Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sunday Stealing -- Conversations


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1. What is the craziest, most outrageous thing you want to achieve?

Retirement.  Retirement would be good.  Comfortable retirement would be even better.

2. Have your parents influenced what goals you have?

Definitely.  They had a work ethic that would not quit, and my brother and I both are pretty much the same way.  Work hard.  Make money.  Spend money.  Save some money.  That was pretty much it.  My brother has been better at the saving, and is planning to retire at 65.  His job as a maintenance engineer and set-up man in a medical supplies factory is very physical and his body is really taking a beating.  I’m planning on working until 70, and then maybe doing some part-time work after.  I read medical charts and type report (I’m an RN charge integrity auditor for a hospital system) for a living, so not so physical.  I’d like to save quite a bit more.  We’ll see.

3. What is a fashion trend you’re glad went away.

I’ve not been very much about the trends, I always wear what is comfortable and what I like.  I’m glad the trend of plus-size women should wear ugly, poorly-made clothing is gone.  I like being able to get pretty, nicely-made things at some of my favorite places.  Wasn’t always that way.

4. What word or saying from the past do you think should come back?

It’s the bee’s knees!

5. What do you bring with you everywhere you go?

My wallet and my phone.

6. Is there such a thing as a soul?

I think so. 

7. Is there life after death?

I won’t know until I get there.  I’m on the fence about this one. 

8. Do you think there will ever be a third world war?

I sure hope not. 

9. What smell brings back great memories?

Leaves in the autumn, gardenias and honeysuckle at night, the ocean.  Bread baking.

10. How would you like to be remembered?

As a good person who worked hard and did her best.

11. What kind of music are you into?

Bluegrass, Appalachian folk, Blues, Traditional American Roots music, Classic Rock.

12. What is the biggest surprise of your life?

It was a pretty big surprise when Mom told me that she wanted to move to New Mexico.  We had talked about it, and I made the offer after Dad died, but I knew that she didn’t want to make any big decisions for at least a year.  It was the pandemic, and her isolation, that made her decide.  I was surprised, and happy.  A year later, I’m really glad she’s here.  Really glad.

13. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Dang, just ONE thing?  I could pretty much live on BLTs.

14. Where is the most awe-inspiring place you have been?

Well, this isn’t just a little bit hard.  I’d have to say Denali, in Alaska.  Talk about feeling small.

15. Describe your life in six words.

Frankly, I’m not particularly fond of this sort of exercise.  A life is too complicated for just six words.  I look forward to reading others, but I’m calling a time-out on this for me.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Saturday 9 -- Black Velvet

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Saturday 9: Black Velvet (1989)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping?

For the first time in forever, we are done.  Well, 99% done.  All I’ve got left is to buy gift cards for a few folks.  I’ve even got the presents that go under the tree WRAPPED.  I don’t know how that happened, lol, but I’m taking it.

2)  Was there an adult beverage served with your Thanksgiving feast?

Iced tea.  That’s as adult as it gets around here.

3) Did any pets enjoy scraps from your Thanksgiving table?

Nope, we are an anti-scraps household.  Ginger (RIP) used to get scraps back in the day, and it made her an inveterate beggar.  Thanks to the judicious use of pet gates, Maddie is not allowed in the kitchen/dining room/front door hall (she rushes the door, like Ginger used to).  She sleeps on the couch through dinner.  MUCH more relaxed.

4) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now?

Yes, plenty of pork, dressing, and gravy.  Cubanos are on the menu for dinner.  I also ran across an idea to stuff mushroom caps with leftover dressing and bake them.  Sounds good to me!

5) Football is a popular Thanksgiving weekend pastime. Will you be watching any games over the next few days? If yes, which team(s) are you rooting for?

We don’t watch sports.  We’ll probably be binging The Equalizer, Season 2.  We just picked up a free month on Paramount +.

6) This week's song is by Canadian Alannah Myles. She was born Alannah Byles (with a B), but changed her name to differentiate herself from her father. He was influential in Canadian broadcasting and she didn't want to be accused of riding his coattails. Have you ever received a professional leg up from a relative?

My Dad.  The summer between my junior and senior years, and the summer after I graduated, he got me a slot in a summer apprenticeship program that Newport News Shipbuilding had for children of employees.  Later, when I moved back to Virginia from Louisiana, I was able to go back to my old mentor and get a job as his assistant.  Some years later, my Dad also helped me get my first technical writing job during the construction of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant in Georgia after my first divorce.  Dad always knew a lot of people, was well-respected and liked, and pretty high up on the food chain.  I’m not adverse to taking help when it’s offered.

7) In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Instead of pumpkin pie, Canadians traditionally enjoy butter tarts for dessert. What dessert was on your Thanksgiving menu?

We ended up going with Flan.

