Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dinner Thursday 30 November - Stir Steam Veggies & Prawns

For the umpeenth time, stir steamed veggies and prawns. Today's selection was:

120g baby corn
130g broccoli
50g mange tout
100g prawns
40g spring onions

in the good old, Chinese style sauce.

Blogger is driving me NUTS today - all my posts are popping up in random order. I created them as breakfast, lunch and dinner, but they are showing up as lunch, breakfast dinner. Yesterday entries are also messed up.

Anyway, I have already wasted plenty of time trying to correct them, but they just keep appearing in random order, so I give up.

Breakfast Thursday 30 November - Raspberries and Toast

Picked up two boxes of raspberries for a quid in Chapel Market yesterday as they were closing down. I bought them from a guy I generally don't buy from any more - one of his assistants was very rude to me about some figs, so I stopped frequenting the stall.

But at £1.00 for 2 decent sized (150g) boxes, I couldn't pass it up. He remarked how no one seems to want berries when the weather is cold. I guess I am different!

Lunch Thursday 30 November - Veggie Dogs with Pasta, Broad Beans and Cabbage

Veggie Dogs with Pasta, Broad Beans and Cabbage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped (about 90g)
1 mildly spicy pepper (I had some Turkish Marmara peppers)
3 vegetarian hot dogs
1/4 pint vegetable stock
1/2 can broad beans (90g)
50g shredded cabbage leaves
50g schioppi pasta

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 560.7
Carbohydrate (g) 59.0
Protein (g) 29.0
Fat (g) 23.5
Fibre (g) 9.2

Dinner Wednesday 29 November - Veggie Burgers and Onion Gravy

Back to the pursuit of clearing out the freezer , I enlisted some "meat free burgers" to serve the cause.

Served up with more mashed spuds, leftover onions gravy and some baby broccoli & cauliflower. Not feeling very inspired at the moment - I think because I am still not feeling well.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 581.7
Carbohydrate (g) 60.3
Protein (g) 38.0
Fat (g) 22.0
Fibre (g) 14.6

Lunch Wednesday 29 November - Gold Coast Stew

Not 100% sure where I picked this up - I think I have sort of adapted it from the old Betty Crocker Cookbook my Mom used to have. It was a hardbound, loose leaf cookbook with a red & white gingham print cover.

The images I found with Google don't look like it, so maybe it was someting else.

Anyway, I wonder what ever happened to that book? Probably still at her house.

I have been making this soup for yonks. When I was doing the peppers and eggs the other morning, I was reminded of this dish and decided to use the other halves of the mixed peppers to make some Gold Coast Stew. I think the original had chicken, but I don't eat dead birds so I used some soy chunks instead. I have also made this with plain Quorn fillets shredded up, too.

Gold Coast Stew
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into rings (about 180g)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 few red or green chilli peppers, to taste
1/2 each of three large mixed peppers cut into strips, about 250g in total (I used red, green and yellow peppers)
1 can (400g )chopped tomatoes in juice
1/2 pint vegetable stock
30 g dried soya chunks
45g reduced fat peanut butter

Cook the onions and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the chillis and mixed peppers and cook over low heat until soft.

Add the canned tomatoes, vegetable stock, soy chunks and cook until the soy chunks are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the peanut butter and serve.

Nutrition Data per serving
Calories (kcal) 337.2
Carbohydrate (g) 32.3
Protein (g) 17.7
Fat (g) 15.7
Fibre (g) 7.5

Breakfast Wednesday 29 November - Grilled Tomatoes and Toast

I had a few tomatoes left in the fridge from before I went away. They were OK, but a little soft, so I thought they might be nice for breakfast, grilled with some toast.

And they were.

Dinner Tuesday 28 November - Veggie Dogs and Onion Gravy

OK, trying to get back into the swing of this and concentrate on whittling down my ridiculouly overstocked larder.

In the freezer, I seem to have masses of veggie dogs, veggie burgers, veggie escallopes etc. that I cought byt didn't eat. I have been trying to remedy that situation, so getting stuck in tonight with some more veggie dogs.

Had these with onion gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli rabe, asparagus and brussels sprouts.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 627.8
Carbohydrate (g) 66.4
Protein (g) 32.4
Fat (g) 26.8
Fibre (g) 15.4

Brunch Tuesday 28 November - Peppers and Eggs

Peppers and eggs is something I always associate with Philadelphia. Philly is famous for its cheesesteaks - a cardiac inducing concoction of fried steak pieces, with or without and onions, slathered in melted cheese served on a roll. It is a Philadelphia icon, a bit like Tastykake. Often imitated, but genuine only in Philly. I used to be totally addicted to Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets - yummy little sponge cakes covered in butterscotch frosting. I can fully appreciate this little girl's enthusiasm for Tastykake:

Being a non-meat eater. I never participated in the Philly cheesesteak culture when I was living there, but the cheesesteak joints always seemed to do pepper and egg sandwiches as well, so that was what I usually went for. Either that, or the evil incarnate that is an eggplant parmigiana sandwich (breaded, deep fried eggplant/aubergine, covered in marinara sauce and loaded with melted mozzarella cheese.)

Of course, a Philly pepper and egg sandwich would usually also contain sauteed potatoes, lots of oil and melted cheese, too! Just because you don't eat meat is no reason to miss out on cardiac arrest.

Years ago when I lived in South Philly and worked at hung out on South Street, especially at The TLA Cinema (Theatre of The Living Arts), we used to frequent Jim Steaks at 400 South Street. Great Art Deco decor, open late and good food.

Jim's Steaks

Anyway, I had picked up some nice peppers from my usual guy in Chapel Market when I went out for cold medicine, so sauteed them up with some onions and a duck egg.

