Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years' Eve.. Heading Out Soon...

We are heading out soon for our New Years' Eve celebration. The appetizers are a statement to my New Years' resolution- don't overkill everything! I only made three- stuffed cherry tomatoes, deviled eggs, and ham n cheese tortilla roll-ups. It's become a bit calmer affair, as I have retired from my former position as The Cruise Director of The Planet Earth.... I drank it all, I ate it all, I danced with all, and now possess ALL the tee-shirts! The greatest term I ever heard when passing the torch to the younger next crazyman- "I'll hold the baby, you give it a go..." To all my friends, old or young- Happy New Year! Do this New Year like you mean it!!!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cool Food, And Neat Pictures Of Local Stuff...

It's Friday- and today has been a long "Try to look busy" Day".. My eldest son in from Kansas City, MO went down to an old church for a photog session- Check out these pictures and tell me they ain't the bomb! The Rock Cornish Game Hens were as tasty as they looked! Soaked in a marinade of sesame oil, peanut oil, ginger, honey, hot sauce, garlic, onion, soy sauce, and 5-spice- they basted and roasted to perfection! The rice was infused with soy sauce, with added fried egg, celery, onion, carrot, and spices! This wasn't the worst I've done cooking! Hope you are all doing well with your Holiday food! All the photos are by my eldest son- that's why they look better than normal...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Food And Stuff...

What a neat Christmas couple of days! 1. The muffins were raspberry(real!).2. The peppers, chili powder, and Mexican oregano were a great present from Doggy Bloggie, from his recent trip to New Mexico! No one holds a "marker" on me- he'll be getting something in return, when I can think of something appropriate! 3. Danish meatballs for Christmas Eve. The dill makes 'em Danish instead of Swedish... 4. That is a Key Lime Cheesecake, with strawberry glaze, topped with fresh Kiwi fruit. It came out so good-looking, I must state here and now- I'm not gay.... 5. Stollen Bread. Imagine fruitcake with less sweetness, and yeast for rising. Rich, especially when you spread it with the honey-walnut cream cheese! The prime rib roast came out perfect- forgot to take a picture, though.. Got a waffle maker, stainless steel bowls and other neat stuff from the family. A good time is being had here, by all accounts! Hope your days were good as mine were...

Monday, December 24, 2007

To All That Visit This Blog- A Heartfelt Merry Christmas...

If it's good, make it better.. If it's bad, make it good... You have an incredible power in your hands- To enjoy your Life! Think it, then use it... May all your Christmas dreams come true tonight!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Holiday Season Has Commenced! Shopping, Famous people, Cooking...

Friday, I had a stupid busy day- pretty much like everyone reading this! It started with our semi-annual sales meeting and performance review- the day before we all go forth into 4 days no work and Holiday fun! What weenie decided this was a good time for employee reviews? All went well actually, and then I was off to return home to cook 10lbs of Kielbasa sausage for one of my customers' Holiday lunch party! Simmered in wheat beer and hauled to the customer in my Nesco roaster, it was a big hit. On the way out there, I discovered I had forgotten the horseradish sauce, so a side bar into the deli to grab some. Guy says "Weren't you just here? Why didn't you pick it up then?" I said something filled with holiday cheer like "Get bent" and was on my way... I then went onto the busiest street in Western Michigan (28th St., for reference!),went into a restaurant to pick up a gift certificate for a retirement party at another customer! Dropped that off, with proper best wishes to a guy I had never met before, and headed for a little shopping. Little is right! Home to grab the wife and head for our club- to sit and talk with old friends in a party-like atmosphere.
This morning, I had to pickup the last few items for the upcoming feasts. Scored a really beautiful standing rib at Meijers, and was walking out the door of the store, when an old guy in a sport coat, loud Christmas tie, hanging on to a wheeled walker says "Good Morning!" I say hi and keep moving, when suddenly it registers-That's Fred Meijer! I go back and chat with him a bit, saying who I am and letting him know I graduated high school with his son, Hank. This Man Is A Billionare. For Real. I got to shake hands and wish hima Merry Christmas! No security, no bodyguards-welcome to Midsized City, USA! Got home, started that Key Lime Cheesecake, and what I hope turns out to be Stollen bread (a rich, dried/candied fruit yeast bread, made around Christmas). While everything was rising or cooking, I made those Nachos El Grande for our lunch! By the time that bread is done- I will be too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Once, When I Was A Younger Man- The Christmas Lights Story..

