What the Boss Likes – update on the remodel, random things I’ve enjoyed

The kitchen is finished all but for the painting. Since this was nice fresh drywall, I had to give it two coats of sealer/primer and now am *finally* getting the color layer on, a lavender called “garden fairy” (I want a job naming colors). I’m doing a high gloss finish since it’s a kitchen and we’ve had splatters appear on our 9 foot ceilings by evidently some spaghetti sauce trying to hit escape velocity (like this steel plate may or may not have done). Now for two hours of waiting to see how it looks on one wall before continuing.

Right now, I’m making some pasta puttanesca, resting my very sore body (using all sorts of muscles I don’t usually use) and unfortunately just crushed a chili pepper for it in my fingers and touched my nose. Whee.

Now onto the random bits.

We had a bottle of Evolucio Blaufrankisch from Hungary. Very good red wine with a very cherry taste. Also had a bottle of Primal Roots California Red Blend. This doesn’t have any cabernet sauvignon, so it is light on the tannins.

Baked some triple cream brie.  Very good with cherry preserves, roast beef (a leftover) and fig and olive relish from Tait Farms.  All with baguette like bread.

I watched Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. This is a Dreamworks animated film from the early 2000s. Though it is not a “real” Sinbad movie (those are the ones from the 60’s-70’s with Harryhausen stop motion animation), it was good. A strong female character, a good villain and fun dialogue, some of which may generate uncomfortable questions from children to their parents. A good adventure flick.

Also watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Just beautiful and a good story. nothing particularly new but are there really any “new” stories?   I also loved Besson’s The Fifth Element.

I got a copy of What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. for Christmas This is by the fellow who does the XKCD webcomic. I chortled over it as I was reading it and had a great bit of fun learning new facts, like exactly how amanita mushroom toxin works. You can see what if questions and answers on the website if you follow the “what if” up in the left corner or here: https://what-if.xkcd.com/

The weather has been colder and snowier than usual (we’re getting a touch of the nasty noreaster coming up the coast of the US), at least usual for the overly warm winters we’ve had recently. I have a pair of Carolina wrens as visitors and have given them a stick of butter to peck at, as well as some bread and cat food.   Two years ago, we had a nest of them in a roll of carpet I had put out to dispose of. They are notorious for putting nests in silly places, and this was right outside of our kitchen door too. We went out once without paying attention and there was a sudden explosion of fledglings. We tried to catch them and put them back but they took off under the hostas, never to be seen again. No idea if the little critters survived. We never saw this species before until that incident two years ago.

Well, that’s about it. Next post will be about a recent discussion I’ve had with a theist and some information about how facts and evidence work in supporting claims. Fair warning, if you don’t want to see my unvarnished opinions on politics and religion, avoid blog post starting with “Not So Polite Conversation”.

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What the Boss Likes – a random assortment of things

Haven’t had much of an urge to write a blog post lately. Work has become a real pain since I have a new boss who doesn’t know anything about the job and who hates using computers. Of course, that’s all we use and trying to get new boss to do anything is damn near impossible.

But if that’s the worst of my problems, I’m not doing bad.

We watched the movie Logan last night, the last of the trilogy about Wolverine.   I’ve been a fan of the X-Men for a long time, first picking up the comic book around the time of the Phoenix saga. I always loved the interplay between Logan and Kurt aka Nightcrawler. The movie was very good, extremely violent (you see exactly what does happen when someone gets three adamantium claws through their head) and I have to say that I just loved Laura, having spent a decent part of my growing up wanting to be Wolverine.

This weekend we also got a pair of new appliances (General Electric) for the kitchen, in preparation for the Great Kitchen Remodel of 2017. We have an old house, circa early 20th c, and the kitchen is simply worn out. The month of December will be the gutting (yay, plaster and lath) and rebuilding of the kitchen. The new fridge is a split door up top and the freezer on the bottom. My tall spouse very much likes that set up. The stove is gas, and has a griddle in the center and I finally got a broiler again. They are stainless steel since our kitchen is very dark and we need some light bouncing around.

