Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On a cold winter's night...

... when everyone is fighting the sniffles and wants to hold a hot bowl of something in front of their face, you have to go with chicken soup.

Here's the 45 minute version, from start to finish, which includes 25 minutes of simmer time where you can work on something else. I like this one because you put the chicken breasts in whole, so you don't have to worry about cross-contamination with your knives or cutting boards. Just one less thing to worry about, and one step closer to sitting down to eat.

We also like the frozen egg noodles, which are a bit gummier than dried noodles and soak up the chicken flavor.

4-5 cups of chicken stock
1 medium onion (yellow or sweet)
3 celery ribs, sliced down the middle and then cut medium-fine
3 carrots or one bag of baby carrots, cut into 1/4 inch chunks or medium-fine slices
1 bay leaf if you have it

One package chicken breasts, 3-4 breasts, 1.5-2.5 pounds or so
2 teaspoons dried sage
1-2 teaspoons salt
.5-1 teaspoon black pepper (both to your taste)

1 pound frozen egg noodles.

2 Tablespoon each butter (slightly softened) and flour. You can get these two out at the beginning, and the butter should be soft enough by the time you need it.

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, simmer the chicken stock, onion, celery, carrots, and bay leaf for about 5-10 minutes. Add the whole chicken breasts, sage, and salt/pepper. Simmer for 25-30 minutes covered or partially covered. Flip the chicken a couple or three times to make sure it cooks evenly.

Once this is going, cook the frozen noodles according to its instructions. This usually takes about 15 minutes — 5-10 minutes to get the water boiling, then 10 minutes of cooking time.

At this point, you can opt to serve the chicken breasts whole, which means you'll need a knife, fork, and spoon. Or, you can take two forks and pull the chicken apart into bite sized pieces.

Mix the flour and butter until smooth. Push as much of the chicken and veggies as you can to the side of the pot and spoon the butter/flour into the liquid in the middle. Stir or whisk into the soup, and then add the noodles. Simmer for a couple more minutes so the noodles absorb some of the flavor and everything is evenly heated. Serve in soup bowls or shallow pasta bowls.

New Year's Resolutions: The One Mile Solution

In today's VeloNews, legal eagle Bob Mionske discusses Andy Cline's One Mile Solution.

  • The idea is simple: Find your home on a map...Draw a circle with a 1-mile radius around your home. Try to replace one car trip per week within that circle by riding a bicycle or walking. At an easy riding pace you can travel one mile on a bicycle in about seven minutes. Walking takes about 20 minutes at an easy pace.

The part that always messes folks up is that the One Mile Solution is a basic template that you need to adjust to your own local environs. If you have great bike paths and lots of stuff nearby, maybe yours should be a Five Mile Solution. If you live in the boonies like me, maybe running errands via LPCs or the two-wheeler is a stretch, but combining trips and parking once and walking in between stores serve the same purpose.

I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions. I try to practice New Life Resolutions. But to each his own. Do what works for you.

More here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well: Healthy Food for under $1

Check out the NYT's Well today.

Healthy Foods for Under $1

I've never understood why folks will spend 20 minutes in line during the lunch rush for a "fast" food burger, when in the same amount of time they can run into the grocery store, grab an apple, a bottle of Odwalla, and a block of cheese or the like, for the same amount of money. It has to be the perceived convenience of not picking out the components and assembling them oneself, along with the perceived "value" of the dollar menu.

Maybe if the cost of a quad bypass was factored into the 99 cent burger, folks would figure it out.

There are some obvious things one can do to both save money and eat better. For under three bucks, you get a tub of oats that will make five to ten times the cereal that you would get in a three dollar box of Sugar Coated Choco Bombs. But the packaged cold cereal is much more convenient, and we've become the laziest consumers on the market. (For that matter, a three dollar tub of oats will make ten times the oatmeal as those individual packets of oatmeal from the same manufacturer that cost a little bit more — explain that one to me.)

Instead of big box cereals, buy these items in bulk and try this out.

High Plains Notes

Windy day today. Can't complain about the temps (low 50s) but the wind we get around here starts in the Yukon, heads downhill the whole way, and doesn't hit anything to slow it down until it knocks over my garbage cans and sometimes the Weber. In Korea we called this wind the Hawk. It didn't matter what the temperature was or the relative humidity or the barometric pressure or anything — when the Hawk came roaring down off the mountains, you were going to get cold, cold down to the bone, down to the marrow.

I've heard from more than one person who noted that when their east coast friends and relatives visit, the tumble weed garners more attention than the mountains. After a while, you take the mountains for granted, I guess, but you hit a 4 foot diameter tumbleweed at 75 mph, and then watch it disappear in a puff of smoke, and for some reason that gets folks' attention.

Programming note: If Z. will let me have a couple of minutes off tonight, I really want to catch Bettye LaVette on the Kennedy Center Honors tonight. All reports are that she stole the show.

It's a Dog's Life

Molly told me to tell y'all that everyone out there is working too hard and not taking enough time to recharge the batteries.

Monday, December 29, 2008

One for the grandparents

A kid learning to walk... nuff said.

Pretty good at going straight... turns, not so much.

If we hadn't named our cat Crash, Zebb might have gotten the handle.

Fake Baking

This weekend's The Splendid Table featured Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, who explained how everyone can enjoy homemade artisan bread in just five minutes a day. Really.

