Tomatoes, Bacon, and Spring

The real thing

It’s Spring!

until late July...

Tomorrow is the 1st of March, and while it is not officially the start of Spring – it is a step in the right direction.  I discovered a hatched robin’s egg in my yard last week, the onions in my pantry are sprouting faster than I can use them, and my prized “pet” African Violet is going wild. Something is definitely in the air!

Aside from the bitter temperatures, snow, and ice, the hardest part of  Winter is being deprived of home-grown tomatoes! Even now that it is Spring 🙂 , it’s still a good five months before a decent BLT. What’s a person to do? Well, this is truly one of those problems that  money can’t solve, since only God can make a home-grown tomato, but sometimes we are forced to – of all terrible things – substitute,  when actually there is no substitution.

After years of seeking the next best thing , it’s come down to this – if home-grown is a no-go , you’re better off with tiny tomatoes. Cherry. Grape. Cherry Berry, Sweet Pea… Those little guys pack a powerful punch!

After trying all the “full size” varieties out of season – Holland on the stem (watery and bland), plum or Roma ( mealy), Hydroponic (expensive and no taste whatsoever), imported, exported, red, yellow, varigated…all proved horrible in one way or another. Please, for once I have to admit, less really is more. Bring on a miniature tomato – the smaller the better!

While slicing those itty-bitty tomatoes isn’t easy, their intense flavor and pleasing  texture might carry you through until summer without ruining your hamburger or BLT. Which brings another brilliant idea to mind…

Next time when pan-frying bacon, be sure to place a foil covered brick on top of strips. It will stop all that nasty curling and prevent uneven cooking. Flip when needed and brick (a verb) the other side. It will cook to perfection, flat, crispy and perfect for sandwiches, as a side dish, or by itself!

Brick your bacon!

Tips Not to be Missed!

  • Kitchen shears are a must for every kitchen! When preparing meat, keep a pair handy to snip off any unwanted (and fattening!) fat and skin. Every tablespoon of visible fat trimmed away amounts to 100 less calories and helps keep cholesterol under control!
“Cut”-lery at its best!
Onion etiquette
  • Red onions tend to complement ” heartier” dishes –  those served with red wines, while white and yellow onions combine better with lighter fare; usually accompanied by white wines or Champagnes.
  • Visit you local natural food store, or check around to find where spices can be purchased loosely – by the ounce instead of the pre-prepared bottles in your grocery store. They are loaded with fresh flavor and unbelievably cheaper – plus, you are able to buy just the amount you need. The more control in the kitchen, the better!
  • Don’t throw away the juice or jars from your favorite pickles after eating the last one! Simply slice some English cucumbers extra-thin, drop them into the jar and in a day or two – more pickles!  (Try “pickling” other vegetables, too!)
  • Fresh spinach is a refreshing change from lettuce on sandwiches. It adds a unique, nutty flavor and different texture…makes things just a little more interesting.  Not to mention that extra boost of iron!                                     “Snip, snip, snip the fat!”   

Miracle-Gro for Eyelashes!

The magic elixir

I actually bought this product. “Day & Night Lash Boosting Serum.” Formula , elixir, potion,  lotion – whatever. 2-in-1.

Am I crazy?

I’m loving it!

It’s doing nothing!

It’s tremendous fun.

That’s worth something.

That’s worth everything!

At least $10.99.

The Other Red Meat

A snack, a condiment, a meal!

I was lucky enough to have been born in the 1960’s, when “artificial”  food was hot and happening. We wanted all we could get – from Pillsbury Space Food Sticks to Carnation Instant Breakfast. A Swanson or Morton’s frozen dinner was an exciting treat – no matter how bad it tasted!  This is all but a lead-in to the product that is on my mind today – the imitation bacon chip. Actually, flavored, colored, and heavily salted soy protein pieces. They, like saccharin, are such an ingrained part of my childhood, even now, I can’t let go.

My first experience with the “bacon” bit was in the Metropolitan D.C. area with my best friend  and her parents. We were seven at the time. The restaurant was “The Joshua Tree.” Famous for pitchers of Sangria and huge baked potatoes accompanied by an array of “fixin’s” featuring tiny burgundy colored squares that you “couldn’t tell from bacon”. You could tell them from bacon. But no one seemed to care. They were cool. Cutting edge. Vegetarian.

