Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Things Come in Threes

Today is Rachel's 24Th birthday. Happy birthday Rachel! She doesn't read my blogs but she is a good example that good things come in threes. She is the youngest of my three daughters. Other examples: breakfast, lunch and dinner; the mind, body and soul; morning, evening and night; primary colors; the three little pigs. You get the idea.

Psychologists tell us that we can only comprehend three things at a time. After that we get confused. That is why in desk top publishing a good practice is to use only three elements. On a business card for example, it is recommended that one group the information into three parts . A good business letter has only three paragraphs. English composition taught us introduction, body and conclusion. In writing it is good practice when listing things to list only three. 'The man, woman and dog raced up the hill' works well. 'The man, woman, child and dog raced up the hill' not so well. In photography we live and die by the rule of 3Rd's. (Not really but it is an important composition tool.)

And then there is cooking. Besides three meals a day and three course dinners many cuisines begin with three basic ingredients to flavor their dishes. Cajun chefs call it the holy trinity: Bell peppers, onions and celery. The French mirepiox on the other hand consists of onion, celery and carrots. According to Wikepedia here are some others:

Chinese: scallions, ginger and garlic.
Brazil: dente oil (palm oil), coconut milk and malaqueta pepper.
Cuban: garlic, bell peppers, and Spanish onion.
Filipino: garlic, onion and tomatoes.
Greek: lemon juice, olive oil and oregano.
Indian: garlic, ginger and onion.
Indonesia: fish, coconut and chili peppers.
Italian: tomato, garlic and basil.
Japanese: dashi, mirin, soy sauce.
Lebanese: garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
Mexican: corn, beans and chillies
Native American: corn, beans and squash.
Spanish: garlic, onions and tomatoes.
Thai: galangal (related to ginger), kaffer lime and lemon grass.

Kind of interesting I think. What is specifically missing in this list is the German cuisine. I looked up German foods but did not find a triad of basic ingredients. I would contend, however that Mother was heavily influenced by the Germans as was I in my early cooking days. I used a lot of onions (still do), green peppers (still do) and tomatoes. What I didn't use was garlic. I'm sure Mom used garlic in her lasagna, but I don't think she used it in her every day cooking. Now I use garlic in almost every thing I cook. One thing my ex and I agreed on is that you can never have too much garlic.

So this is my blog for the week. The weather here in Chicago is beautiful today. Sixty-five degrees. I got canceled from work (a mixed blessing) and so Kate and I are going to get together later to celebrate Rachel's birthday even though Rachel is in New Orleans. I am in my fourth week of dieting which is significant because I usually quit after three weeks. (See how I brought this back around to the theme of three?) Maybe multiples of three will work. Six, 9, 12. I am trying to stick to breakfast lunch and dinner. That fourth element of snacking really messes things up.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Life

I didn't want to tell you what this blog is about in my title because I was afraid you wouldn't read it. I have been teasing about blogging about my love for my iPhone and I decided it is time. I can hear the groans out there. I know you are saying "come on, get a life." In a way, my iPhone is my life. (did I really just say that). Let's just say it enhances my life every day.

First, what I don't use my iPhone for: talking. I have AT&T's cheapest package and have more roll over minutes than I will ever use. I wonder if I can donate them to someone in need. I guess with unlimited minutes these days people don't need mine.

So if I don't use my iPhone to talk except to occasionally hear the voice of my siblings and daughters what do I use it for? Well, there is texting. Charlotte and I text back and forth to figure out what we are going to do on our outings. Often times I find I get a quicker response from my kids when I text them than if I leave them a voice mail. It's nice to know I can (and I don't do it often enough) text Judy or Rachel or Kate to tell them I'm thinking about them and know they see it immediately.

In a previous blog I talked about the GPS on my phone. That comes in very handy when I'm downtown and can't figure out which way is east, or if I am trying to get some place new and I want to figure out the easiest way to do it. My phone tells me which train or bus to take. And speaking of the bus, the CTA has a program call the Bus Tracker (kind of catchy name don't you think) that I can plug into and it tells me how long before the next bus comes.

I can click on the weather app and find out what the temperature is in Chicago, or Bentonville, or Tulsa or New Orleans, or Springfield, or Lexington or Eugene or Harwich or Salt Lake City or Kansas City, just to see how everyone is doing weather wise.

I have a clock app that has the world clock on it so I can find out what time it is anywhere in the world. I don't use that so much. But it also has a timer which I use every Sunday night to time our writings in my writing group. It also has a stop watch so I can see how long it takes me to walk to one place or another. And an alarm that comes in handy too. There is a calendar that tells me what day it is and I can set reminders for appointments.

I use iTunes to down load pod casts on cooking and photography. Since I have given up my car I don't listen to NPR so much but now I have an app called NPR addict and I am back in the know. Bill turned me on to Pandora which I downloaded to my phone and if I want to listen to music I have lots to choose from. I sometimes use the Spa Radio for my relaxation classes at work. Right now I'm listing to Romantic Piano Solos.

I down loaded a free dictionary app that comes in really handy because I can't spell. Most of the time I rely on spell check but when I'm commenting on other people's blogs I have to occasionally look up a word. And I can look up meanings and it even comes with a thesaurus.

There is a calculator of coarse. There is a program I've been using for the past 2 week is called Lose It. It calculates calories plus fats and fiber and even exercise. I have never been able to get myself to write down what I eat but I watched Jane while we were on vacation and she inspired me. Two weeks of actually tracking calories is a first for me. Very interesting to see how much I actually eat in a days time. A real eye opener and I can compare one week to another.

