Kasbah Moroccan Restaurant, Seattle, WA

A restaurant review follows, but–first–something that expands the review :)

I’ll be up-front about this: I’ve been looking forward to using the Groupon I bought for Kasbah Moroccan Restaurant a lot more than my husband has.

We’re both food adventurers, but we each got to this place on VERY different paths. You see, I was born a food adventurer, someone who’s always been fascinated with flavors, colors, textures, variety, and–quite frankly–all the other foods that all the other people on the planet were eating, especially in other parts of the world. Plus, I was raised by a dad who was a food adventurer, too, so I was usually the first one at his knee to try something new! My husband, on the other hand, has become a much bigger food adventurer than he’d ever imagined he’d EVER be in a MILLION MILLENNIA, thanks to living with me the last sixteen years. It doesn’t come to him naturally, but he promised me early on that–when it came to food–he would try almost anything with me at least once. As he’ll tell you, that hasn’t been without growing pains for him … but it does mean that he’s also gotten to try an awful lot of dishes and foods over the last few years–many that he absolutely LOVES–that he probably would never have tried on his own, not without making that promise to me.

Note: that doesn’t include offal/innards/whatever you want to call them. That’s where he draws the line: though he did try and enjoy some liver pate once, which means the line is a bit more flexible than he thinks it is. Don’t tell him I said that … okay? :)

In other words, he’s much more comfortable eating a small group of very familiar foods, mostly the foods he grew up eating, than he is eating the new and strange things I’m always dragging across his plate. And he’s happy with these foods, too, even to the point of being able to eat the same things over and over again, without ever once growing tired of them … rather than craving the large variety of foods and cuisines that I can’t live without on a day-to-day basis. In other words, the repetition he enjoys would drive me NUTS! It was hard enough for me to survive the years when my mother cooked on the “if it’s Wednesday, it must be spaghetti” model. Every Saturday, homemade pizza. Every Sunday, incinerated baked chicken with the exact same three sides … month in and month out, over and over again. Drove me barking MAD!! :(

SooOOOooo … given that difference between us, you can understand why our first visit to Kasbah Moroccan Restaurant–and our first chance to eat Moroccan food specifically–was something I was very excited about … but something my cute husband wasn’t quite so sure about himself. He’s “not much on weird vegetables” (his words)–which is a big part of why he didn’t like Ethiopian when we tried it–so he wasn’t so sure he was going to like a different African cuisine any better. But he loves me and he’s wonderful, so he agreed to take me for Moroccan this evening for dinner. And–in case I haven’t mentioned it lately–I’m keeping him :)

One quick non-food related note: I LOVED the floor lamps just inside the entrance to Kasbah! But how could you go wrong with something this stunning? :)

the cool lamps in the entryway at Kasbah

The overall decor creates a nice, cozy space for dinner, with curtains and artwork spaced around, giving you just a hint of dining in a tent in the desert at sunset. The perimeter of the dining room features a padded seating couch, with tables (made of large etched metal plates, set a bit lower than most traditional American dining tables) and chairs layered out from there. The overall decor is rich without being overwhelming, and there’s an open area in the center of the floor where they stage belly dancing and music on certain evenings. As we were leaving, the owner tried to get us to stay for the show, but the cute man and I had other plans :)

My adorable husband!

The Groupon we’d purchased covered the 3-course meal option, but after talking over our choices with our server, Sara, we decided to make an evening out of it … upgrading to the 5-course meal instead. They were happy to let us apply our Groupon value toward the upgrade, too, so … bonus points for giving us that option! It ended up costing us a mere $20 more to have the entire Kasbah experience, but it gave us two more chances to try what they had to offer. And we were soooo very glad we did!

Our first course featured Traditional Harira Soup, described in their menu as Tomato base soup with exotic blend of spices simmered in saffron, onions, parsley, celery, Lentil, rice and garbanzo bean.

All I know is, my nose followed it to the table! :)

Our yummy harira soup!

Wow! I was love at first slurp! I’ve eaten cuisine from all around the Mediterranean before, including from North Africa, but I can’t ever remember tasting a lighter, more flavorful soup in any of them! And–just so you know–light is a word you’re going to be hearing a lot out of me in this review, because my husband and I both kept using it as our dinner progressed, over and over again. Good thing, too. I was more than a bit concerned when we upgraded to the 5-course meal, thinking it was going to be a complete stuff-fest. I even warned Sara as we ordered that I’d need lots of go-boxes before the night was over, but our entire meal was extremely satisfying and wonderfully spiced overall … without being so heavy we had to waddle out to the car afterwards. Kasbah gets extra stars for that, and for this heavenly bowl of soup! Nicely spicy, hot and delicious, it was still so light that–once I decided I’d had enough–I wasn’t so full that I dreaded the next course already. It was so tasty I looked forward to what came next.

Our next course surprised us both: the Trio of Salads Kasbah! Right off, isn’t that beautiful? :)

the salad trio

Starting with that glorious orange ring and working inward, the three chilled salads were Marinated Carrots in garlic lemon vinaigrette, Grilled pepper and tomato in garlic cumin vinaigrette, and last but certainly not least, Sauteed Eggplant in tomato sauce, all served with a big basket of fresh bread.

Now, this is one of those places where my husband’s tastes and my own usually diverge … widely. When it comes to veggies, I only have a few that I’m not crazy about (like spinach and beets), and I’m always up for ones that–unlike my own Deep South upbringing–aren’t cooked mushy with a ton of smoked pork meat in them. Granted, those are great veggies, too … but I’m always thrilled to find a cuisine or a restaurant where they’ve taken veggies for a totally different, yet equally delicious ride around the kitchen. My husband, on the other hand, will eat peas and carrots, green beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and potatoes. Basically, all of the traditional American veggies … but not much else. Plus, those veggies need rather traditional American treatments before he’ll eat them, too … or he’s probably not going to be interested.