Bac-o’s, Bacon Bits, Bac’n Pieces…I still love them all, but try to practice restraint.  Their  only drawback (aside from nutritional content) is a tendency to lose their original “crispiness” shortly after opening.

And just when you think you have a problem… Simply store a shaker of  BB’s in the freezer and they stay fresh for months. They pour beautifully and retain that addictive and delicious crunchy texture, all the while, never tasting anything like bacon. But who wants to worry over such trivial issues?

Football-sized baked potatoes (usually in foil), ice cream scoops of fluffy, yellow-colored imitation butter, dried chives, whipped sour cream, and, of course, “bacon” galore…those were the days!

“Bring on the Bits!
…Doesn’t taste like bacon, but who cares?”

Healthy Tips from the Kitchen

Choose a lighter cream for a step in the right direction

Very few of us use whole milk anymore, but if you do, try 2% for a month or two, then gradually step down to 1%, then 1/2% – who knows, you might end up using skim and not even notice the difference!

Just be careful when cooking – the lower the fat content, the easier milk will curdle. Save the higher fat milks for sauces and “cream” soups.

    1. Deep-fried food actually tends to absorb less fat than slowly pan-fried food. (Food for thought! 🙂 )
    2. For omelettes, use 2 whites for every 1 yolk.
    3. Next time ordering Chinese take-out,  remember these words, “Steamed, with sauce on the side, please.” You can save up to 600+ calories and still enjoy the flavor.
    4. Fast-food isn’t all bad. There are only bad choices. Review the menu options at all your local drive-thrus on the internet. Each and every one seems to offer healthy selections. Learn what they are and order wisely! (Personal suggestion: the Chipolte Chicken Wrap @ McD’s!)
    5. Never buy pre-ground beef. Select the leanest whole cuts you can find (Sirloin, Eye of Round, Top Round, etc….), have your butcher trim away any visible fat and grind to your specifications. You will know what you are getting.

      “Choose to loose…
      unless you’re at the casino!”

       

Five Kitchen Tricks

Two kitchen essentials!

Problem solved!

Tops saved from discarded bottles. Invaluable!

 

 

An accident waiting to happen!
  1. Maybe it’s my age, or perhaps it’s a new aggressive type of child-proofing or “terrorist proofing”, but each time I try to open a bottle in my kitchen, it’s becoming more of a struggle.
    Keeping a pair of adjustable pliers among your utensils will definitely make life easier!
  2. When “dredging in flour” is required for baking or deep-frying, self-rising flour tends to make a far “crispier” crust.
  3. While pouring bottled dressing the other evening, half the bottle spilled out onto my salad!  Save “squirtter” tops from other containers to snap or screw onto open top bottles so you can control the amount you choose to pour. They are “gold” in my kitchen – and if one doesn’t fit – the next one will! (See photo)
  4. To thicken potato soup, potato cakes – or anything potato, keep instant mashed potatoes on hand. They do have a purpose (although not as mashed potatoes :-))!
  5. Virgin olive oil, or simply olive oil,  stands up better to high temperatures than extra-virgin when frying. Save the delicious (and expensive) extra-virgin for dressings and sauces.

A Cocktail to Remember

Here is a re-post from my Facebook account. It is a vodka/rum drink, with a bit of an island flair, called the Brown-Eyed Susan – a huge hit on the internet, and a favorite from a wedding I attended 2 years ago at the Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia. (Beautiful place!)

The bride was kind enough to share her recipe with me. Delicious!

Brown-Eyed Susan
1 1/4 Cups highest-quality Vodka
1 1/2 Cups Light Rum
3/4 Cup Triple Sec
Juice of 2 Limes
4 Cups fresh Orange Juice
4 Cups Pineapple Juice
Lime Wedges, Maraschino Cherries

Mix first 6 ingredients together. Pour over crushed ice. Decorate with lime slices and Maraschino cherries…and don’t forget cocktail straws. Enjoy!
(Serves as many as can handle it!) 🙂

                                              
                                            “One (at least) for the party!”

  

 

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