Finally got a chance to try Apothic’s Inferno, a red blend that’s been aged in bourbon casks. It has a very nice mellowness from the oak. They are very manipulated wines and I like them a lot. I saw out on their website that they now have a bubbly. I’ll have to try that soon.

That’s about it. I’m busy looking for a new job and just waiting until the chaos of construction is unleashed.

 

From the Kitchen, from the Bar and from the garden: a meandering post about various things

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.

As for a recipe, all it was consisted of thawed chooks, with butter stuffed under the skin and smeared over the skin. Continue reading

From the Kitchen and the Bar – samoa pie, and wine

The samoa in the title is the Girl Scout cookie.  My spouse *loves* them.   They are basically a shortbread cookie covered in caramel, toasted coconut and chocolate.   They still are pretty good, though many of the cookies seem to less than what I remember.  Of course it could simply be the glow of nostalgia.  I, for the record, was a Brownie for about 6 weeks.  I was there long enough to make a “sit-a-pon”  and then was bored with the antics of little girls.  Such is the burden of reading way way early and just not caring who had what doll, etc.

Spouse found a recipe for a “samoa pie”, and asked nicely for one.   The recipe came from Averie Cooks, and is a very nice recipe indeed. It is quite the sugar bomb.  I think it is better than the cookies.  It is also very close to the circa 80’s Seven Layer Cookies, but I find it much easier to make since I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  I got randomly lucky and the chocolate on top evidently hit the tempering temperature and it ended up shiny.   I do recommend baking this on a sheet pan because the sweetened condensed milk got very very close to boiling out of the pie pan.  This is very very good with a cup of dark roast coffee with a bit of cream. I’m really enjoying the Gevalia Majestic Roast lately.

As for the wine, we finally got a bottle of Apothic Crush.  This is one of their limited editions, and I think for Valentine’s Day.  It’s very much like their Red and Dark, velvety and rich, but a bit lighter than both.  They are now coming out with a Rose for the spring/summer.

That’s it.  Eat and drink well.

Postscript:  if you are a new visitor, be warned that the bulk of my posts are my opinions of politics (pragmatic liberal) and religion (hard atheist).  If you only want to see the food and drink posts, just pay attention to the titles. They’ll always have “from the kitchen” or “from the bar” on them.  Occasionally, you’ll see a “from the back room” which will detail our adventures in home brewing.  Visit The Boss’s Office to find out about your host.

What the Boss Likes – much better lyrics for Deck the Halls

The original lyrics and much more fun. Thank you, Wikipedia!

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Troul the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

See the flowing bowl before us,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
While I sing of beauty’s treasure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Laughing, quaffing all together,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

From the Kitchen – port peppercorn sauce and a petit beef tenderloin filet

steakAlthough we’ve wandered a bit off of the South Beach diet lately, we are doing pretty well in keeping any new weight from being added back on.   It does help us to weigh ourselves every day, just to keep an eye on things.  We also got back some lab reports and everything is better, including cholesterol (your mileage may vary).

One of the things we started when losing weight is buying a whole beef tenderloin, doing a little butchering ourselves, and keeping easy to cook filets in the freezer. I did a stint in the meat department of a fancy grocery store and gained the skill of being able to take apart a tenderloin e.g. removing the silverskin, and knowing how the multiple muscles run to get the best result (I also became a good hand at discombobulating a whole chicken. Get a set of kitchen scissors, but a sharp knife also works fine). Out of a whole tenderloin, I generally get around a pound of inedible scraps, a pound or two of scraps I can use in stirfry or stroganoff, and, depending on the size of the tenderloin, 10-13 nice filets.

The steaks were simply cooked at high heat in butter. I do like mine “Pittsburgh style”, very brown on the outside and damn near raw otherwise.   We often use cast iron but a heavy non-stick frying pan also works if you pay attention.

The side was a baked potato, done a la the Joy of Cooking method (slick potatoes with oil or butter, then 40O F for 20-30 minutes, then pierce and put in for another 20-30 minutes). We didn’t have sour cream but we did have a nice purchased tzatziki from Cedar’s (a little more dill in it than I generally put in my own but not bad at all).