The three salads were absolutely delicious, but the big surprise was my husband … who proceeded to vacuum up every scrap I didn’t eat, his favorite being the rich tomato and eggplant center of our bright and cheery salad course. I loved them all, too. Each one had its own character individually, but I quickly found myself trying all sorts of mixing and matching along the way. Ultimately though, I found myself going back over and over again for the carrot section of the rings. The bright diced cubes are parboiled soft, then mixed with a delicious lemon and garlic sauce that absolutely POPS with flavor. I could have eaten a whole bowl of the carrots salad all by itself … but then I would have missed out on the cumin and other flavors drifting into it from the other two salad rings. Normally, that would mean Decisions, decisions, right? But the beauty of eating at Kasbah is, you get all three salads in one! :)

When our third course arrived, it instantly blew away everything that came before it! Behold, our Kasbah Chicken Bastilla, described on the menu as: Filo dough stuffed with roasted chicken, saffron rice, marinated carrots, harissa and a blend of kasbah spices.

Our chicken bastilla

It was–quite simply–heaven! :)

Our server told us–after we’d torn through it–that her favorite part of eating a bastilla was that moment when you first crack open the crispy filo dough on the top. I completely understand what she meant by that. Inserting a knife in the top released this amazing perfumed steam that quickly found the nose, with crisp filo and exotic saffron at the foreground of its mouthwatering aromas. But the best part to me was that first mouthful! Again, I expected heavy … but I got light instead, with little crispy bits of filo, rich saffroned rice, bits of shredded chicken, and sweet chunks of carrots, all mingled together, still moist inside the crisp filo shell and brimming with the most amazing spices. My husband’s eyes lit up at the first bite, too … when he tends to shy away from rice dishes all together, again, because it’s a food he’s just not all that crazy about. Honestly, he would have never ordered that dish off the menu in a million years, not after reading the description, but after tasting it … he agreed with me that it was pretty amazing. That’s serious applause out of a non-rice eater! I loved it so much, in fact, that I could see myself ordering that by itself one day if I wasn’t hungry enough for one of the multiple-course meals. Plus–bonus points for me, the person who can’t eat that much in one sitting–the quarter we took home with us was excellent a couple of hours later, too, even at room temperature. It was just that good!

By this point, three courses in … we both initially expected to be packing up the rest of our dinner to take home with us. The older we get the less we both eat, so it’s a tribute to the chef at Kasbah that our stomach’s stirred with even more hunger as our entrees arrived. First, my husband’s Chicken Kabob, described simply as “Marinated chicken breast in exotic spices, served with saffron rice.

My husband's excellent chicken kabob

Simple was right, but don’t let that fool you! The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned, with just the right amount of fat and spice cooked into the beautifully separate grains. The chicken was marinaded in lemon juice and spices, skewered along with some savory bits of peppers and onions, and then grilled. It was absolutely delicious … but maybe just a tad bit dry overall. Most likely, that’s due to King County’s restaurant regulations regarding required temperatures for cooked chicken, but it could have used a bit more moisture. However, that bit of dryness didn’t spoil my taste or my husband’s overall enjoyment of his entree. He definitely said he’d enjoy ordering that dish again!

My entree, as the picture below will attest, came to our table SCREAMING HOT!

My amazing lamb dish

I’m a big fan of lamb, and Moroccan cuisine features a clay cooking implement that’s the perfect vessel to bring the tenderness and flavor out of it: a tagine! :)

If you’ve never seen a tagine/tajine before, here’s an example of what one looks like:

A tagine cooks much like a dutch oven. You seal your food inside a cooking vessel that retains and radiates heat evenly, and then you subject it to controlled heat so that it cooks low and slow. Instead of cast iron, a tagine is made of thick pottery, often painted and/or glazed. The unique, conical lid design encourages evaporating juices to condense and flow back down the insides of the pot, keeping the food moist as it cooks in the flat bowl section below. In modern kitchens, tagine pots can be used both in the oven and on top of the stove, but the traditional cooking process involved placing them on racks slightly elevated above the coals.

Tagine is also the name given to the various various dishes cooked inside of a tagine pot, as evidenced by the name of my entree selection: T’Faya Tagine, described on the Kasbah menu as Simmered Lamb in saffron ginger sauce and topped with caramelized onion in cinnamon, and raisins.

As you can see from the picture above, my dish was not only screaming hot when our server removed the conical top, it was also a feast for the eyes and the nose as well, long before I pulled my first bite of amazingly tender lamb, caramelized onions, and raisins off of that bone and plunged it into my waiting mouth!

I can honestly say that the dish contained more cinnamon than any savory dish I’ve ever eaten before, especially when you’re talking about meat dishes, but there’s just something very natural and wonderful about the combination of cinnamon and lamb. They were made to share a tagine! In addition, the sauce, studded with lots of dark black raisins, was also one of the sweetest sauces I have EVER eaten on meat in my entire life, and that includes some pretty sickeningly sweet soda pop-based barbeque sauces down South, and those red-dyed, honey-soaked ribs they offer in Chinese restaurants in this country, the ones so saturated with five-spice powder that you can barely tell you’re eating meat beyond the obvious texture. My T’Faya was definitely sweet: so sweet, in fact, that a bit of bread soaked in the sauce could easily substitute for dessert, especially with that rich, fresh-ground cinnamon flavor that filled it. But–as Sara predicted when she gave me the recommendation–the caramelized onions made the dish! They can often be a bit sweet themselves, but–in this case–they brought a much-needed bit of savory to the sauce, bolstered by the flavor of the gamey, meaty lamb below. Combined, the flavors hit a wonderful mid-range note on sweetness, spice, herb, meaty, and all the other scales, too, making it one of the most interesting and satisfying dishes I’ve eaten in a very long time … and that’s in a life of many, many interesting and satisfying dishes.

