How to Eat Meat Pies at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat

Friday Food Challenge  Australia Trip #8

Aussie Meat Pies

Mrs. ET and I headed across the plains of Victoria from Melbourne, AU to Ballarat by train. Seventy-five minutes later, we coasted into the station surveying the historic town of Ballarat. Her niece and sister-in-law picked us up and the adventures began.

Aussie Meat Pies

The main interest was Sovereign Hill. Replicating the Australian Gold Rush in the 1850s, reenactors peppered Sovereign Hill with authenticity. There were miners, majors, mothers, and bakers making meat pies.

Aussie meat pie“Have you ever had a meat pie?” Carol asked.

“Of course,” I answered like an Aussie know-it-all.

Only I did not know that the Aussie definition of a meat pie was so different than an American Meat Pie.

Carol could not wait to get her hands on an authentic Sovereign sausage roll, and told me I had to eat a meat pie or my life would not be complete.

“Where are the carrots, peas, and potatoes?”

“What part of meat pie didn’t you get, Marsha?”

“This looks like hamburger, not roast beef.”

“It’s minced meat pie. Try it.”

Remembering back to Christmas more than 50 years ago, I recalled my great-grandmother’s minced meat pie. It was a sweet spicy pie filled with chewy brown stuff called “mincemeat.” I did not think I wanted to try that again.

“Is it beef?”

“Yes, but minced meat can be beef, turkey, pork or any meat. It’s minced MEAT, Marsha.” (They sure are dense in the US, I could hear her thinking.)

I explained about mincemeat as best as my 60-year old memory of it would allow.

“It’s meat, Marsha. It’s not sweet.” Carol urged.

Aussie Meat Pie
Aussie Meat Pie

I gave in. I opened it and sure enough, it looked like hamburger.

“You’re not supposed to open it,” Carol admonished me sternly. “Put the top back on and put tomato sauce on it.”

“It’s too hot. I’ll burn my mouth!”

Oh no, I thought, catsup. Now it sounds like Mom’s meatloaf. That was awful! I can’t do this. What am I going to do now?

“You’re ruining it!” Carol said. “You’ve got to put tomato sauce on it!” She sounded frantic for me to do it right to get the full effect of the Aussie meat pie. I was frantic, too.

“Carol, I can’t put catsup on the top. How am I going to eat it? I’ll have catsup all over my hands and face and who knows what else.”

Carol was disgusted with me. I could tell by her sigh. “It’s not catsup. It’s tomato sauce anyway. You’re not doing it the Aussie (pronounced AUZZY) way. But go ahead JUST TRY IT!”

Gingerly I took a bite without catsup. It was different. I could not identify the flavor, though. Basically, it tasted somewhat like hamburger. The pie crust was flaky. The meat was meaty. I was hungry. The whole thing was gone in five minutes.

Thank you, Carol, Kate, Mandy, and Paul for such wonderful day at Sovereign Hill. I’ll have more to share about our amazing experiences in later posts.

Remembering Ballarat at Home

When I got home, I thought I would make some Aussie meat pies for Vince. I made my own pie crust, which was a mistake because I did not have eggs, and I like eggs and vinegar in my pie crust.

Rolling it out I soon realized that I did not make enough pie crust for two pies. I made another crust. Piecing it all together, I pinched it around the top and thought it looked good OK.

For the meat filling, I followed the recipe below – sort of.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/8984/aussie+meat+pies

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 3/4 cup Campbell’s Real Stock Beef
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Vegemite
  • 2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten

Since I did not have real stock beef, I used brown gravy mix. I did not use enough water. Also, I was missing Vegemite. OH WELL! Carol gave me some of that on a piece of bread at her house. It’s nutritious.

Proudly I baked the pies. Neither Vince nor I remembered to take a before picture. Vince asked about catsup to put on top.

“What’s the date on that bottle of catsup?” Vince asked as I retrieved the nearly empty bottle from the refrigerator.

“Um, January 2013. It’s fine.”

He did not use catsup either.

Here is Vince’s meat pie after picture.

meat pie
Marsha’s version of meat pie

I am not sure whether or not he liked it. Maybe if I had put vegemite in it.

It’s been in the refrigerator several days now. Carol would not let things like this go to waste. She was a fabulous cook and so efficient. I don’t think Carol would ever substitute things in a recipe. I wonder if I will ever learn?

Have you ever experimented before, and been a little sorry about the results?

Related Posts on Australia

Upcoming Food Blogger Conference

2017 International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento
2017 International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento

2017 International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento 

 

Waistlines Go West in Western Australia!

Miss Me Yet? I Just Got to Australia.

Waistlines Go West I think means spread out! I’ll be at the east coast of Australia from Dec. 26-Jan 16. I’m starting with my western waist from birthdays and Christmas feasting. I can’t imagine what is going to happen if my waistline goes any farther west!

Another Great Eternal Traveler Post

The bounty of the Margaret River region of south-west Western Australia is renowned for its quality, freshness and lack of food miles. There are more than 120 wineries, eight breweries …

Source: Waistlines Go West in Western Australia!

