Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last Weekend

Well, here we are on the last weekend of 2013. Just seems like this year has gone by awfully fast. Some change around here this weekend.

Tomorrow is my last shift at Home Depot. I gave them two weeks notice but they decided, after I offered, to cover the 4 shifts scheduled in 2014 with someone else and make my last shift in 2013. Makes sense.

All the seed catalogs have started to arrive so I need to spend some time getting all my orders ready. First I need to inventory what I have left over and saved from last year. I also need to decide what I am going to corn or not to corn, etc.

Got to get to work in the garden and finish up my raised beds. I've been thwarted by rain over and over again for at least a month or two and now that I don't have to work I need to get hopping.

One possible glitch in the gardening plans is that I am having some pain that is very similar to that I was having before my hernia surgery in June. I'm going back to the surgeon on Monday to see if I need a tune up or if something came loose. I sure hope it is under warranty. If I have to do the surgery again it will put me a month behind for the garden which won't make me happy. Last year was such a disappointing gardening experience that I am very focused on getting it right this year. I'm actually in real danger of running out of canned tomatoes!

Heavy rains forecast for this afternoon and tonight so outside is out for today. Madam's cell phone is refusing to hold a charge and she is due for an upgrade so at least part of the afternoon will be at AT&T figuring out what sort of gouge they will do for me. It is a crime what we are paying in this country for phone services.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas everyone. Let's hope the proper spirit of the season takes the chill off the hearts of those that are doing all the Scrooge stuff.
Quiet little Christmas Eve here abouts. I've got today and tomorrow off so I can enjoy a little downtime. Minimonk is here for most of the day to celebrate though she is going in later so that the firefighters with children can be home for the evening. She's got her new best bud Pete with her and he and Miss Zoey have been romping about.
I hope everyone has a happy holiday...lots of tasty treats and a good and rewarding visit from Santa tonight.
Madam is throwing her annual Boxing Day do for her mates so I'll have some cooking and prep to do on Christmas Day. I'll have to open the store on Boxing Day at 545a so I will miss the house full of ladies (too bad!). Madam has chosen chicken curry for her menu with all the fixin's so it should be fun.
I've got rolls rising that should be about ready for the oven and we'll have Honey Baked ham, and other goodies for our Christmas Eve festivities. I've got to finish the deviled eggs and a few other chores before we get going.

Merry Christmas everybody!

BTW my Christmas present to myself was my resignation from Home Depot so even though I have two weeks to go my spirits are already lifted.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Healthcare, Here We Go

I changed my mind about signing up for health insurance through the ACA. The more I thought about it the more it seemed like taking too big a risk for the 8 months I wouldn't have any coverage before I'm eligible for Medicare. A serious problem could wipe out the savings I intend to supplement my SS with. The only hitch is that I need to call Home Depot quits. The extra income from the part time, soul sucking work puts me almost at the limit for any tax credits to help with the insurance premiums. Without the extra income I qualify for a little over 300 bucks in monthly tax credit towards the premium which equates to nearly half of the take home. Really a no brainer. I was already thinking of giving my notice and have almost done it several times. I've really only been working so I can get a minimal amount of health insurance.

So anyway I've signed up for a silver HMO plan that will hit me for a little over $200 a month and yes the deductible is $3,500 but at least I won't have to worry about something serious wiping my nest egg out. After the deductible the insurance is much better that what I had as a part time Home Depot.

So I will give my notice when I go in at 3pm today and rest assured I won't miss opening the store at 6am and closing at 10pm.

You may remember that I had been trying since the beginning to at least find out what kind of insurance I could get on the exchange and had completed the application part way back but hadn't been able to get to the part where I select insurance.  I had to delete all that old stuff and do a new application and it went through and I had insurance in about an hour of work. Now I just wait for the insurance folks to contact me so I can pay them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Expensive Snacks

It was an expensive weekend around here. I was inattentive and left my hearing aids on my desk in their case but I left the case open. Zoey managed to snag the left one and chew it to bits. At least she didn't swallow the battery. A couple of grand down the tubes. Fortunately, it was still under warranty and a replacement will only cost me $250. She also managed to chew one my New Balance trainers pretty well. If she wasn't so cute I would be mad.  It is somewhat amazing how cat like she can be when she is determined to explore and get into mischief. She has obviously found her way onto my desk and we've found her on the kitchen counters and table. She has also discovered that she can travel around the den completely by leaping from chair to chair and couch and never touch the floor.

Full moon today and it is the Long Night Moon or the Winter Moon. If you have any magick to get done tonight is the night. Don't forget that the Winter Solstice is coming Saturday so you'll have two good chances this week to harness nature for a helping hand.

Still grinding away at the Home Depot and they are scheduling me mostly at night for the next couple of weeks. Last night I managed not to freeze in the garden center and tonight I am scheduled to supervise Self Check which is my least favorite thing. Watching stupid people do stupid things for 5 hours. I don't use the self check out ever and I can't see why people insist on it when there are live cashiers just a step or two away. They'll struggle to get the product scanned and usually wind up frustrating themselves for no reason. I'll have intervene over and over again when people have quantities of something and suddenly realize it means scanning each one or they have hardware with no barcode that can be scanned. You even have people trying to self checkout doors and appliances that they can't even lift. Major insanity.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Not For Me It Seems

A day off and Madam has planned a small dinner party for some friends moving out of state. Since it has been so cold and wintry I thought a nice stew would be a good easy meal. So I will spend the afternoon putting together a nice boeuf bourguignon and some nice  braised Brussels Sprouts glazed with a balsamic reduction. Normally you serve boiled potatoes with this stew but I am going with an egg pappardelle instead. A rustic French apple tart is going to be pudding. Going to be a nice afternoon putzing in the kitchen.

As for the title of the post....I've mentioned that I have been trying to get through the process and get some insurance to tide me over until September when I can enroll in Medicare. I still haven't been successful but with the changes to the website that kicked in 12/1 I can at least see what my options are here in Georgia. Turns out they are not so great. At my age and income I do qualify for a small subsidy but even with that I am looking at at $500 a month for a Silver plan and the plan has a $6,500 deductible. The best case scenario(I stay healthy) means a minimum out of pocket of $4,000 for the eight months and a worse case of  $10,500 if I get sick before I see any insurance. I am thinking I just have to risk not having insurance for those 8 months. I'm still stewing on it but I think that's the way I will go.

Everybody enjoy your Friday the Thirteenth and I am going to go cook. Working all weekend so it is likely quiet in these parts.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Old Fashioned Soft Molasses Cookies

Updated: Added the photo.

It's another cold and rainy day off. It has been like this for days and it is starting to wear thin. It is, however, coming the winter holiday season and I begin to think of cookies. One of my all time favorite cookies is from my mother who passed this recipe from her mother on to me and is a nice soft and spicy molasses cookie. Not really a very nuanced cookie but substantial and earthy from the molasses and some might think a little too spicy since it has a lot of ground ginger and cloves in it. Whatever, it is still one of my all time favorites and it makes a big batch so you can share.

Old Fashioned Soft Molasses Cookies

You'll need:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus a little more for rolling the cookies in
1/2 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs slightly beaten
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


In a large bowl cream butter, shortening and sugar and then beat in molasses and eggs. In another large bowl mix the dry ingredients with a wire whisk then add this to the butter mixture and mix well. Roll the dough into balls about 1 to 1 1/2 inch in diameter and then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and give them room to spread as they will flatten and spread as they cook. Bake a 350F for 10 to 12 minutes. Don't overcook these or they will get too hard.

Store tightly covered and if they start to get too crisp put a slice of apple in the can with them and they will stay soft.

The above recipe is the one from my mother but I just use a cup of unsalted butter instead. I also use extra large eggs when I bake. BTW use fresh spices and not those that have been in the cupboard for a couple of years. I am a Penzey's spice guy and I  think they are consistently the best available. If your ground spices are more than a  year old, toss them and get new.

Friday, December 06, 2013

This and That

Well, I've had two days off and its rained so no gardening. Instead I have been doing pretty much nothing. I did manage to get a batch of sourdough bread baked today and yesterday I baked cheese crackers in a continuing effort to make good cheese crackers at home...a work in progress. Cheesy but not thin enough or crunchy enough. It's supposed to rain through the weekend as well and I am scheduled for the garden center which is typical though it should be pretty quiet.

It has been interesting seeing the reaction to Nelson Mandela's passing especially from the right. Ted Cruz made the mistake of praising Mandela on Facebook and his already crazy followers went off the deep end. Rick Santorum likened Mandela's fight against apartheid to the GOP battle against Obamacare if you can believe it.

Anyhow, back to work tomorrow. Everyone have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Judy Rodgers - Thanks

Unless you are a foodie like me it is likely you have never heard of the late Judy Rodgers, chef at the famous Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to eat there only once and it was memorable but more importantly it is people like Judy, who not only love food and cooking but truly cared about the food in its entirety.
The following is an excerpt from an interview done in 2004 (h/t Michael Ruhlman) that expresses how Judy considered food and cooking. It really resonates with me. Judy passed away Monday from cancer at the age of 57.

