Potato Salad My Way

This is my favorite way to make potato salad. I know I break the rules by dicing the potatoes before cooking them, but really, why should I mangle a soft, warm, potato when I can get that step cleanly done before the cooking? It makes more sense to me.  Be sure to read through the entire recipe before starting, so you can gather together your ingredients and equipment.  Hope you like this!

PREPARING THE POTATOES

Large Pot of Boiling, Salted Water
6 large Russet Potatoes, more or less
1/4 Cup Pickle Juice

Peel all the potatoes and dice into half inch squares. Put diced potatoes into boiling water. Boil for five minutes and then start checking them with a fork to know when they are getting tender all the way through. Don’t overcook. Empty the water and potatoes from the pot into a large colander set in the sink and let the potatoes drain and cool down.

When potatoes have stopped steaming and are just warm, pour them into a very large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the pickle juice over the hot potatoes. The juice will be completely absorbed by the potatoes and add flavor from inside. You can add more juice if you really love pickle flavor.

MAKING THE DRESSING

In a separate bowl, stir together:

2-1/2 Cups Mayonnaise (My favorite is made with avocado oil but any mayo will work)
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard (or spicy brown if you prefer)
2 Tbsp White Granulated Sugar
1/2 Tsp Celery Seed
Salt and Pepper to Taste

ADDING CRUNCH AND FLAVOR

1 Large Celery Rib, finely diced
1/2 Can Black Olives, drained and chopped
1 Cup Pickles, any type you like, drained and chopped (I like bread and butter pickles)
1/2 Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, VERY finely diced or juiced

These are the additions I like – you may enjoy adding other goodies, or leaving some of my suggestions out. Nothing is carved in stone here.  Other common ingredients include green onion, green olives, pimentos, purple onions, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, chopped arugula, and fresh green peas.  I’ve daydreamed about mixing in lumps of lobster and I just might do that someday when I can. Add whatever you like!

ASSEMBLING THE SALAD

Have ready in another bowl:
5 Hard Boiled, Peeled, Chopped Eggs (about this consistency)

First, start folding the dressing/additions mixture into the cooked potatoes. When it’s all about halfway blended, start folding in the diced eggs. Don’t stir – just gently lift the potatoes with a really large spoon or spatula, and move them around to distribute the dressing, additions and eggs evenly. Do not over mix. You want the potato squares to hold their shape.

FINISHING TOUCHES

Hungarian Paprika

Smooth out the potato salad and clean the inside edge of the bowl with a paper towel to neaten the look, then dash paprika over the top – don’t coat the salad with it, just keep it light enough to add color.

Chaise-ing The Blues Away

(for those tuning in late, we moved in late February, and have been doing a lot of landscaping and home decor work ever since. For the first time in my life, I have a room of my very own that is not a bedroom. It’s exciting!)

The GirlCave is coming along. Yesterday my chaise arrived! Of course, I have to share it with Chives.

*

 

I still have a lot of blank wall space, and a stack of plastic bins that need to be elsewhere but just haven’t been ‘elsed’ yet, so you don’t get full-room pics as it’s just not shareworthy yet. But here’s a few teasers. There were three plain wood shelves on the wall, attached with utilitarian metal supports and brackets. Looked awful, so I attacked them with LACE.

 

And the most important spot in the room, where the writing happens, is quite pleasant, especially on days like today when I can have one or both windows open.

Cowboys Are Forever!

A longtime friend of mine writes gay romance books. What I love about his writing style is the hope and optimism of his stories – even when the characters are scared, depressed and giving up on life. Somehow, things usually manage to get set right, and I feel like I’ve met some wonderful people.   B.G. Thomas has a duo of cowboy stories, and I thought I’d bring them to your attention. Enjoy!  
 
B.G. Thomas says…
Cowboys Are Forever!
Howdy, my Friends! So I have two cowboys tales for you! Yup! I hope you will consider checking them out and maybe givin’ them a try! Help this cowboy here get away from his Evil Day Job! LOL! Check the blurbs and see what ya’ll think!
 