As I alluded to in an earlier post, electricity and I are not on the best of terms. A number of years (and electrical shocks!) ago, I was a proud, young homeowner. I cared about the appearance of my yard, and the exterior of my house- more than I do today! That meant after Thanksgiving, I would begin to plot what I could add to my growing collection of outdoor Christmas decorations and lights, making my house stand out like a beacon for Santa flying over at 20,000 ft... I had decorated the Living Christmas Tree(still quite small back then), done all the bushes along the walkway leading up to the front door and in front of my house in small,white twinkle lights. I had the garage door frame, service door, and front door outlined by the old fashioned, multi-colored juice suckers that screwed into sockets. I had a 3ft. lit "Merry Christmas" sign hung on the front of the house that went from the front door to the windows that could blink or just glow, depending how you set it. I needed more! If I was going to have more illuminations of holiday cheer than anyone else on our street, I needed more... Got it! I will outline the bottom edge of the garage and house roof with more of the big bulb lights! This was before I had the house vinyl sided, aluminum trimmed, and all outside doors and windows replaced(That's another post in itself, believe me!). I got the bright idea to STAPLE the light cords up-to the bottom of the board below the rain gutters! This was going really well, light cord was fitting through the staples' opening perfectly, not stapling through the electrical cords, making good progress quickly. Until I got to the side of the house... I have a "walkout" ranch style house, and the hill on the side slopes downward sharply, making a secure ladder difficult-no level ground! Dug holes, blocked wood, as the ladder extension kept having to be lengthened. This is probably a good time to confide in you guys- I don't like heights so hot... I am at the last bit of light cord, and at the highest point from Terra Firma on a not-so-stable ladder, when it occurs to me I'll have to run an extension cord UP to the lights. My wife at this time has come out and is watching me climb back up the ladder and plug in the lights. Viola! Everything comes on, just like in the script! However, the wind was blowing the hanging cord around, and I thought "In a real winter storm, this won't work for long".... I grabbed my trusty staple gun and was going to give the cord (now plugged in, remember!) one last staple to secure it... To my wifes' credit, she yells up to me "Do you want me to unplug the extension cord first?" What an insult! 40 staples and not one through the light cord- have you no faith, woman?!! The ensuing shock that coursed through my body as my metal staple met live current was to say the least, unpleasant... I would have fallen off the top of the ladder, if I only could have let go of it! Aluminum ladders apparently conduct electricity quite well also. I'm yelling down to her "Tuuurrrnnn offfff the powwwwer!!!!!" as I vibrate quite convincingly. She is looking at me with the look I have come to know well after many years of marriage- The "He's-screwing-around-trying-to-be-funny again" look... "Noooooreallly turrrn ittt offfff!!! I don't know if I was smoking yet, but something told her " The as*hole's not kidding this time".. She unplugs the cord, releasing me to involunarily throw my staple gun halfway across the yard, and ooze down the ladder to a sitting position. "Are you okay?" "Oh yeah, great, how about you?" She then says "I asked you if..." Twenty seconds after near death, and she's getting in the first of many "I- told-you-so's"....
The picture is of what I do nowdays for decorations. Sign goes on two nails, plugged in- 5 minutes tops! I've got boxes of old lights you can have for your next garage sale!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The 8 Things Meme....

Akelamalu posted this one, and I said I'd do it, so here goes...
8 Things I'd Like To Do/See Before I Die:
1. Cuba- I believe Americans will vacation there freely some day!
2. The Pyramids (Eygpt). To see, or touch history is always on my list.
3. The Smithsonian, as an adult. I saw it when I was about 9, and I will see it again!
4. Australia. Mainly to see my wife happy, because she has always wanted to go there!
5. A live condor, preferably in flight. Who wouldn't?
6. Whales. Michigan- much water, all fresh, no Whales...
7. Italy. Mainly for the Roman artifacts and ruins.
8. Hell, froze over. Or the Detroit Lions in a Super Bowl- which ever comes first!
8 Things I Say Often:
1. Crap! (like you don't?)
2. Jeez-o Petes!
3. Criminy!
4. Pardon me? Sounds better than "Huh?" (similar to the noise you get from a pig when you kick it).
5. Adequate. Cracks people up when they ask "How are you?" and I say "adequate"...
6. There you are, Peter.... I say that when I find something I've been looking for that was lost or misplaced. Got it from the Peter Pan movie with Robin Williams in it. The little kid stretches the adult Pans' skin on his face until the wrinkles are gone, and then says "There you are, Peter" like he found him...
7. "I don't know"... I start way too many sentences this way!
8. Driving words. You know, dumass, moron, numb nuts, etc. Too numerous to list here!
8 books I've Read Recently:
1-8. I own about 260 cookbooks- let's just let it go at that...
8 Songs I could Listen To Anytime:
1. Margaritaville- Jimmy Buffet (I'm an old Parrot-head from way back!). 4-5 concerts, at least!
2. Life During Wartime- Talking Heads, David Byrne. Song given credit for starting the decline of Disco! Saw him in concert once, and he still grows musically...alot of world beat nowdays...
3. Girls Just Want To Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper. We heard her once as an opening act for Cher (Wifes Birthday, or I'd never had gone!) and she was so incredibly good, Cher didn't come out until everyone stopped screaming (40 minutes!).
4. Standing Still- Jewel. Interesting person, pleasant song to listen to...
5. Shape Of A Heart- Jackson Browne. We went to a concert a long time ago, and I gave my wife a necklace with a small ruby in it- in the shape of a heart....
6. The Captain And The Kid- Jimmy Buffet. He loved his grandfather, who imparted to him a love of the sea.
7. America The Beautiful. Easier to sing than The Star Spangled Banner....
8. At least 200 more, probably a low estimate!
8 Things I like about my friends:
1. Loyalty.
2. Shared memories.
3. The "comfort zone" they give me. You don't have to watch what you say closely..
4. Common interests.
5. Their affection.
6. Their help.
7. They understand my humor!
8. They're getting older at the same speed I am!

Anyone out there wants to do this- go for it! Warning- It took longer than I thought it would!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Work After Work - Smoking Salmon !

