Monday, January 17, 2022

Monday's Coffee Calamity

To get ready for the week, I like to brew Japanese-Style Iced Coffee which I pour into a glass growler and store in the refrigerator. It yields about seven cups of coffee. It's been my preferred brewing method for years. Yet, this week I ground the beans as if for espresso - a much finer grind than for iced coffee. It was also more than I needed to make a latte.

My instinct was to throw them away and start over. When I make coffee, I measure the beans before grinding. I didn't know what the proper measurement was for ground coffee.

In an unusual moment of "winging it," I stored the ground coffee in a small, sealable container before staring over. When I made my latte later, I just guessed at how much coffee to use. Sadly, I didn't think to use any kind of scoop so some of the coffee got dumped directly into the sink. Now I didn't think there was enough left for tomorrow's latte. Should I grind more? How would I know how much to grind?

While pondering this conundrum, I proceeded to make my latte by adding water to my soy milk rather than steam. At this point, I was just grateful to have any cup of coffee and no longer cared about the specifics. At least, I had a cup of coffee.

Maybe tomorrow will go more smoothly.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Something must have been lost in the translation.

A local grocery store advertised in the paper they had A-5 Japanese Wagyu New York Steaks available for $99.99 per pound. I thought this an astronomical price for beef so I checked their website. No mistake. A hundred bucks for steak.

Turns out that might have been a good deal. A5 is the highest grade given to Wagyu beef and you could spend a good deal more. The ad suggested the savings was $50. Indeed, Costco has it available at $150 per pound.

What tickled me about the ad was the the item's description: "taste and flavor that spread out in the mouth, and the smooth texture." While not smooth, a sweaty sock would have flavor that spreads out in the mouth. I couldn't tell you from experience but maybe liver is smooth and would fill my mouth with flavor. That doesn't mean I want to try it. Especially, at $100-$150 per pound.

By contrast, the item featured just below the beef was Barramundi Fillets for $14.99 per pound. I didn't know what a Barramundi Fillet was except from the picture I could tell it was some sort of fish. By contrast, this lesser priced protein had a description worth more than that of the Wagyu beef. The fish "has a mild, buttery flavor with a hint of sweetness and a dense meaty texture. . . ." That sounds more like something I would like to try.

Yes, but will it fill my mouth? I wonder.

Maybe just 10-15% of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

It hasn't even started yet and I'm already planning for the end.

Tax Season doesn't officially start this year until January 24. That's when the IRS will begin accepting
2021 returns. Don't get in a hurry, though. They're still processing 2020 tax returns. However, if your 2020 return is being held up, that's no excuse for not filing 2021. Death and taxes, man. They can be delayed but they can't be avoided.

Nothing about 2020 and 2021 has been "normal" and, sadly, 2022 is shaping up to be no different. Tax Day was delayed to July 15 in 2020 and to May 17 in 2021. Even though April 15th falls on a Friday this year, the tax deadline will be April 18th (or 19th if you live in Massachusetts or Maine). So yet another weekend will be ruined this Spring preparing returns.

For states that have income tax filing requirements, the deadline is also April 18th except in the following states:

  • Delaware - May 2
  • Iowa - April 30
  • Louisiana - May 15
  • Maine - April 19
  • Massachusetts - April 19
  • Virginia - May 2

But I know you. You aren't even going to start until October. And, as luck will have it, the 15th of October falls on a Saturday meaning extended returns aren't due until 17th of October, ruining yet another weekend. If that's you, don't forget your extension and any tax due (even if you're extending) must be filed and paid in April. On the 18th. Or maybe the 19th. Or maybe in May.

Please send chocolate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Which is the lesser of evils?

The last time I washed my boyfriend jeans I ran them through the dryer. Because, well, they're boyfriend jeans. They are made from faded denim and have holes in them. I figured the risk was low in drying them. Today, however, they fit more like skinny jeans which makes me think that putting them through the dryer was a mistake.

One said hole is large and exposes my right knee. It's big enough for me to put my hand in there which is exactly what I do. After I shower, all I want to do is jump into my clothes. (It might not be as cold here as where you are but it's cold enough for me to want to avoid it.) In winter attire, I try to moisturize whatever skin is still exposed: hands, feet, and when I'm wearing my boyfriend jeans, my right knee. I can't get to my elbows, my d├ęcolletage, or the rest of my legs. It's a quick and easy way for me to ward off winter dryness - as far as you know. And, it's effective. 

When I go to take my pants off at night, my dry legs sorrowfully greet me in their neglect. All but my right knee which is conspicuously smooth and moisturized. "Don't worry," my right knee says to my left. "Shorts weather is around the corner and moisture is on its way."

"Not all good news," the left replies. "Because then we need to shave."

Saturday, January 8, 2022

What's the math on that?

Four cups, three coffees, two people.

Hubby is easy. He has one cup of coffee in one cup. Simple enough. In red letters, his cup reads, The man, the myth, the legend. He has a shirt with the same thing on it. Must be true.

I have two cups of coffee but I use three cups. Each has a different purpose and story, you see. My first cup is from Coachella Valley Coffee and is one of very few non-red cups in my cupboard. But, not only did CVC deliver my coffee beans to my doorstep the very day they were roasted, they also sent me a cup - white with black lettering. How could I ignore such a gesture and drink their coffee from any other mug? (They have a customer for life in me.)

