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walking distance

Archive for the ‘walking distance’ Category

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Monday, September 6th, 2010

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Sunday, September 5th, 2010

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Sunday, September 5th, 2010

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Sunday, September 5th, 2010

As you might have guessed…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Belly Timber is semi-permanently camped out on a back burner. Sometime in the future, we may move it forward and crank up the heat, but for now, it’ll just sit here on low. Pardon the congealing mess.

In the meantime, do visit us in our other locations (See! Shiny! Social! Media! Icons! On! Sidebar!) or, if you want to talk to MizD about a web or graphics project, drop by her design site, Elsinore Studios.

As you might have guessed…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Belly Timber is semi-permanently camped out on a back burner. Sometime in the future, we may move it forward and crank up the heat, but for now, it’ll just sit here on low. Pardon the congealing mess.

In the meantime, do visit us in our other locations (See! Shiny! Social! Media! Icons! On! Sidebar!) or, if you want to talk to MizD about a web design or graphics project, drop by her

Cook ‘n Books: Cookies and Rockets!

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Jay's Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

cook n the books
I’ve got a secret to tell you: There’s a UFO hidden in my best friend’s barn.

Actually, that’s not my secret, it’s Vernon Dunham’s secret and I’ll get to Vernon in just a moment. My secret is this: When I’m not doing the food blogging thing, I’m doing the genre fiction thing. I’m either writing it, or reading it, or discussing it, or playing silly games of “Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?” (Answer: no lie, I’m Kirk.)

Now what’s this have to do with food blogging? Well, just this:

I’ve met some fine authors in my genre fiction travels and when I catch them swapping recipes or proclaiming their latest Copyedits Complete Commemorative Homecooked Cobbler, my ears perk up. I think: Hey! Authors + recipes = cool new content for Belly Timber!

So, allow me to introduce Cook ‘n Books: An occasional series of book reviews, excerpts, and miscellaneous fictions, each accompanied by a recipe from the featured author.

Rocket ScienceFor our inaugural edition, we’ve got fantastically tasty cookies (I just wolfed one down a moment ago), and Mrs D’s review of the spiffy new novel Rocket Science by Jay Lake.

Jay Lake is the 2004 John W. Campbell Award winner for Best New Writer. He’s been a Hugo nominee for his short fiction, and a World Fantasy Award nominee for his editing. Just a few of his many projects include the critically-acclaimed Polyphony anthology series (co-edited with Deborah Layne), All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories (co-edited with David Moles) and two short story collections, Greetings from Lake Wu and American Sorrows.

Jay is a fiercely imaginative and prolific writer, and someone Chopper and I are proud to call a good friend, in no small part due to his willingness to wear shockingly bright colors and his wicked sense of humor. Also, he writes kick-ass stories, but you’ve probably guessed that already.

For this post, Jay offers us Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. He’s taken a classic recipe and given it a twist, which is, I have to say, a perfect match for Rocket Science and what’s lurking in Vernon Dunham’s best friend’s barn…

Rocket Science by Jay Lake
Reviewed by Mrs. D
Trade Paperback, 220 pages
Fairwood Press, August 2005
ISBN 0-9746573-6-0

Vernon Dunham’s best friend Floyd Bellamy went to war and came home a hero. Vernon stayed behind with a bum leg from childhood polio. Floyd fought Nazis, got a chest-full of medals, and landed the 1942 prom queen. All Vernon’s got is the label of a wartime “stay-at-home” (even with his aircraft engineering job at Boeing), and a dad who’s the town drunk. It’s the kind of disparity that would put a strain on any friendship, but what really knocks it for a loop is the cargo Floyd’s brought home with him from Europe: a Nazi halftrack and a top secret weapon that looks like no airplane Vernon’s ever seen. How Floyd got it past all borders and authorities is anyone’s guess, but now it’s sitting in the Bellamy’s barn and Vernon knows one thing and one thing only: He’s got to fly it.

Of course, this being science fiction, we know right away that the “rocket” is no weapon and it most definitely wasn’t built by Nazis. A little digging in the local Augusta, Kansas library points Vernon toward the truth, Golden Age style: The rocket was found buried under the Arctic ice.

Trouble is, once Vernon starts digging, others discover he’s been digging and soon he’s neck deep in bad guys. Government agents, Nazi spies, mobsters, and moonshiners; they’re all after him and it takes Vernon (and the reader) most of the book to sort out who’s who.