Around the holidays, I tend to make a few treats that have become almost traditions around here. Smoked salmon is a versatile treat that can be used in a number of appetizers for the upcoming parties! Yesterday, my vaccuum packed salmon filets were thawed enough to go into the brine/marinate for a 24hr. soak. The marinate consisted of water, brown sugar, sea salt, soy sauce, orange juice, garlic, black pepper, and honey. This flavors the salmon as well as aids in its' preservation. Drained and patted dry, I then place it on an oiled grill grid, skin side down. The smoker is a multi-tasking unit that can use charcoal or propane as a heat source. Propane tonight! It's about 25 degrees outside, and the steady, dependable heat of propane won't worry me as much as charcoal would tonight. The wood I'm using is apple wood chips, held in a pan above the burner, below the water bowl. Water bowl? That holds water(duh!) to keep it a little moist in the smoker during smoking the fish. The grill with the fish on it goes over the water bowl, and is covered by the domed top that makes the smoker a closed unit. There is a temp gauge and a vent on the top to help regulate the heat. 180 degrees F is about right for hot smoking... We're locked and loaded so now I just have to check it every 45 minutes or so, to make sure everything is progressing nicely! The smoking should take about 5-6 hours, so I'll be putzing around here tonight while it gets done!
Some of the ways I use the smoked salmon- 1. Chopped into pieces that can be eaten cold. 2. Mixed with cream cheese and flavorings to make a spread for crackers. 3. Chunks of it warm on toothpicks, served with hot dipping sauces. I'll be posting pictures (I hope!) when it's done- and that will be in about 4-1/2 more hours...

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Homely Bowl Of Soup- Beef Barley!

After a week end of cooking, baking, and let's face it, eating more than Monday thru Friday- a simple meal sounds good. Saturday I made chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips in them. Very rich and chocolatly- perfect with coffee or a big glass of milk! Sunday, I made Potatoes AuGratin (scratch!), and grilled marinated pinwheel steaks over charcoal outside (24 degrees F!). I had an extra leftover steak, and had some barley in the pantry- why not make some beef barley soup? I enjoy this simple soup alot, and it never seems to be offered in the restaurants around here. A couple of cans of beef broth, can of water, left over steak chopped into small pieces, chopped onion, celery, carrots, pearled barley, and Mrs. Dash Original- into the pot. Slow cooker, that is! Let it go on medium for a few hours, until veggies weren't crunchy, cooled and refridged it for Mondays' supper! I reheated when I got home tonight, and enjoyed a warming soup after a chilly Michigan day. By the picture you can see what I mean- It's a homely looking soup, isn't it?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What I know about "Living" Christmas Trees...

As some of you may recall from my Thanksgiving post, I had my appendix taken out a little before Turkey Day that year. Our two boys were young, and the Christmas holidays were a series of events that were pretty family focused. My wife had been yakking with girlfriends about the latest trends in Christmas trees- The Living Christmas Tree. The benefits were touted as; 1. No tree would die for a tradition. 2. It would smell like the great outdoors without scented aerosol sprays, with their propellants harming the ozone layer. 3. You could plant it when you were done, returning the blessed oxygen producer to the land- saving Earth in your very own back yard! Yeah, right.... So the guy whose stitches were out, but still had a fair bit of healing of stomach muscles to do yet- is sent to fetch the Tree That Saved Christmas. I get to the nursery and inquire if they have this miracle of holiday marketing and where they were kept. A teenager the size of a Hi-Lo says "Follow me" and we end up at a couple of rows of really small trees attached to really big clumps of dirt(wrapped in burlap). From the high prices, I knew they had been reading the same articles as my wife had seen... I picked one out, and Human Hi-Lo grabs it and carries it to my car, putting it in my rather deep trunk for transport home. All the way home, I'm working my engineer-like brain as to how I'm gonna get this d*mn thing out of the trunk and into the house without ripping my appendix scar open! I get home, snow is everywhere, and I give the tree a heave-ho that just jiggles it, with no upward motion. I swear when I looked at it, it said "I'm heavier than that, you cripple-Buahahahah!". Taking a page from history (Egyptians engineering Pyramids) I levered it to the edge of the trunk, then flipped it onto one of the kids' plastic snow sliders. I dragged the beast into the house on this snow saucer right into the living room, informed my wife to leave it on there, cover it with some Christmas looking cloth, and start decorating- I was DONE. All OK, followed instructions for care until spring planting. I threw it out by our dryer vent, and waited 'til spring to plant.
Spring came. Snow melted, leaving our backyard full of the winters' supply
of uncollected Airedale poop. I had dug a big hole in the front yard to plant the tree, and figured I could kill two turds with one stone- so I threw at least 40lbs of recycled Iams dog food in the hole, and threw the tree on top of it. On quiet nights, I swear you could hear that tree screaming as it grew.... The picture is of that very tree, 20yrs later. I used to cover it with white Christmas lights, until it got too big. There is still a strand of them up there somewhere I couldn't get down.... All kidding aside, today it is one really beautiful Blue Spruce!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

End Of The Year Coming, Time For Annual Salad!

It was a long, cold day to work today! A customer lunch was a pleasant interlude, at good Italian restaurant. I had Veal Parmesean- a huge portion that completly disappeared during the meal. A meeting and tour of our plant for one of my largest customers was the last thing on todays' work agenda. All went well, but it was a higher than average stress day- which I'm feeling about now! My wife has to go to some girly dinner tonight, and I'm still full from lunch, so I'll post about a light meal we enjoyed earlier this week. As the headline implies, I don't dive into a salad with the gusto I demonstrate when attacking lasagna. I've found the secret of a good salad- make it look and taste like something that isn't good for you! The picture is what I think a salad should look like- My Chef Salad! Imagine that bad boy slathered in Chunky bleu cheese dressing (that I add real Maytag Blue cheese, crumbled until it's so thick you can walk across it!)covered with all those ingredients until you can't find the da*n lettuce..... Got my annual salad out of the way until next year! Dang! That's only 27 days more....

