one man's ceiling
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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Thursday, April 19, 2007
  beer & cheese & a bag of chips
fending for myself again tonight because my zuska managed to get herself all invited to a girls nite out with sushi while i worked the late shift. it was apparently extremely excellent. the sushi that is.

so i was thinking maybe tonight i'd have an omelet. (i was thinking at work, thinking about what i would have. yeah, slow night). i knew i had eggs, and cheese, probably not mushrooms. onions? was there ham? sliced ham! wait... is there bread? canadian white bread (which isn't white, it's beige)! and individually wrapped cheese slices? yes! i'm going to have...

grilled ham and cheese sandwiches!

this is one of those things i could eat a lot more of around the house but can't really make as a meal. the girls won't do the ham thing, and it isn't really all that nutritious to eat like, say, once a week. but it was just me and i was going to have what i wanted.

but i was at work, hours to go before dinner. and thirsty. and a little snacky. so i'll run to the liquor store across the street. you know, for a lovely beverage and a snack. and this is what i saw.

cheddar beer.

i not only saw them, i felt strangely compelled to buy them, to try them! how bad could they be? beer and chips go well together, chips and cheese work together, it all ends up in the stomach anyway. what would they look like? would they be dusty with cheese dust, or yeasty colored like dried beer? well, in fact, they looked like this.

which is to say, they looked like chips, normal potato chips. and that's a good thing because when a food is an unnatural color -- like the nuclear colors that doritos come in -- you just know you're ingesting your old 4th grade chemistry set with every bite. so i was encouraged.

and then i tried them.

you know how it is when you're at a pub or some funky joint where maybe it's a little loud, but that's okay, and maybe it's also a little dark, and that's okay, because you're having a good time and all? and then you get all silly and you knock the beer bottle -- whoops! -- nice save! but a little of the beer splashed onto your chips and you mopped it up with a paper towel and, hey, they didn't so soggy. so then you've got a little cheddar that dripped out of your burger in your basket and you use one of those chips to scoop up the cheese and then, pop, right into your mouth.

there's a crunch, but not a crisp crunch. and a salty kind of cheese flavor, like the parmesan dust that's left over in the bottom of a can of that kraft stuff. and then, after you swallow, that husky aftertaste in the back of your throat that you get from a dark beer. only it's not a beer, and it isn't really cheese, and you're wondering why you're getting all this from a potato chip.

yeah, i ate the whole bag. i'm a guy. that's no excuse, i'm just saying.

so the minute i was off work i trucked home and my jacket hadn't even hit the floor before i was heating up the pan and buttering that canadian white bread. beer and cheese and chips may go together well, but only some drunken fool who gorged himself on a burger and chips and is nearly in a coma would come up with such a harebrained flavor as cheddar beer potato chips.

it takes a totally different fool to eat it. i can't even claim i was drunk.
  what constitutes a national tragedy?

a young man took the lives of 32 people and himself on monday. statistically 80 americans die from gun violence every day, but because they don't happen all at once or in the same place that statistic doesn't rate as news. which is the greater national tragedy?

yesterday there were 233 deaths in iraq, one of the largest single-day fatalities, yet the story was pushed aside for day-long coverage of news about our national tragedy.

(supreme court decision? what supreme court decision?)

so far, the estimate for civilian deaths in the iraq war is between 62,000 and 68,000 with no end in sight. the number of american fatalities is just over 3300. what makes one number newsworthy over another?

there's been a fair amount of hand-wringing and discussion in the news these past couple of days over mental health and why a clearly disturbed individual could so easily slip through the cracks. (and they have to keep mentioning how deranged/disturbed he was in order to show that they aren't simply in it for the gore; but they are) yet the nation didn't do any hand-wringing or hold any substantive discussions in the 1980's when ronald reagan's fiscal agenda gutted national mental health care system in favor of decentralization via local funding, community health centers and "block grants" which were designed to expire during his administration.

what gets ignored today becomes a national tragedy tomorrow. or, for those who prefer to have their reality masked in dogma: reap what you sow.

tragedy. you have to get three definitions in before you find an entry that doesn't concern drama in the american heritage dictionary.
3. A disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or injury to life: an expedition that ended in tragedy, with all hands lost at sea.

