Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 17



This week's basket contained:
  • 1 chicken
  • 2-1/2 large Daikon radishes
  • 2 butternut squash
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bunch thyme

The chicken will give me another opportunity to practice my "cut up a whole chicken" technique. I'm not sure what I'll use it in, but I have dozens of awesome chicken recipes.

The Daikon radishes are a curve ball--I have no experience with these. I'm thinking I need to make a root vegetable stew, possibly with Indian spices. I still have 2 turnips and one acorn squash from previous pickups. I don't know if Daikon radishes would work well in such a recipe. Research is required.

The sweet potatoes could go into the root vegetable stew or I could make another sweet potato pie. Or I could bake one as a side dish in a meat-and-two dinner. I like sweet potatoes!

The cabbage really wants to be cooked with pork and served with cornbread. So much food... so little time.

The arugula should go into a salad. Therefore I add salad veggies to my grocery list. Maybe the one-half Daikon radish could go into the salad.

The thyme would ideally go into a chicken recipe, but I don't see myself using the chicken in the very near future. I'm not sure how long fresh thyme keeps. Second best is that it goes into my root vegetable stew, although it's likely to be overpowered by spices.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Blog Visibility -- An Occasional Problem


Sometimes I feel like blogging about things that have occurred in my workplace. Uh... can't do it on Blogger.com because all of my blog entries are potentially viewable by anyone on the internet. This is not a bad thing when I'm blogging about, say, a recipe. When I'm blogging about an unpleasant disagreement with my boss... well, that's another thing. And if the date-time stamp indicates that I posted the entry in the middle of a work day? I don't do this habitually, but yes, it has happened on a slow day.

In the interest of stress-free blogging I will be looking into creating a second blog that I would prefer to be visible only to my known friends. I've come across some comments (which may be outdated) that suggest that such a scenario is possible on Blogger.com. If I can make this work and if I can invite all my current followers, please don't get freaked out by an email inviting you to follow such-and-such a new blog.

Yeah. And Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011


I guess it's about time that I started getting serious about finalizing my menu for Christmas dinner. The entree, Coq au Vin, is set and I think I have all the necessary ingredients on hand, including a free-range chicken.

So, here's my proposed menu.
  • Appetizers (smoked salmon, cheese, crackers, Chilean Pinot Noir)
  • Green Salad (store-bought salad mix with Italian dressing)
  • Squash Soup
  • Shrimp Cocktail (simple: shrimp + cocktail sauce)
  • Coq au Vin (over new potatoes with crusty bread)
  • Lagniappe (tortilla chips & salsa)
  • Sweet Potato Pie

The word is: SLOW. As in "eat slowly". If I am to have any hope of making it through this menu I am going to have to refine the art of nibbling. Even so there's about an 80% chance that I will not be having a piece of Sweet Potato Pie at the end of this menu.

Food. I do love you so.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dangerous Kitchen Improvements: help?


 As background, I'll explain that my house is an ancient (circa 1972) pre-fab bi-level that I bought in (as I recall) 1978. The darned thing is paid off now. Huzzah!

The downside is that stuff is wearing out. I really should (at a minimum) have my bathroom and kitchen remodeled. The cost is not an impediment, but having to take time off work (like maybe lots of time) to babysit the work has been a roadblock.

This afternoon, the aerator in my kitchen faucet broke. I most definitely need to replace the faucet, but I thought, hey, this could be a good opportunity to also replace the sink (which is the original from sometime late in the previous century). And if I replaced the sink, what if I added a disposal?

I know I'm in the stone age, but I've never had a disposal unit and I've never had a dishwasher. My question is: Are disposal units a good thing to have? Are there any dangers if there are pets (cats) in the house?

TIA for your consideration.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Please note: This is not a "recipe" in the sense that I've made this dozens of times and I'm confident that the result is palatable. This is just a documentation of the food experiment that I'm making tonight.

Ingredients

  • 1 small/medium acorn squash, cut lengthwise and seeded.
  • 1/2 c. long grain rice, cooked
  • 1/4 c. olive and/or canola oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 small turnip, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. cayenne

Procedure

  1. Cook rice.
  2. Add oil to a large skillet. Heat and add carrots, onion, turnip, and rice.
  3. Cook vegetables over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Add a bit of water if the rice sticks to the skillet.
  4. Turn off heat and add spices to the vegetables. Mix well.
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. Place halved squash in a deep Corningware casserole dish. Fill each half with 1/2 of the stuffing mixture.
  7. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

Dudes and Dudettes, if this doesn't turn out good for ya, make a fix and post your improvement. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 16


This week's pickup consisted of:
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 large head Napa cabbage
  • 1 small head Bibb lettuce
  • 2 smallish winter squash
  • 2 large and 1 tiny sweet potatoes
  • Ginger root
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 lamb ribs
  • 1 lb. ground lamb

I also ordered a few add-on items for Christmas time:
  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 2 lbs. coarse grits
  • 1 dozen eggs

The parsley, garlic, chicken, and part of the bacon are destined for my Christmas Dinner entree: Coq au Vin. I've not yet decided on a full menu for the dinner.

The cabbage was a g-dsend. I may have mentioned that I've been accumulating my CSA meat in the freezer. I had decided that I would make an Irish Boiled Dinner this weekend with a rather large beef roast. I was going to buy a head of cabbage at Meijer this Saturday, but now I have a fresh, local head of Napa cabbage that will work out perfectly.

The lettuce will be added to a bag of salad that I made earlier this week.

I'm feeling pressured by winter squash! I have 4 small winter squash now and no firm plans for putting them to use. This is going to require some research. Roasted squash is good but I'm not a huge fan of sweet-tasting side dishes. It's like, if you add mass quantities of butter and brown sugar to a dish, it does not belong on the dinner plate. I could roast it, halved, as a dessert, but I rarely have room for dessert. And besides, I also got sweet potatoes!

I happen to have a spare pie shell in my fridge, so at least one of the sweet potatoes will be going into a pie. I'm cool with a roast sweet potato as a side dish with butter and pepper.

The ginger root would be great in a curry or a stir fry. With all the other cooking I'll be doing I don't know that I'll have room for another main dish. I'll have to research side dishes that use lots of ginger.

The lamb ribs have to be oven barbecued. I'm not sure what to do with a pound of ground lamb. I would definitely want to choose a dish that allows the lamb's own flavor to be prominent. So... more research.

The grits and eggs and part of the bacon will be used in some delicious Big Brunches over my Christmas vacation. I also have 8 or 9 eggs bought at Meijer that I need to use. Baking? Pound cake? I'm not sure.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas Dinner


In recent years, I've made Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners designed to be served and eaten as maybe a half dozen dishes and side-dishes crowded onto one platter. This Christmas, I'm going to take a different approach. I intend for the meal to be a leisurely stroll through a number of courses, each of which will consist of a fairly small portion.

I've not decided on a menu, but I have decided that the entree will be Coq au Vin. I've ordered a free-range chicken and some locally produced bacon from my CSA.

