Sunday, January 31, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Free Range Friday ~ Pork Loin

Awhile back I was wandering the aisles of Costa del Sol, hoping, as I so often do, that the food fairies had come along with a surprise. And they had! There, a boneless pork loin. Not the kind we get at Milka's (though delicious) in the super sealed bag. No this one looked like it just came off the farm. The organic, pasture raised pig farm.

credit: Harmony Valley Farms
the farm I wish that pork came from
I'm sure this pork come from some farm somewhere. But to let myself buy it, I couldn't think about where that somewhere might be, so I didn't.

(slowly, I am running out of things to eat while thinking..soon it will be pasta and clams and booze only, I can feel it coming)

This would feed me for quite awhile so I wanted to take my time making it, that whatever I chose I didn't want to get tired of it in whatever incarnation it became later; sandwich, tortilla filler, snack alone on a plate. 

Also, I was tired of my regular marinades. I needed something different. Something new. Something like balsamic vinegar super simple marinade, yeah! I'd never done much with balsamic but drizzle it on avocados, though I know it is a super versatile vinegar. I'd start scratching its surface.

When I saw this recipe only had four ingredients I was immediately leery. Usually this means a pre-made product would be involved and it did. 

2 lb (or so) boneless pork roast
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons steak seasoning rub 

What? I, the condiment Queen, have never bought steak seasoning rub, so what's in it anyway? 

The recipe I found had black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, dill seed, coriander and red pepper flakes. I had everything but the garlic powder and dill seed and...well I didn't have half the ingredients. 

No worries. I did have black pepper, real garlic, red pepper, cumin and celery seed, how about that instead? That worked. 

So into a gallon baggie (sometimes I well lose the plastic bag fight with myself and this would be one of those times) went, after the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil:

Black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Celery seed
5 thinly sliced garlic cloves (they weren't that big, hey! I like garlic) 

I mixed that all up and it still looked a little wimpy so happily off the recipe trail I went, adding some grapefruit juice, a spoonful of jam, a small hit of red wine and there! That was better.

In went the pork. Sealed up with as little air as possible, the marinade surrounded the meat. Into the fridge, overnight. Delayed gratification can be a beautiful thing. 

Luckily the woman from this blog did NOT forget to take photos.
And even with her steak seasoning, it looked exactly the same.
Why didn't I take photos of that part? Why ask why? 

The next day, it was seriously marinaded. Yippee! 

Yum. Oh, better cook it first.
I took a number of the sliced garlic bits and studded the roast with them, much as you would do a leg of lamb. There was plenty to leave all over it as well. 

At 350 degrees, this took about an hour and a half, despite being told less time. But it was a really big, dense piece of meat. I personally don't mind a tinge of palest pink with pork so if you do, cook it at that temp for an hour and then lower it to 250 and keep cooking until you're happy. Just don't cook it so long that you are UNhappy! Include a 10 minute or so resting period in that time if you go much over the palest of pink stage. 

It doesn't look much different but it is. 
Remember, just because the meat isn't in the oven, it's still cooking for awhile there.

credit: The Girl Who Ate Everything
I had great intentions of taking this particular photo of my own roast, but somehow it kept getting eaten instead of getting photographed. But I swear, it looked JUST like this (unless you are so good you can see coriander seeds rather than celery seeds). It was really pretty.

As was the salad I made to go with the first meal from the monstah.

The last thing I made with it, a few days later, was sandwiches. There was lettuce and avocado and provolone cheese, some shallots and the last of the pork roast.

And bread, brought by the friend I shared the sandwiches with. Hooray for friends with bread who like pork sandwiches!

And that was what the food fairies made happen. The next time I looked there were no more. A woman I know a few days later was in the store, she did exactly what I did the day before. We saw a few of the loins in there and thought, nah, get 'em tomorrow. It was tomorrow. They were gone. We know better and yet still do these things! I'll probably never see a pork loin like that in there again. Thank you, food fairies. 

Have a food fairy Friday. Do something flybynightly fortifying.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

In Memory ~ 30 Years Later

Maybe it is growing up on what we called, unofficially, the Spaced Coast, my father an engineer for NASA, that makes the fact that 30 years have passed since that very horrible day stand out as not nearly so long ago. But I know I'm far from alone and that millions of others are feeling that sharp pang of remembrance as well. 

Growing up with rockets, a typical sign of the times
(and a great documentary too)
That day, after sending my children off to school, I'd decided it was too cold (again) for a launching of the Challenger, so I went to the local mall to do some shopping. It wasn't until I saw a small but growing crowd surrounding the window of an electronics shop that it occurred to me something else was going on. 

My first glance showed the space center on the screen and I wondered if it was some sort of anniversary of a particular launch that I'd forgotten about. It only took a few seconds to realize how wrong I was. The newscasters were fumbling, at a loss for words, as no one really understood, in those first moments, what was going on. What we in that crowd did know, longer experienced with live launchings, loudly unspoken in a palpable silence, was that this was completely wrong, that those aboard the Challenger were not going to be rescued, that survival was not possible. 

