Seasonal Smack-Down! Got hail yesterday! And shrimp tacos!

In the continuing battle for domination, Winter got the upper hand on Spring yesterday – even got a little hail!

Took the dogs over to Verbena Field to get a look at Lindo Channel – it wasn’t exactly at flood stage, but a few more days like yesterday and we’ll see!


Stepping up to the edge with Biscuit I could see there was a pretty fierce undertow.

I don’t want to look outside, cause I can hear the dam-ned weeds growing in every direction. By the time this storm is over we’ll have to prime up the torch and burn our way out of the house. 

Yesterday the weather was back and forth all day – it started warm, skies so sunny a silly woman might even put out a load of laundry. White irises were blooming along my tenants’ front steps.  Then – BAM! – dumping rain. But temps almost 60 degrees – the mosquitoes are coming out of the woodwork all over the yard. Finally, late yesterday, the sky got really dark, the  temperatures dropped, and it started hailing in our driveway, for a good five minutes. There was a mix of rain and snow at the camp shack. My son reported hail on the Skyway, and snow threatening in Paradise. 

It’s the Seasonal Smack-Down!

I  guess we know who will win, Spring will eventually prevail, but isn’t it fun to see her get a run for her money?

In the meantime it’s good to have a meal plan. My mother always told me it’s okay to eat shellfish in months that have an ‘r’ so I try to remember to indulge a couple of times a month through Winter. My husband and I found a good  deal on frozen shrimp at Safeway, so we decided to try making our own shrimp tacos. 


We got these shrimp frozen from the butcher’s window, they were a little better than shrimp we’ve bought in the bag. We added frozen corn for some moisture and flavor.


One of our best batches of corn tortillas.

I’m lame with pictures, I forgot to take a picture of the finished products – we topped them with fresh cilantro and diced tomato and shredded cabbage, and then  they were gone!

And then you clean your pan good, take out the trash, and run some vinegar down the sink so your house doesn’t smell like fish the next morning!

Adios Muchachos/Muchachas, we’ll catch you next time on “This Old Lady” with Juanita.


Winter and Spring had a SmackDown! yesterday

Someone has been looking for the post I did about Arthur Lobel’s Frog and Toad books. Here’s that link – you used too many words in your search, next time just punch in “frog and toad”.

Cause Frog and Toad are not just for kids, that’s a great story about friendship, enjoy!

And a great story for this time of year, when Spring is busting to get in, but Winter says, “I’m still in here!” – two sisters fighting over the bathroom.

That’s what it looked like here yesterday. One minute gloomy, black skies, threatening clouds, the next minute so bright a dummass like me might hang out a load of wash. And them swooosh! Rain comes pouring down out of a perfectly  sunny sky. 

Yes, I did hang laundry yesterday. Towels. I’d been wanting to do laundry for days.   So I ran out there with my washing and hung it up on the clothesline, where it flapped in a fresh breeze for about two hours, not getting dry maybe, but dry-er.  I like to have them outside for a few hours, and then leave them hanging over the stair railing over night. Instead I found myself bounding out to yank them down. That’s always a comedy, with the dogs yacking me back to the garage.  I would guess it had been raining for about 5 minutes when I noticed the splash on my upstairs window, and they were already so wet I had to run them through the dryer for like a half hour before I could bring them in the house

Dammit! $$$$$$$$$$$$!

As I was running back and forth outside – all morning, really – I saw one after another line of geese moving North, headed for the feeding pools at Tule Lake, I assume. They fly back and forth all day in the early Winter. That’s when you can bag yourself a big fat goose, or maybe a few ducks. But now they are just flying North, all morning, big big lines, sometimes two or three groups tagging each other. When we were up in the hills the other day, we watched them circle and circle and circle in Butte Creek Canyon to get over the Sierra, they have to spiral  themselves up that high. As I watched them through my binoculars it occurred to me what an awesome thing it is they do, every year.

So when I realized this is it, it’s going to rain.  The skies over the mountains were absolutely black.  I went back in the house to make some soup.

