking at all of the hand crafted items, and home grown produce of the local 4-H’ers.

There were some excellent handmade garments on display, by teens and by grade schoolers.  To my distress, what you see here was all of the constructed garment entries this year.  This downtrend makes me want to stop what I’m doing and personally try to reverse the trend and bring young people into the wonderful world of sewing and handmade clothing.

DG County Fair garment construction teens

DG County Fair garment construction grade school age

There was beautiful home grown produce.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There was gorgeous woodworking, and a fun repurposing challenge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The foods entries were great.  They had everything from breads and baked sweets to canned and dehydrated produce.  I was too busy admiring to remember to take a picture.

Over in the animal buildings, there were newly shorn sheep in fabulous jackets.  Two of my favorite jackets were the high necked trench coat and a fabulous hot pink number.  The sheep were quite friendly, too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As for the other animals, there was a handsome rooster that did a great cockadoodledoo, but refused to do a repeat performance for my camera.  There was a lovely dairy cow who looks great with purple accessories, a perfect pink pig that belongs in Charlotte’s Web, and a spotted pig on the loose, who had the prettiest floppy pig ears.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was demolition derby night, too!  This event was packed; standing room only.  This picture should come with sound.  The motors were loud, and the crowd roared with appreciation.

DG County Fair Demolition Derby

Campout!  

That night, hotel rooms in town were scarce and pricey, but that didn’t matter to me, because I’d opted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather forecast.  I packed my tent, chair, backpacking stove, and breakfast, for an overnight at the lake campground just outside of town.  The lake was a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) construction project in the 1930s, and has been nicely preserved.  My siblings and I loved visiting this lake when we were growing up.  Point of trivia:  William S. Burroughs had a little cabin at this lake in the last years of his life.

On this particular night, my thirtysomething nephew came out with his lawn chair.  We sat and talked while looking out over the lake until 1am, mostly sharing fun memories about the lake and about our siblings, parents and grandparents.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.