I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. – M. Cole
It’s been a good spring for our flowers. The company I worked for this spring ended up going on hiatus dependent on a new owner. So, if it starts up again, I have job; if not, oh well. I’m using the time to tidy up the garden amongst other things.
and here’s a couple of cat pictures, and one of a beer I made. It’s Northern Brewer’s Lime Tree Lager and it is astonishingly good. This is the first lager I’ve tried. I added some lime zest to strengthen the lime flavor.
During this quarantine stuff, my husband and the cats and I are doing well. Us being both introverts, anxiety-prone, and somewhat misanthropic, we are pretty happy with this.
I had a beer kit left to make so that got done. It is the Koa Coconut porter from Northern Brewer, where we get a lot of our brewing kits. It is damn good. We’re already half done with the batch. The coconut flavor is strongest when it is just done with bottle conditioning but even after that, it’s a damn good porter. I’ve ordered a couple of new kits, though NB is out of a lot of things (us homebrewers are bored, I see). The two new ones are an Imperial Cream Ale, one of the few types of beer that is original to the US (AFAIK) and a hefeweizen which is always good in the summer with its fruity notes.
I also made a pie. We’ve been helping out our one neighbor who is older and she ordered some groceries for delivery from the one local supermarket chain. They managed to screw up her order so she had 4 bunches of bananas rather than 4 bananas, 8 limes when she wanted 2, and three dozen eggs when she wanted one. So she gave us some bananas, limes, and eggs. We already has enough so I was wondering what to do with the extra.
In the past I’ve made various citrus curds and since I love them so much, I often use the as the filling for a pie rather than just a pudding which is not as strong. So we have a lime curd meringue pie. I used an oil crust which is way faster than a butter crust and that’s what I grew up on.
I’ve been doing some therapy via videophone (yes, it’s just the internet but I like the retro idea) for my anxiety since this forced isolation gives me some time to think and consider how I want my life to go after this. I’ve discovered ideas like hypersensitivity and childhood emotional neglect. I’ve also discovered, thanks to my husband, a most awesome artist who gets the whole feeling, “thelatestKate”. I used some of our covid money to support her by buying a couple of mugs. She also has books which you can find on amazon.
As for the cats, they are quite happy to have us around. Pretty much any time I’m sitting down, I have a cat wanting up on my lap. the kittens are about twice the size of their mom, Hera, and are just about a year old. Here are the requisite cat video and pictures.
Time for a food and drink post. (if you are new, be aware that if you follow me, you’ll get more than food and drink. You’ll also get my unvarnished thoughts about politics and religion).
This week we corned a beef. My spouse and I were craving a Rueben sandwich and since we hadn’t done any foodie things for awhile, we decided that we could make our own corned beef. The local grocery store had buy 1 get one free for London Broils (a cut of top round) so I got two of them and pickled the one. There are a bevy of recipes on the internet (here’s one for example), but as long as you have salt, bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice berry, etc you can make this. I like to add star anise for a little mysterious “I can’t quite identify that flavor”. One thing that isn’t completely necessary is the nitrate that will make the meat the classic dark pink that you see in a deli. I use Morton’s TenderQuick for my curing salt since it’s the easiest to find for me.
Generally, corned beef is made with beef brisket, which is quite a bit fattier than top round. Our corned beef is pretty dry, but it tastes great. With the sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing aka ketchup, mayo, sweet pickle relish mixed (my husband adds a little sriracha and garlic too), it works out. This is on jewish rye bread, thinly sliced with the classic caraway seeds. We assemble the sandwiches and cook them on the small grill that makes our stove perfect for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_PfAhAAp6k
I also decided to try a couple of vegetables I hadn’t had before. I got a spiralizer and now am making long ribbon of various veg. One was a purple sweet potato, which when spiralized and then cooked, looked rather like a plate of Klingon gagh It tasted great though.
Yucca fries also made it onto my plate. I thought potatoes didn’t have much flavor but yucca seems to have no flavor at all. They do make for a crispy fry though.