Peppers and Eggs
2-3 shallots, about 200g sliced fine
1/2 each large red, yellow and green pepper, cut into strips (about 250g in total)
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used some oil that had chillis steeped in it for a bit of kick)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 duck egg

Saute the shallots, garlic and peppers in the oil until softened and starting to brown. Crack the duck egg into the pan and cook until the egg is as you like it. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 350.2
Carbohydrate (g) 22.0
Protein (g) 15.8
Fat (g) 22.9
Fibre (g) 7.7

Dinner Monday 27 November - Beans on Toast (and cheese on toast, too!)

Still feeling rough as can be with a nasty cold. Did not feel much like cooking and so went for some good old comfort food - beans on toast. And I enjoyed it so much that I had a second round of cheese on toast (well, it was half-fat cheddar, so not too bad).

I had some bread that I made when I got back. It is a seeded malt loaf. Turned out OK, but it is a bit heavy. I made it on Saturday night and left it have its second rise overnight in the fridge. I do this all the time and it generally makes quite a nice, light loaf.

Problem was, I slept in on Sunday morning and did not get up until 13:00, so the bread had rather too long in the fridge. It is still tasty, just a little denser than usual.

Seeded Malt Loaf
500ml warm water
10g dried yeast
40g dried skimmed milk powder
1 egg
50g malt extract
140g very strong white bread flour
350g malted granary flour (I used Hovis)
30g linseeds
50g coarse wheat bran
50g wheat germ

Mix the yeast with the warm water and leave to bloom. After about 10 minutes, when the yeast is foaming, add the malt extract, milk powder, egg, linseeds, wheat bran & germ and mix well. Add the malted granary flour and mix to form a sponge.

Allow sponge to rise until doubled in bulk. Beat down and add white flour until you get a stiff dough (I needed 140g, but the precise amount required will depend on your flours). Knead well for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl and leave to rise overnight in the fridge, covered. Next morning, punch down and knead again. Form in to a loaf and leave to rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at Gas 6 for 35-40 minutes, until the loaf sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes a loaf of about 1kg in weight.

Nutrition Data per gram
Calories (kcal) 2.4
Carbohydrate (g) 0.4
Protein (g) 0.1
Fat (g) 0.0
Fibre (g) 0.1

Lunch Monday 27 November - Pappardelle & Broccoli in Creamy Cheese Sauce

Pappardelle & Broccoli in Creamy Cheese Sauce
1/4 pint organic semi skimmed milk
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon Colman's English Dried Mustard
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Marigold reduced sodium vegan bouillon powder
75g half-fat mature cheddar cheese
100g broccoli rabe
100g pappardelle pasta

Combine the milk with the cornflour and mix well to remove any lumps. Add the mustard, worcestershire sauce and Marigold bouillon powder and cook over low heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the grated cheese and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes.

While you are making the sauce, cook the pappardelle according to package instructions. I also steamed the broccoli over the boiling pasta.

Combine the broccoli & pasta and pour over the cheese sauce.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 753.0
Carbohydrate (g) 102.1
Protein (g) 47.4
Fat (g) 17.7
Fibre (g) 5.0

I seem to be on a bit of a pasta jag at the moment - not sure why that is. Maybe because it has been chilly, maybe because I have been ill, but I just feel like eating carbohydrates.

Sunday 26 November - Jet Lag AND a cold - Hurrah!

Woke up feeling like shit.

I have a cold.

I blame sitting in a pressurized cabin full of recycled, germ filled air for 9 hours.

I slept until 13:00, so no breakfast today.

For lunch, I made

Baked Schioppi Pasta with Tomato & Pepper Sauce
100g Schioppi pasta
1 serving marinara sauce (see here)
1 serving pepperonata sauce (see below)
125 half fat mozzarella

Cook the pasta until just barely al dente.

Mix together the pepperonata and marinara sauces and stir in the pasta.

Pour into a casserole dish and top with shredded cheese.

Bake in a hot oven until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

4 red peppers (about 750g)
1 Onion (about 180g)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4-5 red chilli peppers (to taste)
1 tablespoon capers
20 g anchovies (about 4 fillets)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped

Place the whole peppers under the grill on high heat and grill, turning occasionally, until the skin on all sides is charred and blackened. Place the peppers on a plate and cover with a bowl to cool.

When cool enough to handle, slip off the pepper skins and discard. Remove and discard the stalks and seeds. Keep any juices that collect in the plate.

Put the oil in a frying pan and add the onions, garlic, oregano and chilli peppers. Saute until golden and lightly browned.

Add the capers, anchovies and pepper flesh and cook together for about 5 minutes.

Place the mixture in a food processor or blender and whiz together into a sort of chunky paste. Don't over process the mixture. Taste and add the sugar if you think it needs it (some peppers are sweeter than others).

Add the chopped parsley and season with salt & pepper if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Data per serving
Calories (kcal) 97.4
Carbohydrate (g) 11.1
Protein (g) 3.6
Fat (g) 4.6
Fibre (g) 2.9

I bought this pasta at Fresh and Wild on Old Street when it existed. It is organic white pasta made by la Terra E Il Cielo (like the pappardelle was).

The marinara was in the freezer and the pepperonata I made & canned a while back when I got a cheap glut of nice peppers.

I felt terrible all day, so stayed snuggled up with the cats and did not eat again except to munch some sesame sticks and peanut butter (I had a couple of little "porshun paks" purloined from the Super-8!)

Breakfast Monday 27 November - M&S Muesli again

Back to working on the cereal hoard, so back to the Marks & Spencer Muesli.

And I found another blogger (in Singapore) who also eats it:

she bakes and she cooks

Friday 24 November - Leaving Iowa

Flying back to London tonight, so expect another weird food day.

And starting as I meant to carry on, I had half a baked potato with a tin of Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans for breakfast. I had sort of forgotten that in the US, baked beans are "pork and beans" so you need to be a bit careful if you don't want to eat pork. Usually just seemed to be a lump of fat in the can anyway, from what I recall.