However, the non-red mug is only tolerated for the first cup of the day. The second coffee is a homemade latte for which two red mugs are essential. The one I use for steaming the milk is red ceramic with etched lettering in white that reads Now & Then. It's the only merchandise (not available for sale) associated with a story I wrote of the same name. A fan, and truly beautiful person, had it made for me. I will always remember her and her husband for that gift (and their readership).

After the milk is steamed and the espresso shot is pulled, it gets served in larger red mug. This mug is big enough for soup, a cozy vessel well suited for a large latte. I inherited this cup from a rabbi, in a manner of speaking. She sold me her condo which was fully furnished. When I sold it five years later, I also sold it with all the furnishings - all but the red cups. These, I took with me. (I left the new owner with the yellow cups which, while lovely, were not red.)

If you were to come to my house, you would not be served coffee in any of these cups. These cups are reserved for their specific purposes. However, I have red cups to spare you would not be denied coffee for that would not only be rude, it could, in some instances, be dangerous. You may have as much coffee as you like but you only get to use only one cup. It makes for simpler math.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Home Town Cookbooks

 Mine are all from Ohio and all are handed down by grandmas. 

I have three such cookbooks on my countertop right now. Granted, two were given to me by a grandma who lived in Ohio. The third, while actually from Fort Myers, Florida, still has a connection to Ohio. The granddaughter of the author of What's Cookin' at Shell Point (signed "Enjoy, Love Grandma)" was from Granville, Ohio (which is about 30 miles northeast of Columbus). That's enough of a connection for me.

The recipes to be found in these cookbooks are strange to me. I have never lived in Ohio although I had family there and visited many times over a lifetime. I have eaten at Skyline Chili so while I have an appreciation for weird, these cookbooks use ingredients I would, today, neither fathom using nor promote using.

Here is a sampling of the table of contents from What's Cookin':

  • Chicken and Biscuits (which includes the instruction "make your own biscuits. . . . "
  • One-Step Crockpot Stew (which is comprised of 7 steps - 8, if you include "Do not peek!")
  • Bacon-Cheese Onion Things (There's really no better way to describe this.)
  • Zucchini Surprise (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say there's always a "surprise" in any hometown cookbook.)
  • Taffy Apple Salad (While I didn't find a salad in this cookbook that contained mini-marshmallows, I did find this one which included Cool Whip. It did not, ironically, include taffy.)
  • I skipped the chapter on seafood intentionally. (I have been to Ohio.)
For more down-home goodness, I present a sampling of the contents from John Paulding Historical Society Cook Book + Recipes + Reflections signed by Grandma R. with the words of "I love you" in 1992:
  • Brides Punch (which includes orange juice, can frozen lemonade, can pineapple juice, quart ginger ale plus two cups of sugar!) [emphasis mine]
  • Cornmeal Mush with Tomato Gravy (This doesn't even sound appetizing. I read the recipe and my opinion did not change.)
  • Fireside Supper ("Fireside" is not mentioned anywhere in the recipe except the title.)
  • Sinful Potatoes (which includes Velveeta cheese and a jar of Miracle Whip which sounds pretty sinful to me.)
  • Overnight Fruit Salad (This one includes mini-marshmallows but no actual fruit other than canned.)
  • There are a lot of recipes in this one for "balls" in Appetizers, Main Dishes, and Desserts, but I din't find any "surprises."
Cooking with Friends also comes from Paulding, Ohio. The inscription is dated 1997. 
  • Under the heading of Appetizers, the reader is advised that appetizers are treats that can be served before a meal, at an open house, or at a reception. The first example was "Caviar flavored with onion juice." I skipped the rest of this section.
  • It surprises me what passes for salad but it often includes Cool Whip, sugar, or cream cheese or some combination thereof. Canned pineapple is also featured.
  • Mystery Crackers are made of oyster crackers, buttery popping oil, and two packages of Lipton Cup-A-Soup mixed together. The mystery is "why?"
  • There are five pages in the Vegetables section of this cookbook. In all recipes, the vegetables are disguised by ingredients such as Ritz crackers, grated cheese, sour cream, Jiffy corn muffin mix, Velveeta, corn flakes, boxed stuffing mix, Marshmallow Cream, Cheese Whiz, Bisquick, and a variety of canned soups.
  • There are 20 pages in the Cakes, Cookies & Confections section. This is separate from another 10 pages of Desserts.
  • Cream Cheese Pound Cake contains only a half pound of cream cheese.
  • Honeymoon Cake will likely lead to diabetes and/or divorce. Its main ingredient is one pound of fruit cocktail and is topped with coconut-pecan frosting and whipped cream. If that doesn't do it, try Coffee Marshmallow Cake made of marshmallows, whipped cream, vanilla wagers, plus sugar.
  • In the Beverages section, there's a recipe for Party Punch. Even as a kid, I knew there was something inherently wrong with a beverage that included Jell-o, fruit juice concentrate, ginger ale, and sherbet all mixed together and served in a punch bowl, served with a glass ladle into little glass cups. Was it supposed to be elegant or decadent? What's more is no parent ever stopped their child from drinking it. That's midwestern goodness right there.
What I love about hometown cookbooks is their down-home-ness. They represents comfort food from the heartland. They are recipes passed down from generation to generation, preserved in a book that no granddaughter has ever referenced. Either she already knows these recipes, having grown up with them, or she has moved out of Ohio and developed different culinary tastes. Nevertheless, these books contain the love of grandmas and so live on in kitchens everywhere. 

They aren't as much about the recipes as the people behind them. And, that's the best ingredient of all.