I'm still trying to find five free minutes. Make it "artisan bread in just three minutes a day," and you might have me.

While I wait for their three minute update, I've been playing around with fake bread. Beer bread, that is.

There really is nothing easier. Mix up the flour, pour in a beer. Bake. Eat.

"Ahhh, but you're missing the point. There is nothing easier than bread," you say. Au contraire, my friends. Baking in general and bread in particular can be easy, if you're the type to follow directions. But you're talking to the guy who put Old Bay Seasoning in his chicken noodle soup the other day, just to see what would happen.

Baking is all about precision and attention to detail and following directions. And if I could do that... well, let's just say my military career would have turned out a bit differently.

Cooking is like jazz or mountain biking. You go with the flow, improvise, pick a line and see what happens. Baking is like surgery or carpentry. You need to know the steps, do everything according to the directions, and the results are dictated by science, chemistry, math and engineering.

Beer bread gives you a chance to put a wee bit of jazz into the chemistry mix. The ingredients remain the same: 3 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 3 Tablespoons sugar (or honey, agave nectar, or other sweetener), 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and one beer. Mix the dry, add the beer, pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake for an hour at 375º.

But there's room for improvising by picking the beer. Go with a wiessen or wheat beer and you can get clove or banana flavors from the German yeast strains. Lb Brewer's American Wheat, American Hefeweizen, or Flying Bison Rye are all good choices, but only available in western Kansas; so is Breckenridge's Agave Wheat, which is available all over the Front Range and High Prairie. Or go with a heavier beer for a bread with more body. My favorite so far has been Left Hand Brewing Company's Milk Stout, which gave the bread a malty, coffee flavor.

Yeah, I know... beer bread is cheating. Three minutes to mix, an hour to bake, and you're done. You're getting the flavor out of a bottle, not from the chemistry or artisanry. Okay, guilty as charged. So maybe if someone will send me ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY for my birthday, I'll come around to the other side.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Question #2

Question #2 has been: "Has Z-Dog tried to eat Z-Man yet?"

Those of you who know Zo know that he's... well... let's be charitable and call him a "one family dog." Loyal as the day is long, would do anything for M. and me, but everyone else had better be careful around him. He requires very careful handling from strangers. If you show one ounce of fear, it's game over, and you're on his watch list forever. But if you've been around big dogs before and assume he's just a lap dog on steroids who's only concern is who is going to scratch his butt, then you'll do okay, but only after you've proven yourself.

He has mellowed over the years, and lately he's been a lot quicker to get used to folks.

But still... a hairless ape crawling all over his domain has got to look a lot more like The Other White Meat than Dog's Best Friend, right?

Well, they're not snuggling up together in front of the fireplace quite yet, but the two seem to be heading in the right direction. For the first two days, Zo would bark at the little munchkin whenever he heard him banging away. But Z's failure to acknowledge that he was in fact the target of said barking moved him from "Potential Domestic Terrorist" to "Too Dumb to be Much of a Threat" in short order. Now Zo just stares at the little booger, wondering why this newbie isn't sleeping the garage or going outside to poop or any of the other things that a proper new animal should be doing in this family.

Meanwhile, Molly just thinks Z. is the most interesting smelling thing she's ever found. No nook or crany of his is safe from her inspection. If I could train her to stomp a foot when he needs a diaper change (one stomp for wet, two stomps for #2 would be nice), then we'd be in business.

Grace (aka the Graceless One, Fatty, Momma Cass, the Lump, the Tubby Tabby) seems to think Z. has potential as a buddy. She's checking him out, letting him chase her, staying just an arm's length out of reach. Crash doesn't care much for anyone who doesn't provide extra body heat for her apres-dinner nap, so she's ambivalent to the whole thing.

I know this next part is going to reveal my ignorance of the infant species, but I'll say it anyway, since that point has been made time and time again in the last week. I am simply amazed by Z's reaction to the animals. He's fascinated by all of them, and all of them equally. The big dogs are awesome, in the true sense of the word — he will just stare at them when they are sleeping, playing, walking, or whatever, without a trace of fear or concern. And the cats amaze him. They're here, and then they're there, so quietly and quickly... how did they do that? No electronic device of flashing lights, buzzes, and animation can compete with a cat that walks in view. He'll fling a full bottle over his shoulder and squirm to get out of my arms to go see what the cat is doing.

But why? Why is a real dog so intriguing to him, in a way that a person or stuffed animal or toy is not?

Now, for folks who have had kids for a while now, the answer is simple: because kids love dogs and cats. That why they ask for pets, that's why they like stuffed animals. Just because. But I don't get it. Why? Why would a kid like a big, hairy, potentially scary animal who is capable of chowing him down like a handful of so many beernuts? Has evolution wired us for some sort of domestic care-taking duty that plays out in an affection for critters of all shapes and sizes? Wouldn't it be smarter for Caveman Baby to be afraid of everything on four legs until he's big enough to sharpen his own spear?

What does a baby's affection for a 165 pound dog with big pointy teeth tell us about our humanity?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Reason #297 why Christmas (and Thanksgiving) rocks.

You all know the big reasons: family, friends, that hearty meal of turkey and stuffing...

But after the last prezzie has been unwrapped and the dishes have been washed and put away, there's still a lot to look forward to and be thankful for.

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is the leftovers. And while simply recreating the meal you just finished has it's merits, there are a lot of other ways to rearrange things and put them back together again.

