Thursday, December 25, 2008

On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day

I am exhausted.

We had a wonderful Christmas. Rose being only 2 1/2 did not get up at o-dark-early but her usual time of 7:15. Rose was thrilled that Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk set out and that the reindeer ate the carrot. And she wanted more cookies. Our modest Christmas was done by 9:00. Rose wanted pancakes for breakfast so I whipped some up. Maybe this will be a Christmas tradition?

The rest of the day I spent cooking. While the pancakes were cooking I made homemade rolls for dinner and a loaf of white bread. They came out spectacular. One of the few times I use bleached flour but I wanted that vibrant white for the rolls.

Then I started the green beans. The beans were from by garden this summer. I froze quart bags as I picked them. I always loved my Grandmother's green beans growing up. Green Beans and Shellies (canned). She always made them with an onion and a ham hock and cooked them a-l-l day. I do the same except I have to leave out the shellies since Dinah is allergic to pinto beans, much to her dismay as they are one of her favorite foods. The beans were excellent but needed more salt.

I overdid it on the mashed potatoes. Probably making up for Thanksgiving. I bet I made enough for a dozen people, we had three and a half. I went old school and boiled the spuds with the skins on. I don't really know why but that's how my Grandmother did it. Then I pressed them through a potato ricer before beating them smooth in my stand mixer. I love and prefer homemade mashed potatoes but I hate lumps. The mashed potatoes were good but could have used more butter and salt but that is easily fixed at the dinner table.

My coup de grace though was my rĂ´ti de porc au lait, pork roast with a milk sauce. It was so, so good. Maybe a tad too much thyme, maybe. Twice as much as I needed to make but we've got good leftovers. I almost pulled it off without a hitch but as my wife said, if I had, I wouldn't have had anything to write about. My thermometer let me down. I don't know why but when I started slicing the pork, it was still rare in the middle. Bummer. So I had to finish it in the microwave. Oh well, at least I didn't loose my cool. Now I have a good excuse to get that super fancy thermometer I've had my eye on!

If it wasn't so late I'd take the bike for a spin. Fifty degrees here in the mountains, no snow, but a lovely Christmas day nonetheless. Might be about time for a sweet snack.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And Iran, Iran is Far Away

Sing it out loud and you'll get it.

Tonight I made an Iranian dish, Persian if you would like to be more romantic. Yes I know it is Christmas Eve. Doesn't mean anything, it just fell in the cooking schedule that way. My apologies to my Muslim friends, I made my Khoresht-e Gheimeh Sabzi with pork not lamb. Not very Halal of me, but it is what I had on hand. Try to find lamb here at Ingles.

Here is where I get to be a little elitist. Dinah took the leftover Curry Chicken Casserole to work and her boss complained about the smell. Apparently made some Indian crack too. Ya know, there is more to like than meat and potatoes and the international flavor is broader than the aisle of pasta, tacos and soy sauce at the grocery. People who aren't willing to challenge their taste buds, eat something they can't pronounce or is just foreign really irk me. Yes, I look upon ye of bland palette with disdain. Live a little!

When I was working this month, my friend asked if I had liked the travel to Germany. I'm like, HELL YEAH, I wish it had been more often! "Yeah, well you're a foodie," he said. YES I AM. The more exotic, the more I want to try it. The whole reason we went to Montreal for vacation last year was so I could eat at Au Pied du Cochon. I did indeed plan a vacation around a restaurant and my wonderful wife allowed it.

Khoresht-e Gheimeh Sabzi (lamb and herb stew) would be extremely popular here in the South, in my opinion. It is essentially hunks of meat simmered in wilted spinach and parsley, a la greens, with cannellini beans. Unfortunately I erred on the beans tonight. I did not grow up eating beans, being a Yankee. Never had them, never cooked them. So I don't know how. The last time I made this dish I used a can of beans. This time I used dried beans. I soaked them. I didn't know I had to cook them first. They were like slivered almonds. Ah well, live and learn.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all and to all a good night!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cookies Galore!

When I was a kid I went to Catholic school. Once a Catholic always a Catholic. I'm just non-practicing now. If They make some changes regarding Their stance on women and gays, maybe I'll come back...But anyway, we used to always, always have fundraisers. I used to have to lug this cardboard suitcase door to door hustling junk. I hated it. Then there were the candy bars and the M&Ms. The walk-a-thons. I hated it all. Well I liked easting the chocolate but I doubt my Mom liked paying for it.

