Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Watch Your Soy Milk

I don't use soy milk as I am a cow juice guy but I have a lot of friends that do. If you use soy milk and especially the Silk brand you should be aware of something that you might not have noticed. Dean Foods the owner of Silk has pulled a typical big ag dirty trick.
Until early 2009, Silk brand soy milk was made using organic soybeans. But earlier this year, Dean Foods (owner of the Silk brand) quietly switched to conventional soybeans, which are often grown with pesticides. But they kept the same UPC barcodes on their products, and they kept the product label virtually the same, only replacing the word "organic" with "natural" in a way that was barely noticeable. They also kept the price the same, charging consumers "organic" prices for a product that was now suddenly made with conventionally-grown soybeans.

Many retailers and consumers never noticed the bait-and-switch tactic, so they kept buying Silk, thinking it was still organic. The shift on the product label from "organic" to "natural" wasn't well understood by consumers, either. Many consumers continue to think that the term "natural" is basically the same as "organic," when in fact they are almost opposites. The term "natural" is entirely unregulated, and almost anything can be claimed to be "natural" even when it's sprayed with pesticides or treated with other chemicals.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Positive News on TASER Use

Finally we are starting to see some sanity evolve in the use of  TASERS by police. The 9th Circuit issued what looks like a landmark ruling on the use of TASERS. The unbridled use of these weapons is getting worse everyday and for less and less of a reason.

A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.

In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.


As lawsuits have proliferated against police and Taser International, which manufactures the weapons, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.

The San Diego County case is the latest ruling to address the issue.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling on Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.

McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan was mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.

"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."

Some lawyers called it a landmark decision.

Eugene Iredale, a San Diego lawyer who argued the case, said it was one of the clearest and most complete statements yet from an appellate court about the limits of Taser use.

He said after Monday's decision that courts will consider all circumstances, including whether someone poses a threat, has committed a serious crime or is mentally troubled.

"In an era where everybody understands 'don't tase me, bro,' courts are going to look more closely at the use of Tasers, and they're going to try to deter the promiscuous oversue of that tool," he said.


"Certainly the officer should be able to articulate the reason the force (was used), and a mere resistance to comply may not be enough," said Sheriff John McGinness.

The sooner police understand that they can use a TASER under very strict rules and not just to make their jobs easier the better off we will be. Police have a tough job but taking the easy way out with such a dangerous device is not the answer. It's a brutal weapon and it kills. This is going to battled around in the courts for a while yet but at least we are seeing some movement in the right direction.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reasons To Have A Suet Feeder in Winter

Here are just a few of the reasons to keep a suet feeder filled in the wintertime. What you don't see here are Red Bellied, Downy, and Red Headed woodpeckers who come regularly. At times there are as many as 6 or 7 Eastern Bluebirds waiting to feed. The little Hairy woodpecker is a constant visitor between bluebird swarms. As usual you can click on the image to make it full screen.

2010 Might be Better

In my Internet wanderings this morning it appears that the Democrats may actually have a better 2010 than I previously thought. If they can avoid their typical attack of political timidity and insane 'hunt for bipartisan love' that normally affects them in election years then the GOP is going to make it a good year judging from the insanity that was spewed this weekend. It was full of weirdly twisted logic, fractured history and outright lies and is a sure indication that the Republicans are suffering from a serious lack of ideas and organization and very much 'not ready for prime time'. Here is just some of the seriously strange stuff that came out of GOP pie holes...
According to Mary Matalin. Shrub inherited 9/11 from Bill Clinton and the employment numbers actually improved in his first year. The first assertion is insane and the second is an outright lie.
Good old political has been Newt Gingrich was on fire this weekend and was in his usual excellent crap slinging form. Among other things he insisted that President Obama has refused to work with the Republicans this year and what's more the GOP should respond with a 'positive alternative vision' which would be to run on repealing health care reform. That's a sure winner if I ever saw one.
Mitch McConnell, not to be outdone by a has been like Newt, insisted that the GOP was right to oppose President Obama on every issue and especially health care reform which meant that they were being bipartisan. You figure it out.
Last but not least, Jim DeMint declared health care reform unconstitutional but won't commit to filing a lawsuit against it.

If the Repubs think running on a platform of repealing health reform, even the seriously flawed reform that is likely to come out of reconciliation, then they are more deluded than I thought. People want constructive ideas and want positive change. If the Dems can do more in the next 12 months  with respect to enacting progressive legislation then they will continue to hold sway.

Avatar Is Worth a View

Madam and I went to see Avatar yesterday but just the 2D version as I refused to pay $11.50 for a matinee 3D seat. If you are a SciFi geek like me it is way cool. Pretty standard and predictable plot but the visuals and imagination involved in making the flick are not to be believed. I definitely got absorbed into the fantasy world of Pandora and the characterizations of its inhabitants. The movie was perfect for a tree hugging SciFi geek like me and even Madam thought it was worth seeing. There is definitely a liberal, tree hugging message underlying the movie so I can understand why the wing nuts are going crazy over it.

Lightning is Your Real Enemy

With latest failed attempt at blowing up an airplane covering all the news and creating the usual hysteria in the bedwetting crowd all I can say is I am glad I am no longer in the weekly get on the airplane crowd. It was bad enough before with the shoes and liquid craziness but they are going to go to even more extremes since the Christmas day episode. The funny/weird thing is that none of the crotch grabbers getting their shorts all twisted up over this latest failed attempt stop and actually analyze the reality of what the 'threat' really is around air travel.  Take a deep breath folks and get a grip.

Nate Silver does the numbers on terrorist attacks.
Over the past decade, there have been, by my count, six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner than landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas…

Over the past decade, according to BTS [the Bureau of Transportation Statistics], there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 miles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune…

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

h/t to Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and that Santa was kind. Madam and I had a nice afternoon with minimonk and her gaggle of hounds. Mr. minimonk was still trying to shake a bad cold but did a great job on some very nice rib eye's in spite of it.  Nice meal and shared time with plenty of dog petting. Today is Boxing Day when the contents of the alms box are distributed by the nobles to their serfs.  Cold day here in Atlanta and still very damp from all the rain so not much going on outdoors. I imagine Madam will fly into de-decorating with a vengeance so I will probably get pulled into the effort.
If you are traveling do so with care as roads in lots of the country are bad news. If you are going by plane expect some increased hassles due to the terrorist attempt in Detroit.
If you are not traveling try not to clean up all the Christmas goodies in one day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

OK it's Officially The Christmas Season

The big double batch of Chex Party Mix (Nut&Bolts in my family) is in the big Tupperware container so we can declare it 'officially Christmas'. I usually do a lot more baking for the holidays but it just didn't happen this year but the 'Party Mix' is a must have. Mine is always 'kicked up' a notch since I increase the seasoning and butter by about 50% and also add a wee bit of cayenne pepper.
We are going to Minimonks for Christmas Day (she is on duty for Christmas Eve) and rumor has it that we are going to have steak on the grill. There was talk of going to see Avatar as well but the first showing is not until 3pm on Christmas Day so that will just have to wait for another day. Now if the 'frog strangling' rain predicted for tonight and tomorrow morning will clear out of the way in time we are go for Christmas.

All you guys have a Merry Christmas and a safe one to boot. Careful about how much brandy gets into the egg nog and all that.

Down the Bunny Hole

Well the Senate passed its version of health care reform. Its a very bad bill on balance but all I can say is that there is a chance it canned be improved in reconciliation. Let's hope so. Until we do know what is in a bill that the President signs I can't get too excited. My gut feeling is that the millions the lobbyists from the the private health care industry spent did the job and we got a pig in a poke. I am disappointed that there is no real competition for private health insurance created and I think this is going to add to the strength and entrenchment of for profit health care. A lot of people are going to find paying for crap insurance a real irritant...especially yours truly. Once the reconciliation is complete and the President signs something we'll get a chance to see how far into Wonderland we have been taken by the pawns of big insurance and big Pharma.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In A Nutshell

Frederick at MCCS1997 is back and with a new look. He posted this cartoon this morning linking from PZMyers. It was so 'on point' that I had to shamelessly copy it. Welcome back Frederick...missed your contributions to the dialogue.

As PZMyers says ' Isn’t this what the global warming debate is actually all about?'