Saturday, December 01, 2007

We Exist To Serve.....

Now why is that man posting a picture of a little zip-lock container with left-over chili in it? Simple! That was all that was left of the 6-1/2 gallon batch I brought to a customer for lunch Friday! This was the biggest batch of my competition-style chili I've ever made. A few facts to know and yell:
1. Shopping and unloading all ingredients- 1-1/2 hrs.
2. Chopping & dicing veggies and meat, browning meat, opening cans, etc.- 2-1/2 hrs.
3. Cooking chili (seasoning, simmering, stirring) in two separate pots- 3hrs.
4. Moving chili to 18 quart roaster& big crock pot, storing& cooling overnight-1hr.
5. Batch size- 6-1/2 gallons (or 26 quarts/52 pints/52 lbs./832 oz./24.6 litres).
6. Delivering, feeding,& clean-up- 3-1/2hrs.
7. Cost of batch ingredients- $96.00 (paid by my company as customer entertainment).
8. People fed- about 40 (shop folks work hard and can really eat!)
My wife and I did all the shopping and cooking, I did the lugging, set up, reheat and entertainment. When I got back home, she helped again on the cleanup of the cooking utensils & kitchen. Alone, I would have been up all night! The people really appreciated it, and it was fun to cook chili with no competition around! It's also fun to have people come up and say (with look on face like they just found the Messiah) "That's the best chili I've ever had!" I tell them to go to the chili cook-offs I'm in, and sign up to be a judge-PLEASE!
Chili Wisdom To Take With You Today:
"Chili should be like a big rollercoaster- it should scare you a little, but not kill you... And- "Chili is like sex- When it's good, it's incredible! And when it's bad, well, it's not THAT bad.....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Said I Would, And I Will.....

I've been "tagged" by odat. I must devise 5-10 courses I would (or should!) take to fix my life. Enjoy my shortcomings, and my theoretical courses I would take to improve....

1. Listening Skills 101: In the first grade we started getting report cards of a sort, listing 1, excellent(better than avg.) 2, satisfactory (avg.)and the dreaded 3, needs to improve(work on it, kid! Or else..) I was a bright kid, with mostly 1s', except in the catagory "Listens well while others are speaking"- my only 3. This was to repeat every year in some form through my formal education and into college. In my sales career I'm supposed to listen 80%, talk 20%. I now have all the appearances of a good listener! Wrong. I'm waiting for you to shut up, so I can talk again...

2. Advance Table Manners: I know which knife,fork,or spoon to use and can eat with them held in either hand. I know all the protocols and rituals of this countrys' dining experience. I don't spill, I use a napkin, etc. The problem you ask? Talking- again! I can blab so much during a meal, I always finish last. And people who talk with food in their mouth? I'm working on that...

3. Calming The Aggressive Driver: I'm a good driver! At this writing, I haven't had a point on my record in 20yrs. I just don't get passed alot in the course of a day, if you know what I mean...

4. Working With Electricity In The Home: Science, Physics, and all their disciplines are how I usually run my life. Except for Electricity, which is clearly the Devils' Creation sent to kill me for talking too much. I swear cannot change a light bulb without getting zapped! When I replace a door bell, I shut the power off for the whole neighborhood before I start. I'd tell the story of my Christmas outdoor lights electrocution, but that will be a post all on its' own in December....

5. How To Become A Team Player: I have sat through many a seminar demonstrating the benefits of working as a team. Most of the excercises result in the few doing the work of the sheep included in every group! I have learned how to get along with the other kids in the sandbox- I go play on the swings....

I'm not tagging anybody, but if there are any volunteers- go for it!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pizza Sunday? You Bet!

We did a pretty good job getting rid of turkey leftovers! I gave quite a bit to my guests to take home, and later Thursday night I simmered the carcass in water infused with appropriate herbs & spices for a few hours, to create a broth for Fridays' turkey noodle soup lunch! Good stuff- a lighter food day than Gorge Thursday... Early Saturday morning on a whim, we decided to head out the new casino Four Winds, in New Buffalo, MI. It's a little under 2 hrs to drive there, and it really was pretty neat. It has to be the largest casino in Michigan and I would say also the nicest! We gambled for about 4 hrs. and actually left with a little more money than we came with! The place was filling up fast when we departed about 3PM. This place is located about 2 hrs from Chicago and from the look of all the people wearing Bears jackets, alot of them must drive up. We grabbed a burger and fries at a Culvers' in Stevensville- really good burgers for a sorta fast food chain restaurant. Any of you people out there ever been in one? Anyway, this trip postponed our gotta-have-it Pizza day until Sunday. I tried my new, big mixer to make the dough (the now defunct bread machine made better dough!) and it worked okay for that. I grated my Parmesean, Romano, and Mozzarella in my new food processor, and I think I need more practice! It's done, it worked, and I may or may not try that again! Dialing in the sauces' flavor was a pain today too... As the picture shows,it all worked well, but you never hear Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, or all the other experts tell you about the screw-ups getting there like I will.....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Days, Past and Present....