After my potato and beans, I ended up having a farewell maple doughnut from the Super-8 breakfast room as well, but because it was there.

Here is a painting of a maple glazed doughnut I found on line:

Artist: Ray Kleinlein
Title: Maple Glazed Doughnut
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions (H x W): 15 x 15"
Price: $1,300.00

This guy seems to like to paint food - you can see some of his other works here. I like the cocktail onions and Tanqueray, too.

Spent to day again with my Mom. Apparently, the Friday after Thanksgiving is now a big deal called "Black Friday" and it is when Americans go on insane shopping sprees. All the local stores were having these sales that begin at 5:00 and run until 10 or 11:00, selling loss leaders in the hopes of getting people to spend, spend, spend. I am told it is called Black Friday as it is the first profit making day (in the black) for lots of retailers. People go nuts, riot and even kill each other in the hunt for "bargains". According to Wikipedia, the term only came into common use in 2002, which is why I am not familiar with it, having left the US in 1985.

Ian seems to want to go check them out, but I have already packed and could not fit another thing in my bag (it weighs a tonne). Plus, the idea of getting up at 4:00 to fit a crowd of nutters does not appeal to me.

I spend the day with Mom.

Lunch was the last of the lettuce, broccoli slaw, Fat Free Ranch dressing and most of a large bag of Lay's Wavy Hickory BBQ Potato Chips (although Ian also helped himself to a fair few when he thought I was not looking).

We had a little picnic on the lawn at Mom's, to celebrate that Ian had finally managed to sort out with the Davenport cops that we were in fact, allowed to enter the house and he even managed to get confirmation that it was Ms I H Bell, across the street, who decided to call the cops even though she knew who we were (and said as much in the police report).

What a bitch, eh?

Said my farewells and Ian dropped me at the airport. They opened my suitcase and then wished they hadn't; getting everything back in is like a game of Tetris. Had an hour and a half to kill after passing through ludicrous security, so I had a vodka & tonic and a sack of Tom's Snack Mix (sorta like Chex Mix), then flew up to Chicago.

Flight home is much easier - baggage is checked in in Quad Cities Airport and not seen again until London, so none of the silly collecting baggage and re-checking it. The flight to Chicago is only 27 minutes, so I arrived with 2 hours to spare and head for Business Class Lounge.

Which is, of course, closed at 17:30 as it is the day AFTER Thanksgiving. I can understand being closed on Thanksgiving Day, but not the day after.

So, I wander around O'Hare and find a little covey of hideously overpriced food joints and bars. I settle into something called the Jazz Bar and pay $7.49 for a glass of nondescript white wine. But I did meet and chat with a couple of nice women on their way home to Rhode Island and Ohio after their annual family gruesomeness. One is travelling with a 14 year old cat named Rascal in a shoulder tote - reminds me of how much I miss my kitties.

On the plane, I finished off the crispy, spicy lima beans I bought at Big Lots and sprung for 2 Bloody Marys (made with Mr. & Mrs. T's Bloody Mary Mix, of course).

United did remember my veggie meal, but it was totally rank and I ditched it in the galley after one bite of some decidedly sour and off tasting ratatouille (again with the ratatouille!) But the flight was nearly empty and the ordinary meal selections were chicken something-or-other or cheese tortellini, so I managed to snag a tortellini which came with a salad, roll and a brownie thing for dessert.

And then I dozed in and out of "The Devil Wears Prada" (good, from what I can recall) before falling asleep and staying that way for most of the flight.

I love empty planes (although I am sure the airlines don't and they are not very good for the environment either). I saw lots of ads in O'Hare for an airline called Eos. They only seem to fly between London Stanstead and New York, but the planes are fitted out for only 48 passengers, instead of 220. Luxury! And not as expensive as I thought; £850 from London to New York, booked 2 months in advance.

Interesting.... Eos Airlines

Saturday 25 November - What time is it?

Breakfast on the plane consisted of a fruit cup and Nutrilicous "organic" cinnamon doughnut. And then because the place was so empty, they also gave me a non-vegetarian breakfast which was a croissant and a Land o'Lakes strawberry & banana yoghurt.

Don't see what makes that unsuitable for ovo-lacto veggies, which is what I requested. Basically, United just assume that all vegetarians are vegan.

Anyway, finally got into Heathrow, collected massively overweight suitcase and struggled home with it. Gratified to find that, even in London, when people see a middle aged woman with a cane struggling up steps with a heavy suitcase, they will offer to help. The young guy who offered his help at the last set of stairs coming out of King's Cross station looked decidedly surprised when he lifted my suitcase - it was very heavy - packed full of food, of course! More on that later...

Collapsed in a heap on the sofa and dozed most of the afternoon, awaking only to eat some sesame oat bran sticks.

I love sesame sticks and you just don't seem to be able to get the in London. I have bought things called sesame sticks here, but they tend to be more like the gram flour sticks you get in Bombay Mix (or should that be Mumbai Mix now?)

I bought some from Redmoor here in the UK a while back and this is what you get:

When you buy them in the US, they look like this:

They also taste completely different. I bought a big sack from the bulk health foods section in the big Hy-Vee, but I must try to devise a recipe!

This is no criticism of Redmoor - they are great for bulk spices, grains etc and I recommend them. They are one of the few places I have been able to find chervil any more. You also get free shipping on orders over £30.00

Redmoor Herbs and Spices

Woke up in the early evening feeling very rough, but hungry. Not a lot in at the moment in terms of fresh stuff, so I made

Pappardelle with Leeks, Broad Beans and Stilton
90g tinned broad beans
1 leek, trimmed and sliced
90g (dry weight) papardelle pasta
75g Stilton cheese
1/2 pint vegetable stock

Simmer the sliced leeks in vegetable stock and reduce until there are only a few tablespoons of concentrated stock left.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle according to package instructions.