Monday, December 21, 2009

Who Did I Vote For?

There is a 'must read' today at Huff Po by Drew Westen, the political psychologist/neuroscientist, that is probably going to get a lot of people cranky today but it is the most accurate assessment I have seen to date on what has happened to 'Change We Can Believe In'.

This is a brutal, but accurate, assessment of the Obama presidency so far. It's a bit long but if you are like me you will have some 'Ah ha' moments and recognize some of what you have been thinking for the last few months but couldn't put into words. The article in annoying because it is spot on.
Somehow the president has managed to turn a base of new and progressive voters he himself energized like no one else could in 2008 into the likely stay-at-home voters of 2010, souring an entire generation of young people to the political process. It isn't hard for them to see that the winners seem to be the same no matter who the voters select (Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the insurance industry). In fact, the president's leadership style, combined with the Democratic Congress's penchant for making its sausage in public and producing new and usually more tasteless recipes every day, has had a very high toll far from the left: smack in the center of the political spectrum.

What's costing the president and courting danger for Democrats in 2010 isn't a question of left or right, because the president has accomplished the remarkable feat of both demoralizing the base and completely turning off voters in the center. If this were an ideological issue, that would not be the case. He would be holding either the middle or the left, not losing both.

What's costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.

The problem is not that his record is being distorted. It's that all three have more than a grain of truth. And I say this not as one of those pesky "leftists." I say this as someone who has spent much of the last three years studying what moves voters in the middle, the Undecideds who will hear whichever side speaks to them with moral clarity.
I guess the big question is...What can we do to change it and can we?

Here's to Carl Sagan

A stunning image has been captured by the newest camera on the Hubble telescope and released by NASA.  The photo is the deepest ever taken of space.  In the image, thousands of galaxies dot the blackness in an almost incomprehensibly enormous cluster.  Some of the galaxies, each containing billions of stars and planets, are nearly as old as the Big Bang itself. Click on it to embiggen.

Since today is also the winter solstice Donna has a photo of a Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma that is seriously cool.

Happy Winter Solstice

Today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The precise moment of the winter solstice is 12:47 p.m. EST, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory . At that moment the Earth's axial tilt puts it the farthest from the sun.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is located at the latitude of 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

Happy first day of winter and all that stuff. Bryan at Why Now? also reminds us to put out the turnips as it is also Hogswatch.

updated to correct the spelling of Hogswatch. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I just spent the entire afternoon struggling to get a new comment system running because Steve at YDD said that he had received an email from Haloscan saying that they were to start charging 10 bucks a month starting Jan 2. I can't afford that so I decided to shift over to Disqus because it reportedly could import my old comments.

I just read the actual info on the  Echo site (the new brand for Haloscan) and it is only 12 bucks a year. I can afford that.

Anyhow....system is back to normal so ignore all that crap about Haloscan off and stuff. Everything should be back to the way it was.

Sheesh a wasted afternoon.

Disqus Comments Are Up and Running

Ok the new commenting system is up and running. The access is a little different and I have the ability to add facebook and some other things like twitter to the mix right now you either have to log in as quest and type in your stuff or create an ID on Disqus or use an OpenID or yahoo log in. I wasn't successful importing any of the old comments yet but I am still working on it. We'll see.

Let me know if this is going to work or would you rather see the blogger native comments.

Testing Disgus comments

Testing the Disqus commenting system



Haloscan Comments Off

I have turned off the Haloscan comment system. I think I have enabled the Blogger system but we will see when I post this.

Update: Still trying.

Comment Hell?

According to Steve over at YDD the Haloscan commenting system will be discontinued on Boxing Day.

Haloscan has powered the comments on this blog almost since its inception in 2004.

Although I haven't received one yet, apparently emails are going out announcing the cancellation of the service and the impending loss of all comments unless you either a) download them for posterity; or b) upgrade to Echo, Haloscan's subscription-based successor. I really appreciate the notification in a prompt and timely manner.

Well, that's not happening. I really don't get enough comments to justify what a pay service demands($10/month), which would be something like charging me 50 cents a comment. Even though Haloscan was the only game in town back in 2004, that's not the case anymore: in addition to Blogger's native comment system, there's also Intense Debate, Disqus, and I'm sure plenty of other free services that will work for this tiny little blog. My big concern is losing all the great input from you guys since the beginning....yeah even you David!

So, at some point in the very near future, commenting on this blog will change. I'm looking at Disqus as it appears that they have some method of rescuing the old comments from Haloscan and it seems like a pretty robust system and it is free (for now). Meanwhile, Haloscan lets users export comments in something called CAIF (Common Announcement Interchange Format) and I have done this for all 8,000 comments made on the site since the beginning up until yesterday.

So if you come in here in the next couple of days and it is totally fried and comments don't work or they do and are completely different then you know why. The first step will be to disable Haloscan and revert to the native Blogger I guess but until I get into the conversion I really don't know. I know just enough about HTML to be dangerous so who knows what will happen.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Snow --Thank Goodness

Thank goodness the snow is well north of us here in Atlanta. I just talked to my Mom in far Western Virginia (Narrows) and they already have a foot and a half and it is still coming down hard.

Madam and I have a dinner party for some friends tonight and snow would have been a real pain. I don't care to cook all day and have no one show up. We are just a little cold and damp from all of the rain yesterday.
The menu for tonight is butterflied and rolled pork loin stuffed with a saute of leeks and fennel. Roasted butternut squash with honey and cumin, haricot vert, fresh rolls and a French apple tart for dessert. California (Fetzer) Gewurztraminer is the wine selected. Should be nice for a cold fall night.

Oh! the recipe for the pork loin can be found here... it's from Ina Garten.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Honey Roasted Nuts

It is another miserable rainy and cold day here in Atlanta. Nothing to do but cook something. It's the season for parties and snacks and other treats. One of my favorite things is nuts of all kinds and I especially like honey roasted nuts(plain or spicy) and they are very nice for the festive season. Here is the basic method for putting a little honey glaze on nuts. You can leave off the spice and do them plain or add the spice of your choice.

Honey Roasted Nuts (with or without spices)


1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup honey
1 pound unsalted roasted mixed nuts (about 4 cups)
You can use mixed nuts or all one nut like pecans, walnuts or almonds but I like mixtures. A really nice mix is 1 cup whole cashews, 1 cup whole almonds, 1 cup whole pecan halves, 1 cup hazelnuts but mix whatever you like...I avoid using peanuts but you can if you want.


Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the sugar with the salt and set aside for later. In another large bowl mix the honey( with the spices if using). Add the nuts and stir to coat. You can heat the honey in the microwave for 20 - 30 seconds to make it a little easier to mix. When all the nuts are nicely coated spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10 -15 minutes. (If you are using raw nuts then another 10 - 15 minutes might be needed to completely roast the nuts. I normally just used roasted but unsalted nuts.) Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool slightly and then toss them with the sugar-salt mixture to coat. Discard the parchment and spread the nuts out on the baking sheet to finish cooling. Once cool you they are ready but you can store them in a tightly sealed container for a week at least.

If you want to make a spicy nut mixture then add 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper to the honey. Other options would be 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp ground cumin or even a tsp of smoked paprika. Whatever you like but cayenne is usually my go to for spicy nuts.

If you want to make these nuts extra crunchy then use a coarse sugar like turbinado (like Sugar in the Raw) and kosher salt.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Saving Ourselves

There is a very worthwhile diary over on the Orange Beast worth reading. No One Is Going to Save You Fools. I highly recommend it. It's by a QRC or Qualitative Research Consultant and explains very clearly why we progressives are being left behind in the current political arena. An eye opener.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No More Whipsawing

I have to decided to pull over to the side of the road and wait out the health care battle. I'll wait until there is actual bill before I do anymore reading or worrying about it. We'll be extremely lucky if anything happens before Christmas since the GOP has decided to pull out the 'delay at all costs' plan. Today Tom Coburn of Oklahoma put the brakes on the Senate by insisting that all amendments be read in full. Many of these amendments are very long and it will take days to get through them all...meanwhile the normal Senate agenda was to consider DoD spending today and get things in place before funding runs out on Friday...ain't going to happen. The Senate is broken and the minority is doing everything they can to befuddle the process. Add in jerks like Lieberman and Nelson and you have a classic 'clusterfuck'.