One of the easiest: the Turkey Gobbler Sandwich.

Whole wheat bread
A smear of cream cheese, on one side, and a smear of cranberry chutney on the other
(see Great Tastes for the chutney recipe... to be published shortly)
A sprinkle of sunflower seeds on the cream cheese side
Sliced left-over turkey
Mixed greens, baby romaine, or arugula

It's so hard to go back to deli-counter lunch meat after one of these.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas on the Farm

I think we've mentioned that Z. measures up in the top 90th percentile for height but in the bottom 15th percentile for weight. Well, there's no better place to put some meat on your bones than Nebraska over the holidays. Too bad Two-Tooth Z-Man couldn't partake in the turkey, ham, stuffing, and dozens of boxes of cookies (although he did do some damage to the smashed potatoes and gravy). Wait until next year... the rest of us are going to be fighting for scraps after he makes his run on the buffet.

All of the pix from Christmas day are here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Tao of Z

Finish every day with a bath, a bottle, and then to bed. Not a bad philosophy.

Top Ten Holiday Beers

Story at NPR:

Top Ten Seasonal Beers.

Morning Edition, December 24, 2008 · Consider the libations of the season: Spiked eggnog. Mulled wine. What about a nice frosty Christmas beer?

Their list is okay... but how did they leave off Odell's Isolation Ale?

Tried Breckenridge Beer's Christmas Ale for the first time, which surprised me. It has cola notes but without the sweetness. With a porter or stout, I've never been fond of sweet additives... your vanilla porters or chocolate stouts don't do it for me. But BB's Christmas Ale is a completely different animal. Heavy but not thick, a bit of caramel but not syrupy or sweet.

To find seasonal beers in your part of the country, check out Season Beers dot org.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome Z-Man!

Just wanted to get some pix published.

Will fill y'all in on the details when we catch our breath.

Z's first photo album is here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Parenting 101

We're so not ready for this. This is the only reading material we had in the house. To his credit, he seemed to enjoy it, although he told me that he found it a bit derivative of the work of Oates and Lowell.

File under "Stuff No One Tells You": Baby formula packaged at sea level and then shipped to the Mile High City will explode in your face, like a bad Nickolodian prank, when you open it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Musings

Jambo, y'all,

Sitting here feeling very thankful — appropriate for the weekend following the fourth Thursday in November or any other weekend in which one has been surrounded by friends, family, and good food — so it seemed right to knock out a few words to the folks I haven't seen or talked to in far too long.

It's been a hectic summer and fall, and while I'm not crazy about the thought of scraping ice off of car windows and cleaning and drying dogs' paws after every trip outside, I am so ready for winter and it's slower days, longer nights, more time sitting by the fireplace, reading a good book and listening to Van Morrison, leisurely dinners over a hearty soup or stew and fresh bread, and in general a slower, more deliberate pace.

The big news is that Michele and I are officially certified as foster parents and have completed our training, inspections, home visits and home studies, and the various pokes and prods from government officials to make sure we're not just doing this because we need help with the dishes, vacuuming, and dog walking. It’s kind of crazy that just anyone can go and have a baby and the government doesn’t get involved one lick, and yet if you volunteer to help out where there most definitely is a need, then you get treated like an extra-terrestrial in a lab at Area 51. Financial disclosures, medical records checks and a full physical, police checks and finger-printing and references, and a home inspection to make sure that our water heater is set to 118.5º and that our kitchen does not contain any sharp objects (like knives), our medicine cabinet does not contain anything toxic (like medicine), and our home is generally free of those dangerous things like stairs and hard floors and gravity. I laughed when I realized that our wine rack contained both intoxicants and heavy, blunt objects that could pose a hazard to the industrious and inquisitive non-ambulatory infant.

The whole process could be a bit silly at times, but I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t worth it. Having watched kids from afar for so many years, the whole process of child-rearing seems like one of those things you’ve always taken for granted yet never seriously pondered (right up there with, “why isn’t a toothbrush called a teethbrush?”) With the perspective of a visitor to another planet, I kept finding that the list of known unknowns and unknown unknowns was a lot longer than the list of stuff I did in fact know. We were maybe three weeks into the training, and Michele and I were talking about attachment issues, trying to understand Medicaid benefits for foster kids, and other Big Picture items when all of a sudden I screamed out, “I don’t know where the school bus stop is!! They’ll never give us a kid, because I can’t get him / her / it to the bus stop!!”

But that part of the problem is over, fini, put to bed, so now we’re just sitting by the phone, waiting on the call for us to come down to the fire station or hospital or the county family services department to pick up a screaming bag of joy. I think it was Eleanore Roosevelt who said you should do something that scares you every day. This should cover me for the next 18 years, I imagine. Forty-four years old and about to be a first-time father, probably on a temporary basis at least once but quite likely for keeps. So, we’ll see what happens, and we’ll keep you posted.

Had our first real snow this weekend, which has me itching to get up into the mountains. Not enough of the cold frozen stuff yet for any fun, but enough to remind us that it’s just around the corner. And more than enough for the dogs, who ran around like puppies on their last walk, chasing the flakes and sticking their nose into it and then flipping it up into the air. That kind of stuff is good for the soul. When I lived in Korea, my best buddy used to say that everyone needed the occasional mental regression weekend, where you act like a kid and run around outside, getting muddy or playing in the snow and forgetting about grown-up worries and concerns. This place definitely has that in spades.

