Tag Archives: cooking

A quiet, but enjoyable Christmas

Happy Boxing Day, as they might say in the UK!

We had a simple and quiet Christmas here at Casa Poolman. I am about half way through a week-and-a-half long holiday break. Within the University System, we bunch several holidays in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and close down the institute for a week. I added a couple of  vacation days to that run, so I will have off from the Saturday before Christmas through New Year’s Day. I love it.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Poolman is not so lucky. This was the year she was scheduled to work 12-hour shifts both Christmas Eve and Christmas. It stinks, but what can you do?

I spent the first half of Tuesday putzin’ around and taking care of last-minute Christmas preps. My CCD class provided the readers for a short Christmas Pageant during the 4 o’clock Mass. Everyone we were expecting showed up, and more-or-less on time. Yea! Last year, we had one child who missed all but one practice, but we agreed to let him participate after his mother called up and practically begged us to do so. Then “mom” failed to deliver him on time. We rearranged the readers to cover his slot, but he came running up just as we were walking into church for the start of Mass. I don’t blame the child, but the mom taught us a lesson we won’t forget.

No such drama this year. Our students all did great. After constant encouragement, they all read loud enough that the congregation could actually here them. Yea again!

Our reader team.

Our reader team.

Mrs. P got home around 8 o’clock and we split a pizza for dinner. Very fancy.

On Christmas morning, I got up and drove about 45 minutes out in the country to my daughter’s in-laws. Brad and Annie are great. It was very nice of them to invite me out for Christmas brunch. Writer Princess is very lucky (and so are we) that she has such a great set of in-laws. They a house on several acres out in the boonies. Annie has taken to raising livestock. She has turkeys, chickens, “runner ducks,” guinea fowl and goats. The highlight of yesterday’s visit were two week-old baby goats.  Very cute!

"Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!

“Well, Tom. We made it through another holiday. Whew!”

Inquisitive goat.

“So what did you get for me?”

Back home in the early afternoon and started preps for dinner. I planned on a boneless rib-eye roast, twice-baked potatoes, green bean bundles and creamed pearl onions (Mrs. P’s creation ahead of time.) Everything went well, even the green-bean bundles, which were a little more effort than I originally planned.

Mrs. P got home around 7:30 pm and I handed her a vodka and tonic. The rest of our dinner guests included son, girlfriend, daughter, son-in-law, and son-in-law’s brother. I planned to take a picture of the meal, but, frankly, I was so wrapped up in getting it all together when it was time to serve, I just forgot.

Some friends/neighbors walked down as we were finishing dinner. We all gathered in the family room to open presents and visit.

Gathered around

Gathered around

...visiting.

…visiting.

I wish Mrs. P had been around for more of the activities, but given the circumstances, it was a pretty nice holiday.

This and that

No, honey, that smoke detector is not a kitchen timer.

 Earlier this week, Mrs. Poolman made us tacos for dinner. This is usually a fairly easy, mistake-proof meal. Not this time. Rather than heating the taco shells in the oven, like we normally do, Mrs. P decided heat them in the microwave.

 “What is that smoke I smell?”

I pulled the taco shells, that were “spooned” together, out of the microwave. They were still combusting! I stuck them in the sink and hit them with the dish sprayer. A large cloud of steam later, the “blaze” was extinguished. I’ve heard of hot Tex-mex food, but really!

 We always have soft tortillas around, so we just had soft tacos that night.

 Actually, this just makes us even. A few weeks ago I saute’d some tilapia for dinner. I used a new spice mix, not knowing it was heavily salt-based. The fish filets were virtually inedible. I’m not a great cook, but usually my meals at least can be eaten. Not that night.

 *   *   *

I understand the reason behind Amber alerts. But is it really necessary to send the same alert out to my phone every few minutes all night? The other night, my phone was hopping with an Amber alert from Tampa, more than 300 miles away. I had to turn the phone off just so I could get some sleep. Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose? Duh.

 *   *   *

It’s tough running a small business, but sometimes when I see how some businesses treat their customers, I don’t understand how they can keep their doors open at all. Last December, we contacted a local pest control company about some unwanted pests in our attic. We called this company because they handle other termite inspections and because someone close to us works for them. The pest control guy came out for an inspection a few days later and said he would be back the next week to seal off the attic and set some traps. Two months later, we hadn’t heard back from the guy. When we finally reached him, he confessed he “forgot.”