This from a 2004 conversation, before she became ill with cancer, says it all:
That’s what we’re up against, that it’s perceived as a triumph that you can get strawberries in January as opposed to a catastrophe. Not all choice is good. Even if the January strawberry tastes OK, even if you have a really good strawberry that’s organic, I still know you turned down other things for that to happen.
A lot of our culinary habits in this country developed after refrigeration and freezing and certain technologies were inexpensive, whereas most other old world countries’ culinary traditions evolved before you had all those things. And so you had dried apples—not to put in your Cheerios, you had dried apples so you had something to eat.
That’s something I can do is try to make the menu, as much as I can, reflect a lot of the natural rhythms of this part of the world and reflect that this used to be the way you would eat before you could cheat.
There are a lot of reason not to buy Chilean blueberries. Let’s do nuts or chocolate or dried fruit for dessert. Part of not getting tired of food and cooking is not having every option every day, it’s responding to your constraints.  You don’t have that much to work with, so you have to be more resourceful.  If I were in St. Louis, I’d have a different palate of flavors to play with. I’d probably be more aggressive about putting stuff up myself during the season.
And guess what?  That’s what culinary tradition is, making the harvest season last all year long. My God, the most unique holiday we have is Thanksgiving, it should be something that if you really ponder what Thanksgiving is all about, you would really understand food. But people think it’s about gluttony, as opposed to truly revering your great harvest celebration, and now put stuff up so you don’t starve over the winter. But people don’t think about it that way—here, it’s the beginning of the eating season.
Judy Rodgers, 1956–2013 obituary by Eric Asimov

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Still No on

Tried again this morning to get to the enrollment part of the process. All the eligibility stuff appears complete but still no plans are presented for me to evaluate. I tried the on line chat but really got nowhere with that other than a suggestion to call the 800 number. Not sure I will actually enroll but I would like to compare plans and costs just to see what it would be. I lose the minimum health plan with Home Depot on the first of January and while it was pretty crappy it was something. I will have Medicare next September and may just try the go without route for 8 months but I can't make that decision without some information on the plans available here in Georgia. I'll keep trying.

Buttermilk Pie

Here is the recipe for the Buttermilk Pie that I fixed over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Nothing complicated but it makes a very nice pie and is a nice change from the usual
fare. Rumor has it that it started with the Amish. As a note I use extra large eggs when I
am baking and I use whole buttermilk not the reduced fat.

You'll need:

1/2 cup butter melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 deep dish pie shell ( homemade or store bought)


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time and
beat until well mixed, add the vanilla and salt. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk
while mixing and beat until smooth.
Pour into a deep dish pie shell and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350F and
bake for 50-60 additional minutes. It helps to bake pies on the lowest shelf of your oven
as it helps prevent a soggy crust. Pie should turn a nice golden brown and a knife
inserted should come out clean.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Post Black Friday and Stuff

I survived Black Friday. Actually, it was not too bad, other than the early start. Not nearly as many shoppers as I expected and most only came for the special price on the Martha Stewart Xmas tree that was advertised and they were gone pretty quick. They actually let me leave an hour early since we were heavily overstaffed. There was a lot of time when the number of orange aprons present outnumbered shoppers.

Thanksgiving dinner was nice and even though it was just for four I think everyone enjoyed it. As usual I fixed enough for 12 and there are a lot of leftovers and out guests went home with plenty as well. I was especially proud of the fact that everything, with the exception of the turkey, wine, and a few ingredients came from the garden. Steamed fresh broccoli, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, succotash to mention some and everything else was made from scratch. The surprise hit was the Buttermilk pie which was a last minute whim. If anyone would like to try, let me know and I'll post the recipe.

Working again this afternoon but only for 5 hours and again tomorrow for a full shift. No weekends around here very often.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day Ahead Butterry Dinner Rolls

Here is a recipe for nice dinner rolls that you can do most of the work the day ahead and that make a very necessary addition to the Thanksgiving feast. The overnight rest in the fridge actually improves the flavor of the bread and saves a lot of mess on the big day. This makes about 2 dozen rolls so there are usually plenty left over for turkey and cranberry sliders.

You need:

1 1/4 cups milk ( whole or two percent or even buttermilk)
2 TBLSP sugar
1 packet or 1 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1 large egg beaten
4 - 4 1/2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour (20 to 21 1/4 oz) I use King Arthur
1 1/2 TSP kosher salt
8 TBLSP softened unsalted butter divided into 8 pieces and 6 TBLSP
6 TBLSP of  softened salted butter for forming, brushing pre and post baking.

Warm the milk and sugar in the microwave until it is about 100 degrees F
In the bowl of a stand mixer put the warmed milk and sugar and add the yeast letting it stand for 5 or 10 minutes or until you see yeast begin to foam. Add the beaten egg and 4 cups of the flour and mix until it just comes together with the dough hook. Let this stand for 20-30 minutes to let the flour hydrate. Add the salt and knead on medium with the dough hook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes and the  8 TBLSP of butter one TBLSP at a time, letting each mix in well before adding the next. After all the butter is incorporated your dough should be coming away from the sides of the bowl but if not add additional flour 1 TBLSP at a time until it does. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by had for 1 or two minutes. Put the dough into a large buttered bowl, cover and refridgerate overnight. It should rise slowly overnight until it doubles in size. Remove the dough to the counter a couple of hours before you are ready to bake and let the dough come to room temperature.

 Cut the dough into 24 pieces and with well buttered hands form them into balls by pulling the dough and pinching to form a smooth surface. Put on a large baking pan (half sheet pan) cover and let rise until they double. Baste lightly with melted salted butter and bake in a preheated 375F oven on the middle rack until golden, about 20 minutes. Lightly brush again with melted salted butter and serve.

Instead of making round buns you can roll the dough out until it is about a 1/2 inch thick and cut out circles with a biscuit cutter, brush with butter and fold half then let rise until doubled. Your choice.


Wintry Day and Gravy To Boot

A little dusting of snow around this morning in the Northern burbs of Atlanta though the temp is just slightly north of freezing and a lot of gusty wind. Should be clearing by the afternoon but it makes a great day for staying inside and getting all the prep done for the "foodalypse" or "turkeylypse" or whatever.

Going to get the cornbread baked for the dressing and all the onions and celery chopped and chilled. Get the pie crusts done and the dough for the rolls made up and in the fridge. While it will save me time tomorrow it actually makes for a better bread if the dough ferments slowly overnight which produces a much fuller flavor. Not much else to do ahead but it will make throwing the dinner tomorrow much less hectic. Oh, and I'll make the broth for the gravy today as well. You can make gravy with just boxed broth but making your own broth with a mirepoix and a foundation of boxed broth makes for a much better product. I'll share my method below.

Minimonk has cancelled and decided just to stay home and chill but it doesn't change the plan but it does mean more leftovers(and more pumpkin pie for me).
Everybody have a safe holiday and enjoy your time off. If you are traveling on the East coast be careful. If you are flying...woe is you.

For all you folks a little wary of making your own gravy and resort to the packets or jars give the following a try and you won't go back. Good gravy can save the day and this gravy is not restricted to just turkey. Yeah, it takes a bit of work but you can do the stock days ahead and even freeze it weeks ahead. The final assembly takes just minutes. Try it, you'll like it.

Classic Herbed Gravy

You'll need:

For the stock:
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 stalks of celery chopped into 1/4 inch dice
    2 carrots chopped into 1/4 inch dice
    1 onion, coarsely chopped
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    4 cups water
    4 cups low sodium chicken broth
    1 bay leaf
    2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
For the final gravy:
    3 tablespoons  unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage (you can use a tablespoon of dried poulty seasoning here)
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter for the final finish
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    salt and pepper to taste
Make the stock:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over moderately high heat and add celery, carrots, onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add water, broth, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil.
Simmer uncovered, until reduced to 6 cups, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve and skin off any excess fat. Set aside. You can do this a day or two ahead or freeze for weeks. You'll just have to warm it before final assembly.

For the gravy:
Heat the 3 TBLSP butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat, When the butter begins to foam whisk in the flour and cook until golden brown, about 4-5  minutes. Add the fresh herbs and then whisk in the hot stock in a slow stream whisking constantly, until smooth. Simmer until thickened and reduced to about 4 1/2 cups, maybe 20 minutes but maybe longer...don't worry it will thicken when it boils. Finish by stirring in the final two tablespoons of butter. Adjust the seasoning. This is the last minute part but you can do it while the turkey is resting, just make sure to keep it warm.

Note: If you want to use turkey fat from your roasting pan instead of the butter for the gravy part go right ahead and the same applies for any roasting juice instead of the stock. Just make sure all of the fat is separated from the roasting juice and add your stock to the juices to make the 6 cups you need for the gravy. That is all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday This and That

Gonna freeze my butt off this afternoon. Still below freezing here at 1030 in morning and I am scheduled to be the garden cashier this afternoon 1 until close at 9p. Normally the store doesn't open the garden registers when it is this cold but the tree lot is now open so the dead trees must be sold. I'll layer up but after a few hours in the cold and wind nothing stops the cold from seeping down to the bones. The big storm is supposed to move in later this afternoon as well so I may get the added bonus of rain, sleet and freezing rain. Can't wait.

