Saturday, February 6, 2016

In The House Stew

Kristy at The Crislers has asked for crock pot recipes.  If you’ve got one, you can go to her blog and help her out by leaving your recipe there.  If you don't have a recipe, you should go there anyway and read her blog.

I love my crock pot (slow cooker, for those of you who call kleenex “tissue”).  A few days ago I made this recipe for the first time.  It was very well received by the clientele here in the Common Household, all three of us.  It doesn't quite meet Kristy's request for "tried and true" recipes, but I think it's a good one.

I also have two other crockpot recipes on this blog, here (Peanut Chicken) and here (Financial Crisis Soup).  (But my all-time favorite “soup recipe” is here.)

I am calling this “In the House Stew” because I changed the original recipe in major ways, based on what I did or didn’t have in the house.  (Sometimes I simply can’t face the grocery store.)  My husband always wants me to change my recipes by adding cream of mushroom soup, but the very idea disgusts me.  Even thought I didn’t make that change, he truly enjoyed this stew. 

The whole reason I decided to make this in the first place was because I had a sweet potato (okay, actually, it was a yam) in the house.  My husband usually calls such a yam The Ornamental Sweet Potato.  I am prone to buy a yam for some recipe or other, and then not have the enthusiasm to make that recipe, so that the yam sits on display forever, looking nutritious.  This time the yam was fresh and I did not want it to become ornamental.

Here are the changes I made.  I would bet the original recipe would be even more delicious.

- I used beef instead of pork, because I had beef in the house.  Major shift in taste.

- I used half a can of plain diced tomatoes, because that’s the amount that was leftover in the fridge.  The stew was quite thick, probably because it had only half the liquid it was supposed to have.  Next time I will use a whole can.

- because the tomatoes didn’t have green chilis in them, I added 1/16 tsp red pepper. 

- On a whim I decided to throw in a stick of cinnamon.  Yum! Took it out about half-way through cooking, when it had unfurled and the house was smelling nice and cinnamony.

- I used regular yellow onions instead of scallions, because I had onions in the house, but no scallions.  Also, are scallions the same as green onions?  Either way, I didn’t have them in the house.

- I never got around to putting in the lime juice, although I did have it in the house.  I think lime juice would go better with pork than with beef.

- I did not put in cilantro, because I didn’t have any in the house.

- I cooked it for about 6 hours.

- I fully intended to serve it as suggested, with a salad of black beans, orange, and red onions, but got engrossed in actual paid work, so I never got around to making the salad.

Cuban-Style Pork and Sweet Potato Slow Cooker Stew
A Weight Watchers recipe

7 SmartPoints per 1 ½ cup serving.
Prep Time: 15 min    Cook Time: 7 hr 5 min          Serves: 4        Difficulty: Easy

This stew's both a little spicy and a little sweet. Serve with a salad of black beans, orange and red onion tossed with low-fat vinaigrette.


1 pound uncooked sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
(I used one large yam.  I have no idea how many pounds it was.)
1 pound uncooked lean only pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
14 ½ oz canned diced tomatoes, with green chiles
1 clove garlic clove, minced
1⁄4 cup unsweetened orange juice
2 medium uncooked scallion, chopped (green parts only)
½ tsp table salt
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped


1. Place potatoes, pork, tomatoes, garlic, orange juice, scallions, salt, cumin and pepper in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker; cover and cook on low setting for 7 hours.

2 .Stir in lime juice and cilantro; cover slow cooker and cook for 5 minutes more. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving (including some cooking liquid).

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Just in case you want to exactly replicate my stew protocol, here is my revised recipe.

In The House Stew

1 large uncooked yam, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound uncooked lean beef stewing meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
half of a 14 ½ oz canned diced tomatoes
large dollop of minced garlic – probably about 1 ½ tsp
1⁄4 cup unsweetened orange juice
2 small yellow onions, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp table salt
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp black pepper
1/16 to 1/8 tsp red pepper


1. Place all ingredients in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker; cover and cook on low setting for 5-6 hours.

