Newbie in the Kitchen

So I have been trying to cook at home more and more. Sometimes I fail but this week I set out determined to do well. Last night I went grocery shopping and came home to make Crescent Chicken Squares. I got the recipe from Tasty Kitchen. Here is a link: http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/main-courses/crescent-chicken-squares

Let me tell you these were delicious. I followed the recipe almost exactly, I used a half rotisserie chicken instead of cooking my own. Next time I think I will add some vegetables.

I discovered Tasty Kitchen after visiting The Pioneer Woman’s website and Tasty Kitchen has a slew of recipes, usually I find recipes to try by searing the easy/simple tab on the right but they have all sorts of recipes from people all over the country and world. So, this is my shout out to The Pioneer Woman and her spin-off of Tasty Kitchen, I love reading your blog and getting recipes from Tasty Kitchen. And, if you are reading this you should check them both out!

Tonight, I am using the other half of the Chicken to make Chicken Salad. The Chicken Salad recipe is from my mom, she made me some last week and gave me some. This week she is traveling so I am on my own, we shall see. Update to come on Chicken Salad.

Another Note on things to come, while my friend Sarah was visiting Oklahoma last week she let me have free rein on her recipe box. I copied about 30 recipes, updates on those cooking adventures are to come also.

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Black Dog Syndrome

It is no secret to most that I am an avid animal lover and dogs top the list, with cats making a close second. In May 2009, I got MY first dog. Her name is Trek and she is a black lab/german shepherd mix. She is all black, her coat shines in the sunlight and she weighs a whopping 90 pounds. She is spoiled beyond measure and I love having her around.

The other night when I was reading about shelter dogs, I came across something called Black Dog Syndrome. There is a whole website devoted to the syndrome. Basically it is the concept that black dogs are less likely to be adopted from shelters and that they are euthanized more often than dogs that are not black.

When I read this I was shocked, I think that Trek is the most beautiful dog. She has hazel eyes that are even more beautiful because of  her all black coat and when she is clean and brushed her coat shines bright and when she is not clean it helps hide the dirt…

The website Blackpearldogs.com states that there are many reasons why black dogs are chosen less than dogs of a different color, here they are:

1) Harmful Superstitions
2) Negative Labels
3) Fear
4) Just too ordinary
5) Over heat quicker in outdoor sport competitions

And the following are the top 10 reason to adopt a big black dog

10) We cannot clash with your furniture or clothing (and some of you actually worry about that).
9) We cannot clash with any collar  you might choose either!  Ditto for the bandannas.
Accessorize us!
8) Ease of vacuuming!  You can quickly spot the areas of most urgent need.
7)We hide the dirt well (doesn’t mean we don’t need that bath after a messy play but your                     guests won’t be able to see it so quickly).
6) We make an excellent “backdrop” for a second lighter colored dog (if you choose to have one).
5) Availability!!!  We are available now at every shelter or rescue you can imagine, in every age                             bracket with no long waiting lists or difficult search.
4) No annoying queries of “exactly what kind of dog is that anyhow?”  People are content with “big black dog” and don’t ask anymore questions.
3) EXCELLENT night walk protection.  The “bad guy” won’t see us till it’s too late!
2) Status symbol potential.  Black pearls are the most costly you know……
1) WE NEED YOU!

So now that you are educated on black dogs. Feel free to adopt one, and take it from me, they are the best.

Three Jewells

Cynthia Jewell, Dempsey Jewell and Auntie Jewell

So one of the biggest honors ever bestowed upon me was something that happened before I can even remember. I was named after my Auntie Jewell.

When I was a child I did not understand what a big deal this was but as I have grown up and got to know my Auntie Jewell I have realised what a big deal it is. My Auntie Jewell is one of the best people I know. Going to her house at the farm is one of the most consistent things in my life. No matter what goes on I can expect at least one summer trip to the farm. And I can rest assured that it will smell, look and feel the same every time I visit. And each time I arrive at the farm I can count on a huge hug from Auntie Jewell.

