Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner 2010 - The Results

The dinner outlined in Christmas Dinner 2010 (Proposed Menu) was a mostly successful, but there were a few lessons to be learned. The big win was the Shrimp Cocktail. The disappointment was the Creamed Onions.

Shrimp Cocktail

This dish was improvised. I wanted it to be a cross between gazpacho and a regular shrimp cocktail. Here's what I went with:

14 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup seafood sauce
1 medium cucumber, finely diced
Tabasco sauce to taste
1/4 green pepper, finely shredded
1/4 sweet onion, finely shredded
14 oz. cut wax beans
1/2 c. lime juice
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 t. oregano
salt, black pepper to taste
lime wedges

I shredded the green pepper and onion in a food processor until it was a pulp. I combined all but the last two ingredients and let it sit in the fridge for several hours. To serve, I put about 6 shrimp in a goblet, spooned sauce over it, and garnished with a lime wedge. Very delicious and attractive! Next time, I will probably add some prepared horseradish.

Salmon Croquettes 

The croquettes were quite good. Given the ingredients and the fact that they were fried and crispy, they could hardly help but be a win.

Scalloped Potatoes

These were absolutely delicious, but I wasn't prepared for the quantity the recipe yielded. I now have a lasagna tray with approximately one-point-four metric tons of delicious comfort food in the fridge. Guess what I'll be having with every supper for the foreseeable future?

Creamed Onions

I overcooked these--it turned out more like a sauce than anything else. I spooned a bit over the salmon croquettes. I expected the cooked onions to be mild, but they had an almost dessert-like sweetness. If I make this again, I'll cook it more gently and I'll add something hot or spicy to offset the sweetness.

Green Bean Casserole

This was very good. I think the stuffing was what really made it a win. I baked it in a lasagna pan, but I probably should have used a souffle dish.

The Dinner

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Dinner 2010 (Proposed Menu)

There's No Tradition Like a New Tradition

As per my new holiday tradition, I've foregone giving and receiving gifts. The money I saved has gone to Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society. I'll be spending Christmas day in blissful solitude. I'll spend the evening in the kitchen preparing a special holiday meal. Since I cook turkey for Thanksgiving, I'm usually in a mood for non-poultry on Christmas. This year, I'm thinking about cooking myself a "pot luck" dinner of sorts.

Shrimp Cocktail

Doesn't this look fun? As an appetizer, I often have a few shrimp with cocktail sauce, but this kind of cocktail looks much more festive. I'll just combine shelled shrimp, tomato salsa, cocktail sauce, Tabasco sauce, and use lime wedges as garnish. It'll be kind of a cross between gazpacho and shrimp cocktail. I need to buy a couple of parfait glasses.

Salmon Croquettes

I'm not totally committed to Salmon Croquettes, but I'm leaning in this direction. The alternative I'm considering is Tuna Casserole. A casserole would be more in keeping with the "pot luck" theme, I suppose. The croquettes are similar to the salmon burgers I frequently make, but they're smaller, meatier, and crunchier. I would normally top them with a Bearnaise Sauce (from a packet!), but my proposed side dishes are so saucy I might skip it.

Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes are my idea of comfort food! The inclusion of sour cream would make the dish extra yummy. Yes, the recipe calls for Velveeta cheese rather than shredded Cheddar, but Cheddar can separate into oil and solids when baked, whereas Velveeta retains a smooth texture.

Creamed Onions

This will be a new dish for me. My grocery store has sweet onions all year long now, and Creamed Onions should be a great way to show off their mild taste.

Green Bean Casserole

No pot luck dinner would be worthy of its name unless there was a Green Bean Casserole. I avoid recipes that call for canned condensed soup and this one contains no such ingredient. I like the fact that it calls for prepared stuffing--I've never tried it in a vegetable casserole, but it sounds good.

Ready For The Holidays!

So, now that I've made myself thoroughly hungry, I'm ready for my end-of-year vacation week!

I'm sure you noticed that my menu doesn't include a dessert. That's because I don't have much of a sweet tooth. The closest I'm likely to get to dessert might be chocolate and brandy. I don't indulge in chocolate often, but if I'm not too stuffed, I may have a few pieces on Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ice Storms

I woke up this morning to the specter of a treacherous commute after an ice storm. This was not unexpected--I'd heard the weather forecast and taken the precaution of sprinkling some brine and salt on the walkway to my driveway. There was only a quarter inch of ice. The roads had been salted and were mostly clear. My driveway and car were another story, though.

Conditions were perfectly bad. The temperature was 32 F., so that quarter inch of ice was wet and slippery. It wasn't possible to stand upright unless your feet were up against something--a tire, for instance. After warming up the car, its icy coating only had to be scored and nudged to clear it away. Exiting the driveway included a few seconds of uncontrolled sliding, but I did make it out and got downtown without too much trouble.

