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.....