Twenty years ago in November, a series of events took place in my life that had me visit the local med center 3 times that month! It started about the first of the month with what I thought was the flu. They checked me, gave me an antibiotic, and sent me on my way. About a week later, still not feeling too spiff, I went back- this time a real doctor was there who checked my blood and found something wasn't quite right. He sent me down to a medical center located across from a big hospital for further testing. That doctor told me my appendix was going bad, and to go directly to Emergency at the hospital and check in. He would call them and tell them I was on my way. I drove myself over, walked in and sat there for 45 minutes before they put 2 +2 together! By now, I felt really,really crappy! They grabbed me, threw me on a gurney, and hauled me to a room where I was to await surgery. By midnight, I no longer had an appendix. A few days in the hospital, then home for a recup! Fast forward a couple of weeks, and it's Thanksgiving, with the whole famn damly coming to my house for one of my patented feasts. While stuffing the turkey I cut some loose skin off the bird with a super sharp knife (I'm obsessed with having all my knives stupid sharp at all times!). The knife went through the skin and into me easily. But Good. Showed my wife, drove myself down to the Med center and walked in just as they were opening. "You're our first customer- what's wrong?". I showed them my blood soaked wrapped hand and was ushered into the inner room STAT. Doc walks in and says "Weren't you just here a couple of weeks ago? Yep. "Most people wait to cut themselves until they're carving the cooked bird" "I wanted to beat the rush" I answered. Stitched me up while I read Sports Illustrated and I was home in time to baste the bird.
This year it's only 5 people, with traditional food all the way. Roast turkey, sage sausage stuffing, home made cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, rolls, salad, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Pictures will be posted after all this stuff is set out! Can the Lions beat the Green Bay Packers today? Nah, too early for Christmas miracles....
P.S. The bird was moist, and flavorful, stuffing all gone, potatoes the same, gravy really nice, cranberry sauce a hit (I don't like fruit on meat personally!), and the pie was flavored just right. My sis brought a salad with dressing that was excellent! Her home made rolls were great, too. The Lions lost, making the traditional holiday complete!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Caramel Apple Crisp Kind Of Day.....

Sunday, at noon is our once-a-week big meal day. It is usually a meal consisting of either something we like that we haven't had in awhile, or some creation of mine we're trying out. Today was a little of both! My wife and adult son (he lives close by and gets Sunday dinner from us!) both love potatoes. Todays' side was an Idaho russett baked to perfection, simply topped with butter, salt, and pepper. I made a meat loaf- which was todays' experiment! Friday night, I thawed a large pack of meat market brats, not the pre-cooked kind- the raw seasoned ground pork kind. We simmered a few in beer for a quick Friday nite supper, and found them quite bland. Saturday, I decased the rest of them, and reseasoned the now bulk sausage with onion powder, crushed garlic, coarse black pepper, and seasoned salt. The plan was to let the spices to cold blend, and use the sausage in a stuffed pork loin roast for Sunday dinner. I dug out the pork loin I had in the freezer, and found it too big, and too flat for that purpose. Now what? How about a brat flavored sausage/ground sirloin meatloaf? This morning, I thoroughly mixed the meats with more spices, worchester sauce, bread crumbs, 2 eggs, Polish mustard, and a little V-8 juice- then pressed into a bread loaf pan. Baked at 350F right along side the 'taters for 1-3/4 hrs. (I make a meatloaf at about 3-1/2lbs.!), all came out perfect. A little heat and serve Italian loaf for bread, and dinner is served! Oh, the picture? That was dessert! One of my personal favorites- Apple Crisp. I use oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, butter, and ground cinnamon in the crust/topping. Granny Smith is my apple of choice, with a white sugar, corn starch, water, and vanilla sauce poured over the slices before the topping. Just before oven time- I drizzle topping with a caramel sauce, then bake at 350F for 40 min. Vanilla ice cream along side is always offered! Dessert will wait 'til 5 pm- we're all too full from the other stuff...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quick Meal That Works.....

Wednesday while I was out and about making sales calls, I stopped into a Hispanic store to cruise for supplies. They carry authentic food stuffs from Mexico, with a good selection of items not found at the local grocery store. It is in a decidedly rough neighborhood (missing person from bar two stores down found that day-dead about a mile away by some railroad tracks!) but in mid day, it's pretty safe. I picked up some red jalepeno salsa (La Victoria) which is hot, tasty stuff! I also got a product I had never bought anywhere- a package of homestyle tostadas from Mexico! They were about 20 in a pack, and twice as thick as any I have seen from Ortega or Old El Paso brands. That night, I took fried, seasoned ground sirloin, chopped lettuce, diced fresh tomatos, finely shredded co-jack cheese, micro'd them 'til warm with cheese melted- and we had "wet" tostadas! Then topped with that salsa and we were eating in nothing flat! In an earier post, I covered the local food sensation, the "wet" burrito which we all determined was a dry burrito with melted cheese all over it. Same thing goes here- without melting the cheese over the tostada, it would have been something you've all seen before(I hope!). Melting the cheese helps keep it all together for less fallout of toppings or messy eating! I'm thinkin' about doing a beef brisket this week-end- we'll see.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Week-end Food Projects...

About Thursday, I decided I'd better make up a batch of beef jerky for the guys around here who all yakking about deer hunting. I'm not going this year (low on vacation time!)but people (mainly men!) really like home made jerky. Eye of round beef is lean and not much good for anything but jerky (in my opinion!) and cuts up well into strips of uniform thickness well. I marinate it in a salt, brown sugar, black pepper, liquid smoke, Worschester sauce, garlic, onion, red pepper, celery seed, and water mixture (Say all that in one breath once!). It's in the brine for overnight, refrigerated. I have an American Harvest brand dehydrator- buy no other! This 4 tier, fan powered dehydrator has worked well for me about 10 yrs, and it still probably only costs $60 bucks or so. I drained the meat well, sprinkling it with extra onion and garlic powder while still damp, and placed it on the trays as shown. 6 hrs later, perfectly dried beef jerky. Commercial stuff in stores sells for $15+ a pound. I made 2-1/2lbs for about 16 bucks ($6lb.). Rave reviews at work Monday! Also made this week end was a mushroom chicken spaghetti we're fond of. Sauce is the key (yours too, I bet!) with tomato sauce,olive oil, basil, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic, onion, red wine, pepper, brown sugar and parmesean- all simmered 2hrs before addition of cubed chix breast and sauteed mushrooms. Bread was Italian heated in oven, and dessert was a caramel brownie.
Enjoy your week!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Birthday Gift To Our Son From History.....

