Tuesday, November 19, 2019

...The Way I Like My Coffee

I don't know whoever started the saying about liking their men the way they like their coffee, but I get it. I like my coffee the way I like my life: dark roast, light roast, and all the toasty roasts in between. It's been more dark than light lately, but that's all right.

Not using sugar or flavored creamer in my coffee was only possible because of a particular coffee brand. For the past couple of years, I have so wanted to learn to enjoy plain black coffee. Black coffee (instead of the sugary, heavily-creamed stuff) has a lot of potential benefits:
I won't get into all the other debatable claims about weight loss, cancer-curbing, memory-boosting, artery-cleansing, etc. Some of those claims have studies behind them and some are potentially true for some or most people.

As I said, I've had to learn to drink black coffee. A lot of people have the opinions I used to: coffee is not made to drink black, it's too harsh-tasting and... just blecch! What I know now is that it's all about roast, grind, and brewing method. I started drinking Luzianne brand black because it's mellower-tasting the darks roasts I always liked. Now I have discovered 2 other brands:

First one I tried
Number 2

I got the Caribou from Hy-vee for just over 5 bucks for the 12-oz bag. The taste is mild enough to drink black, but I wasn't impressed by the bland flavor. It will do for when I run out of my other coffees.

It is lighter than my Luzianne and Cafe du Monde dark roasts.

I heightened the contrast so you can tell it's not
much lighter than the Cafe du Monde or Luzianne dark roasts

The Kicking Horse brand is from Amazon and was 10 bucks for the 10-oz bag. Crazy. I really wanted to kick my own horse for splurging on this one. Except... It's kind of yummy. It's not dollar-per-ounce-yummy but it's nice. The one negative about this one (other than that price) is that I like it better with at least a drop or two of creamer. Minus creamer, it's got a very slightly and pleasantly woody taste; with a touch of creamer, it gets all smoky and toasty-tasting. Yeah, so, nto helping me in the calorie department.

Kicking Horse
is very finely ground too

When it's time to get more coffee, I think I am going to try one that is light roast but has a touch of chocolate. I think I can do anything as long as chocolate is involved.

Overall, if my opinion matters, I would recommend the Kicking Horse Hola (for those who can afford it). The Caribou is a Nope for me because Luzianne is just as good black and is a better coffee all around.

That's my coffee post for now. I will update when I've had the chance to try more flavors/brands.


*I do NOT get paid as an affiliate for any of the links in this post

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

** MINI REVIEW** Swanson Ultra Magnesium Oil from Zechstein Sea

This is not the first or even second brand of magnesium oil I have used. I actually use magnesium oil almost every day and night. During the day, it helps calm me when I get really jumpy anxiety. At night I use it to help me rest better. I actually spray it on my underarms at night because it makes a good natural deodorant. Some people use it for relieving sore muscle pain.

Just under $9 for 8 ounces

The only ingredients on the label "magnesium chloride brine from the Ancient Zechstein Seabed in the Netherlands".

The first brands I used were good and the only problem I had with one of them was the salty residue that left my skin looking way ashy. This one doesn't have that effect, nor does it burn as much. This one does, however, make my skin itch if I don't moisturize after applying it. That's a strange thing since Swanson claims the oil "nourishes and moisturizes" the skin...

While I like my other brands, I think that I will stick with this one for the long haul. It's cheaper than the other 2 I tried and it actually works more effectively to help me rest. I might try one of the magnesium lotions but I have noticed that they tend to be pricier than the oils. What's up with that? Maybe I will just add the magnesium to some lotion of my own?

Anyway, I wanted to post this for anyone who might not already have heard about magnesium oil in general. I have a neighbor who takes magnesium in tablet form. I have not read up on that, but it's another rabbit hole for you all to go down.

I will end with a fun fact: Magnesium chloride is also used as a road de-icer. Who knew?


This is a 2-song kind of day

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

**Griot** Bone and Mud

I recently went through a painful life situation. Some people disappointed me with their behavior and morals. Other people disappointed me with their apathy. So I spent a few days lying around in the dark, crying and asking God all kinds of questions that I probably don't really want answers for. Then I remembered a time several years ago when I was in the same kind of situation and feeling the same feelings. My mother was there for me then and she comforted me with some motherly love and wisdom.

My mother was not an educated woman but she was very wise. I came out of my recent hurt-feelings funk by remembering some of the things she told me about dealing with disappointment in others.

One of the things Mama told me was that a lot of the time it's not other people who disappoint us. It's really ourselves we are upset with. We are upset that we care too much about a situation or that we expect so much from others. I was always a very sensitive person. "Feelings like tissue paper" is what my mother would say about me. Mom would remind we all see the world differently. Some of us are tougher than others. Not everyone has your heart, she would remind me. And I know that my mother sometimes wished I could be tougher-shelled, but she was never sorry that I wasn't.