Auntie Jewell always has a smile on her face and love in her heart for everyone she meets. She is not only Auntie Jewell to my family but she is Auntie Jewell to everyone, her fellow church goers, people in town and even her doctors know her as Auntie Jewell. She is some what of an institution in her small town in Kansas.

Recently,  my cousin Joe and his wife Danica had a daughter, Dempsey Jewell, she was granted the same honor to be named after such a wonderful woman.

Homemade

Last night I had my first attempt at making something that I usually buy boxed. Last night I made mac and cheese from scratch. The final product was not the same as the Velveeta Shells and Cheese I normally buy, I don’t know how to compare it. The final product was creamy but a little bland and the recipe I used made enough to feed four. I stored the leftovers and I am going to see how it reheats. Next time I think I will search for a different recipe, or maybe just tweak this one to my liking.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

The recipe I used was simple, all I needed was butter, flour, salt, milk and shredded cheese. All things which I already had in my cabinet and refrigerator.

All I did was cook the macaroni to the specifications on the box.

For the sauce I melted 1/4 butter in a pan on the stove.

Then I mixed 1/4 cup of flour and 1 teaspoon salt and poured it into the butter and stirred until it was smooth. Then I added 2 cups of milk and let the mixture thicken. After thick I added two cups shredded cheddar and let that melt. Once the cheese melted I poured it over my pasta.

Not the best meal I have ever eaten, and it could be spiced up with some broccoli or vegetables but overall it was as satisfying, if not more, than the stuff in the box.

Where did it come from?

You can ask this question about any product in your life. Your food, transportation, housing, clothing and every gadget we use to get us through the everyday came from somewhere. But, do you know where.

Well, I can tell you, most things I own I honestly have no clue where they came from, I can tell you what store I purchased them from but not where they originated prior to that or in some cases what they are made of. In past summer months I liked going to farmers markets and picking up local produce here and there but I have never tired to eat a majority of local food. With that being said, I am trying to eat local food a majority of the time, and know where my food came from. This will be a hard task, and I will not be successful immediately but I am trying and I’m telling my self, that’s what counts. I recently signed up for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. I talked about it in my last post.

I figured I would take this opportunity to tell you more about the Oklahoma Co-op. First off their website is www.oklahomafood.coop. The co-op is a place where Oklahoma producers can sell food and non-food products to other consumers. Most co-ops operate with members paying a one time fee and then they pick (each month in this case) what they want from different farms that are members of the co-op.  The Oklahoma Co-op cost $51.75 and that money buys you one “share” in the co-op.

Each month you have from the first day of the month until the second Thursday to place your order. Then producers gather orders and on the third Thursday you pick up your food at your scheduled pick up site. There are tons of pickup site near the city and a good deal in out lying areas. I have a pick up location just right down the street from my house. To get the food to my location the producers fill their orders and drive them to Oklahoma City where they then are sorted and given to the delivery person to deliver. All the sorting is done by volunteers to keep the cost down.  My delivery person is a co-op producer also.

I read in this article http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/05/can-small-local-businesses-compete-in-a-globalized-market-balle/ that the co-op has lowered the cost of distribution to 18 cents on the dollars which is well below the national average of 73 cents. The article was published on Monday, May 24, 2010.

The Oklahoma co-op web site states that they have over 2600+ products available each month. I will admit that since I am trying to order my food just once a month from the co-op that I am running out of freezer space fast and I am considering getting a deep freeze. As I stated previously this will be a tough adjustment for me but I am trying.

Last night I had my first meal cooked with Co-op food, I mean I have had their food before but this entire meal, minus the potatoes was prepared with all food that I had ordered from the Co-op. I had a NY Strip from G-J All Natural Beef, with asparagus and a salad from Country to Town Market with a tomato that I picked up from the farmer’s market. It was delicious.

Buy Local and Blend It

Blend It, and so I have been with my new kitchen appliance, the blender. My reason for buying a blender goes past an impulse buy.

First, I joined the Oklahoma Food Co-op. A general description of a cooperative, also known as a co-op is “a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit,” or says Wikipedia. The Oklahoma Food Co-op was designed to sell only food and non-food products made in Oklahoma.  I paid a small fee to join to co-op, this fee was strictly a membership fee, many people ask what I got in return and the answer is the opportunity to buy stuff from the co-op.