Add the broad beans to the leeks and warm through. Toss with the pasta and Stilton until the Stilton is beginning to melt into the sauce. Season well with pepper ans salt to taste.

Nutrition Summary
Calories (kcal) 720.4
Protein (g) 34.9
Carbohydrate (g) 82.6
Fat (g) 27.9
Fibre (g) 10.9

This is a much bigger portion of pasta or cheese than I would normally eat, but I felt pretty hungry and it was the last of both ingredients, so I finished them off.

I am reminded of an old Bill Cosby sketch (back when he did stand up comedy) about his grandmother who continually asked "what time is is, baby?" It was something like "What time is it, baby? I'm cold and I don't know what time is it?" over and over again...

That is sort of what I feel like today.

Thursday 23 November - Happy Thanksgiving, family ruckus and a few Bald Eagles

Well, here it is Thanksgiving Day. Not so thankful for yesterday's experience with the inane City of Davenport Police Department, but thankful to find Mom so improved from her condition in January of this year.

As it is a special day, I decided to avail myself of the Super-8 waffle bar for the first time this trip. So, I made a waffle with some of the pre-made batter. And it was not bad, only let down by the fact that the accompaniments were cheap margarine and maple "flavoured" syrup (aka brown high fructose corn syrup). But it was OK and I also had a box of strawberries I had picked up the day before with the raspberries.

Boy, I have been missing fruit with breakfast.

Spent the morning visiting with Mom, but as the nursing home don't like family members around during meals, we had to leave her while she had her turkey & trimmings.

We went out to down to the levy looking for bald eagles and saw a few working the thermals, trying to get some altitude. Then we drove out to Credit Island looking for more, but only found a good sized hawk and the usual collection of nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, cardinals and doves at the Audubon Society's bird feeder.

Credit Island is an island in the Mississippi River just south west of Davenport, Iowa. Its name was derived by the use of the island as an early Indian trading post. Credit could be obtained on the promise of hides and skins to be delivered at a later time - hence Credit Island.

Most people probably go to Credit Island for the golf course these days. It gets flooded out every time the Mississippi floods, but they keep rebuilding the damn thing. Better just to leave it to the birds.

My lunch at the hotel comprised a salad of lettuce, broccoli slaw, spring onions and Fat Free Ranch dressing accompanying a baked potato with blue cheese and some Brussels sprouts.

I spent the afternoon with Mom, looking over some old pictures while Ian disappeared off somewhere, trying to avoid the nursing home administration staff as he has not paid Mom's bill in ages.

Back at the hotel, I had a salad made up of a tin of crab, some celery, spring onions, canned corn and ranch dressing on a bed of lettuce. I also ate the other 1/2 a tin of lima beans and then ended up snacking on some blue cheese and celery later on - heading home tomorrow and still have food that needs to get eaten. Whatever I don't finish, I will leave with Ian, but as he is lactose intolerant, blue cheese is not for him.

Managed to annoy Ian which got him out of the hotel room for a while, which was a relief to me. My tolerance of him is pretty slim, especially his tendency to spread his crap all over the place and the most annoying habit ever, constant channel flicking.

Spiderman II was on TV and I had never seen it, so told him around 18:00 that I planned on watching it. He was watching some dumbass David Spade movie called Joe Dirt (it is MY hotel room, by the way) which ends at after Spiderman II begins - he is going to have to miss the ending.
Anyway, when Spiderman II starts, I manage to extricate the remote from his hand and change channels and he promptly goes off on one. I suggest that he watch the end on the TV down in the breakfast room and he stomps off someplace for an hour or two and then comes back and delivers a running commentary about how stupid the Spiderman movie is, despite me asking him to shut up.

But I get my own back by holding on to the remote and frustrating his channel flicking desires. Also make a point of loudly commenting over the next programme he tries to watch, so he can get a sample of how annoying it is.

Time to go home.

Wednesday 22 November - Almost got arrested! and ate Chex Mix

A very "Alice's Restaurant" sort of day; nearly got arrested with Davenport's answer to Officer Obie and all.

But first, some food news as this is a food blog.

Brekkie was a raisin bagel, some raspberries and coffee. And a dratted cinnamon doughnut. Damn those doughnuts - I cannot resist as I am my father's daughter. My Dad always kept stacks of day old doughnuts in a fridge in the basement - his special "treat" and I did used to nick them from him, even though we were not allowed in his fridge.

Yes, my parents were THAT dysfunctional that they had separate fridges.

Stopped off at the Hy-Vee on the way to Mom's and I got a bag of Chex Mix - I had been hankering after Chex Mix since I arrived and figured today would be a good day to indulge as I was going to be doing a lot of yard work.

My Dad used to make Chex Mix and I still think the original Chex Mix recipe is far superior to the ready made stuff, but then I don't have a proper oven here in Iowa and you need a proper oven for Chex Mix.
The Original Chex Mix

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins™ Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces

Heat oven to 250°F. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

I would always spice it up a lot more than this, but it was the crispy butteriness that made it moreish.

Anyway, what I had was General Mills ready made Cheddar Chex Mix - no nuts, no bagel chips but little cheddar cheese crackers.

Anyway, I got stuck in on the house. First, I removed the screws from the panel over the side door and the garage. Ina had been swearing at them the day before as he was trying to remove them with a cheap 14 watt Chinese cordless drill and getting no where. He was railing on about how they had used plastic coated screws, 3 inches long and that the only way to get them out was to pry them off (and ruin the door frames). I told him that if he got me a Phillips head screw driver, I could get them out.

And I did - all I needed was a decent screwdriver and a pair of gloves for grip. They came out easily enough with a bit of elbow grease and were neither plastic coated nor excessively long.