As for the other courses, I'm thinking along the lines of salad, appetizer, soup, lagnappe, and desert. If everything works out, this will be much more enjoyable that the "one-plate" holiday meals I've known from tradition.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Offer To My Tweeps

(Note: If you're not one of my tweeps, please disregard this post.)


Several years ago, I became obsessed with reading Greek history. Specifically, I was interested in Herodotus, Thucydides, and I dabbled a bit in the age of Alexander the Great.

One consequence of this obsession was that I stopped reading "Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine". I had a subscription to the 'zine and continued to receive issues for years. I may still be receiving them--I'm not sure.

I've moved on from Greek history (at least temporarily), but now I'm all excited about reading eBooks on my Kindle.

The upshot of all of this is that I have a large stack of unread IASFM issues just taking up space. If any of my tweeps would be interested in receiving a box of these magazines, please DM me on Twitter. Please understand that I will be biased in favor of my closest tweeps--it's not strictly first-come-first-served. I will gladly pay for postage. You'll be doing me a favor.

Thanks for your attention!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 15


This week's basket contained:
  • 1 beef shoulder roast
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 acorn squash
  • Red mustard greens
  • 1 large head Chinese cabbage
  • Escarole
  • 2 green turnips
  • 1 bag of salad mix

With all the leafy greens in this basket, I'm going to have to be aggressive in making use of them--they won't keep for long.

I intend to braise the mustard greens with some bacon to make a side dish. (Big ole smile!)

The cabbage will be stewed with a few country-style pork ribs and served with cornbread. I thought about using the potatoes to make German potato salad, but I'd really need more than 2 potatoes. I might just bake the potatoes as 2 side dishes. They would be great as a side dish with the pork chops I've got in the freezer. but I'm not sure I'd get to those chops in time.

The escarole will go into salad. I may buy a few more ingredients (radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc.) to go into this.

The turnips and the acorn squash--I don't know. I might could use them in some sort of "root vegetable curry". They'll keep for a bit, so I have a little time to decide.

As usual, the meat is accumulating in my freezer. My first thought about the shoulder roast is slow-cooking it on top of the stove with potatoes, carrots, onions, and a few cups of water to make a cornstarch-thickened sauce. To be served with crusty French bread and a hearty red wine. Simple and delicious.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Velveeta Cheese Sauce For Veggies


This is a very basic cheese sauce to add some bam to relatively bland vegetables. Cauliflower comes to mind!

Ingredients
  • 4 oz. Velveeta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 T. flour
  • Freshly cracked black pepper (optional).
  • Paprika (optional)

Procedure
  1. Put cheese and milk in a small saucepan. Heat on the stove, covered, at just above the lowest setting. This should give you a slow melt with no danger of scorching. (On my electric range, the lowest setting is "LO". The next marked setting is "2". I set the heat between "LO" and "2".)
  2. After the cheese has melted (20+ minutes), and your vegetable dish is ready to serve, add the flour and raise heat to medium high.
  3. Whisk continually until sauce bubbles and thickens.
  4. Remove from heat and spoon onto your hot vegetable dish.
  5. For taste and presentation, I like to grind some black pepper on top of the veggies.
  6. Alternatively, a sprinkle of paprika will do wonders for the presentation.
Yield: Sauce for 2 servings of vegetables

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Survived Taking 3 Cats To The Vet

The only real challenge was getting the three cats into carriers. I knew Lucy was going to be the hardest. I considered putting her in a carrier as a first step, but then I figured that her wailing would scare the kittens. Since Lucy was napping in the computer room, I closed that room off. In the kitchen, Gypsy was calmly looking out the back door. I picked her up and put her in Carrier A, which was nearby. In the bedroom, Ginny was snuggled up in a difficult-to-reach spot in the corner of the room. I crinkled a bag of cat treats. When she came out, I picked her up and carried her into the kitchen to join Gypsy in Carrier A. Ginny didn't put up much resistance.

Lucy was a bit more troublesome--she knows all about trips to the vet and wants no part of them. With some difficulty, I was able to get her into Carrier B. She immediately started yowling and continued all the way to the vet.

I'd gotten to the vet's office early. We were shown to an examination room and all three cats were weighed. Once out of their carriers, Gypsy and Ginny were mostly at ease. They even rassled with each other for a bit. Lucy felt helpless and scared, but she did all right.

As I'd anticipated, the only problem was Ginny's weight: 15 lbs. 2 oz. at 18 months of age. I'm going to have to find a way to try to keep her weight down without depriving the other two of needed nutriment.

So... all over for another year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spaghetti Casserole

This is intended to be spaghetti as a side dish. As such, it's fairly dry and intensely flavorful. The only time I make this is as a side-dish as part of a Thanksgiving Day meal. No reason to limit it's serviceability to the holidays, though. It's pretty basic and most yummy.

Ingredients
  • 8 oz. dry spaghetti
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. jar prepared pasta sauce
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 t. dried parsley
  • 1 t. ground black pepper
  • 2 t. garlic powder

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions for "al dente" consistency (or boil for 10 minutes in salted water).
  3. Heat olive oil in a 12" skillet at medium-high heat
  4. Add bell pepper and onion to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly brown.
  5. Add to the skillet the pasta sauce, oregano, parsley, black pepper, and garlic powder. Simmer at medium heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Transfer cooked spaghetti and sauce to a 2-quart square Corningware casserole dish. Mix well and cook covered for 45 minutes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cornbread -- (Not Corn Cake)


I used to have a recipe for cornbread that I clipped from the back of a package of coarse-ground cornmeal. I've lost it! I know my old recipe called for bacon grease melted in a cast iron skillet and some bacon grease added to the batter. Some day I'll re-find or re-create that recipe. In the meantime, here's a pretty decent recipe. Note the lack of sugar. I have a major gripe against cornbread recipes that call for massive amounts of sugar. I'm not in grade school any more!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (course-grind, if available)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 T. bacon grease, melted (optional)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 T. peanut oil

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut up butter into about 6 equal-sized pieces. Place in a Pyrex bowl or measuring cup, cover loosely with wax paper, and heat in a microwave until melted.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.
  4. In a smaller mixing bowl combine egg, buttermilk, and melted butter and bacon grease. Add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Add peanut oil to an 8" x 8" pan and place in the oven for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven and tilt to ensure the bottom has been evenly coated with oil.
  7. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cornbread comes out dry.
Yield: 4 large servings

A note regarding storage: I frequently make cornbread to be part of a recipe that involves spooning a soup- or broth-like mixture to be spooned on top (Beans and Cornbread, Greens and Cornbread, Chili and Cornbread). If that's the case, I store the cornbread uncovered inside a cool oven. I sometimes cut up the cornbread and set the pieces on their side. This would tend to dry out the cornbread, but since it's going to be covered in broth, that's not an issue. I mainly want to avoid mold that would occur more rapidly in a sealed environment.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindle Fire - Additional Observations


I'm still just nibbling around the edges of Kindle Fire ownership. This afternoon, after #CatAvailabilityTime, I watched Season 1, Episode 1, of Dr. Who. I had grave reservations about watching video streamed over Wi-Fi (specifically, from my Wi-Fi WAP), but the experience was surprisingly pleasant. I had anticipated hiccups ("Buffering..." pop-ups) occurring every few minutes. This did not happen. The video was smooth and absolutely free of jerky hiccups. There was a problem about a third of the way through the viewing: "Network connection lost" (to paraphrase). I don't know if the problem was due to Amazon overload or my WAP's flakiness. At any rate, after a couple of minutes, I was able to resume viewing and there were no further interruptions during the 45 minutes of the Dr. Who episode.