Successful Family Business Celebrates 55 Years This Month

Cee’s fun Photo Challenge #NaBloPoMo

The Gongs bought Haury's Market, the Liquor Store and the Theatre in the 1960s and created the General Food Store.
The Gongs bought Haury’s Market, the Liquor Store and the Theatre in the 1960s and created the General Food Store.

My neighbor’s grandfather, Mr. Haury, started the “modern” market in the “resort” town of Woodlake, CA in the early 1900s. In 1961 the Gongs were looking for a business they could manage with their family helping. They bought the market and the theater and hired contractors to begin the remodel.

General Food Store 55 years after it started.
General Food Store 55 years after it started.

Another of my neighbors reported that he used to swim in the basement of the theater, so it probably had some structural issues. The senior Gongs removed the deteriorating theater and turned that area into a much-needed parking lot.

Along the front of Woodlake's main street, Valencia.
Along the front of Woodlake’s main street, Valencia.

What makes this photo fun is that the bench looks at the blank wall rather than at the street.

Gene Gong told me, “We are a neighborhood store.” The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce recognized Gene and Ray Gong, sons of the original owners, who now manage the store for their longevity serving this community with this full-service market and their community service.

CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.

Congratulations on your successful business, Ray and Gene Gong.

Streaming Thoughts Featured on Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Nov. 8, 2016
Streaming Thoughts Featured on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Nov. 8, 2016

Visalia Taste of the Arts: How to Create a Veggie Masterpiece

Day 24 Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost #oddballphotochallenge

Cee's OddBall

Visalia Taste of the Arts has grown to ten times the number of vendors it had three years ago from 10 to 100 under my friend’s daughter, Carolyn Koontz’s administration. She now moves to a new job at Tulare County Office of Education. Congratulations, Carolyn!

Here are some of the more interesting Taste of the Arts.

Veggie Critter
Cuke, the Veggie Critter

Anyone could participate. Kids dug out holes for eye placement, attached all types of hair, legs, and other body parts. Interesting that most shapes ended up being some kind of “animal.”

visalia-taste-of-the-arts110

Green teeth – no problem. They’re bound to fall out anyway.

visalia-taste-of-the-arts108

This gives all new meaning to “We’re having octopus for dinner!”

or

“Who’s coming for dinner?”

visalia-taste-of-the-arts111

Steps to a Masterpiece

  1. Grab a big veggie.
  2. Grab a carving or poking tool.
  3. Stick veggies on sticks.
  4. Poke sticks into veggies.
  5. Carve holes.
  6. Attach little veggies to bigger ones with a toothpick or by stuffing into holes.
  7. Display your artwork at the front table when finished.
  8. Take pictures.

For more oddball pictures, click here.

Shopping Like an Expert at General Food Store

Thursday’s 80-degree temperature in Woodlake could not have been more beautiful. My mood matched the weather as I drove downtown to General Food Store to meet with Gene Gong, one of the two directors.

Gene Gong
Gene Gong

Mr. Gene Gong works twelve-hour days, so it’s been hard to schedule a time to interview him. On this perfect day in Woodlake, he was waiting and ready to answer my questions about General Food Store and the grocery business.

What do you want us to know about General Food Store?

“We are a local store,” Gene Gong replied immediately

Next to Woodlake Hardware, General Food Store has been active in Woodlake in the same location longer than any other store. Congratulations to Woodlake Chamber members, directors Gene and Ray Gong, on celebrating the 55th year anniversary of their family-owned and operated General Food Store!

Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.
Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.

We met in their front office, which is actually open to the public at the front of the store. I work best in private quarters away from distractions. Not these two! They are right out front, nodding to merchants as they come and go, speaking to customers, answering questions – always accessible.

wvcc-general-food-store101

As a small town, Woodlake is fortunate to have two well-stocked grocery stores. Gene likened their store to a corner mom and pop operation. Yes, they know most of their customers, but I remember most corner markets as being dim, dusty, and cramped. General Food Store is none of these.

wvcc-general-food-store124
Mmmmm that fresh bread smells heavenly!

Shoppers today have lots of options when it comes to shopping, especially for groceries. It seems that everyone is in the grocery business – national grocery chain stores, gas stations, outdoor fruit stands, discount stores, trendy, and bulk stores. There might be an occasional corner market in a large city like the one my first husband’s parents owned in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA.

What  does the small-town main street market sell most?

General Food sells time. And time is money! How many people in Woodlake have too much of either of those commodities? I don’t. But I act like I do.

It takes me 20-25 minutes at the most to drive into Woodlake and pick up grocery items and get back home. It takes me 25 minutes to drive to the nearest Save Mart in Visalia, and five minutes to find a parking place and walk into the store. I love Costco, but it takes about 30 minutes to drive there  and 25 minutes to find a parking place and a vacant grocery cart, not to mention going through a line to get into and out of the store. Then I have to shop and get back home – 90 minutes at least!

Additional Amenities of Shopping at General Food Store

Wal-Mart sells cheap merchandise but has long lines, a dirty store, filthy parking lot, and crowded rows. Who knows, we might end up being featured on the People of Wal-Mart website, or be standing next to someone who is. Yikes!

wvcc-general-food-store106

Look how spotless everything is at General Food Store in Woodlake. Do you see the reflection of the meat department in the floor? There is plenty of room to push a full-sized cart around without having to pick it up and squeeze past another customer. Yet, there was a steady stream of customers while I was in the store.

wvcc-general-food-store117

It is so simple to shop here. Park right next to the door. Customers walk in, get a friendly greeting, pick up their cart and find things they need. There is no long check-out line. General Food Store customers are back home after shopping and visiting with neighbors in less time than it would take them to drive to Visalia and park their car.