4. A tragic aspect or element.
since 9/11 it seems the news media goes from event to event, sniffing like a hungry dog, looking for the latest tragedy. news stories that provide breadth and scope and analysis have been replaced by expert speculation and professional opinion and a general lack of understanding of what constitutes news.

that is our greatest national tragedy.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
over at slashfood they've got a story asking people what they top their popcorn with and so far it's pretty pedestrian. the usual culprits are there -- flavored butters and salts, sweet and savory additions, bacon, cheese, hot sauce. what i want to know is" where are all the freaks?

i worked in movie theatres. before the bomb got dropped on coconut oil (what had been used for decades in the theatre biz, dropped because it was supposedly a "bad" oil) people used to request all kinds of toppings. parmesan cheese and brewers yeast were the top requests, season salt at the very least. sodium-free alternatives were also high in demand. eventually the condiment counter looked like a collection of refuge containers from the italian restaurant on the corner with shakers of all different sizes and hole openings. we even had to chain them down as people would take them into the theatres for their own personal use (selfish bastages!) and then leave them there, empty, sitting in pools of soda filth on the floor.

popcorn topping freaks? yeah, we saw them. hot sauce requests were common, and why these people couldn't be bothered to bring their own bottles along was beside me. i remember the one guy who really wanted ketchup and went a few doors down to a deli and got a handful of those little foil packages. mustard came up as well, and that almost intrigued me, because i like mustard on things most people don't.

but the king all-time topper of popcorn toppers came from a woman who ordered a large trough-sized cup of corn and requested we let her season it half way before moving on. people often requested we stop half way so they could salt (or have us add butter to) the bottom half for better distribution. that's not such an unusual request. but what she wanted was for us to sell her a bag of m&m's to sprinkle in the middle, then salted it and then had us add extra butter. to just the bottom half. then we filled it again, she had us knock a little off the top, sprinkled another bag of peanut m&m's on top, salted it and had us give extra butter.

understand this about the "extra butter" question at the snack bar; it may be one of the most expensive items to stock, but the reason theatre's try to go light on the butter is because there is a hidden cost of putting too much butter in the bag or cup -- dry cleaning. after a while a pool of butter is going to settle and either leak through the seams of the bag or through the bottom of the cup. you can't wax these containers the way you do drink cups because the wax will melt alongside the melted butter or when stored in a warming bin, so the best they can be is a coated paper that is resistant but not seep-proof. i cannot tell you the number of times people came out of the theatre with the tell-tale extra butter stain on their clothes demanding we pay for dry cleaning. folks, if you ask for extra, don't expect a theatre to also cover the cleaning bill for your indulgences.

i mention this not only as a public service but because we knew when we loaded up that m&m/butter/popcorn concoction that there would be a mess to clean somewhere down the road. at the end of the show we all swooped in to find the evidence. Like treasure hunters on the beach someone shouted "eureka!" and we all converged. there, on the floor, to our horror, we found it. the bucket was completely empty. she had eaten the entire thing. worse, the butter had melted the candy coating off the m&m's leaving a rainbow swirl of congealed butter about a quarter inch thick on the bottom. furtherworse, it appeared she had dredged her fingers through the butter leaving little furrows were her nails scooped up the candy butter that she would probably be licking off her fingertips for the coming week.

lest you think this was a one-off, may i direct you attention to the following recipe for popcorn cake? or perhaps this recipe? even emeril has a version, thought the recipe link doesn't work you can find the book pretty easy. if you're so inclined.

or perhaps this sounds more to your liking:
Harry & David’s Spooky Moose Munch, a wonderful combination of fluffy, crisp popcorn glazed with almond toffee and tossed with candied orange peels. The best part of this Halloween treat is that some of this divine popcorn creation is dipped into semi-sweet dark chocolate and drizzled over with orange-flavored chocolate. A gourmet treat everyone will enjoy.
people, need i remind you: it CORN! it's what we use to fatten livestock! do you really need further incentive to gorge yourselves on chocolate and sweets to the point of casual obesity?

now, what did i do with those leftover easter candies...