THE REAL THING
Bryan Mills has fantasized about cowboys all his life. Real cowboys, that is. He even dresses in what his roommate calls “cowboy drag” when he visits his favorite bar, in the hope of attracting the attentions of a genuine cowboy. But all he usually finds are posers and guys his own age.
Then one night, to his surprise, Curtis Hansen buys him a beer, and Bryan has no doubt this is the real thing. Curtis is a rugged, gorgeous man who is every bit a cowboy. He even owns his own ranch. What follows is about the most amazing night of Bryan’s young life.
But can they move beyond a night of incredible sex when Bryan admits to Curtis that the only horse he’s ever ridden was a birthday party pony? And that he’s nothing but a poser himself? Maybe, just maybe, Curtis can find the real cowboy inside Bryan, and they can ride off into the sunset together!
 
DO YOU TRUST ME?
The path to happiness starts with acceptance, and sometimes the chance for a bright, loving future means letting go of the past.
All his life, Neil Baxter has buried a large part of himself—the part that’s attracted to other men. He married a woman and denied that side of him existed. And he plans to keep right on pretending to be straight after his beloved wife has passed away.
To help him deal with his grief, Neil’s sister-in-law convinces him to vacation at a dude ranch. There, Neil meets Cole Thompson, a young, gorgeous, unabashedly gay wrangler—who is unabashedly attracted to Neil. And try as he might, Neil cannot deny he feels the same way. But desire soon becomes something more profound as the two men get to know each other. Cole is much more than a sexy cowboy: he’s kind, spiritual, and intelligent. In fact, he’s perfect for Neil… except he’s a man, and Neil isn’t ready to let go of a lifetime of denial. If he cannot find the courage to be true to himself, he might let something wonderful slip through his fingers.

Caribou Country Chamomile Wine

Making your own wine at home can be either intimidating or lots of fun. I like to make wine and I like to have fun. Most of the recipes and instructions on the internet are intimidating AND confusing.  And they try to convince you everything has to be perfect, and you have to use that floating thermometer thingydoodle to get your alcohol level just right.  Here’s a secret. I can’t get my floating thermometer thingydoodle to even float, not even a little, it just drops like an ironclad and doesn’t tell me anything useful. *whispers* So I stopped using it completely.

What follows is how I make wine. I break lots of rules, but if you don’t try to bottle it up too soon, just let everything age nice and slow, you won’t have an incident in the middle of the night where multiple corks explode out of bottles and wine flows across your nice kitchen floor in fanciful effervescent waterfalls.

Not that I know anything about that. Er, it happened to a friend once. Yeah, that’s what happened. Anyway. NO CORKING TILL IT’S DONE BOUNCING AROUND, YOU GOT THAT?  It’s no fun mopping up a foamy boozy mess, plus you have the sadness of less wine to drink later.  Again – happened to a friend, I’m just remembering the story. As far as you know.

For the brave and foolish fun lovers out there, here’s my favorite wine recipe. I grow and dry my own German chamomile flowers, and always have heaps more than I need for tea. The German variety of the flower is very sweet and fragrant and makes a yummy wine!

Have fun, and remember what I said about corks and explosions. Patience, grasshopper.

Caribou Country Chamomile Wine

18 cups water
4 cups white granulated sugar

1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers

3 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/8 tsp tannin
1 crushed Campden tablet

1 packet Montrachet wine yeast

Mix sugar and water in a really big pot (I use my small hot water bath canner) and bring to boil, stirring frequently to dissolve. Put chamomile flowers in a doubled square of cheesecloth and tie closed. Put the bag of flowers into the primary (the ‘primary’ is wine-speak for a large, very clean rigid plastic bucket with a fitted lid, designed specifically for winemaking).

When the sugar is dissolved and the water comes to boil, pour the sugar water into the primary, over the bag of chamomile flowers. Drip drain the flower bag several times to allow the flavor to seep into the water. Taste. If flavor is not strong enough, make another bag of flowers and toss it in. Cover the primary with its vented lid and let the mixture cool down to room temperature.