The store is gearing up for Black Friday and it is really depressing. The shelves are always lines with Chinese made garbage dump fodder but with the big shopping holiday approaching the aisles are getting filled with even more. Virtually every box is prominently labeled with CHINA and there are mountains of worthless, cheaply made crap for the suckers to buy. I for one have made it a personal goal not to buy anything from anyone on Thursday or just encourages them. Just remember that every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in. Consider joining me in not shopping Thanksgiving or on Black Friday. There is absolutely nothing you can't live without out there and for Goddess' sake don't patronize Wally World or any other retailer that is opening on Thanksgiving. Trust don't need what they are selling.

It was going to be a quiet holiday around here but Madam has invited some friends who are in the process of moving over for the Thanksgiving Day. I don't mind and I at least have some warning. I do have Wednesday and Thursday off so I will have time to put it all together. The Depot did give us all a frozen turkey so there is that. I am still trying not to think about having to be there at  445am on Friday...Goddess that is going to suck.

All the idiots that hoorayed the Iraq debacle are pshawing the Iran agreements..whoda thunk? In my view anything that doesn't involve bullets and bombs is a good thing. It's not 'world peace' by a long shot but it is a step in the right direction.

Now that the Senate has the opportunity to actually become a functioning part of government I expect something to actually happen. I'm getting a little impatient.

I'm thinking pumpkin, pecan and buttermilk pies for Thanksgiving. Does anyone have any other requests? Apple maybe? How about lemon meringue?

The menu is lining up as pretty standard fare:
Dry brined turkey
Cornbread dressing
Mashed Spuds (homegrown)
Candied Sweet potatoes (homegrown)
Succotash (homegrown)
green vege - undecided
cranberry-orange relish
Assorted pickles (beets, okra, cukes, etc.)
Fresh yeast rolls

Above mentioned pies and whatever else strikes me. Any of your favorites I should add?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Cholesterol and Statin Guidelines

You may have read that there are new guidelines out for cholesterol and statins that basically say that virtually everyone should be taking statins.

What you should know is that these guidelines are driven by the drug companies that stand to make a profit from selling more drugs and there are a lot of clinicians who don't agree.

Marion Nestle has taken a look and summarized what you should know and do.

Talk to your doctor.
Eat more vegetables.
Get more exercise.

Illusion of Choice

If you venture off the outer perimeter of your grocery store and shop the inner isles (and we all do) and then try to make conscious decisions about which brands to buy then you are suffering from an illusion of choice. Virtually all the brands on grocery shelves are controlled by 10 Mega companies. If you pick the Kashi cereal over other brands because you are impressed by its claims then know that you are actually buying Kellogg cereal. That's just one example that strikes home for me since I like Kashi.

The reality is that the following 10 companies control most all of your food that is not fresh or homegrown and in many cases even the fresh food in the grocery is from some them.

Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Foods, Kellogg's, Mars, Unilever and Johnson&Johnson.

Here is a nifty map that shows the relationships of most of the food companies and their corporate owners.

You can get the full size view of the map here.

As you can see there isn't much on the grocery store shelves that doesn't have one of the big ten food companies fingerprints all over it. All in all it is pretty depressing. That is all.

hat tip to Marion Nestle for the heads up

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rainy Friday This and That

Supposed to work 9 to 6 today but after 45 minutes they decided they didn't need as many folk and sent me home. Not unusual when it's a rainy day so here I am. The new schedule is out today as well and it seems I have the "privilege" of working on Black Friday from the open until 2p. Gonna be ugly as we open at 5am and I have to be there at 445a...aaargh!

Since it is such a crappy day I'll cook something and since I am scheduled off for tomorrow as well I can start a batch of sourdough bread too. Looks like it will be a pot roast since Madam bought a nice sirloin tip yesterday which will braise nicely and it is a good day for a nice comforting dinner. I might even go all out and make a couple of focaccia to soak up the gravy. I get real content when there are roasting beast smells mingled with baking bread smells in the house.

Miss Zoey had a run in with what was most likely a yellow jacket yesterday afternoon. Had a severe enough allergic reaction that we took her to the vet. A benadryl iv and some subcut fluids got her back to normal pretty quickly but she is a bit sleepy today and apparently none the worse for wear.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Back At It

Well I've been off for two days but I am back at it hard today. Scheduled for two full days of returns...Not going to be fun. Got the garden and greenhouse all ready for the cold weather which came as predicted but it is supposed to warm a bit before the weekend. Spent a lot of time cuddling with little Miss Zoey who seems perfectly content to just be in your lap. She has settled in nicely and seems to have accepted this as her new home. She hasn't quite realized that she is not a cat because nothing is safe if there is a way for her to get to it. So far she has retrieved items from the kitchen table and dining room table and actually walk across the table between the two chairs in the den when she wants to change laps.
Off we go.

Monday, November 11, 2013

To All That Served

Regardless of whether it is called Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day or Armistice Day we should all take a moment today and acknowledge the sacrifices of so many that have served nobly over the years. You must remember that some point these brave men and women turned to their nation, families and fellow countrymen and said I will defend you with all my ability even if it means giving up my life. It is no small sacrifice and commitment as truly deserves to be honored on this day and all days.

I salute my fellow veterans and wish with all my spirit that at some point we will have created a world when such sacrifices are no longer needed and instead we can focus our energies toward the common good.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Happy Friday

It's Friday and I have the day off...hooray! Pretty quiet around these parts. Little Zoey seems to be settling in and getting her two servants properly trained. Actually got a bit of a frost last night which I believe is the first for this fall. I'll probably spend some time today cleaning up in the garden and putting away hoses and that kind of stuff.

Happy 10th blogging anniversary to Bobby Cramer at BBWW.

I don't know about you but I am a big fan of porridge (oatmeal), especially in the fall and winter. I especially like steel cut oats even though they take much longer to cook than the regular rolled oats you normally find here in the U.S. I stumbled upon a simple new way to cook porridge from April Bloomfield that is now my go to method. You get the best of both worlds when it comes to oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups of milk
heavy pinch of salt
1/2 cup rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1/2 cup steel cut oats sometimes called Irish oats

Bring the milk, water and salt to a simmer and stir in the two different oats. Cook slowly uncovered for about twenty minutes. You get the creaminess of the rolled oats and the nice bite from  the steel cut oats. I serve it with a bit of honey, and additional milk but brown sugar or maple syrup is nice as well. Well worth a try.

Everyone enjoy your Friday and weekend.

Monday, November 04, 2013

New Buddy

Couldn't deal with the pet withdrawal so it was off to Atlanta Humane Society on Friday. There was a new arrival just that morning and we hit it off immediately. Her new name is Zoey and she is a Jack Russel mix...which is probably chihuahua or the like. A year and a half old and almost 14 pounds. I think we'll get along just fine.  I'll get a better picture when I get a chance. I'm typing one handed right now as I am tied down with the little girl on my lap.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sacred Night

It's the Celtic New Year's Eve (Samhain) or the Eve of All Saints Say (Halloween) so choose your holiday. According to legend the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest on this night so have your protective charms at hand and it probably wouldn't hurt to have a clove of garlic in your pocket today. Regardless of how you celebrate have a safe and happy holiday. I have to work this evening but I will have a few treats handy if some goblins, ghosts or witches come threatening tricks if no treats.

P.S. if any Republicans come by I'll give them a treat as well but all the time knowing that I will get tricked anyway.

P.P.S. If you want to know more about the other things that share October 31st then you might take a look at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quick Minestrone

Off today and I feel the need for some soup. A favorite is this quick minestrone and the nice thing is that I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry/garden. Like all the recipes I post here, this is the basic/minimum. You can add some additional vegetable such as squash(zucchini,yellow, acorn, butternut) and/or you can start with some bacon or pancetta. You can finish with another green such as spinach or even turnip or mustard. Use what you have and like. Obviously, you can make this vegan by substituting vege stock for the chicken. Whatever.

Quick Minestrone

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped (1 1/2 cups)
3 carrots chopped into about 1/2 inch dice or about 2 cups
3 stalks of celery chopped into about 1/2 inch dice or about 2 cups
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 Tbsp dried thyme(use a couple of tsp of fresh thyme if you have it)
1 large can(26 ounce) of diced or chopped tomatoes or a quart of home canned
6 or 7 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 cup of dried small pasta ( I like ditalini)
8 oz. or so of fresh kale stemmed and chopped roughly
1/2 cup dry white wine ( I use vermouth)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra Virgin olive oil for garnish

In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, in two tablespoons of olive oil cook the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, 6 cups of stock, bay leaf, and add maybe 2 tsp salt and a tsp of black pepper. This is going to be driven by how salty your stock is and whether you used bacon or pancetta in the beginning. You can add a bit more later if needed. Simmer this for about 20 minutes, remove the bay leaf and then add the pasta and beans. Cook this for another 15 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Add the chooped kale or other greens (kale takes a bit longer than spinach but you want the greens just tender and not cooked to death). Shouldn't take more that 10 minutes. Add the white wine. Serve in wide bowls and sprinkle with the Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

This should be a thick, hearty soup but you can adjust with a bit more stock if you think it is too thick. Needless to say this should be served with crusty bread and a nice salad.

