Friday, March 25, 2011


So, we had a visitor the last couple days.

Nicholas' friends Nick and Doose were going to Arizona for Spring Training for a few days and we volunteered to babysit Nick's Australian Sheperd, Isley.

Wikipedia describes the breed as "highly energetic."  Wikipedia defines understatement as "a form of speech which contains an expression of less strength than what would be expected."

She was not around long before a bunny, lulled into a false sense of security by Leo's general lack of interest, met its maker.  For the remainder of her stay, every time we opened the door she bolted like a sprinter out of the blocks, circling the entire yard in pursuit of those wascally wabbits.  Alas, they were quick learners.

Leo seemed to enjoy the company, rolling around and wrestling and trying to keep up.  At one point he was either considering mounting or sumo wrestling her, I'm not sure which.  He probably wasn't sure either.  He was sort of pushing up against her with this weird sort of bow-legged stance.  Problem was he was approaching her broadside or face-to-face like the great, romantically inept doofus that he is.  Oh well.  Like master, like dog.

We proved to be poor babysitters.  The first evening she seemed to be going in and out of the house constantly.   It was raining like crazy and we assumed she was just whining to get access to the bunnies again.  Then she was coming around and whining and we assumed she just wanted someone to play with her.  A few pee spots and scattered doodie in our bedroom proved otherwise.  So, the first evening did not go entirely well, but she settled in somewhat and was a good dog for the remainder of her stay.

This evening she's gone; her master returned and picked her up this afternoon.  We'll have to watch Leo for signs of depression.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Food, Food and More Food

I've been so busy lately that I haven't really got much to blog about, so I'll just post a bunch of food related items that I've been accumulating for a while.

Mise en Place and Biscuits
For lack of a better place to start, we will commence with Biscuits and Gravy.   Having had some leftover sourdough starter hanging around I decided it was a good time for Nicholas to hone his biscuitry skills.

Like all good biscuits and gravy we slathered them with habanero sauce.  The results were pretty delicious, even if they were vegetarian, made with fake breakfast sausage.

One recent weekend I woke up well ahead of my roommates and starting making myself some coffee in Nick's French press.  I had it about finished when a nice little plug (see photo, left) burst out of the bottom, shooting coffee all over the kitchen.  I had the cabinet drawers open, so the coffee ended up all over our pots and pans and I spent the next 30 minutes or so cleaning everything up.  I told Nick I'm going to get an American Press, one that doesn't fold under pressure.

Home-Cured Olive Tapenade
In other food related news, we've made tapenade with my home-cured olives, Squid Ink Risotto, Beet Green Frittata with Manchego Cheese, Pizza with Black Bean Sauce, Calzones, and God knows what all else.

Squid Ink Risotto with Scallops, Shrimp and Calamari
Steamed CSA Brocolli and Sauteed CSA Carrots
Beet Green Frittata with
Manchego Cheese
Pizza with Black Bean Sauce

Mushroom, Spinach & Goat Cheese Calzone (assembly)

Finished Calzone
This weekend we hosted the party for the first-quarter birthdays (Jean, Kathy, Jackie and Donovan) and to wish Nicholas a bon voyage.  

Jon, Terry, Kathy, Jackie, Jean and Joe and the Pims all showed up for celebration.

I cooked what felt like about a dozen different pizzas for the party.

A good time seems to have been had by all.  I just wish there had been more food.

For breakfast this morning, we went for something completely different.  Pizza!  I had some left-over dough at the end of my cooking on Saturday, so I had pre-baked a couple extra crusts and threw them in the freezer.  I pulled one out this morning and made breakfast pizzas, with marinara, fresh mozzarella, egg and grated Parmesan cheese.  Out of the oven, topped it off with a little fresh arugula and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Brief Bit of Bitching

Just a short post to mention that Verizon and Recipe TV both SUCK.

Verizon sucks because they screwed me on my cell phone bill.  What else is new.  I was going over my minutes for the month, so I upgraded to a higher plan.  Their web site showed that I now had used 650 of an available 900 minutes.  Cool, I had 250 minutes to spare.  Then my bill shows up and they're charging me $100 for usage charges.   I called customer support, got some very nearly illiterate agent (I'm not kidding) who informed me that I had apparently not back dated my plan, so the changes only applied to future months.  Why, I asked would the web site show that I had minutes available if it wasn't applying to my current charges.  Well, since you used our web site I can't help you.

Verizon is basically committing fraud, publishing misinformation to gouge customers for additional money.  F$#kers!  Like all wireless carriers, Verizon's customer service model basically says "Hey, we appreciate your business so f%#k you.  It's not like you're going to find better service from anyone else."

Recipe TV on the other hand, is one of those obnoxious channels that  boosts the volume on the commercials to roughly the equivalent of a 727 at takeoff.  I can't wait until that new law passes where executives of networks that boost the commercial volume are stood in front of a brick wall and shot.

The network is fairly stupid anyway, with recipes like steak salad;
"Broil a steak, slice and place on some tossed greens."  
"Really, I would never have guessed."
Then occasionally a chef will actually make something interesting, flashing through a recipe while offering no quantities and misinformation ("Tahini is very high in calcium!") and then they tell you recipes are available on their web site.  Only problem is they're not; no recipe index, no search capability, just videos of some of the same crap they showed on the TV.