Anyway, I then got on with raking leaves and bagging them up, cleaning gutters etc while Ian opened some windows to let the place air out a bit as it was extremely funky with mildew and mold inside.

After we had been there about 2 hours, a patrol car from the Davenport Police pulled up and two officers got out. I was sweeping the front porch at the time. One officer approached me and asked me "Do you have a reason to be here?"

A rather profound question, but I sidestepped to greater philosophical implications of his question and explained that it was my mother's house and that I was simply tidying up the lawn ahead of winter.

At this juncture, Ian appeared from inside the house and a second patrol car with two more officers pulled up. I just carried on with what I was doing and let Ian argue with the cops.

He explained that he was our mother's PoA and produced paperwork to prove it, but they were undeterred and as one was fond of repeating "What part of DO NOT ENTER do you not understand?" We were advised that we had no right to enter the house, even as representatives of our mother and that to do so would constitute criminal trespass and would land us in jail with a $340bond.

Eventually Ian requested a supervisor and that meant a 5th officer arrived. I carried on sweeping and raking, with the implied message "I have work to do - how about you?"

There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, trying to contact the guy on the City council who had ordered the house boarded up, contacting my brother in California who had spoken to this guy and gotten a verbal OK for us to be at the house, trying to contact the guy at the Fire Department who was responsible, trying to get some input for the City's lawyer etc. But as it was the day before Thanksgiving, no one seemed to be around.

Finally, the supervisor agreed to leave on officer "observing" us while he waited for an answer from someone who understood the law, as no one in the police force appeared to. So, the Officer Obie wannabe sat there, engine running, "observing" me rake leaves and Ian clean gutters for about 45 minutes. Finally, he got a call back from someone who said that we had no right to enter the house, even just to close the windows. He told us we had to re-apply the boards and leave and that if we entered the house, even just to close the windows, we would be arrested for criminal trespass.

So, we did as instructed and adjourned to the hotel. I made a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli slaw and some nice proper sized prawns I had bought to make up for the disappointing tinned ones.

While Ian railed on about the neighbour across the way ratting us out (Ms. Bell) and I ate my lunch looked up the relevant City ordnance. It is badly worded, but it says:

"No person shall enter any unoccupied dwelling, building or structure without permission in writing from the building officials or designee. Provided, however, entry may be made by the owner or the owner's authorized representative and entry may be made by the building officials or designee with the consent of the owner or through any remedy provided by law to secure entry."

I stress in particular that it states that "entry may be made by the owner or the owner's authorized representative". In other words, we had the right to enter.

It also states under
"Anyone violating the provisions of this chapter is guilty of a municipal infraction and shall, upon conviction, be fined thirty dollars for a first offense, one hundred dollars for a second offense, and two hundred dollars for every offense thereof for the same violation. Each day a violation is permitted to exist is considered a separate offense. In addition to other remedies, the city may institute any appropriate action or proceedings to prevent such unlawful act or to restrain, correct or abate such violation. "

That is, the violation of the code is punishable as a municipal infraction and subject to a $30 fine, not a bondable misdemeanor e.g. criminal trespass.

So, the cops don't know the law, the Fire Department don't know that law and we wasted a lot of time an had a lot of aggro because the people who should understand the law don't.

I fired off a couple of emails to the Davenport Chief of Police and the Head of the Fire Department asking them to explain why they did not know the law and had harassed us.

Ian rang a bunch of lawyers and couldn't really get anywhere as it was now after lunch on the day before Thanksgiving, but he went down to the City offices and went to see a couple of law offices while I decompressed at the hotel for a while.

It was nice to get some peace and quiet (and a shower to get the leaf muck off me).

For dinner, I had some more prawns, microwaved with some spring onions, garlic and a portion of marge I had swiped from the Super-8 breakfast room. Had the prawns over the remainder of the Uncle Ben's Wild and Long Grain Rice with some asparagus.

"You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant..."

If you are unfamiliar with the Alice's Restaurant massacre saga, as sung by Arlo Guthrie, well - shame on you.

Arlo and his friends in Stockbridge, MA were caught dumping garbage. He had to pay a fine and pick up the garbage. Years later, when the arrest showed up on Arlo's record, he was, through the kind of asinine bureaucratic idiocy that only government can truly embrace, deemed unsuitable for military service. To paraphrase Arlo, they decided he wasn't fit to go to Vietnam and kill a bunch of people because he was a litterbug.

You can read the full saga here, if you want.

Alice's Restaurant

Nice to know that we managed to use up of 2% of the City Of Davenport police force because we were raking leaves and cleaning gutters and airing out an old ladies house.

Here is the Davenport Chief of Police, Michael R. Bladel, who has yet to answer my email to him:

Looks nice enough, doesn't he?

Tuesday 21 November - A trip to Mom's house

Let's see, food today was a bagel with peanut butter and some oatmeal at the Super-8. Avoided the doughnuts today.

Someone pat me on the head and lend me some halo polish. Went looking for a picture with the search terms "angel" and "halo" and found this:

How miserable does that dog look? I am with Jay Leno - dressing up animals is WRONG.

For lunch I had the other half of the Stouffer's macaroni & cheese, some green beans and a salad of lettuce, broccoli slaw, spring onions and cherry tomatoes.

Spent the afternoon at my Mom's house, cleaning gutters and raking leaves.

The house was boarded up by the City in August of 2005 as it was empty. I have been wanting to get inside and see what condition it is in ever since, but I have no authority as I am not the owner or owner's agent. My brother is my Mom's Power of Attorney since January, so he has authority, but in true Ian style he has rubbed everyone up the wrong way and nearly got himself arrested in in January when he and Alan went there and climbed in through the second floor windows. I keep telling him to contact the City authorities and get things cleared up BEFORE we go - show them that he is PoA etc but he is of the opinion to let sleeping dogs lie. Well, I find that sleeping dogs bite when you step on them. Better to wake them up and let them know you are coming.

