LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Overcast. High 65.
STEPS: 9976 (just missed my target!) CLASS: None. Too cold to swim
I had my annual physical today – mostly just to review blood test results. Most of my numbers have improved since last year, and I attribute that to more exercise and (fairly) clean living! Having good health is such a blessing!
Facebook sent me one of those “Memory” things, reminding me that this time last year we were in Botswana on a safari. That was one of the coolest trips we have taken. Alas, this year’s travel is so much different. A friend posted this on Facebook…..if we cannot go to Europe this winter, we can go to towns in Texas and pretend we are there!
I taught another Spanish class. I try to make it fun, but there is still some hard work – memorizing, figuring out verbs, etc. We have class twice a week.
DINNER: I skipped Jacques Pepin tonight in order to use up some leftovers. I made fried rice with: leftover rice, frozen Asian vegetables, peas, green peppers, chicken pieces, egg, ginger, green onion, regular onion, and garlic. At the end, I threw in some kelp that our daughter had given us from a sea-agriculture farm in Ireland. Topped it with some furikawi, a seaweed/sesame seed mix from the same Irish company. Tasty! We paired it with Japanese sake.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, TX WEATHER: Cool (38) in AM warming to 68
STEPS: 9842 CLASSES: Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics
I had to put on an extra jacket to do my early AM walk. The dog I mentioned yesterday was again sitting in the exact same place he was yesterday, at full alert. I looked at him more closely and saw that he didn’t have a collar on. I got a little teary thinking that he is a stray (as there are a lot around here). He just sat there sitting straight up with a longing gaze in his eyes. He wasn’t interested in me at all. Just then, a car pulled up. It was the man who farms the land there. The dog went ecstatic with excitement. The farmer opened the gate and the two happily reunited. I think the farmer must leave the dog at the farm overnight to keep watch, and then comes in the mornings to work in his fields and to feed and play with the dog. Happy ending!
The swimming pool water was VERY cold, as the nights have been in the 30s. Only one other person braved the cool air temp and the COLD water for water aerobics classes with me. Would’t you know….we are both from Minnesota!
The neighbors across the street from us are adding a shed, like we have. The builder has a home-made barrel system to use to pour the concrete, rather than using one of the commercial, larger kind. The builder is a local Mexican-American guy who has sort of a monopoly on building these sheds in our community. He has two adopted mentally-challenged sons who help him out. They had Christmas music blaring while they worked. It is kind of incongrous to hear “Frosty the Snowman” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in the bright, warm sunshine.
The excitement of the day was selling two of the 6 BBQ grills that George has acquired. He didn’t get any interest from the Retama Village Buy and Sell Facebook group, so placed the ad locally. He immediately started getting responses. The most serious potential buyer texted him with the question….”Hablas espanol?” So, I continued the text conversation with him. It was fun! He did end up buying it and picking it up.
We are now down to 3 grills plus a firepit. George grilled our porkchop tonight on the firepit as it was full of papers and wood that needed to be used.
DINNER: Another Jacques Pepin entree:
PORK CHOPS WITH ZESTY SAUCE
Zesty Sauce: 1/4 cup water 3 T chili sauce (I used harissa) 1 tsp Tabasco 2 tsp soy sauce 1 teaspn A1 steak sauce
Pork Chops: 4 lean boneless pork chops 1 T butter 1 T olive oil 3/4 tsp salt 3/4 tsp pepper 1/4 c red wine vinegar 1/2 c chopped onion 1/3 minced scallions 2 tsp chopped garlic 1 cup diced tomato 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
For the sauce – just mix everything together in a bowl
For the chops – Heat the oven to 180 degrees (for warming once cooked)
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Spinkle the meat with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Arrange meat on an ovenproof platter and keep warm in the oven.
