one man's ceiling
Monday, June 04, 2007
  i'm out
for the past seven months, with varying frequency, i have been logging my personal (mostly private culinary) adventures here at one man's ceiling. at the time i created this blog i also created another entirely separate blog which was aimed at my "professional" interests in children's literature.

for the first three or four months i volleyed between the two blogs, posting several times a week on each. my hope was to keep a firewall between the two worlds, where i could remain personal on one site and critical on the other. this probably runs counterintuitive to the blogging world but it was the way i wanted to proceed. and while it was easy to keep the two worlds separated it was difficult to maintain the posting demand for both.

in the end there was very little interest in my personal blog and increasing interest in my professional blog. i suppose having a built-in audience to tap into might have had something to do with it. but as my personal time was limited, when it came time to blog if i had to choose between which to post to i began to defer to the other blog.

i knew this would never take off and become some great cultural nexus. this blog wasn't build for speed or fame or controversy; it wasn't designed to poke, prod or assault; and it certainly wasn't envisioned as some great stepping stone toward something larger. it was my personal little letter to the world, centered around my general enjoyment of food, and it was fun for a while.

there comes a point, however, where a tipping point is reached, where a thing begins to take on a new dimension, a new life of it's own. the amassing of a number of elements -- internal and external, and from a variety of sources and influences -- has made it so that i now feel more compelled to spend my time and energies elsewhere. the other blog is only part of the picture, but an important and integral part.

i suppose i've known for a while this blog was coming to an end. perhaps not an end but a prolonged hiatus, though to be honest i don't foresee when it will be coming back. i've enjoyed my time here, and the occasional feedback from friends and strangers alike, and have never felt it a burden or an obligation. but the time has come to move along.

if you have gotten this far then i have to assume you might actually care enough to wonder what else i've been up to. fair enough. let me know you're truly interested and i'll pass along the name and url of the other blog in my life.

thanks for noticing me.

Sunday, May 20, 2007
  2 B or not 2 B

it's been a while since i've been here and a couple times this week i've been wondering whether or not to continue. yes, i'm considering retiring one man's ceiling.

when i started i was looking to jump into the blog world and see what the waters were like. at the same time i also started another blog that was more "professional" in that it dealt with the field i am hoping to make my full-time livelihood one day. it has absolutely nothing to do with food.

i considered folding this blog gently into the professional blog, a mixture of food, family and work. doing so, however, would take away from the other blog's focus and i could see myself slowly dropping the food and family elements as a way of becoming more "centrist' in my blog.

i have enjoyed having this blog and in having a place where i could talk about food and keep the recipes, and i've certainly enjoyed the interaction with friends and strangers alike.

i won't go out on this note. i'm going to let the decision go another week or so. in the days leading up to june 1st i am open to any encouragement, suggestions or comments from those of you (i see you on sitemeter!) who visit regularly. i may even have a post or two left in me even if i do finally call it quits.

until then...
Saturday, May 05, 2007
  das F├╝nftel von Mai
doesn't really matter what language it is, the fifth day of the fifth month is cinco de mayo. many american prefer to remember this as mexican independence day because, being american, who could find fault another country declaring their independence.

except that mexican independence from spain was declared on 15 september 1810.

no, the deal is cinco de mayo is when 4000 mexican soldiers beat down an army of 8000 french and traitor mexican troops at puebla, mexico, just east of mexico city in 1862.

history lesson's over, let's talk food.

it's been a while since i made enchiladas, and i decided this year we were celebrating with platos mexicano, or at least my version of family-style mexican comfort foods: traditional red and mole chicken enchiladas with sour cream and guacamole, spanish-style rice (couldn't get tomatillos to make the green rice i wanted to make), refried black beans, chips and salsa. i made so little of this from scratch, though i could have made it all. but it's spring, the girls have sports and music lessons on the weekends, they each have had sleep-over playdates and to top it all off we did a jaunt during the day to get some free loot because it also happens to be free comic book day nationwide.

what? you missed free comic book day? mark your calendars: first saturday in may next year. i hear it also happens in certain places around the world -- lambiek in amsterdam? -- but you deal with what you've got. i got some unseen peanuts, some lynda barry, the girls made off with a haul as well. who knew they liked the archies? but i digress.

here's the deal with enchiladas: they really are very easy. you need tortillas, sauce and filling. for the red enchiladas i simmered some chicken in chicken broth and green salsa with red onion and chopped black olives until the chicken fell apart into shreds and the water had mostly evaporated. for the mole, simmered the chicken in broth until it broke down and added enough bottled mole sauce to let it simmer and thicken. again, if i had a full day for prep and a full day to cook i could make the mole and sauces from scratch, but this isn't supposed to be a big stress meal. sure, it might be easier to just go local and eat out, but there's no reason to pay $15 a plate (as is the case in this area) for family style eats like this when you can get it in the barrio for a third that. with soup and chips and whatnot.