Had a good appetite after all that raking etc. Dinner was a salad of the usual (lettuce, broccoli slaw, spring onions & cucumber) plus some Uncle Ben's microwave Brown & Wild Rice, 1/2 tin each of butter beans and lima beans and a big bowl of Brussels sprouts.

I think I may be one of the few people in the world who likes lima beans. I bought 4 tins of Libby's Lima beans to bring back to England with me.

You would think that finding an image of Libby's tinned lima beans online would be easy, as Libby's is one of the biggest vegetable retailers in the US. You would be wrong!

They appear to be a part of Seneca Foods and their website cleverly links back to - the loop back address of their server. Not so bright, despite all the veggies.

Seneca produces many major US brands of canned veggies - Aunt Nellie's, Stokley's, Libby's and many store brands, too. They used to have a television ad campaign with a crazed jingle that said:

"When it says Libby's Libby's Libby's
On the label, label, label
You will love it, love it love it
On your table, table table...."

Monday 20 November - The Iowa Vegetarian Blues

OK, so I am not really vegetarian. I eat fish. So I am either an unprincipled, backsliding, failed vegetarian, a demi-vegetarian or a pescetarian, depending on who you believe.

In any event, Iowa is a challenge of you don't wolf down half a cow at each siting.

Super-8'ed my breakfast with a seeded bagel and a go an making microwave oatmeal. Two tablespoons oats in a plastic bowl and about 3/4 cup of water. You need to watch it like a hawk to prevent is over flowing and stir every 30 seconds or so far it starts to boil, but it worked out surprisingly well.

Then I ate a maple iced doughnut! - Must avoid the "free" doughnuts"... but I get this thing in my head like they are already paid for, they are included in the price of the room, therefore I must eat them. And I guess I am still making healthier choices than lots of my fellow Super-8ers. I watched one guy eat a waffle with 8 portions of margarine and about 3/4 of a pitcher of imitation maple syrup (basically, high fructose corn syrup). He then followed this by 3 doughnuts and a bowl of Froot Loops.

Like I said, maybe my choices are so bad after all.

Lunch was another salad - lettuce, broccoli slaw, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions some jalapenos and asparagus. I don't know who invented broccoli slaw, but I do love it and s/he must be making a fortune off it as it is 50% what most people would consider garbage. It is made of the stems of broccoli, peeled and shredded, shredded cabbage cores, shredded carrots and shredded red cabbage. I first discovered it a few years back in Iowa and it now makes my shopping list whenever I return. Must try making it at home.

After my salad I had 1/2 pack for Stouffer's Frozen Macaroni and Cheese, which was OK. But I am falling into that fattening "cheese for protein" rut and need to avoid.

Picked up some Spicy Crispy Lima Beans in another of Ian's favourite stores, Big Lots. They were OK, but so loaded with citric acid that I could not taste the spiciness.

I know that chilli heat sensors are pretty jaded from years of abuse, but I do think I must have an exceptional tolerance for spicy stuff. I picked up a jar of Vlasic jalapeno slices in the Fare Way. I thought they were pleasantly hot - normally I am disappointed at how tame pickled jalapenos are. Anyway, Ian tried a few and then kept going on about how some poor Iowa housewife was going to her the top of her head blown off putting them on her nachos and expecting them to be like most pickled jalapenos.

Same story every time he ate one. Meanwhile, I could quite happily eat 15-20 rings are a sitting.

Dinner time rolled around and this time I opted for a salad made from broad beans, celery, spring onions & a sachet of vinaigrette dressing from the plane. This was followed by a baked potato with some blue cheese and broccoli.

I am eating more cheese in a week here than I normally eat in a month any more.

Sunday 19 November - Livin' la Vida Super-8

Started off my SuperStart Plus Breakfast at the Super-8 with a wheat muffin and a seeded bagel with a dinky little 14g "porshun pak" of peanut butter. The toaster here is soooo slow. You need to set it to "10" and select "bagel" setting to even get a whiff of brownness of your bread.

Then I went wrong and had a chocolate doughnut, too.

Lunch was a salad of lettuce, broccoli slaw, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, spring onions and Ranch dressing accompanied by a Digiorno Frozen Microwave Rising Crust Four Cheese Pizza which was totally vile. I ended up just eating the topping and discarding the crust which was weirdly spongy and tasteless.

Ah, the joys of micro ready meals. Science-wise, it was interesting. It comes massively over packaged with a special little stand for the pizza to sit on and a collar that its supposed to do something.... crisp the base? It does look pretty weird (not my actual pizza, but a picture of the contraption)

But, it fails the ultimate test as, rising in the microwave or not, it tastes like shit.

Dinner was a salad of lettuce, green beans, chick peas, spring onions, asparagus and some tiny little Geisha tinned shrimp which were not very nice in texture.

Whenever I see tinned shrimp, it always reminds me of my Aunt Helen. When she was busy trying to lose some weight, her husband, my Uncle George, used to make her a packed lunch to take to work each day. Tiny tinned shrimps were one of his favourite ingredients for her lunches and every time I see tiny tinned shrimp, I think of them.

Saturday 18 November - Iowa Odyssey

Part of the reason for choosing the Super-8 Motel was that I could get a room with a microwave and fridge. There were several reason for wanting this:

  • Iowa is not very veggie friendly; you don't find many meals that are not meat oriented
  • wanting to eat more veggies and fruit. Most Iowas seem to eat potatoes. Uh, that's it.
  • wanting to control better what I eat
  • wanting to save some money by not eating out at every meal

Super-8's have something called a "SuperStart Plus Breakfast including Fresh Belgium Waffles" included in the price. This is fairly typical of the preponderant Iowa attitude towards food (except minus the big ticket meat items).