By this point, of course, I’ve already got three to-go boxes stacked up beside me, and even though every single one of the courses surprised me with how light they were overall–even the big hunk of lamb leg with all the sauce baked into it–I was already thinking, I’ll just have her pack dessert to go.

However, there was no need :)

The perfect dessert

Our final course, mint tea and a chef’s choice of dessert, ended up being the perfect ending to the perfect meal. There is no way after all that food that we could have eaten a heavy dessert, and obviously the chef at Kabul Moroccan Restaurant understood that, too. Instead, our server brought us a lightly-sweetened mint tea, poured from an ornate teapot into etched tea glasses, and two plates of light (there’s that word again!) crispy cookies, flavored with just a hint of cardamon and other spices.

Like I said, perfect! I went into dessert thinking I couldn’t eat another bite, but the cookies and tea went down like they had no bulk at all, like they were just the last wonderful flavors of Morocco visiting our happy mouths for a moment … before we bid them adieu, and a hearty until next time!

Grade? A+

And–yes–even a bit of dry white meat chicken couldn’t shake that rating in my book! Kasbah earned every bit of it! And we’ll definitely be back! :)

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Kangaroo and Kiwi, Seattle WA

I LOVE GROUPON! They give us a chance to explore restaurants we might not normally visit, and at a fairly hefty discount, too! Sure, we’ve found a few restaurant duds along the way. All the advertising and Yelp reviews in the world can’t tell you how much *you* and your personal tastes will enjoy it. But we’ve also found some absolute GEMS! over the years, too, mostly places we probably–for one reason or another–would not have tried otherwise. We, like so many other couples, tend to get tunnelvision periodically, where we eat at the same small handful of known places … without exploring elsewhere … but Groupon has the cure for that affliction :)

Tonight, we dug into our Groupon barrel (where we’re constantly digging around and saying “we have to use these SOON!” … because we buy a lot of them!), choosing Kangaroo and Kiwi in Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood for dinner. Their actual address is:

2026 Northwest Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107
1-206-297-0507

Needless to say, I’ll bet you can guess from the name what sort of cuisine we enjoyed :)

As you can see from the Google Map image linked above, Kangaroo and Kiwi sits inside what was once the Carnegie Free Public Library. Its a fun and funky place, and they’ve converted it to a great little pub and eatery inside, complete with the traditional “Ladies and Kids Room” off to one side–complete with books and games–where you can come and have dinner with your your kids, too. Their offerings also include a game room for the grownups, featuring pool and more, along with big screens all around featuring “footie” and more.

However, we were there for the food! :)

One note, just in case you don’t see the signs as you come in — Aussie and Kiwi pubs apparently don’t offer table service, so you’ll need to place your order at the bar. When we were there (on a Tuesday evening at roughly 8:30pm), the place wasn’t that busy … so the solo bartender was able to help us, quick and easy. However, by the time we left (at roughly 9:30pm) the place had started to get busy, and we could tell that her line was starting to back up rather significantly. In other words, bring your patience, and plan to wait your turn … since that’s the #1 complaint I’ve seen online about the place: rude customers who simply elbow their way past the people already waiting to place their order.

We had a $40 Groupon to spend–and their menu prices were pretty reasonable overall–so we started off the evening with a nice cocktail. They didn’t have a printed drink menu, but the bartender suggested we try something she called a “Fruit Fizz.”

my fruit fizz

I didn’t see everything she put in there, but it included blue curacao, fruit juice (probably orange), and a good splash of something alcoholic. It was pretty light and refreshing (which is what I asked for) but it wasn’t memorable enough–as you can tell–for me to be craving another one anytime soon.

When I asked about the soup of the day, the bartender stuck her head into the kitchen, then came back, saying, “It’s sort of chicken noodle-ish.” Granted, that sounded kinda iffy, but I’m always up for an adventure. Besides, how would you know if you liked ice cream unless you tried it ? So I ordered it, and this is what I got:

 my "sorta chicken noodle" soup

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t crazy about it. They’d combined cheese tortellini in a chicken broth, with a few other veggies, some cheese, and what appeared to be either spinach or “rocket”: what the Aussies/Kiwis call arugula. The overall flavor of that combo might be amazing and tasty for some people … but not me. I’m NOT a fan of cooked greens, period, and this soup was thick with it. I ate a couple of spoonfuls, but–if it’s any indication–I liked their grilled bread a lot more, and I only took two bites of that, too.

My entree was better. I ordered their “Loaded Pie” because I’m a huge fan of the Aussie/Kiwi version of “Shepard’s Pie.” In the case of Kangaroo and Kiwi, my pie consisted of a crispy-baked pie crust … almost too crispy, in fact, really hard to cut before it got completely saturated through with the gravy … with a gravy and meat filling, topped with mashed potatoes and bright green peas.

 my "loaded pie"

I hate to say it, but my first thought upon tasting it was … Cash & Carry. They’re the local restaurant supply store that a lot of small, local restaurants use for a big section of their foods–both raw and pre-packaged–and after almost 15 years in the Pacific Northwest, and of shopping at Cash & Carry myself, I can spot/taste their food pretty instantly. It’s not that it’s bad, per se. A lot of their food just tastes pre-packaged, which is exactly what the peas, gravy, and instant mashed potatoes tasted like in my Loaded Pie. In other words, it tasted like they’d used all instant foods to make my pie … which I could have easily done at home myself. So, it wasn’t bad … but it wasn’t really anything special either.

