Life in the city is grand.  Everything convenient, all services close-at-hand.  Yet there’s something special about holidays in the woods…

Let’s start with the food part.  Since there are only two of us this time around, we’re not doing a big meal for Christmas.  Honestly, it looks like a toss-up between a couple of slabs of baby-back ribs on the BBQ or doing a baked turkey breast in the over.

Something I’d strongly recommend if you haven’t been following my “half-baked” efforts at cooking:  Carefully note how much wheat flour you’re using in your gravy.  The older I get, the better I feel limiting white flour to near-zero.  One of my offspring has celiac sprue (gluten intolerance) and the book Wheat Belly is still among the 500 e-books on the  Kindle.

If you’re looking for a better gravy, as a former Wondra user, I can tell you that oat flour seems a lot easier on the old folks digestive system than too much white flour.,

No White Christmas Here

The thermometer drives a lot of the meal-planning decisions:  As of now, it looks like Christmas will feature a high in the upper 60’s.  That’d be late-spring BBQ weather up north, but 70 F is the dead of winter down here.

While we’ve had our usual handful of nights with low temps into the 20’s already, in normal times (despite the climate alarmists) we don’t get our really cold spells until January and into February most years.   Most snow we’ve seen here was about 2 1/2 inches a decade back.  If I plant the garden in February, that ensures a killer frost in April.

This latitude is damn near tropical yet still has close to four seasons.

People up north who visit generally love the place.  But, many of our friends won’t come  to visit in the heat of summer (say July 15 to the end of September) because of worry it’s too hot in the summer.

East Texas Heat is a bit exaggerated. You may recall this past summer I was able to hold the shop temp during the day in the 75-80 range with nothing more than a swamp cooler.  It was mounted outside a window which was opened. I “red-necked” some lightweight plywood and cardboard – plus a few miles of packing tape – into something that kept the cold in and the heat out.  More or less….

This led to watching the humidity like a hawk.  Worst case was about 70 percent and temps in the low 90’s.  Lowest humidity at the day’s high, but that was one day right before a squall line came through.  Otherwise, by late summer, the 95 F highs with 35-50 percent humidity was the rule.  Certainly not Atlanta, though.  Moist enough to sweat (a lot) but not so dry as to cause skin issues and wrinkles.  Florida is a lot more humid than here and it doesn’t empty-out in the summertime. The people are more wrinkled than here, too, going from memory.

A Christmas Gift – Stir Fry

One of the “after Christmas” gifts we’re getting is a collection of plastic storage containers.  I know it seems obvious, but we have a problem with disappearing kitchenware  here.  Glasses, cups, silverware…all seems to quietly disappear sometime in the night.

Been thinking about writing a cookbook I’ve had in mind for the better part of 20-years now…based on a collection of same-size, stacking, food storage units. quart to quart and a half capacity.

Came up with this during my single years (back when) and just never got around to turning out a fancy book with pictures.  The idea, though, haunts me.

Main idea is that you don’t put any basic foods from the store directly into the fridge.  Instead, you make a supply run.  Then, when you get home, all the carrots are cleaned and go in one container.  The chicken breast is cut up into bite-size and goes in another.  The mushrooms get cleaned and fill another.  So do onions, beef, pork, bean sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, celery…all the staples of good eating without all the preservative side-effects.  Several cheese containers…

Let’s say I get the morning:  Pop out two eggs.  Drop of whipping cream and into a slow frying plan.  After a bit, in goes the pre-diced ham.  The cheese containers offer three main varieties:  A parmesan (grated), a mozarella, and a sharp cheddar.  Some sliced provolone and a block of Philly Cream Cheese and you’ve about covered the waterfront.  Slice up half a fresh tomato and maybe a few slices from the mushroom bin and you have a ham, cheese, tomato omelet that’s to die for.

Growing up in a predominantly Asian part of Seattle, my taste for good stir-fry has never left.  Trying to eat just two high protein meals per day, the afternoon meal turns into a stir fry.

Something good would be stir-frying a mess of fresh bean sprouts, pushing them out of the way and tossing in 3/4th’s of a cup of stir-fry beef with a handful or mushrooms.  Done in a super-hot wok, a tablespoon of oyster sauce (or reduced sodium Kikkoman) soy sauce and you’ve got a low-preservatives meal.  All that’s missing is a half-bottle of  Ozeki sake.  Hot or cold, depending on weather and mood.

When the containers start to run down, you start making great soups with whatever’s not been stir-fried.  Pretty quick, it’s time for another store run.

There’s something about an orderly kitchen, with all things prepped for you and in easy reach that like a well organized office or personal workspace.  It’s one of the unicorns of life I’ve been chasing for 50+ years.

One thing I have noticed is that stir fry materials have slowly disappeared from stores in this part of Texas.  Not sure why, although we don’t have a big Asian population out in the wood has something to do with it.  Nevertheless, Asia food is good, simple and quick to fix and (pardon this) hard to  wok away from.

Doesn’t translate well into frozen, though.  Never really understood why, either.

The Cat that Trains People

Sometime over this coming week, look for me to do repairs to the shower in the master bath.  The shower has developed a slow 10-drops per minute leak.

Interestingly, during a few cold nights when  Zeus the Cat stayed in (being a simpering whimp), we’ve been hearing noises from the bathroom.  Finally, on Tuesday (1:49 AM) I took a flashlight in to see what was going on.

Zeus  has figured out how to open the sliding glass shower doors.  And with a shower door pawned open, he then goes in to one end of the showerr where the water is, and takes a lick every so often.  When he’s done with that, he goes to the other end of thre show and takes a bath.

I must have sat there for 10-minutes explaining to him that when you get in the shower the whole idea is NOT to have to lick yourself, but he’s a slow learner.  What can I say?

By now,  it was a little after 2 AM, I stumbled back into bed.  Only to have (guess who?) start meowing at five-minutes to four because I usually get up at 4 AM and he gets some dry cat food before going outside for recycling.

I don’t begrudge him opening the sliding doors and playing with them.  But at age 14, he should be more considerate.  Unless, he’s just getting the hang of training us, in which case who knows what the next “trick” will be?

Off to attack the day’s project list…. Have a great week ahead and seriously, try the oat flour as an alternatrive gravy thickerner.  Better that wheat flour or cornstarch go my taste.

Write when you get rich,