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!

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

  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.

  • 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


  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!

  • 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


  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?


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


  •     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)

  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.

  • 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


  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.