Evil bastards.  Death to them all.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Such a Busy Weekend and So Little to Show for It

By last Saturday my lye had arrived, so I was up early prepping some olives for curing in a lye solution.  Gloved up, safety goggles on, I was ready to take on these little puppies.  I suspected the cheesy latex examination gloves stolen from Denise were not actually lye-proof, so I was trying to be a little more careful than is my norm.  The process is actually fairly simple.  Put the olives in a lye-proof container, measure out the lye and add it to the specified amount of water, then pour the solution over the olives.  Wait 12 to 30 hours and then pour off the lye solution and cover again in water.  You are supposed to change the water regularly to leach the lye out of the olives.  Interestingly, you are supposed to tell when the olives are sufficiently treated by periodically tasting them to see if they still taste like lye.

Since I was up I started working on other food related projects.  Made a double-batch of dog biscuits with the remaining spent grain from the previous week's brew session.

At some point my roommates got up and I convinced Nicholas to make breakfast; Vegetarian Chorizo Potatoes and Egg Scramble.

Now in a lye-inspired cooking frenzy, I moved on to another lye-based recipe; German-Style Pretzels.  Googled the topic and a few recipes and a billion lye-related warnings later I dove right in.  (Figuratively, of course.   Literally diving into lye would be problematic.)

I started screwing up right off the bat, having no bread flour as called for in the recipe and substituted all-purpose instead.  With the dough rising Nick and I made a quick run to the grocery store, too late for the bread flour, but I bought some anyway.

By the time we got home the dough was ready to shape.  There's a YouTube video of professional German bakers twisting pretzels like crazy.  As I was telling Nicholas about it, I did a quick flip and landed a perfect pretzel shape on the first try.  Needless to say, that was the last perfect attempt, but the rest turned out generally OK.

The shaped pretzels got a rest in the fridge for an hour.  Cleaning fridge space sufficient for the baking sheet was tricky and in the process we found all manner of festering leftovers and my long neglected jar of sourdough starter.  Since I had to get it out of the way anyway, I left the starter on the counter to warm up to room temperature for feeding and possible rehabilitation.

After the fridge, the pretzels needed a dip in the lye, so it was time to glove/goggle up again.  Out of the lying pan and into the fire, so to speak, twenty or so minutes later we had something akin to the photo at right.  OMGWTF!  They did not last long.  See shots of the entire process here.

While we baked the pretzels, Nicholas started assembly meatless Italian Sausages and I entertained myself making a knockoff of TGI Friday's Jalapeno Fire Bites.

Cooking completed, we set off for Guitar Center where I picked up a preamp for my turntable, which I have not been able to use since upgrading my home theater receiver.

Conveniently, Guitar Center is about two shop fronts down from a BevMo.  We made a brief visit and picked up a few staples.  I was planning to pay and Nicholas was carrying the basket when we reached the register.  The checker cards Nicholas (seemed reasonable) and then she says she needs to see my ID.
"Ha-Ha!  That's funny."
"No really, because you're buying for him and I had to card him I have to card you too."
"WTF?!?!   How does this make any fucking sense, considering that you've already established the he's over 21?""Hey, it's a complement."
"Fuck you."  I showed her my license.
"No, I need you to remove it from your wallet."
"Again WTF!?!?  What is this a traffic stop."
OK, most of my lines in the preceding exchange were in my head, but I did refuse to smile at her, which is something because I'm usually pretty happy at BevMo.

Back at home, Nicholas and I decided that having purchased some Kahlua it would be a good evening for White Russians and The Big Lebowski.  Started assembling the Caucasians.  Vodka, check.  Kahlua, check.  Half-n-half, not so much.  Turns out our options were fat free milk or almond milk.  Bleah.

Not to be dissuaded, we decided to barter for dairy.  Carrying a couple pretzels and a pair Black Russians, we headed for the Pim's.  Larry was persuaded, accepting our pretzelly offerings and floating a dollop of Half-n-Half in each of our glasses.  Umm, tasty!

At some point later in the evening, back at home, I made myself a second drink and figured how bad can a Caucasian be with almond milk.  Pretty bad, as it turns out.  Oh well, the movie was fun anyway.

Sunday, more cooking.  We had a boat load of CSA cilantro, some in the fridge, some in cold storage in the garage and likely a bunch more coming on Tuesday.  So, I made Jalapeno-Cilantro-Pepita Pesto.

While I was at it I made some salsa with the last of the garden's tomatillos.

When the roommates were finally up we made Blueberry Sourdough Pancakes, with the starter I revitalized on Saturday.

Cleaning up the kitchen I found some pumpkins that have been around forever.  One was looking a little funky, but the seeds were fine, so I roasted them up for snackies.

The other two ended up as lunch, stuffed with bread cubes, Gruyere & Parmesan cheese, fried vegetarian Italian sausages, mustard greens, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, milk.  Delicious.

We finished off Sunday evening with Dutch Oven Oscars.  While Denise and Alma tried to focus on the Academy Awards, Larry, Nick and I had a few beverages.

I prepared Black Bean and Tempe Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes for the main course, Nick sauteed some Swiss Chard and Denise made a Caesar Salad.

For dessert, a Pear and Dried Cherry Crisp, also in Dutch Oven.

Not a bad evening with the stars, but I don't know if we all got enough to eat.