Sunday, January 30, 2011

I learned about thanks to a guest on RadioLab a few weeks ago.  Then last night, Fran and I dug a little deeper into one of the widgets on our new TV.  Turns out is one of the offered channels (Fran was probably sad she gave me the remote).
Here's a talk we watched last night.  You've probably heard about this study and some of it's findings.  Yet, it's still interesting.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A bit of randomness

Do you enjoy tipping a glass of stout?
Then you really should treat yourself and a friend to a tall bottle of Deschutes' Abyss.  Probably the best stout I've ever had.  My favorite stouts sport rich, full flavors of chocolate and coffee.  This one does it best.
I have a brisket waiting for the weekend in our refrigerator.  I'm thinking of putting it in the slow cooker with garlic, onion and stout.  On one hand I hate to buy stout I won't be able to drink, but this seems like a worthy cause.

Right after the holidays, I splurged and bought N and I a Logitech Squeezebox Radio.  It replaced our old trusty clock radio.  I love the sound of the Squeezebox.  I love streaming stations and podcasts from our network. And finally, I love being able to set-up the radio (alarms included) online.  BUT we're learning the alarms can suffer 20% of the time from (perhaps) software bugs.  Not a good thing when you depend on an alarm to wake you every morning.  I've noticed on the forums that this isn't a new or unusual problem, but it also sounds like many of the users have supplemented with an alarm clock.  {sigh}  That is NOT a solution, in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to heading to the wine, food and beer fest at the fairgrounds on Saturday.  We'll probably go in the late afternoon.  That's how we roll.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Carolyn Hax moment

"...I rarely need to turn the Golden Rule around like this, but: Think of the way you'd treat a close and beloved friend who was in your exact situation, and then start showing yourself the same kindness and generosity of spirit. ..." ~Carolyn Hax

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Auntie M

(here's the link to the poem my Dad wrote)
One of my father's sisters passed away 6 days ago.
Aunt Martha is the fourth of his 8 siblings to leave us.  
Whenever I think of Auntie M, I see her warm smile & twinkling eyes first of all and then I hear her sweet, cheerful voice.
Uncle Harry and Aunt Martha
I have a precious memory of her, from the day after the Columbus Day storm, that I've held close all these years.  Whenever the date of my birth rolled around, instead of visions of cupcakes dancing through my head I began to mope over the inevitable departure of my folks.  October = hunting season and hunting season (for the adults in my life) meant time together with their group of friends and family up in the woods.  

At that particular time of my life (4 years old), I don't remember where my brothers, sisters and I would end up staying while the parents were gone, but I do have a vague memory of sitting on a family friend's couch watching and waiting for family to retrieve me and take me home.  I have no idea how that foggy bit ties into the rest of the story.  Possibly because of my overwhelming concern about Mom and Dad being unable to get home on time, due to road closures caused by the big storm.  

The day after the storm, with an enormous Cedar tree resting on the corner of our house, my Aunt Martha was determined that I get some kind of family celebration for my 4th birthday.  So while she cooked our breakfast on a Coleman stove in our non-electrified home, she christened my pancake--a birthday pancake.  As I grew to adulthood, it became my favorite birthday memory.
Thank you, Aunt Martha, for being there for that four year old.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings

When N and I were first married, my go-to recipe book was one that he already had on his shelf-- a reprinted 1969 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook.  I still have it, although the spine has long since deteriorated to the point of exposing the base material that's still holding it all together.

Despite the fact I've come to rely heavily on the internet for my recipe searches, I still have a few favorite, dependable recipes I open that Betty Crocker Cookbook to use.  One of them is for "Chicken and Dumplings". Sorry Betty, I'm not true to your printed word any longer and going by the scribbled notes in the margin, I never did.  The main change?  I no longer use a whole fryer.  If I did, N and I would eat every morsel and probably even suck the meat off neck.  That's how much we love a fricasseed chicken.
After looking around at some of my favorite food blogs, I see more additions/changes I'd like to try;  carrots, celery, peas, turmeric or even adding cornmeal to the dumplings.
Here are the changes I've already adopted over the years: chicken broth for the water,  a diced onion and large garlic clove- sautéed before adding broth, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 pinches of rosemary, a bay leaf, 1 tsp of thyme, pinch of tarragon & sage, and a couple of dashes of chili powder.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stroke of Insight

Wanted to share this video and the Radiolab audio file after listening to this scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, on Radiolab.  Fascinating.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What's good on the telly . . . er, TV?

My first experience with both cable and premium TV, was after N's and my first move together in 1981.  I have to believe that it was an area like the Oregon coast that helped start cable TV.  The two of us never had to rely on antennas during our short 3 years on the coast, but I can't imagine the reception was good enough to do anything but frustrate a viewer.   (Of course, the majority of us are spoiled now--when it comes to a crystal clear picture.)

