New Year’s Meal Nirvana

My goodness, I love traditional Southern US New Year’s food. I also love cooking it. Today has been the best day all year so far (ha) because all I did was cook easy food in a relaxing manner. Then I got to eat it.

The chickens got to enjoy collard green stems. They preferred the chicken food, but eventually ate ir.

I made fresh black-eyed peas, for luck. I cooked them with some mystery sausage and onions. They were so good. I cooked them all day. Yum.

My favorite pea.

Then I cooked two bunches of collard greens. The secret is to cut out the thick ribs (and feed them to chickens) and cook them with tasty meat. You can use bacon, ham hocks, andouille sausage, or pork of some sort. Mmmm.

Collard greens with pork loin (leftover)

I do so love collards. They aren’t so bitter and just have a mild, soothing flavor. They go great with cornbread. So if course I made that. Leftover collards and gravy (pot liquor) served over cornbread was my mother’s favorite.

Cool pattern on the cornbread.

My sister made deviled eggs courtesy of our chickens.

Very yellow yolks!

And in my family, you have to serve the peas over rice. Just one of many possibilities in the US. Here’s dinner.

Yes. I like eggs.

The most fun part of the meal was that I decided to make a lemon cake. I just took my favorite cake mix and added some lemon juice in the water. I put in an extra egg and half a cup of sour cream. That made it really rich and moist.

Lemon cake

I put a orange marmalade between the layers then frosted it with store bought lemon frosting. I added colored sugar for fun.

Gingerbread cake

Dang, it was so good! Plus, my sister made gingerbread cake, another favorite of mine. It was also moist and tasty. So, yep, I’m full. But, so what? We had a wonderful meal and a very pleasant day. At least so far 2021 is just fine.

Disgusting Herbs and Spices: The Data

People sure had a lot of fun with my post asking what herbs and spices they didn’t like. I got enough responses to actually get some “real” data out of it. So, if you’re curious, here’s what people hate:

Least-loved spices of Suna’s friends. Since there are close to 100 responses, the percentages reflect the number of people reporting a preference fairly accurately.

Dill and tarragon, the ones I didn’t like, are not universally loathed, though I’m at least not alone in disliking dill. One thing I do know for sure, is to not load up any food I serve guests I don’t know well with cilantro or anise, because by far they are the least liked.

I can see why people don’t like sage, though I like it, but I’d forgotten caraway seeds even existed, so the number of people saying “ick” to it surprised me.

When it comes to some of the less common dislikes, I enjoyed the creative nominations like liquid smoke and calamus root. I’ve never tried the latter. So, in case you have trouble reading the chart, here are the most disliked herbs and spices, with the least favorite ones listed first:

Cilantro15
Anise14
Sage7
Caraway seed6
Dill5
Rosemary5
Fennel4
Parsley4
Bergamot3
None3
Tarragon3
Thyme3
Basil2
Bay leaves2
Lavender2
Black pepper2
Almond paste1
Bay leaf1
Calamus root1
Cardamom1
Cayenne1
Celery1
Cumin1
Hibiscus1
Liquid smoke1
Mint1
Nutmeg1
Oregano1
Tumeric1
Least-loved herbs and spices

What’s Your Least-Favorite Herb or Spice?

Where the heck did that question come from? Well, yesterday I was eating yet another healthy frozen meal, and detected a distinct note of tarragon. Ick, I am not very fond of tarragon. It’s always in there ruining the flavor of chicken or green beans. Ugh. Those thoughts surprised me, because I think of myself as someone who loves all the little plants, seeds, and tasty bits that add flavor to food.

Tarragon is lurking in here. Image by  @JosiEpic via Twenty20.

But nope, I do not like tarragon. Sorry, plant. To be honest, dill doesn’t thrill me, either. I remember a period where I was eating a lot of my step-mother’s cooking. Flo would not cook with garlic, because she said it made her stink (and as a professional photographer, she had to get close to a lot of people). Instead, she seemed to sprinkle dill on everything. I understood fish and eggs. Those commonly get covered in dill (which I remove). But she ruined her wonderful roast vegetables with it, put it on mashed potatoes, etc. I suffered in silence.

