Wichita Falls shorts

The RM12 bus stopped a few blocks away from our hotel. As the on-line system was difficult to figure out and “Find-a-ride” wouldn’t answer the phone, I waited at the bus stop hoping it might come. It did come, it did stop, and Ronnie, the pleasant, helpful bus driver became my go-to guy for local transportation. 

He told me how to get the downtown bus, where to get off, looked for me on my return trips, and even made a unauthorized stop so I didn’t have to walk so far. He was a chatter with a heavy Texas drawl, so I sat in the front to read his lips. Ronnie took me to Walmart, to the Fein Art Gallery, Michael’s, Target, and one afternoon, I just rode around with him. On my last day he took me to the Wichita Falls Museum of Art on the MSU campus. 

I read on the museum website that they had a Jackson Pollack in their permanent collection, and decided to take the shorter 45 minute bus ride to MSU instead of taking the 90 minute ride downtown to see the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, maybe I should have gone with the longer ride. Although the museum had an interesting exhibit of “Cyanotype Shootapalooza,” when I asked about the Jackson Pollack, the receptionist looked at me blankly and said, “I really don’t know anything about that.” Well there you go. 

Cyanotype Group Quilt


Ron Adams, Profile in Blue


Karsten Creightney, Untitled

BTW, the Sweetie and I have escaped Wichita Falls and are back home in Lacey. Beto rode in on his high horse, said that Bernie had paid our bail with his book money, and set us free.

Wichita Falls shorts:

  • Walking in Wichita Falls may be hazardous to your health—not a single driver stopped to let me cross the street. C’mon, you’re sitting in your big black pickup, out of the rain, with your air being conditioned, listening to whatever it is you listen to—I’m standing in the rain, wind in my face, lugging a big bag, with no sidewalk, no crosswalk. What’s the harm in pausing your busy life for one minute so that I can get across the street?
  • Cars rule: I didn’t see bike lanes, walking trails, pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, or sidewalks. 
  • I was usually the only one in the store, on the sidewalk, in a restaurant, or on the bus wearing sunglasses. 
  • People here are polite but not friendly. 
  • Spring weather runs the gamut: one day it was 92°, the next day, 52°. The one constant was the wind: there’s rain in the wind, dust in the wind, sun in the wind, snow in the wind—but always, there’s the wind.
  • This is the land of $2.00 gas, $350,000 pillared mansions, $500/month rent, and a $7 an hour minimum wage.
  • Despite the higher than average violent crime rate, the city describes itself as a “great place to raise a family.”
  • Wichita Falls doesn’t have a Starbucks on every corner—there is almost no coffee culture.
  • There is an extensive transit system that extends North to South and East to West with an almost indecipherable on-line bus tracking app.
  • Wherever we go—Chicago, Houston, Dekalb, Wichita Falls—an Uber will show up in five minutes. 
Posted in Museums, Travel | 2 Comments

Japan and Gypsy’s: Inauthentic Fried rice

Eddie Raven, Bayou Boys 

I assumed that my first food experience in Wichita Falls would be something Texan—barbecue, Mexican, Tex Mex, or Roadhouse. My Sunday plan was to take the downtown bus to the Gypsy Kit Cafe (eclectic Mexican/Asian/Cajun food, Cajun seems big in rural Central Texas), but unfortunately buses do not run on the weekend—we are in a strange land. 

On my way to catch the non-bus, I passed Thai Orchid, and further down—Samurai (I never knew there was a second “a”) Tokyo. Hmmm, rural Texas—Thai or Japanese? Japanese it is. Although a restaurant serving authentic Japanese food would probably not have an enormous, flashing neon sign, a large parking lot, and giant swords and warrior helmets in the lobby, it was close and it was cheap. Samurai Tokyo is not a cool, hipster, ramen spot, it is a large, corporate, knives-flashing, food-as-entertainment restaurant chain with a reputation for serving enormous portions.

The parking lot was full, the lobby was crowded with families waiting for tables, and a steady stream of customers came and went—similar to Sunday brunch at the Grand Buffet across the street. As Wichita Falls is more than 400 miles from any large body of water, I declined to sit in the empty sushi/sashimi room and waited in line to sit in one of the five logically more popular “Hibachi Rooms.” (According to my research, the word teppanyaki should be used instead of hibachi. A traditional Japanese hibachi, which means “fire bowl,” has a cylindrical shape, an open top, and burns charcoal or wood. A teppanyaki is an propane-fueled, iron griddle with a flat, solid surface.) The menu choices in the Hibachi Room were simple: steamed or fried rice with beef, chicken, shrimp or vegetables.