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Saturday, April 14, 2007
  dinner for one, racism for all

louden wainwright iii (perhaps better known to some as rufus wainwright's dad) was a folkie who had a hit a few decades back called "dead skunk" which you may know about but have never heard. this post isn't about skunks or that song. i bring him up because in the 80's he had a song call "i eat out" that talks about what it's like to eat alone. mostly it's about how pathetic it is that he eats alone.

well you can put at the table
in the corner in the back
unless you got one in the telephone booth
i know, i'm here and i'm alone again
it's sad but it's the truth

no i'm not expecting anyone
is that beyond belief?
give me menu, take away the candle
never mind the aperitif

i get a little like that when the girls are out of town, as they were last night. without having everyone to cook for i'm not as inspired to cook for myself. unless i'm craving something specific that i can get take-out i'll just scrounge whatever's at home. unless it's like old mother hubbard there, and then it's the great divide: buy groceries and cook for one, or take-out?

have we ever discussed my indecision, especially when i'm too hungry to focus?

i got home from work last night, the girls already gone, and found nothing scrounge-worthy. shopping didn't sound fun so i ordered a burger and fries, zoomed on my bike to pick it up, and watched the ever-clumsy news media fall all over themselves on this don imus thing. people, the issues isn't his racism, it's the fact that we still haven't had a discussion about racism in this country because we don't feel like we can be good citizens until we have, and we haven't, and we're not. that is to say, racism exists because people in american believe it won't go away until we have a national dialog and consensus about racism which, if you've every tried to get a committee of people to agree on anything you realize isn't only difficult but sometimes impossible. now multiply that by several million, and not just any several million, but several million americans who equate "free speech" with "what i say is more right, more truthful, more valid than your free speech" and you'll understand my frustration.

basically, racism exists because we can't imagine an america without it. but i digress, and i must admit, i don't remember the meal at all. violation of rule number one: never eat with the television on. i had a perfectly good book, a couple back issues of entertainment weekly, there's no reason why it had to go down like that. at least i didn't get indigestion.

my zuska will be home later (it was only an overnight) but she's off to a party and i just don't see us eat together until tomorrow. so i'll scramble for a bagel sandwich here, maybe a makeshift pasta and sauce there, really clean out the fridge during this vacation week while the girls are away and work on some new menu ideas.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007
  when in new england
i never really liked fish. growing up i never recall eating any fresh fish except for the occasional trout caught while camping as a boy scout. and while i could appreciate the differences between a fresh-caught fish and the usual fish stix or the occasional fillet-o-fish from mickey d's the idea of eating fish voluntarily as an adult was foreign to me.

or rather, it was slow to take. on a road trip across the country i had roadside fried clams, and had my first new england crab cake, and then back on the west coast discovered that grilled swordfish could hold its own against a steak. it took this california boy a little too long to understand the joy of the fish taco (and i won't say how old i was before i got past the mental block that kept me from sushi) but it's been a long, slow, steady climb.

except for shellfish, which i don't consider fish because they're more like spiders to me than sea creatures. and when i say shellfish i mean scallops and shrimp. big prawns with a spicy cocktail sauce, tiny little guys in the fried rice, regular 18/20 pan seared or on the grill... yum! except that i made a paella about a year ago and there were leftovers and i ate them for lunch and, man-o-man, was i sick! i still haven't gotten to where i can eat them though i can sit in the same room with them staring at me, but just barely.

anyway, i don't consider them fish, so we aren't talking about them.

i'm in new england, my girls like fish, this whole region is buffaloed into believing that the world would end if there was no fish, so i'm figuring i need to get with the program.

i made fish cakes. safe. like fish stix only fancier. 'cause i'm trying to work my way up to crab cakes.

i went with a recipe from the duchess of new england because (a) it was probably safe and (b) because it was nothing fancy. i probably could have found this recipe on the street, it's so basic. i'm not even going to include it.

it was good. i think i would have preferred to have served it with asparagus instead of broccoli but otherwise all went well. that's all.

i wish i had a good recipe for a scallop soup. that might make for a good next step.

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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
  • slashfood
  • 101 cookbooks
  • food network
  • the food section

  • deserts
  • library thing
  • mod*mom
  • librarians' internet index
  • barnacle press
  • cinematical

  • 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
    September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 /

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