You can make this earlier in the day and just turn it off and leave it covered then just carefully reheat it when you a ready to eat. You can make it on the weekend and it keeps in the fridge just fine so you can have a no fuss meal later in the week. This makes 6 nice servings.

I'm going to go start mine right now and I just happen to have some left over pizza dough that is going to magically turn into Parmesan bread sticks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday Stuff

I'm still a loser when it comes to completing the process on The application is all done and I am supposedly ready to enroll in some form of insurance but I get nothing back when I select to look at the available plans. I guess I just need to keep trying. No, I haven't tried in the early morning hours yet.

One of the things I haven't researched yet are the income tax implications. Right now insurance premiums are deducted pre-tax and you don't pay income or SS taxes on that money. What happens after January 1st to those of us having to transition to a plan where we pay the premiums? Are health insurance premiums going to be tax deductible? I guess I need to research that.

Still missing little Betty every day as there are constant reminders popping up. What am I going to do with this last bite of toast? Who wants to lick the yogurt bowl clean? There are still scratch marks in the carpet under my desk. I guess I don't have to turn on the light to walk down the hall since there is no one to step on. No one is really excited to see me come home after a long day.

I had yesterday off but it was raining and therefore I got nothing done in the garden. No new beds in a couple of weeks but what is planted looks really good. Back to work today for a dreaded 6 hour shift from 3pm til 9p. I hate these since store policy is that you only get one 15 minute break during the 6 hours. If it was a 4 hour shift I would still get a break and if it was 7 hours or more I would get two breaks and a lunch. Three hours at a register with only  a very brief respite really sucks. What's even worse is that I am scheduled to do returns today which adds a nice layer of crap to the whole deal.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Betty the Beagle Has Left The Building

Little Betty the Beagle has left us after just a few months. We have been battling some liver issues and the vet had recommended we have an ultrasound to try and find out exactly what was wrong. We had that done this morning and the pictures showed  a blockage of the bile duct which should be correctable with some surgery. The surgery was this afternoon but when the surgeon got in he found some extensive damage to the liver that was beyond repair and actually called us from the operating room to let us know that he didn't think she would last much longer and that there was nothing he could do about the damage. His recommendation was to just let her go and though it was a hard decision we agreed. So we are beagle - less once again. Not a happy day around here. She was a good dog and we did what we could and at least she had a few months of loving care. Bye Betty Boo.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

ACA Website

Just a hint for those of you trying and not succeeding in making progress on the website. I've been trying, without success, for a couple of weeks using Firefox. In a whim today, after failing once again with Firefox I switched to Internet Explorer and zoomed right in and managed to complete an application and get my eligibility results. If you're having trouble using another browser other than IE to access the site you might try it and see if it makes a difference.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick Asian Inspired Mushroom Soup

2nd Update: I didn't mention it in the original  posting but this post is inspired by Hecates post America Needs Mushroom Soup
I plead old age and lack of sleep.

It's cold and flu season and you really should be thinking about boosting your immune system and mushrooms are a good start. Here is a quick vegan soup that leans Asian but is very nice and has the added benefit of helping your body fight off those nasty bugs. You can find kaffir lime leaves in most Asian markets and they bring a lot of flavor to the game. Just roll them and slice them thinly (chiffonade) and then chop the resulting strands finely. The Chinese noodles can be replaced with an appropriate amount of Udon or other noodle (even whole wheat pasta). As with all recipes posted here this is just a guide and while I generally follow the recipe pretty closely I sometimes get inspired to play around. i.e. no cilantro use parsley, no Shiitake use another mushroom. No bird's eye chili use jalapeno or chili arbol or red pepper flakes. No bok choy use cabbage, spinach or kale. No onion use shallot or leek. No fresh lime use rice vinegar. You get the idea. Remember the goal here is multiple dimensions of flavor. Need some spice heat and acid to bring brightness. The veges add texture and additional nutrition. The only thing really important are some form of mushroom. You can even sub the vege stock with Dashi but that changes the vegetarian definition a little.

Asian Inspired Mushroom Soup

    1 tablespoon peanut, canola or safflower oil (I use peanut oil since it is likely non GMO)
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1 carrot, thinly sliced
    1 rib celery, thinly sliced
    3 leaves kaffir lime, finely chopped
    1 bird's-eye chili or chili arbol, finely chopped
    6 Shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
    4 button or crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
    6 cups vegetable stock
    1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or rice vinegar but lime juice is best
    2 blocks dried Chinese noodles
    Handful baby bok choy, chopped finely
    Handful cilantro for garnish

Cooking directions

    In large heavy bottomed non-reactive pot heat peanut oil and onions. Cook about 5 minutes or until they are translucent, Add the carrot and celery and cook 3 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes until they start to give off some of their liquid. Add the chopped kaffir lime leaves and chili.
    Add the liquids (vegetable stock, soy sauce and lime juice) and cook until vegetables are tender maybe 10 minutes. Add dried noodles and baby bok choy. Stir to break up noodles. Simmer until noodles and baby bok choy are tender.  Garnish with cilantro.

This makes at least 6 servings.

If you are not vegetarian you can always add a few chopped shrimp or bits of chicken or a pork chop or whatever to make it heartier. Just make sure the meat is in small bits that will cook quickly and add it when you add the mushrooms.

Update: I should have mentioned that a bit of firm tofu in small cubes is a very nice addition as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Is Here

Here we are on the 20th of October and it is finally beginning to feel a little like a proper fall. According to the USDA this is the first day on which we can expect a frost but it seems we are some ways away from that as it finally fell to 50 F for the first time last night. The trees are beginning to show a little color and there are few leaves on the ground already but my guess is we won't see a real frost until the middle of November. We'll see.

Madam has a bad cold and unfortunately it struck on her birthday Friday. It slowed her down a bit but she still managed to spend the day with friends antiquing and lunching(the worst German meal ever I'm told). I had to work from 0545 till 245p but I still fixed a nice rack of lamb with Potatoes Boulanger and her favorite Creme Caramel for pudding. Rather a quiet birthday even it was a big 'naught' birthday. She is feeling a bit better and the fever is gone but she is still piled up in the bed with the beagle(who has decided that my pillow is the place for her nap when I am not using it).
I gave her a nice bowl of homemade Jewish penicillin(chicken soup) for dinner last night and that went over well so we will continue the nursing today.

Off today and not planning anything too strenuous. Minimonk has requested a batch of biscotti to give as a gift so I will probably whip up a couple of those (one for her gift and one to split with her for ourselves and other than that it is a chill day.

Oh! and I tried once again to get onto again with no luck. This time it was very early Sunday morning and still just a white screen after the login. We'll keep trying.

Everyone have a nice Sunday and charge up for the week. It looks from the schedule that I will be the garden center cashier most of the week next week so I need to break out some warmer clothes and get my boots prepped. I've learned the hard way that when it gets cooler you don't want to wear trainers and spend hours out in the elements.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken Out If You Are Smart

Just so you know...the chicken processor Foster Farms is still shipping chicken from the already identified contaminated processing plants. Costco has pulled a bunch of rotisserie chickens from the shelf because of salmonella contamination AFTER cooking. Costco supposedly cooks their chickens to 180F which is 15 degrees higher than the 165 degrees that is the accepted level that should kill any bacteria. Make your guess as to what is going on. It should also be noted that Costco has not pulled the Foster Farms chicken from it can still buy the raw contaminated chicken....good luck with that.

Here is an article from Mark Bittman that covers the whole issue pretty well.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Beagle Mysteries

Ever since we rescued little Betty the Beagle we have been struggling to get her to eat. I've tried everything with only marginal success. All the best dog foods both dry and wet. Blue Buffalo, Paul Newman, Rachel Ray, Beneful, all of them. I've cooked her little dinners with fresh burger, ground turkey, or ground pork all with rice or pasta and even freshly soft boiled eggs and toast...buttered even. Nothing really which she seemed to fancy. She would eat a little but usually leave half for more in her bowl. It was really strange having a hound dog that wouldn't eat anything and everything presented. Our two previous beagles would have scarfed it all and asked for more.

It now seems the problem is solved. On a visit to see the friend that found and rescued her for us she was offered some Kibble and Bits and she devoured it with relish and was looking for more. I bought a bag for small breeds and she eats it all at every meal and like a real hound dog looks for more. Very strange but it is a relief to see her eat.  Maybe that was the food she got in her previous life and what she was used to and has been wondering all this time why we wouldn't feed her anything good. It sure is a lot easier than cooking little meals twice a day and wondering every meal if  she would eat. Now I just have to figure out what to do with all the little beef, pork and turkey patties I have in the freezer.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fun with HealthCare Website

Well I just spent the last couple of hours trying to get started with the website. Got the account created and most of the profile completed but I got to the last stage of review and sign and it blew up. Now it doesn't even allow a login. My guess is that now that it is wake up time on the left coast the additional user demand from there made it toss cookies. The reports of problems with capacity seem to be correct. I probably won't try again until I can get in early on a workday as I am sure the weekend demand would be even greater than on a weekday when a lot of people are at work. I have to work both days of the weekend anyway and I even get to open tomorrow(that's a 0545 start if you are interested). Maybe someone will do something about bandwidth in the meantime. I'll try again and report back, if and when I am successful.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Here And There

I know I have been missing from around here for a few days but it has been very busy. The Flea Fling was Saturday and appears to have been a big success and I spent all day cooking dogs and sausages. I had full shifts Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and Sunday was especially bad since it also included the annual "Cashier Olympics" on Sunday night after we closed. I've finally gotten a day off and I am still exhausted...I even slept until 7am this morning and I am most always up and around by 5. My intent to go to the gym first thing has been thwarted by a bit of lower GI disturbance which is probably due to just being so bloody tired and I don't feel safe going to far from home right now. Maybe later.