The breakfast selection comprised

  • said Belgian Waffles which you bake yourself from premade batter
  • individual portions of Kellogg's' cereals
  • bread, English muffins, bagels
  • doughnuts, pound cake, Danish pastries
  • coffee, tea milk
  • apple or orange juice
  • oatmeal

I was actually surprised to see the oats, as they were the real McCoy as well - not some sachet if instant crap, but real oats. A challenge for microwave cookery!

Super-8 Breakfast Room

Anyway, there was virtually nothing fresh to eat. There were a few apples and oranges, but they looked like they had been there since Hector was a pup.

Anyway, I had a plain bagel with some Philadelphia, a maple iced doughnut (yummy but nutritionally void), lashing of coffee and part of an apple that turned out to be old and mushy.

Met up with brother and then went to see Mum in the nursing - doing much better, thank goodness.

Then we went to a supermarket called Fare Way which Ian likes 'cause it's cheap. And is is, and the selection was OK, so I went shopping and loaded up on fruit and veggies and a few items like bits of cheese, tins of chick peas etc.

Back at the hotel, I had a salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and some cucumber with Kraft Fat Free Ranch, my dressing of choice when in the US is various hotels (had the same when in NYC in April and when back in Davenport in January, too).

I had something called Michelina's Budget Gourmet Fettuccine Alfredo with Four Cheese for the main. Not bad calorie wise (300 calories in a 227g/8 oz packet), but it was pretty bland. I guess that is what you get from nuked "ready meals"; I don't normally eat them and don't have a microwave at home.

Dinner was a big salad of lettuce, cherry toms, chick peas, spring onions and broccoli slaw with a decidedly unhealthy bag of Fritos Chili Cheese Flavored Corn Chips.

Yum - Frito's always remind me of my Mom's standard Friday supper which was tuna fish salad and Fritos.

Breakfast Friday 17 November - Left over Crisp Bake and away we go

Well, I did the same as I did last time I had the Cauldron Foods Crisp Bake - I had the leftover one for breakfast with coffee.

Then, I headed for the airport. I had a midday flight to Chicago, with a connection on to the so-called "Quad Cities" - Bettendorf, Moline, Davenport and Rock Island (I had to Google to double check what was the fourth Quad City).

Quad Cities Towns

I never trust that airlines will remember that I have requested a vegetarian meal and that, even if they do remember it, it will be an edible meal, so I always carry some food with me when I fly.

The snack box I packed had:

  • 100g cooked asparagus
  • 2 carrots
  • 10 cherry toms
  • 1 hard boiled duck egg

Got to Heathrow and checked in OK, but all the silly new restrictions about 100mls of liquids and gels packed in an 8" X 8" Ziploc bag. Then I headed for the Business Class lounge where I had:

  • 2 vodka and tonic
  • 1 sachet cheese biscuits (I guess around 15g)
  • 1 sachet peanuts
  • 1 sachet pretzels

Not sure why I always feel compelled to snack in the lounge, but I do anyway and with flying comparatively long distances, the day and meals within it get so messed up anyway, it does not really seem to matter.

Settled in on the plane with something called a "Fiesta Snack Mix" sachet and a can of Mr. & Mrs. T's Bloody Mary mix (my favourite plane drink on poxy airlines like United and American that charge $5.00 for a glass of wine or a spirit).

Ate my little snack box on the plane as I was hungry and then lunch arrived. United had actually remembered my veggie meal and it did not look too bad so I ate it. It was a sort of ratatouille cannelloni or lasagna - hard to tell which - with a plain salad and brown roll. There was a very weird looking dessert which looked remarkably like a fired egg, but I ignored it as I am not much of a sweets fan (and especially not when it looks like fried egg).

Watched a few films - "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest " (a ripping good yarn), "Monster House" (excellent, spooky CGI) and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (mindless drivel - Uma should know better).

Plane was late taking off and even later arriving in Chicago.

I hate O'Hare International Airport.

I hate the way you have to collect your luggage and clear customs as O'Hare. Because of that, I missed my connection.

Actually, if I had just gone straight to the connection with my oversized bag and checked it at plane side, I would have been OK. But because I followed to rules and went to re-check the bag (as I knew it was too big for carry on), I was delayed just enough to miss my connection my 5 minutes. If I had just plowed on to the gate and "discovered" at the plane that the bag was too big, they would have checked it for me plane side and I would have made my flight.

Must stop being honest.

Anyway, languishing at O'Hare for 4 hours waiting for the next flight, I, of course, proceeded directly to Business Class Lounge where I had

  • 1 snickerdoodle cookie & one chocolate chip cookie
  • 4 Pepperidge Farms Butter Thins Crackers
  • 4 Pepperidge Farms Sesame Crackers
  • 4 Pepperidge Farms Hearty Wheat Crackers
  • 21g of "mild cheddar" (aka yellow rubber)
  • 2 bags of Bunny-Luv Baby Carrots
  • several Bloody Marys made with Mr. & Mrs. T's Bloody Mary mix

Tried to get a message through to my brother to say that my flight was delayed, but I had forgotten to pack his mobile number. Went to United "Customer Services" to ask if they could contact the United Customer Services desk in Quad Cities and page him to let me know. They said that they could not contact their own staff in an airport 45 minutes away.

A-bloody-mazing. United are such shit, honestly.

Anyway, eventually got to QC Airport and got a cab to the Super-8 Motel in Davenport. Had bizarro cabbie named Randy The Singing Cowboy who was a camp as a pink tent and chatted the whole way about looking after his disabled Mom, in between singing along with "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" and other C&W hits from someone called Kenny Chesney.

Welcome to Iowa.

