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.