Traditional hibachi


Teppanyaki

I didn’t expect to find okonomiyaki, soba noodles, ramen, or tempura on the menu, but I did think chopsticks would be available. I expected a pot of green tea, but my beverage choices were Dr. Pepper, Coke, Mr. Pibb, or sweet tea—on the other hand, the server did have blue hair. 

I ate Hibachi Vegetables with fried rice and secret sauce, piled the leftovers in a styrofoam box, paid the $7.95 bill, ate my fortune cookie? (“Prepare for an exciting trip soon to come your way”), and walked home across the parking lot. Bob and I ate hibachi fried rice and vegetables with secret sauce for the next two nights.

On Monday, the buses were running, so I jumped off the edge of my universe, boarded the R7C downtown bus, and got off at 8th & Scott. The downtown area was once the city’s focal point with large retail stores, a hospital, residential areas, cultural venues, oil industry corporate offices, and restaurants. In the 1950s, the retail exodus to suburban malls began and commercial and corporate businesses followed suit, leaving downtown Wichita Falls to the dust.

Although there is currently a push to revitalize the area, city residents continue to ignore downtown. A few brave entrepreneurs took advantage of low lease rates and opened small shops, restaurants, and breweries, but for the most part, downtown is empty and quiet. B& B Upholstery, Healthy’s Downtown, Alley Cat Vintage, 8th Street Coffee House, and my destination, Gypsy Kit are counting on the bright future promised by the Downtown Wichita Falls Development organization.

How do you take a picture in front of a window without being in the frame?

I would like to report that Gypsy Kit, obviously one of the cool spots in town, was superior to everyman’s favorite, Samurai Tokyo, but frankly my dear, although Gypsy Kit’s menu was interesting and extensive, the food was bland—iceberg lettuce, carrot slices, and jicama do not make a memorable Thai salad. I must admit, the hibachi fried rice with vegetables was tasty—all three times.

Inauthentic fried rice, serves 4

  • 1/4 cup salad oil, divided
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 links lap chong (Chinese Sausage), cut in 1⁄4” dice, or 1 chicken breast, cut into strips, or 1 pork chop, cut into strips, or leftover chicken, pork, or beef, cut into strips
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1⁄2 cup of snow peas, diced or any combination of raw vegetables
  • 4 cups cold rice
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
  • 10-12 shakes of fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

Cook the Egg – Heat about one tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, dump in the egg and stir constantly until puffed and cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside for later. Wipe out or clean the pan.

Cook the Raw Vegetables (other than diced onions, garlic & ginger) – Add another tablespoon of oil, let it get shimmery-hot over high heat, and toss the raw vegetables over high heat and season with a pinch of salt. When crisp-tender, remove from the pan and set aside with the eggs. Wipe out pan.

Cook the Meat – Lap chong is fully cooked and just needs heating. Add a splash of oil to the pan and the cooked meat to the pan and get it nice and hot. If you’re using raw meat like bacon, pork, chicken, or beef, fully cook it. Remove the meat, leaving any rendered fat in the pan.

Sauté the Aromatics (onions, ginger, garlic) – Now add the remaining oil. When it shimmers, add the chopped onion and sauté it until it starts to soften. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until they smell great.

Stir-fry the Rice –When the ginger and garlic are starting to turn golden, add the rice all at once. Gently poke the rice to separate chunks, tossing it to and fro to make sure every grain touches the hot oil and the aromatics are well-incorporated. Stir-fry until the rice is very hot and looks dry and separate.

Add cooked egg, vegetables and meat, and mix well over the heat.

Add wet seasonings – Clear a spot in the center of the pan for the wet seasonings. Pour the glugs of fish sauce and rice wine vinegar into the pan. Let them bubble and sizzle away for a bit before stirring the rice into it. Keep cooking and tossing rice until it’s dry again.

So: cook eggs-remove from pan
Cook raw vegetables-remove from pan
Cook raw meat-remove from pan Sauté onion, garlic, ginger
Sauté rice
Put eggs, vegetables, meat back in the pan
Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and fish sauce.

Posted in Recipes, Restaurants, Travel | 3 Comments

Back on the bus: Wichita Falls, Texas: Pringles Meatballs

Bonnie Raitt, Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes

When a reviewer described the Wichita Falls Candlewood Suites, Sweetie’s assigned lodging for the project, as “modest”—damning with faint praise sprang to mind. The Yelper continued, “If you need anything more than this, you should check your ego.” Well, I checked my ego and I need more. I need a lap pool, a hot tub, a small-batch, artisan, coffee roasterie on the corner, at least one ramen shop per block, a king-sized bed, a city view, local farmers markets, a daily Chicago Tribune, the MLB channel, a separate space for sleeping, a cutting board, more than two forks, and access to my side of the bed. But, all whining aside, I do have a full-size refrigerator, a bus stop down the block, a free washer and dryer, an outdoor gas grill, a nearby Walmart, a daily USA Today, a local NPR station, morning sun, and a thermostat that can be tricked—so I’m good. (Speaking of Walmart, a local woman was recently arrested and banned from that nearby Wichita Falls Walmart for “drinking wine from a Pringles can” while riding around the parking lot in an electric shopping cart. Now, I couldn’t make that up.)