Right now I am leaning toward passing whatever shitty bill finds its way out of the morass as the cost and effort and even the possibility of starting over is impossible. The last major effort at health care reform was under Clinton and we just can't afford to wait that long to move forward, however small. We take what we can get out of this embarrassment and hope to improve it as we go down the road. If what the progressives who are calling for 'Kill Bill" say will happen comes to pass then there will be that much more pressure on government to do something to fix it and that much less credibility on the part of insurance companies and pharma.

I am not happy but the whipsawing and confusion are just draining. It is better to wait until we actually have a bill to measure and understand before we go insane.

Update: Marcy Wheeler(Emtpywheel) has a post at FDL discussing the downside of passing the Senate bill as it now stands with respect to enforcing 'Corporate Feudalism' and it is worthy of a read.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Facebook Security

If you are a Facebook user you should know that Facebook will automatically index all of your info on Google (as of today) which allows everyone to view it. To change this option, go to Settings---> Privacy Settings---> Search---> then UNCLICK the box that says "Allow Indexing".
Facebook has kept this one quiet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insurance Wins

It looks like the public option and the medicare buy in are dead meat in a cave to Joe Lieberman. Not that surprising since our political system is broken, especially in the Senate. Don't forget that the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies own us and will continue to do so it seems. I just find it odd that one ass hole can hamstring an entire country and out of spite to boot.

High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Still Bad News

Don't expect to read this in American papers.

Scientists have proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks can damage human metabolism and is fuelling the obesity crisis.

Fructose, a sweetener derived from corn, can cause dangerous growths of fat cells around vital organs and is able to trigger the early stages of diabetes and heart disease.

It has increasingly been used as a substitute for more expensive types of sugar in yoghurts, cakes, salad dressing and cereals. Even some fruit drinks that sound healthy contain fructose.

Experts believe that the sweetener — which is found naturally in small quantities in fruit — could be a factor in the emergence of diabetes among children. This week, a new report is expected to claim that about one in 10 children in England will be obese by 2015.

Previous studies of the potentially adverse impact of fructose have focused on rats, but the first experiment involving humans has now revealed serious health concerns.

Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat.

“This is the first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently from causing simple weight gain,” said Kimber Stanhope, a molecular biologist who led the study. “We didn’t see any of these changes in the people eating glucose.”

H/t Susie

Not A Good Monday

After a really nasty weekend of rain and cold and fog, Monday is shaping up to be a real pisser!

So far this morning it seems that the Climate talks in Copenhagen are in the shits with developing countries pulling the plug on negotiations with the big boys. Doesn't look good for any substantive progress.

The HCR process in the Senate has gone from bad to worse as Smokin' Joe continues is campaign to piss on anything progressive and punish all the damn liberals who wouldn't kiss is slippers in the last election.

Frankly speaking, I am beginning to believe that Gregg Levine is correct about the Senate health care reform. If what we wind up with after the Senate gets through is what it looks like now then we had just better forget the whole thing and walk away. What is developing as this country's effort at fixing our health care woes is a lot like 'burning down the village to lose the rats'.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Definition of Screwed in Just Two Sentences

While I am not sure I agree with everything in Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stone piece I will agree with him on at least one point without hesitation and that is his two sentence assessment of what is wrong with the Obama administration that we have seen so far.

The point is that an economic team made up exclusively of callous millionaire-assholes has absolutely zero interest in reforming the gamed system that made them rich in the first place.


There’s no other way to say it: Barack Obama, a once-in-a-generation political talent whose graceful conquest of America’s racial dragons en route to the White House inspired the entire world, has for some reason allowed his presidency to be hijacked by sniveling, low-rent shitheads.

I think the last sentence pretty much distills what is making me crazy about our government.

As long as our elected Senators and Congresspersons are on the take from big corporations and depend on the big pay days from them for staying on easy street the rest of us are screwed. There is absolutely no chance that they are going to give up their cushy positions by ignoring the corporations and big money folks and enacting legislation that benefits the rest of us schmucks when such legislation is going to take even a penny from their patrons. Ain't going to happen.

Potato Latke or Kartoffelpuffer

Happy Hanukkah!

Since its the beginning of Hanukkah I thought it would be fun to share a recipe for one of the traditional dishes of the season. Most Jewish cooks call these latke but if you are German(or have spent any time there) you might know them as kartoffelpuffer or potato pancake. If you have made them before using 'traditional' recipes then there is a good chance you have found them to be just a little on the heavy and slimy side. Traditional recipes just grate the potatoes and onion mix in some flour and egg and fry. While I have nothing against the 'traditional' latke I like them just a little lighter and have found that mixing the grated potato and onion with mashed potatoes produces a lighter and tastier product. Instead of grating all the potatoes I take half the potatoes and boil and mash them before adding them to the shredded potatoes. This is also a good way to use left over mashed potatoes.

You'll need:

3 lbs. Yukon Gold or Idaho(russet) potatoes (about 5-6 medium potatoes)
1 large onion
2 large eggs, well beaten
2-3 Tablespoons flour (or matzoh meal for a very traditional latke)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Peel all of the potatoes. If you keep the peeled potatoes covered in a bowl of water it will keep them from discoloring. Take half the potatoes and cut them into one inch cubes and boil them in salted water for about 20 minutes or until they are tender and you can insert a knife into them without resistance. Drain and pass through a food mill, ricer or take them for a spin in the food processor or use a hand masher. Set aside.

Note: if you just really don't want to go the mashed potato route and want to be more 'traditional' then you can grate all of the potatoes. You'll get better texture in the finished product if you grate a third to a half of the potatoes on the small grate side and the balance on the the large grate side.

Using a box grater shred the onion on the small grate side and the potato on the large grate side. I usually do this on the tea towel (cotton towel not terry cloth) that I will use for squeezing. After everything is grated use your hands to mix the onion and potato together as this will keep the potato from discoloring. Fold up the ends of the cloth and with the potato and onion in the center twist and squeeze as much liquid as possible from onion-potato mixture. Now put everything in a big bowl and mix it thoroughly.

Note: Rinse out the tea towel with cold water just as soon as you get the potatoes and onions out and into a bowl. The starch from the potatoes will discolor it very quickly if you don't.

Using damp hands form into palm-sized patties that are about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick and set aside on waxed paper or parchment. Once you have all the patties made(you are looking for about 10) you can start frying in a large skillet in at least a 1/4 inch of corn or peanut oil (a 1/2
inch of corn oil is actually better). Traditionally, olive oil is used but I don't recommend it. If your oil is the right temperature the latke will need to cook for about 5 minutes on the first side. If they are more than slightly brown after a minute or two of cooking, your oil is too hot. After 5 minutes peek at one of the latke by lifting up the edge with your spatula, they should be a nice deep brown, if they are flip with a spatula and fork and cook on the other side for about 2 more minutes, or until dark golden brown. You want to make sure they are a nice dark brown as the sugars in the potatoes and onions will have carmelized and produced a full deep flavor. Too little browning and you have a bland latke. Not good.

Drain thoroughly on paper towels. Serve immediately with applesauce, salt, and/or sour cream.

You should get about 10 latkes from this recipe.

A few cooking notes/tips:
Use at least 1/4-1/2 inch of oil in your skillet and shoot for a temperature of about 300°F to 320°F but no hotter. Normally you fry at 350 - 375°F but that is too hot for this recipe as the latke will brown on the outside before the middle is cooked.

Really, really squeeze the shredded potatoes and onions. If you don't get as much water as you possibly can out of them you will get slimy latkes for sure.

These are really only good fresh from the frying pan. If you have to make them ahead leave them at room temperature for as much as 3-4 hours covered with paper towels(or a tea towel) and then reheat them in the oven(350°F) until they crisp back up.

The Right Wing Noise Machine Versus Climate Change

Interesting article at Think Progress on how the right wing noise machine and energy company funded 'think tanks' whipped up the latest frenzy on the hacked emails in preparation for the Copenhagen conference.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cajun Style Red Beans

Jim DeRosa has asked me for the method/recipe for my version of Cajun style red beans which, in NOLA is always served on Monday and always over white rice.

