Monthly Archives: December 2017

Easy Squash, Red Pepper & Bean Soup

Winter is the time for cooking and soups. The beauty of soups is in the season of hibernating-n-eatin’ is that they help fill you up and as a result you’re less likely to woof down a lot of heavy carbs.  I made one up the other day. It’s similar to this Easy Squash and Red Pepper Soup. This time I added “refried beans” (pinto bean purĂ©ed in the food processor with just a tad of canola oil).

First I sautéed half a chopped onion.

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Before it got too cold I covered a few herbs outside so I was able to pick fresh not-yet-frozen sage which I cut into tiny bits.

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Here’s the beans and butternut squash (the latter came from the farmers market in the fall and after cooking and pureeing  I froze a few portions).

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Puréed pinto beans and puréed butternut squash

 

I used half a can of Roland Fire-roasted Red Peppers.

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I rinse all canned foods

 

I added all the ingredients to 2 cups of water in the blender plus a splash of lemon juice (otherwise it was too sweet for my taste).

 

 

I heated a bowl in the microwave and it was ready to eat. This soup is nutrient rich: Vitamins A, B, & C, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and protein. It was also delicious!

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Mug pictured is Norpro “My Favorite Mug”

Short Thought 199 (holiday traditions)

The neighbors continued their annual Christmas tradition, which apparently, three years in, is fighting. They must have been feeling extra festive because the police came not once but twice. Ho, ho, ho.

Dollar Tree at the Holidays, fa, la, la

So I went into Dollar Tree yesterday. Normally I wouldn’t go anywhere near a store like that the week before Christmas but in this case, I stopped in because I didn’t have to and knew I could leave immediately if the atmosphere irritated the hell out of me. Surprisingly, while the shelves, particularly in the Christmas section, were a bit picked over, the store wasn’t bad. They had several registers open (this store almost NEVER does that), shoppers seemed to be in decent spirits, and even the employees didn’t look as if they wanted to throttle anybody. Not right then anyway.

I assure you I was NOT there to buy Christmas presents (ahem) although I did look at the decorations. I wanted a big red bow but the ones they had looked a bit shabby so I passed. I got a pack of twenty little red bows from there not long ago and have used them to decorate, including myself (I tuck one into a hat band for instance).

 

While in the Christmas section I saw something I felt I must share. The sight of the hard candies brought back old memories from childhood, nice ones. These candies however, were not quite the same. Yes, the canister is festive, although that “artificially flavored” business doesn’t warm the cockles of my heart.

 

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For whatever reason I flipped the can over and saw something I’ve never seen printed on a food item before. I knew I must share these words with you.

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Do I even WANT to know what part??

 

After returning the scrumptious, partially genetically engineered treats to the shelf I ccontinued on to my favorite section, the FOOD aisle. If you’ve never been to a Dollar Tree or checked out the dry foods available, you might want to if you have any interest in cutting food costs. There are excellent deals to be had. Some of the stock stays the same but a number of items come and go so you never know what you might find. (If you don’t have a Dollar Tree, there’s a website and I noticed they occasionally do special discounts on shipping costs which might otherwise eat too far into any potential savings.) Here are the few things I bought yesterday.

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The “Made in Mexico” taco shells, which I’ve purchased several times before contain only yellow corn flour, yellow precooked corn flour and corn oil, no weird additives or extraneous junk. I like ’em a lot.

I used the lasagna noodles to make a favorite dish last night, Spanish Lasagne, a meatless entree which features artichokes and black olives. It is TO DIE FOR if you are a rabid fan of pasta, cheese, tomato sauce, artichoke hearts and black olives as I am. In a nod to health, I use part skim ricotta and part skim mozzarella, and not as much of the latter as the recipe says. I freeze several slices on a pie plate and then wrap them in foil so I don’t just eat it all up in a few days. (At the time I made this dish last night I wasn’t thinking about including photos in the blog so they aren’t as blog-ready, aesthetically, as I might prefer. But I can’t cheat you out of photos so I fished these slices out of the fridge & freezer for photos.)