Wichita Falls has twice the land mass of Paris (Paris, France not Paris, Texas) with 2,000,000 fewer people. We are currently stationed in the Northwest quadrant of Wichita Falls and when I asked the bus driver where downtown was, he said, “I guess I’d have to say that downtown is in the Southeast part of town—only two transfers away. But I can’t be sure, I never go there.” Bea and Glenda told me I should go to The Professional Wresters’ Hall of Fame and the world’s littlest skyscraper, both downtown, so I already have my bus routes selected. 

On yesterday’s bus trip to Walmart, I couldn’t spot any two-story houses—not that there’s anything wrong with one-story houses. The bus route passed through miles of open space, housing developments, trailer parks, Sheppard AFB, a surprisingly large number of rusted car lots, surprisingly few cows, boarded up restaurants and taverns, Jimmy and Frankie’s Cut and Curl, the It’ll Do Tavern, Bombshells’ Strip Club, and Rusty’s Needles (?).

Most of the one-story homes have tightly closed drapes, a pickup in the driveway, and a barrel-shaped smoker in the front yard. Dogs wander around off leash and I actually saw unattended children playing, walking, and riding their bikes. Didn’t see any joggers or adults on bikes, although the oldest and largest cycling event in the country, “The Hotter ‘N Hell 100,” has been held in Wichita Falls every August since 1982.

Bombshells’ Strip Club


My bus stop on Maurine and Amber

 

Last night the local TV weatherman said casually, “Expect hail stones the size of baseballs or larger,” so today I’ll be packing my hard hat instead of an umbrella.

Pringles Meatballs

  • ½ lb. ground sausage 
  • ½ lb. ground pork 
  • ½ lb. ground beef 
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan 
  • 1 large egg 1-1/2 tsp. basil 
  • 1-1/2 tsp. parsley 
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp. salt 
  • 2/3 cup Pringles, crushed and divided 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Combine the sausage, pork, beef, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt and 1/3 cup of the Pringles. Mix all ingredients until well incorporated. 

Place the remaining Pringles into a small bowl. Using your hands, roll the meatballs, roll in the Pringles and place on sheet pan. 

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and serve with your favorite tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Lottie: Clam spaghetti

Eddie Fisher, Anytime

It was July, 1952 and we were on our way from Nebraska to Vashon Island. The windows in our 1944 Buick were rolled down, Eddie Fisher crooned Anytime on the radio, Daddy smoked a cigar in the driver’s seat, Muth smoked a cigarette in the passenger’s seat, and we three (slightly greenish) girls roamed free in the back. Nikki claimed the entire back seat, Ginny nested on the rear window well, and I curled up on the floor. The hours and miles sped by while we read our books, hissed under our breath at each other (”Girls, don’t make me stop this car!”), cut out paper dolls, unrolled toilet paper through a crack in the back window, played License Plate Bingo, and dozed. As rest stops were yet to come, Daddy pulled over along the roadside to stretch his legs and let the pups out. Muth smoothed out an oilcloth, opened the brown sack from home, and doled out baloney sandwiches. We peed in the bushes, collected rocks and bottle caps, and made dandelion chains.

There was no interstate, so we drove along Highway 12 through Aberdeen, Mobridge, Red Bud, Helena, Missoula, Lewiston and Olympia into Tacoma and Pt. Defiance. Each state had a distinct personality: South Dakota smelled like cows, Montana glowed mile upon mile with golden wheat, Washington stunned with green forests and tall mountains. We stopped at small, Mom & Pop motels or slept in the car if Daddy couldn’t find one, ate warm baloney sandwiches until they were gone, then stopped in small-town cafes for open-faced turkey sandwiches, meat loaf, and chicken fried steak.

The trip was interminable—stop-and-going through each small downtown along the way—but we got unique glimpses of how people in other states lived. In 1962 John Steinbeck wrote, “When we get thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.” These days, when the Sweetie and I take one of our long drives, it’s hard to tell if we’re in Iowa, Idaho, or Illinois. You always know if you’re in Texas—you’ve been driving in the dust for at least two days.