So what if I save $2.00 on a bag of chips at the $300 store?

Items are easy to find.

I’m not a huge drinker, but I enjoy a glass of sweet wine with my husband once in a while. My favorite brand is Barefoot. It’s inexpensive and tastes delicious to me. When I pick up a bottle in Visalia, I have to walk up and down two aisles to find my brand. There it is in the red wines, and again in the white and pink wine areas.

Time elapsed? Five minutes!

Not here.

wvcc-general-food-store104

All my favorites are together, and they are on special for the same price as I can get them in Visalia. How much time did I just save? About 60 minutes, on one item.

wvcc-general-food-store120

I love to shop for fresh vegetables. There are only two of us at home. Neither of us eats huge amounts of anything. You would not think that to look at my shopping habits.

wvcc-general-food-store119

In Visalia, I go to Costco, walk into that freezing cold room, practically run my cart around the perimeter, and grab a big plastic container of lettuce, one bag of broccoli and one of carrots. The lettuce sits in my refrigerator until half or more of it rots. Ewwwww!

When three-quarters of the bag of broccoli turns yellow, I throw it out. The peeled baby carrots get slimy before we can eat them all. I wash them off, but feel guilty because I don’t want to serve slimy carrots, so I throw them out. Then if I’m fixing dinner for company, I don’t have any carrots to serve. I either have to grab a can of something or send Vince to Woodlake to pick up some fresh vegetables at the last minute.

wvcc-general-food-store121

Vince hates the way I shop. I think I am saving so much money. What do you think?

Mr. Gong said that he stocks things people in Woodlake buy. Customers might not find the newest craze here. Yet, he keeps up on the newest nutrition and food buying trends.

wvcc-general-food-store118

“About six years ago people started using plain yogurt to make fruit smoothies. Woodlake people did not pick up on it right away.”

“Do you stock plain yogurt now? I started eating it about six years ago because a doctor recommended it to help me with weight loss.”

“Yes, now customers are buying enough of it to pay stocking it. But kale is in now, and you might not find that here.”

wvcc-general-food-store123

I bought a huge bag of cut kale from Save Mart in my refrigerator. After talking to Mr. Gong, guilt overwhelmed me and I ate a bowl of kale for breakfast this morning. I fixed it three days ago and stuck the leftovers in the refrigerator because I don’t like to be wasteful. I still have a half bag of uncooked kale in the refrigerator. It is about 2 weeks old. I think I need to rethink my shopping habits.

wvcc-general-food-store114

My husband drinks Lactaid. We go through a lot of it, most of the time. Then we don’t. I won’t tell you what happens to some of our milk. More often we just run out – just before Vince has breakfast at 4:30 am. We did not want to run into Visalia to get a half-gallon of Lactaid. After what Mr. Gong said about trends, I did not think they would have Lactaid, but I was WRONG!

wvcc-general-food-store112

I admit that we eat like gringos. I fix burritos and other Mexican dishes, but I do it the gringa way. However, 80 percent of our town is Hispanic. True Mexicans cook with spices that I have never heard of. My Mexican friends would be ashamed to eat my monster quesadillas. Vince goes to Super Taco if he wants authentic Mexican food. But the Gongs stock for their customers. I could buy eucalyptus leaves if I wanted them. Does anyone have a recipe for them?

wvcc-general-food-store113

Speaking of tacos, unless you are vegetarian, meat is the most expensive item on the grocery list. I eat chicken, chicken and, oh yes, chicken with an occasional filet of salmon and hamburger thrown in. I fix Italian meatballs for my Italian husband, and I do it the Italian way. I forgot to check out the sausage situation at General Food Store. There aren’t many Italians in Woodlake.

wvcc-general-food-store109

There are lots of fresh meat choices. Packages do not come in $30.00 sizes, which reminds me, I need to put my hamburger I bought at Costco in the freezer today or I’ll have to throw it out.

wvcc-general-food-store111

Apparently many customers like baby-back ribs. My husband does.

wvcc-general-food-store129

I believe in supporting Woodlake Chamber members. Mr. Gong has not been a member for several years and he renewed his membership during our visit. He is the first Woodlake grocery store to do so. You all know what this means, don’t you?

wvcc-general-food-store130

My shopping habits are going to change!

 

Want to Visit a Drive Inn with Old Fashioned Hospitality?

#photochallenge #helping hands

Guy Fieri made diners and dives famous across the United States but does he know about the Woodlake Drive Inn? It’s thriving in the tiny town of Woodlake, CA.

Ali Mohamed poses outside the popular Drive-In
Ali Mohamed poses outside the popular Drive Inn

How is that possible? What’s the secret of their success?

Ali credits his success to extending a helping hand and giving back 200% to the community.

Her favorite food is chicken fingers. Mine, too.
Her favorite food is chicken fingers. Mine, too.

Owner, Ali Mohamed impressed me with his devotion to Woodlake.