My first month to order from the co-op was April, I didn’t buy much but the idea was amazing to me,  I could get all the groceries I need and buy them from my neighbor. This month was my biggest purchase yet. I bought meat, fruits, vegetables and shampoo. Most everything I bought was unprepared foods. The previous months I had bought things that were prepared and frozen but always good.

I think I am going to start trying to prepare my own meals at home with my co-op food and things I can pick up at the farmer’s market. This will be a big change from the already prepared meals I am used to buying from the store and the co-op. But,  I have got the cooking bug, my friend Sarah is an avid and amazing cook (you can find a link to her blog in my links) and she has a food portion on her blog and she has links to tons of other food blogs. All of the recipes look so good, so I am going to start trying them.

This brings me to my first purchase, I have the normal kitchen appliances, fridge, stove, microwave, toaster, hand blender and a stove top “grill” I bought at the OKC home and garden expo. The last is not a normal kitchen appliance but the sales demonstrator for this one was so good I had to buy it. But, back on track since I have decided to start cooking I decided to invest in MY first kitchen appliance, a blender. It is the first appliance that I have bought and so far I love it.

I have made a smoothie every morning for work since I got it and they are delicious. Last week I made a Cesar type dressing. I hesitate to call it Cesar for all those anchovies fans out there. It did have a quarter tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, which I learned has an anchovies base so I guess I could technically call it Cesar, but I will not, instead I will call it blender dressing and because I did not follow a recipe I will never be able to make it again. But it was delicious. I tossed it with some spring mix and added tomatoes, simply wonderful.

I have looked at some mac and cheese recipes and soon plan on trying some homemade mac and cheese aided by my blender. Blender today and who knows what tomorrow. I think I want to try jelly, most likely orange flavor and who knows where it will go from there.

Far to Long

So it has been far to long since I updated this blog. That was made apparent by Richard Barron, a man I know through my job. He is a photographer, among many other things and he told me at a track meet earlier this month that I should update my blog more often. So, here I am, updating.

A lot has happened since my last post. I ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April with my mom. She again beat me, not by much this time. I finished in my best time yet and I signed up for my next marathon, the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque. I am excited to be running this race in October, and luck for me it falls on the week of fall break for the area schools so there will not be any conflicts with my football schedule for work. Yes!

I have decided that I want to try to run a marathon in all 50 States. They have clubs for people who finish this task and it sounds like something fun to do. There is no time limit and you can declare to the club that you want to be a member after you finish ten states. New Mexico will be my third behind Oklahoma and Texas. I think that if all goes well in New Mexico I will be shooting to run in the St. Jude’s Marathon in Memphis in December. That will make four.

Mother’s Day has just passed. I got my mom some flowers. I never really know what to get my parents for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. While the flowers are pretty they do not do justice to what my mom does for me. She is constant support and a year round friend and only giving her one day and some flowers does not seem to be enough.

My dog is doing great. She is a constant joy in my life. She is starting to lose the puppy in her a tad, she is not as hyper as she used to be and is fine with a nice of snuggling on the couch. I was nervous about getting her, my first dog, last year about this time, but now I can’t imagine my life with out her. She is my buddy.

Last week we had tornadoes rip through Seminole County, they hit the Varnum school then the airport just north of town and went on to tear through Cromwell to the northeast of town. Trek and I went storm damage finding after the tornado had passed through Seminole. We drove up to the air port then turned around headed by Varnum and up through Cromwell and back down through Wewoka and on to Bowlegs then home. She did fairly well, although she stayed in the car while I jumped out to get pictures. The damage was surreal, but is seems as though people are starting to put their lives back in order. Now if the rest of the seasons storms can just steer clear of us.

Last Tuesday my dad’s house was slightly damaged by some high winds/tornadoes up in the northeastern part of the state. It tore the skylight off his porch and the fence out of his back yard but he is fine and just happy it did not do more damage than that. He was defiantly glass half full about the situation.

Well, that is enough for this post. Later I will write about my new favorite kitchen appliance!