Let me begin by saying that if you are not in New Orleans or Louisiana then finding the proper ingredients for 'real' red beans is going to be tough. Finding good andouille sausage and tasso ham or pickled pork is probably going to be impossible. Since I am in Atlanta I have to make do with what I have and can get locally so while this recipe is very good and very close, it is not real Cajun red beans only a fine substitute. You can order the real deal from Louisiana at and it is the real deal and very good.

You'll need:
1 pound small red beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and checked for stones and bad beans, soaked overnight in salted water.
4 slices smoked bacon , chopped fine(substitutes for the tasso ham)
The Cajun trinity which is:
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped fine ( 1 small pepper) (I also like poblano peppers for this dish as well and it brings a small amount of heat to the party)
1/2 cup celery , chopped fine

3 cloves garlic , minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika ( I use the sweet)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme ( you can use dry but back off to 1/2 tsp)
1 bay leaf
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups water and maybe a little more
1 Tsp red wine vinegar

8 ounces andouille sausage cut into 1/4-inch slices( I cut sausage in half and then in 1/4 inch bits as you want the sausage about the same size as the beans) (Whole Foods makes it in house and they also carry Wellshire Farm which is not too bad. You can order it online from Jacob's)

First the beans. The day before you are ready to cook the beans you need to soak them. A lot of people use kidney beans for their red beans but you should use the small red bean. I can get them at Kroger(house brand) and they are packaged by Goya as well. They are labeled small red bean(Frijoles Rojos Pequenos). Kidney beans don't work as they get too pasty and not creamy.
Soak the beans overnight(at least 8 hours) in 2 1/2 quarts of water and two Tbsp of Kosher salt. Adding salt to water helps the beans keep their skins intact during cooking and it also gets the salt into the bean where it belongs. After the soak you need to drain and rinse them well.

In a large pot (Dutch oven) cook the bacon pieces until it is brown and then add the trinity (peppers, celery and onion) and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all of the seasoning and herbs, the chicken stock, water and beans. Bring to a nice simmer and cover. Cook over low heat for about an hour and a half. Add the sausage bits and the vinegar(they use pickled pork in real Cajun red beans and the vinegar brings a little acid to the party and brightens the flavor. I use the Whole Foods andouille which is raw so I brown it before I add it to the beans. If your is fully cooked then you can just add it now. Cook with the sausage in it for another 30 or 45 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the beans are nice and creamy but not broken up. You might have to add a little more water as you go if the beans get too dry or thick...use your judgement but I don't like my beans too watery. I like to be able to just barely see the beans in the pot which means only about a 1/4 inch of liquid above the beans. You can overcook beans! You don't want them mushy.

Serve over white or brown rice or just by itself as a soup. It's good over fresh cornbread as well. If you want to be a real Cajun then a few dashes of Tabasco is in order as well.

Note: If you do have access to Tasso ham then use it instead of the bacon. If you just can't get andouille sausage then kielbasa can substitute but....

Update: I added a half hour to the first phase of cooking based on my experience yesterday with my pot of beans. It all depends on how old your beans are and how long you soak them. You just have to use your own judgment and how you like your beans. I like mine with a little texture and not too much liquid.

Bageant on Obama's First Year

Once again Joe Bageant does an excellent job telling it like it is. His latest post was written for the UK's Socialist Review and it is worth reading in its entirety. Not very uplifting but definitely sobering. Here is a taste:

This frustrating ping pong game in which the margin of first-time, disenchanted and undecided voters are batted back and forth has become the whole of American elections. That makes both the Republican and Democratic parties very happy, since it keeps the game down to fighting the enemy they know, each other, as opposed to being forced to deal with the real issues, or worse yet, an independent or third party candidate who might have a solution or two.

Thus, the game is limited to two players between two corporate parties. One is the Republican Party, which believes we should hand over our lives and resources directly to the local Chamber of Commerce, so the chamber can deliver them to the big corporations. The other, the Democratic Party, believes we should hand our lives and resources to a Democratic administration — so it alone can deliver our asses to the big dogs who own the country. In the big picture it’s always about who gets to deliver the money to the Wall Street hyena pack.

Americans may be starting to get the big picture about politics, money and corporate power. But I doubt it. Given that most still believe the war on terrorism is real, and that terrorists always just happen to be found near gas and oil deposits, there is plenty of room left to blow more smoke up their asses. Especially considering how we are conditioned to go into blind fits of patriotism at the sight of the flag, an eagle, or the mention of “our heroes,” even if the heroes happen to be killing and maiming Muslim babies at the moment. Patriotism is a cataract that blinds us to all national discrepancies.

Just Waiting

This whole health care mess is getting out of hand and confusing. I can't keep up so I am just going to wait and see what actually happens before I get crazy. Regardless of what abortion comes out of the Senate we still have to reconcile with the House bill and who knows what mess will come out of that. My gut tells me that we are not likely to see any meaningful change and the insurance companies and Big Pharma are going to win this fight.

Same goes for climate change. The latest polls show that the majority of Americans no longer feel the science is 'good enough' which means the disinformation campaign by the mouth breathers is having its intended effect. I will continue to do what I can to change the tide but I am feeling less and less encouraged by what I am seeing. It's all rather depressing and everyday I feel like 'the stupid' is winning.

I had such high hopes for this country/world at one time and now it seems rather hopeless. Don't get me wrong...I'll keep doing my part and where I can, effect change, but it tilting at windmills seems the order of the day.

So as is my wont I am going to turn to my normal distraction and go cook. I am going to go bake some bread and get my red beans going for Cajun red beans and rice. Yeah I know it is not Monday but for some reason it just feels like what I need. If anyone is interested I will share my method for this great Cajun dish. It is not vegan since it requires a liittle bacon and andouille to be authentic. You can, of course, leave out the meat and just have red beans and rice which is very good as well, but just not Cajun.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pissing Off the Liberals Because They Can

Yesterday Digby posed the question as to why conservatives are so crazed about global warming and Amanda Marcotte jumped on it in depth. Amanda pretty much hits the nail on the head and I think she is pisses off the liberals.
And boy, is it effective! Those liberals sure get steamed when they think about how reckless behavior will result in millions of unnecessary deaths. They blow smoke out their ears when you drive around in an SUV precisely to show how little you give a shit if worldwide drought creates worldwide war. They may be smarter and cooler than you, but by being a mega-watt asshole of sociopathic proportions, you gain the upper hand because you piss them off. There are a lot of ways to piss liberals off. You can be pointlessly racist or sexist. You can sniff around in people’s private lives and carry on about how vegetarians are stupid. But few things really can top the global warming denialism. The sheer magnitude of the damage that it does is so severe that it’s impossible for liberals not to get upset. And so you win!

Amanda's post is well worth it if you, like me, can't seem to understand what makes the global warming deniers so stubborn and generally whacked out on the subject of climate change. As Digby notes...when you boil it down, pissing off liberals seems to be their only motivation.

Early Christmas

Julie and Julia came out on DVD today and I made a beeline for Blockbuster to score my own copy. I loved it in the theater and I can guarantee it will be regular evening entertainment around here. The latest Harry Potter is also out and I now have the complete series. Not a necessity I know but you have to spoil yourself every once in a while.

Looking forward to watching it tonight on a very cold and rainy day. Just what the doctor ordered.

Public Option Dead?

There is a good post over at Firedoglake concerning the latest on the public option and the possibility that people otherwise uninsured between 55 and 64 could 'buy in' to Medicare. From what I see it would be good for people like me who will most likely not have insurance after COBRA runs out. A lot will depend on when and if it would be available and it surely doesn't answer the questions about the rest of the folks that are uninsured nor what the cost would be. We may actually begin to see some movement today on what will happen.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Minestrone, Hearty Italian Soup

I gave you a dessert earlier and after thinking on it what you probably need is a nice bowl of hot soup. Here is a very easy recipe for a classic Italian country style soup. The good thing about it is that you can play around a little with the ingredients if your pantry is missing something. You can also substitute or add canned white (cannellini) beans or garbanzo beans for or with the pasta to kick up the protein. I personally like it with both beans and pasta but you can make it a little lighter by losing the pasta. If you don't like cabbage(the traditional way) you can use fresh spinach or kale and either are fine. If you use vegetable stock instead of chicken then this is a solid vegetarian dish. I personally use low sodium chicken stock(Swanson) as I haven't really found the commercial vege stocks to be that good. Homemade vege stock is another matter.

