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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Boston Baked Beans

This is a great recipe. It takes 2-3 days to prepare, so be warned. But also note that much of that time is cooking time in the crockpot or sitting time in the fridge. Actual time you need to do anything is really not much. But if you are planning on making these for that bbq tonight, you don't have enough time. This is one you have plan ahead for, but it is worth the wait.

These are similar to the canned pork'n'beans, but so much better. It's based off an old Betty Crocker recipe.

Boston Baked Beans

2 c. dried navy beans (small white beans)
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, then cooled and crumbled
2 T. brown sugar
1/3 c. pancake syrup
1 t. salt
1 t. dry mustard powder (NOT prepared mustard like you'd put on a hot dog)
1/4 t. black pepper

2 nights before you want to eat them - Put the beans in a large bowl. Rinse well with cold water. Cover with fresh cold water. Set aside to soak.

The next morning - Drain the beans. Place in a 2-3 quart sauce pan. Cover with warm water. Simmer over med-low heat for 2-3 hours until beans are mostly soft. Add more water as needed to keep the beans covered.

Drain beans, SAVE THE LIQUID. Put the beans in a 2-quart crockpot. Add the onion, bacon crumbles, sugar, syrup, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Add just enough of the bean liquid to cover the beans in the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Cool the beans for 30 minutes or so, then refrigerate overnight. I usually just pull the ceramic liner from my crockpot and refrigerate it in that.

At least three hours before serving - Heat the beans in the crockpot on low for 2-3 hours until hot through and very soft. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday Mojo

Twinkle, twinkle baby blanket
I've been struggling to do anything lately. If it requires brain cells, I can't do it. Massive burnout from too much stress the last few years. Unfortunately, writing falls into that category. Don't get me wrong, I'm writing new stories and novels, it's just very slow going right now.

In the meantime, I'm exploring other creative avenues. I'm crocheting again. Check out my profile on ravelry.com if you want to see my projects. If you do knitting, crocheting, spinning, or weaving, you should join up. It's a great site for connecting with other crafters. I find way too many free patterns on there. It's inspirational to surf through the collections.

Mmm, fresh raspberries
I'm gardening now more than ever before, mostly because we finally have dirt that I can dig in. Our house in Utah had clay soil that was like trying to garden in cement. We grew the usual veggies there—tomatoes, peppers, a little squash—and tried a few fun ones—popcorn, rhubarb, and some herbs—but most things just got choked out by the weeds or failed to grow much. Something killed my zucchini every year. But here, we have sandy soil that is easy to dig. Of course that means we need to mulch and fertilize, but I'm having fun with that, too. We're trying out vermiculture. That's using worms to create compost out of kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, and cardboard. It seems to be helping the garden areas. So far we have harvested raspberries, red currants, peas, herbs, and potatoes. We've got tomatoes, popcorn, squash (including zucchini!), melons, cucumbers, onions, and a whole row of assorted berry bushes. I can't wait for more produce.

The view from my kitchen as I'm writing this.
And I'm spending time learning to relax again. We have a swimming pool. Floating in the water is very relaxing, although figuring out the chemicals and cleaners and stuff is not.

The clouds here are amazing. The variety and beauty is astounding. The skies are wide open, too, and mostly dark at night so the stars really shine. I'm tempted to take up painting just so I can do clouds. And so I have an excuse to watch Bob Ross more. I find him very soothing to listen to.

My question to you is: What do you do to de-stress, unwind, relax, or whatever you have to do to let your inner creativity loose again? I would love ideas.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Quick Salad Rolls

I love summer. It's full of fresh produce. I'm loving living in Washington, too. We picked our own blueberries last week. They were huge and so sweet. Nothing beats eating fruit picked fresh and fully ripe. Vegetables are pretty good here, too. We've been enjoying our local farmer's market. So much food. So good.

This was what I threw together for my lunch today. It went great with my grilled Havarti cheese and roast beef tortilla. (Yep, I'm getting gourmet. If you haven't branched out beyond cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, you're missing out. Havarti is a mild, creamy cheese that melts into oozy goodness.)

Don't let the name of this recipe fool you. There is no bread in it. I called it that because you roll up the lettuce leaf for forkless eating. Feel free to add in whatever ingredients you like in your salad. I kept it simple and plain this time.

A word about vinegars - Don't use regular old white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Both are much too strong for this. Try a good red wine vinegar or rice vinegar if you can't find champagne vinegar. They are milder in taste and have a sweetness that is really delicious with the tomato and feta.

Quick Salad Rolls

Butter lettuce leaves, or green curly leaf lettuce - don't tear them up, keep them big
Fresh tomatoes - sliced thin
Feta cheese crumbles
Champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper

Wash the lettuce leaves and shake off excess water. Lay out a large leaf. Place 2-4 tomato slices down the center. Add a teaspoon or so of feta crumbles. Sprinkle a dash of vinegar over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Roll up the lettuce like a burrito and enjoy!

