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.