Not that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, the twists and turns are enough to fill six months of Saturday serials, and through all of this, Vernon’s got one heck of an ally. See, his UFO isn’t just a McGuffin, it’s a character. In fact, it talks. The moment it starts talking is classic, old school. Vernon, in a borrowed Caddy, hears a voice from the rocket’s handset and is convinced he’s gone plum crazy. After all, where are the radio tubes? Yes, this is smack dab in good old 1945, and the pocket transistor won’t hit the market for another nine years. And A.I.? Again, wait till the 50s. (I can only imagine what Vernon would make of OnStar. Total meltdown of incomprehensibility.)

But, once Vernon accepts that his “doo-dad” does indeed do what no Earthmade radio can do, well… I won’t spoil for anyone what happens next.

Augusta Kansas, the setting of Rocket Science, is about as perfect a small town in 1940s America as anyone can find. It’s Mayberry, complete with law guys named Ollie Wannamaker. But when Vernon digs deeper and finds the town’s dark side, the narrative doesn’t go all David Lynch on us. It stays firmly optimistic, so much so that you’d almost expect an ending with the happy rocket in the hands of the good-guy Feds and Vernon landing Miss Butler County.

But you’d be wrong. This sly tale does end happy, but the final twist leaves behind the expected and sends Vernon to the land of childhood dreams. And trust me — you’ll want to be right there with him when he goes.


Rocket Science is available through Fairwood Press, or at fine independent booksellers everywhere.

Clarkesworld Books

Check out Rocket Science and more books by Jay Lake at

And now… cookies!

Jay Lake’s Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is derived from the standard Nestle recipe, so all you really have to do is remember the variations and work off the back of the bag — that’s how I do it.

Cookie ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon (or to taste — you can also use nutmeg here with the cinnamon)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 pound) butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups turbinado (raw, large grain) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 medium ginger root, grated or finely chopped (vary amount to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups (24-ounce package) chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (I prefer pecans or walnuts, but peanuts work just fine)

Cookie batter

Method

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, turbinado sugar, vanilla and almond extract in large mixer bowl. Add ginger. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets covered with baking parchment.

#

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Jay's Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies


Don’t forget: It’s Annual Food Blog Award Nomination Time! Head on over to The Accidental Hedonist and keep those nominations coming!

As you might have guessed…

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Belly Timber is semi-permanently camped out on a back burner. Sometime in the future, we may move it forward and crank up the heat, but for now, it’ll just sit here on low. Pardon the congealing mess.

In the meantime, do visit us in our other locations (See! Shiny! Social! Media! Icons! On! Sidebar!) or, if you want to talk to MizD about a web or graphics project, drop by her design site, Elsinore Studios.

December Paper Chef winner!

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Don’t you just hate December?

No, seriously, bear with me for a moment.

First of all, it means there’s less than a month left in the year and you’ve got to scramble to get done everything you should have been doing in the last eleven months, and on top of that, organize and participate in holiday activities, and then on top of that you’ve got WINTER WEATHER.

Here in Portland, we were caught in the Worst! Snowstorm! In! Forty! Years! Oh sure, it was nothing compared to what you Midwesterners and New Englanders put up with, but we think you’re all crazy anyway. Besides, have pity. We don’t even own snow shovels.

So yeah, what with all this snow and angst there was something fishy (or was that shrimpy) about this year’s December. All this chaos and on top of that, only four entries for Paper Chef!

Judging just four entries, especially when they all look tasty and are all somewhat similar (what, no crabs? No barnacles? No wood lice?) can be a difficult endeavor. For this outing, it came down to favorite details – an ingredient here, a method there.

The four entries were:

Terry from Taste Adventures with her “blood” orange risotto cake, with “drunken” Mexican white shrimp in a blood orange vinaigrette. We were especially impressed with those lip-smackingly large head-on shrimp.

Lori Ann from Lip Smacking Goodness with her double-entry of Shrimp and Rice Empanadas and Spring rolls. Being big fans of stretching that food dollar, we’re always up for extra ingredients and double entries. Also, that sauce sounds delectable!

Sara from Culturally Confused brought us Shrimp in Brandy Cream Sauce. This looked like a perfect meal for a cold December night, and easily adaptable.