Last but not least, I finally got to taste some durian. Durian is a strange tropical fruit and when it’s presented on the various food shows here, people get all dramatic about it, declaring you either love it or hate it. I got some freeze dried and, in true freeze dried fashion, it has the texture of Styrofoam. The flavor, to me, is garlic tropical fruit. I love garlic so it’s fine but I could take it or leave it. I’m kinda disappointed it isn’t more drastic. It’s rather like when I finally got to taste truffles. They taste like garlicky mushrooms. A nice thing but definitely not worth crazy amounts of money.
As for drink, I finally got my hands on a bottle of Apothic Sparkling Red. I have a weakness for bubbly wines, especially red ones. I’ve had Rosa Regale, which is sweeter than the Apothic. The color of the Apothic is a lovely true ruby red. I’ll definitely be picking up more of this.
Dinner tonight will be bread and triple crème brie. Our grocery store had a buy one get one free for this too 😊
Here’s a bit of art I was working on today, a fantasy waterfall.
Sorry for the long hiatus. I am dealing with a job I don’t like, and working on my art, which I do like.
I’m now an officially paid artist! It’s very weird feeling for someone who hated art teachers in elementary, high school and college because the ones I had didn’t teach art, they just had class pets who could do art and ignored the rest of us. There is, I think, the idea of some innate talent but you have to be taught the rest. In a week, I’m doing another show. This is the cheese plate that sold (the white is from the reflection from the resin on it)
Lately, we’ve been trying a few new things to cook and drink. I finally cooked the last bit of game meat that I bought from D’Artangnan, a duck. It was very good, but they are indeed greasy. I think ours could have used more pricking of the skin to release more of the sub-q fat and a little longer in the oven. We had it with sweet potatoes and carrots that roasted in the fat. I just recently made a quick hash of that in a skillet to crisp it up some. Here is the duck. They are quite a bit different in physiology than a chicken.
We also had some shimmery wine. We got this at the local ren faire, the PA Renaissance Faire at Mt. Hope Winery. They mixed whatever makes liquids like Viniq shimmer (finely ground mica?) with pink Catawba wine and made fairy wine. You can’t quite see how nice it looks in a still photo. Here’s a video of Viniq.
This weekend we’re making yet one more roast chicken when my folks visit. It’s kind of an early xmas, late thanksgiving thing. I’m going to be a sneaky daughter and given them a bible as a present, one not the hard-to-read KJV, and with large print and the apocrypha. I wonder if my dad, who bet me all those years ago I couldn’t read it the bible, will do it himself since he has found he likes reading. He used to always give me such a hassle when I was a young bookworm. Go play outside! Go play with your brother!
Now he knows what its’ like because I can’t resist teasing him.
We also adopted two friendly feral cats. A huge black one had been hanging about and I got him to like me. There was also a smaller gray and white one who seemed to get along with him well. So we brought both in. The black cat is called Tez, short for Tezcatlipoca, and the other is Aggie, short for Agamemnon, also called Roomba because he loves to roll around on the floor and collect any crumbs. We have decided to always call our cats aggressive names because those ones all turn out sweet, and the one we named Muffin is the hellion. She is about 15 now and has screeched at and cowed the the new boys (well, they are neutered).
A month or two ago, D’Artagnan (the company that sells fancy meats here in the US) had a really good flash sale and I got a selection of game meats: a duck, venison shanks and a wild boar roast. We had the wild boar first (actually a hybrid of European wild boar and feral pig that are running amuck in the south of the US). It was good, though dry and we did lard it with extra pig fat. The meat is very lean and all the darker color that you see in some pork cuts from regular pork. I wasn’t that impressed, but I will say that I cook a tasty pork shoulder and am somewhat spoiled about what good pork is.
This weekend we cooked the venison shanks. They were about 4 inches thick, and were New Zealand venison. My husband found a recipe for a very garlic heavy braise, and since I’ve been wanting to cook something with a *lot* of garlic (readers will know I consider it a vegetable), we went for it.
The wine used was a Simply Naked pinot grigio and of course the 4 bulbs of garlic. We have rosemary and thyme in our garden. It’s so shady, I’m glad that anything edible grows there. I also have quite a few really poisonous things, like monkshood, jimsonweed, foxglove, etc.