What’s funniest about the dogs running around like puppies is that one of them couldn’t run at all just a couple of years ago. Zo’s arthritis had him walking around like Freddie G. Sanford, and the “G” stands for “gimpy.” He’s been getting acupuncture for a couple of years now, and the difference is night and day. But still, he just turned nine, which is like 80-90 in Great Dane years. Watching him get old has been rough (was so tempted to type “ruff,” but I held back), but on the handful of occasions when the puppy in him comes out, it’s a healthy reminder that age is just a number and it’s our job to make the most out of every tick of the biological clock, since none of us know when that last alarm is going to go off, and hitting “snooze” isn’t an option.

So that’s our plan for the next several months: standing by the phone, and trying to get outside and soak up the daily dose of solar-delivered vitamin D. In between, I’m going to try to wear out our Dutch oven with stew and soup recipes and then struggle through my painful attempt at the Great American Novel (spoiler alert: it was the White House barber).

I hope 2008 has treated you well, and that 2009 brings nothing but wondrous new experiences, or at least a lot of the same old stuff that you have enjoyed from previous editions. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, give us a shout. And if you’re not, feel free to shout at us anyway.

Bon hiver, happy winter, mele kalikimaka and a hearty zum wohl to everyone.

Steve and Michele

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Snow

Quick "Happy Thanksgiving" to one and all! And an early "Bon Hiver" as well.

Say "hello" to the flakes — first real snow on the Front Range. Not enough for snowshoeing...but soon enough, soon enough.

Oh the snow, the beautiful snow, filling the sky and earth below. Over the house tops and over the streets, over the heads of people you meet. Dancing, flirting, skimming along. Oh the snow, the beautiful snow, how the flakes gather and laugh as they go. Whirling about in their maddening fun it plays in its glee with everyone. Chasing, laughing, hurrying by, it lights on the face and sparkles the eye. And even the dogs with a bark and a bound, snap at the crystals that eddy around. The town is alive and its heart in a glow to welcome the coming of beautiful snow.
Bon Hiver Cicely!

— Chris Stevens, "First Snow"

A Month-full of Muffins

The beauty of this batter is that it keeps for about a month, so you can whip up a batch on the weekend, and then make a couple or three muffins each morning. You get a freshly baked muffin each day for about the same amount of energy as putting a PopTart in the toaster. Slap some batter in the muffin pan, finish reading the paper or applying hair products or pack your lunch or have a cup of coffee, and then twenty minutes later, you have a muffin to take to work or pop in your kid’s lunch pail.

The recipe makes 4 dozen — cut it in half if that’s too many for your family for a month.

8 cups of Raisin Bran cereal (one 14 oz box)

5 cups flour

3 cups sugar

5 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups buttermilk

1 cup oil

4 eggs

1.5 cups dried cranberries

1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the cereal, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredient (buttermilk, oil, and eggs) and whisk until smooth and completely blended. Pour the buttermilk/eggs/oil mixture into the cereal/flour/sugar/baking soda/salt bowl and gently stir until just blended, and then fold in the cranberries.

2. Place in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate overnight. Important: do not stir the mixture again. When you need some batter, spoon from the top — do not remix the batter.

3. Preheat the oven to 400º. Grease muffin pan and spoon in the batter. Bake 18 minutes (check the first time with a toothpick). Cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then serve warm or throw ‘em in your lunch box.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Game Day Beer Reviews

Made pumpkin bread yesterday and forgot the baking powder/soda. So instead, wound up with pumpkin hard tack.

Just in case anyone wants to spice up their kit bag for the next Battle of Wilson Creek reenactment.

And in keeping with the spirit of the new Forum decorum... pumpkin hard tack goes great with a Boulder Beer Cold Hop, a British style ale with a floral hop aroma that balances the expected light bitterness.

Okay, enough about Colorado beers... for those of you who don't live in God's Country, here's a recommendation for Game Day (Beat Buffalo!). If you've been to Riley, Leonard Wood, or Leavenworth, or anywhere in the mid west, you've probably seen Boulevard Beer, from Kansas City. They've had a pretty good distribution network lately, and you can find Boulevard just about anywhere these days.

And if you've ever been around me in any of those locales, you know I'm not a fan. Boring, bland, and not worthy of even making their way into a pot of borracho beans or beer-butt-chicken.

But all that changed when they came out with their Smokestack series. These beers stack up well against just about everyone, even my backyard brewers.

The Sixth Glass is a brilliant quadrupel ale that reminded me of fresh German bread. A little bit of carmel, a little bit of malt, a little bit of pepper, and a little bit of spice, perfectly balanced. And a 10.5% ABV that is still quite drinkable.

Long Strange Tripel (9% ABV) is a Belgian-style bottle-conditioned ale that is crisp on the tongue, tastes as good as it looks, and finishes Sahara-dry.

And one of my favorite IPAs is the Double Wide. An IPA is going to be marked by a hoppy bitterness, and this one has that in spades, but there's enough malt action to round it out without losing any of its character. In heaven, you will watch Army beat Navy on a wide screen TV with a Double Wide in one hand and Cricket-burger with green chilis in the other, surrounded by your closest family and friends.

Okay, sun's up... time to put in 50 miles before the first kick-off...

