one man's ceiling
Saturday, December 23, 2006
  nog toast & the origins of nog in general

so it's the weekend and i'm hungry. and i've been bad about shopping (what with solstice and whatnot) and i don't have bagels and cream cheese for j. so i offer to make french toast. and i've got the eggs and i go looking for the dairy and there it is:


i love this stuff, though generally find the real thing too thick in the throat. it feels the same as when i had walking pneumonia and had my airways clogged with stuff. a few years back silk came out with soy eggnog and i have found it perfect. the right flavors, not to thick, just perfect. but this isn't about the virtues of soy.

to my zuska has the real stuff in the house, best thinned with brandy. yum. and i'm thinking hey, why couldn't i make nog flavored french toast! which sounds scathingly brilliant as the flavors are already there for the most part anyway.

cut to the chase: the french toast tastes just the same. i tried upping the spice quotient -- a dash of nutmeg and clove into the mix -- but the sweetness is lost, even un-syruped, and so it was either a nice idea or in need of refinement for the future.

eggnog appears to be one of those things associated with the holiday season which, at it's core, retains a sense of that dickensian nostalgia we hold dear to the holiday season. and it seems appropriate that it retains those british roots as eggnog comes from holiday traditions held by british aristocracy a few centuries back. the stuff was used to toast one's health, and coming around the time of year when people were looking forward -- solstice looking toward the return of the sun, new year's celebrations looking into the promise of the coming year's renewal -- it seems strangely appropriate of a drink that symbolically includes an egg (new life) and milk (nourishment of newborns). being liquored up appears to have been part of it's history as well, and given the "medicinal" properties of liquers or the "nutritional" aspects of ales only seems to buttress the idea that the drink was meant to fortify the soul as well.

the the past i have had years where my consumption of the stuff seemed to be based on the idea that i would never see it again. when the soy version arrived i think there was more than a half dozen occasions where i got as drunk as a lord on the stuff. i was living alone in those days and trapped in retail hell and so it goes without saying that i might not have survived to tell you any of this were it not for eggnog to get me through.

oh, and movies.
and chocolate.
and trader joe's pfefferneuse cookies. (and in the house we call them voofermuffins, but that's another story for another time)

& now my fambily keeps me on track. but eggnog is still great.

more eggnog info here:
history of eggnog from whatscookingamerica
and, of course, the wikipedia entry
Monday, December 18, 2006
  tagged! the christmas/holiday song meme

i got tagged by lyco on this one. i am of two minds about this particular meme in that (a) this is the first time i've been tagged, which is good, and (b) i once worked retail. if you've worked large corporate retail during the holiday season then you know what i'm talking about; holiday muzak pumped into your ears 40-plus hours a week while battling the front lines of the consumerist holiday assault.

that said, i've had a few years break and seem to have recuperated from the aural damage. i even managed to put together a playlist of over 3.6 hours of the damn stuff for my ipod. but a quick glance at the list shows that i seem to be avoiding most mentions of jesus and god and all the stuff christmas is about. not to rain on anyone's sanctimonious parade, but my faves appear to be holiday music in the sense that they get played during the "holiday season" but not necessary about christmas per se. it isn't political, it's just my personal bent. don't like it? get bent yourself.

with that, fanfare please...

1. "What Child Is This" Vince Guaraldi Trio from Merry Christmas Charlie Brown
2. "Marshmallow World" Dean Martin (tie with "Baby It's Cold Outside?")
3. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" Andy Williams
4. "My Favorite Things" either John Coltrane or Grant Green
5. "The Christmas Song" Nat King Cole Trio, 1954 version with small string section

i probably could have made it a top ten list and 8 of them would be truly old oldies. what can i say, the old stuff got stuck in my sticky brain long ago and isn't getting displaced by the likes of some american idol winner. okay, call me a crusty old man, i can take it.

okay, time to tag others
virtual t? mo? anyone else who isn't already tagged?
  soy is gay
or rather, soy makes you gay.

that's not me talking, that this nutter over at the conservative website i hate linking this story because i'm not really up for giving wackos more traffic but i think this has to be read directly to be believed.