there are different kinds of mole (it should have a tilde over the e so you pronounce it "mol-ay") but i'm partial to the mixture of ground nuts and chocolate. it's worth seeking out and trying if you haven't, it's got a smokey, rich, sweet flavor that melds well with the bite of the spices. often when i eat spicy or garlicy foods i almost instantly crave chocolate; with mole that isn't the case (though i'd never turn down a bit of chocolate no matter what the occasion). today, i was working with a very good jar of stuff from trader joe's.

though i prefer the traditional corn tortilla my zuska prefers the flour, and this time i was able to find lower carb whole wheat tortillas that actually worked out very well. i did use corn for the red enchiladas, flour for the mole. they both tasted great.

i hate sitting back and saying aloud (as i did, feeling a bit overstuffed after the meal) "that were some good eats" because, honestly, it's arrogant for the chef to compliment themselves. but i wasn't fishing for compliments, it was good, and i liked it, and i don't see why i can't just say that once in a while.

and now i've crowed twice.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007
  days five and six
so, a little catching up on the veggie diet week.

so after the garlic soup there was the crazy-hectic thursday night where i worked, my zuska and e went to a book group and j hung out with a friend. on the menu: vegetarian chili, which didn't really taste any different than normal though it was the first time i made it in a slow cooker without meat.

the trouble with slow-cooking is that it basically works so long as you don't lift the lid. but making something that requires spices can make it a bit of a gamble if you can't make corrections until the end. granted, a chili isn't a big deal to fix at a late stage, but given that i wasn't home when the fam ate meant that i had to be rather sure of my spices in advance.

i leaned a bit heavier on the cumin and oregano and doubled up on green chilies. doubling the chilies was not planned; i bought fresh jalapenos not realizing i still had a can of chopped chilies in the cupboard. i added the canned babies to the onions at the bottom of the pot so their moisture would help steam out in the beans and mixed the fresh jalapenos with honey in a can of diced tomatoes to flavor out the sauce.

it was a thinner chili that i'd intended -- more of what that cheerleader calls a "stoup," part stew, part soup -- and totally edible. i took some on-the-verge-of-stale corn chips and crumbled them into the bowl, dumped some shredded cheese on top, then the chili. all good.

friday night being movie night usually means a lo-stress, easy comfort meal. my super nachos generally have ground meat (beef or turkey) simmered in cuban style black beans among the cheese, olives, chips, guac, sour cream and salsa. doing the beans alone kept the flavor and still the girls hadn't guessed about the week's meatless options. to be fair, it helped to not introduce super complicated new dishes that required close scrutiny, the only one being the first night's fried veggies and spanakopita which was well loved.

saturday is traditionally sauce night -- a meat sauce with pasta, or some form of meal with a sauce -- and i was all set to go all-veggie but my zuska used her veto power and so it was a traditional sauce with ground beef and sweet italian sausage. during dinner we informed the girls that this was the first meal since the previous saturday that had meat. they blanched at first, almost ready to insist it wasn't true, but then we outlined the week for them.

today, back to our regular omnivorous ways, we did a mango chicken with a quick stir-fry of garlic green beans. the mango chicken recipe comes from coconut & lime, a great food blog that does the sort of things i wish i could do; namely, invent recipes on a consistent basis. i should be (and am) grateful that i can do as much as i do in the kitchen, and don't need a secondary career in the culinary arts. the recipe is easy, and if you've got mangoes in season (they're just starting here) i would strongly suggest giving this a whirl. i think the only thing i would have liked more would have been a thai iced tea to go with it.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
  veggie week, day 3
not one of my better stir frys, i must admit. i always have problems estimating the right flavor when using tofu, or rather, making sure it has enough flavor so that it doesn't "bland out" everything else.

in the back of my mind was the idea that i should bake it down in its marinade before adding to the rest of the mix but instead assumed an overnight soak in a soy-hoisen-garlic mixture would do it. wrong.

strangely, the girls haven't figured out we've been meatless since sunday morning. the closest we got was e. pointing out that the tofu was there for j, who decided she didn't like it. sometimes i just wish i knew what the magic formula was for what kids do and don't like to eat. it seems so fluid, so shifting at any given point, and i just don't get it. yeah, like i'm the only parent who ever had this problem.

toward the end of the night i felt a little queasy and wondered if it was something i ate. sometimes kids can be like canaries in the coal mine about food, recognizing something that's off because they're most sensitive. or closer to the ground. or something. but no one else went to bed feeling funny and everyone woke up fine.

not me. i seem to have taken on some cold-fever-like symptoms that i don't recognize. like all the elements of a fever -- slight aches, chills, erratic heart rate -- without a change in body temp. the stomach feels touchy, like it doesn't want food, but it was fine with some toast. i'm overall weak and feeling like i need to do some healing with food and that changes tonight's dinner.

actually, tonight's a bit rough. e has an after school class and then softball practice until 7, which is a long haul for a kid. my zuska is picking her up on the way home tonight and they're going to eat later, so dinner had to be a catch-as-catch-can event anyway. i was going with a sort of appetite assortment before but now i'm doubling back and making soup. garlic soup. with vegies and the option of buckwheat udon noodles.

this was a meal of choice when i needed a healthy pick up at a food court in emeryville, ca i used to frequent. it was a japanese stand that did all sorts of noodle soups and the garlic soup boasted a full head of garlic in each bowl. like this:

only without the chicken. and with buckwheat noodles. and garlic instead of -- what is that, scallops? water chestnuts? anyway. right tasty, and filling, and healthy. i'm hoping to capture some of that genie-in-a-bowl magic and whoop whatever this is in my system back to where it came from.

will the girls figure it out tonight? doubtful. things are going to be pretty scattered.