Cheers and Beat Buffalo!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Autumn Salads: Mixed fruit with maple dressing

Western slope honeycrisp apples are now available, so while this recipe usually calls for a tart Granny Smith, I prefer to use the locally grown varieties. You can use honeycrisps, Granny Smiths, macouns, honeygolds, or any sharp, tart, crisp variety.

Maple Dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or Champaign vinegar if you have it (but don’t buy it just for this recipe — white wine works just fine)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix it all up, preferably with an emulsifier.

1 bag mixed baby greens
2 apples: Peeled or unpeeled, cored, and julienned or sliced into matchstick-sized slivers
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (toasted at 350º for 5-10 minutes)

Makes 6-8 salads.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is it officially football season?

Seems like all across the country, there's one thing we can agree on: football season may have technically begun, but it's not really football season until you can see your breath as you stand in the parking lot, firing up the Weber and embarrassing the kids with your musical selections blaring on the car stereo.

This Saturday, Autumn says "bring it on." It's time to separate wheat from chaff, big dogs from the pups, and to see who's got the goods to stand out in the freezing cold, clad only in team-color-appropriate outerwear, and making liberal use of the appropriate mix of Milwaukee's finest antifreeze, California tonsil polish, and Gaelic brain eraser.

The only problem is... it ain't cold yet! Unless you have tickets for the next U of Buffalo game, odds are you can still get away with shorts and slippahs for this Saturday's game, with maybe a floppy hat for some cranial SPF.

So this weekend, we need a transition menu. It's not quite time for some hearty winter chili and a thermos of Irish coffee, but we're past burgers and corn on the cob.

So here ya go: this weekend's Game Day menu.

1. Friday night or early Saturday morning: Prepare the Kalua pork.

Now, the real deal Hawaiian version of this requires a full day of cooking, and either a pit in the ground or at least a pressure cooker. You also need to understand the Polynesian culinary term "full chicka," and you need a source of ti leaves (cordyline fruticosa). But this version gets you 95% of the way there, and it's the easiest recipe you'll ever try. In fact, don't even call it a recipe. All you need is some pig and a Dutch oven.


One Boston Butt (bone in, bone out, either way), boneless pork butt (rolled), pork shoulder, or pork roast — really doesn't matter.
(About 5 pounds)

One Tbs liquid smoke, hickory seasoning, or the like

Two Tbs course Hawaiian salt or sea salt
(Hawaiian sea salt can be pricey, but I get it from Savory Spices for about $8 a pound. )

Put the pig in a Dutch oven. Add water until the water is 1/3 to 1/2 up the pig. Add the liquid smoke to the water. Add one Tbs of the salt to the water, and sprinkle one Tbs of the salt over the pig.

Cover and bake at 350º for 3 hours. Turn down the oven to 250º and bake for 2 more hours. Remove from heat, let cool for ten minutes, then pull the meat apart.

Add BBQ sauce and store in an air-tight container until game time. You can serve it cold, or wrap it in tinfoil and warm up on the grill over indirect heat.

Serve on toasted buns, with cole slaw on the bun or on the side. I go with the cole slaw on the side, and a spoonful of chopped Clausen kosher dill pickles on the pork.

2. Cole Slaw.

Whisk together 1/3 cup mayo; 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar; 2 Tbs sugar, honey, or agave nectar; 1 tbs dry mustard.
Pour mixture over a bag of slaw mix or 3 cups total chopped green and red cabbage.
Salt to taste. I usually add a dash of dill weed or some celery salt.

Serve on the side, or on top of the pig meat.

3. Chipotle sweet potatoes.

At home, slice 2 pounds peeled sweet potatoes into half-inch-thick rounds. Spray with olive oil and store in a container. Mix 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbs honey, 1 Tbs lime juice, 1-2 Tbs canned chipotle chilis in adobo (chopped fine — seeds removed if you want a milder sauce), and 2 Tbs finely chopped cilantro. Store this in an airtight container.

At the stadium, preheat the grill to medium high. Coat the sweet potato rounds with the sauce and grill 5 minutes per side. Salt to taste.

This Saturday: Army vs Texas A&M, at College Station, Texas. 12:30 EST, on Versus.

Beat the Aggies!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peach Pie

Betty Crocker's 9 inch Pastry shell

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
⅓ cup plus 1 Tbs shortening
2-3 Tbs cold water

Measure flour and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons water can be added if needed).

Gather dough into ball; shape into flattened round on lightly floured cloth-covered board. (for Two-crust Pie, divide dough in half and shape into 2 flattened rounds.) With floured stockinet-covered rolling pin, roll dough 2 inches larger than inverted pie pan. Fold pastry into quarters; unfold and ease into pan.

For One-crust Pie: Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pan. Fold and roll pastry under, even with pan; flute. Fill and bake as directed in recipe.

For Two-crust Pie: Turn desired filling into pastry lined pie pan. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of pan. Roll second round of dough. Fold into quarters; cut slits so steam can escape. Place over filling and unfold. Trim over-hanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pan. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking. Bake as directed in recipe.

Note: If using self-rising flour, omit salt. Pie crusts made with self-rising flour differ in flavor and texture from those made with plain flour.
Note: If possible, hook fluted edge over edge of pie pan to prevent shrinking and help keep shape.
Note: Simply roll dough out on wax paper, invert dough and wax paper into pie dish, and peel off wax paper.