Thanks to my extreme nearsightedness, the viewing experience was extremely immersive. I watched the show without contacts (screen about 4" away from my eyes) and wearing good quality headphones. So... my sympathy to all you folks who are not debilitatingly nearsighted.

I continue to struggle with the lack of a few critical apps on the Amazon store. Dropbox I have mentioned. I can use Google Docs as a web application, but it would be so much better as an Android app! Google has provided a pretty slick mobile web UI, but dammit--I want a native app!

I find it ironic that the Google App Store offers some pretty cool apps for interfacing with Amazon, while Amazon has yet to offer an easy way to interface with Google. ::Sigh::

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kindle Fire - First Impressions


I received my Kindle Fire the day after the official release date. Truth to tell, I've not had a chance to do much with it, but for the sake of currency, here are my first impressions.

I have a Droid X smartphone, so my truly first impression was that the Kindle Fire is a 3X-sized Droid. Perhaps not surprising since the Fire runs the Android OS, as does the Droid.

The Fire fits snugly in the custom designed Malware (sorry!!! "Marware") protective case. Usually with portable devices I purchase an adhesive, protective cover. I did not do that with my Kindle Keyboard and I will probably not do that with my Fire. Big ol' screen, ya know--and it is touted as being extremely tough. We'll see.

If you have an Android phone, you will be immediately comfortable with the Fire's user interface. At times, I found myself reaching for the hardware buttons below the screen that I would find if I were using my Droid. Adjusting to a world of purely soft buttons is going to be a learning curve!

I do not own an iPod Touch (just a 160GB iPod Classic), but I have the feeling that the Fire is like a huge iPod Touch. It is a tablet, yes, but the emphasis is on entertainment. You've got your music, video, and eBooks. I've been a subscriber to Amazon Prime for a while so I already have the ability to stream any of their (many) movies and TV shows free of charge. A search for content using the phrase "Mystery Science Theater" turned up 76 matches. Impressive.

Downloading apps works very much like it does on an Android phone. The difference would be that, rather than tapping the Android Market Place for apps, you'd be tapping the Amazon App Store. There are some disturbing gaps here. For example, Dropbox is not available from the Amazon App Store. I've come across several sets of instructions for getting Dropbox on your Fire, but come on... this should be in the App Store! I've also read complaints to the effect that Amazon's App Store does not offer the latest versions of many programs. To some extent, I applaud Amazon's attempt to put a quality/security filter on the App Store. I just wish that the "major" apps were available in their most current incarnations on a timely basis.

From an ergonomic standpoint, I have few complaints. Using the Fire feels perfectly natural. So far, I've not found a way to install and enable the Swype keyboard, which is my KB of choice on the Droid. At times it seems like the soft buttons at the bottom of the screen are reluctant to respond to my touch--maybe my fingers are too dry... I'm not sure yet.

As for the comparison of Kindle Fire and Kindle Keyboard, I consider these two devices quite separate. If I want to read the text of a novel, I will use the Kindle Keyboard. The battery life is amazing and the screen is beautifully legible in bright sunlight. The Kindle Fire is my multimedia  entertainment device and my portable web browser.

I tend to be suspicious of corporations mining my web presence for marketing data, but I consider Amazon to be one of the "good guys" along with Google. They're all business enterprises so, yeah, they're going to try to make money. As long as all the cards are on the table, I don't have a problem with that. When I read that Amazon's Silk browser caches content on Amazon servers, I'm like yay go, Amazon. They're trying to make the Fire web browser as responsive as possible. Technically, it's storing personal data that, in a perfect world, it should not. But hey, I could sit inside a cave with no electrical power (let alone internet access) and be smug as Shinola in my locked-down egosphere. I'd rather play it a little more loose than that, though. I'm not ready to move to Idaho just yet.

Okay, so... more to come (it says here).


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 14


This week's Produce For Two and Mixed Meat contained:
  • Spare ribs
  • 2 pork chops
  • Kale greens
  • Cauliflower
  • 2 turnips
  • Buttercup squash
  • Tatsoi
  • 7 sweet potatoes

Wow, this is my kind of basket!

The spare ribs and pork chops will be part of "meat and 2-or-3" meals. Oven barbecue is a distinct possibility.

Kale greens will give me greens and cornbread! I'll dice the smaller of the two turnips to go into the mix. I suppose I'll have to spring for some grocery store pork since I've used up all the ham hocks in my freezer.

I'm thinking I'll use the squash in a casserole for Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure how to use the cauliflower. I might just steam it and serve it with a cheese sauce..

The tatsoi: it looks like it should go in a stir fry, but I'm not sure I can fit that in between today and Thanksgiving. This will be tough.

Sweet potatoes. Seven sweet potatoes!!?? I still have 2 left over from my last pickup. They are great as oven fries, but I don't think I'm going to be eating any burgers in the next couple of weeks. If I had a sweet tooth, I'd make sweet potato pie. I might go ahead and do that, sweet tooth or no. I've never made a sweet potato pie, and it would certainly be appropriate for Thanksgiving.

And, hello, I've still got a huge Tupperware bin of chili to consume. I need to clone myself so I can eat twice as much.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is The Affordable Health Care Act Constitutional?

Yes.

Here's my reasoning.

Congress has the authority to impose taxes. Therefore, Congress has the authority to impose a "Health Care Tax" on every U.S. citizen.

Congress has the authority to grant tax deductions and credits based on the purchase of defined products. Think "mortgage interest deduction" and various energy efficiency tax credits. Therefore, Congress has the authority to waive the "Health Care Tax" if the citizen has purchased a defined product: health insurance.