Anyways, eventually we were on the 32-vehicle Pt. Defiance/Tahlequah boat, Skansonia. Lottie, my maternal grandmother who lived with Muth’s sister, Norma, wrote us charming letters about life on an island in the Northwest, but we were not prepared for the wonders of a ferry, magnificent Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound’s deep, cold waters, rafts full of barking seals, cormorants sitting on pilings spreading their wings to dry, clam chowder during the fifteen minute ferry ride, and the cool, briny aroma and exotic charm specific to Vashon.

 

The Skansonia, built in 1929, capacity 32 vehicles

John Hinterberger was a longtime columnist and restaurant critic for the Seattle Times. Over the years many variations of his famous recipe for clam spaghetti were published—this one is my favorite.

John Hinterberger’s Clam Spaghetti, makes 6 servings 

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chilis
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced or mashed 
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried 
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams, drained with liquid reserved 
  • 1/3 pound mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti 
  • 1 cup chopped parsley 
  • Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 cup black olives 
  • sliced Pimento, chopped (optional) 

1. Put 1/2 cup olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet and heat slowly. Add the dried chili pepper, chopped onion and garlic. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes or until the onions are very soft. 

2. Add to pan the basil, oregano, salt and pepper, wine and liquid from the clams. Continue to simmer until some of the liquid is reduced down. Keep warm. In the meantime, sauté the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter and add to the mixture. 

3. Bring kettle of water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook spaghetti until just al dente (about 5 minutes). 

4. As pasta is cooking, add the clams, parsley and 3 tablespoons of cheese to the sauce and simmer at low heat for about five minutes. Add olives, pimento, if desired. 

5. Save 1/2 cup pasta water. Stir the pasta with pasta water into the sauce and toss. Sprinkle generously with grated cheese and serve directly from the skillet.

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes, Travel | 5 Comments

My Heroes: Coney Island Chili Dog Sauce

“Who Let the Dogs Out,” Baja Men

 

When I first read about Cesar Milan in a 2006 New Yorker article, his Saturday morning show, “The Dog Whisperer,” was on the National Geographic Channel. I had no dog, but I didn’t care, I would get one just to hang out with Cesar. Ginny came to Eugene for a visit and we spent an entire Saturday binge-watching a Cesar marathon. I bought a copy of his book, Cesar’s Way, told my dog friends what they were doing wrong with their dogs, and spouted off to strangers about Cesar. He was gentle, he was kind, he had sad, brown eyes and he turned bad dogs into good dogs. Cesar was everywhere: People Magazine, late night TV, dog food commercials, and personal appearances.

Eventually my crush wore off. After a few seasons, the show became predictable, consisting of the same three chapters. 

  • Chapter One, “The Dog”: Cesar and his main dog, “Daddy,” meet the problem dog who barks, bites, whines, pulls on his leash, pees on the furniture, destroys shoes, chews on the baby’s toys, runs away, can’t get along with others, or wants to eat the cat. 
  • Chapter Two, “The Fix”: Cesar clips a leash on the bad dog’s collar, walks him down the sidewalk, gives his leash a firm tug, says “Tsssstt” when the dog misbehaves, and, with Daddy as the good example, turns bad dog  into an Alpo ad. 
  • Chapter Three, “The Hero”: Cesar trains the dog owners, solves their personal problems, and walks off into the sunset. 
  • Chapter Four? Cesar leaves and takes Daddy with him, reformed dog stays, no one is interested or patient enough to work with dog, dog resumes his old, bad habits and eats shoes, toys, and the cat.

Chip and Jojo were my next reality heartthrobs. I sat through Saturday Fixer Upper marathons, planned to install shiplap behind the bed (who knew about shiplap?), bought a rusty bike for the “design wall,” and thought of the darling duo as family. Much like The Dog Whisperer, Fixer Upper has three chapters with a predictable finale. 

  • Chapter One, “The Dog”: Chip and JoJo help the new couple select a miraculously cheap problem house in Waco, Texas. 
  • Chapter Two, “The Fix”: First there’s Chip’s demo, then there’s the unsolvable problem Chip or Jojo solve (usually it’s Jojo), and finally, Jojo decorates the renovated house. 
  • Chapter Three, “The Hero”: Chip and Jojo pull back a giant photo of the original house and ¡Viola!, a spiffy–as–new, “open concept” house complete with landscaping, two-car garage, play space for the kiddos, “Chef’s kitchen” with a farmhouse sink, and washing tub for the dog—all done for $30,000. 
  • Chapter Four? Chip leaves and takes his DIY expertise with him, Jojo leaves and takes her furniture and wall art with her, kitchen clutter creeps in, farmhouse sink is impossible to keep clean, dog tub leaks, weeds crop up amongst the perennials, no one is interested enough to hang up their clothes, etc.—my obsession waned.