5 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs butter

Heat oven to 425°. Prepare pastry. Mix peaches and lemon juice. Stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon; mix with peaches. Turn into pastry-lined pie pan; dot with butter. Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it; seal and flute. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

Reference: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook - 1972, Page 316.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tonight's Menu: Grilled Tandoori Chicken with Rice Salad and Roasted Tomatoes

In the oven or on the grill, this is one of my favorite combos. The chicken and tomatoes have just a bit of a kick (spicy, not hot), and the rice salad makes a great left-over for lunch the next day.

Grilled Tandoori-style Chicken
Rice Salad
Grill-roasted Cherry Tomatoes

1) Grilled Tandoori -style Chicken
(Adapted from The Best of Fine Cooking Grilling)

1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp curry powder
1.5 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne

2 Tbs oil
3 Tbs red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
2 2lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 Tbs chopped cilantro

Mix all of the powders in a medium, non-reactive bowl. Heat the oil in a pan over low heat. Stir in the spices and mix until the bubble, about a minute. Return the spice and oil mix to the bowl and stir in the yoghurt and vinegar. Add the chicken thighs, coating evenly. Put aside until you’re ready to grill, or cover and marinate in the fridge for up to 12 hours.

Throw the thighs on the grill and cook until done, depending on your grill and preferred grilling technique. Personally, I’m sold on Mark Bittman’s method of cooking the chicken over indirect heat for 12-15 minutes, then finishing over a hotter flame. Read more here:

Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

2. Rice Salad, from the New York Times Mark Bittman:

3. Grill-roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Use the recipe from our cookbook, but instead of using a pan and the oven, wrap the tomatoes in foil and grill over indirect heat for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice. Be careful folding you foil — make sure you have a tight package that won’t leak, and leave some air in the foil packet

Monday, August 4, 2008

Motivation via ridiculous investments

My brother runs a couple of marathons a year. He usually gets on a pretty tight routine, ramping up the miles, mixing up LSD runs with speed work, and on race day he's right where he needs to be.

But sometimes, real life gets in the way, and he doesn't feel like getting up that extra hour earlier than normal, just to run by himself in the dark. Or after a long day, kids' soccer practice, projects around the house... he just can't bring himself to hit the road after all of that.

So what he does is a time-honored tradition among weekend warriors: he drops a load of dough on the most overpriced piece of gear he can find, and then he leaves it out in the open so that he has to look at it all of the time.

You drop $150 on running shoes, and you're not going to let them gather dust in the closet.

Of course, this is only really necessary if you're at the end of your rope. Me, this year I'm going for the ascetic, monk-like approach. I started the summer with new bike tyres, and I'm not going to add another thing until the first snow, I've promised myself. There's a small rip in my ten year old seat bag — I duct-taped the seam from the inside and it's as good as new. Repaired my shoes with Shoe-Gu, so they'll last another 2-3 years. Felt like my cleat/pedal connection was a little messed up, and REI had Crank Bro pedals on sale. Lordy, they were tempting, but instead of buying new, I tore everything apart and repacked the bearings, lubed everything, and I'm pretty sure they'll last another couple of years. Best of all, I got a flat, and instead of replacing the tube, I patched it up and put it back on. Of course I did it wrong, flatted again, and had to do it all over. But even still, saving that one tube has a grace all unto itself.

So choose your poison. Even though the two methods are diametrically opposed, they both work.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Embrace Your Inner Geek

Embrace Your Inner Geek

If you are exercising, and you don't know that you are exercising, do you get the same benefit as if you were doing the exact same amount of work but under the supervision of a personal trainer?

Maybe, maybe not.

A while back, a Harvard psychologist conducted a study using hotel maids. Despite the high level of physical exertion required for the job — hauling vacuum cleaners around, carrying linen, and lots of walking — very few of the maids felt that they got any exercise. Without changing their work requirements, half of the maids were told how many calories their daily efforts burned. The other half were kept in the dark.

Only a month later, the first group had lost weight and dropped their blood pressure, while the other group remained constant, even though both were doing the exact same amount of work.

That's the power of getting techie with your program.

You can hop on the treadmill, turn on the TV, and phone in a workout, and you'll burn X calories.

Or, you can hop on the treadmill, hook up the heart rate meter, log in your miles and speed, and the studies show that your body will respond to an exercise placebo effect: you'll think you're getting a better workout.

Two ways to accomplish this:

Without spending a dime, you can start writing down your workouts. Miles, minutes, distance, effort level. Lots of folks use a heart rate monitor, but studies have shown that simply rating your effort on a 1-10 scale can be as just as useful. Keep a log, and periodically tally up your numbers.

But sometimes that's not enough motivation, and in those cases, you have to whip out the plastic and buy the shiniest gadget you can find.

For instance, you can get a bike computer for around $30. That will tell you speed, distance, elapsed time, lap speed/distance, and max speed. But is that geeky enough? Because for five more Benjamins, you can upgrade to a GPS-based system that will track your entire route, tell you elevation gain, average climbing rate (VAM), power output, cadence, and a whole bunch of other functions. You'll spend so much time analyzing data, you won't have time to ride.

Geekiness doesn't have to be electronic or computer-based. You can buy running shoes with crazy insoles or support mechanisms. It's amazing what you can spend on a softball bat these days. And super hi-tech wicking, cool-max, dri-fit, polar-tech duds always work.