Nowadays kids don't work for it. They don't schlep like I used to. They give their mom and dad their order forms and mom and dad take it to work and con and guilt their co-workers into ordering buckets of cookie dough, frozen loaves of cinnamon bread, boxes of Girl Scout cookies, etc., etc.,etc., and so forth. Yeah, yeah, I know there's a safety issue, pedophiles and what not. Like they didn't exist or something when I was a kid.

But there's got to be someway that the kids can learn some responsibility and not just feel they can always dump the job on mom and dad. Fortunately I've got a few years to figure that one out.

Our friend Arwyn had fund raiser for school selling magazine subscriptions. I think I did that one too. Get this. Did she just dump this on her mom? Nono! She mailed us the subscription information and forms in a handwritten envelope and with a note she wrote herself. Sure, maybe it was her mom's idea but that's initiative. And as broke as we are we had to reward that kind of gumption. I got a subscription to Gourmet.

My first issue arrived this week and I've made it through the Letters to the Editor. One letter immediately caught my attention, directing me to their web site. Check THIS out! Fire up the printer I've got a lot of pages to go. Need to buy some ink pronto!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eat Mor Chikin

We had chicken tonight, again. It was an accident, not by design. I don't normally like serving similar meats back to back like that. And I'm not that fond of chicken to start with.

The plan was a dish called Chicken Anaheim. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and I ended up with something that wasn't Chicken Anaheim.

I admit I have a temper. I like to believe that even though I can still fly into a rage, my rages are less often now and less intense. I've mellowed. Really. But it still happens. Things not going as planned sets me off and having a dinner not go right really sends me into orbit. Fortunately by the time Dinah and Rose got home, I had mostly calmed down, mostly. But the food was cold by then and I was still a little pissed.

This dish has three parts, a bed of noodles, grilled chicken and a cream sauce. I use fideo noodles to add some Mexican authenticity but broken spaghetti noodles work just fine. I remember saying out loud, "no need to buy any spaghetti since we have at least three boxes." Well we have none. I don't even like spaghetti so I don't know where it all went. I guess I used it up without realizing it. So I ended up using elbow macaroni. It worked but wasn't what I wanted. Maybe I should have busted open some packages of ramen. (The idiot kids in my class call it Roman noodles).

But what really sent me into orbit was my peppers. I froze all the peppers from my garden. They freeze well and allow me to have some nicer peppers than what I can buy in the grocery at any given time. I needed to char the skins of my Anaheim peppers and rub them off. I've learned tonight that I need to find a good way of doing this. In the past I used the side burner on my propane gas grill and it always worked perfectly. Problem now is one, that burner doesn't work any more and two, it's 19 degrees outside (yes, in Georgia)! I have tried using a bottle torch. It didn't work. Later I saw it done lickity split on TV with the same torch I have. I don't know how they did it. This time I tried the broiler in the toaster oven since I only had two peppers. I got the skins to char, mostly. I sweated them like usual. When I tried to peel the skins off, my peppers shredded. I had nothing. Dammit. I've got to find a better way.

But in the end, the meal tasted good even if it wasn't what I set out to make. These things happen, I know. And it's Monday.

PS I got paid today!!!! I might just buy my wife a Christmas present after all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Curry Chicken Broccoli Casserole

I made this dish for dinner tonight. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up, one of the few ways my Mom could get me to eat broccoli as a kid. Hey its got meat, rice, vegetable. Its almost a complete well rounded meal!

If you try it, let me know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Changes in Perspective

Just when was it Christmas tradition to sit by the fire and tell ghost stories? I never remember doing that.

I'm amazed at how perspectives can change. Not that long ago we were Double Income, No Kids (DINKS). We weren't rich but that was nothing we couldn't do. We had a house. I drove my beat up, rusted out pickup truck. But if we wanted to go on vacation, we went. I wanted to eat steak, I ate steak. We wanted to eat out, we did, and often. We had no monetary worries, no wants and bills were paid.

Then we were Double Income, One Kid (DIOK?) Pretty much the same. We went on vacations. We did what we wanted. Enough people gave us baby shower gifts that we had little need to buy that kind of stuff. And add to that overindulgent grandparents, we had no monetary worries, no wants and bills were paid.

