Sunny Sunday

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First Sunday of fall. The sun is shining and the weather is cool. A perfect late September day.

Time to put the ‘working tools’ garden to bed for winter. Daylilies divided. Hose and gutter drains in place, mulch down.

This is part of the frog garden, thus the dancing frogs.

The hack?  A thick–more than four inches–layer of mulch under the hose cart to prevent weeds.

 

 

Other People’s Recipes: Paleo Halibut

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Yesterday, Jim celebrated his 81st birthday. We don’t eat out much anymore, but I wanted him to have a special dinner. That meant halibut.

I don’t know what halibut costs where you live, but here, it runs about $30 a pound. Calling for a no-fail recipe. A no-fail Paleo recipe.

I scoured the Internet looking for one that would work for us, and finally did what I do. Put four recipes together, adding and subtracting ingredients, threw in a few of my own touches, and came up with an almond-meal crusted fish that didn’t disappoint.

I added mashed cauliflower as the side. The fish came out moist and tender, and lemony with a touch of crunch from the almond meal. If only I could’ve figured out how to remove the skin before cooking …

  • 2 halibut filets, not too thick
  • 2-3 TBSP almond meal
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp dry parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP butter (thank goodness butter’s back) plus 1/2 tsp butter for sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • juice of 1-2 lemons depending on how much ‘sauce’ you want

Combine the almond meal, lemon zest, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Pat the halibut filets dry and dredge them in the almond meal mixture. Using a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter together until they bubble, then add the filets, making sure they aren’t touching.

How long you cook them on each side depends on the thickness of your filet. Mine were about an inch thick, and I cooked them 3 minutes per side. When the fish is opaque, remove the filets from the pan and keep warm. I put mine in the microwave–don’t turn it on–which seems to keep things warm without overcooking.

Add the lemon juice to the pan–watch out for splatter–and then the vegetable broth. Cook, stirring pretty much constantly, until reduced by half, then add the remaining tsp of butter. When it melts, plate your fish and veg, with the sauce poured over the plate. The sauce is a bit syrupy rather than thick. 

Enjoy.

 

 

What Things Cost: Healthcare

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Back in July, I had a sudden, severe headache and thinking I was having or about to have a stroke, I went to my local, rural emergency room. Thankfully, not a stroke, but very high blood pressure, now resolved with a combination of mainstream and alternative medical intervention.

My bill for that emergency room visit was $4300. Ouch.

But when my insurance explanation of benefits arrived, I saw that the discount to my insurance was more than 75 percent. Actual payment for the visit was less than $1,000.

So I was dismayed when I read a financial agreement at a new-to-me medical practice. I’m paraphrasing, but it basically said, if your insurance doesn’t pay within 60 days, you pay in full.

Yes, the IN FULL was the kicker. Why am I–a not-rich individual–expected to pay full-bore? Why don’t I get a discount?

Consistent with my resolution to complain when things seem wrong, I added an objection to the financial agreement and only then signed it.  Hopefully, my insurance will pay within 60 days …

 

Fall Clean-up

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It’s time.  We have seven flower and nine veggie raised beds that need clean-up for winter. Starting in the bed closest to the road, we weeded, pruned, divided, and mulched.

Anchored by two giant pin oaks, this bed has changed from mostly sun to mostly shade. That’s how much the oaks have grown in the past ten years. I’ve been moving the hostas from the north side–where I’ll plant more ferns this coming spring–to circle the trees.

But the sedum autumn joy and pink chrysanthemum don’t seem to mind the diminished sunshine. Next spring, before the oaks leaf out, the bed will be a riot of daffodils and tulips.

Meanwhile, the mulch is spread and, while we’ll have to keep an eagle eye out for newly emerging weeds, this bed is ready for what will hopefully be a snowy winter. One down. Six to go.

Other People’s Recipes: Should’ve Been Chuck Roast

 

The weather turned a bit cooler–almost fall-like–and we decided it was time to haul out the pressure cooker. I found a toothsome-sounding recipe online that called for rutabagas instead of the forbidden white potatoes. Here are the ingredients:

  • Beef (more on this later)
  • 1 large (all I could find) or 2 medium rutabagas
  • 1 onion
  • 1 shallot (optional)
  • 1 Pink Lady apple
  • 2-3 carrots
  •  2 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 TBSP Italian seasoning (we used oregano, marjoram, parsley)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

The first mistake we made was using brisket instead of chuck roast. We winged it rather than reading the recipe before shopping for ingredients.

The second mistake was to leave decisions about what constituted ‘Italian seasoning’ to the last minute. I know marjoram was wrong, but it’s what I had on hand.

We cut the brisket into four pieces, rubbed it with the mixed seasonings, and cooked it in the pressure cooker for about 80 minutes: our brisket was slightly more than 3.5 pounds. Once we vented the pressure cooker, we rested the meat, then sliced it.

Added the veggies to the pressure cooker, then the meat, and cooked another ten minutes. The meat was chewy, but delicious. The rutabagas added an earthy, potato-like texture, so we didn’t miss the white potatoes we’ve always before added to stews.

The stew was better the next day, with the fat scraped off the broth and the veggies mashed.

What would I do differently? Skip the Pink Lady apple. They turned to mush. Or maybe use Granny Smith. And I’d look for a chuck roast.

 

 

Pleasantly Surprised

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As a life-long pessimist, I like to tell people-who-call-me-on-it that optimists are never pleasantly surprised. It takes a lot of energy to search out that silver lining when the sky is filled with black clouds.

But early yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised—so much so that I lived the rest of yesterday in a fog of optimism.

Another of my stories sold and will be published this month.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, go to The Arcanist for a quick five minute read, published at the end of August.