“Whatever you do for the community, it comes back. If you’re stingy it doesn’t work.”

It was about a half hour before our scheduled interview when I drove down Valencia Boulevard in Woodlake, CA. Hungry from my morning workout, and not able to cook while our kitchen is being remodeled, I looked forward to this interview for more than one reason.

Chicken Strips & Fries!

Long lines did not mean a long wait.
Long lines did not mean a long wait.

It was about 12:15 when I arrived, and there was a long line in front of me. I knew from experience it would go fast. However, I was not counting on Ali coming out to greet me. He asked what I wanted and put my order in for me. While I waited for my food, I took pictures for my blog and talked to customers. Everyone in one family liked the same thing I did – chicken.

Menu
Menu

Out of over 100 items, that was not the consensus. Other top ranking meals were #8, the BIG MEAL, the hamburger special, the pastrami sandwich, grilled cheese, and, of course, sodas.

2016 Woodlake Drivein102

Waiting on a constant stream of walk-up customers and answering the phone kept the window clerk busy. Several men bustled in the back filling the orders. Guests sat down under the cover of an awning visiting with each other across picnic tables while they waited for their food.

I forgot and took a bite of chicken before I took the picture. Sorry!
I forgot and took a bite of chicken before I took the picture. mmmmmmm Sorry!

Just like any fast food, it came in a styrofoam container, but it was hot! The fries may be the tastiest I’ve ever had, with just the right amount of seasoning and the perfect crispness. The woman in blue informed me before my meal arrived, that Woodlake DriveInn has the best fries. They visit frequently, and she was right.

Ali tells me his story.
Ali tells me his story.

When I finished eating, Ali came out to join me at the table.

Curiosity bubbled out of me. “How did you end up in Woodlake, CA of all places?”

Twenty years ago Ali and his brother moved from Yemen to Dearborn, MI and went to work in a factory in Angola, IN, 20 miles south of Dearborn. In their spare time, they worked in restaurants as they picked up English.

https://goo.gl/maps/7XVQuEyXuVM2

 

But Michigan is a long way from California.

Ali’s cousin, Sam, had moved from Fresno to Farmersville and told the brothers that CA was the land of opportunity. They bought the Drive Inn from an Arabian in 2001 and settled in with a plan to succeed.

“This country is amazing. You can be who you are in a free country. In the United States, if you believe you will succeed, you will.”

Woodlake Drive-In in 1961.
Woodlake Drive Inn in 1961.

“We just noticed what people liked and that’s what we served. People order lots of sodas and soft-serve ice cream. And we were friendly. We came out and shook hands with everyone that came.”

The Drive Inn was old in 1961 when it was Floyd’s Drive Inn. He did not know the history of the business, but Ali told me that he had an 80-year-old customer who had worked at the Drive Inn when she was in high school.

When we started, it was just my brother and I and one girl. We worked hard. Now we have six or seven employees.

My camera would not click fast enough to catch the 55 Chevy.
My camera would not click fast enough to catch the 55 Chevy.

“My brother wanted to enclose the font, and air-condition a seating area. I wanted to keep it old-fashioned. The community needs something original. We added the awning.”

The south side of the building.
The south side of the building.

One customer said, Ali is very friendly. He’s got a great personality.

Her husband added, “And the food is GOOD.”

Ali believes in being generous. A Chamber of Commerce member, he donated a large amount to the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, run by the Chamber. His generosity reaches to other organizations as well. He has a soft spot in his heart for lending a helping hand, especially for the schools. He doesn’t always know why the kids are collecting money, though.

“You can never go wrong giving. It always comes back to you.”

It pays off. A few years ago I did a civics exercise in a high school class. Kids had to list ten things they liked about Woodlake, and ten things they would change. Woodlake Drive Inn was always at the top of their list of things they like about their town.

South Side sign mmm
South Side sign mmm – American 1950s comfort food

Ali paid for my lunch and then offered me some soft-serve ice cream for desert. It was so tempting. Even the pictures looked good.

He had no idea that I used to eat soft-serve and french fries every day for lunch in high school. mmm Yes, I was skinny.
He had no idea that I used to eat soft-serve and french fries every day for lunch in high school. mmm Yes, I was skinny.

Are you proud of my self-control? I may go back tomorrow, but I’m not telling.

2016 Woodlake Drivein108
I can’t resist tempting you.

Woodlake is friendly. Woodlake Drive Inn is the place to network.

Yesterday I made a new Facebook friend while I waited for my food.

Today Vince insisted on trying Woodlake Drive Inn after I told him about the food. A cool breeze blew through the shaded area. A couple sat down across from me at the picnic table while we waited for our lunch. They looked vaguely familiar. After talking to figure out why we knew each other, she gave me her card.

"He does pretty good!"
“He does pretty good!”

Ali left me with this quote before he got back to work.

“If I didn’t work here. I’d still live here. I walk down the street and people don’t turn away. They say hi. I love Woodlake.”

So next time you come to Woodlake head for the old-fashioned burger shack, Woodlake Drive Inn. Guy Fieri would be proud.

Y'all come back, now!
Y’all come back, now!

What is the favorite local restaurant in your town?

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media or email it to a friend who might enjoy visiting Woodlake Drive Inn.