2 .Remove cinnamon stick after a few hours.


Sweet Potato Rolls is another delicious way to use a yam,
Ornamental or Not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Just Another Day of the Week

Recent morning notes to my daughter, sometimes composed at around 4 AM.

Happy Hump Day
From the Three-dimensional morning notes department
That is supposed to be a camel, not a duck-bill dinosaur

We are all here on earth 
A quote for today:
"We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know."
                                           - W.H. Auden
* * * * * * * *
This prompted a little exploration into a few of the famous poems by Auden.  Score one for the Morning Notes.

January 8, 2016
At long last, it is Friday.

On this date in 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act.  You were 1 1/2 years old.

A quote for today: "Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday."  - Ernie Els

* * * * * * * *
Thankfully, we did not have to discuss the NCLB Act.

That's all I've got for today.  Happy humph day.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Happy-Sad-Angry Story

Last night Younger Daughter and I did Writing Challenges. This is a beloved family activity in which we sit around and write stuff.  One person issues a friendly challenge, known in scholastic circles as a “writing prompt.”  Then we write, and then we share what we wrote.  Here is one challenge from last night, and our responses.  Please keep in mind that there is no time for editing.  YD’s composition was wistful, while mine was violent.

Challenge:  Choose one thing that makes you happy, one thing that makes you sad, and one thing that makes you angry.  Combine these three things to write one story, no more than one page long.

Feel free to try this challenge on your own and if you wish, put your response in the comments or link to it. 

Younger Daughter wrote:

            There once was an old house on Graham Street.  It didn’t look old on the outside.  It looked sweet, and modern, and like any other house on the block.  However, when going inside the screen door to see the black and white carpeting, and the little raised step, the house felt old.

            It wasn’t a decrepit kind of old, though.  It was a comforting kind of old, a blanket kind of old, a hot tea with apple pie kind of old.  There were spiral stairs to the right, nearly hidden behind the eye-attracting splendor of the dining table.  It led to an attic with sock-sliding floors and a monster mat and a kraken that would come out at night.  This was a very cozy little house.

            A house so very little can have a little history, too.  It had memories of new places, new sights, new countries, carried on from mothers and fathers long past in their children’s memories.  It remembered children’s children, and on, and on, until future and past no longer seemed quite so separate any more, with all the memories floating about this so very old house.

            It remembered a menorah, with chants and strict rules, and tradition handed down to a new felt menorah, taken from memories although never seen.  It remembered frustration on what once was calculus, to be turned into a toy by a child at play.  It remembered tragedy.  It remembered love.  It remembered loss.

            It stood now quite empty, this old house on Graham Street.  It shuddered, its old bones creaking, as yesterday settled into tomorrow.

I wrote:

            The people on the stage, all clad in sharp black, sat at attention.  Maestro slowly picked up the baton and raised his arms.  Violins went to shoulders, clarinets to lips, tympani mallets at the ready.  The audience of five hundred was expectantly silent.  Then, just as Maestro was listening for that silent downbeat in his head, everyone heard, - Crackle – Crinkle – and “Would you like a Rice Krispies treat, dear?” 

            It was Seat 24D.  Maestro spun around and glared.  Every other member of the audience shone a laser pointer at Mrs Seat 24D.  The orchestra members stood in unison and shouted, “Get her!”

            I pressed the button, and the giant claw descended, picked up Mrs Seat 24D, and lifted her up to the ceiling.  She disappeared through the hole in the ceiling, where she was rapidly liquefied and forced through the pipes.  I smiled and returned to my post.

* * * * * * * * *

YD was thinking fondly of her Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  She loved the attic there, where she could indeed slide around in her socks, and there was a “monster mat” rug with a friendly monster face on it, and an ancient adding machine that Grandpa used to use in his business.   The thing that makes YD angry is math.