This ain't rocket science, people. You don't have to be an expert in Constitutional law to understand this.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flyover Chili


Ingredients

  •     2 x 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  •     40 oz. dark red kidney beans
  •     1/8 c. chili powder
  •     15 dried Serrano peppers, chopped or crumbled
  •     2 t. oregano
  •     1 t. ground cumin
  •     salt to taste
  •     2 t. Cayenne pepper
  •     8 c. water
  •     2 lbs. ground beef
  •     ¼ c. canola oil
  •     2 medium sweet onions, diced
  •     1 green bell pepper, diced
  •     3 T. diced garlic
  •     8 oz. dry spaghetti (thick)
  •     saltine crackers
  •     grated Parmesan cheese
  •     Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)

Procedure
  1. In an 8-quart pot, combine tomatoes, kidney beans (with juice), chili powder, oregano, cumin, Serrano peppers, salt, Cayenne pepper, and water.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef in 2 batches. Transfer to a plate lined with folded paper towels to drain and cool.
  3. Add canola oil to the skillet and set heat to medium.
  4. When oil begins to shimmer, add the sweet onions. Cook until soft, then transfer to the main pot.
  5. Cook bell pepper and garlic in the skillet until soft. Transfer to the main pot.
  6. When ground beef is cool, crumble it into the main pot.
  7. Simmer the chili gently for as long as you like, but at least 3 hours.
  8. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions to attain al dente consistency.
  9. Add cooked spaghetti to chili and continue to cook for at least an hour.
  10. To serve, crumble a handful of saltines in a large bowl. Ladle chili into the bowl, then shake a generous portion of grated Parmesan cheese on top.
  11. If you have a death wish, add Tabasco or other hot sauce on top.

Okay, so this recipe is likely to goose up some pooh-poohs from folks in the Southwest. Y'all give a rest now, hear? This is one of the several ways we make chili in Kentucky. Bloemer's Chili Powder rocks!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Butternut Squash Casserole

This is substantial as a side dish or, in a larger serving, works well as the entree of a vegetarian dinner.

Ingredients
  • 1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 c. stuffing mix
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ medium sweet onion, minced
  • 1 t. thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ c. bread crumbs

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Place mixture in a greased, 8” x 8” pan.
  4. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.
  5. Bake at 375F for 1 hour.

Yields 4 servings.


When I made this, I happened to have a square of cornbread on hand. I crumbled that over the casserole in place of bread crumbs. It was great! I wonder if you can buy dried cornbread crumbs? I suppose you could buy cornbread stuffing mix and use that--pulverized in a food processor or straight from the package--as the topping. I’m thinking a small can of mushroom pieces and stems would be a good addition to try.

2011-11-13 @ 0054: After a trip to Meijer's for groceries, I realized that the CSA butternut squash I used for this recipe was on the small side. The squash I saw at the store was 2-3 times more massive than mine! The recipe might be perfectly good with the changed ratio of ingredients, but I've not tested that scenario.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 13


This week's bounty consisted of:
  • Pork sausage
  • 4 links Cajun sausage
  • Prawns
  • 1 large bunch greens (Turnip?)
  • Fresh dill weed
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 3 apples
  • 1 bunch radishes

The pork sausage was an item that I should have received with the previous pickup. Communication difficulties, I believe.

The Cajun sausages will be eaten as "hot dogs". I'll save the prawns for Thanksgiving.

I was confused as to the identity of the greens. I could have sworn that the person handing out boxes said they were "kale greens", but they did not have the characteristic ruffled edges. I'm guessing they were turnip greens. At any rate, I cooked them up last night in broth from a ham hock and they were delicious. I made cornbread and to serve I placed a square of cornbread in a large bowl and just spooned greens and pot likker over it. Absolutely heavenly.

The lettuce and the radishes went into a tossed salad. I used a couple of the sweet potatoes to make oven fries and will probably do the same with the other two. The butternut squash--I'm not sure. Could be oven fries, could go into fake mashed potatoes, or maybe just baked with some butter and herbs and served as a side.

I think I'll use the dill weed in a spread of some sort with cream cheese and other flavorings.

The apples, as always, will be snacks at work.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Onion Stuffing (Winging It)

Just using up perishable foodstuffs here, folks. Based on the ingredients, this should be edible--probably even palatable.

Ingredients
  • 4 medium/large sweet onions, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 5 small sweet peppers, chopped well
  • 6 oz. package of stuffing mix
  • 1 c. water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation
  1. Heat olive oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven.
  2. Add onions and peppers and cook over medium heat for 2 hours.
  3. Add salt, pepper, water, and stuffing. Reduce heat to low and heat for 15 minutes.

This is more of an inspiration than a recipe. Obviously, you could cook the onions and peppers for less than 2 hours and produce a result of equal delectability. I'm just documenting my procedure here.

In my case, this dish will be combined with baby limas and beef stew to make a full meal.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fake Mashed Potato Experiment


I've been thinking about a fake mashed potato recipe for a while now. My first (and only) experiment was to follow conventional wisdom. I boiled and mashed cauliflower and served it as I would mashed potatoes. The result was not horrible, but it was very thin and bland.

The other night, I baked some Delicata squash.  The texture was like very moist potato steak fries.

So! In terms of texture, what would happen if I mixed cauliflower and winter squash? This is what I'm trying tonight.

After baking the squash and cauliflower, I mashed them with a hand-held potato masher. This left lumps. Since it's just an experiment, I carried on. I added 1 cup of milk and some salt and I put it in a sauce pan to simmer at low temperature as I prepared the rest of my dinner.

For the purpose of documentation, here is the "recipe" I used for tonight's dish. The procedure will be improved upon.


Fake Mashed Potatoes v.0.1


Ingredients

  • 13 oz. firm winter squash
  • 13 oz. cauliflower florets
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
Procedure
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F.
  2. Peel, halve, and seed squash
  3. Place squash and cauliflower in a pan and bake for 1 hour.
  4. After the vegetables are cooked, transfer them to a medium sauce pan and mash with a potato masher.
  5. Add milk, butter, salt, and pepper, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Improvements


Next time I try this, I won't use a hand-held potato masher. I'll put the squash, cauliflower, and milk into a food processor and blend until smooth.

An open question: Is a one-to-one ration by weight of squash and cauliflower optimum? Taste till tell.

The Delicata squash had a somewhat sweet flavor after baking. I don't know if the same will be true of the Festival squash that I used in this experiment. It may be that I'll need to offset the sweetness of the squash with some other ingredient.

A word of caution: Winter squash is very firm/hard. As you're peeling it with a sharp knife, there is some potential for a nasty accident. As you peel the squash, please try to hold it in such a way that your gripping hand would not be in the knife's path should it slip.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 12


This week I received:
  • 4 bratwurst
  • 3 pork patties
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 Winter squash (Festival)
  • 2 apples
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 large bag green beans
  • 7 small green tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 head garlic
  • 1 small bag potatoes

Holy cow! I need to kick my cooking into high gear. Perishables are piling up! And that's in addition to the frozen meats that are accumulating in my freezer!

The past week or so, I've been using CSA ground beef to make cheeburgers. They were quite delicious, but the accompaniment of olives and chips did nothing to use any CSA produce. The first thing on my agenda this weekend will be a beef stew of some sort. The potatoes in this basket were perfect, because I'd have had to buy them at Meijer otherwise.

I love greens. The turnip greens will make an awesome meal combined with a small amount of pork. But how can you have greens without cornbread? So... cornbread in my future.

The eggplant is probably going to be used in Eggplant Parmesan.

The radishes should go into a salad.

Some of the green beans will go into the beef stew. The rest will make for a delicious side dish--maybe for the beef roast I have in the freezer (groan).