HBO was included at no additional charge.  Wow!  Not only did we have cable (which I'd never heard about before our move), but a premium channel--whatever that was.  My experience in this department was nil.  The 8 page, 4x5", glossy, colorful, HBO guide was sent to us in the mail along with other channel information.  I have a vague recollection of a Disney film about a seal being the first HBO offering we viewed and viewed and viewed. The channel was in it's infancy--offerings were few and repeated often.  Oh!  I nearly forgot to mention that it didn't even begin airing until 5 PM.  But who cared!  There were movies!  Transmitted right into our very own TV!

I can't remember ever paying extra for HBO while we lived at the coast.  I do remember enjoying a few mini-series, many movies and Fraggle Rock, but I don't recall ever paying extra for the service.  When we moved to Roseburg, the cable cost more AND HBO was not included.  Whenever the notice arrived in our bill that a free weekend was coming up, we'd rent a VCR and recorded everything that looked the tiniest bit interesting.

Television/cable has changed since then, but quality programming is still a challenge to find.  When a gem of a program is created, news spreads quickly via word of mouth from friend to friend.  Although, instead of sharing this news in all the places we used to get together with other humans, it happens more often on social media.

This past weekend, daughter Fran discovered that Showtime was having a free preview.  Since she relies on cable for her entertainment/distraction, she's much better at mining it for view worthy offerings.  Although, her taste isn't always in line with ours.  She decided to give the series, "The Big C", a try.  All three of us were hooked for the rest of the weekend.  The story is wonderfully written and the characters were well casted and well played.  She worried (because of the subject matter) that the program would be too maudlin or sad to be entertaining, but that wasn't the case.  There were tears, but only in the last couple of episodes.  Keep it on your radar, whether you subscribe to the channel or if you like to take advantage of it during preview weekends.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baa Ram Ewe

A good 40 years of my life went by before N introduced me to my first taste of lamb, but it wasn't until the end of December that Jonathon gave us a nudge to try cooking it ourselves.  After taking the initial leap with the meat purchase, N found a recipe for leg of lamb with rosemary.  He began the marinating process 24 hours ahead of time and Jonathon handled the cooking process (I'm still sad that I made the mistake of washing the pan with the drippings, sorry Jon!).  Not only did the aroma wafting through the house induce salivation, that roast was an amazing taste sensation.

But with just Jonathon, N and I eating, there were more leftovers than usual.  I heard from several people that leftover lamb was slightly disgusting.  What?!  How can this be?  Yet, as I began a Google search, I found pages and pages of recipes for lamb leftovers.  Which led me to believe that the disgusting thing may have been an experience with eating an overly fatty cold slice straight from the refrigerator, because the masses were saying to craft a curry or stew with the morsels of meat in my fridge.

After much searching (hoping to find a recipe that matched not only what was in my pantry, but also one that sounded good to us and didn't take more than an hour to make), I stumbled upon the following recipe from out of Australia.  I did make a few minor substitutions after finding out I didn't have any Korma curry paste on hand after all, but it was moan worthy--I mean delicious.

Quick lamb curry
Make your curry in a hurry with this quick lamb curry recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tbs vegetable oil
500g lamb fillet, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbs korma curry paste (or mild curry paste)
1 1/2 cup (375ml) beef stock or water
1 large potato, peeled, cut into cubes
1 large carrot, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
200ml coconut milk
Coriander leaves, to garnish
Steamed rice, to serve

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat, add the lamb and brown in batches. Remove and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium, add onion, garlic and ginger to pan and cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes. Add paste and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
Return lamb to pan, add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potato, carrot, peas and coconut milk and cook for a further 25 minutes.
Garnish with coriander and serve with rice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bathing the New Born by Sharon Olds

Bathing the New Born
by Sharon Olds
I love with an almost fearful love
to remember the first baths I gave him--
our second child, our first son--
I laid the little torso along
my left forearm, nape of the neck
in the crook of my elbow, hips nearly as
small as a least tern's hips
against my wrist, thigh held loosely
in the loop of thumb and forefinger,
the sign that means exactly right. I'd soap him,
the long, violet, cold feet,
the scrotum wrinkled as a waved whelk shell
so new it was flexible yet, the chest,
the hands, the clavicles, the throat, the gummy
furze of the scalp. When I got him too soapy he'd
slide in my grip like an armful of buttered
noodles, but I'd hold him not too tight,
I felt that I was good for him,
I'd tell him about his wonderful body
and the wonderful soap, and he'd look up at me,
one week old, his eyes still wide
and apprehensive. I love that time
when you croon and croon to them, you can see
the calm slowly entering them, you can
sense it in your clasping hand,
the little spine relaxing against
the muscle of your forearm, you feel the fear
leaving their bodies, he lay in the blue
oval plastic baby tub and
looked at me in wonder and began to
move his silky limbs at will in the water.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year Winners -- recipes, that is :)

I was hoping to find a full flavored fondue using beer as part of it's base.  When you have an idea of what you hope to find, it can help or hinder your search.  In this case, the search was spot on.  Thanks to "Chompin the Big Apple" blog for making our holidays just a little bit better--as far as food goes.  :)