I've down loaded Fandango so I can get movie times at a moment's notice. I can check my email. I can surf the web. I can read the blogs that I follow on the bus or train or if I'm sitting by myself enjoying a nice lunch somewhere.

And then today I went out with friends to a garden show. The weather had turned really awful (dropped 30 degrees yesterday and snowing this morning). I thought I was going to go shopping after our little outing and didn't want to take my camera. I was really disappointed that I didn't have it when I got there and then I remembered I had my iPhone. Not the same, but it works pretty well in a pinch. And I can take funny pictures of me, cute pictures of my cat and even spade hands ("what would you bid with this?").

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Curry Chicken Puffs

Last week I worked all three shifts. It felt a little like the old days of nursing though really that was before my time. Even 32 years ago nursing had invented something called the shift differential to entice people to work the less desirable shifts of evenings and nights and rotating shifts were just hearsay and older nurse's war stories. At least everywhere I worked. But I like to be flexible and cover where I'm needed. It isn't like I have any kind of life and besides I have found if you are flexible, people and bosses tend to overlook some of your short comings.

But that is not what this blog is about. I say that a lot don't I? I only bring it up to explain the following. After working my second overnight in a row I was extremely tired. I went to bed and when I got up wanted to make something but nothing that would require too much thinking or a lot of work. I had some cooked chicken and thought a chicken salad would be nice. I had all the ingredients for mother's chicken salad except for the walnuts, but then remembered I was suppose to be cooking and blogging about recipes from Women of Great Taste. I also remembered that there were several chicken salad recipes in the book. How hard could they be.

I need to digress a little. As most of you know I live in the city of Chicago and do not own a car. My roommate has a car and does take me grocery shopping form time to time. However when left to my own devices I have a few options. I can take a bus to any grocery store in the city. I either have to drag my cart on the bus or remember not to buy more than I can carry. But remember I was tired and wanted to make things as easy as possible. So that left me with the stores with in walking distance. My main store I am embarrassed to say is the 7-11 on the corner a block away. They have all the staples even if you have to pay more for the convenience. They also take credit or debit cards for any amount and will give you up to 10 dollars back on debit.

A half a block further is a small Hispanic store. I always have to ask for what I want because I can never find anything. Is is also where the girl told me that corn meal was the same as corn starch although I knew better. The corn meal does make great corn bread though. They only take credit or debit over 10 dollars and the ATM doesn't always work. In my next life when I am through blogging about Women of Great Taste, I am going to start buying the little packages of things in this grocery store, figure out what they are, and cook something with them. They all look intriguing but I haven't got a clue. I'm sure I will have to have lots of dairy ready to tone down the fire.

A little further down the road in the other direction, I have a small convenience store called Julie's. The owner, Julie, is a delightful woman. They sell organics though not much produce as well lots of other items that I recognize. The problem's with Julie's is that I never walk out without dropping at least 50 dollars. It is kind of like going to Whole Foods. So I try to avoid Julie's. A half mile (Kate and I disagree on how to count blocks) away is a much larger Hispanic grocery store that has lots of produce at very reasonable prices though obviously not organic. And last, I have Walgreen's also a half mile away. At this point in my day a mile trip (to and from) seemed too much so I decided to make something with ingredients that I had on hand or could get from the two closest stores.

All of the chicken salad recipes in the book needed "difficult items" Oriental chicken salad: green onions-nope, ginger-nope, snow peas-nope, water chestnuts-nope. Maybe if I had an Asian market near by. The Fiesta chicken salad might have worked but I was nervous about husking tomatillos (no clue of what those are) and as I said, I didn't want to walk a mile to get fresh cilantro, basil and thyme. The chicken Cesar salad wanted you to marinate the chicken for several hours before cooking. You get the idea.

Another digression. Jane suggested that I add the quotes from the book to my blog and Karen suggests I take pictures of my food. I keep forgetting to do both. So here is the quote on one of the chicken salad pages. "Chicken salad has a certain glamor about it. Like the little black dress, it is chic and acceptable anywhere." Lauri Colwin. About the picture later.

Back to my problem. I decided to look up chicken in the index and came upon Curried Chicken Puffs. I thought I would just do the filling which sounded a lot like a chicken salad. I had everything on hand except for some cream cheese and sliced almonds. 7-11 let me down on the sliced almonds or almonds of any kind. My Hispanic convenient store had whole almonds so I went with those thinking I could just grind them up a little in the food processor.

My food processor, however, doesn't really do nuts very well. I was getting some find ground nuts and some still very large chunks. I did the best I could. Then I had to saute them in a little butter which made me nervous because the fine pieces were cooking pretty quickly and the larger pieces not at all. I didn't want burnt nuts. They were at least a little warm. I mixed the nuts, cream cheese, mayonnaise, cooked chicken, curry powder and the chutney together and put it in the refrigerator to chill. After reading about the puffs, they didn't sound so hard. Just water and butter to a boil. Add salt and flour, beat until it makes a ball and then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time.

The first clue that something wasn't right was that the recipe said I should have 32 puffs. I ended up cooking only 9 but would have been hard pressed to get 9 more. I dropped them by teaspoonful on to the greased cookie sheet. Baked at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The puffs only got slightly bigger than the original ball of dough. I cut the tops off and they were definitely hollow inside. I stuffed a little chicken mixture inside and they were quite good. So Laura, if you are reading this or someone else has experience with making puffs, (Laura makes wonderful cream puffs at Christmas time when I ask her to--I missed them this year) please let me know what I did wrong. I left two empty puffs (I ate the rest with the chicken mixture) so that I could take pictures in the morning. Kim came home after I went to bed. She said they tasted great (with out the chicken) hence no picture. Sorry Karen. Not to worry Kim, I'll try again later.