My husband found the real gem at Kangaroo and Kiwi! They called it their “Spicy Chook Sandwich” on their in-house menu, but–for some strange reason–that dish is not available on their delivery menu. But when he gave me a bite, I knew INSTANTLY what I wanted to order if we ever go there again! :)

 the spicy chook sandwich

The spicy “chook” (down-under slang for “chicken”) was a grilled breast ladled with curry sauce, onions and cheese. The chips served on the side came out of a bag–again, more pre-packaged food–but the chook was fresh-cooked and KILLER! It was almost too hot for me to eat (my stomach and spicy-hot food aren’t friends, unfortunately), but I would have loved it nonetheless! I would have just had to eat slow :)

So, overall, I can see where the Kangaroo and Kiwi could be a fun neighborhood place to hang out, but the food was average–with the exception of the chook, of course. That was definitely worth the price of admission, and it was enough that we decided that–if we found ourselves back in that neighborhood looking for food at some point in the future–i’d love to have the chook next time, and my cute hubby said there were other things on the menu he’d probably enjoy more.

Overall rating: C+

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Catching up … or “why did it take you so long to get back on the air?

I’ll be honest, Dear Readers … when I finally got my blog back, I was SHOCKED to realize how long it had been since it was hacked out from underneath me. Truly, the last real post of any substance dates back to 2011, almost four years ago now! And I’ve already moaned in another post about the hackers who attacked my site (may they forever rot in … wherever evil hackers go when they die … hopefully to a low-rent trailer with no AC down in the panhandle of Florida, sentenced to live without a computer for the rest of eternity … surrounded by a bunch of retired, red-neck tourists with chronic health problems, who are all Luddites, and who constantly explain things that they know nothing about … while they eat dinner at 4:30, moan about how the “Liberals” AND the “Conservatives” are screwing it up for the “decent people” … and who want to constantly talk to THEM about every single bit of it!!…in painful detail!!!) and how those &%$@#’s shut me out of my blog completely … when this was my first WordPress blog (running solo, not through WP.org), and I had no clue how to throw them out instead. I tried a couple of times but failed to kick them out–at least for long–and then I finally threw up my hands and started looking for help.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Okay, I’ve seen you pit cherries with a coffee pot stem, smoke BBQ in a flower pot with a hot plate, make jelly out of weeds you pulled out of a ditch bank, drive thousands of miles in a single trip, and all sorts of other amazing things here in this blog! How were YOU not able to find help with tossing the hacker out for good?

Well, the honest answer is … I got busy doing other things! :)

I’ve still been canning, of course. In fact, I’ve got a BUNCH of canning I need to get busy documenting here (including home-canned dog food) so that I can share the recipes with all of you. I’ve also been writing on other projects. For example, I’ve recently submitted a short story for potential publication in a “Seattle Myths” collection. I’m also 320 pages or so into a new murder mystery, too, as well as creating several different art projects like this screen for our hot tub, built out of 8′ solid wood doors recycled from an old building downtown :)

IMG_2918_thumbnail

And this beauty, still in progress: a combo kitchen island prep table–complete with a marble slab for breads, surrounded by butcher block sections that I’m building myself. I’ll post more pictures once I finish it, but these should give you the idea :)

Here’s the beginnings of it. I took a $20 dog kennel I bought at a thrift store, and married to a heavy-duty rolling library cart I found at an auction for $5. Then I added in the plywood floor and carpet inside, and topped the whole thing off with a platform up top to build on/attach the the rest of it to. That way, the top will ultimately be one solid piece that can be lifted out of the rolling cart … if the need ever arises, that is.

The dog kennel part, with the beginnings of the kitchen work top

Then I came in on the top with a marble slab, and with homemade butcher block built from 1×2 ash stripping, glued together with food-safe glue.

My combo kitchen island and dog kennel

It’s not completely finished yet. I’m still sanding on the butcher block (by hand) before I finish it, but we couldn’t wait. We’re already using the rest of it! :)

_____

However, those projects–all combined–have only taken a fraction of my time in the last four years, especially when compared to my #1 project: which has been …

…being grandma to four teenagers! :)

Yes, it’s true! Our daughter and son-in-law were only able to have one child on their own, despite the fact that they wanted a houseful. Life just conspired against them, unfortunately, and–despite the occasional mention of adoption, just like sooo many couples will do on occasion–they’d never really made any moves in that direction, so I figured they kept talking themselves out of it …

… until right about the time my blog died, which was roughly the same time when my daughter called me and said “We’re canceling the vacation we had planned to Alaska … because we’re starting our classes with DFCS, so that we can get approved to foster-to-adopt some kids.”

When her dad and I first heard, we were flabbergasted/excited/pleased/concerned/and about a million other emotions, all wrapped up in one great big “WOW!!” We helped when/where they needed us to along the process, and just tried to support them as they finished their classes and started looking though all the public case histories of the kids who were available through their state, trying to keep them sane through all the grueling process, and asking the people at the state–and themselves–all the right questions … all along the way.

My daughter told me early in their classes that the biggest need they could see in the system was for families willing to foster (and foster-to-adopt) family groups that included older children/teenagers. We had plenty of conversations about why that was true, too. Most people who adopt want babies. They want someone they can influence as totally as they can, despite not sharing genetics with their adopted child. And I get that, trust me! Then–when they can’t get babies–most adoptive families prefer very young ones who *hopefully* weren’t too damaged by their previous bad home environment. They usually don’t want teenagers, especially teenagers who’ve lived through a bunch of BS with their bio-parents. Most kids like that have problems with abandonment issues and a lot more … PLUS, they’re hormonal, too. It can make them a volatile choice.