I guess it is a good thing I don’t have access to the button I imagined in my composition.  Music makes me happy; the thing that makes me angry is when people whisper, eat, crackle wrappers, and breathe during music concerts.  The thing that makes me sad is the hole in the living room ceiling, which is barely represented in my story.  Now when I encounter someone talking during a concert, I will imagine stuffing them into that hole.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Rainbow Reading

Our awesome library has started up its Cabin Fever Adult Winter Reading Club.  We have two months to curl up by the fire and read books (ah, if only life were really like that!).   This time one of the categories is “Color Me Reading” – we must read books with a color in the title. 

Nonplussed by that category, I went to Amazon and searched on the word “green”. 
The top result was

Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana

Not exactly my thing.  I decided to see what some of the top search results on Amazon are, for each color of the rainbow.

Red: A History of the Redhead;
Books about Russians and cops

The top book is by a Japanese manga author.
Two prison memoirs: the famous “Orange is the New Black” and the related “Out of Orange.”

Some fairly serious books –
Yellow Crocus, about a white child, daughter of a slave-owning family, raised by her enslaved wet  nurse;
The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, billed by one reviewer as “a collection of macabre short stories”;
a book on race relations in America;
a novel about civil war in Biafra, Africa;
a Holocaust novel for tweens.
Yellow is not for sissies!

The aforementioned Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana;
Plenty of books about smoothies.  Green smoothies.  Blech.

There are four novels named Blue, including the top search result by Danielle Steel, to be released later this month.

Five books about dye and textiles.
Four books about a type of personality, loosely defined as “a person with a warrior spirit, always questioning and challenging the ways of the world and has a strong sense of a higher purpose.”

Mostly children’s picture books.
Also two books in a series called “Mail Order Brides Stories,” including Violet's Mail Order Husband - A Clean Historical Mail Order Bride Story (Montana Brides Book 1).

* * * * * * * * *

It turns out that our library is so awesome that they even put together a list of much better books with colors in the title.  AND they have some of them available in Kindle format to borrow.  I’m so grateful!  Thanks, colorful librarians!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Set your onions on stun

This is what you get when you ask a Star Trek fan to make meatloaf.

Tap the meatloaf, and say, "Beam me up, Scotty!"

Last week, since my son was on break from college, and I was busy but he wasn't, I asked him to make a meatloaf for dinner one night.  I gave him my Dad’s recipe.

Son:  Where do I find the minced onion?

Me: You will find onions in the pantry, top section, left-hand side, in the onion basket.

Son (disappears for a bit, then returns with a red onion, not from the pantry, but from the fridge):  Is this an onion?

Me: Well, yes, but that onion is for my salad. (Getting up to show Son where the yellow onions are, which he would have discovered if he had followed my directions.  I hand him a small onion.) Here. You have to mince it.

Son:  How do I do that?

I thought fondly of my Dad, who is the one who showed me how to mince an onion.  Thanks to my Dad, I know to use a non-serrated knife to cut onions.  I had never taught my son this task, probably because I know how he feels about all vegetables (hates ’em). 

I got Son started on mincing the onion.  Then I left the kitchen.  I went away to work on crop economics, church retreat planning, the program for the band concert, and cleaning off my desk. 

After a long time, Son came in the office and said, “I think maybe the meatloaf has too many onions in it.”   I thought one onion would be enough, but he used three onions, because he tripled the recipe.

The meatloaf was already in the oven, so I told Son it would be fine.  It turned out to be really delicious.  He also made oven fries to go with it.

From far away, raw oven fries look like apple pie in the making.
This business of leaving my kids in the kitchen while I go away is turning out to be quite appealing!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I originally had a special bonus of the images you get when you google “Star Trek Meatloaf.”  But I deleted them, so as to not incur the Wrath of Khan.

Baltimore Meat Loaf
1 pound ground round
1 onion, minced
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs or crackers
1 tsp salt (OR LESS!)
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tablespoons catsup

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix, make into a loaf, bake in lightly greased pan for 1 to 1 ½ hours at 350 F.