Gruyère Ale Fondue (found here)

2 Tbsp butter                                                   2 C Gruyère cheese, grated
1 Clove garlic, minced                                      1 C Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce                            2 Tbsp flour
1 1/3 C beer                                                    
Chopped vegetables, bread, etc. for dipping

Toss the grated Gruyère and Parmesan with the flour and set aside.  Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute, being careful not to burn.  Add the beer and the Worcestershire sauce and turn up the heat to medium hight and cook until it just begins to boil.  Turn the heat back down to medium/medium low.  Add the cheese and stir slowly until the cheese melts.  Try not to over stir as this will cause the cheese to seize up.  Serve in a fondue pot as soon as the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.
I'm not sure who had the bug to make chili (probably food smart Jonathon), but it was a good one.  Not only is it a hearty dish for cold winter evenings, but it's versatile.  Especially if you get an urge for chili dogs.  :)  Perhaps this recipe is what gave J the idea?  If so, thank you recipe!!

Our Favorite Chili ( Cook's Illustrated Jan & Feb 2011)
Be sure and check out the link above (in parenthesis).  Many good tips and step by step pics are included.

Serves 6 to 8. Published January 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.

A 4-pound chuck-eye roast, well trimmed of fat, can be substituted for the steak. Because much of the chili flavor is held in the fat of this dish, refrain from skimming fat from the surface. Wear gloves when working with both dried and fresh chiles. Dried New Mexican or guajillo chiles make a good substitute for the anchos; each dried árbol may be substituted with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. If you prefer not to work with any whole dried chiles, the anchos and árbols can be replaced with 1/2 cup commercial chili powder and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, though the texture of the chili will be slightly compromised. Good choices for condiments include diced avocado, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro leaves, lime wedges, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. The chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Table salt
1/2 pound dried pinto beans (about 1 cup), rinsed and picked over
6 dried ancho chiles (about 1 3/4 ounces), stems and seeds removed, and flesh torn into 1-inch pieces (see note)
2-4 dried árbol chiles , stems removed, pods split, and seeds removed (see note)
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions , cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 small jalapeño chiles , stems and seeds removed and discarded, and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons light molasses
3 1/2 pounds blade steak , 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 3/4-inch pieces (see note)
1 (12-ounce) bottle mild-flavored lager , such as Budweiser
1. Combine 3 tablespoons salt, 4 quarts water, and beans in large Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Place ancho chiles in 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until flesh is fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if chiles begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. Do not wash out skillet.

3. Add árbol chiles, cornmeal, oregano, cumin, cocoa, and ½ teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chiles; process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. With processor running, very slowly add ½ cup broth until smooth paste forms, about 45 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer paste to small bowl. Place onions in now-empty processor bowl and pulse until roughly chopped, about four 1-second pulses. Add jalapeños and pulse until consistency of chunky salsa, about four 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl as necessary.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened, 7 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chili paste, tomatoes, and molasses; stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined. Add remaining 2 cups broth and drained beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

5. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to Dutch oven. Add ½ bottle lager to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits, and bring to simmer. Transfer lager to Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil, steak, and lager. Once last addition of lager has been added to Dutch oven, stir to combine and return mixture to simmer.

6. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are fully tender, 1½ to 2 hours. Let chili stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt before serving.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Something new for the new year

I'm not sure why this ringing-in-the new-year-together-in-a-rented-beach-house bee appeared in my bonnet, but there it was buzzing away.  N doesn't always humor me with these out of the blue ideas, but this one must have appealed to him, too.

Sometime near the end of summer, I began an internet search to see what kind of prices were out there.
My list of wants was fairly long at the start;
hot tub,
pets allowed,
on the beach,
3 bedrooms,
 family room
AND living room.
I was positive what I was looking for was out there.  I told myself I just had to tailor my search just right to find it.  I began to weary of the the poorly designed sites and the dead-end searches.  "Besides", my mean, little, meddling, inner voice said, "it's never as much fun as you hope it's going to be."  And that was it, I quietly threw in the towel.
One Saturday a few weeks later, the subject came up between N and I.  I told him how the search had dampened my enthusiasm.  What a guy--he heroically took over and began to share what he was finding.  He realized right away that two items on my "wants list" would need to bite the dust;  the hot tub and on the beach.  We do have a budget and those two things knocked the $ out of the park.
He found a rental business site (Bayshore Rentals) that made it easy to narrow a search within their houses, instead of having to click on each individual description and trying to remember what you had and hadn't looked at.  We found one of their houses that met enough of our criteria to be declared a winner.  Yippee!

I wish we'd been able to stay longer than 2 nights.  I loved the windows and the open floor plan.  People watching TV were a short distance from people playing games at the table or people cooking in the kitchen.  We ate and drank until we never wanted to think about food or drink again (or at least the following evening). Our bedroom was downstairs, so the kids could carry on without bothering us.  We had a fun time and now I can't wait to do it again.