As previously mentioned, my eldest son had his 30th birthday Nov. 9th. He lives in Kansas City, MO- about 700 miles away from where we live! We are sometimes at a loss as to what to get him for a birthday gift, mainly because we don't see or hear from him like we would if he lived here! Out in K.C. they have the only specifically designated WWI Memorial in the U.S.A. It was made sometime in the 1920s, and by the style of the design- it shows. We visited it the first time went went out there, and were impressed by it's somber, respectful atmosphere of remembrance. It's stark design, angular and massive, makes the Memorial a photographers' black & white, shades & shadow dream location. My son has gotten into photography as a hobby. He approaches about everything he does in a thorough manner, with cameras and knowledge of taking pictures no different! It seems to have bonded him to this site somehow, and my wife came up with a unique, meaningful present for him. Her Grandfather was in WWI and saw action as he was exposed to mustard gas. The gas could create Hell on Earth, and was outlawed in warfare after WWI. My wife had recieved an inexpensive, commemorative hankie (depicted in the photo)from her mom- a momento brought back from France in 1919, by her grandfather. She decided to get it professionally matted and framed, and give it to my son for his birthday. It's on its' way to him (late- it wasn't done on time!) as I write this. We sent him the photo (shown here) on his birthday via E-mail so he wouldn't think we stiffed him out of a gift! Does that all make sense to you people? Good!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Take-out Pizza, The Great American Phone Call!

As all you veteran readers of my blog know, Friday night is Pizza Nite at the Buffalo household. Well, today was Thursday and my wife and I had a mutual, simultaneous, not-to-be-denied urge for a pizza NOW! As laziness, poor planning, and a large dose of apathy all hit us at once, we made The Call. We are blessed with a multitude of good pizza places within 2 miles of our home that will deliver a pizza quickly to our doorstep! The one that gets The Call 90% of the time is Florentines. Over the years, they have gotten to know us (and our various Airedales!)and if the new kid on the phone says the wait is 40 minutes, the guy at the oven sees our name and it's here in 20! After jumping in and out of my car in 35F weather making sales calls all day (with a sore foot!), somebody bringing me supper sounded like a great plan. I have never gotten a bad pizza from these guys (is there such a thing as bad pizza?) and this one hit the spot. The size pizza we order is like my kids are still at home, so leftovers are a given!
OK, here's your assignment: What's the name of the best pizza place that you go to regularly? Give location if you want. And: What size do you order, and what toppings?

P.S. Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of me becoming a father for the first time! It's all about me, isn't it? Happy Birthday to my son, Rich!!!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

How I Invented Mac-n-Cheeseburger Soup....

In a couple of weeks or so, there is supposedly going to be a soup contest at a bar owned by a friend of mine. He has had chili contests the last two years, and picking a winner has caused more trouble than it's worth! There's about 7 of us that make up two of the best chili teams in the region, and we would enter at least 3 or 4 of the chilis in the contest. Picking the winning chili almost always led to hard feelings among good friends, so a soup contest was proposed! Soups can be so different from each other, a winner would be easier(and safer!) to pick. Now, what soup should I make? It has to be something never seen before, tasty to a less than sophisicated(working mans' bar in a not-so-hot neighborhood!)palate. What would everybody eat there normally? A cheeseburger! Now how to turn it into a tasty soup?
Typical Cheesburger ingredients:
1. Ground beef (yup!)
2. Cheese- a sauce? (YO!)
3. Catsup (How about tomato paste-yeah!)
4. Onions (You bet!)
5. Bacon (I would!)
6. Tomato (Diced canned ones would work!)
7. Pickle (Not in soup, ever!)
8. Lettuce (No!)
9. Mayo (Hell, no!)
Typical Soup ingredients:
1. Broth (Beef, for sure!)
2. Filler- Potato or pasta (Macaroni!)
1. Shredded aged sharp cheddar (I'm gonna!)
2. Croutons (Absolutely!)
Armed with what I reasoned would be harmonious ingredients, I went about creating the soup. No recipe to go by, some things were do-overs! Bacon fried, put aside to be cut into bite sized pcs. Onions sauteed in bacon grease- came out limp, greasy and tasteless. Used fresh cut onion thrown into the broth. Fried ground beef that were shaped into mini burgers(smaller next time!)Everthing but the cheese sauce, macaroni, and toppings went into a crock pot on high for 3 hrs. Added the cheese sauce, cooked and added the macaroni- then allowed to heat back up to simmer. Topped with cheese and croutons, and this stuff was plain food eating at its' best! Very filling, as you can imagine!
Anyone out there have a better name than Mac-n-Cheesburger Soup? And "Liquid Heart Attack" is already taken....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mikes' Meme- 8 Things About Me & My Thoughts..