So, we had lots of talks about what it was going to be like adopting an existing family unit that included teenagers … and incorporating them into their own household/with their own child. It was a huge undertaking, and everyone–including my kids–knew that there was potential in that situation for big problems … potential problems they were choosing bring home with them, to live in their house with their own 11-yo. They went in eyes-open, but they were determined to see the process through nonetheless.

Once they finished their classes and were certified, the first family unit they were interested in/explored just didn’t work out. It wasn’t because of the kids themselves, but because of documented and ongoing problems being caused by some of the other members of their family. Their constant involvement in (and aggravation of) the situation made our kids finally tell DFCS “thanks but no thanks” on that group of potential adoptees … but at that same meeting, the regional supervisor said, “then let me tell you about another set of kids who’ve spent the last three years in a group home … and not for the first time. They’ll be officially available for adoption for the first time tomorrow morning, right after the judge signs the final paperwork, stripping their family’s last rights to them.”

Less than a week later, they had their first meeting with the children who would–less than two months later–move in with them for good … the kids who–barely a year later–became ours by adoption! In other words, with one stroke of a judge’s pen … we went from having (in current ages) one 13-yo grandkiddo … to having one 16-yo grandkiddo, one 15-yo grandkiddo, and a PAIR of 13-yo grandkiddoes! And when any one of them asks me “Mema, how did Momma and Daddy know we were the right kids for them to adopt?” … I always say … ‘Easy! Because your Mom called me the SECOND she walked out from meeting you for the first time … crying … and saying ‘Momma, I did NOT want to leave those kids BEHINDDD!!! I want them to go home with us RIGHT NOW!!!'” :)

Since the first weekend the kids came to stay with them, I’ve spent a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of time on the road between here and there, and there getting to know them as individuals and as a group. Their granddad and I made the commitment to get me there as often as my crippled old body would allow–and him there as much as he could be, too–so that we could also be a big part of their lives going forward. With my back injury and migraines, there have been times when I felt like I couldn’t take one more step behind them, trying to keep up, but I’ve managed to do it even when I thought I couldn’t. And I absolutely adore those four kids, too! I have a lot of fun with them! And, sure, they’ve had their issues along the way. Nothing as drastic as shoving two groups of three people together and making them into a family of six–plus their Pepa and I–will ever go completely smooth … but it’s been a lot smoother than I EVER expected it to be! Plus, the kids are absolutely THRIVING there! They’re no longer “the kids from the group home who have to take special ed in public school” because they had no other choice, and didn’t care one bit either. After all, no one in their entire extended bio-family had ever even graduated from high school, and they’d spent six years in foster care, too. They didn’t care about school because no body cared about them! But now they’re being homeschooled instead, and given a lot of individual attention … so their grades are all WAY up! Up to where they should be! And that’s NOT because they’re getting special treatment. You can ask them. Their mom’s a tough grader, too :)

So if you were wondering if I’ve just been sitting around bemoaning the loss of my blog these last four years … the answer is “yes” to a certain extent! That’s why I kept paying the hosting charges/domain registration every year, and why I kept mentioning my WordPress woes to friends along the way, hoping I’d find a “John” one day, just like I ultimately did. And I kept hoping I could get it back one day, but I definitely have NOT just been sitting around all that time. I’ve been a busy canner, cook, writer, artist, inventor, wife, mom, puppy mom, and grandmother … and loving every minute of it :)

 

More soon! :)

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An update on blog recovery

Hi gang! :)

So far, so good! My blog seems to be back up now (mostly, anyway) and running just fine. With John’s help, I’ve also set up MUCH HEAVIER SECURITY on the whole thing this time. Let’s hope that helps protect it going forward, and keeps the internet script kitties and malware programmers from attacking my site again.

I’ve done a quick scan thru all of my old posts, and the only problem I’m finding (so far, anyway) is that a few of the images–ones that were previously posted in-line in almost every post–now seem to be missing. It hasn’t affected every post, and there don’t seem to be any posts that have lost *all* of their images, but there are quite a few posts where it’s obvious that there are one or more images missing, as evidenced by the big white space in the post where the image used to be.

So if you come across one of those white blocks here, especially with text around them describing a missing image, that’s what happened.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for which images are gone/were left behind … so, no clue there. I also don’t know yet if the images are still in the database of the site–or not–but my game plan is to head there when I get a chance, and to start reinstalling them if the only problem is that they somehow got unhooked from their respective posts. Keep your fingers crossed that the hackers didn’t compromise them somehow, and that they weren’t part of the virus sweep/clean up I just completed, because–if they’re still there–it’s a quick process to put them back where they belong on the live site. I just have to do it by hand, one at a time. But if the images were deleted from the library somehow, either by the hackers, the anti-virus software, or some other way … then they’re gone, unfortunately, and can’t be recreated.

I’m swamped right now with other projects, but I’m working on getting back in that blogging frame of mind!