The sauce is something I’ve been wanting to try for years. When I was in college, I went to a nice restaurant in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh called Pasta Piatto (or at least I think that was the name). They had this steak absolutely crusted with coarsely crushed black peppercorns with this fabulous slightly sweet red wine sauce on it. I spent an entire month’s allowance (for extra things I might need at college) on this. I also learned that one should make sure that one’s hosts are indeed going to pay for your dinner rather than assuming it.

There are quite a number of versions of this on the internet. This is my take on it: Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – something from the kitchen and a new winery/brewery

I’m currenbeertly hiding in our one air conditioned room on a 95+ degree (F) day.   I do love the varied seasons of PA but I could do without the really really hot days. At least I’m not still working as a field geologist out on a hazardous waste site in level C gear.

Though that did work wonders for losing weight….

A couple of weekends ago we went to a new brewery/winery that we didn’t know about and it’s within 7 miles of us (as the crow flies). It’s Spring Gate Vineyard and Winery and Spring Gate Brewery. They can share property but can’t share a building because PA liquor laws are peculiar at best.

Harrisburg is a rather strange little city. You go out a road just a few miles of city center and poof! You’re in farmland.   This allows for 60 acre old farmsteads to be a great location for a place to get wine and beer.

They have live music and they have caterers and food trucks come to offer food to go with the drinks.   These are usually themed events. We went on a lobster fest day and had a most excellent lobster roll. It went very well with the apple juice laced saison and the Sparkling Pink Peignoir wine.   They also have ciders, including a very good hopped one. There is a large bricked courtyard behind a large white barn where the wine is. There’s a decent amount of parking, though some of it is on old farm fields. If you are fussy about where you park your SUV, good, I’d keep the place to my self.  🙂

This past weekend we made a recipe I got from an email from the Penzeys Spices folks. They don’t currently have a link to the recipe on their website and I’ve asked for one. So I hope they forgive me when I post it here. It’s for seekh kebob, and was sent to them by Major Saleem Khan.   It’s absolutely delicious, as good or better than the seekh kebob from our local indian restaurant.

We grilled this on a very hot charcoal fire.

Seekh Kabobs

If you don’t feel like fussing with skewers, the mixture would also make great burgers.

1 1/4 lbs. fresh ground beef (80/20 is a good mix); frozen doesn’t work as well
2 tsp. CAYENNE PEPPER
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. GROUND CORIANDER
1 tsp. POWDERED GINGER
1/4 tsp. GROUND ALLSPICE
1/2 tsp. PENZEYS PEPPER
2 tsp. GROUND CUMIN
1/4 tsp. GROUND CLOVES
1/4 tsp. PENZEYS CINNAMON
1/2 tsp. GROUND CARDAMOM
2 1/2 TB. garlic paste
2 TB. ginger paste
2 TB. roasted chickpea powder (this is helpful for keeping the kabobs from falling apart; use 1 TB. all-purpose flour if you can’t find chickpea powder)

2 TB. lemon juice
1/2 Cup oil (see note)

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the oil. Mix well with your hands. Refrigerate for 21/2-3 hours. Add the oil and mix well. Roll the meat into small, round meatballs. Thread each meatball through a skewer. Dip your hands in water to prevent sticking, and flatten the meatballs in a thin layer around each skewer. Grill over low heat, turning the skewers at least once, after about 5 minutes, until the meat turns to brown on both sides. Don’t overcook or they will not be as deliciously tender.

NOTE: We used 73/27 ground beef and didn’t find we needed ¼ cup of the recommended oil. We also just made little patties, about the size of a golf ball, then flattened out. They flared like crazy on the grill but we like the seared bits.

tamarind fruit aka poop or little aliens about to get you

tamarind fruit aka poop or little aliens about to get you

We had these with the cilantro-mint chutney from this post. We also made tamarind chutney from real tamarinds. They are tasty little fruits, though they do look like poop. I cooked 8 oz or so of peeled tamarinds in a couple of cups of water, threw in a couple of star anises, boiled briefly, squished and strained what was made, then followed this recipe from one of my favorite food blog sites, seriouseats.com. Jaggery or palm sugar is worth getting for this. This was rounded out with some greek yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of grated fresh garlic and slices of sweet onion and shredded lettuce. Most excellent!

That’s it. Eat and drink well!