The tomatoes are screaming "Fried Green Tomatoes". I don't think I've had those since I was a kid.

I'll have to think about how to use the squash. Maybe it could go into the beef stew. On the other hand, it might be good in a vegetable curry.

Oh, and then the frozen pork works out to 5-7 quickie meals all by itself.

There are, what, seven days in a week? Maybe I should take vacation time and cook lunches, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Three Mouseketeers


Last night, a field mouse found its way into my computer room. How did it get here? No mystery. There is a crack in my drywall that was caused by a sloppy gutter installation. I've never gotten around to repairing it.

If you have cats, you're probably aware of the body language and sense of excitement in your felines when they've detected a rodent in the house. Whenever that happens, I leave the cats to their business. I might open a closet door if they're obviously waiting for the mouse to make a break, but generally let them do their job on their own terms.

I'm not afraid of mice. Field mice are actually quite adorable. I would be annoyed if a mouse chewed into a box or bag of my foodstuff, but with 3 cats in the house, visiting mice are not going to have much time to check out the pantry.

One thing I do worry about when a mouse comes inside is: How is this sitch going to be resolved? My kittehs are very much into the "Show Daddy" mindset. Gypsy has a disturbing habit of fishing up my bathtub drain filter and depositing it on my bed near the pillow. Yuck! When the kittehs are messing with a mouse, I'm seriously worried that I might wake to find a partially eaten mouse carcass beside me on the pillow.

This particular incident had a happy ending. When I was in the kitchen, Gypsy brought the captured mouse in and dropped it on the floor. The mouse had been "played with" and was completely dazed but apparently unhurt. I scooped it up in a glass jar and tossed it outside. Believe it or don't, I said, "Here ya go, Sweetie," as I tossed the mouse out. They really are adorable creatures.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Grasshoppers Pickup Number 11


Here's what I got in this week's basket:
  • Ground beef
  • 1 Round roast (beef)
  • 1 carving-grade pumpkin
  • 1 package of spinach linguini
  • 6 small sweet peppers of various colors
  • 1 bag of parsley
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 Delicata squash
  • A bag of arugula

I'm being challenged here! So what else is new?

The beef: no problem.

The carving pumpkin? It's just a question of finding someone to whom it to give (am I being grammatically anal?). "Carving Grade" apparently means don't bother roasting this in your oven... it will taste like doo-doo.

The linguini was a freebie. Grasshoppers is promoting a new pasta subscription, so they gave out pasta to all current subscribers. We're talking about 2 meals, minimum, per package. I'm just not sure that I would want to commit to eating pasta on a regular basis. I'm excited about this one package of spinach linguini! I bought a jar of low-sugar pasta sauce and I've added sauteed green pepper and sweet onion to it along with a generous sprinkling of dried oregano. What could be bad?

Ah, the sweet peppers. That's going to be a problem. These are very small peppers.  Traditional "stuffed green pepper" recipes would not be appropriate. I could treat them like Ancho peppers and make chilies rellenos, but I'm worried that the pepper taste might be overpowering. The sweet pepper problem will require some research.

The corn will be, I'm thinking, part of a side dish when I cook the beef roast.

Oh yeah. Delicata squash. What the hell to do with that? It looks sturdy, so I'm thinking I have a little bit of time to determine its future.

The arugula gets sprinkled into my previously-made bag-o-salad. Easy & good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

WoW: Advancing My Druid


I'm trying to advance my Druid's Enchanting skill. She's pretty advanced already, so it's becoming difficult. Here's what I had to do to advance her one notch on the professional scale.

My Hunter, Megarid, spent an hour in The Blasted Lands killing basilisks, hyenas, and boars to gather 72+ Rugged Leather. Combining the leather with some Rune Thread and Black Dye, he created 6 Wicked Leather Headbands. I mailed these off to my Druid who disenchanted them. From the resulting materials, she was able to create one enchanting scroll that bumped her skill level one point.

This is not easy, people. The latter stages of advancement are like squeezing blood from turnips.

It's a challenge, though, which is what I want.

Level 85: someday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 10


In this week's basket:
  • 1 bunch lettuce
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 bag green beans
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 5 jalapeno peppers (4 red, 1 green)
  • 6 ears corn
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 4 apples
  • 1 smoked chicken

More sweet red peppers! I did get around to roasting all the red peppers that I'd gotten in the last 2 baskets. These will probably go into a vinaigrette salad dressing. The two additional sweet red peppers will go straight into a salad, as will the lettuce and radishes.

The green beans will be a part of "Meat and Two Sides" dinners, which will probably feature tuna or salmon as the "meat".

The jalapenos can go into any number of Mexican dishes--enchiladas or salsa would be the most likely recipes.

I vaguely recall browsing some recipes for roast butternut squash. This will require research.

The corn is a curveball. Given a single ear of corn in the husk, extreme oven baking makes for a yummy side. The first recipe I experimented with was one I found in a Nero Wolfe novel--no lie. However, six ears of corn is a bounty that deserves to be heard in a main dish. Some kind of stew? I do have stew meat and green peppers in the freezer as well as sweet onions and carrots in the fridge.

Smoked chicken? Wow. I guess I could slice off pieces to become part of "Meat and Two" dinners. Could also make sammiches, for that matter.

Overall, I think I'm most excited about finding a killer recipe for the butternut squash. I love food more than the law allows.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 9


In this week's basket:
  • 2 packages ground beef
  • Stew meat
  • 3 red peppers
  • 3 apples
  • 4 pear apples
  • 9 potatoes
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 cantaloupe

I need to do some serious thinking about sweet red peppers. I still have peppers left over from the last pickup. Maybe I should roast some in the oven--but then I'm not sure how I'd use roasted peppers. This calls for research.

I have 3 packages of ground beef in the freezer now. I always enjoy making cheeseburgers. Alternatively, I suppose I could get back into some burrito or enchilada meals. Stew meat and potatoes suggest... stew! The weather has turned unseasonable cool here. If I knew the weather would stay cool, I could go for a big pot of stew. I think we'll get another hot spell, though. I'd best save the stew meat for the more reliably cool part of the year.

As always, the tomato will go into salad.

This basket is pretty heavy on the fruit! The apples and pear apples will be snacks for work. The cantaloupe--I'll probably enjoy that during Cat Availability Time.

Truth to tell, I'm getting behind on my meat consumption. I unthawed the thick-sliced ham I'd gotten in a previous basket and I've been making ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches this week. It turned out that the ham was not trimmed, so there are scraps of fat, gristle, and bone. These rests put me in mind of a nice bean recipe--maybe Navy beans and cornbread.

So much food! So little time!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baked Eggplant Parmesan - BETA


This is not a recipe. Rather, it is a proto-recipe. I improvised this dish last night and this is approximately how I did it. I may tweak the directions in the future. If you're adventurous, use this as a rough guideline and create your own version.