More soon :)

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Testing!!…*thump, thump*…testing!!…is this thing on? :)

As those of you who’ve hung on this long (waiting for my blog to awaken from the dead) can attest, it’s been a looonnngggg time since I’ve been able to post anything here, thanks to an internet *#%@*$ who tried to hack my blog back in 2012. I’m not a complete computer idiot, but this was my first ever WordPress blog, so I was able to stop them from going any further into taking over my blog … but I was never able to figure out how to reverse the damage they’d done … damage that was keeping the blog off the air completely. I tried going through a bunch of conversations online about WP issues, but I was never able to find one that even remotely helped me fix the problem myself. And everywhere I turned for help to fix it … people wanted to charge me $50/hour, minimum, which is dear when you don’t make a nickel off of the thing you’re paying someone $50/hour to fix ;-/

I finally found a great guy here locally–through friends–who offered me a much more reasonable fee to come in and try to diagnose what had happened, and to figure out how to fix it … and I’m happy to say that HE DID!!! WOOHOO!! John, you’re the BEST! And if anyone in the Seattle area needs WP help, John’s your guy! Just write me, and I’ll put you in touch with him! :)

So I’m back, gang … and so is the blog! WOOHOO!!! Hopefully now all your old links will work again, and if you’re missing something here that you want/need that didn’t come back for some reason … let me know, and I’ll get it for you!

WOOHOO!!!!! :)

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No, I’m not dead ;-/

I know I just dropped off the face of the earth abruptly. Sorry about that, gang! … but someone hacked my blog and shut me out of the administration of it early last year … and this is the first time I’ve been able to get back into it again. I don’t have all my tools back yet (what have they done in here?!?!) … but I was finally able to shut them out of it (I think, anyway) and I can at least approve comments and post a little again … so that’s a major improvement. In the interim, I also started a continuation of this blog (at www.afoodjourneycontinues.com) but my health took a turn for the worst back in October of 2011 … and it’s made canning/writing/working on my computer very difficult for me ever since. My apologies! Hopefully I’ll be able to start back to creating recipes, canning, and blogging again soon. Send positive energy toward my pain management doctors!

Until then, I’m still available on occasion on the Home Canning Yahoo group … and if you have private questions about anything I’ve posted about here. Just drop me a note at lane@afoodjourneytogo.com :)

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Is it fixed finally?!?! :)

Testing! Testing! :)

My blog’s been dead for months, hacked by some unknown internet scamp with nothing better to do … but apparently they’ve decided to leave me alone … since, when I went to the blog this morning to look something up … I tried to log in again … and it let me!! WooWOO!! :)

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A quick note on the “NCHFP by time” chart

I posted my What do you do when you have open spaces in your canner? post the day before yesterday … and realized within the first 24-hours that I could have made them SOOO much better if I’d made them linked lists. I also decided that it wasn’t really a good tool unless it included things like fruit spreads and pickles, too.

I sat down to rectify that situation … and discovered something interesting: I’m so long-winded … that I can create a post (this one, full of links) that’s soooooo large that even WordPress can’t handle it ….*chuckles*

Instead, I split my list into two pieces … BWB and Pressure canner … and made them into two permanent pages on my blog … ones that appear at the top of every page. In other words, when you’re planning a day of canning … check in the appropriate list to see if there’s something else you want to make at the same time … that can go right into the same canner as your other project :)

You’ll find the BWB list here, and the pressure canner list here. Enjoy! :)

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Pandan-flavored Cereal Bars

I know, I know … what-the-heck is she eating now? :)

Why, it’s Pandan-flavor Cereal Snack!

I know, the name doesn’t help much … does it? :)

Let’s break it down, shall we? First, Pandan (aka: screwpine) is an herb/flavorant that’s as popular in certain Asian cuisines as vanilla is in American cuisine. I went looking for a way to describe the taste, hoping someone else had come up with a better way to explain it other than my own “it kinda tastes herbal and coconutty at the same time” description … but apparently most other people seem to have the same problem I do. Like so many other unusual and exotic things I (and others) have tried, when someone says “soOOooo … what does pandan taste like” … we just pretty much have to say “um? … well … it tastes like pandan” :)

Beyond the pandan flavor, the “Cereal Snack” is basically made up of puffed grains of rice and sesame seeds, held together by a slightly sweet/slightly sticky sugary substance. In other words, they’re kinda like the Asian version of Rice Krispy Treats. They’re crispy and chewy and sweet and pandanny … all at the same time! I’m totally addicted to them … but–unfortunately, like so many other international foods–I’ve only found them in one store. Worse news, it’s a small Asian grocery in Chattanooga, TN … close to 3,000 miles away from where I live :(

So I’ll get them when I can, but I highly recommend that you try the Pandan-flavor Cereal Bars if you find them near you! You may love them as much as I do!

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What can you do when you have open spaces in your canner … part 2 :)

Someone in the Home Canning Yahoo group asked recently about how she could fill the remaining slots in her canner. It seems the green beans in her garden were only producing about three quarts at a time, and she hated to run a canner less than half full. I don’t blame her for that, so I tried to help her … but I kinda hit a snag on the green bean issue … thanks to the fact that green beans only take 20 minutes in the pressure canner. Honestly, there’s not a lot of pressure canner foods that only require 20 minutes, so I had trouble offering her a quick alternate suggestion.

It brought back memories of my earlier post entitled “What can you do when you have open spaces in your pressure canner?” … and got me thinking … there’s no way to sort the NCHFP recipes, so there’s no way to do a quick look to see what you could potentially add to your canner when you’ve got a few holes unfilled.

An old boss of mine wrote me a letter of recommendation many years ago, and I’ve always loved one of his comments. He said: “Lane has the innate ability to spot the problem in any sort of system: computer, operational, structural, more … but she never walks into my office to tell me about a problem … without already having a solution in-hand to fix it.”