 

 

 

 

Nutty Diet for Steady Weight Loss

Three months ago I realized that I was on an ever upward spiral of weight gain that I had to put to a complete and permanent stop – or else. I’ve been working with a local trainer, Melissa Deitz, for about six months, and I thought that would help me lose weight, but in the first three months I didn’t budge – literally and figuratively. She gave me this crazy diet trick that is working.

Melissa and her friend, BobMy appetite overwhelms me. I ATE as much as most men my age, and more than my husband on most days. Since I walk daily, I used to keep it under control pretty well, including the sweets, but sixteen pounds crept on over a year’s time, and I had to take action. Beating Bob up wasn’t doing it for me. (Bob is a dummy, you know.)

Bopping Bob.
Bopping Bob.

This is how I looked when I started working out – about a month into it. When I started I could barely last 20 seconds beating on Bob. Now I can wail on him for a minute without feeling pain. But that is another story. Back to the weight loss. Here is Melissa’s secret.

Nutty diet that works
Nutty diet that works

That’s right – a breakfast of protein. Four or five nuts and a huge glass of water, about 20 oz.  This is the real crux of the diet. First thing when you get up eating a few nuts starts your metabolism. Sometimes I don’t get to it first thing, but I try.

Before lunch another 20 oz, which I attractively guzzle. It’s the only way I can get it down. For lunch I eat pretty normally. Sometimes I split with Vince. I enjoy bread, potato chips, whatever we happen to have. At dinner I watch it, but it runs the gamut. Sometimes I have a normal meal – if we are going out for an event.  I skip the desert. At home I may just have a protein shake or some more nuts, and one more big glass of water sometime before bedtime. I do watch my sweet intake, but it hasn’t been hard – for the first time ever I do not feel deprived. I have probably only eaten sweets on four or five occasions, and I can keep it down to just a little. That’s a miracle in itself.

That’s it.

My goal was to lose 3 pounds a month for 12 months. I’m not overly heavy, but my normal weight for my entire adulthood before I turned 50 was 30 pounds lighter than I was when I started on my lifetime diet. After three months on this regime, I have lost 10 pounds, and other than a cold, which I’ve almost licked, I feel a lot better.

I’m not a weight loss guru, but I told my FB group that I was starting this, so this is my quarterly report. I do not know what your weight goals, but if you want to lose weight, this can help. Let me know what you think.

 

Go Vibrant for Valentine’s Day

In the Central Valley, spring is the most vibrant time, not only visually, but the way things smell as well.  Summer and fall are hazy, Winter is foggy or rainy.

Red screams vibrant to me . Here are some beautiful examples of vibrant colors from the Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens. Their vibrant fragrances fill the air.  Brought inside a small enclosed room, like my office at work, the scent almost overpowers me. But in the dining room, they perfume the entire house.Salmon/yellow/red/orange take your pick.Even the leaves are vibrant.This ain't no violet! Put on your most winning smile showing off your vibrant personality, and voila – your sweetie shows up with this. Sweet smells compliment vibrant colors,  Vibrant desertI smell the rich aroma of cup of French Vanilla coffee to go with this treat, don’t you? Put all these together and you see my dream Vibrant Valentine’s treat.

For more vibrant pictures, click the icon below.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weight or Weightlessness

What an appropriate topic for this week’s Photo Challenge. I don’t think much about being weightless, but I do think a lot about weight.  I am not alone in that. The most popular New Year’s Resolution in the world is weight loss.  Let it be known that I’m resolving right this second to lose weight. (Whew, glad that’s over!)

In our small town of Woodlake, California, the Kiwanis Club hosts a “Run for Hunger” event every April. Those of us who have plenty of food, lots of energy, and maybe a bit more weight than we want or need pay to run three miles around Bravo Lake to raise money to buy food to stock the Woodlake Food Pantry for those who don’t have enough food to eat.

Weight

Most of the contestants are fit. Kiwanis feeds them a pancake breakfast after they finish. No one ever turns it down!  This quest for weight watching and keeping in shape begins early here in Woodlake, and is quite well dressed, wouldn’t you agree?

Weight2

The idea of watching our weight is episodic worldwide. We engage in long never-ending periods of various exercises,

Weight 3

trying to remove the effects of depositing morsels of tastiness which take so little time to consume.

Weight4

The trainer we had on our vacation in Hawaii suggested that the only way to lose weight is to pay attention to what we put into our mouths.

I was hoping there was another way, weren’t you?

Click here to see what other people have to share about weight and weightlessness.

Wine and Dining 

Vince shocked me a few months ago when the announced as we drove to lunch in Visalia one beautiful October day that I didn’t like to cook. I had my defense ready.

“I don’t mind cooking.”

Needless to say I lost that argument before it even got warmed up.

Actually I’m a good cook, but Vince is right, if I have a choice of filing, making the bed or writing, I’m not at the stove.

So tonight, inspired by my friend and esthetician Carrie at Creekside Day Spa in Visalia, CA, I decided to wine and dine my husband. Here’s how she explained it to me. First you relax, and don’t expect to have everything done at the same time, and drink wine with every course.  All my life I have not been a wine drinker, so my sophistication level 0. The upside to that is that I have a strong liver and not as many dead brain cells as I might have had otherwise.  But for this evening we started with a glass of wine while I serve a delicious appetizer.