1. I have an inquiring mind. New information, skills, people, or places all hold my interest better than the comfort of what I already know.
2. I believe in sharing knowledge. I have never kept information of any nature away from others who might benefit from it. I have been involved in technical products (tooling materials) sales for over 30 yrs. My reputation for helping people decide and find a given product- whether I sell it or not, has helped many solve problems they were having. Long term, it hasn't hurt my sales numbers either!
3. My word is my bond. If I commit to it, it will happen.
4. I enjoy cheesy, mindless science-fiction movies. I like good ones even better!
5. My profile states I'm left-handed. I am the most left-handed person you are ever likely to meet! Throw, bat, golf, bowling, shooting, eating, writing, anything you do, I do left handed. This carries on to my feet also! I kick left footed, and in high school, I lettered in the high jump- jumping from opposite side (the only person in our entire league to do this!).
6. Genetically bad eyes. I needed glasses by about 4th grade, but wouldn't wear them all the time until my senior year (vain!). I had cataract surgery in my 40s(young!) and now have permanent interocular corrective lenses in both eyes. It's really cool as I really don't have to wear glasses!
7. I prefer verbal communication to writing. My cell phone package is 3000 minutes a month, unlimited on week-ends! However, I am glad I started blogging as my rusty writing skills are being polished up! Like a number of bloggers I have the pleasure to read, maybe I'll do some fiction writing and possibly get published.....
8. I like to cook better than I like to eat! A bologna 'n cheese sammich is as enjoyable to me as anything fancy! I enjoy the compliments and the sharing of cooking knowledge more than the eating itself!
There you have it, kids- you can wake up now.....Everybody have a good week-end!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It Was Halloween And We Saw The Least Scariest Thing There Is!

A rainbow! On Halloween! In Michigan! Not just a rainbow, it was a perfectly shaped, multi-colored, Hollywood movie rainbow.
After getting home from work and having a bite to eat, we normally turn on the porch light, and light the pumpkin to let all know we are open for the business of Candy Donation. In Michigan, we're talking about 6:20PM or thereabouts- it's dark, but not night time dark, and the little kids usually go earlier than the teenagers. We had a couple of hits for candy, when my wife calls to me and says "You've got to see this!" "What is it?" I asked. "A rainbow", she stated rather matter-of-factly. I checked to see if I had heard her right, then came running with the camera! At 6:36PM , Oct. 31, 2007, Grand Rapids had a perfect arc rainbow- and in 50+ yrs of living here, I had never seen one that magnificent! It was the talk of the night, with many commenting on it even the next day. Rainbows aren't that common around here, especially this late in the year. Obiviously it had rained a little, shrinking the number of kids we got at the door for candy. Still, we had about 65, mostly older kids. A few of the "tykes" were wearing low cut costumes and had cleavage, for cryin' out loud! New rule next year: If you're driving yourself house to house for candy treats- you're too old!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Is Cool!

Ever since I was a little kid, Halloween has been one of my favorite times! Buffalo Dick at 5yrs old: "You mean we get to dress up in a costume so no one knows who we are and scream Trick or Treat at our neighbors-and they give us candy!!??" I was hooked. I grew up as part of the "Baby Boom" in a predominently Catholic neighborhood. This meant untold numbers of children running up and down the streets, gathering as much loot as possible before 9pm when we had to be home! You always went in a mob of kids to be safer from predators. No not perverts! Older kids that would steal your candy! By age 12 you had the drill down pat, but you knew soon you'd be too old to be doing this candy thing next year. Age 13-18. Roam the streets throwing eggs at other teens, cars, and houses! My high school had an unsanctioned Junior/Senior egg fight every year at a riverside park. It got so big, the cops patrolled so it wouldn't happen. So a hundred or so guys armed with thousands of eggs(some rotten) were turned away to go into the neighborhoods instead! Real bright, huh? Buffalo Dick at 30-40: Wife takes our two boys T or T, while dad stays home and passes out candy. Buffalo Dick at 40-50: Adult costume parties! Dressing up and handing out candy to kids! Throwing flash paper fireballs for their entertainment! Nowadays, we just hand out treats at home, missing the days when Hell was actually raised on All Hallows' Eve.....Buahahahahaa.....
Oh yeah, as we have no kids at home anymore we just put the ceramic jack-o-lantern in the window. I miss carving scary faces in pumpkins and roasting salted pumpkin seeds!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Project, Then A Bite To Eat....

Saturday and then Sunday until about 1PM, We stayed pretty busy! It's that time of year when we do a little bit to get the homestead ready for when the weather isn't so nice. Yesterday, that meant going to Sams' Club and stocking up on food related stuff we will need for the holidays. After that, it was replace the light bulbs outside that had burned out, fix the storm door, and fix the door knob to the garage service door. As by now we were on kind of a roll (You know what I mean!) I decided to grocery shop, talking my wife into going to Lowes for a specialty light bulb while I was busy at the other store. She thought it was a great idea, but really didn't want to go (again, you know what I mean!). Lowes is like 1/2 mile from our house, so the debate was short and unheated!
This morning, I thought it was time to hang the decorative clock we had bought for our dining area. How long had we waited to do this, you ask? Eleven and a half months.... Why so long, you ask? That's what happens when we're not on that roll anymore. Anyway, we got that 20 minute project done in less than 2 hrs, which is about normal for my wife and I when we work together on something! We hardly ever yell at each other anymore either... Life sure beats it out of you, doesn't it?
We wrapped it up in time to start dinner- chicken on the grill, blueberry muffins, spice cake for dessert, and scalloped potatoes- sliced in our new food processor! No one needs one this powerful, really! My son called from K.C. MO and I told him I'd found a new way to get rid of unwanted body parts... Hope your weekends are going well, and see you later!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let's Talk About Coffee.....