Ingredients
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 medium or large eggplant
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 8 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced into coins
  • 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 14 oz. pasta sauce
  • Dried basil
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat.
  3. When oil is hot, add Italian sausage. Cook thoroughly. Drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble completely.
  4. Break the egg into a bowl and beat well.
  5. Peel eggplant and cut into 1/4" slices. Dip slices in egg and arrange evenly in a lasagna tray. Sprinkle with half of the bread crumbs.
  6. Bake eggplant for 10 minutes. Turn eggplant and sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove lasagna tray from oven and reduce temperature to 350F.
  8. Pour about a third of the pasta sauce over the eggplant slices, then turn the slices over.
  9. Distribute Mozzarella slices evenly on top of eggplant.
  10. Distribute 1/2 of Parmesan on top of eggplant.
  11. Sprinkle basil, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste on top of eggplant.
  12. Spread remainder of pasta sauce on top of eggplant.
  13. Sprinkle remainder of Parmesan cheese over all.
  14. Bake for 45-60 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings, assuming that you have a salad or bruschetta to round out the meal.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Firefly Palmer


This is a non-non-alcoholic version of the famous Arnold Palmer mocktail. For the lemonade, I like to use "Simply Lemonade", which can be found (refrigerated) near the orange juice at your grocery. Feel free to double or triple the recipe as your thirst requires! :p

Ingredients
  • 3/4 oz. vodka
  • 1/4 oz. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
  • 3 oz. lemonade
Preparation
  1. Combine all ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass.
  2. Add a couple of ice cubes. Stir and serve.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Afraid


Blogger is pretty cool. It's nice. It's free. But it's not... um... secure.

Everything I post here is basically visible to the whole g-d damned world. That's not a bad thing if I'm posting, say, recipes. If I'm posting personal baggage that I would prefer only be seen my my friends... this is not the soapbox I am looking for.

I could post such personal outpourings on Facebook or Google. Well, their formatting options SUCK BIG DONKEY DONGS, to put it mildly. Available options... constricting... hard... to breathe....

Since I do web stuph for a living and I've registered a few domain names in my time, I could publish a blog of my own design. I could control access to the blog via logins. This might be the only truly secure solution to my quandary. Would people want to have to enter yet another ID and password to view some dork's pop-capped spittle? Cookies--I could save the login for a while so visitors wouldn't have to log in every damned time! (What about the rights of that little girl! Give me a break--I'm brainstorming.)

Maybe. Maybe that would be okay. I'm not sure.

One thing I know is this: There are precious few people I've blocked on Facebook, Twitter, and GPlus. Precious damned few. But, for the love of Jebus, I do not want those people snooping around my blog. There are some freaky freaks out there and to the extent possible, I'd like to nip their damned stalking in the bud. Nip it in the bud, I say!

It's a little more trouble to set up a secure blog than it is to just slipstream good old Google, but the benefits might outweigh the effort.
The reader will be kept informed of my progress on this issue.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 8

In this week's basket:
  • A Boston Butt pork roast
  • A bunch of basil
  • An eggplant
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 7 sweet red peppers
  • 10 small potatoes
  • 1 apple
  • 2 pears

So, I'm like, "Yikes!" Okay, for the basil, I know I can make a delicious pesto and maybe use it on salmon when broiling. Um, seven sweet red peppers? For starters, I'm using one of the red peppers along with 3 of the potatoes to make a roast veggie side to a cheeburger tonight. That still leaves me with six sweet red peppers to use in the next, say, week and a half. Holy Capsicum, Batman! How are we gonna get out of this? Tune in next week... same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

The eggplant, why not... more Eggplant Parmesan. Tomatoes... probably in a salad. The apple and pear will be consumed as snacks at work.

Truth to tell, meat is accumulating in my freezer. I guess I didn't realize how little meat I ate on a regular basis. A pork roast kinda screams for a potato and a green vegetable side. But I still have a huge amount of ham and some hamburger in the freezer.

I love that my CSA keeps me on my toes with regards to cooking. Settling into a dreary routine simply is not feasible.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Corn Boats

Corn
Hey, this looks fun! Thanks to Grasshoppers Distributions for the recipe.

Ingredients
 
  • 4 ears corn with husks
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 2 T chopped cilantro or parsley

Procedure
  1. Remove tough outer leaves of husks and discard. Pull remaining husks back over the stem end, remove silk and cut corn cob off, leaving husks and stem end attached. Reserve 2-3 husks for later use.
  2. Cut corn off cobs
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or heat grill to medium high heat. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper and sweet potato; cook until just tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Stir in corn, chili powder, salt and hot pepper sauce. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in cilantro; remove from heat. Let cool slightly.
  5. Spoon about 1 cup vegetable mixture into each husk.
  6. Using a strip of the reserved husk or kitchen twine, tie the husks to enclose the filling. Trim excess husk 1/2 to 3/4 inch from ties.
  7. Place boats on a cookie sheet and bake until heated through and husks are beginning to brown, about 12-15 minutes. If grilling, place on grill over direct heat and turn 1/4 turn every few minutes to prevent burning. Remove when all sides are lightly browned.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jack Fry's Tuna


This is the recipe that was printed in our "local" newspaper (if you can call a Gannett-owned newspaper "local") back when people read "newspapers".

Ingredients

Lentils
  • 2 cups French green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar 
 Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup beef or veal stock
  • 2 cups port wine
 Tuna
  • About 1/2 cup cracked (not ground) black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 2 6-ounce yellow fin tuna steaks
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil 

Preparation
 

Lentils
  1. Cook lentils according to package directions until they are soft and only slightly chewy. Set aside.
  2. In a separate pan, heat olive oil over medium temperature until it shimmers. \
  3. Add carrots, onion, green pepper and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened and have browned edges (about 8 minutes).
  4. Stir in sherry vinegar and cooked lentils.
  5. Continue to cook until warmed through (about 12 minutes). Set aside.
Sauce
  1. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, onions and celery; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft.
  3. Remove cover, increase heat to medium-high and add stock.
  4. Bring stock to a boil, then stir in port.
  5. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Remove from heat and set aside.
 Tuna
  1. Mix pepper and salt in a rimmed plate.
  2. Press tuna steaks into mixture, coating all sides. Discard remaining salt and pepper
  3. In a sauté pan, heat oil until it shimmers.
  4. Add tuna and sear about 2 minutes on one side; 1 minute on the other.
  5. Remove from heat and serve at once over lentils, topped with port wine sauce.

Needless to say, I tweaked the recipe a bit to conform to my preferences. For example, I used a lot more olive oil than was called for, and I used a lot less salt. I also used Sangiovese wine rather than port because, doh!, I didn't pay enough attention to what I was doing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shrimp and Grits


By popular demand, here is my recipe for Shrimp and Grits. It's a lot of work, folks, but the finished product is delectable. And it's an excellent dish to bring to a potluck if you want to knock the socks off some folk.