Add the vinegar to the drippings in the skillet and cook over high heat for about 1 minute. Add onions, scallions, garlic, and tomato and cook for about 2 minutes over high heat. Add the sauce and boil for another 2 minutes over high heat. Stir in the olives and any juices the meat has rendered, and bring back to a boil. Coat the chops with the sauce and serve immediately. (Serves 4).
We really liked this. I modified it a bit…..First I cooked the meat only about 2 minutes per side in the butter and oil. Then, we moved the meat to the firepit and finished cooking the chops over an open fire – gave it a bit more smoky flavor and grill marks. Then, I proceeded with the recipe.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Cold in the AM – Low 37, warming to 68 by late PM
CLASS: Chair yoga. No swimming, as it is too cold STEPS: 11,067
It was quite cold today walking. I even saw some frost on the grass. There was no wind, so the hike was very enjoyable. I much prefer walking (fast) in cool weather, not hot.
While I was walking, I saw a beautiful dog sitting alongside the road. I was a bit afraid as I didn’t have my walking stick with me today. But, he just sat there staring straight ahead, as if he were waiting for his master. He was like a soldier posed ramrod straight, at attention. (More to this story tomorrow)
My basil plant is doing quite well. It is still small, though, so I don’t want to start plucking any leaves yet.
Our friends Irene and Rob have several large basil plants/bushes so we went over to their yard and snipped quite a few leaves for dinner recipes tonight.
The highlight of the day was the start-up of a fruit and vegetable stand that will come to our clubhouse parking lot weekly. We, along with a lot of Retama Village residents, bought a lot of good fruit and veg. We bought RGV (Rio Grande Valley) grapefruit, lemons, and limes. We also bought some green onions, squash, and garlic so I won’t have to go to the supermarket for a while. Nice!
DINNER: We try to eat a meatless dish at least once a week. Tonight’s inspiration came from my “guy” Jacques Pepin again:
WONTON CANNELLONI IN TOMATO SAUCE
1 (28-ounce) can Italian style tomatoes whole 3 garlic cloves 1.5 tsp salt 3/4 tsp pepper 1 tsp Italian seasoning (I used oregano and basil) 2 T olive oil 1 # ricotta cheese 2 large eggs 4 T chopped fresh chives (I used green onions instead) 6 wonton skins, each 6 inches square 1 cup grated mozzarella 2 T grated Parmesan
Heat the oven to 375. Put the tomatoes, with their liquid, garlic, 3/4 tsp of the salt, half of the pepper, the olive oil and the Italian seasoning in a food processor and process until smooth.
Mix the ricotta, eggs, remaining salt and pepper, and 2 T of the chives in a bowl.
Put 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Place a wonton skin on top of the sauce in the dish and spoon about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture into the middle of the skin. Bring 2 opposite sides together to enclose it creating a roll. Repeat with the 5 remaining wontons, arranging the filled cannelloni in the baking dish seam sides down, so that they are lined up in a row.
Pour the remaining sauce over the cannelloni. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet, sprinkle on the mozzarella and Parmesan, and bake for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the cannelloni with the remaining chives and serve immediately.
It was very good. George loved it.
For a salad, I googled “ricotta” to find a recipe to use up some extra. It was quite good too……The dressing is a combo of olive oil, minced basil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Mix ricotta and minced basil in a separate bowl. Cut up a tomato or two and add some torn basil leaves to the plate. Drizzle the dressing over the tomato/basil salad. Finish with dollops of the ricotta/basil mix. It turned out really well, too, and I ended up with some extra dressing that I can use another day.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Cold and windy in the AM. (50). High 65
CLASS: Chair yoga. Too cold for water aerobics STEPS: 7994. I wimped out while on my morning hike, taking a shortcut home due to the fierce wind
George spent the day replacing the tires on Joy, our Airstream. He thought he would do a better job that a tire shop/RV repair shop. So, he made 2 trips to Discount Tire, taking in 2 old tires at a time, buying 2 new ones, then repeating the process. He had an elaborate board system to keep the tires elevated while swapping them out.