I’ve been trying to get in the habit of saving bits of green vegetables – like the core from cabbage or the heart of a head of romaine, celery heart, etc – and making vegetable broth. I keep these bits in a clean ziplock bag and when the bag is full it’s time to make a pot of broth. I wash and sort the stuff and dump it in my big enamel pot. I barely cover it with cold water, add a teaspoon of salt, and put a lid on it. I bring it to a very low simmer and leave it for about an hour. When the vegetables are faded and limp, it’s done. Yesterday I added spinach stems, which gave it an herby smell. 

I  strained out the soggy vegetables, and got about three cups of broth in a second smaller pan, which I brought to a boil. When it was bubbling away, I turned it off and set a raw boneless, skinless chicken thigh in the water, set the lid back on, and left it for 5 minutes. Voila! – that’s French for, “wow, smells like chicken!” 

Then I put the chicken thigh, which is almost cooked on the outside but still raw on the inside, into the first pot, where I had sauteed some onions and garlic with a little oil. As I sauteed the chicken I cut it up with a fork and knife. This is how my husband cooks taco meat. Somehow it’s different than cutting it up raw and putting it in the pan.  

To this I add about a quarter cup of cheap white wine. When the chicken still looks a little raw, I add the broth and get it going to a gentle simmer. Now I add chopped carrots and celery. In about a half hour I put in some egg noodles from the store, or maybe I have some homemade pasta leftover. Within 10 minutes it’s ready to eat.

I did this while I was working on my taxes – very soothing! By the time my husband came in from work, cold and wet (he did a job in the hills today, where it snowed), the aroma had made it down stairs to the front door – Welcome Home Honey!  We washed up and brought the dogs in and sat down for a hot bowl of soup. 

So we sat looking out the window at the two sisters fighting, treetops swaying, clouds of different colors moving in a swirl. We had Kris Kuyper on the tube, and he said there had been a funnel cloud spotted over O-ville! 

Yeeeee-haw Babee! Welcome to Northern California! 





Celebrate the Super Moon with a big calzone!


This is the last I saw of Super Moon before the clouds rolled in.

Unfortunately Super Moon made her debut right ahead of a storm, so we have not seen much of her. I snapped this picture shortly before dawn the other day. 

Every time I look at the moon I hear Dean Martin warbling away in my head... “When the moon’s in your eyes like a big pizza pie…” 

So my husband and I decided to make a couple of calzones. We don’t make the traditional calzone – ours is more like a folded pizza.  Traditional calzone has a little too much cheese for us.


Here we’ve set our bread dough on the pan like a regular pizza, but we only fill half of it. Just the usual chicken, mushrooms, onions, etc, sauteed in a pan. 

We lay it on a little thicker than pizza, and we add cottage cheese instead of ricotta (which for some reason burns my stomach).  Contrary to tradition, we add  a tiny bit of tomato sauce for flavor.

I don’t know if I could do this all myself, I’ve never had to try. I make the dough ahead and my husband makes the filling. He fills the pie and then I fold and seal the edges.


Old hands are still good for something.

And there she goes, into a 400 degree oven, for about 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is good and brown, and she’s all puffing up like a Portuguese Man of War.


There’s that pizza stone we got at World Market for $15, along with a round screen we found stuck to the bottom of a take out pizza years ago. We put the cookie sheet underneath to roast some green beans.

The pizza stone is great, but with calzone we use the little metal screen, cause calzone can be a little stickier on the  bottom than pizza, especially if it tears. We heat the screen on the stone, and then coat it with cooking oil and lay the dough on it to stuff it, then put it back on the hot stone. 

We always make two of these bad boys, so while the second one was in the oven, we put in some oiled and salted string beans. Those were done just ahead of the second pie.


This one’s for you, Dino!

When I was looking at calzones online, I saw a lot of them were stuffed with spinach – next time, on This Old Calzone, with Juanita!

Get out there – leaving the comfort zone behind, we tried a new grocery store

My husband and I were out running errands when we bumped into our old friend Jerry. Jerry’s always a guy to speak his mind – “you guys are crazy to shop at Safeway!” he opined. He suggested Winco and Food Maxx, assuring us all their stuff was high quality.