Dill is so pretty, and easy to grow, though! And butterflies/caterpillars love it. Image by  @JulieK via Twenty20

On the other hand, I love most other spices and herbs, even some of the less popular ones. And I like hot things, too. Lucky me.

Lee won’t eat anything with “curry” flavor. So there go my beloved turmeric, coriander, and cumin. He always declares that things he doesn’t like have cumin in them, even when I know there isn’t any in there.

How can you not love curry? Image by @melaniephoto via Twenty20.
Tastes like delicious to me. Lee makes them leave is mostly out in guacamole when he has a choice. Boo hoo. Image by @melaniephoto via Twenty20.

And of course, there are the people who find coriander tastes like soap. They can’t help that, it’s a gene. I admit it is a bit odd, but it’s a flavor I just love.

And some people have allergies, like my friend Elizabeth, who had to give up her dream job as a chef when she found out how super-allergic she is to rosemary.

I’m not sure why I like some flavors and not others. But, I’m curious as to what herbs and spices ruin food for the rest of you. I look forward to your responses, whether on the blog or elsewise!

Now, this was a random Blogmas topic you could use in your own blog, right? Have a spicy day!

With Friends Anything Is Fun

Today is Anita’s last day with me in Utah. I just have to say it’s been great. One of the best things about hanging out with your long-time friends is that you can enjoy yourselves without doing much at all. We did a lot of nothing this week.

It was a bit bright outside, so our selfie didn’t come out perfect.

We did have a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but since we didn’t have access to a car most of the time she was here, we spent a lot of time just hanging around the Canyons Village resort area. All the walking was a blast, and it sure used up a lot of energy. That meant we got to enjoy a lot of food, too! Thank goodness the pho and ramen restaurant finally opened, so we could eat there!

Anita, hungry for a beef bowl. Our friend the red crane is always present.

The shopping and sight-seeing was also fun, and we sure were grateful for the family visitors for taking us around. Yesterday we did a bit more shopping, and Anita got some great coral Zuni earrings. I’m so glad she got to have fun, while Kathleen and I were drooling over a huge jewelry selection AND Navajo blankets. Not bad ones!

That is one gorgeous building in downtown Park City.

My favorite thing she got is a huge cactus-shaped birdhouse thing. It’s going to be her “travel pillow” so she can get it on the plane. It is stuffed with excellent newspapers from Nepal!

Our new cactus friend. Note that I just HAD to buy some flowers to liven this place up.

The best part was just hanging around in the condo, eating our random foods, watching the snow, the birds and the one giant black cat that hangs around here. It was so good having someone to watch election coverage with and talk about things.

So many lovely statues in Park City.

And of course, the four seasons of Schitt’s Creek were a blast. Neither of us had laughed so much in a long time.

This is where we stopped. No watching until I get back to Austin!

She got out while the weather was still great, which is good, since a snowstorm is a-brewing. I’m sure the rest of us will figure out something fun this evening, though!

The intent of this post is just to say treasure your friends, and make the most of times you get to spend together. Usually Anita and I are both working a lot, so just hanging out was a real treat. Relaxing, truly relaxing, is rare, and I am glad we got to do it together. Only she and I would laugh when I pompously declare that I just realized that for every mountain, there is a valley (that’s after I looked at a team photo in the newspaper stuffed in the cactus and wondered where people played soccer in Nepal, with all those mountains).

Tell your friends you care about them! (Hey, friends, I care about you!) Write me!

Jiggity Jig

That’s right, friends, I finally came home (to my Austin house). Anita had kept it in perfectly great shape, as I knew she would. She and Pickle were really glad to see me and Vlassic. Vlassic was really glad to see my bed, where no one attacks him and forces him out.