The key to success is that the item needs to make you think about your work-out. Technology becomes the anti-iPod: you are not tuning out the world, but instead tuning in to your pain or effort. Think about exactly what you're doing, analyze it, over-analyze it. Make it a conscious effort to improve.
Now get out there.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tips from the Pros

Sure, there are thousands if not millions of websites guaranteeing you fabulous abs or whatever... but how many of them feature the kid sister of one of our classmates?

Kathy Kaehler, Personal Trainer and Exercise Guru

Friday, August 1, 2008


Workout Music

This is a touchy subject for some folks. Most trainers say, if it helps motivate you, go for it. But there are some who say that critical parts of your workout need all of your mental energy. You need to pay attention to your pain, feel the effort, and think about what you're doing. In other words, a distraction from your base miles is good, but a distraction from your skill development (speed or power workouts or technique work) is not so good.

Shhhhhhh... don't tell the battalion safety officer, but I've been road biking with my iPod. I know, I'm like the last guy who wasn't riding with one. And I'm still kind of a wuss about it. I got a non-stereo, single ear bud thingy from Radio Shack, because I can't set the iPod to mono, so I only keep it in one ear, so i can still hear traffic. But still, that would be a 4C or a 15-and-15 or something if I got caught on post doing that.

But it's working. For base mileage workouts, it makes 2-3 hours just disappear.

So here's what I've been listening to lately: my Velo Tunes list.

The Old Apartment Barenaked Ladies Spectacle (Live)
One Week Barenaked Ladies Stunt
Got To Get You Into My Life The Beatles Revolver
Central Reservation (Ben Watt Remix) Beth Orton Central Reservation
Resignation Superman Big Head Todd & The Monsters Beautiful World
Broken Hearted Savior Big Head Todd & The Monsters Sister Sweetly
Rat Race Billy Idol Devil's Playground
Sherri Billy Idol Devil's Playground
Cherie Billy Idol Devil's Playground
Atom Bomb The Blind Boys Of Alabama Atom Bomb
Demons 4:31 The Blind Boys Of Alabama Atom Bomb
Badlands Bruce Springsteen The Essential Bruce Springsteen
The River's Gonna Run Buddy & Julie Miller
Shadow Stabbing Cake Comfort Eagle
Love You Madly Cake Comfort Eagle Adult
Sly The Cat Empire Two Shoes
The Car Song The Cat Empire Two Shoes
Sol y Sombra The Cat Empire Two Shoes
Party Started The Cat Empire Two Shoes
Saltwater The Cat Empire Two Shoes
The Rhythm (Bonus Track) The Cat Empire Two Shoes
Cruel & Gentle Things Charlie Sexton Paste Magazine Sampler 19
Beat's So Lonely Charlie Sexton Pictures for Pleasure
My Brilliant Feat Colin Hay My Brilliant Feat - Single
Timothy Dada Puzzle
9 Crimes Damien Rice 9
Rootless Tree Damien Rice 9
Dogs Damien Rice 9
9 Crimes (Demo) Damien Rice 9
Warehouse Dave Matthews Band Recently
The Crane Wife The Decemberists The Crane Wife
The Island The Decemberists The Crane Wife
Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then) The Decemberists The Crane Wife
O Valencia! The Decemberists The Crane Wife
The Perfect Crime #2 The Decemberists The Crane Wife
Sons & Daughters The Decemberists The Crane Wife
After the Bombs The Decemberists The Crane Wife
Peace Frog The Doors Morrison Hotel
Missing (Todd Terry Remix) Everything But The Girl Amplified Heart
Notice Gomez How We Operate
See the World Gomez How We Operate
How We Operate Gomez How We Operate
Hamoa Beach Gomez How We Operate
Girlshapedlovedrug Gomez How We Operate
Charley Patton Songs Gomez How We Operate
All Too Much Gomez How We Operate
Candy Iggy & Kate Pierson Brick By Brick
Kid Fears Indigo Girls Indigo Girls
Shed Your Skin (Tom Morello Remix) Indigo Girls Rarities
Thin Line Indigo Girls 1200 Curfews
Queen Of The World The Jayhawks Smile
(In My) Wildest Dreams The Jayhawks Smile
Coma Girl Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros Paste Magazine Sampler 7
The Man Comes Around Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around
Matter Josh Joplin Group Usefull Music
Camera One Josh Joplin Group Usefull Music
I've Changed Josh Joplin Group Usefull Music
Love Vibration Josh Rouse 1972
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine The Killers Hot Fuss
Mr. Brightside The Killers Hot Fuss
Smile Like You Mean It The Killers Hot Fuss
Somebody Told Me The Killers Hot Fuss
All These Things That I've Done The Killers Hot Fuss
Andy, You're a Star The Killers Hot Fuss
On Top The Killers Hot Fuss
Change Your Mind The Killers Hot Fuss
Believe Me Natalie The Killers Hot Fuss
Midnight Show The Killers Hot Fuss
Everything Will Be Alright The Killers Hot Fuss
When You Were Young The Killers Sam's Town
Read My Mind The Killers Sam's Town
Send Down The Rain Majek Fashek Spirit Of Love
Extreme Ways Moby 18
Dashboard Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Fire It Up Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Florida Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
We've Got Everything Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
People As Places As People Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Invisible Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Crystal New Order Get Ready
Ceremony New Order Singles
Perfect Kiss New Order Singles
Shellshock New Order Singles
Bizarre Love Triangle New Order Singles
True Faith New Order Singles
1963 (Edit) New Order Singles
Round and Round New Order Singles
Regret New Order Singles
Crystal (Radio Edit) New Order Singles
Baro Nil Lara
I Will Be Free Nil Lara
Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair (Jaffa Remix) Nina Simone & Jaffa Verve Remixed
Barcelona Nights Ottmar Liebert Nouveau Flamenco
Spanish Dancer Patti Scialfa Artist's Choice Emmylou Harris
Tony Patty Griffin Flaming Red
Long Road Patty Griffin 1000 Kisses Alt-
Home And Dry Pet Shop Boys Release
Love You 'Till the End The Pogues Pogue Mahone
Don't Stand So Close To Me The Police The Very Best of Sting & The Police
Voice Of Harold R.E.M. Dead Letter Office
Star 69 R.E.M. Monster
Texarkana R.E.M. Out Of Time
Meadowlake Street Ryan Adams & The Cardinals Cold Roses
Somethin' To Believe In Shawn Mullins Beneath The Velvet Sun
N.Y.C. Steve Earle El Corazon
Copperhead Road Steve Earle Essential Steve Earle
The Revolution Starts... Steve Earle The Revolution Starts Now
Desert Rose Sting The Very Best of Sting & The Police
Joyful Sound String Cheese Incident Outside Inside
Way Away Toad The Wet Spet Bread And Circus
Fly From Heaven Toad The Wet Spet Dulcinea
Crucify Tori Amos Little Earthquakes
A Sorta Fairytale Tori Amos Scarlet's Walk
Fast Car Tracy Chapman Tracy Chapman Folk
Even Better Than the Real Thing U2 Achtung Baby
Ultraviolet (Light My Way) U2 Achtung Baby
Beautiful Day U2 All That You Can't Leave Behind
Walk On U2 All That You Can't Leave Behind
Vertigo U2 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Lack Of Water The Why Store The Why Store
Put the Message In the Box World Party Goodbye Jumbo
Diavolo In Me (Devil In Me) Zucchero & Solomon Burke Zucchero & Co.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