1 28 oz. canned plum tomatoes with juice (try to find San Marzano from Italy) fresh plum tomatoes will work too of course and if you have them you will need about 10.
3 medium carrots
2 medium leeks (very nice but not absolutely necessary)
4 -5 ribs of celery
2 medium onions (red or sweet are best)
1 small head of savoy cabbage (you can use regular cabbage but it is stronger in flavor and if you want you can substitute fresh spinach or kale instead of cabbage.)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (if you only have dried then use half as much)
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable but the chicken is best)
14 oz can of white beans (cannellini or garbanzo) optional (drained, rinsed, drained)
1 cup(handful) of fresh basil, torn into small bits (if you only have dried basil then a tablepoon will do the job but fresh is really best)
6 oz small pasta, (elbows, ditalini, etc. or even spaghetti broken up into inch pieces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese, grated(Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

Get all of your vegetables chopped. Using only the white and light green part of the leeks, quarter lengthwise, rinse well and chop. Cut your celery in half lengthwise and chop. Quarter lengthwise and chop the carrots. Chop the onions and garlic. Core and roughly chop the cabbage. It's important when preparing all of the vegetable that they wind up about the same size so that they will cook evenly. I like it when they are about 1/2 inch or so.

Put the carrots, leeks, celery, onion, garlic and rosemary into a heavy bottomed soup pot like a Dutch oven with about two tablespoons of olive oil and cook over medium heat until just tender (maybe15 minutes). Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the stock, bring back to the boil and add the pasta and simmer for 15 minutes to cook the pasta. Add the cabbage, cover the pan and simmer for another 10 minutes. Now you can add the basil and canned beans (if using) and bring it all back to the simmer and cook for 5 additional minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper. The soup will be pretty thick since the pasta will thicken it quite a bit. It is really important not to overcook the cabbage, it should still have its fresh dark green color.

Serve with good crusty bread or drizzle the sliced bread with olive oil and toast in a hot oven (400F) for 10 - 15 minutes (my favorite). It is nice to drizzle some additional olive oil over each bowl right as you serve it. Serve a bowl of grated Parmesan on the table for those that wish it.

Update: Madam pointed out that I meant cannellini beans not cannelloni beans. Cannelloni beans are hard to find and making them yourself is a real pain...stuffing each bean with marscapone.

Indian Pudding Redux

I posted this recipe a few years back(2007) but it is a cold raw day here in Atlanta and it always turns my thoughts to warm comfort food. This recipe takes a while and seeing as how the new Meryl Streep movie "Julie and Julia" is coming out on DVD next week (I loved it) I thought this recipe was a good one for all us dealing with the first snow of the season. (really not snowing anymore here in Atlanta and it is now 39F so I think we dodged it)

I am not sure how much this really has to do with "Native Americans" but I can imagine that when my ancestors were being saved from their folly by the natives they were offered some variation of a slowly cooked cornmeal dish made with suet and possibly dried fruit or berries. The "Indian" version was probably the result of just having corn mush cooked over an open fire for hours and sweetened with what was at hand.

This recipe is very old fashioned and today you find myriad variations. This one is basic and was first published in a cookbook by Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife first published in 1829. I got this recipe from Julia Child's book Julia Child and Company published in 1979. Julia says they are from a different line of Childs.

This recipe makes about 6 cups of pudding and makes a simple but wonderful dessert with the addition of a little lightly sweetened whipped cream or even vanilla ice cream. Not too shabby with a traditional cooked English custard sauce either.

1/4 cup of corn meal (stone ground is best)
2 cups of cold milk (you can use low fat)
2 or 3 Tb of unsalted butter, lard or beef suet
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp powdered ginger (make sure it is still fragrant)
1/2 cup of dark unsulphured molasses
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, coarsely grated (should be about a cup)
1 cup of additional milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Put the cornmeal in a heavy bottomed 2 quart sauce pan and gradually whisk in the 2 cups of milk. Put the pot over medium heat, add the butter, salt, ginger and molasses. Gradually bring to a boil stirring with the wire whisk to make sure it is nice and smooth. Once at the boil add the apple and then simmer for about 15 minutes more stirring frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom. You should wind up with a think porridge like mixture.
Pour your pudding mixture in into a buttered 2 quart baking dish and set it uncovered in the middle of the hot oven and cook for 20 minutes or until it bubbles. Stir it and add 1/2 cup of the additional milk and blend it in. Clean the sides of the dish with a heat proof spatula and return the dish to the oven turning down the temperature to 250 degrees and cook it for another hour and a half to two hours. Remove from the oven and stir as before scraping down the sides as well. This time pour the additional 1/2 cup of milk over the top but don't stir it in. It is going to form a dark skin on the pudding as you cook it for another 3 or 4 hours.
This needs to be served warm so if you are not ready to serve it can be kept covered in a warm oven for a while.
Serve this thick brown sauce like dessert with the whipped cream, ice cream or custard. I imagine in the old days it was just served with some heavy cream and maybe some sugar.
You can make this ahead a day or two and just reheat in a water bath. This is earthy and elemental and a far cry from the sweet desserts we know today.

I know this seems like a long time from beginning to end but actual hands time on is small. This is slow food and you cannot get the same result by speeding up the process as many modern recipes try and do. This is way our ancestors cooked, trying to make the best out of some lowly ingredients. It is worth the trouble.

Slim 'Really' Fast

If you having a slow day and need a little excitement...not only do they taste really bad but now Slim-Fast diet drinks can cause diarrhea and possibly nausea and/or vomiting due to possible contamination with Bacillus cereus. Sounds serious. Seriously!

Unilever Conducts Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Slim-Fast® Ready-to-Drink Products in Cans Due to Possible Health Risk

Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 3, 2009 – Unilever United States, Inc., in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is conducting a nationwide voluntary recall of all Slim-Fast® ready-to-drink (RTD) products in cans, due to the possibility of contamination with Bacillus cereus, a micro-organism, which may cause diarrhea and possibly nausea and/or vomiting. The probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.

The products were sold in stores nationwide.

Britain's Greenest Town

Here is a nice story about Todmorden(West Yorkshire) that has earned the title of 'Britain's Greenest Town'. Looks like a nice place. It's just a bit north of where our friends live in Eyam which is in Derbyshire. I think it is the prettiest part of the country. Rolling hills of mostly farms and quaint little hamlets. It is probably where I would settle if I were to try and live in the UK.

Wee Bit O' Snow

We are getting a bit of snow this morning but I don't expect much to come of it. It's 35F so I don't think we will get any accumulation. Very odd for this time of year when we haven't even reached the Winter Solstice. Normally, if we get any snow at all it is late winter.

Worried About GMO Foods?

Whether you realize it or not GMO(genetically modified organisms) or 'franken food' is everywhere in the marketplace and it is getting harder and harder to avoid. You can avoid them by buying organic everything but that is pretty much impossible and definitely impractical. You can also avoid them by looking at ingredients lists and skipping things with corn, soy, canola or cottonseed oils which, again, is darn near impossible.
The Institute for Responsible Technology and the Center for Food Safety have put out a Non GMO Shopping Guide that can help as well. You can download it here.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snow What?

The first Christmas party is tonight and the forecast is for snow. The snow shouldn't start until early morning so we should be good. Don't go to the grocery store in Atlanta tonight expecting to find bread or milk because for some reason the folks here buy every bit of it if there is the slightest chance of snow. Very unusual to have snow this early in the year and we'll just have to see if it actually materializes.

Come On Texas

I like Texas. I'm married to a Texan. Somehow they just insist on building on their reputation as a not a nice place. Texas has executed a convicted murderer despite arguments that he was mentally impaired.
Tests administered to Mr. Woods over the years placed his I.Q. between 68 and 86, prompting a bitter debate between his lawyers and the state over whether he was too impaired to face execution. The state and federal courts repeatedly sided with prosecutors.