Mike from Spikey Mikeys made Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns with Coconut Rice. We’ll forgive him the minor difficulty with shrimp shells (Chopper always cooks shell-on) and admire the Asian influence and attention to detail within the ingredients of the marinade.

In the end, it was that detail and the elegant presentation that won us over, and so the December Paper Chef winner is…

Mike from Spikey Mikeys!

Congratulations, Mike!

And now, gratuitous Shrimp-related content: Our favorite new NBA T-Mobile commercial. Say it with me because it is the tastiest part: “YAO SAYS EAT THE HEAD!”

December Paper Chef winner!

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Don’t you just hate December?

No, seriously, bear with me for a moment.

First of all, it means there’s less than a month left in the year and you’ve got to scramble to get done everything you should have been doing in the last eleven months, and on top of that, organize and participate in holiday activities, and then on top of that you’ve got WINTER WEATHER.

Here in Portland, we were caught in the Worst! Snowstorm! In! Forty! Years! Oh sure, it was nothing compared to what you Midwesterners and New Englanders put up with, but we think you’re all crazy anyway. Besides, have pity. We don’t even own snow shovels.

So yeah, what with all this snow and angst there was something fishy (or was that shrimpy) about this year’s December. All this chaos and on top of that, only four entries for Paper Chef!

Judging just four entries, especially when they all look tasty and are all somewhat similar (what, no crabs? No barnacles? No wood lice?) can be a difficult endeavor. For this outing, it came down to favorite details – an ingredient here, a method there.

The four entries were:

Terry from Taste Adventures with her “blood” orange risotto cake, with “drunken” Mexican white shrimp in a blood orange vinaigrette. We were especially impressed with those head-on shrimp.

Lori Ann from Lip Smacking Goodness with her double-entry of Shrimp and Rice Empanadas and Spring rolls. Being big fans of stretching that food dollar, we’re always up for extra ingredients and double entries. Also, that sauce sounds delectable!

Sara from Culturally Confused brought us Shrimp in Brandy Cream Sauce. This looked like a perfect meal for a cold December night, and easily adaptable.

Mike from Spikey Mikeys made Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns with Coconut Rice. We’ll forgive him the minor difficulty with shrimp shells (Chopper always cooks shell-on) and admire the Asian influence and attention to detail within the ingredients of the marinade.

In the end, it was that detail and the elegant presentation that won us over, and so the December Paper Chef winner is…

Mike from Spikey Mikeys!

Congratulations, Mike!

And now, gratuitous Shrimp-related content: Our favorite new NBA T-Mobile commercial. Say it with me because it is the tastiest part: “YAO SAYS EAT THE HEAD!”

December Paper Chef winner!

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Don’t you just hate December?

No, seriously, bear with me for a moment.

First of all, it means there’s less than a month left in the year and you’ve got to scramble to get done everything you should have been doing in the last eleven months, and on top of that, organize and participate in holiday activities, and then on top of that you’ve got WINTER WEATHER.

Here in Portland, we were caught in the Worst! Snowstorm! In! Forty! Years! Oh sure, it was nothing compared to what you Midwesterners and New Englanders put up with, but we think you’re all crazy anyway. Besides, have pity. We don’t even own snow shovels.

So yeah, what with all this snow and angst there was something fishy (or was that shrimpy) about this year’s December. All this chaos and on top of that, only four entries for Paper Chef!

Judging just four entries, especially when they all look tasty and are all somewhat similar (what, no crabs? No barnacles? No wood lice?) can be a difficult endeavor. For this outing, it came down to favorite details – an ingredient here, a method there.

The four entries were:

Terry from Taste Adventures with her “blood” orange risotto cake, with “drunken” Mexican white shrimp in a blood orange vinaigrette. We were especially impressed with those head-on shrimp.

Lori Ann from Lip Smacking Goodness with her double-entry of Shrimp and Rice Empanadas and Spring rolls. Being big fans of stretching that food dollar, we’re always up for extra ingredients and double entries. Also, that sauce sounds delectable!

Sara from Culturally Confused brought us Shrimp in Brandy Cream Sauce. This looked like a perfect meal for a cold December night, and easily adaptable.

Mike from Spikey Mikeys made Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns with Coconut Rice. We’ll forgive him the minor difficulty with shrimp shells (Chopper always cooks shell-on) and admire the Asian influence and attention to detail within the ingredients of the marinade.