Then I stopped working. OUCH! Sure we are both loving the extra time I have with Rose and my wife is now spoiled that I am home to take up the slack. But now we are literally living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck. We can't eat out. No vacations in sight. And I can't say that every bill gets paid. I've learned that the size of the paycheck doesn't matter. People I know who are making $25,000/year are in the same boat as people I know making $150,000/year. The debt/income ratio is the same so the issues are the same.

A week ago we were at a skate party for a friend's seven year birthday party. At the end of the party they started throwing out the leftover food. Two years ago I wouldn't have thought anything of it. Now I'm horrified. I was able to step in and save the cold cuts, cheese, carrots and grapes. That was my lunch for a week.

I saw a thing on the news about the Grocery Game. Needing to find new places to cut costs, I checked into this. In college I was Coupon King and later in the early days of my first marriage. I stopped though because I found I was buying things that I just didn't need but bought anyway just because I had a coupon. I've noticed that most coupons are for unhealthy processed foods. I just didn't need to save 30 cents on three bags of Doritos. I didn't need the Doritos to start with. Or any host of frozen foods like pizza rolls.

But I decided to try this Grocery Game anyway. I'm looking for an edge. I paid a dollar for a four week trial and then the cost is $10/8 weeks/store. We only have one grocery that I am willing to shop at so the per store cost is not an issue for me. The the trick is to 1) buy things to build your own person stock. 2) Combine the coupon savings with instore sales and the store frequent shopper card. 3) Shop every week for just the things on the list. I'm still having a hard time getting my wife to remember those details at times, "well I don't need that right now," that's NOT how it works! We're buying for later. I like the concept so far and I hope that I am actually saving money.

The first week was a waste since I had no coupons. The second week was a little better since I had a piddly few coupons. The third week we didn't go because we had no money. Last night was the fourth week. Because I get a list of the best deals I can go through it and only pick the items that I KNOW we use. I think this helps me with out of control spending. Last night our total instore+coupon savings = $70. We had a full cart of groceries. It cost $150. The previous month we spent $250 on a full cart of groceries. Three months ago I spent $350 on a full cart. So I think we are moving in the right direction. My month is up but I am going to renew for at least another eight weeks. They tell you it takes twelve weeks to realize the full potential. We'll see.

I have a freezer stuffed full of frozen meat that I bought 30%-50% off. We froze three loaves of bread. So I'm feeling good about success. Funny how I've changed. I saved the turkey carcass to make stock. I'm making my own lard. I'm not throwing out the bacon grease. I'm not throwing out bread but finding ways to use it. I'm baking my own bread. It's like I've gone back in time. I wonder if my great-grandparents would be proud?

Friday, December 19, 2008


The Christmas gift is FINISHED!!!

At least two years late. Originally supposed to be a Mother's Day gift. Then a birthday gift. Then a Christmas gift. Then repeat.

Now I can get back to the rest of my backlog of pressing things to do, like fix the leaky on carb on my motorcycle.

Cookie Swap - A Rant

This rant is actually about food!

My wife went to a cookie a swap last night. She made macaroons the night before. Not my favorite cookie, but I do like the crispy ones. I'm just not a coconut fan. She took three dozen and of course they exchange them for everyone else's tasty treats. She came home with three dozen various cookies.

Well almost three dozen.

#1 Raw oatmeal mixed in melted chocolate and allowed to cool on wax paper into some type of brown, but tasty, turd, is NOT a f@$ing cookie.

#2 Buckeyes, as much as I LOVE them (the treats not the fans) are candies, sweets or treats but NOT f@$!ing cookies.

#3 Finally, if you don't make your own cookies to take to a cookie swap, you are a loser, lame and I have no respect for you. And no, Pillsbury Bake-N-Break does NOT f!#%ing count. You have to put some effort into it and do homemade. Otherwise just take Oreos. You had a month's notice. you had enough time. I didn't think my wife would have time. I offered to bake her some cookies to take but she said no and did it herself. If she had time, anyone has time.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ideas Sought

I need to come up with something besides hot dogs for Christmas dinner. Only three of us so I'm not interested in roasting a turkey. Any ideas welcome and appreciated!

Am I the only one who despises these Lexus Christmas commercials? ESPECIALLY the one with the pompous little bitch who got a pony.

Sourdough, Round II

Did you know there is an XM Radio station just for ABBA?