The meat was pretty indistinguishable to me from good beef. We cooked it until the cartilage melted, making the meat succulent. Not much fat on these, so the sauce isn’t as greasy as a beef based sauce would be. They do come with the bone in, so I scooped out the marrow. It was a little strong flavored for me, though I can see how some people would love that. We just had the rest of the pinot grigio with it and it went surprisingly well with such a dark meat. It’s nice and light. We also got a bottle of their unoaked chardonnay, and it was good too, though a little richer than we wanted for the recipe.
We also got a few new wines to try. We’ve been looking at the less than $10 that the PA Fine Wines and Good Spirits stores have. If you are of an age in PA, you’ll know these stores to be “state stores”. One of the wines was Regio Cantina Donpa Aglianico del Vulture 2013. We really got it because it had this as a description ““This initially shows funky aromas of stalky underbrush, wet soil and a whiff of damp fur that slowly blow off to reveal toast, leather and dried blackberry jam. The dense full-bodied palate evokes prune, chocolate and a hint of tobacco alongside firm tannins.” Alas, it wasn’t nearly so odd, and I was a bit disappointed. It is a good dark red wine though.
That’s it. Eat and drink well! If you have a good roast duck recipe, let me know for my next experiment.
This weekend we made a chicken vindaloo. This was from the Saveur magazine recipe and it just wasn’t quite what I had grown used to in most indian restaurants. What the recipe produced was a chicken and potato curry stew but not much of the vinegar tang that I like in vindaloo. So I ended up taking a can of tomato sauce (I didn’t have tomato paste) and cooking it down with a bit of balsamic vinegar to get the flavor profile I wanted. Then it came pretty close to what I was wanting. We had this with jasmine rice.
We’ve also been trying some new alcohols lately. With our Indian meal, we tried a new cream liqueur called Somrus. This stuff is delicious! It has a wonderful mix of cardamom, rose, and other exotics. It’s built on a rum base. We made a lassi and poured some in. My spouse just poured some over a brownie, which he has found very good.
We also tried a new wine, Macaw Tannat from Brazil. This is a nice simple red wine. The grape is supposedly notoriously tannic but this wasn’t bad at all. It’s nothing complex or expensive but a decent table wine.
We also tried a mixed six pack of beers from a local microbrewery, Howling Henry’s. Pretty good beers, and one really odd but good one, Basil Onion Pale Ale. This is one of the few beers I’ve had that I’d consider savory, the others being Shock Top’s Twisted Pretzel beer (alas, discontinued) and Dogfish Brewing’s Ta Henket, the Egyptian beer. This would be great in a beer bread.
Lastly, I’ve been stressed out about work and have been hiding by watching a lot of TV. We watched the first of the Mythica movies which was a lot of fun. This is what D&D movies should be. All the way around a perfectly decent sword and sorcery movie with amazingly decent CGI. This was partly funded by a Kickstarter request. Unfortunately, it has Kevin Sorbo in it, who has become a Christian twit in his “God is not dead” type movies, but he’s not bad looking. In the first, he’s only on screen for about 10 minutes.
I’ve been looking for a new craft to try. I’m not much of an artistic type; generating artsy things isn’t my best ability, though I can copy pretty well. I first came upon pour painting when you make paintings from various techniques of pouring, tilting and smearing paint. That’s pretty neat but It takes some space and a lot of paint. I’ll wait til the warmer months to try that.
Then I found alcohol inks which are even brighter and you can do them small scale with even less talent, at least in my case. I decided to try this in making some switchplates for my newly remodeled kitchen. The other is a ceramic tile. It’s an odd craft, I think better for someone who is happy with what chance does than any intent, though I’ve seen some folks who can really control the ink. I haven’t got that talent yet, and maybe never.
And for the alcohol in the beers. We got another mixed six from our local distributor, three were worth mentioning.
Doc G’s Orange Blossom Wheat: a nice wheat beer with a marmalade/cooked orange taste. It’s not very sweet at all, which makes easy to drink. DuBois (prounced doo-boyse) is a town here in PA.