We realized we did need to shop around.  We’ve shopped at Safeway for years because it is an easy bike ride from our house, but we thought we were being smart, buying on sale, and supplementing our pantry with trips to discount stores like Cash and Carry and Walmart. We hadn’t tried another grocery store for years.

Coincidentally we got a coupon from Food Maxx, offering not only cheap prices but free items – a 5 lb bag of russet potatoes, a case of bottled water, and a ROTISSERIE CHICKEN! Get the heck out! So we drove over to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was the strip mall it’s located in has seen better days, but the front of the store was no dirtier than Safeway has been the last year or so, and no bums standing around the entrance. The carts were clean, that’s a plus. But I was kind of intimidated by the unfamiliar surroundings.

That’s why I need to get out more. I get in a rut, and when unexpected changes come up I feel a thousand years old and suddenly senile. I couldn’t help but notice my husband and I were clinging to each other like a couple of baby bats. 

We came out of it immediately in the produce section – lots of nice fruits and vegies, very fresh, and a lot cheaper than Safeway. We came for a free bag of potatoes, but I noticed bulk potatoes were half as much as Safeway. Some things were not that much cheaper, but really nice, like the spinach. It’s hard finding spinach that’s not all bruised and rotten in the center of the bunch. You can understand why a lot of people don’t like spinach. But Food Maxx had nice, firm, crisp green spinach for about $1.99 a bunch, I wish I had got two. 


Here’s what you can do with spinach – spinach tacos!

We’d had chicken tacos the night before, and there was plenty of meat and beans left over. As I opened the bunch of spinach and handled those nice crispy leaves I immediately came up with an idea for lunch – we heated up the leftover taco filling, washed some big spinach leaves and lined them with strips of cheese and avocado slices. Look at those spinach tacos! Delicioso!

Of course for dinner that night we had half of our FREE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN. Pardon the caps, but it was exciting – we got two meals out of that bird, at a time when we are busy and tired in the evening and too broke to eat at a restaurant. 

We spent $40 and got almost as much in free stuff. We were so happy with the little russets we got, we’ve had potatoes in one form or another at almost every meal. I always cook two extras for breakfast.

So, yeah, it does pay to change your habits and try something new once in a while. Get out there! 

Tried single living for a couple of days, didn’t like it – but ate well!

When I took the picture the flash caught the swirling mist all around me.

Something we haven’t had here in a few years is fog. I used to hate fog, but since the drought, I am glad to see it – this indicates our weather is changing in a new direction, maybe out of drought.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

We  get all the best weather right here in the North State!  

My husband went out of town for a couple of days to visit his dad, so I have been on my own with the dogs. I want to give them a good walk, dogs need their routine, but I worry that I  can’t handle both of them, especially if a bigger, more aggressive dog comes along. So, I hit the trail at about 6:30 am to beat the Sunday crowd, my headlamp beaming back at me from a thick wall of fog. 

In the light of my headlamp  I could see why everything on my patio was dripping wet this morning. 

I did not see another soul. We tramped along the trail, trying not to slip in goopy mud, watching all around for signs of life. January is usually a very gloomy time in Chico.

Gloomy  time to spend a weekend alone!  I try to keep myself cheered up by spending a lot of time outside with the dogs, working in the yard, keep the camp stove hot.  And, you might think it’s not much fun to eat alone, but I always make myself a meal that my husband doesn’t particularly care for.  At his suggestion, we went to Safeway the day before he left and bought me a pound of mussels.

This is about half a pound of mussels – about $3 worth – and more than enough for a skinny old lady.

Clams are nice, but the shells are heavier and they’re a dollar more a pound. You get a lot for your money with mussels, which are also very nutritious. My husband will eat them, but finds them a little strong, preferring clams.  So when he’s out of town, I feast for a couple of nights on mussels. 

Here’s another thing – they are a great one pan meal.

I start with vegetables cut up small, here an onion, half a zucchini and two mushrooms.

I’m too embarrassed to tell you how much butter I use, you be your own judge, jury and executioner. I like to get the vegies good and brown before I add a few ladles full of broth (which I had made earlier in the day by simmering some leftover romaine, cabbage, and celery hearts for about an hour). I slop in some cheap white wine too, never cook with anything that costs more than five or six bucks. I put in just enough liquid to steam the mussels.

