The good things

Ok, I work at Walmart and it’s not exactly a glamorous job. Most times, not a rewarding job. Most of the time it’s just fixing things the overnight stockers got wrong and telling people what they want is either right here behind me or two aisles over or we don’t have it anymore. Some people come in with the attitude that nothing they want will be there and nothing will make them happy. 
And then there’s the little happy surprises. And they seem to come from either old people or little kids. 

I have worked at this store long enough to watch kids grow up and people grow old. The middle ages don’t change that much but both ends do. I have seen awkward kids grow into confident young adults. I have also seen some of my favorite older people slow down, start using canes and disappear. 

I started out in the photo lab where you really get to see where people live, their vacations and holiday gatherings. You see babies born, start school, where people go on vacation. It gives you a window on people’s lives. Well, digital took over photography and photo labs disappeared. I lost my career there. I miss that a lot. 

Life is what it is. 

Now, I work keeping things stocked, putting it on the shelf where customers can buy it and helping people find things. And sometimes you still get to connect with people. 

My very favorite customer is a blind woman who simply needs someone to walk her around the store and help her select groceries. I have been doing this so long, we have gotten to be good friends. We have fun talking about cooking and food and I have introduced her to new things available in the store we both like. A few years ago, she got a fabulous guide dog named Wella who is now one of my best friends too. 

Sometimes you just get used to seeing a face around and have an extra smile for that person. I never seem to learn their names but there is this one old man who reminds me of my dad and he always talks to me and teases me about something. I always have a hug for him. 

Sometimes I have to sit on the floor to straighten things or stock things and it never fails, some old person will say something about “sitting down on the job”. There’s a couple of them I have a running joke with about whether I’m sitting on the floor or not. We both get a laugh out of it. 

Then there’s the little kids. I like to smile and wave at the babies and I often get a charming smile in return. 

Yesterday, I was stocking things and as usual, I dropped one. This little boy came over, picked it up and handed it to me. I thanked him and told him he was sweet to do that. Hey, positive reinforcement can’t start too early. He might have been 4. He showed me his hot wheels car which was one of the characters from the movie Cars and I went along. A few minutes later, his mom was asking me where something was and almost before I could answer, he ran over to me and wrapped both arms around my knees and gave me a big hug. It was the sweetest moment. 

It’s people like this that make my job worthwhile. 

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Tasty Tuesday, November 17

Tasty Tuesday November 17

This eggplant recipe is a meal, just add a nice salad on the side with some garlic bread. And it can be easily reduced to be a meal for two. When I do that, I only use one eggplant but go ahead and use the same amount of the other ingredients and just heap them high when I stuff them.
Depending on its sources paprika can be sweet, spicy or smoky. Generic paprika, by this I mean one that is simply labeled “paprika” whatever the brand, is usually the sweet kind. Spanish paprika is more likely to be spicy than Hungarian. Smoked paprika is a little darker red because it has been, you guessed it, smoked to give it a deeper, richer smoky flavor. They are all made from the same pepper that is harvested, dried and then ground up. So you see, it’s more than red dust to garnish deviled eggs and stuff.
And as always, buy or at least store your herbs and spices in glass jars. The plastic ones let the volatile oils that give the flavor escape unless you use them up fast. I never get rid of a glass spice jar, they can be washed and reused many times. And bulk herbs are so cheap to buy at Central Market.

Creamed Eggplant in Eggplant Shells

2 large eggplants
Olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dried marjoram (oregano can be substituted here)
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (fresh really does make a difference, I consider dried parsley to just be pretty green confetti to be sprinkled on for looks only)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Paprika, as garnish

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, cut off stem end. Scoop center from eggplant with serrated spoon, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick shells, coarsely chop it.
Place eggplant shells, cut sides up, in in greased baking dish, brushing lightly with olive oil. Place eggplant pulp in greased baking dish, brushing lightly with olive oil. Bake both pans, uncovered at 400 degrees until shells are lightly softened and eggplant pulp is tender 10 to 15 minutes.
Coat large skillet lightly with olive oil, heat over medium heat. Sauté onion, mushroom, bell pepper and garlic until tender. Add lemon juice. Mix in flour and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Stir milk, Worchestershire sauce and herbs into saucepan, heat to boiling. Boil, stirring, until thickened. Stir in eggplant pulp, season with salt and pepper.
Spoon eggplant mixture into shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan and Paprika. Reduce oven to 375 degrees and bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Tasty Tuesday April 28

So we all know cabbage is good for you, it’s just hard to come up with something to do with it other than coleslaw. Even though there are many ways to make coleslaw, and there’s a few I really can’t stand. 
Most of us know cabbage can be cooked, just don’t really know where to start that ends up good and not a stinky, gassy mess. Well, here’s a simple place to start….

Drunken Cabbage

1 Tbl olive oil
12-16 ounces cabbage, sliced in shreds or chopped 
1 cup white wine–the sweetness of the dish depends a lot on what kind of wine you use. And cooking wine doesn’t count as wine. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it. 
Salt and pepper. 

Heat a large skillet, add the olive oil, then the cabbage, and sauté 2 or 3 minutes, stirring. Add the wine and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and steam for a few minutes until the cabbage is tender. Taste and season again if it needs it. 

For variation, sauté some sliced onion or carrot before you add the cabbage for more depth of flavor, and carrot adds some nice color, you can garnish with parsley or green onion. I add caraway seeds to just about anything cruciferous that I cook and it’s good here. Sautéed garlic would be good in moderation. Red bell peppers would be pretty.