The debate reflects the gray area left by the Supreme Court in 2002, when it ruled that the mentally impaired were not eligible for the death penalty but left it up to state courts to interpret which inmates qualified as impaired.
Those of you who have been here any length of time know that I am 100% against capital punishment and 200% against it when there is any question whatsoever about the validity of the conviction. This is just sad. What does it say about Texas that an IQ of 68 to 86 is not considered mentally impaired? If I was a Texan I would be insulted not to mention ashamed.

h/t Americablog

Finally Some Good News

The economy only shed 11,000 jobs in November. While losing any jobs in not good news at least the rate has slowed and is moving toward the positive. Most economists think that the economy should be adding about 150,000 jobs a month to match the growth in population so we have a way to go. The ecomomy has been shedding jobs for 23 consecutive months so it might be a bit early to break out the champagne but maybe a nice Cabernet would be OK.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Miserable Day

It's a miserable day here in the northern burbs of Atlanta. It's been raining since late last night and the forecast is for as much as 3 inches before it goes away tonight. Mid 40's coupled with the rain and it makes for a perfect English fall day. I think a batch of walnut and cranberry biscotti is in order and a pot of minestrone for dinner. I need cheering up.

Bottom Up

So here we are on the second day of December and now everyone is turning toward the holidays. I can tell you for sure that I am having some real trouble mounting any Christmas spirit. My hopes for change in the status quo were firmly dashed last night when the President confirmed the rumors that he was expanding the war in Afghanistan. Huge mistake. He now owns the war.

We will likely see further erosion in the job market tomorrow when the official numbers come out and more and more economists are looking at the entire year of 2010 as stagnant or even a worsening jobs picture. Even Krugman is starting to mention the dreaded 'double dip' recession possibility.

I am afraid that all of the momentum and positive energy reflected on the left after last year's election has been wasted. The Obama administration was too timid in addressing the need for economic stimulus and it is clearly obvious that they took the 'Wall Street Way' and not the 'Main Street Way' when tackling the Bush economic disaster. The timidity has now granted the deficit hawks the upper hand and going back to the well for additional and necessary stimulus is not in the cards.

I expect any day now to hear the talking heads start to redefine the 'normal'. Nine or ten percent unemployment is the new 'norm'. Hungry is the new 'norm' for millions more Americans. Homeless will be the new 'norm' for millions of Americans. Everlasting war will be the new 'norm'.

I am beginning to believe that material change is not possible within the current system. The politicians and corporate leaders need the status quo as it is what makes their pleasant lives and existence possible. If we got the change we really need in this country one of the first things to go would be them and they know it. It is in their vested interest to keep their feet on our necks and nothing short of a revolution is going to change anything and the needed changes most surely won't be a result of top down effort.

It is just time to do what you can to insulate yourself from the 'matrix' as best you can. Don't expect the 'leadership' to tell you to quit buying useless crap or grow your own food or live more simply, you just need to do it. The only way we are going to be able to change things is from the bottom up and that is going to mean individual and incremental effort to rebel against what we have been taught to do which is use and abuse our world and live beyond the world's ability to sustain. It may already be too late but I am going to feel better for the effort.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Original Wealth Versus Original Debt

I stumbled upon a very interesting article today discussing the 'devolution' of the American economy from one based on 'original wealth' to one one based on 'original debt'. It gives an interesting perspective one why we are in such trouble today and provides some suggestions on how we may get ourselves out of it. If you have a few minutes it is worth the read.

It's a rather long article but here is a snippet:

Keynes, like most economists at the time, believed that investment runs the economy. The more money made available for investment, the more the economy could grow, even if that investment money was borrowed. “We’re borrowing from ourselves,” the saying went. Unfortunately, what this really meant was that “we the people” would end up owing large sums of money to “we the very, very few people.”

In contrast, the “raw materials economists” like Wilken tried to make the point that no economy could be based on debt. The foundation of a healthy economy, he argued, was “earned income based on the parity monetization of raw materials,” meaning that real wealth comes from the tangible products we bring forth from the earth, AND a fair price paid to those who do the extracting. An exacting mathematician, Wilken came up with a formula that would accurately predict America’s national income fourteen years running: National income was always roughly seven times the farm income.

He explained it this way: The earth is the only producer of “original wealth,” meaning that the earth gives her yield without charging interest. Each season, new wealth is infused into the economy. The farmer is the first earner and first spender of that wealth, which “reverberates” through the economy. The farmer pays the feed storeowner, pays for farm equipment, and buys clothes, etc., fueling the prosperity throughout the local community. Meanwhile, as this new harvest is distributed more people make money and more communities benefit, all the way down to the local grocer or supermarket. Think of it this way. If there were no food to sell, Whole Foods would have to call themselves Whole Nothing. Food is the basic “fuel” for our economy because it is the most constantly and consistently consumed item.

Consider further that if a farmer raises 100 bushels of corn and gets paid $10 a bushel, that infuses $1,000 into the economy. But what if -- in the name of lower food prices -- the farmer only gets $5 a bushel? That means that only $500 is infused into the economy, half as much. To prove his point, Wilken pointed to the farm income in 1929 -- the last year before the Depression -- and in 1932. Farm income dropped from $11 billion in 1929 to $5 billion in 1932, and yet production remained the same! The only difference was a loss in buying power.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Playing The Blues

I may have mentioned before here... that last year I picked up the guitar again after many years and set myself to learning to play the blues. I must admit that I haven't been as diligent as I should have been but I am making progress.

I was thinking today as I was trying to understand some 'theory' about the early blues men that bubbled out of the Mississippi Delta. Did these guys worry or even know anything about musical theory? Did they think about flatted fifth pentatonic scales and 7th chords versus major or did they just play from the heart? Did it just happen by accident that blues relies on the flatted fifth scale and the 7th chord because those sound the 'bluest' or did someone do it all on purpose?

I'm not sure this is really important but maybe one of you musicians out there knows more about the history of the blues than I. How much musical 'theory' do you think Robert Johnson really understood?

Curry Something, In My Case Left Over Lamb

I have been thinking about what to do about the two lamb shanks I had left over from Thanksgiving and it suddenly hit me a few minutes ago...curry. Duh! Lamb is nice curried but it also registered in my dim consciousness that the curry sauce works equally well with other things such as seafood, chicken, turkey and even vegetables. I know this might be a little late but some of you might have a some turkey left over(still) and this might be a different way for you to use it up. Dark meat turkey is very nice in something like this. This is my recipe for left over lamb but you just need to substitute whatever you have for the lamb. If you are going to use shrimp or seafood it is probably best to leave it raw but other things like chicken or turkey would be best cooked and preferably left over.

This recipe serves 4 and should be served over rice or couscous. This is a pretty quick dish and works great for feeding a crowd in a hurry. The rice takes longer to cook. This can be doubled or tripled or more. I wouldn't let shrimp sit on a buffet very long or it will turn to rubber but you can boil the shrimp on the side (use the frozen precooked popcorn size for real easy...just thaw it) and let folks add the shrimp as they serve themselves the curry sauce. Other things like lamb and chicken will idle on a buffet in a crockpot or steam tray for an hour with no discernible loss. You might have to add a little additional chicken or vege stock if the sauce starts to 'set up'.

1 pound cooked lamb, fat-trimmed
1 teaspoon olive, peanut or safflower oil
1 cup of chopped apple (1 medium apple)peeled or not your choice
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion should do it)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder ( I use Penzey's spices almost exclusively )
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 3/4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth ( I prefer the low sodium Swanson's)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Kosher salt to taste
ground cayenne pepper to taste

Optional toppings ( a choice of a few or all of these allows the diners to 'customize' the dish for themselves and adds a little fun)

ripe banana diced (should be a little firm)
plain nonfat yogurt
mango chutney
diced cucumber
diced bell pepper
chopped dried apricot
dried currants or raisins
salted peanuts or cashews
toasted shredded coconut

cut or shred the cooked lamb into bite size pieces.

In a 5 or 6 quart pan over medium heat, combine oil, onion, apple. Cook until onion begins to just brown and add the garlic and then cook for a couple of more minutes. The total cooking time should be about 8 minutes.

Add the curry powder and cumin and stir until spices are fragrant, about 30-45 more seconds.