I’m also sitting here watching “Cast a Deadly Spell”, something I’ve watched quite a few time, but I still love it. It’s a mixed genre movie with a hard boiled detective who was in the “war”, a dame, and lots of magic, including WWII gremlins, and the Necronomicon. And speaking of the Necronomicon, we also started watching Ash vs. the Evil Dead, a series on Starz. It’s as graphic, blood and sex, as you might expect from Starz, but it is pretty damn funny. I do love Bruce Campbell.
We are a week into the Great Kitchen Remodel of 2017. The kitchen (and the small bathroom just off it) has been gutted to the studs. One of the guys doing the work (and they are really talented) said plaintively “Why did you use so MANY nails mr. guy from the early 20th century!) This was mostly in plaster and lathe, and as the project manager has said, just about every other known wall material. The folks who made this house sure did get creative with reusing materials.
In case you are terribly curious on what an ugly worn out kitchen looks like (and our long ago attempts to make it nicer), and what it looks like gutted, feast your eyes. Since my spouse and I grew up on farms, we find the gutted room rather comforting with all of the old and dark rough wood.
We are, of course, living on sandwiches, microwave meals, and take out. Happily, the contractors were able to move our fridge and plug it in again so at least we have that. Along with some Chinese food, we got a mixed six-pack to try.
River Horse Belgian Freeze – I got this because it had a hippo on it, and they fascinate me with just how cranky and deadly they are. It’s a good starter Belgium ale, not too sweet and not too high in alcohol. I’m of course one of those who likes the Rochefort and Delierium Tremens ales.
Innis & Gunn Original – This is from Scotland, an oak aged scotch ale. Very complex and a bit sweet, you’d not want too many of them in a sitting but definitely worth getting one.
Thomas Creek Brewery Banana Split Chocolate Stout – a brewery out of South Carolina, this is a stout that has been brewed with dried bananas. Very good, but not exactly a banana split, which I associate with having many more confused flavors. Good banana flavor. A great beer for the colder months. Reminds me of a dopplebock with a hit of the banana phenols.
Saucony Creek Maple Mistress – one of the few spiced beers that I could actually tastes the spices. This has a very nice hit of nutmeg and it came through very clearly when I was eating my crab Rangoon.
DuClaw Sweet Baby Java – this is a riff on the Sweet Baby Jesus chocolate peanut butter beer which tastes like a Mr. Goodbar (a Hershey’s product of chocolate and peanuts). Good but not appreciably different from the original.
That’s all! Three more weeks to go!
(fair warning to anyone who has happened here and might wish to follow the blog. It often has my entirely unvarnished political and cultural opinions on it. If you don’t want to read those, avoid anything titled “not so polite dinner conversation”. )
I haven’t had a food and drink post for awhile. A handful of weeks ago we decided to see if we could grill whole Cornish hens on our small barreled shaped grill. We didn’t want to butterfly them which would be simpler, but to have a little whole chicken for each of us.
Many years ago, I was a member of a medieval recreation group called the Society of Creative Anachronism. I was friends with some folks who were part of a somewhat parallel group called the Tuchux, a group that recreated fantasy barbarians, and got their name from the rather atrocious Gor books by John Norman (very bad fantasy of a fellow who ends up on a alien planet where his fantasies of submissive women come true). They are quite a bit more egalitarian than the Gor nonsense and were some coolest people I ever met in my sojourn in the SCA (it’s been about a decade since I’ve had any contact with the SCA). At one of their Yule Feasts that I was kindly invited to, we each got a small loaf of fresh bread and a roasted Cornish hen and it was the best feast I think ever had. I wanted to recreate that.
We managed to do so by putting a pile of charcoal on both side of the grill aka indirect grilling and putting the chooks between them for about 45 minutes and then moving them over the dying coals to crisp up the skin for about 15 minutes at the end. I do recommend getting the biggest charcoal chimney as you can get because then you never have to worry about having lighter fluid or having that nasty taste on their food. We use brown craft paper to light ours since some inks smoke like crazy.