Super Bowel Sunday

It’s a windy, rainy day and a good one for hanging out in the kitchen. The weather report said occasional rain, but so far it has been occasionally raining steadily since last night. Oh, yeah, I forgot. It’s the Super Bowel. I hate football, so nothing there for me.

I was thinking this morning how much I love being retired and having the opportunity to cook from scratch and eat great food that doesn’t come out of a box. In the ongoing adventures of my cooking life:

  • I’ve temporarily stopped making yogurt. Two batches in a row failed, so I decided to take a break. I’m enjoying whole milk European-style yogurt from Straus Family Creamery. No thickeners or stabilizers or any of that weird stuff. The yogurt is advertised as pourable. I add fruit and homemade granola, and it works just fine for me.
  • Yesterday I made Butter Mochi. I had never heard of it, but a friend sent me the recipe, and I’ve been itching to try it. Wow! So unusual, but right up my alley. I like chocolate, but my tastes in food lean blonde. Butter, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel. Luckily, we have neighbors who will eat anything we give them, so it’s not hanging around pointing a gun at our heads. I think it would be a nice dessert for an outdoor barbecue party.
  • I bought the slab pie book. Today I am making chicken pot pie with leftover roasted chicken. I made the all-butter crust that worked so well last time, but I only made enough for one crust. I divided it in half and will make two small free-form rustic pies. The dough is resting in the fridge now. I’m cutting the filling by half, but I suspect there will still be too much, so I’ll freeze the rest. I love the recipes from this book, and it just doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to downsize. We shall see.
  • The Instant Pot is primed to make chicken stock, using up the frozen chicken carcasses we saved from previous roast chickens. I’m waiting on grocery boy to get back from the store with the leeks I need for the chicken pot pie. Seemed less wasteful to use some of those instead of onions in the stock. The stock takes about an hour in the Instant Pot.
  • Cannabis tincture! I am almost out of the batch I made last year. I’m using the Magical Butter Machine. You just add 1 ounce of decarboxylated cannabis and 2 cups of 190 proof Everclear. Set the temperature, push the timer button and four hours later, I have tincture. It’s cycling through now, and the machine makes the strangest noises, but it’s easy and safe.

Let me say a few words about tincture. As I’ve written before, I was not using cannabis while I was working. I had a mastectomy shortly before I retired and experienced neuropathic pain throughout the scarred area. The first thing I tried was Kikoko tea, which is a low-dose cannabis product. I love it. I wouldn’t say the tea cured the pain, but I felt really good and didn’t notice the pain. I started reading up on other cannabis products to see if I could get the same results cheaper.

Enter tincture. Tincture is either made with alcohol or glycerin. You can put a few drops under the tongue for quick results, although the alcohol-based tincture burns. That’s why I mix it in juice. Or you can even add it to a spoon of honey. It takes longer to feel the effects, and it does go through your liver, but the alcohol content is quite minimal, so I don’t worry about it.

I started with a few drops and added a drop a day until I got the right dosage. I was not seeking a high. I just wanted that pleasant feeling that starts when I feel myself starting to smile. One does build up a tolerance over time. After a year of one dropperful in the morning with my juice, I gradually increased to two dropperfuls. I think that’s about ½ teaspoon.

Tincture, to me, is nothing short of a miracle. I feel happier than I have maybe in my whole life. Granted, some of that is being retired, but I can feel the difference if I miss my dose. I tend to be very anxious about everything, and a small dose of tincture daily keeps those demons at bay. My neuropathic pain is almost non-existent. Some of that can be attributed to the cannabis cream I use as well.

For people who are curious about cannabis but don’t want to smoke it, I highly recommend tincture. Dispensaries sell it – if you live in a state where they have dispensaries. It’s worth getting a medical recommendation if that’s what it takes to purchase cannabis legally where you live.

Team-building with tamales

Dale and I love tamales and usually buy them fresh at the farmer’s market. However, we’ve been talking about making them ourselves and finally decided to just do this thing.

I like to research everything to death, and Dale flies by the seat of his pants. I pulled out the Diana Kennedy cookbooks and read up on the historic art of tamale making. I studied masa from A to Z, while Dale played computer games and thought about tamales.

He surprised me by sharing he spotted all critical tools and ingredients at the local market I’ve been to once. When did he go? Is this what he does while I’m playing golf? Cruising the markets looking for who knows what?

We were ready to make our trek to the market, when I asked about filling. He unilaterally decided to make a pork filling he’d apparently unearthed on the Internet. I might have liked a vote, consulted with Diana and others, but it sounded good to me, and it was one less thing I had to worry about.

The market delivered as promised. They had pre-prepared masa, husks and even a tamale steamer, which we bought because none of the other 10,000 pots we have would work.

For the filling, Dale braised a pork butt in the oven with not much more than an onion. After it cooled, he shredded it and added his homemade chile sauce. That’s all there was to filling. But then I didn’t make it, and I know chile sauce is messy work involving the rehydration of dried pepper pods. I find it in our freezer already made!

We set up the work station. Dough, soaked husks, filling. We began to prep and realized neither one of us knew how to roll these things. The masa was too thick, so we added a bit of juice from the pork butt to thin it out.

As for rolling, we were in hysterics trying to figure it out. The first one Dale made looked like a monster burrito, and I weighed it just to see. The mother of all tamales weighed in at nine ounces. I wanted to name it El Hefe, but Dale insisted on El Capitan. I mean, wrap it in a pizza and it could be on the menu at Taco Bell.

They got smaller after that, but I never did understand the art of the roll. Dale was better at it than I was. They were looking like tamales, and we were argument-free, when we began to discuss steam time.

Dale’s sources, real or imagined, said 45 minutes. Diana (real) said two to three hours. That’s quite a discrepancy. We pulled out other cookbooks, and yes, it varied from 45 minutes to three hours.  How do you know?

We decided it probably depends on how many are in there and the thickness of the masa. The problem was I did not want to be starving at 8 p.m. waiting another hour because the masa wasn’t cooked.

I thought this would be the big fight, but we got through it without incident, probably because neither one of us was really sure about anything. It’s harder to pick a fight when you have no ground to stand on. We decided to make them early and then reheat when it was time for dinner.

The tamales took about two hours. They were probably too thick, and the rolling technique was inconsistent and weird. However, they were absolutely delicious! We had them two nights in a row and then froze the rest in their husks. A decadent treat we learned in Texas is tamales smothered in chili.

All in all, it was way fun. We laughed a lot because we were so outside our comfort zones. As retirement partners, I highly recommend taking on a joint project of some sort. Something where you have basic skills, but you are stretching them to new limits, so you learn together.

The whole experience reminded me of a team-building exercise from work, except you can use the f-bomb, and we got to kiss at the end.