My first thought was my children. I knew they'd have been out on the playground with their classmates, just as we were as children long before, watching the event happening before their eyes. I wanted to be with them. Right now. Driving home with that devastating burst of trails still in the sky, I thought, all any of us want right now is to be with the ones we love. I think there was a lot of holding our loved ones tight going on that day and into the night, the fleetingness and preciousness of life heartpoundingly carved into our beings after days of so much hope and excitement. 

credit: Jim Cole (AP)
My daughter Sarah and I were talking about this last month, how it shaped a part of her life and the lives of so many of her friends. The strangeness, the awkwardness of parents and teachers trying to explain this horror witnessed by millions schoolchildren, both live and televised (there are arguments that it wasn't watched 'live' in most places but in taped delay - where we live, it was live, otherwise, you say potato, I say potahto)  There was just no good way, in those nights and days to make something good out of something so awful. 

We might have explanations now, but really? It still feels just as wrong and just as sad as that long ago day. 

All extreme explorers face the possibility of plans going disastrously wrong; history is full of their stories. This is one of them. Is it better to stay safely home? I don't think so, not at all. But then, those who don't come back never get to tell us their gladness or sorrow of choices. The risks are known, they take them and sometimes that is all we find out.

In honor of this crew, this day, salud.

Have a teach your children well Thursday. Do something tenderly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Melones Art

After waiting out some rain storms yesterday, Melones seemed like a good spot to hit the water. Luckily for us, it was after two tour boats with approximately 100 people AND jet skis had left. I believe that would be illegal in the reserve. I wasn't there to see or report it - maybe that sign with all the do's and don't's on it could have the DRNA phone number posted as well, for violators, so that locals and tourists who care about saving what's left can call these incidences in.

What these  !@#$%* on and off island tour operators don't seem care about is that (same for Tamarindo, where feeding the turtles with dog food!, standing on coral and again, overuse) these practices will, in the not distant future, destroy the very things they are there to see; they'll just go find another beautiful, relatively unspoiled place to ruin. Ask around the Caribbean. It's been done many times before and sadly, won't abate unless great care and enforcement are exercised. Okay, soapboxing done.

All was quiet on our arrival. Being the cold water wuss that I am, I stayed on/shin deep to the shore while braver souls took the plunge. In looking around, artists had been at work. I missed some - the dusky sky filled with hungry no-see-ums - that will be for a later date.

This is what first caught my eye, that something was going on

Photographs don't really capture the imaginative whimsy here. I went back for a closer look. 

Hearts are us

I was seeing all manner of animals and other objects that might have just been my imagination or it might have been intention. Whatever was going on, it was really enjoyable and fun. I hope they stand the test of time for awhile.

Thank you, Melones!
Have a tangential Tuesday. Do something temporarily timeless.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Free Range Friday ~ Quesadillas

My friend Teresa makes really good quesadillas. But beside providing a good meal, what she more long lastingly did for me is show me how simple a process it really is. Not that I thought making quesadillas was on the same par as, say, a soufflé or Hollandaise sauce, but more the construction of them and carrying through to the unburned end. 

No, it was not a duck quesadilla. I just had to put them here.
I tried and failed on my first one, quite awhile back, mainly because there was something in my head that was thinking about grilled cheese sandwiches and that there needed to be some sort of butter or oil in the pan. Fail of course is a relative term here. It was still really good but it was greasy and that is not what I was going for. 

I have it down pretty well now and truthfully, quesadillas are one of the best lasting returns for labor meals. Even though this is using small tortillas, it felt like there was a large pizza in front of me. Except when I was done, I felt good instead of sick.

This is a very simple quesadilla. These things were in the fridge, it was quick and it more than did the job of being satisfying - from preparing it to eating it.

Shallots & mushrooms from the veggie guy

Sautéed in wee bit of butter

I chunked this pepper jack cheese up instead of shredding it.
It worked just fine.

And an egg sounded perfect. This egg is swirled in the pan, not beaten.
No reason for that except laziness - no extra bowl to clean - and it works.
Time to layer it up. Your pan should be on a medium low heat. I usually use a propane stove, so I'm just guessing at the name of the heat, but you don't want it very hot, these can go from golden to burned in a glance away.

Tortilla, mushrooms and onion, no grease!

On goes the cheese

I put the egg on top to help melt the cheese a little faster

The other tortilla on top
I was reading a recipe for quesadillas and the instructions had you put everything on top of one tortilla and then fold it over. That, to me, is called a taco. This is how I do it, partly because I think that's how it's done and partly because it's fun.

The plate turnover method
Because I have a weak arm, I have learned all sorts of great tricks to compensate for it (compensate in this case means not breaking things or spreading food much farther than its intended target). You don't have to have any weaknesses (like just being a garden variety klutz) for this to help out in a turnover.