'87 Fitness Challenge

Classmates and Fellow Almost Senior Citizens,

The "1987 OCWS Money Talks Fitness Challenge" came to me in a blinding flash of the obvious.

I'm at the doctor's the other day, nothing serious, just a physical to start the school year, and after they stick an insta-read thermometer in my ear, they ask me to hop up on the scale. Well, I haven't done much hopping lately, side-straddle or otherwise, but I comply to the best of my ability, and the way the dial starts spinning, I expect it to come up 7-7-7 and start spitting out tokens. When it finally comes to a rest, the number looks more like something associated with a new BMW coupe than the number of pounds that a human should weigh on Earth.

"I'm sorry," I say, "it must be set on 'metric' or something. Should I try again? Maybe if I take my shoes off we'll get a better number. Plus, I just ate, right before coming over here... Thanksgiving dinner, that is. With Grandma's famous lead-based gravy."

"Let's talk about lifestyle choices..." the doctor says to me in a concerned voice.

My dad always said, there are only two ways that we learn: pain and money. You touch the hot burner on the stove top, and you quickly learn not to do it again. You buy the latest gadget from Ronco after watching the three-in-the-morning infomercial, and when you see your Visa bill, you wonder why an inside-the-egg-scrambler seemed like such a good idea at the time.
But combining pain and money... now, THAT's the ticket. Especially if both are going to a good cause: getting back into fighting shape and helping our class gift campaign. And personally, money never fails as a motivator, especially the part about giving it away. Lose a pound or lose a dollar... if you're like me, you'll see me at the gym, on the road, on the track, or strapped to some contraption with an oxymoronic name like "Lifecyle" in a heartbeat.

For those of you like me, I am proposing the first (and I'm hoping, the last) 1987 Money Talks Fitness Challenge. (Last, I hope, because we're all going to make it stick.)

I am proposing that you set your own weekly goals for a 12 week program starting on 11 Aug. Your goal could be pounds, percent body fat, 5K run time, or any measurable goal. Everyone sets their own goals, so do what you want. Then, commit to doing whatever you have been saying for years that you should be doing. Every week that you fail to meet your goal, you pledge to donate $20 or more to the class gift campaign. Set whatever amount will motivate you. My goal is to stop the slot machine wheel by losing a pound per week or it will cost me $20.
As the class fund raiser, I hope to make no money for the class gift. I would prefer to see us all get in better shape, preferably something other than round. If you would like to participate, you are on your honor, but I would like everyone participating to share your stories, so that I can compile a submission for a future Assembly article detailing number of participants, pounds lost, miles ran, or any other quantifiable goal, along with dollars raised.

To avoid any potential lawsuits, I advise anyone who has not exercised for years to consult a physician before you begin your program. And please, no wagering!

So as to not overwhelm the open mailing list, please share your goals on the forum

or on the class webpage. I'm not sure how to use this, but I promise to have my 11 year old daughter explain it to me.

Our Country We Strengthen

Jim Glackin

Dr Allen Lim's Rice Cakes

I've seen this recipe in a bunch of places, but here's the video to talk you through it.

Dr Lim's Rice Cakes

It's also laid out here in the New York Times if you'd like to write it down.

Happy trails!