Just a heads up on how the shutdown may affect you. As you may or may not know the CDC here in Atlanta is crippled by the shutdown and the function of tracing food borne illness is not operating. AS luck or whatever would have it there is at outbreak of food poisoning from chicken out there due to Salmonella Heidelberg and possibly produced by the firm Foster Farms but we won't be able to determine the extent or source of the problem until or if the shutdown goes away. My best advice, since we don't know the extent or source of the problem, is to avoid all chicken until we have all of our safeguards in place again. If you just have to have chicken then double up on safety and cook the hell out of it. That means rubber gloves, double sanitizing work areas and food segregation. Remember that even rinsing raw chicken and poultry causes splashes and water mist(probably contaminated) in a large area of your kitchen. Be insanely cautious. While you may safely live through the actual bacterial infection the ancillary damage to kidneys and other systems my be with you a lifetime.

Speaking of shut downs you really must support the President in this. While the shut down and credit default are monstrous, the actual real danger in all this is the future of the office of POTUS. If the GOP is successful in getting away with their hostage taking then they will forever change the way our government works and effectively neuter the office of President. If they can override the election and the settled law of the land and the power of the executive veto then we are going to be in a world o' shit. The President knows this and he definitely does not want his legacy to be the President that destroyed the office.

If the GOP forces the government into default we are going to see a full blown recession that will make the last few years look like a walk in the park. Start thinking about how you can weather such a storm.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Flooding Maybe

I just checked the latest weather forecast and they are calling for heavy rain on Sunday. I decided I had better defer my baking until later today and make an effort in the garden to protect all of my hard work. I've gotten the raised beds all set and mulched the paths between but I really haven't done anything to control the water that comes off the property that is up hill to the West of me. In heavy rain it really gushes down and through the garden. I have a ditch around the West and North edges that catches and diverts a lot of it but it can get overloaded when it really pours. I need to build a cinder block dam to the West to divert even more water and deepen the "moat" a little more. I few hours with the shovel and a little engineering ought to do the trick.

I was kind of looking forward to a quiet, relaxing day in the kitchen but since this will be my last chance before the forecast heavy rain I'd better bite the bullet and get it done.

Time to get my ditch digging gear on and dig. I'll be glad I did on Sunday. I've already gone and done the shopping for my biscotti....shelled pistachios are $4.99 for an 8 ounce bag at TJ's...Ouch! Good thing this for charity but I'm going to have to charge $.50 for a single cookie at that rate. I've posted my recipe here a while back if you are interested in making your own. They are nice and especially with a nice cup of espresso.

Not Shutdown

Even though GOP insanity has shutdown the government Mother Nature is not overly concerned as she is getting ready to give the Southeast a little heavy weather over the weekend. Good for us that the people at FEMA and NWS aren't furloughed.

I am actually on the second of three straight days off. Yesterday was gym and garden. One thing about a big garden is that the fall cleanup is a bear. It is especially bad when the garden was such a disappointment. Still have over 2/3 of it to finish but I got a good start.

Tomorrow is the Great Flea Fling. It's a big fundraiser for the Historical Society's effort to restore the Hembree Farm buildings to their 19th century state. I have once again agreed to provide the cooking for hot dogs and brats so I'll not get anything done tomorrow but that. It does look that we will be able to get the whole thing done and cleaned up before any of the weather from TS Karen rolls in. We'll keep the fingers crossed.

I also always provide biscotti for the bake sale tomorrow so today is going to be baking day. I'll run out in a few minutes for supplies and then get to baking a few batches. Cranberry/walnut and pistachio are the plan. I actually didn't have time for the baking part last year and there were many complaints so I am under pressure to produce this year.

So, while the government is shut down yours truly is quite busy. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting What They Want

A lot of folks may be unclear as to why we are facing a government shutdown in a few hours. The reason is quite clear and the shutdown is exactly what the craziest side of the GOP wanted. Steve Benen makes it clear here.

The Senate and the House both passed budget bills months and months ago and in the normal way of governing would have gone into conference and resolved their differences through compromise. The radicals in the Republican House have refused to conference in favor of getting us to the point of shutdown hoping that they would get enough "leverage" so that they wouldn't have to compromise at all. Yes, it's insane but don't every think it is not on purpose.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Crazy Times

I am trying real hard not to follow the insanity going on in Congress but it is sort of like a newly missing tooth and I still get sucked in to reading about the crazy stuff and shaking my head. I keep coming back to the same question. Why are the teatards so intent on denying health care to so many people? Are they just against poor people in general or are they just truly evil trolls?

I think it best to just keep my head down, think positive thoughts and see what happens. I'll sign up for some kind of health insurance next month that will take me through to next September when I will turn 65 and have Medicare. I am pretty sure by that time most people in the country, except for the truly insane tea party types, will have figured out that the ACA is overall a good thing but like all new things it will have some warts and wrinkles that have to be ironed out.

Yesterday was my first day off in what seemed like forever but I am back at it tonight from 5 till 9 and again tomorrow. Just basically kicked back. Did a little reading and got sourdough started that I will put in the oven in a few minutes. There are a couple of little garden tasks that need to be done before I head off and after the bread is cooling but that's it for today. Gorgeous fall day and Madam and I took a little spin through the Alpharetta farmers market a little while ago so we did get to enjoy a stroll in the sun. Plenty of North Georgia apples on offer and still some nice tomatoes but the produce is getting scarce overall.

Everyone enjoy the day.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's Fall, Let's Have Pancakes

In celebration of the Autumn Equinox I decided the Sunday morning breakfast today would be buttermilk pancakes. Even though fall doesn't officially start until 4:44 EDT this afternoon I thought it would be OK to get a little jump on things. I actually only make pancakes 4 or 5 times a year but I do like them as a treat once in a while.

One of the things that seems to have gotten lost in the present day kitchen is making simple things from scratch. From what I gather most people now used boxed mixes which is a big shame. I even saw Giada use a box mix on TV! From scratch pancakes are so much better and you don't get all those pesky preservatives needed to keep the box mixes viable for years in the box. All it takes is flour, sugar, milk, eggs, baking powder and soda and a little butter.

Here's my recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups A/P flour
1 TBLsp sugar
1 scant TBLsp baking powder
2 large beaten eggs
1 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk (you can use regular milk but then they wouldn't be buttermilk pancakes would they?)
2 TBLsp melted butter plus more for the pan

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix the beaten eggs with the buttermilk(start with the 1 1/2 cups. Add the wet to the dry and mix with a whisk but don't over work it as a few lumps are ok.
Gradually add a little more buttermilk to make the mixture a thickish batter. With a little experience you'll know what the right consistency is. Stir in the melted butter.

Cook on a hot griddle that been liberally greased with butter. I use a 1/3 cup measure but use whatever depending on how big you like your pancakes. Cook on the first side until bubbles appear on the top and flip and cook for another minute or so.

I like maple syrup and Irish butter on mine but anything goes just as long as it is not one of the plastic "pancake syrups" you see in the grocery. A lot of the Brits like powdered sugar and lemon or fruit jams.

I always try to have thick sliced hickory smoked bacon with my flapjacks(I like Wright's from Texas) but country sausage is pretty good as well.

Try making your pancakes from scratch next time and you won't go back to the box again.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Losing Ground

The good news is that there is very little chance the mean spirited bill to take 40 billion out of the SNAP program is going to survive the Senate. The bad news is that the Crazy Party is not likely to give up on their program to make being poor even more miserable than it already is.

On the near horizon, the Crazy Party is going to try and shut down the government if  they don't get their way on defunding the ACA and failing that will try and use the debt limit to try again. It is looking very much like everybody's life, if you're a regular person, is going to get a little bit worse. The Congresscritters won't suffer and neither will the fat cats but all the rest of us will.

Speaking of fat cats and suffering...Home Depot announced this week that I won't be able to get health insurance as a part  timer after the end of the year and instead will have to go the ACA exchanges. I went over to the Kaiser website and ran my income and stuff through their ACA calculator and it looks like I will get to pay about twice as much as I do now for the Silver plan and about the same as now for the Bronze plan. I won't know until I actually go out and start looking at the various plan offerings how the new plans will compare to what we have now which is very minimal(read sucks) and limited to a max coverage of 20 thousand a year and 2 thousand for outpatient. I discovered the 2 grand limit the hard way when I had my outpatient hernia surgery a couple of months ago and I got to shell out 4 grand out of pocket. Again, the good news is that I will be 65 next September and Medicare will kick in. I'll only have to deal with the insurance thing for 8 months. The younger part time folks at HD are probably going to be a little more upset than I am about this.