The plate turnover is a trick that I actually read in a recipe for Spanish omelets (or potato patata, as I call it). I use it for this as well. Find a plate slightly larger than what you want to turn over, and with your hand on the bottom of the still cool plate, do the obvious - turn it over. Then slide it from the plate back into the pan. Wa la!! No disaster!

Once the bottom is that same golden brown, and it won't take long, the cheese will most likely be nice and melted as well. Slide that puppy onto a cutting board.

The first cut through the crunchy tortilla
will let you know just how good this is going to be.

The tomato is/was from some friends garden and deserved a starring role.
The thing about quesadillas is, you can put ANYTHING in them. I usually use a lot more herbs spices and major ingredients but sometimes simple is exactly right.  

They are great for using up leftovers, including salad items. The one common ingredient is cheese, any cheese, which holds it all together. In fact, leftovers work really well because they are already cooked, making this a seriously fast meal to prepare. And, you've used food that might have gone to waste. Win win.

Play with your food!

Buen provecho!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Five Planets in Alignment ~ Already In a Sky Near You!

Starting yesterday and happening until around February 20th, 5 planets will be in alignment and visible to the naked eye in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Here's EarthSky's information on this event. 

You'll have to get up a little earlier than today's morning shot at 6:27 a.m.
This event isn't terrifically rare, but rare enough. "Alan Duffy from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, told Australian Geographic that the alignment is "essentially a quirk" of the universe. "There are only a few amazing things in the night sky that can be seen without any equipment." "

I like certain quirks, especially of the celestial sort. In 1982 there was an alignment of the nine planets. I took my daughter Sarah to the beach, having heard we could lose gravity momentarily (remember The Jupiter Effect?). Of course, I didn't want not to quite believe it but taking my six year old to the beach in the wee dark hours of the morning to look at the sky and maybe, just maybe lose gravity even for a second seemed like a great idea. We didn't lose gravity but we did have a good adventure (any time you can wake your little kids up and steal off into the night to do something fun is a good time).

This is a great article about the origins of the 'losing gravity' theory, as well as more information about the Jupiter Effect. 

Illustration from the Redlands Daily Facts (Jan 16, 1975)
Ah well, it's all fun and games until someone believes everything they read!

Our skies have been pretty clear in the early hours, so if you can get yourself out of your cozy bed, check it out.

Have an oh wonder! Wednesday. Do something watchfully.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tiny Home Tuesday ~ So Long!

Some things stay and some things go. Sometimes, it's time to go.

Because I've been realizing for awhile that there is, these days, a plethora of tiny home / small home sites (unlike not so long ago when if you looked for tiny homes you came up with playhouses for kids or garden sheds), I'm going to drop the Tiny Home Tuesday postings. Which I've sort of already done, but this time it's formal! 

Unless I see some place so extraordinary or just plain brilliant or beautiful. Then I'll post it like I used to do, without a special day for it. If you run across something you want to share from your part of the globe, send it in; I'd love to see it and share it too.

The moon is neither tiny nor home-like but it draws me just the same.
But if you need one more hit, here are some different tiny homes. Some I like, some not so much but different tastes are a good thing; sometimes we get to be surprised by learning to like something out of our normal realms and oh joy! at that.

Have a turnaround Tuesday. Do something tolerantly. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Some of This and That and Martin Luther King Jr. Too

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He gave us so many excellent quotes, almost all of them that are well known today having to do with accepting one another for what we live and example in our lives rather than the shell our souls and beings happen to be carried around in. Strong words of exhortation that are as valid, or even more so, today as when he said them. But fear (which is what most hatred is based on) of differentness has been going on since the beginnings of humanity, no matter what your belief system says about when that started. Be on the other side of the coin, the side of love. It's a life-long journey; keep your thumb out - occasionally someone will stop and help you along the way so that you are reminded to return the favor when you can.

And therein lies sanity.
Yesterday was gloriously beautiful around these parts. The water in the bay got stripier and stripier (technical jargon for stripey) as some interesting boats came in and out.

One very interesting boat!
Because I was on a steel boat when I wrecked my arm taking care of rust, I can't help but see the rust here. But it looks like it would be a great boat to go exploring...well, just about anything, anywhere there's water.

Pretty darn sleek, whether you like this sort of thing or not.

Then I was looking a little more and realized we have these two boats, on opposite sides of the bay. I didn't realize there were two of them. Even though I see them so often, somehow they were, in my head, one boat. 

Obviously they are not the same but sometimes I don't see what I am looking at. Case in point above.

See? Stripey.
The following has nothing to do with the sea. This is Kobie, my daughter and her kids dog, and it was his birthday. This photo was so perfectly him, I have to share it.

Happy birthday, Kobie (affectionately known as The Alien)
Have a migrating Monday. Do something moveable.