 So he sent one of his minions out to seal off all entrances to the attic, but he had forgotten to bring the traps.

 “No problem, I’ll be back on Thursday to set the traps.”

 Of course, he never came. Meanwhile, we got a bill for the incomplete service.

 After continuing to hound than, we finally got the rodent boy to come back out last week and set his traps — four months after we initially called. He is supposed to come back this week to collect whatever (hopefully nothing) that has been caught. We’ll see.

 *   *   *

And speaking of unhappy experiences with local merchants, we took Sammie the dog and Sid the Tailless cat to a groomer this weekend to be trimmed a little. Both are long-haired and desperately needed it. We went to a groomer we had not used before. I don’t know what the groomer was thinking. Sammie was cut down fairly close. Sid was practically shaved.

Sid the Hairless (as well as tailless)

Sid the Hairless (as well as tailless)

He looks like a little piglet with the head of a lion. Poor thing. Fortunately, Sid doesn’t really seem to care how funny he looks. His “sister” Penny, however is another story. She has been hissing at him ever since he got home yesterday afternoon. Quite the critic she is. Fortunately, Sid is an inside cat, so sunburn won’t be a problem. Otherwise…

I don’t think we’ll be using that groomer again. Duh.

My, oh my! What a pot pie!

Mrs. Poolman and I share separate, but similar bad childhood memories of pot pies. Both our mothers cooked (if you can call it that) and served the pre-made Banquet or Swanson pies. My recollection is of an aluminum foil mini-pie pan with only a top-crust and filled with nasty, oozing, yellow gravy, a few peas and carrots and maybe a little meat. The pot pies made those old-style TV dinners look like gourmet feasts. That experience left me with a deep seated aversion to pot pies – until recently.

In an effort to convert me, last winter, Mrs. P made a very good chicken pot pie. She constructed and baked it in a casserole-size baking dish. The filling was full of meat and the whole thing tasted great.

On Wednesday, it was my turn to make dinner, using some left-over grilled steak from earlier in the week. Usually, we will put the steak on a salad or make quesadillas or fajitas. I thought I would try something new.

How about a steak pie?

This was brand, new culinary territory for me. So you can imagine my excitement when it turned out really good. Here is what I did.

Steak Pie

What I used.

  • App. 1 lb (0r more) of cooked steak, sliced into small pieces.
  • One package of pre-made pie dough (2 pieces, top and bottom)
  • One onion – chopped
  • ½ stick butter or margarine
  • One “scoop” of flour
  • 2 cups of beef broth (bouillon crystals or cubes dissolved in hot water)
  • ½ cup of milk (because that was all that was in the carton) The milk is optional.
  • One small can of mushroom stems and pieces
  • App. one cup of leftover green beans (because I had them.)

 The Crust

In a small, ungreased casserole (8×8” or 7×9”) dish, spread one of the pie dough pieces, lining the bottom and sides. The pie dough is probably fitted for a round pie pan, so you’ll have to cut and patch to make it fit. Save the second piece for the top.

The Filling

In a large sauce pan, saute the chopped onion in the butter until the onion is soft.

Add the “scoop” (approximately two tablespoons) of flour to the onion-butter mixture. Mix well and allow it to cook for about a minute or two.

Add the beef broth/bouillon and milk and stir until it is a smooth gravy. Add the bouillon a little at a time, and adjust the amount according to the thickness of the gravy. You want it fairly thick.

The filling -- before adding the meat.

Add the meat and vegetables and mix well.

This is how much meat I had to work with.

Pour the mixture into the dough-lined casserole dish.

Before the top crust was added.

Spread the second dough piece over the top, once again, cutting and patching to completely cover the pie. Try to get the bottom and top pieces to meet and use a fork to crimp them together along the edge of the dish.

Ready for the oven.

Use a knife to put a couple of cross-shaped slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape during the baking. You may have to check on those “vents” during the baking. As the crust bakes, the holes may close up.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

...and ready to eat.