Ingredients

Grits
  • 1 cup uncooked grits (not instant grits)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Shrimp & Gravy
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 slices smoked bacon
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, uncooked, shelled
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup chicken stock, cooled
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash Tabasco
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation


Grits
  1. In a 3-quart saucepan combine the grits, garlic, stock and whipping cream.
  2. Over medium heat, bring to a low boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer stirring frequently, until grits are creamy - about 10 minute.
  4. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to lowest setting (or remove from fire if preparing for potluck).
 Shrimp & Gravy
  1. In a large skillet, melt 1 T butter.
  2. Sauté bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan, leaving grease.
  3. Sauté shrimp about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan.
  4. Add onions, celery, and green pepper. Sauté until tender.
  5. Combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup chicken stock (cool or room temperature). Mix well and set aside.
  6. Increase heat to high. Add white wine and cook until evaporated.
  7. Reduce heat to medium. Add remaining chicken stock, tomatoes, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer 3 minutes.
  8. Add salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Stir.
  9. Add cornstarch/stock mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
  10. If serving immediately, return shrimp to gravy and simmer 2 minutes. Spoon gravy over warm grits.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sangria


All righty, then. Here's what I'm going with as a sangria recipe tonight:

Ingredients
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 750 ml. red Italian wine
  • 1/2 c. brandy
  • 1/2 c. triple sec
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • 2 lemon rinds
  • 2 lime rinds
  • Lemon-lime soda, or soda water

Preparation
  1. Combine sugar and water in a Pyrex container. Heat at high in a microwave for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine all remaining ingredients except the soda in a sealable pitcher. Place in refrigerator.
  3. When sugar water has cooled, add it to the pitcher. Refrigerate wine mixture overnight.
  4. To serve, pour 1 part soda to about 4 parts wine in a large glass. Add ice.

I'm winging it here, folks, but I think the results will be at least drinkable. Also, kudos to this recipe on AllRecipes.com upon which this experimental recipe was based. Dudes and dudettes... 1/4 cup triple sec? Gutsiest move I ever saw, man. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 7


 In this week's basket:
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 4 Ancho peppers
  • 3 nectarines
  • 5 peaches
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 watermelon
  • 3.89 lbs. smoke-cured ham

Yikes! More sage! After a week, I still had no clue what to due with my previous batch of sage. The leaves were starting to darken, so I stripped them off the stalks and saved them divided into 5 ziploc bags, which I placed in a larger ziploc bag, and then put it all in the freezer. I had a vague notion that I would simmer some basil with tomatoes to make pasta sauce. But then a friend suggested pesto! Shoot, yeah! So that's definitely what I'm going to do with this current bunch of basil.

The Ancho peppers are destined to become Chiles Rellenos. I learned the hard way that it's easier to char the skin off the peppers by broiling them in the oven than it is by searing them in a skillet on top of the stove. If I only had a gas stove, I'd just have to turn the peppers directly over the flame. I feel lame and inadequate because I don't have a gas stove. Yeah... don't get me started. In any case, I know the Chiles Rellenos are going to be muy sabroso.

As for the nectarines and peaches, I learned (again, the hard way) that if you put such fruit in the refrigerator you interrupt the ripening process. With that in mind, I put the fruit in a large glass bowl in the open air. I intend to monitor them closely to avoid rot and snap them up at the peak of ripeness. I recall hearing Paula Poundstone complain about buying a melon at the grocery. She said she had to wake her kids up in the middle of the night because "the melon was ripe". And yeah, sometimes it seems about that bad. If they all ripen at once, I think I can pop them in the refrigerator so I don't have to consume them all within a few hour window. You can tell I'm not an expert fruit-haver.

The tomatoes are probably going to go into a salad. As for the eggplant, I'm thinking Eggplant Parmigiana. The very thought makes my mouth water. Eggplant is notorious for sucking up all available oil, so it can be a challenge to sauté. When it turns out right, it is well worth the effort. I'll serve it perhaps with some angel hair pasta. Oh! And toasted bread with some of my homemade basil pesto! Yum!

The watermelon is so cute. It's the size and shape of a small, toy football. If it were closer to Comic-Con, I'd poke a hole in it and pour in a pint or so of vodka. Always a good party treat. As it is, I'll probably cut it into fourths for light desserts or afternoon treats.

The ham... wow. It's all frozen in one large package. I'm thinking I could use part of it in a sinfully delicious casserole of cheddar cheese, sour cream, and potatoes or macaroni, with maybe a small amount of green pepper as a counterpoint. If I unthaw it, I unthaw it all. This means that, at some point, I'm going to be eating a lot of ham. (And why does "unthaw" mean the same as "thaw"?)

Again... so much food... so little time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 6


In this week's basket:
  • 2 beets
  • 1 head lettuce (Butterhead?)
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch small carrots
  • 1 large bunch basil
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 pieces short ribs
  • 3 steaks

For starters, the lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots went into a salad along with some supplementary lettuce, radishes, mushrooms, and a cucumber. The tomatoes are indeed very tasty--nothing like the styrofoam "fresh" tomatoes available at the grocery.

I'll use the beets in a recipe for Beets in Orange Sauce. The steaks will make me a couple of dinners along with sides. Garlic will always be used, as will the red onion.

The basil is giving me pause. I could buy some quality canned tomatoes and use some basil to make a nice spaghetti sauce. We're talking about a lot of basil here, though! Worst case, I'll freeze some in usable portions. Damn, this is a lot of basil!

Short ribs: They'll be oven-barbecued.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Approach To Social Media (Apologies In Advance)

My Twitter account is locked. I may be paranoid, but I prefer to have some degree of control as to who sees the ruthless truth that I tweet. From time to time I'll get a follow request from someone who is following 16,000+ people and is followed by a similar mob. Excuse me, potential follower, are you sure you're even remotely interested in anything I have to say? I think not, and I have no desire to be a bump for your statistics. BLOCK.

My philosophy of Facebook connections is even more restrictive. The only people I connect with on Facebook are a) people I know and b) proven MST3K fans. Other people are free to rifle through the White Pages to look for "friends".

I'm still working on my Google+ philosophy. Rest assured that it will not be "open to the world". I only post to people in my Circles. Sometimes I only post to "close friends". If there is any personal revelation in my post, I disable re-sharing.

The uncomfortable side of Google+ is when an innocent, unknown person adds me to their Circles. I refuse to blindly add to my Circles anyone who adds me to their Circles. Just because someone is nice enough to add me to their Circles doesn't mean that I will now consent to sharing my personal life with them. It's rather tame in these early days, but once the Marketers suss out the cracks, we G+ folk are going to be bombarded with spam. I trust that Google will find a solution to this future problem. For now, on Google+, I add no one to my Circles unless I truly know them. So, apologies to all you nice folks that I don't know at present and who decide to add me to your Circles on G+. Once Google+ is a more mature product, there may be a way for me to acknowledge your graciousness.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Google+: Tapping The Brakes


I don't think there is anyone on earth who wants Google+ to succeed more than I do. I'm quite sick of Zuckerberg's secretive dissemination of my personal information to his advertising clients. If Google+ succeeds, it will be because they respect users' privacy in a way that seems genetically impossible for Zuckerberg. I believe that Google does want to be non-evil (which is in direct opposition to Zuckerberg's apparent and gleefully satanic "Subjugate-the-World-and-Drink-Your-Blood" business model).