There is no recipe for this, and I don’t know what you call it, but the ingredients are chopped vegetables fried in olive oil until some of them are crispy. I used brussel sprouts – usually not anyone’s favorite, but trust me on this  – you will eat more than you should. Along with that I added in onions, red cabbage, canned corn, broccoli,celery, topped with kale. I sprinkled the mixture with chili powder, salt and pepper and served it topped with romano cheese. I toasted an English muffin topped with the same cheese, and we spooned the vegetables onto the bread, and downed it with a pink moscato.
  This process was somewhat messy and took about 20 minutes, so I had everything started before he came home. I think Carrie’s idea was to have both partners working together in the kitchen. It’s taken us twenty years to work politely together in the kitchen. (He’s bossy, and I leave if he irritates me too much. Then he leaves, and I come back and do it my way. We are working on our social skills, but today I did it my way.)

We ate course #1 then went out into the yard and did a few chores while the soup heated in the crock pot. I used most of the same vegetables in the minestrone soup, so that meant that I didn’t have to chop twice. I added canned tomatoes, black beans and carrots to the soup, which I didn’t use in the appetizer. I have never made minestrone soup because I don’t usually like it, so I looked online, and discovered a recipe, and altered it to match my groceries. It called for white beans, but I didn’t have them. In my older age, I have no compunction about substituting. I can remember being tied to recipes thinking that if I didn’t follow them to the tee, the kitchen god would kick me out of the kitchen, and I’d never have to cook again.  The soup cooked during the entire appetizer process, then I  tossed in the penne pasta for about 10 minutes.
  We topped the soup with Romano cheese too, and let it drip down our chins. A little wine, and who cares?  We chose a red moscato to go with this course. While Vince worked in the yard a bit, I finished cooking the meat sauce for the lasagna.  That was the joy to this process. We didn’t rush through dinner. In fact it wasn’t even dinner time when we started.

Not very fancy, but easy to clean up. The plates came from Target, and my car-guy hubby like them better than our fancy Christmas plates.

I make lasagna at Christmas and Thanksgiving because my Italian husband prefers it to turkey. Can you imagine anyone preferring anything to turkey at Christmas?


When we shopped this week, he snuck some hot sausage into the cart. He wanted it chopped up and mixed into the hamburger. (blick, blah) I can see it here because it’s a little more orange, but I hope I can’t taste it.

recipe book copyI love this little recipe book. The women at our Nazarene Church in Cottage Grove had a going away party for my first husband and me when we went to Bible College in Colorado Springs, and this was their gift to me.  (Even though they knew I didn’t like to cook – pastor’s wives HAVE to cook, don’t they?) This recipe came from one of my best friends, Jan Norris.
Italian Delight copySee it looks pretty good. I didn’t follow the recipe perfectly, though. It has sausage and onion in it, but no garlic, and I don’t measure. The cheesy stuff consists of sour cream, cream cheese, and I used cottage cheese, too, but the recipe doesn’t call for that either, and it does call for green onions, which I never use. I sometimes use ricotta cheese because it’s more Italian, according to Vince.
  Once you get the cheese mixture combined you just have to layer it with the noodles. There are two layers of each.

Finally you add the cheddar cheese. This is the most time-consuming of the process. I don’t like to use a food processor, but I don’t have a good reason for that.

The only problem with Carrie’s great idea is that now Vince and I are way too full, to eat the main course tonight. But it’s done now, 4 hours after I started cooking.

So, you want to come to dinner?  I have plenty.  🙂 I also have a mess to clean up. Hmmm maybe that’s why I don’t “like” to cook. 🙂

Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas. Love you all, and wish you were here to taste my dinner. 🙂

Do you need to lose weight? I do.

IMG_4042Eating out has always been the primary entertainment in my family. I like to eat, and I have a healthy appetite. When I was young my eyes were too big for my stomach, but that has changed. Martha, sitting across from me, is doing the cleanse with me. Amanda doesn’t need to lose weight. She’s the President of CCSS this year, and all the weight of its world is on her shoulders. Elane has lost weight because she just doesn’t eat very much.

TransformationToday I started on a 10-day cleanse using Purium products that I ordered from my friend, Martha Infante. Unlike the woman pictured in the transformation guide, I am 63, 5’5”and this morning weighed 154. Vince took ugly before pictures of me, which I won’t scare you with unless I get appreciably better looking in the next ten days.

Amino Acid pills

So far I’ve had 5 pills that taste a little minty, and are full of protein, and 18 ounces of water. Right now I’m enjoying my morning green shake that tastes a little like grass, the kind that grows in your front yard. I have a headache because my face still hurts a little from my fall, and I’m cold from drinking so much water.

This tastes better than it looks.
This tastes better than it looks.

My philosophy about weight stems from watching my mother struggle through her last 20 years of life, and go through a divorce because my dad didn’t like her weight (among other things.) Keeping my weight at a manageable level has always been important to me because my mother weighed between 200 and 230 most of my life. The slimmest I ever saw her when she was active was 175, and she looked great. She was 5’4”. She had high blood pressure, and at 60 lost a kidney to cancer, and went on dialysis at 72 and lived to enjoy her 80th birthday. For 20 years she had several heart attacks that would have killed most people, but Mom functioned on about 5% of her heart, her arteries clogged, and valves damaged beyond repair. I credit her long life to a great attitude about life, good doctors, and no drinking or smoking.