But fortunately, I have Real World reality stars. Bridget and Ronnie (with help from their village) turned a cramped, dark house with a moldy, above-ground pool into a stunning, light-filled, forever home with an expansive, wrap-around deck. Now, it took a year longer than they planned (a year in which they had no free time), cost more than they planned on, and “If we knew then what we know now, we never would have attempted it.”

 

Jon and Lara lived in their house for ten years, planned carefully what changes to make, went through three contractors, are now stepping around stacks of old bricks, have no working sink, and cook on a stove in the living room, but hope to be renoed by the end of May. 


Rae Anne walked on plywood for three years, cooked in the laundry room, made coffee on top of the dryer, and used the bathroom sink for dish washing. She finally has beautiful hardwood floors, striking Shaker cupboards, stand-alone open shelving, a new gas stove, and a sun-filled kitchen/great room.

Dogwise, my Real World heroes are Ginny and Ron, who have comforted and trained orphan dogs for thirty years. They wouldn’t think of buying a dog with a pedigree but provide homes for dogs with no place to go. They made room for Shelby—best dog in the world, Alfie—ankle biter with a Mickey Rooney complex, Dinah—ball dog and sandwich snatcher, Gina—Italian immigrant, and now Arthur—blind, deaf, old, and dignified.

My Real World heroes are the ones who belong on the cover of a magazine.

Coney Island chili dog sauce 

  • 1 lb. ground beef 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder 
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons white vinegar 
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard 
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 4 oz tomato paste 
  • 1 cup water 

Brown the ground beef, add onions, sauté until onions are soft. 

Add all ingredients and simmer for 2 hours.

Posted in Family and friends, Recipes | 4 Comments

Make ‘em laugh: Caramel sauce

Bruce Springsteen, “I’m on Fire”

Give a tribe of mostly twenty-something male misfits access to sharp knives, hot oil, and fire, add a healthy dose of cruel, X-rated humor and you have a restaurant kitchen—what could possibly go wrong. In my experience, the more tightly controlled the kitchen, the meaner the jokes. Working the grill one busy night in a fancy LA kitchen, I watched the Chef rebuke sauté guy for his lack of preparedness by turning sauté guy’s pan handle over the flame during service; there was uneasy laughter from the line.

Susan Feniger, the second woman to work in the kitchen at Le Perroque, a formal French restaurant in Chicago, was routinely doused when when she walked into the kitchen freezer. “One of the guys” would balance a five gallon bucket of water over the freezer door and send her in to get something, soaking her and getting her in trouble for making a mess. The line cooks hid her knives, tied her stash of towels in tight knots, pilfered her mise en place, and waylaid her timecard.

At City Restaurant, a line cook’s towel, stuck under their apron tie or stuffed in their back pants’ pocket, would occasionally catch fire. The towel flamed on until someone (usually a kinder-than-a-cook dishwasher) would yell, “Hey pinché cabrón, estás que ardas!”

The phrase “it’s all fun until someone gets hurt” cut to the quick one night when macho grill guy hid pastry girl’s sauté pan, full of just-made caramel sauce, above the pass. She saw it, reached up to lift it down, and the still-bubbling caramel covered her hand, sticking firmly. She was back to work in three months after several rounds of skin grafts.

Walk-in shenanigans flourished, especially on Monday mornings. It was a given that after the Acme Poultry delivery, I would find chickens, ducks, or quail in a chorus line—arms linked and legs crossed—lounging on the walk-in meat rack in compromising positions. Chicken and pig feet, at the top of the prankster wish list, were used in endless ways to amuse and terrify.

 

The butcher, John Pierre, lived for the days when a whole baby goat or suckling pig was delivered. Screams could be counted on to give the prep guys a giggle when the newest waitron unit encountered a severed head perched above the bar lemons. And tucking lobster and fish heads among the side salads in the servers’ reach-in created endless delight.

Servers were an easy target. Trumps’ (no connection to the current one) front-of-the-house considered the back-of-the-house to be unwashed, uncouth, and unintelligible felons and the BOH was determined to prove them right. “The Girls” (as all servers were known) collectively recoiled during rushes as the line cooks sweated and labored in front of ovens, burners, fryers, and grills, “How can you stand it back there?” “We’re animals, Lovey,” responded my favorite Aussie grill guy. 