I would love to abandon ZuckFace and play only on G+, but I have some concerns.

First and foremost: Who can see the content I post on Google+?

I know that, when I post on G+, I can specify a precise list of contacts with whom I want to share the content. If I +mention someone in my post, that person automatically has permission to view the content. I don't really have a problem with that. Maybe Google is thinking, if I post a statement about Paris Hilton, then Paris Hilton should have the right to see what I'm saying about her.

Where the strategy breaks down, however, is that anyone who comments on my original material and +mentions someone else effectively changes my original permission settings to include the +mentioned individual.

To boil this down: Anything you post on Google+ is potentially viewable by anyone on the web.

As fast and loose as ZuckFace plays with your privacy, you are still (as of 10:41 PM EST 2011-07-10) able to know who will see what you post. Likewise with Twitter if you've locked down your account.

I've sent feedback to Google today expressing my concerns about this matter. Until and unless they allow me to specify who sees my posts, I can't participate fully and freely in Google+.

Blueberry Coffee Cake


This is how I used my blueberries from last week's CSA pickup. I use my hand mixer maybe once or twice a year--baking is not something I do very often. I have a bread machine that I use frequently for whole wheat bread and I'm not all that into cakes, pies, or cookies. Still, this will be great with my morning coffee at work next week.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 c. white flour
  • 1-1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. light butter
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 pint blueberries

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until well mixed (I usually wind up kneading with my hands). Set aside 3/4 c. of this mixture for topping.
  3. Add baking powder, milk, and egg yolks. Blend until smooth with a hand mixer.
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the batter.
  5. Turn out batter into a greased 9" x 13" cake pan. Top with blueberries and reserved flour-sugar-butter mixture.
  6. Bake 40-45 minutes until top is browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Italian Stewed Cabbage


This is a delicious side dish that goes well with a pork chop and one other side, such as sauteed squash.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1-1/2 medium sweet onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 T. chopped garlic
  • 1 large head Emiko cabbage or 2 medium heads Napa cabbage, very coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, preferably Italian style
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preparation
  1.  Heat olive oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. When the oil begins to shimmer, add onions, celery, and garlic. Stir to coat evenly with oil.
  3. Cover and cook the vegetables until they are soft and slightly browned--about 10 minutes--stirring occasionally.
  4. Add tomatoes, cabbage, herbs, and spices. Mix well, cover, and reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Continue to cook for about 40 minutes. Ideally, the cabbage should be cooked, but the stalks should still be just a tad crunchy, as in a stir fry.
  6. Serve hot, or serve leftovers cold or at room temperature. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Yield: 4-6 servings

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 5


In this week's basket:
  • 2 heads Emiko cabbage
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 summer squash
  • 1 pt. blueberries
  • 6 green Lodi apples
  • 1 chicken

Emiko cabbage looks a lot like collard greens. I'll probably chop it coarsely and cook it as a side dish. The squash will make a second side. That means I need to come up with a main dish of some kind for Saturday night. Maybe Mac-and-Cheese. I need to find a good recipe for homemade Mac-and-Cheese. The last time I tried, it was kind of blah. Or maybe fish. We'll see.

I think I'll save the chicken for next week since I have some bratwurst in the fridge that needs to be used. I found a nice-looking cast iron Dutch oven on Amazon that allegedly has a smooth bottom that should work on my ceramic top stove. I haven't ordered it yet, but I'm tempted. I'd like to use the chicken to make Coq Au Vin, and I'd really rather do that in cast iron than stainless steel. I hate to keep buying things for the kitchen, though. I need to get rid of some stuff that I don't use any more. The yard sale at the animal shelter near my house has already had its yard sale recently, though. And I'm drifting way off topic.

Okay, blueberries. I'm not sure what to do with these. I could make blueberry muffins. I could make banana-blueberry bread. Or I could just use them on cereal. More research is needed.

The apples are for snacks. I'm not a huge apple fan, however. These apples are crisp and tart and much better than the flavorless apples I've gotten at the grocery.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Ceramic-Top Stove


A couple of years ago, I decided to replace my decrepit electric stove with a new model. I had completely wrecked my old stove by boiling 5-gallon batches of beer on it. The weight and reflected heat turned the wiring into carbon. Two of the 4 burners had quit working. It was definitely time to treat myself to an upgrade.

I decided to go with a Samsung with a ceramic top. I liked the idea of being able to clean the stove top thoroughly and not have to deal with the headache of boil-overs that drip down underneath the burners and are impossible to clean. I didn't know much about ceramic top stoves, but the reviews seemed positive so I made the leap.

Overall, I do like my new stove. Except for one component that went bad almost immediately (and was replaced under warranty) it has been very dependable. Upon reading the instruction manual, however, I learned that I would not be able to use my canning pot or my cast iron cookware. The canning pot was unacceptable because it would extend beyond the area of the heating element. My cast iron cookware could not be used because it does not have a flat bottom. This wasn't a disaster since I do have a fine set of stainless steel cookware to use.

There is one thing I do miss about using my cast iron dutch oven. When I made Coq Au Vin or Chicken Marengo, it was great to be able to brown the chicken and onions on top of the stove then add liquid, cover, and bake in the oven. I thought about that today as I was considering what to make for dinner this Saturday. I believe I'll be getting a chicken in my CSA basket this evening, and I already have some bacon in the freezer. I realized it had been a long time since I'd made Coq Au Vin, so here was a good opportunity. I guess I could do all of the cooking on top of the stove, but it's not quite the same.

So... maybe I'll see if Amazon has some flat-bottomed cast iron cookware.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Slight Kindle Problem


I love my Kindle! I'm currently reading H. P. Lovecraft's short stories during my lunch breaks. The Kindle is lightweight, attractive, easy to use, and easy on the eyes.

There is one design flaw, however. To move the cursor, you press on the tiny edges of a square cursor movement button. I use my thumbnail to do this. It could be easier, but that's not my complaint. Closely below the Down Arrow edge of the cursor button is a Back key. It turns out that it's very easy to accidentally press the Back key while moving the cursor down--I've done it 3 times now. If you're in the middle of a book, this might pop you back to the list of books on the Kindle. To get back to the page you were reading, you just press the Forward key, right? Surprise! There is no Forward key!

To get back to your place in the book, you can use a Go To feature and specify a location code, which is similar to a page number. If you recognize that this puts you on text you've read recently, you can page forward until you find your place. I've started placing a bookmark on the page I'm on when I quit reading for the day. This helps, but it clutters up your list of notes and bookmarks.

Others have suggested (and I agree) that Amazon should change the Kindle software to recognize Alt+Back as "Forward". This would neatly solve the problem without a physical change.

If you have a Kindle 3 and have run into the Back key problem, please drop a note to kindle-feedback@Amazon.com and suggest that they implement the Alt+Back solution.