I’ve really been enjoying all the home cooking at the ranch, since Kathleen is a great cook, and even Lee’s been making stuff that’s great. Plus Chris and his barbecue monster…mmm. BUT. Anita went to the local Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant and brought home some delicious pho. Oh how I had missed those seasonings. I ate every bit of it.

Yummmmmmm

Austin does have good food, even if you don’t go in a restaurant!

Nice vase. And at least I’m in a DIFFERENT basement this morning.

I finally got to give Anita the presents I’d bought her way back when I was visiting my stepsister. She liked the Persian lime olive oil and crackly lime green vase (I didn’t realize there was a theme to the gifts until just now). It was just nice to sit and talk and watch what I wanted to watch on television without feeling bad about inflicting it on others.

Also: internet. Oh how I have missed stable, functional internet.

And finally, the reason I dragged myself to Austin, finally, was to get my hair cut. Do you want to know why? LOOK:

Crap hair.
Carroty hair from last night. With Vlassic VERY glad to be with me.

I’ve spent a couple of weeks trying to wash out the hair color, and that has made it turn a scary carroty orange. Ugh. And the bangs. I can’t cut them myself. So, with numerous precautions and great care, new hair will emerge later today.

Plus, I’ll get to see the neighbors today, at a socially distant happy hour. I will be interested to see how that works.

And that’s all I have right now. More soon!

How Did That Health Plan Go, Suna?

So glad you asked, self! You may recall that my health checkup last fall didn’t look so good. My waist measurement and my triclycerides put me at risk of something bad, I’m not sure what. The new doctor I went to back in November told me to go home, eat less sugar and fewer carbohydrates and come back in early February. And losing ten percent of my body weight would be just great.

If you haven’t seen it on social media, I wanted to share this photo of the sunrise today reflected in my car. No filters!

I was trying that positive body image and eat what you want method, but I had to concede it wasn’t working out too well health- or pants-wise. So I did what I could without going into some unhealthy fixation on food or weight.

It’s early February, and I go in tomorrow. I got the bloodwork done last week (and the lady tried to gouge me to death). The results are IN!

I’m still eating eggs. You have to eat SOME cholesterol! Image by @clarebevanphotography via Twenty20

Happy day! I have knocked those bad ole triglycerides down to 129 from 203. I am back in the healthy range, though I was 116 in 2018, so I’ll keep working on it. Since I can’t change the other types of cholesterol (HDL 63 – unchanged, LDL 104 – slightly lower), I’ll try to eat the stuff I like better, anyway. I was pleased that my total cholesterol is now even lower than in 2018.

An Aside

This image is entitled “tasty muffins” on the royalty-free image source. Rub it in! Image by@melanie_thedreamer via Twenty20

While I’m trying my best to avoid refined sugar and white flour, rice and such, every time I get home to the ranch, the house is MORE full of loaves of bread, muffins, sweet rolls, chips, cookies, cakes…wow. It’s really been challenging to be moderate with that stuff, but I’ve done okay. Lee’s in heaven, since Chris and Kathleen eat the way he does! But hey, they live at my house full time, and I’m only there a few days a week. They should eat what they like. I can find veggies and fruit, because Kathleen does get that, too!

Back to Health

One of the things I did for the past few months is up my exercising a bit. I showed you earlier how well that was going, and I am happy to say all trends are on the rise! Thanks, Apple Watch.

And yes, I have lost weight. I can see it in my face. Not 10% of my body weight, though! With just changing to healthier eating and additional exercise, it’s coming off in a nice, slow way.

Ups and Downs of Small-Town Businesses

Now that I think Pickle and Vlassic are over their foam-eating issues, I can return to other topics. One that has especially interested me is how people in and around Cameron feel about the customer service mentality in the area. I may have mentioned that a couple days ago, Lee wrote a blog post about why Cameron has such a hard time keeping restaurants open.

Lee’s photo of the former Sonic, now up for sale.