Sauté guy’s favorite trick was to push metal skewers deep into baguettes, considerably slowing the girls down when they filled bread baskets. And woe to the server who left their street shoes accessible. Runners were treated with more respect, but an occasional squirt of whipped-cream in the kitchen phone’s earpiece kept them on their toes. 

The dishwashers were responsible for mayhem in the staff bathroom: they covered the toilet bowl with cling-wrap, hid the door key, and filled the soap dispenser with watered down mayonnaise. Servers would risk suspension and sneak into the front house restroom rather than use the one in the kitchen, designated “Staff.”

I had no agenda when I worked in restaurant kitchens—I needed a job and, despite my age and gender, I thrived there. I loved the sense of community, the frantic rush of dinner service, and the impossible level of organization required to survive. Unfortunately, I became used to swearing like a sailor, having no suitable grownup clothes, laughing at socially inappropriate jokes, never going out to dinner, and…any whole chicken that comes into my kitchen will, more than likely, be posed sitting crosslegged on a refrigerator rack—make ‘em laugh. 

Caramel Sauce 

  • 4 c. sugar 
  • 1 c. water 
  • 1 quart heavy cream 
  • 4 oz. cold butter 

Caramelize sugar and water over low heat until bubbles are foamy and mixture is warm brown. Remove from heat and carefully add cream (it will splatter). Bring to boil and mix in cold butter, one piece at a time. Keeps refrigerated for a long time.

Posted in Restaurants | 3 Comments

Shaggy Dogs: S’mores in a jar

We cannot be responsible for the reader’s satisfaction if he/she does not click on the post title, which will take him/her to the blog’s website to view the video below while reading the last episode.

Glenn Miller, Chattanooga Choo Choo

Russ muttered, “You figure it out, we’ve got things to do.” He left the diner, climbed into the idling Dart, and peeled out—the white rat lurched momentarily, tightened his grip, and held on. Russ was late for his part-time job as the Golden Nugget’s premier Roy Rogers impersonator. A rubber, inflatable Trigger waited in the trunk, ready to ride on a moment’s notice. Betty’s Dale Evans outfit, complete with white cowgirl boots, sparkly vest, and curved-brim Stetson, was in the backseat where she usually changed, but Betty was nowhere to be seen.

Russ swerved to avoid the tall, sandy-haired stranger with a new haircut and handsome, ostrich cowboy boots rounding the corner on his handsome bay stallion. “Come on!”, the sandy-haired stranger shouted to the beautiful blonde and the well-dressed man. “The Bronco Busters saddled up for one more rescue and headed out this morning to look for Betty. Bring her shoe along for Scout to track.” He leaned down and lifted the the beautiful blonde into the saddle behind him. The well-dressed man hopped on a discarded LimeBike leaning against the diner and followed in close pursuit.

The sun was setting over the purple hills of the treacherous Shaggy Dog Range as the Bronco Busters thundered across the ridge—the white hats leading the way, the black hats skulking behind. As they spiraled down into the valley, the hats and horses could see the gray curl of a campfire burning next to Momma’s cabin. 

Around the campfire sat a sandy-haired stranger in ostrich cowboy boots, a well-dressed man with slicked back hair holding a badly chewed pearl-filled white tie shoe, a beautiful blonde wearing a fuchsia leopard print blouse, and Russ, the Roy Rodgers impersonator (resplendent in a white good-guy cowboy hat, red bandana, boots of Spanish leather, a fringed Western shirt, and shiny plastic 6-guns secured in hand-tooled leather holsters), a white rat perched on his shoulder. Frankie was nowhere to be seen.

The door to Momma’s cabin opened and out came Betty, wearing pearl earrings, one white tie shoe, and yesterday’s uniform—Big Daddy under one arm and Momma’s cat under the other arm. “Found ‘em!”, said Betty only slightly out of breath. They joined the Kumbaya circle, Betty snuggling close to Russ, cats looking eagerly at the white rat. 

The beautiful blonde poked Russ with her s’mores stick, looked the white rat straight in his pink eyes and said, “Pardon me Roy, is that the rat that chewed her new shoe?”

Sorry


S’mores in a jar

  • 4 Hershey’s bars, roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff 
  • 16 Honey Maid Graham cracker squares 
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • Jet Puffed Mini Marshmallows for topping 

In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream until bubbles start to form on the side, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate to a medium sized bowl and pour the hot heavy cream on top. Let it sit for a minute and then whisk until smooth. Reserve. 

Process the graham crackers until finely crumbed. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles wet sand. Reserve. 