8) "Black Velvet" is a tribute to Elvis. Songwriter Christopher Ward said he was inspired by a trip to Memphis, long after Elvis' death, where he spoke to The King's fans and was touched by how much they still loved their favorite singer. Who is your favorite singer?

I love Alison Krauss—such a pure voice.  This is one of my favorite tunes, with one of her favorite accompanists, the incomparable Jerry Douglas on dobro.  I've had the pleasure of seeing them both.  Her solo, him solo, and her with her band, Union Station, with Jerry sitting in.  Amazing.

9) Share a memory from Thanksgiving 2020.

My first Thanksgiving in years with Mom (we usually don’t travel during the holidays).  We had just gotten her moved out here, and she was still staying with us while her stuff was wending its way across the country from South Carolina.  We went every day to visit her apartment and her cat, Smokey.  We had a more traditional turkey dinner.  We were crazy tired from our cross-country trip and packing up the South Carolina house.  It was good to have her here.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Cooking is Fun and Easy--Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Edition--Picadillo Empanadas


Funniest thing, I could have SWORN that I had already posted this recipe.  I've got the pictures on my phone from April and everything.  But, I guess I never got around to it.  So, away we go!  You know, the interesting thing about empanadas is that all they are is a fried dumpling.  Every culture has dumplings--you've got empanadas in Puerto Rico (made with meat), empanadillas here in New Mexico (made with fruits), the steamed and fried dumplings of Asia (China, Korea, Japan, the list goes on), Pierogies of Poland, etc. etc.  I find it fascinating. 

These were the first Puerto Rican things my Mother-in-Law taught me how to make.  They came one year to visit and Hubs and I asked her to show us how make them, and she did.  She told Hubs how proud she was that I wanted to learn to cook them. Hubs is my taster, as he has been eating and making these since childhood.  So this time, I tried to remember to measure the ingredients he said to add a little bit more of this or that.

For our Thanksgiving, we served one each as an appetizer.  Mom loves them!

Ingredients and Tools

  • 1 pound ground hamburger
  • 1 package Goya discos (also called "tapas para empanadas"), these are your empanada wrappers
  • High-temp oil (like avocado or canola) for frying
  • 1/2 jar Goya Pitted Alcaparrado (a mix of capers, manzanilla olives, and pimentos)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Goya Recaito (in Puerto Rico, this is what is meant by "sofrito" NOT the red stuff that's labeled that way.  Very confusing.)  This is a mix of Culantro (NOT the same thing as Cilantro), Garlic, Bell Pepper, Onion, and spices)
  • Food processor, fork, heavy skillet

The Discos, Alcaparrado and Recaito are available in a good international market or Latin market.  If you don't have that locally, the Alcaparrado and Recaito can be found on Amazon.  The discos come frozen, so if you can't find them locally, but you do have eggroll wrappers in your local grocery store, those would work.  Not the rice paper kind, the flour kind.

I once ruined a Saturday morning and pissed off hubs in a search all over the Albuquerque metro area for discos.  Our international market was out, and I wouldn't accept the dang eggroll wrappers and HAD to have the discos.  Eight stores, and many miles later, we found some.  This was in the days before I got treatment for my OCD and I was literally OBSESSED over having these dang discos that I ruined what could have been a great day.  These days, I pivot.  I'm able to pivot.  That's pretty much a miracle to me.  Anyhow....


First, take your discos out of the freezer to thaw.  Next, break up your burger into a heavy skillet.  You want little bits here, not big chunks.  Fry that up on medium heat until nice and browned.  DO NOT ADD SALT (the Alcaparrado is loaded with salt, you don't need salt trust me, you will make that mistake only once, lol).  

While your burger is cooking, get out your food processor.  I use a nifty little attachment that came with my KitchenAid Immersion Blender, but a food processor, blender or just you and a knife, chopping would also work.  

I like the speed and ease of cleanup of the food processor.   Pour 1/2 the jar of Alcaparrado along with it's juice into the food processor.  Leave enough juice in the jar to keep the remainder of your Alcaparrado covered, keeps in the fridge.  Rough chop it, then stir in to your cooking hamburger.  Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Recaito, and mix in to your hamburger mixture.  It will be salty.  Once you've placed it in the disco, and fried it up, the salt isn't so evident.  If it's a little too salty for you, add more Recaito.  Let the whole thing come to a boil over medium high, until any remaining liquid boils off.  Take off the heat and let cool.  The remainder of the Recaito, we freeze in 4 oz. Ziplock twist lid cups for next time.

By the time this is cooled completely, your discos should be thawed.  Take a single disco place about 1 tablespoon (not a measurement, I use a flatware tablespoon for this) onto the disco.

Next, fold over and crimp ON BOTH SIDES with fork tines.  