While you wait, you can measure out the acid blend, yeast nutrient, tannin and crush up a Campden tablet, blending it all together in a small dish. When the mixture in the primary has cooled to room temperature, dump all the science-y stuff in the small dish into the mixture, then stir till all is dissolved.

Every few hours gently squeeze the flower bag(s) to continue extracting their flavor. After 24 hours, remove the flower bags and discard them, then add the packet of Montrachet wine yeast. Cover the primary, and stir the mixture daily for a week.

wiggle-cork-of-science
Behold the Wiggle Airlock Of Science, set atop a 5-gallon glass jug filled with new, still yeast-laden chamomile wine. It will slowly clear and the yeast will fall to the bottom, yay!

In about a week, or up to two weeks if you forget all about your gurgling bucket of fragrant boozy yeasty fun, as I often do, pour the wine slowly through a coffee filter set in a strainer set in a plastic pitcher.  Stick a funnel into a 5-gallon glass jug and pour the strained wine into it. You’ll have too much for one jug.  I usually use two and fill each one halfway. Use airlocks to vent the jugs. Ferment for a month. Your wine will probably look really nice and clear and sparkly, with a thick layer of dead yeasty sludge settled on the bottom of the jug.  Yuck. Once more, pour the wine slowly through a coffee filter set in a strainer set in a plastic pitcher and attempt not to rile that yeasty-yuck layer. Leave it behind! Funnel the strained wine into fresh, clean 5-gallon jugs. Filter-strain the wine every 2 months for 6 months (that’s three times for the math impaired like me). Let the wine rest for two weeks after the final straining, then funnel it into bottles and cork (you’ll need a corking machine, which are really fun to use. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one for the afternoon.) Lay the corked bottles on their sides and allow them to age in a dark place 6 months before tasting. Will improve with aging for about two years.

Cheers!

Review: Field Guide to the End of the World

This seems to be my month for reading new-old books. “S” by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams looks precisely like a 1949 well-worn library book and is filled with… well we don’t have time for that now. I’m setting it aside for the time being in favor of a new old favorite.

The end of the world is coming—ack, it’s here, and Jeannine Hall Gailey wants to help us find our way, via what looks to be a well-worn atomic age textbooky field guide.
Field Guide To The End Of The World Cover Art
Poet Jeannine Hall GaileyField Guide to the End of the World is Ms. Gailey’s fifth poetry book. I have read The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and thought I knew what I was getting into with her newest (oldest?) book. Ah, but while there are similarities, the author has let her playful side out to romp through the debris of our final days.

The book sorts poems into groupings, which is nice for slipping into a frame of mind and lingering there a while. My favorite section, and I am pretty sure many readers will agree with this, is “Cultural Anthropology”.  It’s a bit like reading the literary version of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, while watching the Food Channel on the side and sneaking peeks over to Netflix. The name that pops out of the poetry listings immediately, is, of course, Wile E. Coyote (super genius), who’s been living in a post-apocalypse world since most of us wore footed jammies. Who better to enlist than this ill-fed quasi-predator to be one of the guides on our journey? As it turns out, that guide is as lost as the rest of us, but we can take comfort in wandering in circles together.

My personal favorite is “Letter to John Cusack, Piloting a Plane in an Apocalypse Movie”. Take some time to linger on each phrase, and remember. As the saying goes, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it will become a part of you. Actually, it already was, you just needed open eyes to see it.

But I didn’t simply hunker down (though hunkering down during the end days certainly has its merit) in the ‘funny’ chapter.  Emotionally, I am still returning often to the “End Times Eschatology” chapter to re-read and re-experience how the end of the world will feel for others. The practical ones, the romantics, the selfless and the selfish, the god-fearers, mistake makers, job hunters. As humanity shares a singular ultimate fate, we approach it from so many diverse roads. There are as many ways to face the end as there are quirks and differences between one person and the next.

I highly recommend you take a field guide with you on your own personal journey.  Buy your beat-up old-new copy at Amazon.com or the University of Arkansas Press.

Learn more about Jeannine Hall Gailey and her poetry at her website