To assemble the smores in a jar, start by adding 1/4 of the Graham cracker mixture to the bottom of the mason jars. Then add 1/4 of the marshmallow fluff, 1/4 of the chocolate ganache and finish off my topping with mini marshmallows. Using a cooking torch, toast the marshmallows until browned and serve.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The beautiful blonde: Vegetarian lasagna

Do me a huge, click on the post title, go to the web site, and watch the attached video. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Glenn Miller, “String of Pearls”

It was late night in the desert: semis hummed by on the highway, plastic bags snagged on barbed wire fences, and a comet streaked across the Western sky. The neon sign flashed red, intermittently illuminating the dark, empty diner. Russ slouched in the driver’s seat of the idling Dart, smoking alone in the darkness. On his shoulder perched his white pet rat, pink eyes alert and whiskers twitching.

The beautiful blonde, wearing a fuchsia leopard-print blouse, ski pants, ski boots and fingerless mittens, sat on the curb. Russ creaked open the rusted green door of the idling Dart, swung one leg out onto the blacktop, and stood up. The white rat remained resolute as his head whacked against the door frame. The beautiful blonde looked up at Russ and said, “I tracked her this far, she can’t be gone.”

Russ unrolled his tee-shirt sleeve, tapped out a Lucky and offered it to the beautiful blonde, “Well, she is gone—all she left behind was one white shoe and a hanky badge. She must a been in a real hurry, she just got those shoes outta’ the Sears.”

Suddenly, florescent light flooded the long chipped counter. They could see the well-dressed man with slicked back hair and a neat brown moustache in the kitchen—one hand on the light switch, the other hand beckoning to the beautiful blonde.

The beautiful blonde stood up, snuffed out the Lucky with the toe of her ski boot, and walked into the diner, followed closely by Russ and his white rat.

“I found the pearls”,  said the well-dressed man with the slicked back hair and neat moustache, “They were stuffed in this white tie shoe.”

He set the white tie shoe filled with pearls by the green malt machine. The beautiful blonde walked around the long chipped counter, leaned over, and looked down intently, “What the hell happened to this white tie shoe, the toe’s been completely chewed off!”

“Well, don’t look at us!”, said Russ. “We’re vegetarians.”

Vegetarian Lasagna 

  • 1 eggplant 
  • 3 zucchinis 
  • 4 red peppers 
  • 1 # mushrooms 
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 T. Minced garlic

Ricotta Layer: 

  • 2 c. ricotta cheese 
  • Couple grates of nutmeg 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 c. parmesan cheese 
  • 1⁄4 c. chopped parsley 
  • 1 t. salt 
  • 1⁄2 t. pepper 

Cheese Layer: 

  • 1 # shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1 # shredded or sliced provolone cheese 
Spaghetti sauce

Slice eggplant and zucchinis lengthwise (thickish) and brush with olive oil. Either grill them or bake in 400° oven for 10 minutes. 

Roast peppers either on the grill or under the broiler until skins are blackened  let sit in a plastic bag until cool. Peel skins—avoid the temptation to rinse them under water  

Sauté onions, mushrooms, and garlic in olive oil. 

Mix ricotta, eggs, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. 

Cook lasagna noodles according to package. 

Layer: Spaghetti sauce first, then noodles, then ricotta mixture, then onion/mushroom mix, then eggplant, then zucchini, then cheese, ending with sauce—then start all over again. 

Bake covered with foil in a 350° oven for 40 minutes. Check for some bubbling action. If there are real signs of activity and the top is getting brown, remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more. 

Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.


Live from Lacey: We are up to our cowboys hats in snow this morning. The doublewide has a firestove and we stocked up on Cheetos so were good for a few days. Send out the cavalry (did I get that right?) if you don’t hear from us for a week or so.

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The red headed stranger? Cheeto Pie

LW  Willie Nelson, Red-headed Stranger

 

Betty was late. The oil slick left by her boyfriend’s Dodge Dart was receding and the neon sign behind the cash register blinked “Open” in the late morning sun. When they peered between the bent mini-blinds, they could see one white tie shoe under the counter and a hanky badge dangling from the green malt machine, but no Betty. 

Frankie the dishwasher was a no-show—Momma called in the middle of the night with another cat emergency. Jethro the milkman had obviously been there and Rayleen’s pies, still warm from the oven, had been dropped off onto the front step.

Anxious for his first cuppa Joe, the well-dressed man with slicked back hair and a neat moustache led the drowsy pack around the back. He rattled the door, “Betty, you in there? We’re goin’ crazy out here!” The words tumbled down the empty sidewalk.

They could see Russ the breakfast cook through the screen door pondering the grill—cigarette ash threatening the fried-off bacon.

“Russ!”, they shouted, “Where’s Betty?”

“Dunno, I slept the night on the flour bags—didn’t see her come in.”