While he was doing that, I did some cooking. I realized I have some cilantro that needs to be used up, so I googled a lime/cilantro salad recipe and prepared that. It called for ingredients I had on hand – fresh limes, black beans, quinoa, corn, spices, and red onion. It really turned out well.
The highlight of the afternoon was Spanish class. I have 9 pupils plus a couple who are away for several weeks. I enjoy creating the curriculum and teaching. I had to reprimand husband Jorge as he started chatting and not paying attention! 🙂
DINNER: Jacques Pepin alert!!! One of my loyal blog readers (my brother) inquired about the 180 degree temp that Jacques references. Yes, it is 180 F (not C). He tells us to pre-heat the oven to 180 in order to use it as a warming oven – to keep the plates and food warm until ready to plate. It is NOT for cooking. Nice to have readers with inquiring minds!
We did have a Jacques main course. It was leftover ham/veg gratin that I made a few weeks ago. Even though I cut his recipes in half (2 servings not 4), we often still end up with leftovers.
Side was the tasty quinoa/cilantro/lime salad I made earlier today.
BOOK: “The Summer that Never Was” by Peter Robinson. This is another book in the detective series I have been reading for about a year off and on. I like it because it takes place in North Yorkshire, England very close to the town where we had a housesitting assignment. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: What a change! Cold in the AM with light rain – 50s. Warming up to a pleasant 70
George made his usual Sunday morning grits and eggs breakfast. The grits were especially good as he used turkey broth instead of water. I had made the turkey broth using smoked turkey bones after Thanksgiving. Yum!
Since the weather was unpleasant, I didn’t do my walk, and being Sunday, no classes were offered. I spent the morning on the computer and telephone. What fun! I booked our flight to Kaui, Hawaii for January and was able to use credit from a Covid-cancelled flight from last fall.
In the afternoon, I went to Staples to get my Spanish lessons printed and copied. It is a bit of a hassle since I don’t have Word or a similar app on my tablet. After a few hours, I got the job done. Whew!
Some friends in our village put up their Christmas tree. It is really beautiful. We, like many others here, won’t be decorating as we got rid of all of our Christmas decorations when we went full-time RVing. I don’t want to buy “stuff” any more. But, I do enjoy seeing others’ pretty decorations!
DINNER: I turned to Lover Boy #2 Jacques Pepin for tonight’s dinner:
GRILLED STRIPED BASS WITH PIMIENTO RELISH
4 striped bass fillet steaks (can substitute other firm fish) 2 tsp canola oil 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper
For the relish..
1/2 cup canned or jarred red pimientos, cut into julienne strips 1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped 1/4 cup finely minced scallions 2 T fresh lemon juice 3 T olive oil Can vary with other fresh herbs. I added 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
For the bass –
Heat the oven to 180. Heat a grill until very hot. Rub the steaks with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the steaks on the hot grill and cook about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the steaks to ovenproof platter and keep warm in the oven until read to serve.
For the relish….Mix everything together in a small bowl.
To serve – place a fish fillet on each of the 4 plates. Top with the relish.
This was a great, very easy recipe. I used redfish which George had caught last week in the Gulf. Sides were leftover (Thanksgiving) Brussels sprouts, and rice. The rice was extra good as I cooked it with smokey turkey broth, made from the bones of our Thanksgiving turkey.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Hot (really muggy) in the AM. Wind change from the north and cloudy. Cooler. High 80
CLASSES: 2 water aerobics classes STEPS: 10,299
I took my morning walk and returned drenched with sweat. Yuck! Thank goodness for air conditioning!
George is busy building a shelf for our new bar refrigerator. It will be nice to have it elevated, and he will build a wine rack within the shelving. He loves doing this like this. Photos of the finished product to follow.