Note: I used green beans last night, because that is what I had in the refrigerator. You can add whatever vegetables you like, or skip the veggies all together.

Bon appetite!

Is it over yet?

There hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about this week, which explains the gap in my posts.

My Gators were pretty-much humiliated by arch-rival Florida State in the season finale last weekend. All the various Florida football Web sites are abuzz over the problems with the program. I never thought I would say it, but I’m really happy the season is over. We’ll go a bowl, which will be announced this evening. The only good thing about the bowl is it will give the coaches an additional 15 practice days to start working on next season. The off-season should be interesting.

Last Tuesday was by birthday. Mrs. Poolman cooked a wonderful dinner of beef tenderloin, twice baked potatoes, etc. Both the kids, Poolboy, Writer Princess and Poolboy’s GF joined us. Son-in-law had to work. Too bad. No birthday cake. Instead, we had fudge brownie sundaes with Kahlua and chocolate sauce. That’s about as close to heaven as you can get without having to die first.

I did finish the updated version of my beginner cookbook. I went to Staples and had 15 copies printed. It’s around 34 pages. I had one big surprise. Nearly half the cost of the printing was for the spiral binding. Who ‘da thought?

It is actually stretching the truth to call it a “cookbook.” Actually, what it is intended to be is a “starter manual” for a young adult just learning to fend for his- or herself in the kitchen. It does have a few more-elaborate dishes, but nothing very difficult. I think the next step is to take it to the Web. I’ll probably start something under the blog format and see how it goes.

Mrs. P and I are about to go over to some friends and play with their new twin babies. They also want us to bring Sammy with us so their dog can have a doggie play-date.  Should be fun.

Normal life

It’s been a busy two weeks around Casa Poolman.

Last week, we had out-of-town company all week. My cousin’s wife, their two children (6 and 9) and their golden retriever came down and spent the week at the Casa. She wanted to introduce her children to some Savannah history. Of course there were also trips to the beach and plenty of time in the Poolman’s pool.

Cousin D joined them for the weekend.

All in all, it was a good week. The kids are exceptionally pleasant and well behaved. We did a lot of cooking. Plus, just the presence of another family in the house creates additional daily maintenance needs. To be honest, though, seven days is a long time no matter who the company is, and it was great to have our house back.

The doggie guest was well behaved, but our cats were very happy to see him hit the road.  Sid the Tailless was tolerant of Max, but Berta the Chickenhearted just hid out all week. We only saw her at night when the dog was crated and behind closed doors.

It’s just a four day work-week, but it seems like it has gone on forever.

About two weeks ago, I sent out our speakers bureau “menu” to a bunch of civic clubs in the area. As I hoped, I have been getting numerous calls for speakers. Yesterday, I took on an assignment myself and spoke to roughly 40 Rotarians in one of the area’s bedroom communities. Judging from the body language and the questions I got after the talk, I thing it was well received. That made me feel good.

I’m hoping for a fairly laid-back weekend. It’s hot as all get-out here today, 99 degrees right now. No point in straining in that kind of weather.

Merry Christmas!

It is a slow and quiet day around Casa Poolman this Christmas. This is Mrs. Poolman’s year to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas. At the nurses request, several years ago her ICU started scheduling holidays so that one crew worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas and the other half had both days off. They alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas and year to year. This year, Mrs. P was off the entire Thanksgiving weekend, but had to work 12-hour shifts yesterday and today.

Both the children are spending the first half of the day with their in-laws (Writer Princess) and the GF’s family (Poolboy.) They will all be coming over here in the late afternoon. We’ll open presents and then have dinner after Mrs. P gets home around 730 pm.

This is actually the quietest Christmas I have had since Mrs. Poolman and I were married. In past years, when Mrs. P was working, we still had large groups of her family come for a “house party weekend.” Some of those were totally crazy. Too bad I wasn’t blogging back then. There were some great stories.

Everyone is spread to the four-corners this year. No sweat. If I had a house full of company, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog entry. Ha!

Yesterday, I discovered my home computer was infected by a virus. I spent much of the day trying to get that squared away without success. I think I’m going to have to restore the computer to its original condition and start from scratch.

I now need to get down to some serious cooking.  Merry Christmas, everyone!