question: if this is true, why isn't china overrun with millions of gay citizens? could his counter-argument possibly be that a communist nation is better at keeping their homosexuals repressed? doesn't seem likely, nor does it explain japan.

no, wait! i get it! china is communist because it's been feminized over the years by soy! yeah! chairman mao was a lady!

i shake my head and wonder. i know there are people that will buy this hook, line and sinker, fearing their socially and dietary conscious friends and families are slowly becoming gay. and you know what?


let the tofu-fearing conservatives live in fear. it'll do them more harm in the long run, health-wise, and if it gives them comfort to say "yeah, well, having cancer and heart disease sure beats becoming feminized by soy" while in the hospital, so be it.

soy bomb, baby! yeah!
(and a side of dylan)
Sunday, December 17, 2006
  must. make. monkeybread.
i gotta bundt pan for my birthday a week and a half back. i love it.

love. it.

30 year anniversary reproduction of the original bundt pan in a thick non-stick cast-aluminum. i'd wanted one for years, could never justify the expense of a good one and couldn't stomach the disappointment of working from a cheaper, crappier one, and just let it slide.
no more.

no i could finally make the much-discussed, much-desired monkeybread.

essentially, monkeybread is a pull-apart yeast bread, a cake-sized cinnamon bread drizzled with sugar icing. i first saw it in a cookbook for kids and subsequently from martha, where the recipe i used came from. should you desire to make such a thing let me tell you, the aroma in the house is fantastic and you will want to bring an appetite and some tea along when it's time to eat. there are a few considerations before undertaking the making of the monkeybread:

1. bundt pan. accept no substitutes.

2. time. it takes nearly 3 hours from start to finish.

3. mess. clean as you go, as you will use many kitchen items in the process.

4. yeast. fresh is best, especially if you want a nice, light bread at the end.

and some notes about the recipe itself:

1. i hate using shortening, vegetable or otherwise. i understand in baking that ingredients can make a huge difference but margarine or butter works fine.

2. to hell with rubbing that ribbed pan down with shortening/margarine/butter, use a cooking spray all around. if you've got a spray that also has flour in it use that for turning out the dough into for the rising.

3. we're not that big into nuts around these parts, but if you're using them see if you can find some pecans that are already crusted with sugary sweetness. no harm if they're plain.

4. the recipe says a whole stick of melted butter to roll the little dough balls into, but i wound up using only half a stick and that seemed fine. i say start with half and melt some more if you need it.

5. it doesn't say to, but you might want to use a sifter on the brown sugar and cinnamon. or you can force it through a small wire mesh sieve.

6. use a whisk to make the icing. also, drizzle in a teaspoon of vanilla. a teaspoon of orange extract would work equally, though uniquely, as well.

i think the only drawback is the time. it would be great to wake up on a weekend morn -- a holiday weekend morn even -- to the smells of a nice fat ring of monkeybread, but who wants to get up at 7 AM to start working in the kitchen to make it? i'm not saying i won't get up early one morning and do such a thing...
Friday, December 15, 2006
  you don't have to put on the red light
i don't know how, where or when zuska finds these things, but i got sucked in out of curiosity: just what, exactly, were the top hits the year i turned 18?

These are the rules, if you care to join in; otherwise, this is a legend:

1. go to, and find the greatest hits for the year you turned 18 (you'll have to guess the year)

2. select the first 50 (like my zuska, i used the whole list. you'll see why)

3. bold the ones you liked back then

4. strike out the ones you hated

5. italicize the ones you are familiar with but neither like nor hate

6. leave the ones you don't know as is

1. Y.M.C.A. - Village People
2. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
3. Don't Stop Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson
4. We Are Family - Sister Sledge
5. Old Time Rock and Roll - Bob Seger
6. Hot Stuff/Bad Girls - Donna Summer
7. Good Times - Chic
8. Escape - Rupert Holmes
9. Aint No Stoppin Us Now - McFadden & Whitehead

10. September - Earth, Wind and Fire
11. Born To Be Alive - Patrick Hernadez
12. My Sharona - the Knack
13. Heart Of Glass - Blondie
14. Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart
15. After The Love Has Gone - Earth, Wind and Fire
16. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground - Jacksons
17. Ooh Baby Baby - Linda Ronstadt
18. Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? - Rod Stewart