Yesterday I made a second attempt at sourdough. I've been just adding to my starter rather than just halving and replenishing and it was time to pare it down. I used a slightly different recipe and put the rest of my starter in a crock in the fridge to hibernate.

Again my plan was to do loaves rather than rounds (why is it that plural of loaf is loaves and elf becomes elves but leaf can be leaves or leafs?). I was amazed that one loaf doubled in about six hours but the other I had to let sit overnight, same dough, same quantity.

I baked the first loaf last night but in a dry oven with no steam "injection." As I noted before about maybe baking at too high of a temperature, this time I baked at a lower temperature. I did forget to slash the top. In my opinion this loaf came out much, much better than before. Not nearly as crunchy of a crust but still that fresh bread crispness. The second loaf I baked this morning. This loaf was a little lighter in texture, I think from sitting out longer it had more air in it. On this loaf I did do the steam "injection" and I'm not sure I can tell a difference. I think the second loaf was a little tarter, again I am guessing that's a result of rising longer.

I didn't get any oven spring, no significant rising in the oven. So while the texture of the bread was right, I kind of expected taller loafs. I did not oil the loaves as they rose. Every bread recipe I have seen calls for this except for every sourdough recipe I have read. I don't know why it would be different with sourdough. The oil is supposed to help prevent the surface of the dough from drying out, which mine did. Of course my expectation may just be off the mark. Need more practice.

I really, really have to work at baking. I can pull of even a complicated ethnic dish with little hitch but ask me to bake bread and it will be fortunate if the bread is edible. I've come to use my temperature probe as a crutch and this has drastically increased my success rate with bread. I'm not sure if my cooking instructor would approve but after 15 minutes in the oven, I rotate the loaf pan and insert my temperature probe setting the alarm for 200 degrees. I've had four perfectly done loaves now in a row. A first for me to have even one not doughy in the middle. Worth the small hole from the probe in my opinion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Simple Mexican Casserole

I had two goals for yesterday: work on the Christmas project, fix dinner (which I failed at the night before).

Hey sometimes you have to have simple and attainable expectations. But the cat boxes did get cleaned yesterday! I packaged up all of the turkey stock. I ended up with 14 cups! Ran out of freezer bags and Gladware though. And I unpacked and cataloged half a box of CDs. I was tired of doing important goal oriented stuff. Apparently I am a big Eric Clapton and Natalie Merchant fan, though I don't know when the last time was I listened to any of those CDs. I also really like The BoDeans. I knew that but I have a lot of emotional baggage with them.

When you're busy or broke, (or both!), you can't beat crock pot or casserole dishes. And if you need one, the absolute best place to find one is in any local community cook book. I have several including a giant one from the bank. You'll have no problem finding at least 20 recipes for each in any God-Loves-Our-Church-the-Best cookbook. And as bonus, at least as many recipes for cheese balls. The down side is that after awhile, every crock pot or casserole dish starts to look or taste the same.

Knowing this I pulled out three such cook books from my collection and started thumbing through looking for a recipe that matched up with the few ingredients we have left in house. We've got plenty of frozen meat because I have been stocking up when it's on sale. Piddly few vegetables though and a whole lot of nothing else. Finally found one that I had mostly enough to make. I was horrified that my stash of various canned tomato products was gone!

I bet everyone has a Mexican casserole dish in their repertoire. I have a good authentic Chilaquiles al Chipotle recipe, but I needed something simple. This recipe was it, but I didn't like the technique and I was missing a few ingredients. I've come to believe that technique is the second degree of separation from being an OK cook to Really Good cook and I like to believe that I spend more emphasis on technique than most people. (The first degree is good, quality ingredients by the way). Eventually I'll write this up for my files but here is what I did.

In a few tablespoons of oil, saute a cup or so of chopped carrots and onions until the onions are soft and translucent. It is important that you chop the carrots so that the pieces are uniform in size. This was they will cook evenly.

Add in about a pound or so of ground beef and brown evenly. Drain off any fat as necessary. Then stir in one can of Mexican tomatoes. This is the kind with garlic and green chiles in it. Stir in about a tablespoon of chili powder and half a tablespoon of cumin. Let that simmer for a few minutes so that the flavors meld.

Take half of the meat and spread it out on the bottom of a small casserole dish. I think the one I used was about 9" x 9" x 4". Cover the meat with a couple handfuls of shredded cheese. Cover the cheese with crushed Tostitos (that's not an endorsement, use what ever you have. Fritos would have been tasty). I used about 2 cups crushed. Then layer the rest of the meat and another layer of crushed chips, a little thinner this time. I used about one cup.

Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour. Sprinkle another handful or so of cheese on top and bake for five more minutes. This lets the chips on top be crispy instead of soggy under the melted cheese. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Like I said, everyone probably has a similar recipe and they become very similar to each other over time, but this was pretty simple. I think all told, under an hour from start to finish.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I had high hopes for today. I wanted to get the dining table cleared off for Christmas gift work space. I need to clean the cat boxes. I have to get to the gym. It's been a month and it shows (on the positive side though I've saved $20-$30 per week in not going). But priorities dictate that I get off my ass (actually sit on my ass) and work on finishing my parent's Christmas gift. It should have been done over a year ago and was supposed to be two Mother's Days gifts or a birthday gift at some point. Now there are only ten days left until Christmas and I need to get cracking!

But not to be a complete waste, I did get five or so loads of laundry in and my first attempt at making a soup stock. Inspired by this blog post, I saved the remains of the bird from Thanksgiving, bagged it and put it in the freezer. I emphasize inspired because this level of stock making is a little beyond me; I haven't got that far in class yet.

Not knowing really how to begin, I cracked open my three best tomes: the aforementioned On Food and Cooking Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which I had to buy after reading Julie and Julia (one of the best books I've ever read and for the life of me I don't know why this isn't a 5-star rated book on Amazon. Too many Little Brains. Quick name that movie), and my Joy of Cooking. I've met people who cook that don't own a copy of the Joy of Cooking. Inconceivable!

I did not make a mirepoix as inspired because none of my three books called for it. Harold McGee says that I should use 1-2 liters of water per kilogram of meat and bones. That didn't cover everything up though. So I took the body out, still frozen and hacked at it with my meat cleaver. Worked great except little bits of frozen turkey went flying everywhere. The dog (deaf and blind) and cat were thrilled though. I ended up using 3.5 liters of water just to cover up all the bones.

I started out cold and slow just like the books said. I never did get much gray scum on top that is supposed to be scooped out. Much? I'm not sure there was every any. After an hour and a half of barely simmering I said screw it and added my vegetables. Just to be different I used two bunches of green onions instead of a chopped whole onion. I also used two leeks. Chopped up some celery, yay much and four chopped carrots. A made a non-classical bouquet garni of one bay leaf, some dried thyme, some peppercorns, some cloves, some whole cloves of garlic and some fresh parsley that I grow.

I think it came out pretty good. Smells awesome. Might be a tad too much onion flavor but I like it. Right now it is chilling over night in the fridge. Tomorrow I'll scoop out the fat that rises to the top and then bag up the stock in two cup units and freeze. I thought about trying to clarify it, but I've taken on enough for a first time turkey stock project and I've got to finish this Christmas gift!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Corn Syrup

One problem I have is too much free time, or more correctly, too much free mental time. Gets me in trouble a lot. I can think myself into a depressive funk. I also spend a lot of time thinking about arcane stuff. For example, corn syrup.

I'm talking about regular corn syrup, not HFCS. More on that later. My fascination comes from its historic use in sweets and candies, neither of which I cook much of. But I have this love of history. And food. And science. So I am fascinated about how and why an ingredient is used and what it does.

So I started doing some searching because I know it is more than just a sugar substitute. I needed to kill some time in hotel rooms this week anyway.

But the Internet is a really dangerous place to learn stuff. I still remember my first engineering class how we were instructed to vet our sources and how to be able to determine whether a source we referenced was a credible "good" source or not. I've been taught how to do this and it has been drummed into my head. On the great WWW though, 99.9% of people have not been taught this and it shows. Here for example is a forum post I found.

Most of the comments here a junk. For example the back and forth blending of "corn syrup" and "high fructose corn syrup" being the same. They're not. Even more egregious is this statement: "Candy did not traditionally contain corn syrup in the past, as this is a relatively new ingredient." And look how many concur. No, NO, NO, NO!

Let's define relatively new. High Fructose Corn syrup was developed in the 1950s. That's relatively new. Of yeah, I should site a reference. Wikipedia is good for general knowledge but it is by no means a credible source (in this case note the wiki-author has the date wrong). A university is usually a credible source; here's a report from Rose Hulman University, page 3. Also note that major industrial use did not occur until after the 1980s after more efficient production methods were developed (same source). I'll save my conspiracy theory on New Coke for a late time.