Put on a plate, cover with a damp paper or tea towel and do this 9 more time (there are 10 discos to a package).  Hubs and I once made about a hundred of these at one go.  Crazy.  

Heat about 2 inches of high temp oil in a cast-iron or other heavy skillet.  Bring up to frying temp on medium high heat.  Fry your empanadas a few at a time on both sides until the are golden brown and puffy.  Don't crowd the pan.  Drain on paper towels.

TaDA, you've made picadillo empanadas.  Hubs' family serves these with Sweet Thai Chili sauce as a dipping sauce.  The UNCOOKED empanadas freeze beautifully.  I freeze them on a cookie sheet, then bag.  Make sure to thaw completely at room temp before frying.

Buen provecho!!  Enjoy.

Cooking is Fun and Easy -- Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Edition--Pernil Asado


As promised, here are some recipes from our Puerto Rican Thanksgiving yesterday.  I am not including the arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) because I am NOT happy with the way it turned out.  The altitude, or the recipe, or something, really messed with the timing on this, so I'm going to futz with the recipe I used until I get the darn thing right.  Stay tuned for that one.  Hubs did the cooking on this one, I took pictures.

Pernil Asado (roast pork shoulder, Puerto Rican Style)

Image Credit (Since I totally forgot to take a picture when it was done)

This is common holiday tradition for my husband's family, and is common for Christmas in Puerto Rico.  There are a zillion recipes out there, but this particular one comes from my mother-in-law, who came to New York City from Puerto Rico as a toddler.  She was the oldest of 12, and they lived in the Bronx, and later in Spanish Harlem.  When Hubs was 10, they moved to small town, North Carolina.  Culture shock to the max.  Several other family members moved nearby, and continuing these food traditions was a way to stay connected to the culture, I'm sure.

Ingredients and Tools

  • Bone-in pork shoulder with intact fat cap and skin (sometimes called a picnic cut), 8 pounds (you want a good size cut for this, but the most important part is the intact fat cap/skin).
  • Single Edge Razor blade, Exacto knife, box cutter, sharp knife, whatever you have that's SHARP (hubs used a single edged razor blade)
  • Roasting pan (at least 2 inches deep, preferably with lifting rack)
  • Heavy duty Brining Bag
  • 10 cloves garlic peeled, smashed, and minced (a meat mallet works great for the smashing part)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed Italian oregano
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 tablespoons high smoke point oil (we use avocado)


This is a "dry" brine or adobo seco, as opposed to a wet brine, an adobo mojado.  Mix the garlic and spices together with the oil in a food processor and give it a whir until you've got a nice paste. 

About 24 hours before cooking, prep the pork for the brine.  Using your sharp blade, score the fat cap and skin of the pork shoulder in a crosshatch pattern, making your cuts very deep, well into the meat.  

I highly recommend using food-grade disposable gloves for this part, it's messy and if you don't, you're going to be scrubbing garlic off your hands.  One of the best tools in the kitchen, those gloves.  Rub all the scored areas of the pork with the adobo, getting it DEEP in the cuts you've made.  There cannot be too much paste in these cuts, I promise you!  Make sure there's a nice coating rubbed all over the fat cap when you are done.  Place in a large brining bag, seal well, and place in the fridge to marinate overnight.

The next morning, take out of the fridge and place on the counter to let it come up to closer to room temp, at least 1 hour.  About 6 hours prior to your meal, fire up your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the pork from the brining bag and place in the roasting pan, fat cap side UP, uncovered.

Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour, then decrease heat to 300 degrees and roast for 4 hours.  Do not turn, keep fat cap UP at all times.  Check temp with meat thermometer, must be at least 185 degrees at the center.  Pull from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Slice with sharp knife.  We served with tostones (twice-fried plantains), arroz con gandules (stay tuned for a better recipe than the one I used), a green salad, and homemade Southern-style dressing, and pork gravy.  In this photo, the pork is on the left, tostones top center, dressing upper right, and arroz con gandules bottom center.  The dipping sauce just below the dressing is also a Hubs' family tradition, and really illustrates the multi-culturalism of NYC--it's Thai sweet chili sauce.  We always have it around for empanadas and tostones.  It's great on any savory, crunchy, fried things.  My Mom loved it!

This makes AMAZING Cubano sandwiches.  What is a Cubano you may ask?  Just the best sandwich in the world.  Sliced roast pork, ham, swiss cheese,  and pickles layered on french style rolls or a baguette, slathered with yellow mustard, and pressed and toasted.  Stay tuned for our take!

What else can you do with this pork?  Shred for pulled pork, add a nice vinegar based BBQ sauce North Carolina style, and serve on slider buns with creamy coleslaw is what I say!

Or just do you.  That's what makes cooking so fun--you can just experiment and be yourself.

Next up--Empanadas!