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Monday, April 23, 2007
  day 2, something new (and mint pesto)

day 2 of the vegetarian experiment, salad course. the julliened beets, jicama and carrots on top of the salad with limed avocado and gouda cheese went about as could be expected: the girls didn't like it as much as the adults.

dinner salads have, traditionally around the casa, been large affairs that i nromally call "intermezzo salads" in honor of the cafe intermezzo in berkeley where i first encountered the beast. lettuces, carrots, croutons and celery are tossed with a choice of dressing and then topped with about seven pounds of meats, cheese, hard boiled egg, mixed beans and sprouts.

yeah, i didn't make that tonight.

i used a crisper green leaf lettuce than the usual romaine, went with the usual amount of cheese, topped with the veggies and whatnot, and tossed some pine nuts on top. it was good, light, a bit tart (the dressing was a lime-orange juice vinegrette without the vinegar) and not to intimidating. except the girls had to sort of be put through their paces to finish a reasonable amount.

i'm guessing they wake up starving.

the mint pesto was something that was used last week to top some scallops and i used a little leftover today on top of a bagel. yeah, i'll eat things just to see what they taste like. didn't you read about the cheddar beer chips below?

mint pesto!
really, all you do is run these through a food processor until smooh and creamy, adding a little water if it's too thick. it's take more time to clean and trim the mint leaves.

a dollop on a scallop is a wonderous thing. it would probably work wonders on a pasta primavera salad, with the addition of a little cheese on top. and it wasn't so bad a spread on a bagel, but i think it would have been better as the dressing for a sandwich with maybe provolone and marinated roasted peppers. i'm sure roast lamb would also work, if you're into that.

tomorrow: tofu stir fry.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007
  the experiment and the menu
there are all kinds of issues in the house right now. someone is dieting and exercising, and someone should be doing likewise. someone isn't even officially a tween and beginning to show signs of eating us out of house and home. someone has had an aversion to red meat for a few years now, though just the other night ate three adult portions of ribs, and could easily becomes a vegan within a few years. and someone has gas.

health and diet considerations taken to account, i threw out the idea that we go meatless for the week. i thought i could probably pull it off in a way that wouldn't seem like such a harsh shift in our eating. i'd also like to think that in a very small way it's helping the planet, but i can't really say that was a motivating factor.

so when my zuska and i discussed this we also decided to keep the girls out of the loop, to see how long it would take them to figure it out. if i went whole hog (no pun intended) and went vegan they'd know in a heartbeat, eggs and cheese just being too hard to remove from the house without severe problems with proteins and omegas. if the girls would only eat pbj! but with starches and flours already limited to next-to-nothing the lacto-ovo option needed to be exercised.

despite a lapse early in the day -- eggs with sausage for brunch, i just totally forgot -- the rest of the day went smooth. for dinner i fried some more zucchini with a cucumber yogurt dip, adding onions and eggplant to the mix, with a main dish of spanakopita. despite being a very rachel ray recipe, i loved the spanakopita because instead of a giant pan of feta and spinach pie they are personal sized little logs, like greek egg rolls. baked. okay, maybe nothing like egg rolls, but very nice.

just to be clear, this lack of meat is really only being enforced on my zuska and i. breakfasts won't be affected as we'll all be on our smoothie routines (girls will round out with bagels or mini wheats) and for lunch one takes the hot lunch at school and the other brings her trusy ham-n-cheese or hard boiled egg (or both! hungry tween alert!) and that's fine. like i said, they won't do the pbj option so whatever gets them through the day, right?

tomorrow night is a weird hybrid salad, a sort of a meatless cobb salad with some mexican whang to it. not spicy, just the combination of avocado and cheese and beets and jicama and citrus dressing. it feels a little out-on-a-limb but i'm up for it. and i don't think the girlies will figure out what's up just yet.

by tuesday they might. i'm doing a stir fry but i'm going tofu. one girl loves it and the other is going to pout because there's no beef or chicken. and that's when the dam will break. if they ask we'll tell them, and i suspect it'll all be clear before wednesday. then the only trick will be to see if they really are hankering for some meat come this time next week. we'll see how everyone fares.

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recipes and musings on food -- and anything else for that matter -- from a guy with a sticky brain who likes food. perhaps he likes food too much.

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Location: right coast via left coast
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  • deserts
  • library thing
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  • dirty dishes
  • i'm out
  • 2 B or not 2 B
  • das Fünftel von Mai
  • days five and six
  • veggie week, day 3
  • day 2, something new (and mint pesto)
  • the experiment and the menu
  • beer & cheese & a bag of chips
  • what constitutes a national tragedy?
  • top-o-yer-corn

  • leftovers
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