So this means that the above statement is patently false. To further back up that claim, I know taffy existed prior to 1950 and I know that one of taffy's ingredients is corn syrup. So that corn syrup prior to 1950 wasn't HFCS. I could find sources to back that up too, but it is rather basic intuition so we'll let that slide for now.

When I got home I decided just to cut to the chase and open up my copy of On Food and Cookingby Harold McGee. If you are a food geek enough that you need to know the science behind food, this book is a must have. This is another legit source. According to McGee, corn syrup was developed in the early 1800s and prior to that simple sugar syrup, malt extract or honey was used in candy production, with an unpredictable acid modification. So from 1850 to 1950, a period of 100 years, corn syrup was used in candy production and that is not relatively new.

And I finally learned that corn syrup is used in candy production to prevent sugar crystallization. I should have just started with McGee and not bothered surfing the Internet. I would have saved a lot of time.

But I did learn the Karo brand syrup, the number one brand sold in the world, is now a blend of regular corn syrup and HFCS. My wife said she could have told me that, "it tastes different now." I think the only way to get real corn syrup is to buy organic corn syrup.

Interesting side note. When we moved to Hell, the next town over was Cairo pronounced Karo and it was Home of the Fighting Syrupmakers so naturally we confused it with Karo but the syrup they are referring to is cane syrup not corn syrup.


Personally, I avoid HFCS if at all possible. I don't think it is as evil as some claim it to be, but I still think it is evil. You know, kind of like I thought we should invade Afghanistan not Iraq because there was more evil there than in Iraq and that Vladmir Putin really was nothing more than a punk dictator not a "man of character" because he was more evil than anyone from France. But I digress. And this ad campaign by the manufacturers REALLY infuriates me. Why? Because it is NOT safe in moderation because you almost cannot moderate the stuff. HFCS is EVERYWHERE. Just read labels. It's even in bread! Look, it's one thing if you don't think red meat is healthy (I do btw) but it is relatively easy to avoid red meat. But they put HFCS in everything to the point that sometimes there is no alternative. THAT I do have issue with. So I avoid it at all cost.

HFCS is actually one of the reasons I started cooking more, a lot more.

And don't get me started on the "same calories" claim.

Wow. This turned into more of a rant than I had expected. I don't even remember what the point was I was trying to make. Whoops. Oh well. Maybe I should make bread again.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Here I Am (non food post)

Here I am, sitting here "watching" The Muppet Movie (I've created a monster).

Sorry for spoiling everyone with almost daily posts, but if you will remember I was actually working this week! I got back Thursday and was home yesterday with the little one who has strep (you'd never know). Nothing food related to report since we were working in a shit hole called Warrenton which is really just a cross roads and staying 15 miles way in Thomson . Thomson has one, count it with me, one sit down restaurant inside the Best Western (I'm not counting Ryan's). Everything else is Zaxby's, McDonald's, Burger King, Huddle House, etc. That was rough. And let's compare, Thomson population 6800, Blairsville population 700 and we have at least ten sit down restaurants and even our own equivalent of Ryan's.

Now we're watching the The Muppet Show, First Season.

Get this, I played sidekick for three days at this foundry putting in a new raw material for them that no one seems to be comfortable with, not even the idiots selling it and it came off without a hitch (I'm not bragging, but I am the only expert on this material in the US. I'm the only one who sold and serviced it in the US for the past nine years. But I "retired" in May of this year. The guy from Europe who was supposed to come over for this project had surgery, so they called me in as a second choice). And yesterday I got a call that they are closing the shop first quarter next year. I guess the demand for disc brakes for trucks has fallen off. Ya think! Well It's not the first plant I've "helped" close down.

Now we're watching Bambi.

So did I miss it? Yes and no. I've been doing this type of project work for the past nine years, and I've been the only one in North America for this company, but this was the first time that I was called in to assist and not lead an installation. The first day was OK. I was bored halfway through the second day. I was ready to go at the end of the second day and we still had one more day to go. My curse in my career-life seems to be that everything in the foundry comes quickly, easily and naturally to me and I'm surrounded by idiots who just don't get it. And the more YOE (years of experience) they have, the more of an idiot they are. It frustrates me to no end. It's just not that hard. I'm not saying it's easy, it's just not that hard. (You'll hear me say that a lot. I feel the same way about raising my own kid(s)).