Mom weighed about 150 when she was 80, and sharank to about 5'2".
Mom weighed about 150 when she was 80, and shrank to about 5’2″.

This summer my weight started creeping up. I lost my will to eat right and exercise. When Martha told me about a cleanse, I and decided to give it a try. If this is successful I’ll let you know.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts

This picture contrasts not only light and dark, hot and cold, but has good and evil within the same object.

Contrast1

The steamy waffle mingled  companionably with ice-cold ice cream tickling my palate!  The day I ate it, the waffle named Love, was good.  The next day when I stepped on the scale, it was evil.  Go figure! (That’s exactly what is happening to mine, one waffle at a time!)  🙂

Contrast 2

Thanks Mary for introducing me to such a great sin. (There’s a naughty contrast.)

For more delicious waffle treats visit More Than Waffles in Encino, CA.

For more photo challenges click here.

Wordless Wednesday: Woodlake Kiwanis Hunger Run/Walk

2013 Woodlake K Hunger Run034

Sunday Post: Nature

Is nature natural or just outside?  Are objects of nature found inside a building still considered nature?  Jake always makes me think!

sunday-post-logo-2

The nature we have here in the California Central Valley is anything but natural in most places.

TC Winter covered peach tree r

The 600-mile long California Central Valley has been plowed and remodeled to grow every crop imaginable.

SFW TC Spring 2013078rOne of many valley crops, peach trees, deposed native oaks found in the Kaweah River Delta over one hundred fifty years ago.  For more agricultural facts click here.

TC Winter oak tree r

Between the Kaweah River Delta and Sierra Nevada mountains, alfalfa replaced nature’s native grasses.

alfalfa field r

Cows in the foothills still eat grass until it dries, but the variety differs from what grew here in the 1850s when Thomas Henry Davis brought some of the first cows from Mexico to Antelope Valley, near current-day Woodlake, CA.

SFW TC Spring cows 4

Evergreen orange trees first populated the Woodlake area in 1878, watered in part by the Watchumna Ditch, built in 1872.  Canals and ditches still carry life-giving water to arid fields.

Friant Kern Canal r

Last year the trees received enough water to stay healthy. This year farmers uprooted thousands of dead orange trees.

oranges Apr2013r

Since this area thrives because of irrigation, when water reserves and underground water tables drop, farmers rely on water transported from Northern California.  The Kaweah River constrained by the Terminus Dam receded this year to expose a bridge built in 1938, foundations of homes, and wells.

TC Drive to Kaweah Lake049r

Man-made changes have obviously mixed with nature to create California’s Central Valley “nature.”  President Obama arrives tomorrow in Fresno to assess the drought’s damage to the Central Valley’s agricultural nature.

For more facts about Tulare County click here.

For more interpretations on Nature, click here.

unnamed

“What Did You Do Today?”

Don’t you hate it when your mate comes home from a hard day at work, or your boss comes up to you and says those words?  Moms do this to their kids all the time.

When it happens to me, my mind immediately goes blank.  I am programmed to answer something, so I do a quick mental scan.  I made the bed, I think.  Maybe my husband did it while I was typing on the computer.  I posted two articles, one for Manny and one for me. That’s fun stuff, so it doesn’t count.  I shouldn’t even mention it.

SFW K & S working

Kalev and I walked two miles.  That’s impressive.  I made lunch.  It was good, but hardly noteworthy when expounding on what I “did.”   Here’s the most time-consuming, “I answered emails.”  Again that activity falls into the ho-hum category.  Let’s see, I edited an article or two for “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”  That might be impressive if it hadn’t taken me two hours to tweeze out 75 words with the help of a Style Writing program that keeps shutting down.  I posted the assignment for my writing class online.  My last assignment didn’t get award-winning stars and A+ remarks from the teacher, so that took a while, too.

making lunch

So when my husband came home and asked me that intimidating question, I knew he would not be overly impressed with my morning’s work.  But now you know, I worked really hard yesterday morning, and accomplished quite a bit.  It just didn’t look impressive.

What did you do today?  (hehe)  🙂

Poppe, the Hypnotic Clown of Bruges

by Manny Ingrao

I am NOT afraid of clowns, but look into his eyes.  Scary, huh?

Manny and Clown

I was really brave when this clown asked for volunteers.  Justin didn’t want to come up with me, but I told him it would look silly on his website if he didn’t.  So he came up, too.  Justin is pretty cool.

Manny Justin and clown

I did not do stupid stuff, no matter what Justin or anyone else in Bruges says. I don’t think so.  I have a good memory.  I would remember something stupid.  All I remember is that Poppe’s act was boring, and I got sleepy.  I think the clown has chicken feet. It looks like they are going to fall off.

Manny_Justin_clown show

All of the sudden I want some French fries.

Manny wants fries2

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Two

Many things come in twos.  I find it hard to be original here.  I’m using two hands to type these words, two ears to hear the dishwasher churn away, and two legs waiting to carry me on a walk with Sally at 3:00.  So I looked in my photo collection to find pictures of two.  You guessed it – there wasn’t much to choose from.  Here are a few.