What had me so upset recently was that someone passed away. The other people in his life closed ranks to keep me cut off from even the basic information about the death. These are "Christian" people, some of them daring to stand in pulpits on a regular basis and they behaved like the coldest and hard-hearted people I've ever known. I'm not shocked by their behavior and I guess I kind of expected it. However, it still caused me a great deal of pain.

The only way I was able to pull myself out of my hurt and sorrow was to remember my mother. I could hear a memory of her encouraging me to pray and forgive and move on. When I went through something similar all those years ago - mourning someone I loved while the ugliness of family politics raged around me - my mother told me to stay out of the fray. She reminded me that my only concern should be honoring the dead and dealing with my grief.

I think I have said here before that Mama always said that death and funerals bring out the best and worst in people.

This time around, I got through the initial pain and grief by remembering my mother's advice. It went something like this:

Don't be upset with the way people are behaving. Maybe this is the only way they know how to deal with their pain. All you can do is to behave the way I have taught you. Remember the deceased, honor them, grieve and miss them. All this ugliness going on around the situation doesn't mean anything to the dead. The person you are grieving isn't concerned with the ways and things of this world anymore. All that's left of their mortal being is bone and mud. They no longer care about who is mad at who or who is being petty. Their time for worrying about the living is done with. You just behave in a way that honors their spirit and memory. The Bible tells us that "Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." (Isaiah 57:2 per NIV)

That's what my mother would say. I know this because, like I said, this is how she comforted me in the past. Just thinking about my mother calms me. I think that I will be able to sleep well tonight and not wake up crying.

I'm calling this a Griot post because my mother would want her grandchildren and their children to know how to deal with this kind of situation. She would want this advice passed down and shared.


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

**RECIPE** Beef Jerky (no dehydrator)

First, let me whine just a little. October was a horrible month. My health took a little dip, I had the blues and then things got so much worse. I'm so happy to see November that I could cry. Anyway. Let me hard segue out of that...

I've been tightening up my budget as much as I can. That means cutting out frivolous food buys (aka snacks). I'm not really bad when it comes to snacking but I do love my queso dip, beef jerky, and 'potato chips. Queso dip is priced like it saves lives and beef jerky is even worse. I've found a suitable and (mostly) affordable replacement for the chips. These have replaced the Good Thins I was in love with.

The other week, I found some recipes for making my own queso dip. I prefer the yellow (salsa con queso) kind while my sister-in-law likes the white (Blanco) dip. The freak. (Okay, let me stop playing and admit that I have never tasted anything but the yellow dip!) This video shows a simple recipe for con queso. That recipe will probably be the only time I use Velveeta and the one reason to keep my old crockpot around.


Last week, I was craving beef jerky. The cheapest prices I could find it for was around ten dollars for a half-pound bag online or twelve dollars for 2 nine-ounce bags (on special sale) at a local store. That's a big ol' nope for me. I can go through a half-pound of jerky in a couple of days. That's a more expensive habit than cigarettes. Also, store-bought jerky tends to be way too sodium-rich for me. I'm not trying to spike my blood pressure or retain gallons of water weight. My only solution was to make my own batch of jerky. One of my nieces in Alaska used to make it for me in her dehydrator and, boy, was it ever yummy. I just had to figure out a way to make some here at home. 

I went to the local butcher and got around 3 pounds of bottom round beef. The butcher is always awesome and he sliced the meat for me into 1/4-inch pieces. Price: just over $15.

Because I don't have a dehydrator, I wanted to find other ways to prep my jerky. So... hello, Google!

I learned that I could use my air fryer or I could use the oven. I opted for the oven because I'm not as comfortable with the air fryer. (Does anyone else have buyer's remorse about their air fryer???)

I have heard that jerky done in the oven or air fryer is not as good as that done with a dehydrator. I disagree. My oven-prepped jerky came out pretty awesome. Here is a recipe from online and the following is how I made my jerky.