19. The Rainbow Connection - Kermit (the Frog)
20. Boogie Wonderland - Earth, Wind and Fire
21. Love Ballad - George Benson
22. Rise - Herb Alpert
23. In The Navy - Village People
24. Ring My Bell - Anita Ward
25. Got To Be Real - Cheyl Lynn
26. Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Journey
27. Shake Your Goove Thing - Peaches and Herb
28. Take The Long Way Home - Supertramp
29. We've Got Tonight - Bob Seger

30. One Way or Another - Blondie
31. The Devil Went Down To Georgia - Charlie Daniels Band
32. Babe - Styx
33. Fins - Jimmy Buffett
34. You Decorated My Life - Kenny Rogers

35. Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straites
36. Disco Nights (Rock Freak) - G.Q.
37. Heatache Tonight - Eagles
38. She Believes In Me - Kenny Rogers
39. Video Killed The Radio Star - the Buggles
40. Pop Muzic - M

41. Hold The Line - Toto
42. H.A.P.P.Y. Radio - Edwin Starr
43. Crazy Love - Allma Brothers Band

44. Highway To Hell - AC/DC
45. Street Life - Crusaders
46. Don't Bring Me Down - ELO

47. My Life - Billy Joel
48. Honesty - Billy Joel
49. Take Me To The River - Talking Heads
50. At Midnight - T-Connection
51. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth - Meatloaf

52. Good Times Roll - The Cars
53. I Go To Rio - Pablo Cruise
54. Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights) - Pat Travers Band
55. Livin It Up (Friday Night) - Bell & James

56. Roxanne - Police
57. Contact - Edwin Starr
58. Rubber Biscuit - Blues Brothers

59. Message In A Bottle - The Police
60. Good Girls Don't - the Knack
61. There But For The Grace Of God Go I - Machine
62. Heaven Must Have Sent You - Bonnie Pointer

63. Life During Wartime - Talking Heads
64. Soul Man - Blues Brothers
65. Voulez-Vous - Abba
66. Rust Never Sleeps (Into The Black) - Neil Young
67. Lay It On The Line - Triumph
68. Cruel To Be Kind - Nick Lowe
69. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
70. I Want You To Want Me - Cheap Trick
71. I Do The Rock - Tim Curry
72. Hey, St. Peter - Flash and The Pan
73. The Logical Song - Supertramp
74. What A Fool Believes - Doobie Brothers
75. Makin It - David Naughton

first thing you may notice is that i hated a LOT of the top songs that year. and i had to use the entire list to get above 5 dongs i liked (and for the most part still do).

second things of note: i know every. damn. song. on. the. list. my friends, if you were alive and conscious back in the day, you know them as well as i do.

special note on number 71: tim curry was seriously dabbling in becoming a rock star. this was not a success, and if you know the song you kow why. he did okay without rock stardom.

it was a tough time, musically. punk was aching to break, disco was merging into new wave, stadium rock was struggling, led zep was about to collapse, jocks were beating up "punkers" who listened to elvis costello (strangely absent from this list)... it was hell.

i personally would have preferred a year like 1983, or even 1984. i can at least get a couple dozen songs from each of those years i liked. but them was college days.

let me know how your musical flashback panned out.
Monday, December 11, 2006
  holiday food blahs
things have been a little off-norm at the ol' homestead meal-wise. thanksgiving begins the holiday season of irregularity, followed by back-to-back birthdays (mine and zuska's), followed by holiday meals, inter-family get-togethers, crazy nights eating out because we've run out of time, and so on.

the usual.

yesterday it occurred to me that we really didn't have anything in the house, no real meals planned. I was asking everyone for meal suggestions. the young'uns are sweet but if they had their way they'd eat the same three things over and over. then zuska says "i want you to make those cheesy scalloped potatoes you made."

huh? i vaguely remember such a dish, but i couldn't for the life of me remember where i got the recipe. on line? from better homes and garden? so then i check out my own damn blog and there not only is the recipe for cheese-y scalloped potatoes but another recipe for meatloaf.

duh, like i posted that recipe last week thinking i hadn't done it before. and it's different. and the recent version wasn't as good.