Add whatever other vegetables you want to this. Some that came to mind are:
Carrots, shredded
Daikon (large white radish with a very mild flavor but lots of crispy crunch), slice thin
Green onion or sweet onion
Basil leaves
Sweet peppers, sliced into thin strips

The vinegar, salt, and pepper are to taste. If you like them stronger, add more.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday Inspirational Video

My son posted this to my Facebook. It's absolutely horrible and yet so very well done. Remember my post about Make It Mighty Ugly? This is what I'm talking about. Make it because you want to do it, not because you care what anyone else will think of it.

It makes me want to rip some footage off my DVDs so I can make my own weird videos.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Banana Bread Donuts

Yeah, that spelling bugs me, too, but these are not doughnuts—the light and fluffy yeast-raised rings of satisfaction. We get those at the local Mexican bakery, Viera's, because they are absolutely delicious and a normal doughnut is the size of my head. Very dangerous bakery for me to walk into. These are donuts. Made in a Sunbeam Donut Maker I picked up at Goodwill for $4. (Babycakes brand also makes one but I don't know how well it works because I bought the Sunbeam instead. It's shaped like a big yellow donut, with SPRINKLES! How could I pass that up?)

It was worth every penny. It works great for cooking cake batter, muffin batter, banana bread batter, and every other kind of batter I've tried, as long as it's thick. It only makes five at a time and they are always donut shaped, but it doesn't heat up my kitchen and it cooks really quickly.

We tried it with cake mix (make it the way the box says except use only half as much water so it is thick). I was not impressed. The flavor was just kind of bleh. I've been spoiled by cooking from scratch.

I tried a gluten-free brownie mix in the donut maker. I didn't taste one, they disappeared way too fast, but my husband and son (who ate them before they realized they were my daughter's) said they were really delicious. My daughter ate eight of them, so she approved, too.

I guess flavor depends on the mix. I haven't tried chocolate cake mix in it yet.

This recipe turned out absolutely delicious. Nice, moist, fluffy banana bread. Perfect with cream cheese in the hole.

If you don't have a donut maker, bake these into muffins instead. Directions are included.

Banana Bread Donuts

2-3 really ripe bananas
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 egg
3 T. butter, melted
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. flour (use half whole wheat if you want healthier)

Beat bananas, sugar, egg, butter, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until mostly smooth. Stir in milk and flour until mixed.

Heat up your donut maker until the green light comes on. Spoon batter into each hole. Close and cook, about 3-5 minutes. Remove carefully. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve warm with cream cheese. Makes about 10-12 donuts in the Sunbeam cooker.

To bake as muffins:
Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes for mini-muffins, 15-18 minutes for normal size muffins.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Scary Peeps

I've been sitting on this one for a while. Waiting to remember to download the pictures from my phone. And then remembering to write up the blog post about it. Well, it is finally time! The stars have aligned. Rivers are running uphill. Cows are giving birth to two-headed calves. Snakes are emerging from the rocks.

Got carried away there for a moment. I remembered the pictures I had and finally got the post written. Not really world-shaking or universe-changing events.

Anyway, I was in the grocery store around Easter time and saw these:


Purple peeps. But wait, not just purple peeps, but DISEASED purple peeps.


Seriously. Would YOU eat those? We don't eat peeps as a general rule at my house, we use them for microwave jousting tournaments or to start flaming marshmallow wars or as catapult ammunition. But I don't think I'd even do that with these.

Yes, I know it's Marshmallow Collapse Disorder most likely caused by change in air pressure during shipping. But do you know that MCD is the MOST-FEARED CAUSE OF PEEP DISABILITY? Whole flocks of peeps cower in fear when the name is even whispered in their vicinity. Puffy, wholesome peeps could be reduced to these shriveled, withered shades of their former selves in just moments when MCD is around.

Fear it. MCD - are YOUR marshmallow birds afflicted? Eat them now, before it destroys all peeps everywhere!


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Cucumber Mint Relish/Salad

Mint, radishes, and cucumber in a salad is apparently a thing. I had no clue. I had a cucumber that needed used so I went surfing and came across recipes for this salad that sounded good. I did mix it up and change it around because that's what I do. The end result was tasty—cool and refreshing with fish, rice, or on its own.

It's kind of a mild pickle relish and kind of a salad. Serve in small portions because it can be strong.

This is based off a traditional middle-eastern salad. The flavors are a bit different, so make a small batch first and see if you like it, or just go easy on the mint. It also gets stronger overnight in the fridge. I used spearmint from my yard. It was a bit too strong so next time I make this, I'm going to use a milder mint, either the sweet mint or the pineapple mint I planted. I still need to find apple mint to plant. I loved it in my yard before. It has fuzzy leaves and a very mild flavor. I'll have to do a post on different types of mint.

On to the recipe!

Cucumber Mint Relish/Salad

2 T. finely diced sweet onion or red onion
1 T. rice wine vinegar (go with any, but keep it white and very mild like champagne or white wine vinegar)
1 cucumber, chopped into small bits, about 2 c.
1 bunch of radishes, about 8, chopped into small bits to make about 2/3 c.
1 t. finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Put the onion in a bowl. Pour in the vinegar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. This helps make the onion milder.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir gently to mix. Let sit for about 30 minutes before serving.