2 Dogs

This pair of opposites posed at a craft fair in Palm Springs with their owners.

2 windows

For these two windows life is a bed of roses looking out at the picturesque town of Solvang.

2 birds

These two fellows fought for prime real estate on Santa Monica Pier.

two rows of fruits

Seattle, Washington’s Pike Place Market merchants added brightness to the gray November weather at last year’s NCSS Conference.

For more ideas see Cee.

cees-fun-foto1

Monday: Ask Marsha: Making Italian Sauce

Vince’s Dad was the sauce maker in the family.  Every Sunday he made sauce.  We would go to visit, and Dad would always send us plenty of sauce home with us, frozen and packaged in perfect serving sizes.  Every time we came, he would say, “I got a special buy on tomato sauce.  You have to use X Brand of tomato sauce.  That’s what makes it so good.”  So here is Vince’s and my version of Dad’s recipe.

Vince's sauce
I know you are getting tired of this picture, but it is my only one. It always looks the same. I always use this pan, and this spoon. The meatballs are always this size.

Tomato Sauce

  • 4 cans of tomato sauce – Costco brand (he he – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 5 cans of water – 1 for each can of tomato anything
  • 1-2 fresh basil leaves from the garden
  • 1 bay leaf from the Costco jar I’ve had for at least 10 years – maybe more

Start it cooking, it has to cook for hours.  If you put less water, you can’t cook all that water out of it.  So be sure to put the water in so you have to start making the sauce at least 3-4 hours before you want to eat it.

Meat balls

  • 1 pound of hamburger (I don’t worry about lean or not lean, but I don’t put the grease in the sauce.)
  • 1 c Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper ( I just do about a teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp mint (secret ingredient – DON’T TELL ANYONE ELSE!)
  • 1 tsp oregano (Dad didn’t use this, but I do sometimes.)
  • 1 tsp basil

Smoosh them all together, roll them into balls, and you get just enough meatballs to cover a medium size pan.  Fry them over a low heat until they are lightly brown on all surfaces.  You can’t go off and blog for a bit while they are cooking or your husband will come in and hover over them like they are going to hatch.  He might anyway because they do smell delicious.

Spoon them into the sauce trying not to splash tomato sauce all over your clean white blouse.  The meatballs need to cook through and through.

Other Meat

  • 1 large package of hot Italian sausage ( I used to use mild, and nobody objected.)
  • Country Style Spare Ribs (I never used these, but Vince did, and he likes it better.)

Cut the sausage.  Dad used to cut the sausage into small chunks because he thought that made the flavor come out better.  Vince cuts them into two chunks.  I’d leave them out if it was up to me.  In the meatball pan brown the sausage until it is light brown on every surface then spoon them into the sauce.  They need to cook for hours as well.

spare ribs

Next, cut the spare ribs into chunks and brown them leaving the fat on them.  When they are light brown, then put them in the sauce as well.  Discard the grease unless you want heart troubles.  If you are taking your medicines, then go ahead and pour the grease into the sauce.  I don’t.

The rest is up to father time.  The meatballs start screaming at Vince after about two hours.  “Get us out of here!  It’s hot!  I’ve been in this tomato bath long enough!”  He caves every time, and stands bent over the pot with a meatball on a fork and tomato sauce dripping into his cupped hand – like no one is going to find him if he doesn’t move away from the stove!  After he has eaten a couple, we cook them for another hour or two so he can replenish his appetite, and then we start the pasta.

mostaccoli

Vince’s sister knows exactly how much pasta each person will eat, and sets the timer to the precise number of minutes.  I just throw in about a half a box of pasta.  Then, as if she doesn’t trust the timer, asks Vince to try the pasta to see if it is al dente.  It always is.  We both have left overs, so I don’t think it matters.  The good news is that, to the true Italians in the family, they all THINK the pasta is better the next day.  (Lucky for me – I made too much!)

Once the pasta is al dente you pour off the water, and ladle in two large spoons full of sauce and stir the pasta, which has to be Mostaccioli (I like Angel Hair pasta.)  After that, you serve each person the set amount of pasta, and ask how many meatballs and other kinds of chunks they want.  Cindy and I always have two meatballs.  Vince has two to start with some sausage and other chunks.  Spoon more sauce over the top.  Completely cover the entire mixture with parmesan cheese, grated, not Kraft.  Costco brand is ok.  Serve with green salad or three bean salad and garlic bread.  Be sure to pinch off all the little slimy skins on the garbanzo beans when they come out of the can before you add them to the salad. Plan to sleep for an hour after you finish eating the chocolate cake or homemade cookies and ice cream for dessert.

pasta dinner
Oops we used the curly pasta. Vince likes that kind, too. I like the appetizers. Want to know how to make them?

Sorry for the blurry pictures. Usually I’m in much too much of a hurry to eat to bother with pictures.  I guess my hands were shaking!  🙂

Bread is less important.  We only had English muffins this Sunday.  Add butter and garlic and anything works!  🙂

So that’s it.  You know all my secrets.  You know all Dad’s secrets.  You are now officially Italian, like I am.  🙂

What do you want to talk about next week?