The sidewalks! If they hadn't been treated, again, it was impossible to stand on them, much less walk on them. I had to walk in the street for part of my way from parking lot to office.

This kind of weather brings back bad memories of the major ice storm in late January, 2009. I didn't lose any trees, but the 2 inches of ice cracked off many large limbs, including all limbs on the north side of one of my pines. I wasn't able to break out of my driveway due to the large ridge of ice created by street plows. I was without heat and power for 3 days. The temperature in the house got down to the low 40s. Multiple layers of clothes, multiple blankets, a cap and gloves helped, but I was still darned cold! I lived on chips and salsa. The only candle I could find was inside a plastic Jack-o-Lantern. Fortunately, my iPod had a good charge, so I was able to listen to music while huddled up in bed. The cats lived under the covers, too. They were just as cold as I was. If I'd been able to have coffee, I'd have been a little less miserable, but everything was cold and lifeless. Twenty-four people in Kentucky died in that storm.

This time around, it looks like there won't be a thaw until Monday. I hope I'm able to get to my guitar lesson on Saturday since the following two Saturdays are holidays.

I've scoped out a mostly ice-free path back to my car. I'll leave here in about 45 minutes. I'm mainly concerned about making it up my driveway without getting stuck or sliding into the drainage depression.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010



An Al Qaida terrorist linchpin puts up a web site called Using this site, he gives explicit, last minute instructions to on-the-ground terrorists who manage to destroy many beloved American sites including the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Mt. Rushmore sculptures, the Space Needle in Seattle, and Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Thanks to a daring Special Forces operation, this linchpin is captured and returned to the United States be be tried. As he's being escorted to the courtroom, he tells his lawyer, "Say I'm a journalist. Say my terrorist web site was a blog." The lawyer nods and, before the judge, he decries this "blatant affront to freedom of speech". Tens of thousands of people worldwide protest the horrific repression by the U.S. government.

Bowing to international pressure, the prosecutors drop the case and release a statement saying, "We were wrong. We deeply regret any inconvenience we have caused for the former defendant." A circuit court awards the Al Qaida terrorist $5 million in compensation.

Justice? Travesty? "What do you think?" (Thank you, Centron Films.)

Lost in the World

Okay, I think I have to admit that I'm addicted to World of Warcraft. This is odd given that I stayed away from it completely for a couple of months after learning the basics. I suppose I felt a little intimidated by not knowing that much about how to play and I had no clue about the norms of social interaction. I stuck to playing "Dragon Age". After 3 times through DA, though, I was ready for a change.

I created a Paladin (or "Palindrome", as I like to call him) named Biroc. I jumped into the World and just started messing around. I became more comfortable with right and left mouse clicks. I got my Nostromo controller programmed enough to help me play. I lost my fear of being killed! This was important because, if you're going to play WoW--especially solo--you've got to expect to die many times. My Pally is up to level 31 now. He's a mean mix of melee fighter and healer. That makes him well-suited for both solo and team play.

Next, I started developing my first character: "Megarid", a hunter. I acquired a Nightsaber as a pet, learned to use sequences of bow attacks to kill at a distance, and acquired 4 different tigers as mounts. My Nightsaber, "Scarlette", is up to level 20 now and I'm on the lookout for a second pet.

Recently, I created a third character: "Diabolik", a rogue. This character is fun, but she's a little tricky to play. Some of her moves have preconditions. For example, she can ambush, but only while in stealth mode. She can deal finishing blows, but only after preparatory strikes. She's up to level 14 now, I think.

The social aspect of the game still confuses me. On a number of occasions, another player has asked for my assistance to complete a quest. When asked, I say yes, and this has mostly turned out well. Sometimes, though, my temporary partner is crabby and critical and leaves without saying "thanks" when the quest is over. At other times, he or she has turned out to be a much younger person than I'd prefer to team up with.

And then there's the 24-hour party going on in Goldshire. As a young character, you are obliged to spend time in Goldshire, so the mob in the middle of town is impossible to miss. Apparently these folks prefer dueling to questing. Nothing wrong with that, but personally, I get tired of politely refusing challenges to duel. I also wish there were a way to flag your character as not being interested in joining a Guild. Again, it's not a big deal, but every time I'm invited to a Guild, I have to stop and type a "no thanks" message to the other player.

I just ordered two expansion packs from Amazon: "The Burning Crusade" and "Wrath of the Lich King". These should keep me very busy for the next 6 to 9 months. Then I'll pick up "Cataclysm", which was just released yesterday.

If I'm not tweeting as much in the evenings, now you know why. :)