The fun of making things

Today I played.

Okay, I also read things and took a nice long (FREEZING, BRRRR) walk with Spouseman, but mostly I played with my new Instant Pot.

I had some perishable foods I’d been neglecting because March totally got away from us, and we scrounged for meals several nights I planned on cooking. The list”

  • a full bag of yummy Yukon potatoes on the verge of going sprouty.
  • too many sweet potatoes because I kept forgetting I still had a couple and bought more every time I shopped.
  • Cream cheese & Greek yogurt tipping past their best-by dates. Ditto some eggs.
  • Some bell peppers I had to turn into something before they got soft spots.
  • various “‘I’m tired of this variety but there’s a couple left in the bag” apples going wrinkly and soft.

So there was that, and when I went to the desk to write Scooter looked at me from my chair with this LOOK that said, “Please no, Mom, I’m comfy here,” and I needed to take my brain mostly offline for a recharge today anyhow.

So. Playtime. I rummaged around the pantry & freezer, set up the Instant Pot, and Kitchen Magic happened. 

The pressure cooking function meant I could do a lot of slow-cooking dishes…fast. I didn’t use any recipes, exactly. The Instant Pot came with a little recipe book, plus I hunted around for ideas online. Various blogs helped me cobble together an estimate of  how much pressure-cook time each food needed , plus I learned how to use the steamer rack that came with the pot.

The peppers joined forces with chicken tenderloins from the freezer, canned tomatoes & tomato paste, plus some garlic to become italian-style chicken for tonight and tomorrow plus a batch for the freezer.

Butter plus the aging dairy products & potatoes transformed into a big ‘ol batch of cream-cheese-golden mashed potatoes. Again, some for now, the rest for later. Big win!

(Yes, I know it’s weird to eat chicken in tomato sauce with mashed potatoes, but I like mashed potatoes with everything, and Spouseman prefers it to pastas as a sauce base.)

Apples got fast-cooked to soften, and then slow-cooked with the lid off to become smooth, sweet, delicious applesauce. There’s always a use for that.  And the sweet potatoes got steamed and then peeled once they were cool. So now I’ll have sweet potato mash available for reheating at lunch time all week.

Also, while grabbing the chicken from the freezer, I found blueberries from last summer and some bananas. Well. Couldn’t ignore a hint like that, could I?  Of course not. I turned those into blueberry banana cake and baked it while one of the other things was working up a head of steam in the pot.

Because why NOT make cake too, right? Of course right.

Today was about letting the brain rest, for tomorrow, it’s back to the hard stuff. Revisions & additions.  It’s also the fun stuff, but still. W-O-R-K.

Until later.

Life update: home again, home again, giggity-gig.

I had a lucky 7 things on my authoring to-do list for the week Spouseman & I were away:

1. Get a Gen Con hotel room issue fixed (NOPE)

2. Put a friend’s latest 2 kids books into Createspace. (NOPE)

3. Post the Restoration boxed set up onto Kindle (Yes)

4. Place Controlled Descent & Flight Plan into Overdrive for library borrows (Yes)

5. Finish two more scenes in Ghost Town (NOPE)

6. Get my edits back for Sharp Edge of Yesterday (NOPE)

7. Pick a title font & start back blurb for Sharp Edge (NOPE)

Not a great completion percentage. 😢 Lots of excellent family visiting happened and that was fantastic, but the time/energy/internet availability matrix didn’t work for anything more. Also, I always inderestimate how much travel will physically take out of me.

So now I’m tired and mentally drained facing a dauntingly busy August. (Excited, happy, thrilled, even, but also daunted.) Gen Con. Michigan Comic Con. Dragon Con. Plus all the to-do list things still to do.

On the + side, I did get halfway done with items 5&7, ordered more paperbacks for cons, and got a surprise convention opportunity wedged in between Gen Con & Dragon Con. So, YAY FOR GOOD THINGS!

While away I also re-read the Liaden Universe books in honor of a convention I couldn’t attend where the authors were Guests of Honor, and started a book called Freelance Familiars, by Daniel Potter, which is a nice treat so far. And I got Spouseman started on Tanya Huff’s Confederation books. Hee.

Movies? None, unless re-watching Thor: Ragnarok & Black Panther counts. It’s been a slow month for media consumption. Just. Too. Busy.

Lastly, have some random pictures from our trip. All taken near or around Seattle, WA.

Ask for a recipe, get a story: cider edition

Someone who knows my deep & abiding love for all things apple asked if I had a favorite recipe for mulled apple cider. Short answer: no.

Long answer: let me tell you why.

It starts with with flavors. I am a supertaster (what’s that? for more info, click here) which in brief means I can get overwhelmed by things other people don’t find powerful or even taste at all.  Many popular foods taste bitter, or over-sour, or simply strange on my tongue.  Genetics are involved. Yes, cilantro tastes like soap. Truffle oil is downright disgusting. I can identify different types of vanilla even after they’ve been cooked into foods. (Yes, there are many subtle variations on “vanilla,” but that’s a different post.)

The critical point is that my opinions on things tasting “good” or “bad” is heavily influenced by factors that don’t matter to others. Mulled cider typically involves a lot of strong spices: cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, clove, nutmeg, and star anise to name the most common. And I intensely dislike most of those spices.

I tried mulled cider many a time growing up, and I hated it. Always.

What spices you ask? (Of course you are curious.) Star anise makes the whole batch like black licorice and I hate black licorice, coriander makes me ill whether I taste it or not,  allspice & cardamom both leave a weird aftertaste I would rather avoid, and clove…too much clove has bad, BAD dental associations.

Since I always liked like hot plain cider,  I eventually decided I should TRY to mull some, to see if I could do it without making it taste yucky.

So I read a bunch of recipes and then followed none of them. As one does. My current system: pour as much cider as I plan to drink in a pot big enough to hold it, toss in a cinnamon stick & a clove or two, grate in a little nutmeg, heat over low until it’s steaming gently. If I have an orange around I might throw some peel and/or a few wedges. Or not.

I’ll also add a splash of whiskey  if I’m feeling boozy-adventurous. Not the good bourbon, that would be a waste, but Jack Daniels or Jim Beam. Whatever basic is hanging around. Even rum will do. Vodka in a pinch.

Do not add scotch. Or gin. Just don’t.

That isn’t really a recipe, but it’s what I do and the story of why.  Have some links to several good recipes I used as inspiration when I first decided to put spices in my hot cider:

Genius Kitchen has a sweet one.

Pioneer Woman‘s is a traditional one. (scroll down past all the fancy pics for recipe)

TastyKitchen for the slow-cooker edition

That’s it for this week’s edition of “Random Things I Do When I’m Not Writing Books”