Usually, our blog posts and Facebook business page posts get between 100-200 views/hits each. Not this one. The Facebook one has 2500 views and 14 shares. Mandi said the one on her page also got lots of shares. The website stats look hilarious. There were 1500 hits that day, which made the previous week look totally flat.

So, yeah, Lee’s thoughts on this topic struck a nerve. I’ve been hanging around Cameron for just nine years now, but I’ve seen so many places open and close right up. One has done it at least four times (I’m not naming names, just noting facts). When I talked to a former cafe owner, she said people would just walk off their jobs or not show up because they didn’t feel like it. Turnover was huge. Just a week or two ago we went to a local place where only the cashier had showed up, so she was trying to wait tables. It didn’t go well.

Continue reading “Ups and Downs of Small-Town Businesses”

Recipe: Farro and Beans

One of our readers asked for the recipe for the one-pot whole grain dish I made last night. It’s based on a package Anita bought at Central Market in Austin.

An ancient Roman grain!

Hooray. You can get it on Amazon. Farro is a type of whole grain dried wheat. It is apparently a much healthier option than rice. It’s also really tasty.

All you need to know about this stuff.

So, I made the recipe on the package (above) but added a can of white beans with the liquid. That added a hearty flavor. I also added a cup of carrots that were in the fridge. That added more nutrition and color. I added a little freeze dried onion and fancy pepper from Penzey’s. You could use red pepper or anything a little spicy. (If I had it, I would have used diced onion.)

The bean liquid added to the water in the instructions was enough to make the liquid cook down in just a couple minutes more than in the instructions.

This is the finished dish, as I showed this morning.

It was so good, and we had leftovers. I enjoy taking interesting things Anita finds at the hipster store and making them MINE.

There. I posted a recipe. By the way, one of our new succulents bloomed.

Weird, huh?

Other Habits to Change: Food and Drug Edition

TW: This is about medications and managing the types of food I eat.

The doctor I’d been going to since I moved to Texas retired recently (and somehow I missed being informed of that…guessing it went to some old email). She was a really nice, calm woman who never got excited about anything. She’d say we could try this, we could try that…what do you feel most comfortable with?

I’d been to other doctors in that practice, and all were fine, but since I have moved closer to another affiliated clinic, I decided to try one closer to home. Argh. Changing primary care physicians is NOT easy, since so few of them are taking new patients. I finally found a couple who didn’t have horrible reviews and chose the woman, just because, I guess.

My “Drug Habit”

I don’t like to take pills. Only if absolutely necessary. Photo credit @erimar via Twenty20

Yesterday at 7 am, minutes after I woke up, her office called to brightly ask what medications I need refilled and to inform me that “the doctor doesn’t do refills of alprazolam, just so you’ll know.” Well, huh. That drug is Xanax, which I’ve had as an “emergency backup” for decades. I generally take about 6 a year, maybe fewer, especially now that my panic attack issue is much better. So, I was interested in finding out more about that, perhaps when I was more awake. At least she didn’t say they were taking away my fluoxetine (Prozac), which makes me feel like a stereotype, but also makes me able to cope with stuff like a pro.

Continue reading “Other Habits to Change: Food and Drug Edition”

How’s the Weather? Active!

Yowee! Did we ever get a variety of weather yesterday! After a muggy morning, clouds began to build up, but rain kept going all around us (which often happens, at least in our perception. I guess severe weather is just going to be the norm as “global heating” continues.

Scary sky and dog looking for a toad (see next blog post)

The wind got whippier and whippier, though, and by the time we were getting Father’s Day dinner ready, it became quite breezy on the porch, where we spent a lot of time watching clouds make interesting formations.

Fresh vegetables and organic meat loaf. Farm living.

After eating our harvested squash, fresh beans, most delicious little roasted potatoes, and yum yum, a great meat loaf by Sara, we realized the wind was really, really hard and it was much cooler.

Continue reading “How’s the Weather? Active!”