 

Awhile ago I thought I’d do a post on the variety of foods I’ve found at Dollar Tree. I never wrote that post so I’m going to just throw in the picture now. Again, you can’t just walk into a Dollar Tree and find all of these; some I never saw again. Not only are the prices good, some of the foods are sold in larger packages, for instance spaghetti usually is sold in 1.5 lb boxes. Brown rice is sold in a two pound bag and so are pinto beans. All for a dollar apiece. The way I figure certain costs in life are nonnegotiable – rents, mortgages, car payments, electric bills, etc – but expenses like food are variable, so why not save where you can?

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Cheap food, yay!

 

 

ALL SALES FINAL (you’ll eat those carrots and like em!)

Last week I posted a sign I saw in the small, local grocery store I patronize. I’m back with a new one from the same place, of a slightly different ilk. I have to preface this by saying that while I do very much appreciate this particular store, largely for its convenience and good price/sales, the produce section is often dismal. For example, I might find Romaine lettuce that’s not old-n-rottyÂź on every third visit. Two weeks ago I reached into the zucchini bin and my finger went right through one of them. Ewww. (I used to joke privately, and not too charitably, that the store’s motto must be “We will sell no produce before its time.”)

They also have a discounted produce bin. Honestly, it’s usually pretty scary. A large, chain grocery store would put this stuff in the garbage, but not this store! Despite myself, I usually glance at the discounted offerings because once in a very great while I find something worth buying. (Although now that I think about it I’m not quite sure when that last would have been…)

On the weekend I walked through produce and noticed a new, handwritten sign on the discounted bin, the one in the center.
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In case you don’t understand ALL SALES FINAL they break it down even further.

 

Gee, that doesn’t sound too friendly. But what it really says to me is that customers have been trying to return this sad produce. Um, I don’t get that at all because it’s not like the store hides the shape these discounted vegetables and fruits are in (unlike some of the “regular” produce, which sometimes gets turned over by staff to hide icky spots, ahem). I mean, hell I took two quick photos of reduced items just to show you.

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I THINK those are carrots of some kind

 

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If I’m not mistaken the tiny white spots on the potatoes look like MOLD

 

I’m with the store on this one. I figure if you buy something out of this bin you can’t claim you didn’t KNOW what you were getting. It’s hardly fair to bring it back saying it was bad; you bought it bad.

Short Thought 198 (fathers)

Same exact sidewalk. Two different young fathers.

The very early morning sun had just broken through the sky. With both arms, he carried his three-day old daughter so protectively in front of him as he slowly moved along the sidewalk in front of his house. He looked at her and stopped. It was like an ancient moment when a man held his newborn to the gods asking for a blessing.

Another time, another young father. He hustled impatiently down the sidewalk carelessly jostling his newborn’s baby carrier, not even glancing down. He appeared indifferent, as if he was carrying a duffle bag or a sack of groceries. It meant nothing.

 

Gone

Two little blonde girls, sisters, had vanished. It was in the newspaper. My memory puts the story on the front page. I was in grade school as was my sister who was two years older. We too were little blonde girls. These other sisters didn’t live in our town, but one we’d heard of, not far away. It was the first time I learned that children could disappear. They could be minding their business, doing things little girls do, and suddenly be gone, their smiling pictures, eerily disquieting, splayed across the front of the important newspaper where they should not be, where you wished they weren’t, not for that reason.

I was frightened. These girls looked like us. Just normal, average kids. I was afraid for them. While I didn’t know or understand what exactly could happen to such children, I had a generalized dread. Whatever it was it was bad. Nobody had to tell me that. In fact I don’t remember anyone telling me anything. I just saw these news stories. I was afraid for myself and my sister too because I saw us in these missing girls. We could go missing. I hoped my family would protect us and make sure that didn’t happen.

Not too long ago, I saw these sisters, who would now be grown women, featured on a crime show on TV. They had never been found. The report speculated on a possible suspect who might have taken them. Odds were these little girls were dead and had been for decades. I had never forgotten them. I’ve heard lots and lots of stories about child abductions over the years, so many horrible, despicable, sickening stories that infuriate and wound me in equal measure. The first two though, two little girls so much like my sister and me, left an impression I will never shake. Before then I didn’t know such things could happen.

Short Thought 197 (Christmas)

Something I hate: When people put up Christmas decorations in their yard without first cleaning up the dead leaves.

Something I love: When people put a festive Christmas tree in a window of their house for those of us passing by to enjoy.