Anyhow, a rainy Saturday here in Georgia so nothing happening in the garden. I have finished and planted 6 raised beds and we needed some rain. I only work 5pm til 9 tonight and noon til 8 tomorrow so really not much of a weekend planned anyway.

Oh, Happy Birthday to minimonk who turns 49 today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Culture Night

Just got back from meeting Rick Bragg at his talk in Cumming. Very nice and charming man but definitely doesn't come across as a Harvard educated and Pulitzer Prize winning kinda guy. I am sorry to say I have read but some of his first book "All Over But the Shoutin'" but I will finish it and read the rest of his books as well...I couldn't help but think of the late Joe Bageant when I heard him talk.

Monday, September 16, 2013

More Mystery Chicken

Unless you follow the "food" news closely you might have missed the little news release just prior to the long Labor Day weekend. It seems the USDA has relaxed the rules regarding Chinese chicken. It is now OK for chicken processed in China to be sold in the U.S. Since the rules still require the chickens to be raised and slaughtered in the U.S. and food to be cooked there is no requirement for said chicken to be labeled as such. In other words, unless you know the actual source for you chicken then you will be eating Chinese processed chicken without knowing it.

Most of the cost of getting chicken to the American table in all its forms is in the post slaughter processing and the big food companies can save a few pennies by having U.S. chickens shipped to China, processed, and then shipped back to be used in all the varied pseudo-food that now makes up the average American diet. Soups, nuggets, frozen dinners and entrees and even pet food are going to be even more suspect than they are now. The Chinese have a terrible track record when it comes to food safety and especially with poultry. Remember all the dogs that died from tainted treats? Chicken was the culprit. Remember the tainted baby formula? The list is long and ugly.

Chicken is cheap animal protein and an important source of nutrition for a lot of folks in this country and the fact that some of it is going to be coming from a suspect source is not going to stop them from feeding the McNuggets to the little ones, especially if there is no way they can tell if the stuff is from China or not.

The good news here is that this Chinese chicken is going to be cooked/processed which means it is going to show up in prepared foods and convenience foods so it will be easy to avoid. Don't buy processed foods, which BTW, is a good rule any time. If you buy chicken buy it raw and cook it yourself. Try and buy locally raised and processed chicken if possible.

Remember always that the best way to control what you eat involves growing your self or knowing who grew it and cooking it yourself from scratch.

Birthday Wishes

Happy 61 to Bobby Cramer AKA Mustang Bobby at BBWW . May he have many more.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Garden - Phase 1

As you can see I have now finished and planted 5 of the new raised beds. Broccoli, cabbage, spinach, sugar snap peas, and roquette(arugula). I have a little space left to get some radishes, turnips and carrots planted which I should be able to get to next week.  I consider these first 5 beds phase one. They are in the area that gets the first morning sun. I've still got to remove tomatoes and peppers and dig sweet potatoes before I can move on and move on I will. Still left in this phase is to fill the area between the beds with wood chips and do some water control but it is effectively finished.

Some of you might be thinking that for something I have been working on for weeks it doesn't look like much. There are 22 blocks per bed for a total of 110 blocks and each one was hand placed and leveled and the beds are square to within an inch. Each bed is roughly 10 feet by 4 feet or 40 sq ft. I calculate that each bed holds approximately 26 cubic feet of dirt and that dirt weight about 45 pounds per cubic foot. Each bed holds around 1,100 pounds of dirt and that means I have moved a lot of dirt to fill them all. My goal is to have 20 beds by next spring so I've got 330 more blocks to place and another 8 or so tons of dirt to move. It costs me about 50 bucks per bed with the block and the soil amendments so I also have to pace myself for budgetary reasons.

Of to work in a bit. Pulled the closing shift today but it is supposed be at the "Pro" register and that is usually pretty quiet on a Friday night. I hope everyone's Friday the 13th is going swimmingly. Since it is Friday the 13th I made a special effort today to go buy a lottery ticket for the Mega Millions drawing tonight.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Monday, Monday

Yes, it is Monday. I'm off and dressed for the gym but I think I am going to blow it off and go work in the garden. I'm a little behind my plan for building beds and I have enough blocks to build two today if I get an early start. Might hit 90F by this afternoon(summer finally) and only a small chance of rain. I'll have a couple of mornings later in the week to do the gym thing and it is not like I won't be getting any exercise moving cinder block all over the place as well as moving dirt.

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes. Had a nice dinner and I didn't screw up the expensive steaks nor the shrimp. Betty the Beagle has decided that she likes beef tenderloin OK and grilled shrimp isn't too bad either. She also thinks licking the dessert plates after fresh peach tart with ice cream is pretty keen as well.

SO...I am off to change into garden grunge and get to work. Miss Betty is going to "That Dirty Dog" for a bath with Madam. I'll try and get two bed built and filled with dirt before the temperature hits unbearable.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Well, That was a Splurge

Just got back from Whole Paycheck and I did find what I was looking for. A little sticker shock though. The grass fed tenderloin from White Oak Pastures was 29.99/lb ouch! So the two 6 oz pieces cost a bunch. Same for the wild caught Georgia shrimp. The 16-20 count (large) were 15.99 a pound so the 8 I bought were roughly a buck apiece.Still probably less than what I would pay if we went out and I know where my dinner is coming from. Definitely a splurge, however.

I can tell you that I am going to take extra special care not to screw up the cooking on these babies.

I also found they had some late Georgia peaches so it fresh peach tart for pudding. I seriously looked at the all butter puff pastry for the dessert but I drew the line at  paying 12 bucks for a single sheet. Instead I will use Pepperidge Farm, which isn't made from butter, and hope that the fresh peaches make up for the slight on the pastry side. Yes, I also know that it has a small amount of HFCS in it but that is the only option for puff pastry in the grocery. And also yes, I can make my own puff pastry with real butter but I don't have the there.

When I'm 64

Today is the day. Got the day off so a little gardening and loafing are in order. Country sausage and buttermilk biscuits with homemade blueberry jam for my birthday breakfast so things are off to a good start. I think I have settled on a nice beef tenderloin and a few wild caught Georgia shrimp cooked on the hibachi for dinner along with a nice malbec from Chile. Off to Whole Paycheck in a few to see if I can score some grass fed beef from White Oak Pastures and the shrimp and if not I'll rethink my menu. Thought seriously about ribs and that might be the fall back position then there is the other favorite...tuna steak....we'll just have to see what the market offers.

No special plans but it is a nice day to just do what I want and the bonus is I have tomorrow off as well....all good.

Everyone enjoy your Sunday.

Oh! and Happy Birthday as well to Cookie Jill at CookiesinHeaven

Monday, September 02, 2013

Roasted Beast Anyway

I decided not to let the bad weather get in the way of some slow roasted pork. dashed to Publix and got a small Boston Butt (pork shoulder roast) and slathered it in Penzey's Cajun Spice mix and kosher salt and a good rub down with liquid smoke. Covered it with a couple of slices of thick sliced bacon (Wright's hickory) and into the oven at 300F for six hours or so. Should have some "close to the real thing" pulled pork for dinner. So there!

I almost went to Whole Foods where I know I can get banana leaves and did a Kahlua style but decided on the Carolina style instead. And yes, I am going to make cole slaw and corn sticks as well and there may even be BBQ beans in the mix.

P.S. Here is a little corn stick hack for those of you that don't own proper cast iron corn stick pans. Use heavy duty foil and pleat it to make little troughs of the size you want and just pour your batter into the pleats. A jelly roll or half sheet pan works best to hold the foil and don't forget to use some cooking spray on the foil. As always for cornbread it is best to pour the batter into a preheated pan.

Labor Day Weather Blues

Well I do have Labor Day off but the weather is not going to cooperate with my plans to get another garden bed done. The thunder is rattling away and the weather radar is showing a huge storm rolling in from the West with lots of yellow and splotches of red. It'll rain at least all morning and probably into the afternoon. I was also going to slow cook something in the smoker but since I would need to get it going about now and cook it pretty much all day that is in danger of not happening as well. This might turn out to be a pretty lazy day. Hope your holiday is better weather wise.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Working weekend pour moi. Only 8a to 1 but still it kills most of the day. Splurged on a big breakfast though buttermilk biscuits, bacon and eggs. It's a holiday. It'll keep me going until dinner as long as I have a banana during the day.

Betty the Beagle spent the day at the vet yesterday checking for issues around the chocolate. No apparent pancreas problems and her liver numbers, while still high, are down by half which is great news. They gave her an iv to beef up her fluid and she is on a chicken and rice diet for a few days. This morning she had aged basmati with a poached chicken tenderloin with a bit of scrambled egg. Spoiled rotten.