Tools you need:
  • A bowl/container large enough to hold your meat with marinade covering it. (This page has great info about marinading in general. Pay close attention to the part about what types of bowls to use.
  • A lid or some plastic wrap to seal the marinading meat in the fridge. The above link suggests using zip bags. I used a food sealer bag.
  • Something to hold the meat aloft for air circulation. I used some teepeed tin foil but you can use an oven-safe cooling rack, wooden or metal skewers. The main thing is that there is air under and above the slices of meat. This is the foil version I used since I didn't have anything else. 
    except mine didn't look this neat!
  • Something to go underneath the meat to catch drippings in the oven. (My foil was on top a baking pan.)
The Meat Prep
  • Marinade your beef for at least 12-14 hours in the refrigerator. Some people do a 24-hour marinade.
  • Drain the meat and pat it dry.
  • Drape the meat over whatever rack/foil you are going to use in the oven. It's important that there is room for air to flow over and under the meat.
  • Set oven temp as low as possible. My electric oven is marked lowest at 200 degrees but actually will turn on just under that - about 180 degrees. I don't like gas ovens but if you have one, you probably know to be very careful...
  • Let the meat "cook" (or, rather, dehydrate), checking it in 1-hour intervals, depending on the oven temp. With the oven at 180, I checked the meat twice in the first 2 hours, then every 30 minutes after that. My jerky was ready to turn over at the 3-hour mark. I made sure it was fully cooked on the one side, flipped it, then continued for another 2.5 hours until it was done - and I like my jerky softer. The longer you "cook" the dryer the meat becomes. 
Keep in mind that for your marinade, you can add whatever flavor you want. I added teriyaki sauce to one batch and some garlic powder to another.

About "curing" jerky: If you decide to marinate your meat in a "cure", it might last longer because curing combats bacteria. I read somewhere that by using certain ingredients in my marinade, I was already sort of curing the meat. ~shrug~.

Listen, I used enough soy and other seasonings that I don't think bacteria would form... But, seriously, there are products sold to cure the meat so I bought some, but I did not like using it. I have read that as long as your work area is clean and the meat is properly handled, you don't have to use a cure. I heat-seal my uneaten jerky in plastic and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I only make a pound at a time so that I can freeze the unused meat to keep as long as possible. 

Here is a link to info about food safety. Other than handling the meat carefully, it's super important to do a lot of handwashing to cut down on contamination. I hope you do this any time you cook, you freaks. I kid, I kid - not about the handwashing though.

This is some of the jerky that I am actually eating as I type up this post. It's so much better-tasting than store-bought, I think because it's not as salty, dried out, and hardened.


Now that it's been about a week since I started writing this post, I'm going to add a couple of tips that I've learned after having made 3 batches of jerky:
  • For more flavor, after I marinade the meat, I add a few more dashes of sauce (teriyaki and barbeque is what I'm using recently) before I put the meat on the rack. Yes, the meat will be wetter and take a little longer, but it will retain so much more flavor.
  • Using wooden skewers to lay across a baking pan is easier than using the teepee-ed tin foil method. Just make sure that the skewers are long enough not to fall into the baking pan. For my widest pan, I secured the skewers with some foil wrapped over them and around the lip of the baking pan. You can wash and dry the skewers to reuse at least once again but they are really cheap at the Dollar Store.

Just turned over to brown the other side
after about 2 hours
  • Don't rush the cooking part. My first batch came out well but slightly chewy. I liked that until I accidentally left another batch in for am hour longer and it turned out even better. The meat might look dried and tempt you to take it out of the oven but make sure you taste a piece first. Looking dry and being dehydrated is not the same.
  • Always make small batches. My first purchase of 3 pounds of beef is only half gone after I've made four batches. I wanted to try different flavorings to see what most like. My favorite is a mix of barbeque sauce and a separate teriyaki sauce (the thick kind). My least favorite was the plain batch seasoned with just Worcestershire, soy sauce, and pepper. 
  • If you have a few pieces of meat that cut thicker than you like, beat them flatter with a tenderizer tool (for me that is aka a clean and heavy can of soup!). This is also a nice way to get a more store-bought type of jerky. 
One small batch all
done & ready to store

By the way, not only does making small batches stretch out your supply of meat, but it's probably safer. Even I can only eat so much jerky and I'd rather not store a large amount and risk any going bad. 

One of the things I want to look into is using my cast iron dutch oven to heat the jerky. Cast iron holds heat really well and I think that if I put a small rack into the bottom of the dutch oven where air can still circulate around the meat, I might get a faster and more even result. I will let you know.

Ready to be sealed
to store
I am also looking at some of the cheaper dehydrators on Amazon in case I can afford to give myself a nice Christmas gift this year! Here is a search page that comes up for some in the $25 to $50 range of ratings 4-star and above. For the winter, I don't mind running the oven long enough to make the jerky. It helps heat the house and my winter energy bill is lower than during months I run the A/C but, come summer, I try to use the oven as little as possible.

That's it for the homemade jerky. Next recipe/food post will be about Flaxseed. I'm trying to get as much good and healthy stuff into this body as possible!


This song drifts into my mind sometimes.
Rest in peace, Tim