Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany (a little late)

Hola Darlings! Alright, it's Saturday morning. I was tired last night and did only two posts. We got another inch of snow overnight - so now I have 13 inches to shovel out of the rest of the driveway. Fortunately, the bitter cold has departed for awhile, thank goddess! It's supposed to get up to 28 degrees F today, and it feels positively balmy out there! Getting ready to go outdoors during the nasty streak was an exercise in patience - it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes to bundle up: MUST WEAR CLOTHING FOR WALKING TO BUS STOP IN ARCTIC WISCONSIN: 50 lb. ankle length hooded down coat - check wool felt hat - check wool scarf over hat, wrapping face and neck under hood - check 20 lb. waterproof double insulated boots - check 5 lb. double-thick insulated socks - check wool scarf to wrap over hood and face - check inner pair fleece gloves - check outer pair mouton mittens - check polarized sunglasses - check long underwear underneath miscellaneous layered clothing - check Of course, by the time I'm finished dressing I'm already exhausted, and I weigh about 500 pounds, so I can't move very quickly and so I freeze to death anyway half way through the half-mile walk to the bus stop. Such is life. Over at the Daily Grail, UFOs have dominated the weeks' entries and news. I don't believe in them - particularly these days when things can be so easily "photoshopped" (when did that become a verb???) and faked. Yes, people are seeing things in the sky, but what it is, exactly, they are seeing? I've seen plenty of weird looking stuff in the night skies around here over the years, but I live right under a flight path to Mitchell International; they are ALL human-operated flying machines of one sort of other, no matter how strange they may look way up there in the sky, seeming to glide silently through the night. The one exception was a green and gold (I'm not kidding, even though those ARE the Packers' colors) flaming ball low in the sky one relatively mild night in November years ago that passed directly over my head, headed due east, just about 6 p.m. as I was about a block away from home. It was totally silent except for what I seem to recall as a slight whooshing noise. It looked close enough to reach up and touch it and it was BIG. I took it for a meteor and a sign from Goddess that the Packers would WIN big in their next game. Well, I don't remember what year it was, exactly - 2002 maybe? - but I do remember that the Packers did not win big their next game. So much for heavenly omens... Anyway, I was so amazed by the appearance of this thing in the sky that I turned as it made it's stately way (it was not moving "fast", but at a steady clip) and watched it until it disappeared over the horizon in the east. Given what I thought was its trajectory, I waited to hear a loud CRASH noise, for it seemed that it would surely do that just beyond the range of my vision. But I heard nothing, and saw no huge fireball to the east, and so after 10 minutes or so, I continued the rest of the short way home. I checked the newspaper over the next couple of days but did not see any reports of unusual phenomenon in the sky or mysterious explosions out over Lake Michigan, and I heard no "strange" reports on the all-news local radio station that I listen to in the mornings while I get read for work, and so I dismissed what I saw as a big unknown. Oh, I just love my weekends! Saturdays are the best - because I know I still have Sunday to go to get everything done that I want to do but never do. The weekends are my "lazy" time - I do housework and laundry (during the summer, yardwork), shop for groceries, and spend a lot of time watching my favorite PBS programs and working on miscellaneous Goddesschess projects, not to mention now, this blog. This morning is no exception; I got up late - shortly after 7 a.m., put out the critter food, fetched the newspaper and had my coffee as I perused the news (all bad). I entertained myself by feeding the squirrels, who are out in force this morning - the milder weather has enabled the outlyer squirrels to visit for the first time in about a week. They were all tapping on the patio door for handouts, and I was happy to oblige :) Last night I visited the supermarket for a few things, my first trip since Monday. The weather was just too cold to do my usual "stop after work" routine; all I wanted to do was make a beeline for home after I got off the bus. It was still blistering cold, but instead of the temperature dropping further below zero once the sun went down, it managed to hover around 11 degrees F ABOVE zero, and the wind was a relatively calm 5 to 10 miles an hour. The windchill was only 10 below - ideal to spend 30 minutes outdoors lugging groceries home with my frozen hands. I wanted to buy filet mignon but I nearly had a stroke when I saw the price on some rather poor-looking specimens, so I settled for a chuck roast on sale. It's well-marbled and tough as hell until I cook it to smithereens in the crock pot for the next six hours with carrots and my special seasonings. It already smells delicious and it has another five hours to cook. Yum, can hardly wait! I'll add the potatoes about two hours before the finish so they don't get all gluey. The thing about making a post roast is that it's based on experience and a lot of tasting and trial and error. The basics are this:
  • Get a hunk of meat (I usually get 1.5 to 2 lbs.)
  • Put hunk of meat in crock pot (slow cooker)
  • Season the hell out of it - add more salt, pepper and seasonings (my favorites are ground-up thyme leaves, powdered garlic and onion salt) than you think you'll ever need because the long cooking process at low temperature (set your cooker on "low") seems to suck all the "spice" out of the spices
  • Add a lot of carrots (I add a pound, at a minimum, 2 lbs. are even better)
  • Add a can of your favorite "cream of" soup. I've used cream of broccoli in a pinch (not my favorite but it was okay); cream of potato, cream of mushroom, and golden mushroom (which is not a "cream" soup) work the best.
Cook for 6 hours at low setting.
  • Add potatoes 4 hours into cooking time. I've used regular Idahos, peeled and cut into large chunks, and the much smaller red-skins, halved but not peeled.
  • Optional: You can use a quartered large onion in place of onion salt, whatever your favorite onion is (yellow, white, red, sweet). Or, add in one packet of dried onion soup mix and forget the onion and onion salt.
DO NOT ADD ANY WATER. Believe me, there will be plenty of juice released from the meat and veggies. The "cream of" soup sort of thickens things up a bit without the necessity of making a gravy at the end of the cooking process. If you feel you want a "gravy", do this:
  • Cook up a quick "roux" (I'm not sure that's spelled right but what the heck): mix a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of flour over very low heat in a pan on the stove until the butter is melted and the flour is "cooked." Don't scorch! Doing this takes the raw taste off of the flour which you would otherwise get if you just dump flour into the juice in the crock pot and stir to make lumpy gravy. After waiting 6 hours through tantlizing aromas for the roast to finish cooking, you can spend an extra minute making a roux.
  • Slowly add in roux mixture to juices in bottom of crock pot (it helps to remove the roast and veggies, darlings) and vigorously stir after each addition - this process should give you a nice lump-free gravy. Taste for seasonings, and add salt, pepper and/or your other seasongs mix to taste. Bubble at the bottom of the crock pot for a minute or so, then turn the crock pot off. Put gravy in gravy boat or pour over the roast and veggies, whatever your preference.

Voila! A delicious pot roast with veggies with little effort. If your roast comes out tough, that could mean that you did not cook it long enough for its size (the bigger the hunk of meat, the longer you need to cook it). And remember to cook at the LOW setting. The secret to tender cheap cuts of meat is cooking a long time at low temperature!

Hmmmm, if I did the pot roast recipe in an earlier post, mea culpa!

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