A few years back, I was cruising the cookbook section of a used bookstore I'd never been in, when I came across a hard cover book about coffee. It had everything I like in a book, hard cover, in good shape, covered history, methods, chemistry, how to's, and equipment required. Right. I really bought it because it was cheap! I like cook books that read like a story occasionally, and this was well written. Up until that book, Nescafe instant, 1-2 cups in the morning to jump start the brain, and I was good to go! However, after reading what an incredible peasant I had been to this noble beverage, I went on my new mission: To become a Coffee Snob! I shopped the Internet for information on the best burr grinder for the money. Snobs must grind their own coffee. It must be done in a burr grinder, so you don't overheat the ground coffee. Now I went forth and bought an automatic drip coffee maker. There are tons of good ones, so I got a programmable on sale. Now to actually shop for coffee! I ended up at a specialty outlet store owned by a commercial roaster of fine coffees. Every week or so, I would get a different type or blend of coffee beans and judge them as you would a fine wine. We found the ones we preferred and have enjoyed superior coffee at way cheaper prices (say, 20 cents a cup-max?) than you get at Starbuck type places. The picture is of our new coffee maker (wife doesn't ask for much, so she gets it!) with a couple of our favorites. We grind enough for just a few days, store it in a glass container and refrigerate (which you don't have to do!).
Message for today: Life is too short to drink crappy coffee!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Up North Saturday, And A Lasagna Sunday......

Friday night, we really didn't feel like doing anything except eat supper and flop- my wife reading her book, me on computer, then TV. The weather was supposed to be unseasonably warm and sunny Saturday, so we decided to head up North to Manistee, MI and do a little gambling at the casino there. We were sure the tree leaf colors had peaked, but still might be some spots to enjoy. It's about a 2 hr drive, and on a beautiful late Fall day in Michigan, it was the tonic we needed after the work week! On the way up US 31 we stopped in Muskegon and grabbed a quick breakfast at Bob Evans. I had been craving a Belgian waffle for weeks, so I finally got one. Not great, but not bad either! Another 1-1/4 hr and we were at the casino, which had a few things going on besides gambling. An antique show had gotten an early crowd, and we found out the club we belong to in Grand Rapids had a bus trip there too! We played the slots, losing a tolerable amount (not much!) over 3-4 hrs. I always like to go home a different way, and talked my wife into having a sandwich at an old bar and grill called the Government Lake Inn, close to a little town called Baldwin. The place had been there since the 30s, and we hadn't been in there in at least 10 yrs. They used to make the best handmade burgers, and we found out they still do! 1/2lb of irregular shaped hamburger, covered in anything you like! I didn't take pictures inside, as most of the patrons looked like they had bench warrants out on them! We hit the road and were home in about 1-1/2 hrs, greeted by an Airedale who really had to take a leak!
Sunday, at 6am I started sauce for a lasagna we were to have about 1pm. Had time to grocery shop and pickup fresh Italian bread for the meal. If it had a name, it would be; Italian Sausage 5 Cheese Lasagna! When I make one of these, it ends up weighing about 7lbs- for real! I give about half of it to my son who lives nearby, and pray some one else stops in so we don't eat it more than once as a leftover.....
Well, time to do some paperwork, so I don't start the work week behind... Have a good day, everyone!

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Do YOU Call It- A Blonde Brownie, Or A Pan Cookie...

I made this treat for the people at work, as I was off work on my birthday (Sept. 30!). I had been brought up to call this creation a "Blonde brownie". About 15yrs ago, someone I worked with brought in much the same treat on their birthday. "Oh boy! Blonde brownies!" I exclaimed. The woman looked at me in a puzzled way and said "These are pan cookies, my Mom taught me how to make them when I was young". We debated the issue, never resolving anything in what to call them going forward. They are no more than an adaptation of Toll House chocolate chip dough, spread put as one piece in a full sheet cookie pan. You can make these with dried fruit, nuts, white or butterscotch chips, or any variation of a choco chip cookie you've ever made. Watch the bake time- they are thicker than a cookie, but slightly thinner than a brownie! Enjoy your weekends everybody!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All In One Night- A New Fish Recipe & A New Vegetable!!!

Tonight, we had one of our "Let"s Eat Healthy!" moments. We had bought quite a bit of flounder on sale ( 5lbs frozen fillets), and thought a new recipe beyond just broiling it was in order. Also this past weekend, the produce section had a sale on a product I had seen before, but had never tried- Broccoflower!
The Broccoflower is essentially a cauliflower that is about the same color as broccoli. Invented (?) in the Netherlands, it was touted to be milder smelling and sweeter than plain cauliflower. Seeds were sold to a company in California, and domestic growing commenced. For $1 a head, I had nothing to lose. Simply steamed as you would for cauliflower, then buttered and salted to taste- here's what I thought: It smelled a little stronger than expected, and the flavor was neutral, borderline bland. Good texture- all in all not too bad!
The fish recipe was; thin sliced, raw onion laid in a skillet that had been sprayed with olive oil, four fillets seasoned with Old Bay and placed on the bed of onions, with approx. 1/2 cup of V-8 juice poured into skillet. Poached ingredients for about 10 minutes, and served. I would make this again! Simple, yet flavorful, the meal was low cal and tasty! Now I'm off the hook eating healthy for a few days-at least!