Supposed to be a rainy weekend so I don't expect we'll be overly busy. Everyone have a great holiday weekend.  I guess we find out this weekend if we embarrass ourselves in the Middle East once again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dead Is Dead

It sure looks like the moneyed elite are going to get their way and have as commit war crimes again. It doesn't look good for us pacifists. They've dragged out the old lie that getting dead from poison gas is so much worse and some kind of "red line" that it just absolutely requires us to kill some more. You know it's a lie and a damned silly one at that. All the people dead from the alleged poison gas are just as dead as if they were blown up by a car bomb or shot point blank with a handgun or picked off at 400 yards by a sniper. Dead is dead and they don't care how they died.

The reality is that it is too late to make whimpering noises about how awful it was that these poor folks died by poison gas and not by a bullet. Is it going to make it all better if some more of them die at the hands of a Tomahawk cruise missile or an F-16 strafing run? The time for action was some 100,000 Syrians ago when there was some chance of heading off a generation of hate. We're pretty much too late now.

An accurate "test" of any action and especially any action that will likely result in the loss of innocent lives is to assess who will benefit from the action and who will benefit if there is no action. From my perspective the only folks that will benefit from spending 20 or more million dollars "making a statement" are those selling cruise missiles and other weaponry and it should go without saying that this includes those elected using copious amounts of money from the "bomb and gun sellers". I sure can't see how anyone(except maybe grave diggers) are going to benefit from more of the same crap that has killed so many of them over the last few years. Show me where I am wrong here.

In the end we'll just have another Middle Eastern population that justifiably hates us and is an active recruiting ground for terrorists. On the bright side, that many more haters will give the NSA and CIA all the more reason to listen to every grunt you make on the toilet. Freedom!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Last Night

Tonight is the last night with our friends from the UK. Unfortunately, I have to work from 5 to 10p but I will see them in the morning before they head to the airport. The roofer just left and I should be good to go on the roof leaks...all the boots replaced and new shingles around.

I made a quick tomato sauce for pasta for everyone's dinner (except mine!). It'll be up to Madam to do the pasta and salad and whatever when they get back from their excursion. I guess my dinner will be a banana and some pistachios though I am going to have a couple of peanut butter crackers before I head off in a few minutes.

Miss Betty seems none the worse for wear from her chocolate eating adventure but it is toxic to dogs. Maybe she threw it up quick enough to minimize the effects?

Our last beagle ate a whole Whitman's Sampler one Christmas(except for the Jordan almonds) and survived many more years. Once nice side effect was all the glittery poop for a couple days from the foil wrappers.

New Dog Trick

Betty the Beagle has learned a new trick. She has discovered that if you tug on the dining room table cloth that all kinds of nice treats just come raining down within easy reach. Madam and our guests headed out early for downtown to visit Minimonk, have a nice lunch and ride the new Skyview ferris wheel. I was out at the gym when they left and I came home to find the chocolate cake, apple tart and assorted other goodies scattered around the dining room and living room. There was good chunk of cake and some apple slices and , of course the bakery papers from the take away cake boxes and the plastic wrap from the apple tart left over from dinner last night. The only thing left on the table was a bowl of fruit and a slice of red velvet cake and a bakery box of cookies. Another good tug would have gotten that as well.

After cleaning up that mess I went to the bedroom to change from my workout clothes and discovered even more chocolate covered bakery papers, crumbs and a nice pile of chocolate barf with kibbles. She looks a little "hang dog" but I don't think she feels all that bad about it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dribble Update

Just had the roofer by and he confirmed my suspicion that the boots around the plumbing penetrations on the roof are deteriorated to the point of leaking. It appears only the one is leaking now but I'm having them replace all 5 of them.  With the $50 Angie's List coupon it'll come to $660 which considering the age of the roof and all isn't too bad. They are a week or so in backlog so let's hope we don't have another frog strangler before we can get it fixed. It is really disconcerting to get Chinese water torture while you are on the throne.

Populist and Refreshing

It is nice to see Democrats taking the lead for a change. Barbara Lee has introduced HR199 to address the "backward incentives" corporations have that allow them to deduct the costs of executive compensation. You can read the details at the Orange Satan.

Under the current rules, the more a firm pays its CEO, the more the firm can deduct from its taxes.
To be clear, corporations can compensate their executives as much as they’d like. The idea is to prevent corporations from passing the buck to the American taxpayers.
My bill would eliminate a “backward” incentive for excessive compensation, which the bill defines as more than 25 times that of the lowest paid workers at the company.

This is a good thing and there is a petition at the above link if you think so too.

It's Still Raining

Third day off and third day of rain. Grass needs mowing and the garden needs attention in the worst way. Got very little constructive accomplished yesterday other than a few greenhouse chores. I did manage to get a small fence built around the composter yesterday. Betty the Beagle has suddenly developed a keen interest in seeing what is inside and even managed to learn to open one of the clean out panels on the bottom so it was necessary. She is not amused.

Out guest from the UK arrives tomorrow morning so there is some shopping and stuff to do today so it is probably just as well I am rained out on outdoor activities. Our friend is a vegan so I need to punch up our fruit and vege inventory. I also need to do a couple of prepare ahead things for when I am working at the dinner hour(the first being tomorrow night). I did manage to get a few nice butternut squash from the garden this year and red peppers are in good supply as well. That means a nice roasted red pepper and butternut squash soup is on tap for tomorrow night. I've also got Japanese eggplant in sufficient quantity for a meal.

I am actually going to have  to buy zucchini and plum tomatoes as well as some arugula and assorted other things. How embarrassing! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dribble, Dribble On My Head

So as is my routine, I was up about 2:30 this morning to go to the bathroom and as I was standing there I felt a drop of something on my head. Strange. I turned on the light and looked up and there was a steady drip, drip of water coming from the bathroom fan and the unmistakable stain on the ceiling. Rats. Judging from the noise coming from the gutters last night it was a pretty good frog strangler and it's still raining but, for the moment, pretty light but I guess a trip to the Depot is in order to get roof cement or whatever. If it does, by chance, quit raining long enough I will check the roof over the bathroom and slap a little more goop on the vent penetration which is where the water is probably coming in.

I was so looking forward to these three straight days off. So much to do in the garden but now it has rained for the first two. Not so much done so far.

Why does this stuff always happen when you are expecting the arrival of a house guest in a couple of days?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Weekly Bread

Update: I should have mentioned more clearly that this is basically a "no knead" type of bread. The extra moisture in the recipe allows for quicker gluten development so you don't have to spend a lot of time kneading to get good texture. 

Most of you that have been around here awhile know that I bake bread pretty regularly and usually weekly. Mostly it is sourdough whole wheat but there are times when something else strikes my fancy. Being a tinkerer I diddle with my basic bread recipe on occasion but I think I have pretty much settled on what I think makes a pretty nice loaf of "everyday" bread. Good for morning toast or good for a sandwich. Not too chewy but not too weak either and with a fairly close crumb and no big pockets to let the filling run out.

First of all you need a fairly wet dough which makes gluten development much easier which is important when you are using whole grains. To get a good flavor you need time and a sourdough poolish or yeast poolish is the answer.

I use King Arthur flour almost exclusively. It is easy to find in most grocery stores and it is very good quality. I use the KA All Purpose, White Whole Wheat, regular Whole Wheat and Bread flours. What follows is the recipe and method for my "daily" bread.

Daily Bread

The day before you need to refresh your sourdough starter or make a regular poolish. I keep about a cup and a half or two cups of my sourdough starter in the fridge and to it I add 200 grams of filtered water and 200g of all purpose flour. This is mixed well and covered and sits on the counter overnight and gets all bubbly and excited. If you don't have a sourdough starter(you should) you can make a regular poolish with 200g of water and 200g of all purpose flour along with a teaspoon of active dry yeast(or a 1/2 packet). This sits covered overnight as well.  Hint: make sure you use a big enough bowl for your poolish as it will grow overnight and you don't want it crawling around on your counter in the morning.

For the dough:
300g of white whole wheat(KA) or regular whole wheat
200g of bread flour
400g of poolish(either a good chunk of your sourdough or the entire regular poolish
300g filtered or bottled water
17g of salt ( I use kosher) mostly dissolved in a couple of Tbsp of warm water
1Tbsp honey

In a large bowl mix everything but the salt water until it is thoroughly moistened and there is no loose flour. Let this mixture sit covered for 20 minutes or so to let all the flour fully hydrate and the gluten begin to develop. After this rest add the salt water and using your hands fold this together until all the water is absorbed. Yes it is a squishy mess but the water will absorb with a little folding. BTW folding is where you take the edge of the dough, pull it up and over the center and press down and  then turn the bowl 90 degrees and do it again. When all the water is absorbed cover this slightly stickly dough and set it aside to begin the bulk fermentation.
Here is where folding becomes important. You will need to do a fold on the dough about every half hour or so. In each of these folds you need to make four folds. Using wet hands, bring the dough from the side and up and over, turn four times to get all the dough handled. Roll the dough over, cover and set aside until the next folding. You will notice the dough changing with each fold and rest and after 5 or 6 folds the dough will begin to come cleanly from the and  want to stick to itself instead of your hands and the bowl. You will also notice that the dough is rising a bit more with each fold and turn. When you reach this stage your bulk ferment is done and you can form loaves.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cut in half and form the loaves of your choice. Put it in bread pans or keep it free form. The key to a nice loaf is pulling the dough into itself to form a nice skin on the top. Don't worry if you don't get perfection here it does take some practice and this is a bit of a wet dough which takes a little more practice and experience to get right.
Hey, the ingredients are pretty cheap and the actual time needed for direct attention is fairly small so even if it so bad you feel like you have to feed it to the birds or ducks you've gained some experience.
Anyhow, let the loaves double in size and then you bake.