While we were doing water aerobics, black clouds formed above our heads. It really got windy as the wind shifted from the south to the north. The palm trees were swinging in the wind, and rain drops started falling. We continued swimming, and the clouds magically disappeared. False alarm! There was a 60% chance of rain, but it fizzled out. Too bad for the farmers as we really need the rain. However, this cold front will stick around all week, so I’m not sure how many days we will be in the swimming pool next week.
There was a pet parade this afternoon, but it wasn’t much, probably due to the windy weather. A few golf carts loaded with people’s dogs drove around the neighborhood.
Our friends came over for margaritas and to talk about a possible trip to Hawaii in January. They own a 2-week stay at a condo on Kaui. It looks like travel to Hawaii is possible as long as you quarantine and/or get a negative Covid test before departure. That would be so fun! Starting to dream!
Speaking of Covid, my former employer, Mayo Clinic, lit up one of its buildings in purple in downtown Rochester, MN to honor the many Covid patients they are caring for as well as all the Covid patients and their loved ones.
DINNER: I turned to my lover boy Jacques Pepin for dinner again tonight. I modified the chicken recipe a bit to accommodate some leftover Thanksgiving turkey breast….
SUPREME OF CHICKEN with BALSAMIC VINEGAR AND SHALLOT SAUCE
2 T butter 1 T olive oil 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1/3 cup shopped shallots 1 c diced white button mushrooms 1/4 c balsamic vinegar 1 T ketchup 1/2 c water
Corn and Peas…
2 T butter 1 T olive oil 2 c corn 1.5 c peas 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 T chopped chives.
Heat the oven to 180. Heat 1 T of the butter and oil over high heat in a heavy saucepan or skillet large enough to hold the chicken breasts in one layer. When hot, add the chicken breasts, and sprinkle them with the salt and pepper. Saute’ uncovered for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the breasts to an ovenproof plate, reserving the drippings in the pan, and place them in the oven. Continue cooking for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
Add the shallots and mushrooms to the pan drippings and cook for one minute over high heat. Add the vinegar and ketchup and continue cooking for another minute. Add the water, and cook until the water is reduced by half. Add the remaining tablespoon butter and stir until incorporated.
Meanwhile for the corn and peas….Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the corn, peas, salt and pepper. Saute’ 3-4 minutes.
To serve, arrange a ring of vegetables on each of the 4 plates. Cut each breast in half crosswise on a slant and place the breast pieces in the center of the vegetables. Coat the chicken with the sauce and sprinkle on the chives.
We really liked this. I modified the recipe to use up an-already cooked turkey breast (instead of the chicken). So, I skipped the first part describing how to roast the chicken. I just warmed up the turkey with some turkey fat leftovers and continued on with the recipe.
ASPARAGUS WITH SHALLOTS
Good thing I had a bunch of shallots! Asparagus was ridiculously cheap during our last shopping trip – $.89 for a huge bunch, so we just had to buy them. This recipe was a great way to use them…
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed 1 T good olive oil 4-5 shallots cut into thin slices 1 T butter 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper
Cut the asparagus on the bias into 2-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and shallots and cook 7-8 minutes, until the asparagus is just tender. Stir in the butter, salt, and pepper and toss to mix.
This was super easy and tasty. I didn’t have quite enough shallots, so I added a few scallions..
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Nice. Sunny. High 85
CLASSES: 2 water aerobics STEPS: 11,275
Back in the swing of things, I did my morning hike and then 2 water aerobics classes. I am going to pretend that this stay in South Texas is my “spa” where I do a lot of exercise and eat/drink healthy. We will see!
The houses across the street from us back up to a pasture. That field is a popular route for undocumented people to come across. They took these pictures this morning of the Border Patrol activity. I read that about 500 undocumented people are caught daily in our area. It is so sad.
After our big Thanksgiving meal, our freezer is beyond stuffed. I could hardly close the door. There is so much food in there that I have lost track of what is in there. So, I took everything out and did an inventory. Then, George put things back in, with his great organizational skills, and now there is room to spare!