Anyway, I had asked when I booked the cab how much the fare would be and was told $25 -30. Randy took another passenger at the same time, dropped her off in Bettendorf about 10 minutes from he airport and charged her $22.50 for the privilege.

He then dropped me at a Super-8 and charged me $30 - not bad for 25 minutes work. But, it was the WRONG Super-8 (the one in Bettendorf, not Davenport) and it was only the quick feet of the Super-8 manager that caught him up.

The correct Super-8 Motel, Davenport

On the way to Davenport, he told me that he should charge me more than $30 but could not be bothered to change the paper work. I tell him that I had been advised the ride would cost $25-30 to Davenport and suddenly her no longer feels like chatting or singing.

At the correct Super-8, I check in, wander along Highway 61 to a local Shell station where I bought a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner, a tin of green beans and a bottle of Smirnoff ice.

Back in the hotel, I realize that I have no can opener for the beans and no appetite either, so I drink the Smirnoff ice, shower and hit the sack. Interesting to find on reading the Smirnoff label carefully, it actually describes itself as a beer - I thought it would be a vodka based drink as that is what I associate Smirnoff with.

I reckon I consumed 4100 calories today, but then it is more like a day and a half and I did do a lot of running around the world's largest airports (Heathrow and Chicago).

And I did need to contend with a singing cowboy cabbie

She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy by Kenny Chesney
Plowing these fields in the hot summer sun
Over by the gate lordy here she comes
With a basket full of chicken and a big cold jug of sweet tea
I make a little room and she climbs on up
Open up a throttle and stir a little dust
Just look at her face she ain't a foolin me

She thinks my tractor's sexy
It really turns her on
She's always staring at me
While I'm chuggin along
She likes the way it's pullin' while we're tillin' up the land
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan
She's the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor's sexy

We ride back and forth until we run out of light
Take it to the barn put it up for the night
Climb up in the loft sit and talk with the radio on
She said she's got a dream and I asked what it is
She wants a little farm and a yard full of kids
One more teeny weeny ride before take her home

She thinks my tractor's sexy
It really turns her on
She's always staring at me
While I'm chuggin along
She likes the way it's pullin' while we're tillin' up the land
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan
She's the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor's sexy

Well she ain't into cars or pick up trucks
But if it runs like a Deere man her eyes light up

She thinks my tractor's....

She thinks my tractor's sexy
It really turns her on
She's always staring at me
While I'm chuggin along
She likes the way it's pullin' while we're tillin' up the land
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan
She's the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor's sexy

She thinks my tractor's sexy
She thinks my tractor's sexy

Sexy or what?

Dinner Thursday 16 November - Vegetables & Noodles in Dashi Sauce

1 pint dashi
2 tablespoons soy sauce
130g baby corn
200g broccoli rabe
150g enoki mushrooms
1/2 bundle (42g) dry udon noodles
10g corn flour
4 spring onions
Seven Spice Pepper

This is a somewhat odd combination , but I had some dashi made up that needed using before I went to the US and the vegetable selection was likewise what was left in the fridge before my trip.

So, needs must, as they say.

Simmer the dashi with the soy sauce. Add the noodles, baby corn, broccoli and enoki and simmer for 4 minutes or until noodles & veggies are cooked.

Add the cornflour mixed with a little cold water and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve garnished with spring onions and Seven Spice Pepper.

Dinner Thursday 16 November - Stir Fried Vegetables & Noodle

Lunch Thursday 16 November - Pappardelle with Creamy Mushrooms

Pappardelle with Creamy Mushrooms
10g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g shallots, sliced
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pint vegetable stock
45g half fat creme fraiche
10g fresh chives, snipped
75g pappardelle

Saute and shallots and garlic in the butter until soft. Add the mushrooms and vegetable stock and cook covered over low heat until the mushrooms are well cooked and the stock has reduced down to 1 or 2 tablespoonsful, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle according to package instructions.

Add the creme fraiche & snipped chives to the mushrooms and stir well. Stir in the pappardelle and serve.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 515.5
Carbohydrate (g) 67.6
Protein (g) 22.7
Fat (g) 17.6
Fibre (g) 9.3

This was sort of like a stroganoff, I suppose.

Breakfast Thursday 16 November - Yet more Pomegranates

Well, they are in season, so I had two pomegranates, malted granary toast with Marmite and some coffee.

Dinner Wednesday 15 November - Japanese Style Noodles & Vegetables

Japanese Style Noodles & Vegetables
1 pint dashi
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon sugar
125g broccoli, cut into florets
80g edamame soy beans
1 carrot, cut into thin coins
100g Chinese cabbage, sliced
200g bean sprouts, blanched
50g rice slice noodles
100g cooked prawns
4 spring onions
10g chives
Seven Spice Pepper

Bring the dashi to a boil and add the sugar, soy and mirin.

Add the broccoli, edamame and carrot and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the noodles, bean sprouts and Chinese leaves and simmer for a further 4 minutes.

Finally, add the cooked prawns and spring onions and heat through.

Serve garnished with the chives and Seven Spice Pepper.

Nutrition Data
Calories (kcal) 586.0
Carbohydrate (g) 84.6
Protein (g) 43.8
Fat (g) 8.1
Fibre (g) 16.4

Lunch Wednesday 15 November - Scampi, Chips & Peas

Yes, anyone who knows me knows that this means I had a pub lunch. In Peterborough, in this case. So here is a stock photo of some scampi & chips.

Not sure why I nearly always go for scampi, chips & peas at the pub, but I nearly always do. Probably because it is normally one of the few things on the menu I will eat, as most pubs tend to be burger or meat pie oriented.

I once (in)famously dragged my companions around every pub in Rose Street, Edinburgh, looking for one that did scampi & chips. ANd if you have been to Rose Street, you know that is a LOT of pubs.

Info about Rose Street, Edinburgh