I bake at 425F but that's a personal choice. My loaves usually take about 30 minutes. I also use a pan of water in the oven to add some moisture which helps a nice crust develop.

Give it a try and good luck...homemade bread is worth it. I gotta go fold and turn now.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dog Days My Foot

Another even cooler day in Atlanta. Only 63F with a slight drizzle to boot. It is nice to sleep with the windows open but I fear what this kind of variant weather portends. The last time it was this cool was in 1892 and even then it was only 70F.

I have to work from 4 till 8pm today and it will be crushingly slow because of the weather. The cool plus the rain will make it worse than normal. To add insult to injury I am scheduled as the self check person which is the worst of the worst. Most of the time you just stand there and the time creeps and creeps. Occasionally you get to help some idiot try and figure out how to operate the thing which is geared toward your average 4 year old. Lots of fun. Then there is always the joker with something too large or heavy to scan that insists on doing self check. Let's just say a 4 hour shift seems like an 8 hour.

After today's short/long shift I have a whole three days off. If it stops raining I will try and get a couple of more raised beds built. I can do that without too much damage to the soil as I won't be doing much digging. I may even get some fall stuff planted(probably only spinach, roquette maybe sugar snap peas) and I may even get some broccoli seeds started in flats. I'll have enough raised beds ready to handle that. Of course, I still have to start the garden clean up. Pull out the disappointing tomatoes and clean up the squash beds. I did get all the corn machete'd down the other day so when it is dry enough I can till that under.

Everyone enjoy your weekend and if you are in the Atlanta area...bundle up.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WTF with the Weather

It's the middle of August in Atlanta and the high today was 77F. This is very weird. It was a perfect day to work in the garden but with the latest rain it was actually too wet to actually play in the dirt. I did get the corn chopped down and the compost spread but that's all.
Back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where's The TIme Go?

I can't believe its been two weeks since my last post here. Sorry for the inattention. Not really that much to distract me other than work and trying to get the garden beds done and do all the household late summer jobs like pressure washing and such. I've got two days off to work on more chores after I go the gym.

On a sad note we have discovered that our little rescue beagle Betty as liver issues that appear to be untreatable. We'll just continue to make her comfortable and loved for whatever time she has left. She's a cute little girl and very loving and seems to appreciate everything we do for her. We'll see how this all plays out.

I'll try to do a little better around here.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

August Already

Can't believe it is August already. Even though it has been a horrible summer for us gardeners here in the Southeast I am still trying to get something meaningful out of the soil. Getting peppers and a few measly tomatoes but overall a disaster. Nothing canned and just a little corn frozen. Still time to maybe get some summer squash replanted and harvested by frost and maybe some beans. My second crop of corn (heirloom Country Gentleman) was ravaged by racoons but I did manage to rescue 4 lousy ears out of the thirty or forty I should have had. What fun.

Today I am finally going to get going on the raised beds. Got enough block for two 4x12 foot beds. You'll remember that I was going to get started a couple of weeks ago but on my initial trip to get the block I backed my wife's Explorer through the garage door which precipitated me having to replace both hers and mine. Between work and rain that's all done and now I can get back to plan.

Got guests from the UK coming the end of the month and Madam is adding daily to my 'honey-do'.  Before I can start on my garden beds this morning I have to redo the front beds out by the mailbox and plant two Ilex Japanese holly she purchased yesterday. Not a big job but it will take a couple of hours. I won't get to pressure washing the deck, removing the rosemary that is over grown by the deck and replacing it with the plants I have from cuttings in the greenhouse or the many other items on the list on this day off.

Not much of a chance for rain today so I should be able to get some good progress made but I am back to work tomorrow. The good news is our 'coolish' weather is continuing and we will have another August day where the temperature doesn't get to 90F. Everyone have a great Sunday.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tomato Dreams

One of the big reasons for summer is fresh from the vine tomatoes. I've talked before about this but I wait all year for my first fresh tomato and cheddar cheese sandwich on fresh homemade bread. I have several favorite sandwiches but this has to be the tops followed closely by a BLT with fresh homegrown tomatoes on homemade bread (and yes Miracle Whip when I can find it made with sugar and not HFCS). Now that my paltry crop of tomatoes are coming in I am having a sandwich about every other day even when I don't have an excellent cheddar and have to use Kraft or some other industrial cheese. Still a damn fine sandwich. Soon the tomatoes will be gone for the year and it will be June of 2014 before I have another. Something to look forward to.

Speaking of tomatoes. Last year by this time, I had canned 30 or so quarts and this year zero. That's what 43 inches of rain will do to a tomato crop. I am getting some tomatoes but not in the quantities to enable a canning run. I do have canned tomatoes left from last year that might even hold me through till next year so I won't be in too bad of shape.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dying Bees, It's Worse Than You Thought

We've been hearing about CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) for a couple of years now and scientists have been desperately searching for answers and a new study is indicating that while we are beginning to understand some of the issues it is actually worse than we thought. Here is more:

In a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.
Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

When I see how many bottles, bags and whatnot of pesticide, fungicide and other stuff goes out of just my store on a daily basis it is no wonder millions of bees are dying. People are spreading huge bags of broad spectrum insecticide across their entire properties and it is killing everything including them...just a little more slowly. I have a real problem keeping my mouth shut as I check this stuff out and I can't begin to say how guilty I feel about it. It is all I can do to to keep from screaming at these folks, little children in hand, as they haul these baskets full of poison home to spread around willy-nilly.

George It Is

Seems I get to share the name with the new prince...good choice and I don't mind sharing and the name as served me fairly well.

Back to work today at 1pm and I'm scheduled for the garden center till 815p. Going to be hot but for the first time in a week or more the chance of rain only stands at 20%. Lately it has been at least 50% or higher and unfortunately very accurate. Just shy of 43 inches of rain so far this year.

I did have two days off but they were entirely consumed by getting the second garage door replaced. Not really hard work but very time consuming and again I had to "adjust the garage floor on one side by removing about an inch and a half of concrete. I did get smarter this time and get a couple of masonry blades for my angle grinder/cut-off saw which made it a bit easier. So both doors are now replaced and I can get back on schedule with trying to get some raised beds built in the garden and planted. The middle of August is pretty much the deadline around here for getting summer veges planted in time to avoid a frost but with the changes I am seeing in the climate I may get an extra few weeks this year. I should at least get a three or four beds built and planning by then. The fall garden will be going in shortly thereafter so the pace won't slack too much.

I think I have finally settled all the bills from the recent surgery...shame on me for not seeing the fine print in my medical coverage. While I knew I was limited to a maximum of 20 thousand a year in medical expenses covered I didn't know that the limit on outpatient services was only 2 thousand. The insurance did have a negotiated rate with the doctor, so that helped, but still my out of pocket expense wound up being about 1,500 bucks. Could have been worse to the tune of 3 grand without the negotiated rate. It sucks a wee bit that the insurance company considers the amount of reduction from the billed amount to the negotiated rate as part of your 2 grand. Just another year and I can qualify for Medicare if it is still around.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Royal Baby News

Well the Duchess pulled it off and produced a boy. No pressure there. Sounds like a healthy lad at 8 pounds 6 ounces. Now we just have to wait for a name. I'm leaning toward "Valiant" or "Charming" myself. Congratulations William and Kate.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Old Fashioned Southern Fruit Cobbler

Long hot day in the garden center but dinner brought me back to life. Still trying to eat from the badly damaged garden so tonight was okra and tomato casserole with a bit of cheddar and fresh corn on the cob along with a little coleslaw. The highlight was dessert though. My friend Kelly brought me a quart of fresh picked wild blackberries in trade for some fresh corn. Fresh blackberries call for a cobbler. In the Southern tradition a cobbler is a quick dessert made with pretty much any fresh fruit and the only thing that changes is the fruit and how much sugar goes in the fruit. That said;

Foundation recipe:
1 Quart of fresh fruit mixed with a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit.

Cobbler topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 stick of butter (8 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt (if you are using salted butter skip this)

Preheat your oven to 375f.
Butter a 8"x8" pan.
Mix the first three ingredients and then cut in the stick of butter (or use a food processor)
beat in the egg and vanilla,
Put the fruit in the buttered pan and using a tablespoon put the batter on the top in clumps but leave it in dollops, don't spread it around. Bake for 30 -35 minutes until golden and bubbly and serve warm. (Vanilla ice cream is good) This works for peaches, blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries or any other soft fruit. You can thank me later. Don't hesitate to mix and match the fruit. Blueberries and peaches are super as are blackberries and raspberries. Whatever, and this recipe multiplies with no problem...just double or triple to your heart's desire.Just make sure you have a good foundation of fruit under the batter.