Would I go back? I'd like to get back into the foundry, but the closest foundry in Georgia is (was) this one and it is still four hours away. That's a heck of a commute. Unless Dinah gets pissed off at work we're not moving for any foreseeable future and there is a very small finite number of places to live that have foundries. Add to that, that number is dwindling every day. I'd like to get back on the metal side. I've been doing the sand side for the past nine years. But then there are all of those idiots. (The shame is that I am REALLY, REALLY good at it, but I don't like it).

I could go back to the consulting/material support that I did for the past nine years, but that's so much travel and then there are all those idiots. So maybe I'll just keep an open ear and do these once in a while projects as they come along. This company has three of four salesmen (they call them technical people, HAH!) retiring next year, so I bet there will be plenty of opportunities to pick from.

So anyway, that's where I've been. Now to get back on theme. I've had corn syrup on my mind the past few days...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

Wild yeast that is.

I've wanted to make sourdough bread for a long time. I love sourdough. The REAL thing that is. A lot of what you buy in the stores isn't really sourdough but more like sourdough flavored bread.

I found this web site and felt inspired. Especially since I have access to a lot of locally stone ground flour which seems to be the key ingredient for making your starter. I was thrilled when my starter took off in one day! I did run into a problem with it being very active but not doubling in volume. On a guess I added more flour without any water. That was the trick. Now it had enough body to double instead of being soupy. I emailed the web site author and he confirmed my tactic. He also told me a needed to switch over to regular flour now that it was a growing starter. When I have some money I'll be making a donation in thanks.

So today was bread day! Everything went very well except I had no idea how time intensive this was going to be. I'm disappointed I never got to the gym but I was able to get some cleaning in in between the four or five rises needed. All things considered, it came out well. It had a nice pleasant but light sour taste. Could be more sour for my tastes. The crust was way too dark and crunchy for me. My fault I'm pretty sure. As usual, I just can't follow directions verbatim. Maybe that has something to do with my "has issues with authority."* Instead of making two boules, French for rounds, I decided to make two loaves in loaf pans. My guess is that with the loaf pans I need to bake at a lower temperature. Oh well, I'll just take another week to grow some yeasties and try it again.

*From my management psych evaluation when I worked in SC.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One Month Off

I checked the NGTC calendar today. My class ended early because as soon as we took the Serve Safe exam, we were done, but the official end of the term is December 17th. Classes resume on January 7th. I've been very worried that I wouldn't be able to afford a class next month but I got a call about a consulting gig. Three days next week should pay for the class. It's about half of what I used to get for consulting but sometimes you've got to take what you can get, especially these days. I would prefer it not to be Mon-Wed since Monday and Tuesday we have little wiggle room with Dinah's schedule, but again, sometimes you take what you can get.

The good thing will be that I'll be able to get my last class hurdle out of the way. There are about three prerequisite classes for the culinary arts program. I have Professionalism and Serve Safe out of the way. Next term will be Principals of Cooking. After that I can take anything I want whenever I want. Whew!

By the way, I got a 96% on my Serve Safe exam. Passing was a 75%. It is strictly a pass/fail thing. I aced every section except two. I think there were only three questions on food allergies and I got a 67% on that section. I also misses a few on general food questions, I think I got an 85% there. Not bad for barely trying. Like I said, it's mostly common sense. Odd, grades are not posted yet for the class though.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Snow in the Mountains

Today is a rare snowy day here in North Georgia. Rose decided to stay home with me since the everything closes if it snows around here. We ran around until she got cold.

Then... hot chocolate. I believe it was Rose's first hot chocolate.

She liked it.

Technically it was drinking chocolate, though I'm not sure of the difference. Some may remember the short lived Chantico at Starbucks. GOOOD stuff. Worth it? Well I guess it depends on how much your NEED for chocolate was at the time. And the more depressed you might be the better the deal. I have a case of Cadbury's Drinking Chocolate from the now defunct Great Tastes Of... (which will probably end up as Christmas gifts). My belief is that the fact that it didn't sell says something about this area. People who don't love chocolate can't be trusted. It's a genetic defect in my opinion.

I have wondered about cooking with it, possibly substituting it for cocoa. It is more than that, it has sugar, spices, a preservative or two I think, but I wonder if I could tweak a recipe to use it somehow, maybe add some extra punch to what would normally be just cocoa.