like i'm making the same meals over and over again. and not very well.

is it a sign of my advanced middle age that i don't even remember things i WROTE a mere month ago? am i going to become one of those old people who eats the same thing several days in a row because they forget they ate it before? am i going to wake up at 4 am and eat breakfast because the only other thing i have to look forward to is lunch and the early bird senior buffet?


so tonight we've got kid company and we're keeping it simple -- turkey burgers and salad and tater tots. because burgers require potatoes. and i'd like to get back to cooking but i haven't really been feelin' it, if you know what i mean. nothing excites me and i have a hard time getting excited about meals. i haven't lost the old appetite, nor am i tired of cooking, it just feels like the cooking center of my brain has shut down for holiday and didn't leave the rest of my brain any food for thought.

honestly, the most exciting thing that's happened in the kitchen lately is the arrival of a bundt pan -- a treasured birthday gift. i've made a triple chocolate cake in it and am looking forward to making some monkeybread but it isn't like a bundt pan is going to snap me out of this. not even a meatloaf made in a bundt pan would pull me out this funk.

someday... a home with a separate freezer for all the frozen summer goodness to pull me out of winter blahs; a separate fridge for beverages and ice; and a gas range. fifteen years on electric ranges and ovens and i've managed okay, but nothing beats gas.

in the kitchen, that is.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
i learned to make meatloaf by not making meatloaf.

having survived walking pneumonia i found myself with a weakened immune system and the instructions from my doctor to avoid citric acids, dairy, wheat and red meat. hell, what's left? there goes my beloved pastas, my burritos, burgers and milkshakes. the horror, the horror. and when the horror wore off i set out to try and figure out how to eat to live.

i essentially became a vegan. fortunately this happened in vegan-friendly berkeley where gluten-free pastries could be found, where a request for a burrito in a bowl pre-dated the no-carb diet craze by nearly a decade and wasn't seen as unusual. the long life veggie house served up traditional chinese dishes made with tofu processed to sub for chicken in my kung pao. life didn't seem so impossible, just a little more limited.

but then i got a hankering for meatloaf. red meat, and lots of it. looking around i eventually found a recipe that consisted primarily of equal parts tofu, bread crumbs and mixed nuts held together with ground oatmeal and flavored with mushrooms and celery. it worked, and for a while i didn't really miss meat.

after a year and a half my body was strong and i slowly drifted back into the forbidden foods. my first pasta sauce was a revelation, tomatoes so tart i don't think i ever realy recuperated. meat -- all meat, not just red -- became so heavy in my system that instant food coma became a fact of life. still does occasionally. the weight i had lost on my reductive diet came back but i wasn't concerned enough to do anything about it.

finally i decided it was time to try a real-meat meatloaf.

it tasted horrible.

i tried a couple different recipes, some culled from 1950's magazines, some more modern, just to see if i could get back to a flavor i remembered. or liked. finally i looked back at the meatless loaf and the flavors that i liked, that worked, and tried to meld the recipes into something edible. the results are extremely edible.

loaf of meat
you mix it all together.
you form it into two equal sized loafs. put them on a baking sheet with a raised edge.
you bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 40 to 50 minutes until the meat thermometer says it's okay.

now, if you're like me, and you like a nice little "crust" of ketchup on top, you spread about half a cup per loaf on top and broil it for about 5 minutes until it starts to darken a little.

you'll notice i don't say to put them into a loaf pan. sometimes i do and sometimes i don't, but i've come to prefer them outside of loaf pans because you get more crust on the outside and more of the moisture cooks out. no, this is good, otherwise you get these loaves essentially boiling in their juices in the pans and while that makes it easy for removal later it's not as satisfying as a slice of meatloaf that is surrounded by a nice little crust. you know, like a loaf of bread.

except it's meat.

i think i'll go make some for my family. they love it.

i originally posted this with the wrong measurement for bread crumbs and minus the tofu. duh.
i also went to make the meatloaf after posting and found there weren't any mushrooms. no matter, i subbed a diced zucchini and it was fine.
i also forgot the cashews. i'm not feeling well today, scratchy throat and all. i think i'll blame that.
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
  • slashfood
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