Add the meat. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and bring to a simmer. Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup broth. Stir this slurry into the pan and stir until it simmers again and it should almost instantly thicken from the corn starch. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Just a pinch of the cayenne will go a long way so it might be a good idea to 'sneak' up on it. Remove from heat and move into an appropriate serving bowl.

Put whatever condiments you've chosen into small bowls that can be passed.

You can either serve the rice or couscous in individual bowls and let everyone just add the curry and condiments at the table or serve it in a big bowl along with the bowl of curry and let each person serve themselves and add the condiments of choice. Of course, you can also do it buffet style.

As I said above the basic curry sauce can be used with any number of things besides lamb. Shrimp and chicken are especially suited for curry but so are things like zucchini or other squash, cauliflower and broccoli. I haven't tried it but I imagine firm tofu would work as well. Truth be told the sauce by itself over rice is not bad at all and is pretty cheap eats though a little light on protein. This very basic curry sauce is a good thing to have in your repertoire as you can use it to extend left overs very easily.

Note: for a change of pace you can substitute a cup or more of canned coconut milk for some of the stock and it will make a much richer dish.

Chicken Is Still Dangerous

Just in case you don't stop by Skippy's place or by Cookie Jill's place, Cookie Jill reminds us that, in spite of efforts to clean up the business, raw chicken is still a dangerous thing. A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that while the situation has improved very slightly, 66% of the chicken brought in grocery stores around the country harbor salmonella and/or campylobacter. The stats don't seem to be affected by the price of the bird either. High end/all natural products were as guilty as the cheap stuff.

This means that you can't relax on your kitchen hygiene when dealing with poultry. You must cook chicken/poultry to at least 165ยบ F internal temperature and prevent raw chicken or its juices from touching any other food. Use a separate cutting board for cutting poultry and it should be plastic so that you can run it through the dishwasher or wash it in very hot water with lots of soap. Use paper towels for your hands and not the dish towel and clean all surfaces with a sterilizing solution. (1 Tbsp chlorine bleach(sodium hypochlorite) with a quart of water).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dinner Guests

I was going to post this picture the other day with the post Thanksgiving thing but Madam had it on her camera and her camera was with her on Friday. These are the daughter and her husband's three buddies. The one on the right is Rudy who just joined the pack about a month ago and was a rescue like the girl in the middle Megan. The little guy on the left is Stewart. Megan is the lover and will stand by you for as long as you want to pet her and you will get a cold nose when you stop asking for more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post Turkey Day

I hope everyone had a great holiday. My daughter pronounced the dinner the best ever. Not so sure that is accurate but it was a nice compliment. She is on duty today but took plenty of left over leek and potato soup and other goodies to get her through the shift. There will also be leftovers at the firehouse as a lot of people bring goodies for the firefighters on Thanksgiving. They brought their dogs yesterday and we got to meet the newest addition Rudy. He is about a year old and was a rescue. He looks like a mixture of terrier and springer spaniel with a little red fox thrown in. Cute and friendly and seems to fit in with the other two just fine. All three really enjoyed the lamb shank bones that was their holiday treat. It was funny to watch them each take a bone and then run to their own corner of the backyard to enjoy.

I'm just knocking around today. Putting away things I dragged out for the meal yesterday. I did get a batch of sourdough started for the weekly bread bake but other than that no cooking will be done today. I had toast and deviled eggs for breakfast and it will probably be left over dressing and gravy for lunch and maybe another piece of pumpkin pie. I baked two but Mini Monk took one with her as part of her booty.

In spite of my protests Madam has gone to the mall...insanity. She even tried to convince me to go since I was doing nothing important...not happening.

Anyhow, go have a turkey sandwich or whatever and enjoy the day off( if that applies). I think I hear the distant call of 'punkin' pie.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Make It Safe

I just came in from harvesting leeks for the soup. I'm busy prepping for the feasting tomorrow. Cutting up veges, making pie crust, making soup and all that. I try and get as much grunt work done the day ahead and then all I have to do is assemble things. Things like pies need to be done the same day but soup is just as good or better having rested overnight. The veges for the lamb can wait in a zip bag overnight as well.

It's not to late, if your able, to donate to your local food bank and every little bit helps.

If you are traveling for the holiday try and be safe and have a nice trip. You'll be glad to know that the Goddess has gotten together with the FSM and they have declared tomorrow a special 'half the calories' day. So tomorrow you can have that extra helping of mashed potatoes or that second piece of pumpkin pie without guilt.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Changeup

I think I have all the shopping done for the Thursday repast. I just can't seem to get excited about turkey even though I like turkey it just doesn't thrill me as a 'special' meal. I usually do something different for the feast and this year it will be braised lamb shanks. They are actually pretty easy and don't require a lot of tending and are not too expensive to boot. I do them the classic way with carrots, onion, garlic and celery, fresh rosemary and thyme. Brown them and then slow cook them in a Dutch oven with chicken stock and red wine until they are almost fall off the bone tender. I'll serve them over whole wheat couscous this year but only because my daughter doesn't like polenta. A nice Greek country salad with cukes, tomatoes, red onion, Kalamata olives and real Greek Feta and another side dish or two(haven't decided) will make for plenty to eat. I will make cranberry sauce and have fresh bread. The starter will be the leek and potato soup which was requested by my daughter. There will be pumpkin pie and a French Apple Tart to choose from for dessert. Should be nice.

Is everyone (except Steve and RT) doing the turkey thing or are you going do something different as well?

Oh, I will probably get a turkey after the holiday when they are dirt cheap...maybe I can afford one of the free range ones then but even a modest one was nearly a $100 last week. (and yes I went to Whole Foods as it is the only place that has good lamb anywhere nearby but I limited my purchase to the lamb and the West Va Mountaineer apples I mentioned the other day)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cannellini Bean Soup with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary

It's been a cool and rainy two days here in not sunny Atlanta and it just makes you want soup.
With national eating day coming in a couple of days its also good to lighten up a bit before the
gorging. Here is a recipe for a Cannellini Bean Soup with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary that is
hearty and full of flavor and just the answer for a cold fall day. It will also satisfy any
cravings you may have for Italian food. As a free bonus I am going to throw in homemade garlic
croutons which this soup just screams for.

First you need to roast two whole heads of garlic. One for the croutons and one for the soup.

Preheat your oven to 400°. Slice the tops off the garlic (the top is the pointy end) to expose
the cloves. Not too much but enough to expose the actual garlic in each clove. Drizzle each cut
head with a bit of olive oil and wrap them loosely in aluminum foil. I just fold up the edges of
the foil and make a little tent by squishing it together. Roast in the middle of the oven for 25
-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and open the foil and let the garlic cool for about ten minutes or until you can handle it. Like you would a toothpaste tube squeeze the roasted cloves from the heads into a small bowl and mash with a fork and set aside.

While the garlic is roasting you can cut up the bread for the croutons, and the onion, carrots
and celery for the soup. You can drain, rinse and drain the beans while you are at it.
For the croutons you'll need:

Half of the roasted garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
about 5 cups of good bread cut into 1-inch cubes. I like sourdough but a baguette or
ciabatta works great as well. You should need about a half a loaf of bread and this is a
great way to use up stale bread.

Once the garlic is cool enough to handle and you've squeezed and mashed it, mix half of it(the
other half is for the soup) with the 1/4 cup of oil and salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss the
oil and garlic mixture with the bread cubes until well coated and spread evenly on a baking sheet
and bake about 20 minutes. You should turn them once or twice during the cooking and they should come out golden brown. No nibbling!

While the croutons are toasting lets start the soup:

the other half of the roasted garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of finely chopped onion (1 large onion)
2 carrots , peeled and cut into about 1/4-inch slices
2 stalks celery chopped into 1/4 inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans(if you can't find cannellini then white kidney or
even light red kidneys or garbanzos will work). You need to drain them, rinse them and drain
them again before they go into the soup.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (If you only have dried rosemary then cut this
back to 1 tablespoon) and this soup is also good with fresh sage instead of rosemary.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the
onion, carrots and celery and saute until tender, maybe 10 minutes. Add broth and garlic and
bring to a simmer. We are basically cooking the carrots and celery and letting the garlic infuse
the broth which should take about 20 minutes. Now add the drained beans and rosemary and bring back to a simmer cook 10 more minutes. Now depending on how you like your soup we are at decision time. You can serve the soup like it is with the croutons or go the traditional route and puree half the soup with an immersion blender or a food processor and recombine with un-pureed part and serve with the croutons. It really is best when you take the effort and cream up half the makes the soup much more luxurious. It is always a nice touch to drizzle a little more olive oil on top of the soup when served.