Voila, your solution! Now when you have three or four slots left in a canner, here’s a listing of the NCHFP-approved canning recipes … broken out by type of canner … and length of processing time. Find your time, and see what else you can include in that same batch when you have space left! :)

NCHFP times for your BWB, grouped by time

food size jar time
apple butter half-pints and pints 5/10/15
apple juice pints or quarts 5/10/15
grape juice pints and quarts 5/10/15
******** ******** ********
apple butter quarts 10/15/20
apple juice half-gallons 10/15/20
apple rings, spiced half-pints and pints 10/15/20
berry syrup half-pints and pints 10/15/20
cayenne pepper sauce pints 10/15/20
easy hot-sauce half-pints 10/15/20
grape juice half-gallons 10/15/20
grapefruit and orange sections pints and quarts 10/15/20
mango salsa half-pints 10/15/20
mayhaw juice pints or quarts 10/15/20
mayhaw syrup half-pints and pints 10/15/20
spicy cranberry salsa half-pints or pints 10/15/20
******** ******** ********
grapes, whole, hot pack pints and quarts 10/15/15/20
******** ******** ********
apple butter, reduced sugar half-pints and pints 15/20/25
blender ketchup pints 15/20/25
cherry (sweet) topping half-pints or pints 15/20/25
chilie salsa pints 15/20/25
chilie salsa II pints 15/20/25
country western ketchup pints 15/20/25
fruit purees pints and quarts 15/20/25
green tomato pie filling quarts 15/20/25
lemon curd half-pints 15/20/25
mango sauce half-pints 15/20/25
peach fruit topping half-pints and pints 15/20/25
peach-apple salsa pints 15/20/25
rhubarb pints or quarts 15/20/25
tomatilla green salsa pints 15/20/25
tomato and green chile salsa pints 15/20/25
tomato ketchup pints 15/20/25
tomato salsa with paste tomatoes pints 15/20/25
tomato taco sauce pints 15/20/25
tomato/tomato paste salsa pints 15/20/25
zucchini-pineapple half-pints and pints 15/20/25
******** ******** ********
applesauce pints 15/20/20/25
berries, whole, hot pack pints or quarts 15/20/20/25
berries, whole, raw pack pints 15/20/20/25
cherries, whole, hot pack pints 15/20/20/25
cranberries pints and quarts 15/20/20/25
cranberry sauce pints and quarts 15/20/20/25
grapes, whole, raw pack pints 15/20/20/25
mangoes, green pints 15/20/20/25
papaya pints 15/20/20/25
pineapple pints 15/20/20/25
******** ******** ********
apples, sliced pints or quarts 20/25/30/35
mixed fruit cocktail half-pints and pints 20/25/30/35
nectarines, hot pack pints 20/25/30/35
papaya quarts 20/25/30/35
peaches, hot pack pints 20/25/30/35
pears, Asian pints 20/25/30/35
pears, halves pints 20/25/30/35
pineapple quarts 20/25/30/35
plum pints 20/25/30/35
spicy jicama relish pints 20/25/30/35
******** ******** ********
apple pie filling pints or quarts 25/30/35/40
apricots, hot pack quarts 25/30/35/40
apricots, raw pack pints 25/30/35/40
cherries whole, raw pack pints or quarts 25/30/35/40
nectarines, hot pack quarts 25/30/35/40
nectarines, raw pack pints 25/30/35/40
peaches, hot pack quarts 25/30/35/40
peaches, raw pack pints 25/30/35/40
pears, Asian quarts 25/30/35/40
pears, halves pints or quarts 25/30/35/40
plum quarts 25/30/35/40
******** ******** ********
apricots, raw pack quarts 30/35/40/45
blueberry pie filling pints or quarts 30/35/40/45
cherry pie filling pints or quarts 30/35/40/45
nectarines, raw pack quarts 30/35/40/45
nut meats half-pints or pints 30/35/40/45
peach pie filling pints or quarts 30/35/40/45
peaches, raw pack quarts 30/35/40/45
******** ******** ********
crushed tomatoes pints 35/40/45/50
standard tomato sauce pints 35/40/45/50
tomato juice pints 35/40/45/50
tomato veggie juice pints 35/40/45/50
******** ******** ********
standard tomato sauce quarts 40/45/50/55
tomato juice quarts 40/45/50/55
tomato veggie juice pints 40/45/50/55
tomatoes, whole or half in water pints 40/45/50/55
******** ******** ********
crushed tomatoes quarts 45/50/55/60
figs pints 45/50/55/60
tomato paste half-pints 45/50/55/60
tomatoes, whole or half in water quarts 45/50/55/60
******** ******** ********
figs quarts 50/55/60/65
******** ******** ********
tomatoes, whole or half in tomato juice pints or quarts 85/90/95/100
tomatoes, whole or half raw, no added water pints or quarts 85/90/95/100

——

And now, the same thing for Pressure Canners:

NCHFP times for your Pressure Canner, grouped by time

food size jars time
tomatoes, whole or halved in water, @  15lbs pints or quarts 5
******** ******** ********
apples, sliced pints or quarts 8
applesauce pints 8
berries, whole, hot pack pints or quarts 8
berries, whole, raw pack pints 8
cherries, whole, hot pack pints 8
fruit purees pints or quarts 8
grapefruit and orange sections, hot pack pints or quarts 8
grapefruit and orange sections, raw pack pints 8
rhubarb pints or quarts 8
******** ******** ********
applesauce quarts 10
apricots pints or quarts 10
berries, whole, raw pack quarts 10
cherries, raw pack pints or quarts 10
cherries, whole, hot pack quarts 10
crushed tomatoes @ 15lbs pints or quarts 10
grapefruit and orange sections, raw pack quarts 10
nectarines pints or quarts 10
nut meats half-pints or pints 10
peaches pints or quarts 10
pears pints or quarts 10
plum pints or quarts 10
standard tomato sauce @ 15lbs pints or quarts 10
tomato juice @15lbs pints or quarts 10
tomato veggie juice @ 15lbs pints or quarts 10
tomatoes, whole or halved in water, @ 10lbs pints or quarts 10
tomatoes, whole or halved in water, @ 11lbs pints or quarts 10
******** ******** ********
crushed tomatoes @ 10lbs pints or quarts 15
crushed tomatoes @ 11lbs pints or quarts 15
standard tomato sauce @ 10lbs pints or quarts 15
standard tomato sauce @ 11lbs pints or quarts 15
tomato juice @ 10lbs pints or quarts 15
tomato juice @ 11lbs pints or quarts 15
tomato veggie juice @ 10lbs pints or quarts 15
tomato veggie juice @ 11lbs pints or quarts 15
tomatoes, whole or halved in tomato juice, @ 15lbs pints or quarts 15
tomatoes, whole or halved in water, @ 5lbs pints or quarts 15
tomatoes, whole or halved in water, @ 6lbs pints or quarts 15
tomatoes, whole or halved, raw with no added water, @ 15lbs pints or quarts 15
******** ******** ********
beans, snap and Italian pints 20
chicken or turkey stock pints 20
crushed tomatoes @ 5lbs pints or quarts 20
crushed tomatoes @ 6lbs pints or quarts 20
meat stock pints 20
Mexican tomato sauce pints 20
spaghetti sauce without meat pints 20
standard tomato sauce @ 5lbs pints or quarts 20
standard tomato sauce @ 6lbs pints or quarts 20
tomato juice @ 5lbs pints or quarts 20
tomato juice at 6lbs pints or quarts 20
tomato veggie juice @ 5lbs pints or quarts 20
tomato veggie juice @ 6lbs pints or quarts 20
******** ******** ********
beans, snap and Italian quarts 25
carrots pints 25
chicken or turkey stock quarts 25
meat stock quarts 25
Mexican tomato sauce quarts 25
okra pints 25
spaghetti sauce without meat quarts 25
tomatoes, whole or halved in tomato juice, @ 11lbs pints or quarts 25
tomatoes, whole or halved in tomato juice, @10lbs pints or quarts 25
tomatoes, whole or halved, raw with no added water, @ 10lbs pints or quarts 25
tomatoes, whole or halved, raw with no added water, @ 11lbs pints or quarts 25
******** ******** ********
asparagus pints 30
beets pints 30
carrots quarts 30
tomatoes with okra or zucchini pints 30
******** ******** ********
beets quarts 35
peppers half-pints or pints 35
potatoes, white pints 35
tomatoes with okra or zucchini quarts 35
******** ******** ********
asparagus quarts 40
beans, fresh lima pints 40
okra quarts 40
peas, English or green pints or quarts 40
potatoes, white quarts 40
tomatoes, whole or halved in tomato juice, @ 6lbs pints or quarts 40
tomatoes, whole or halved in tomato juice, @5lbs pints or quarts 40
tomatoes, whole or halved, raw with no added water, @ 5lbs pints or quarts 40
tomatoes, whole or halved, raw with no added water, @ 6lbs pints or quarts 40
******** ******** ********
green peanuts pints 45
mushrooms half-pints or pints 45
******** ******** ********
beans, fresh lima quarts 50
green peanuts quarts 50
******** ******** ********
corn, whole kernel pints 55
pumpkins and winter squash pints 55
winter squash and pumpkins pints 55
******** ******** ********
clams half-pints 60
soups (except seafood) pints 60
spaghetti sauce with meat pints 60
succotash pints 60
******** ******** ********
beans, baked pints 65
beans, dry with tomato or molasses sauce pints 65
chicken or rabbit, with bones pints 65
potatoes, sweet pints 65
******** ******** ********
clams pints 70
crab meat half-pints 70
spaghetti sauce with meat quarts 70
spinach and other greens pints 70
******** ******** ********
beans or peas, shelled, dried, all varieties pints 75
beans, baked quarts 75
beans, dry with tomato or molasses sauce quarts 75
chicken or rabbit, with bones quarts 75
chicken or rabbit, without bones pints 75
chili con carne pints 75
meat, ground or chopped pints 75
meat, strips/cubes/chunks pints 75
mixed vegetables pints 75
oysters half-pints or pints 75
soups (except seafood) quarts 75
******** ******** ********
crab meat pints 80
******** ******** ********
corn whole kernel quarts 85
corn, creamed pints 85
succotash quarts 85
******** ******** ********
beans or peas, shelled, dried, all varieties quarts 90
chicken or rabbit, without bones quarts 90
meat, ground or chopped quarts 90
meat, strips/cubes/chunks quarts 90
mincemeat pie filling quarts 90
mixed vegetables quarts 90
potatoes, sweet quarts 90
pumpkins and winter squash quarts 90
spinach and other greens quarts 90
winter squash and pumpkins quarts 90
******** ******** ********
fish pints 100
soups (seafood) pints 100
soups (seafood) quarts 100
tuna half-pints or pints 100
******** ******** ********
fish, smoked pints 110
******** ******** ********
fish quarts 160

——-

Bookmark the list! Never leave a space in a canner again! :)

The next question is … can you process something for longer than required … just so you can fill a canner?

The answer to that is YES! It’s a really bad idea to process a food for less time than the NCHFP recommends … and your food will suffer from some nutritional degradation the longer you process it … but you’re not going to create problems with food safety if you process a jar of food longer than required. I wouldn’t suggest adding more than 5 additional minutes to a pressure canner load, or 10 minutes to a BWB load … but sometimes that little bit of flexibility can help you fill a canner. We don’t want to waste energy … but just remember, you should ONLY add more time than the NCHFP suggests … NEVER, EVER use less.

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