George has discovered our community’s buy/sell facebook group and spent time wheeling and dealing today. This is a dangerous thing. He bought a grill from someone (his 5th!!!) and an air compressor. Now he is trying to sell some of our other grills and air compressor. 😦
The highlight of the day was going to our local brewery. On weekends, food trucks and vendors set up on their large patio, accompanied by live music. Everyone is careful to social distance, and we sat at a picnic table far away from the crowd.
George had two of their beers (he said they were good), and I abstained as the designated driver. Good thing, as I almost had a wreck on my way home. We wound our way through a neighborhood, and I pulled in front of a car that I thought had a stop sign. My bad.
DINNER: After yesterday’s gluttony, I wanted something light, so turned to Lover Boy #2 – Jacques Pepin. With his help, I prepared the two dishes below. George had smoked the trout yesterday on the smoker while he was smoking the Thanksgiving turkey. (Trout that he had caught last week in the Gulf).
SMOKED TROUT SALAD WITH HORSERADISH CREAM
2 smoked trout filets – small 1 hard-boiled egg – thinly sliced 1 cup diced tomato 1 cup pitted mixed olives – Kalamata, black, green, cut in half 1/3 cup finely chopped onion – I used red 5 T chopped cilantro 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 2 T olive oil
For horseradish cream…
1/3 cup whipped cream cheese 1 T horseradish 1/4 tsp black pepper Squeeze lime or lemon juice
Bone the trout, chop in bite-sized bits and set aside.
Mix together egg, tomato, olives, onion, cilantro, salt, pepper, and oil in one bowl. Mix the horseradish cream ingredient in another bowl.
To serve –
Divide the tomato mixture among 4 plates. Make a well in the center of each mound. Spoon the sauce into the well in the center of each salad. Arrange pieces of trout on top of the sauce, using about half of a trout per person. Serve with French bread.
——————————– BROCCOLI PUREE WITH BROWN BUTTER
3 bunches broccoli, stems removed (use stems for a different recipe) 2 garlic cloves, peeled 1 T butter 3/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper
Cut the broccoli into florets. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add broccoli and garlic. Bring back to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 10 minutes.
Drain, saving the water.
Put the solids into a food processor. Melt the butter and cook until brown. Add to the food processor along with the salt, pepper, and 3 T of the reserved cooking liquid. Process until a fine puree.
Serve immediately. Serves 4. Note – this was a little bland, so we added hot sauce, more salt and pepper at the table.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Warm and sunny. High 82
Today was all about eating. None of that pesky exercise!!! 🙂
George got the smoker grill going early in the morning. It will take all day to smoke the 11-pound turkey. He got the smoker going with some mesquite coals and mesquite/apple smoking chips.
I made a sauce for basting the turkey – using the herbs we had rubbed the turkey with plus some Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and melted butter.
He “mopped” the turkey all day long. It got smaller and browner as the day went on.
While he had the smoker going, he smoked the trout and redfish that he had caught a few days ago in the Gulf. I will use the smoked fish for future recipes…..stay tuned.
George checked the Retama Village Classifieds Facebook page and saw a small beer refrigerator that a neighbor was giving away. We struck while the iron was hot! We put it in our bar area which handily has an electricity outlet. He moved all his beer there from our regular refrigerator, and suddenly I have a lot more room!
We skipped lunch but munched on pate and crackers and some Cape Codders – cranberry juice and vodka.
Towards the end of the smoking, we put the sweet potatoes on the grill and some stuffed jalapeno peppers. The peppers were stuffed with cream cheese and bacon bits, then wrapped with smoked bacon. We had them as appetizers. Wow!
We ate our meal around 5:00. The final menu was:
Cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier Turkey Dressing Sweet potatoes Brussels sprouts with bacon and parmesan (recipe below – I added the parmesan) Paired with a Pinot Noir
We are not big sweet eaters, so we didn’t have any dessert. We didn’t need it!