“Well, we need coffee. Power’s out in the doublewide, Mother’s busy clipping coupons, and the dogs won’t go walkies. I need coffee and some company!”

“Not my job and Betty don’t answer to me. Ask the beautiful blonde sitting on the curb. She was askin’ for Betty too.”

Cheeto Pie 

  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup uncooked macaroni
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Bisquick
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed Cheetos 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Grease pie plate 10 x 1 1/2 inches. 

Mix 2 cups cheese and the macaroni. Sprinkle in plate. 

Beat remaining ingredients except 1/4 cup cheese until smooth, 15 seconds in blender on high or 1 minute with hand beater. Pour into plate. 

Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean about 40 minutes. 

Sprinkle with remaining cheese and Cheetos. Bake until cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

 
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Betty: Meat loaf

My older sister Nikki could go to the movies on Saturdays only if she took me along—not an easy decision on her part. She wanted to see her friends, but…was it worth the trouble. I loved the Western serials, each episode ending with the hero in trouble, his cowgirl tied to the railroad tracks, or Timmy in a well. 

This is my take on a Saturday serial. Feel free to chime in with an adventure thread as we go along.

The Eagles, “Take it Easy”

Long ago in a truck stop far away, a tired waitress, wearing “Hi, My name is Betty!” on her blouse, slowly pushed an oily, grey rag along the chipped formica counter. The interstate haulers, wired teenagers and insomniac suburbanites had come and gone, so she could finally close up. She put a few quarters in the jukebox, turned up the Eagles, piled the dishes into a grey bus tub, and left it in the back for Frankie, the dishwasher. She switched off the coffee machine, threw out the last of yesterday’s doughnuts, and emptied the rusted tin ashtrays. She hung up her apron, slipped off her white SAS tie shoes, stepped into her fuzzy mules, pulled the door closed behind her, and looked back for a final check. The neon sign hanging behind the counter blinked, “Open.” “Oh well,” she thought.

She walked around the back of the cafe, turned off the porch light, and let herself into her dark bedroom. Big Daddy, the fat grey Persian, wound around her legs, purring with anticipation as the counter-top can opener unsealed his Chicken Morsels. She unwrapped a tuna sandwich mistake, turned on Wheel of Fortune, opened a Tab, and settled back in the couch.

Big Daddy woke her up at 3:00, marching rhythmically on her chest, insisting that she wake up and go to bed. He was nowhere to be seen when she lurched awake at 7:00, already late for her shift. She put on clean underwear, slipped yesterday’s uniform over her head, and straightened her name tag. Frankie had the lights on and the grill hot by the time she opened the back kitchen door. She spooned five scoops of Folgers into the basket, filled up the water reservoir, and stood, cup ready, as the dark brown liquid dribbled out of the spout.

A tall, sandy-haired stranger with a new haircut and handsome, ostrich cowboy boots, eased onto the first chrome stool at the counter. “Morning, Betty. (He saw by her outfit that her name was Betty). I’ll have a Chicken Malibu, a large bag of Cheetos and a Tab.”


The stranger chatted as he ate his breakfast, telling her stories of his cowboy ways, left a generous tip on the long chipped counter, then slid off of the first chrome stool. 

 

“Remember, Betty,” he said as he turned to go, “No one is useless. They can always be used as a bad example.”


Meat Loaf 


  • 2# ground beef 
  • 1# ground pork 
  • 1# ground turkey or veal 
  • 1 c. diced onion 
  • 1⁄2 c. diced celery 
  • 1⁄2 c. diced carrot 
  • 1⁄2 c. diced red pepper 
  • 1 T. minced garlic 
  • 1⁄2 t. cayenne 
  • 1⁄2 t. cumin 
  • 1 t. thyme 
  • 1⁄2 t. basil 
  • 1⁄4 t. nutmeg 
  • 1 t. salt 
  • 1⁄2 c. 1⁄2 & 1⁄2 
  • 1⁄2 c. dry bread crumbs 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1⁄4 c. ketchup 
  • 1⁄4 c. barbecue sauce 
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 T. Dijon 
  • 3 shakes Tabasco 


Sauté onions, celery, carrot, pepper, and garlic in hot oil until onions are soft. Add spices and herbs— sauté. Let cool. 


Mix half and half, ketchup, barbecue sauce, egg, bread crumbs. 


Combine ground meats—add liquids and cooled vegetable/spice mix. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Test small piece for seasonings. 


Pat into loaf pans, packing slightly to avoid empty spaces. Spread thin layer of ketchup on unbaked loafs. 


Bake for 1 hour at 350° or until internal temperature reaches 180°.

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