I’ve eaten this two nights straight and looking at the picture I could sit down for another helping.

I cover those for three minutes while I hack off a piece of sourdough. Bob never gets stale, he ages to perfection, and a good rubbery sourdough heel is just what you need for a dish like this. Reminds me of sopas, the Portuguese bread soup, only with shell fish instead of beef. 

A cabbage, carrot and celery salad with yogurt dressing and a slice of avocado on the side, and you got yourself a $20 meal. 

I know I used to pay $12 for a side of mussels, no salad, at the Black Crow, and that place has been out of business for years. Why bother to eat out when you can get yourself a meal like this at home? The whole thing took me less than half an hour, and that’s counting the time it took to make a big bowl of salad and wash the mussels. Cost less than $5. 


Another nice thing is, easy clean up –  I ate everything but the shells and the pot!


Roast your vegies!


We got  those dumping rains I was hoping for, and Weatherman says more next  week. I  gave Estelle another brooch and set her back on the shelf – your happy voodoo doll, is your safe voodoo doll.

As usual for this time of year, we’ve been cooking and eating alot. My new favorite is roasted vegetables.


I cut the cauliflower, beans and carrots into small pieces because they roast faster that way. Then I stir in some olive oil and toss it all with salt and pepper.


When I was young we were told to steam our vegetables, that boiling took the nutrients out.  It’s easy to over steam, and then you get the same as boiled. So I tried par boiling – 3 minutes in fast boiling water, then a cold rinse. That works okay for green beans, asparagus, and thin sliced carrots, but it’s still boiling. 

I quit eating broccoli and cauliflower because it was easy to over cook and under cooked they gave me indigestion.

Then I saw a recipe for grilled asparagus, wrapped with bacon slices. We loved it, and realized, we can do this in our oven, without the bacon. Roasted asparagus is one of my favorites now – Cash and Carry has big bags of asparagus for about five bucks.

So we started roasting all our vegies. Cauliflower and broccoli cook perfect, no more gas or stomach ache!


I turn my oven on 400 and put the cookie sheet in for about 10 minutes, get it good and hot. Then I spread the vegies out and set them back in for another 10 minutes, stir, then 10 more minutes.


This is the only way to eat green onions, the ends get crispy, roots and all. That little tip on the string bean toasts perfect. I like a little crunch in my vegies!


For me they’re done when things turn carmel brown. That little pepper will melt in your mouth. We topped it off with roasted chicken breast and a cabbage and carrot salad with some homemade yogurt dressing.

Those little sweet peppers roast perfect whole. I get those in the bag at Safeway, they’re a good deal, but Cash and Carry has a bigger bag for about the same price, if you feel you can use them fast enough. 

And lately Safeway has had bone-in chicken breast for 99 cents a pound, which is crazy cheap. I like bone-in chicken breast because it’s easy to cook – 350 degrees, bone side up for 20 minutes, flip it, skin side up for 15 – 20 more. I use my grandma’s old meat thermometer so I don’t have to worry about over cooking it.  The skin gets good and crispy brown, and the meat stays so tender and juicy. One of those feeds the both of us for dinner, and there’s usually enough scraps for cheese and crackers the next day. We cook two, so we have two dinners in one pan. 

Cold roasted vegies are a great salad topper the next day.

I’m probably the last person on Earth to find out about  roasting vegies, but I figured I better hip any of you who might still be in the dark!





Waiting out Winter

As if to remind us, it’s only February, Jack Frost rode into town last night.

Back to Winter

Back to Winter

Clear skies mean lower temperatures. As eager as we were to get out in the sun yesterday, we found ourselves running back inside with numb hands, poking at the thermostat, hovering around the kitchen. After a morning of storm clean-up, I spent yesterday afternoon cooking,  made a big batch of tortillas and a pot of rice.

One pan wonder.

One pan wonder.

My husband got a steak out of the freezer and cut two thin steaks with his filet knife, then threw them into a pan with the rice. Before I knew it we were eating burritos.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

I love it when a good plan comes together.