On the Horns of a Dilemma

Jim DeRosa has a post up this morning A Great Society or a Great War. You Can't Have Both.

I too, have been thinking a lot about the weight of the decision President Obama is having to make. While President Obama was left with hundreds of tough problems by the preceding administration none are more critical to the future of what America will become than the lingering disasters of these two wars. Millions upon millions of people both here and there will have to live with the consequences of our next steps.

The always eloquent Bill Moyers had this to say about where we are:
BILL MOYERS: Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Aside from the fact that there are thousands, if not millions of lives at stake there is also a terrible political impact to the impending decision. There is a very strong likelihood that should President Obama choose to not escalate the conflict in Afghanistan and, in effect, walk away he will most likely be a one term president. If the President chooses, instead of war, the almost impossible domestic problems which he inherited, he will pay for it with his Presidency. The charges from the war mongers and wingnut right will be poisonous. He will be labeled as weak and unpatriotic. He will be accused of betraying our dead and casting aside all of the lives and treasure we have invested in these misguided wars and it will be relentless. Trust me, it won't matter one whit to the mouthbreathers if we move toward energy independence, reduce the deficit, enact health reform or any other of the myriad opportunities we have to improve life in America. The only thing that will matter is that Obama quit. It won't matter that it was fruitless to continue. It won't matter that we were crushing ourselves under mountains of debt for no reason. The only thing they will see is quitting which they will see a losing.

This is the choice President Obama faces and it is a mighty dilemma. Is there a way to end the quagmire that was deliberately left for him in Afghansitan and still serve two terms? I, for one, believe the choice should be to end our engagement in a conflict we cannot and never will win even it means a return to power of the right. As much as I hate the idea of a return to incompetence of the GOP I have come to the conclusion that we can't, as a nation, continue on our present course. Escalating the Afghanistan conflict will just amplify the disaster. Abandoning it will be the political ruin of Obama and the Democratic party. Withdrawing from Afghanistan will add high octane fuel to the efforts of the extreme right to tear this country apart. If you think the insanity displayed since the election has been spectacular just wait until they have this to batter the President with.

The sad thing is that President Obama will probably bow to the pressure and escalate in some fashion and, in effect, turn his back on the mountain of domestic problems we face. Thousands more American and Afghan lives will be sacrificed until someone comes along and makes the right decision. I just hope that if and when the escalation comes it is wrapped in clear and decisive terms with respect to goals and exit strategy. I think it is a mistake to kick the ball down the field one more time no matter how the process is defined but it will probably happen.

None of us should delude ourselves about the reasons either. Escalating the war in Afghanistan is strictly about politics and the President's desire to not be a one term President. It will be about not ceding political power to the extreme right in the next presidential election. We have been here before and to paraphrase Bill Moyers, it is "de ja vu all over again". President Obama is in the same position as President Johnson when it came to Vietnam. Johnson chose war out of political expediency even though he chose not to run for a second term. Would that President Obama take a lesson from that dilemma and the results of the wrong decision.

Those of you that have been coming around here for any length of time know how much I loathe the far right and what they have done and are doing to our country. As much as I hate to say it, I would rather see them return to power than see us spend any more lives and treasure in the pointless conflicts in the Middle East. It was a mistake in the beginning and it is even more of a mistake now. If ending this costs us a return to the fascism of the right then so be it.

Don't get me wrong. I do believe that we should be engaged in the world and especially the potential hell hole that could erupt in the Middle East. I just don't think we should be doing it with bombs and bullets. Pakistan is trouble squared and Iran could be as well. Palestine and Israel will ever be a sucking wound on the world until we settle the issue of the West Bank and settlements. Who knows what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan if we disengage militarily. We and many before us have proven conclusively that bombs and bullets don't work in Afghanistan and the same can be said for the rest. We can't ignore the hole but we should at least stop digging.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Apple Days

Fall tradition day! Got a good deal on a peck of West Virginia Mountaineer apples so today is apple butter day. MMM good!

This is the first time in a few years that I had to actually buy apples for apple butter as I can usually find some no one wants. The trees at Hembree farm didn't fruit this year which has been a good source.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's End the Secrecy of the Federal Reserve

Via Firedoglake:

Alan Grayson and Ron Paul have offered an amendment calling for a full audit of the Fed, and they have the support of nearly three-quarters of Congress. But in a last minute power play by the big banks, Rep. Mel Watt will dutifully offer an amendment to not only gut the audit, but make the Fed even more secretive.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Leo Gerard, President of the Steelworkers Union, all signed a letter with economists, labor leaders, and bloggers blasting Rep. Mel Watt’s amendment to gut the audit of the Federal Reserve.

Trumka, Stern, and Gerard teamed up economists Bill Black and Jamie Galbraith and blogger Tyler Durden, among others, against Watt’s amendment and accused the Fed of “massive secret bailouts” and “cronyism and favoritism.” Their letter says:

The Federal Reserve balance sheet expanded to more than $2 trillion, along with implied and explicit backstops to Wall Street firms that could cost even more. Who received the money? Against what collateral? On what terms and conditions? The only way to find out is through a complete audit of the Federal Reserve. That’s why we support the Paul-Grayson amendment requiring a complete audit.

The Watt amendment does not repeal the existing provisions that prohibit a GAO audit of the Federal Reserve. In fact, it adds entirely new additional categories of restrictions. Instead of opening up the Fed’s secretive activities to public inspection, the Watt amendment cloaks it in further secrecy.

A vote for the Watt amendment is a vote for more secret bailouts. We urge you to support Paul-Grayson instead.

For labor leaders who don’t often see eye-to-eye this letter should tell you how important this is. This is a strong indictment of the Fed, the big banks, and their 'boys' in Congress.

You can add your name to their letter to call for a full audit of the Fed. Click here to add your name to our petition to reject more secret bailouts and Fed cronyism.

Senate Health Care Reform Proposal

Jane Hamsher at FDL speaks for me. The bill sucks. It delays the pre-existing condition change until 2014. It allows states to opt out immediately. It allows drug companies to prevent generics of of 'biologics'. It mandates coverage but doesn't guarantee you can actually get good insurance.

This bill just proves, once again, that the Senate is dysfunctional and undemocratic...the filibuster, allowing one Senator to prevent good legislation is insane.

Senator Reid should immediately move to the reconciliation process and get a bill that the majority will support and tell Nelson, Lieberman and Lincoln to pound sand.


One of the best lines I have read so far concerning Caribou Barbie's book release/tour is from Attaturk at FDL.

This “Palin-o-lithic” era is becoming a never ending elementary school production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle with only kazoo accompaniment.

That's a memorable line.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Frightening Statistic

From TPM.

The 140 Army suicides so far this year equal the total from all of 2008 -- and almost equal the 142 U.S. troops from all the services killed in Iraq so far this year.

There is something seriously wrong when our soldiers are killing themselves as fast as the enemy is killing them.

No On Oyster Safety

Just in case you are a raw oyster lover you might want to read Marion's entire post over at Food Politics:

On November 13, the FDA announced indefinite postponement of rules requiring raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico to undergo postharvest processing to destroy their content of Vibrio vulnificus, a particularly nasty “flesh-eating” bacterium. According to accounts in the New York Times and in industry newsletters, the FDA caved under pressure from the oyster industry and members of Congress representing oyster-harvesting regions in the Gulf.
The thing is that you can eat raw oysters that come from cold waters pretty safely. You shouldn't eat oysters from warm waters like the Gulf of Mexico unless they have been treated postharvest. There are several methods that yield non toxic oysters available, it's just that the industry doesn't want to invest in them and would rather see the 15 or so people who die each year from Vibrio vulnificus to just keep on dying. Simple economics!

As a consumer you should know the risks and then make your own decisions about eating raw Gulf oysters. BTW it is a pretty nasty infection though the infection is considered 'low mortality'. There is also no known effective treatment.