We certainly have a lot to be thankful for today and all days.
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Quite pleasant. Sunny. High 80
I had to get up early this morning for a blood draw appointment at the doctor’s office. Medicine here is so different from what I am used to at Mayo Clinic. They do a good job with screening and encourage mostly telemedicine appointments. I was probably the only patient there who speaks English. All the staff are completely bilingual. The lobby gives you a feeling that you are in Mexico. Not today (as the front door is locked due to Covid), but usually, street vendors wander in off the street selling sweet things from a box that they strap around their necks, and people distribute religious pamphlets (even though there is a sign saying no soliciting).
Another fun event today was doing laundry! That tells something about the day.
I made cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner. Here is the recipe….The author is quite funny….read her description of the wooden spoon.
The fields around our community are planted with corn, hay, and sugar cane. It is now the season for harvesting sugar cane. First they burn off the excess foliage. We get a lot of smoke in the air on days they are doing this. After the burning, then they go in with machines to chop it down. Sugar cane doesn’t require replanting every year; it comes up on its own for about 3 years, before requiring new plantings.
Pre-Covid, we attended an educational lecture at our clubhouse about sugar cane harvesting. One of the interesting/sad things is that undocumented people often hide in the sugar cane fields. So, the harvesters surround the fields several days before burning and over a loud speaker system, shout out that they will be burning the fields soon – in both Spanish and English. They purposely drive trucks that are not white, as the undocumented know that Border Patrol vehicles are white. The harvesters plead for the undocumented to come out and assure them that they are not Border Patrol. However, some don’t comply and from time to time, we hear that some were burned/killed. These are some photos a neighbor took this week….
DINNER: Flatbread pizzas. I need to use a lot of leftovers tonight in order to make room for all the Thanksgiving leftovers that I am expecting tomorrow. With that in mind, I spread some naan slices with cream cheese and sprinkled with Italian herbs. Then, I added a mix of sauteed green peppers, scallions, mushrooms, leftover sausage, and leftover pepperoni. I topped it with Parmesan and mozzarella, and baked until everything was melted and hot.
In the evening, we prepped the turkey for its smoking tomorrow. George has a recipe that calls for an herb rub. We put all the herbs together, and rubbed her down. The smoking tomorrow will probably take all day. I thawed some of the fish George caught last week, and will smoke that as well, since we will have the smoker going. We also plan to smoke some bacon/cheese-filled jalapenos. It will be fun tomorrow doing all of that! More to come!
LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 84
We ventured out today to do our Thanksgiving meal shopping. It was remarkably calm. We loaded up on turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and stuffing. George will smoke the turkey….all day long on Thursday.
I further checked out the gift package that our daughter had sent me. Included in the Rick Steves’ box of travel stuff, there was also a t-shirt, with his motto….”Keep on traveling!” That certainly describes me, too! We received an email today from a homeowner in northeastern Italy inquiring if we would like to return to housesit for their beautiful home and cutie-pie dog, but the dates don’t work….even if Europe does open for us in 2021. It got me thinking again, and salivating, about European travel. We will just wait and see.
Then, Spanish class! I had put out the word that I would teach Spanish to a few people in Retama Village, our community. At first, only one couple expressed interest, then people started to come out of the woodwork, and I ended up with 11 pupils plus George. We had the class outdoors in order to social distance. I am creating my own curriculum as there aren’t any textbooks that really meet the needs of these people. It was fun. We will start meeting twice a week. I checked these books out from our local public library to help me get started….
DINNER: I have lab work tomorrow, so I am fasting. Darn! I made George brisket tacos. I have seen them on restaurant menus so I thought I would make some, using the leftover brisket George had smoked last week. He said they were good!
BOOK: “The Department of Sensitive Crimes” by Alexander McCall Smith. He is the author of that African lady detective series and also books about life in Scotland, where he now lives. He writes delightfully. This is his latest book.