In the end, it was that detail and the elegant presentation that won us over, and so the December Paper Chef winner is…

Mike from Spikey Mikeys!

Congratulations, Mike!

And now, gratuitous Shrimp-related content: Our favorite new NBA T-Mobile commercial. Say it with me because it is the tastiest part: “YAO SAYS EAT THE HEAD!”

YAO shrimp ad w. D wade & Sir Charles for T-Mobile

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdPdKKUbD9M

“Yao says eat the head!”

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge (thanks, Magnus!), we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

(Post links to your Paper Chef entries here, and don’t forget to email a link to your entry to

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge (thanks, Magnus!), we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge (thanks, Magnus!), we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

(Post links to your Paper Chef entries here, and don’t forget to email a link to your entry to paperchef@gmail.com!)

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty, says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

Allez… Paper Chef #35 is on!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The ChairmanKitty Kaga, dusted off and ready to report for duty says…

It’s Paper Chef time!

Since Chopper and I were the lucky winners of last month’s challenge, we have been given the great privilege of announcing the ingredient list for the December edition of Paper Chef.

What’s Paper Chef? Think Iron Chef without Kitchen Stadium or without judges that include pop stars and members of parliament. Also, you don’t get to taste everyone’s creation. Sorry. No trout ice cream for you!

All the rules and regulations are on the Paper Chef blog, but here’s our super-short version:

The four ingredients are announced on the first Wednesday of the month.

You must use all four of these ingredients* (plus any others you require) to make a dish and then write about it. You may make more than one dish if you’re feeling inspired.

Your deadline is midday the following Tuesday: For this month, that’s Tuesday, December 9th at noon, Pacific Standard Time.

After that, roundup and judging!

(*reasonable substitutions for food allergies or dietary restrictions are allowed.)
High Tech Randomizing Device
Now, on to the ingredients. Using our high-tech, icosahedronal randomizing device (pictured at right), we selected three ingredients from the Paper Chef nomination list:

Rice
Brandy
Blood Oranges

The fourth ingredient is always judges’ discretion, so for this month we’ve decided to take a dip into the nearest body of water and see what pinches. That’s right:

Crustacean.

And by crustacean, we mean any member of that crusty little subphylum: crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, barnacle, woodlice, tongue worm… okay maybe not those last two, but you get the picture!

So, have at it, have fun, and we look forward to see you all at the round up!

High Tech Randomizing Device

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

High Tech Randomizing Device

Happy… wait, WHAT?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Turkey Day, 2008:
Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s earning time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

We do have one thing to be quite thankful for today: Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. Since we figure most folks aren’t packing everything in till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for all those dishes we left out on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Turkey Day, 2008:
Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s earning time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

We do have one thing to be quite thankful for today: Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. And since we figure most folks aren’t packing everything in till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for all those dishes we left out on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Turkey Day, 2008:
Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for greeting the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s earning time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

We do have one thing to be quite thankful for today: Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. And since we figure most folks aren’t packing everything in till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for all those dishes we left out on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day
Turkey Day, 2008:

First of all, I prepare for greeting the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s earning time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

We do have one thing to be quite thankful for today: Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. And since we figure most folks aren’t packing everything in till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for all those dishes we left out on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Turkey Day, 2008:

Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for greeting the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s earning time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

We do have one thing to be quite thankful for today: Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. And since we figure most folks aren’t packing everything in till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for all those dishes we left out on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT? Cough, cough cough.

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Our Turkey Day in photos and wishful thinking:

Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for greeting the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s making time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

On the bright side (and something to be quite thankful for), Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. If we figure most folks aren’t packing everything away till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Er, that is, except for the dishes we left on the counter last night.

Happy… wait, WHAT? Cough, cough cough.

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Our Turkey Day in photos and wishful thinking:

Preparing to visit the family on Turkey Day

First of all, I prepare for greeting the relatives.

Then Chopper starts… HEY! What the…?

Wait... Chopper has to WORK on Turkey Day?

That’s right. He’s leaving for work. No rest for the wicked as they say. Also, no rest for workers in the hospitality industry. On the bright side, he’s making time and a half.

Meanwhile, I decide to entertain myself by digging up Thanksgiving photos from years’ past. Here’s our bird from 2006:
Brined, Bacon Barded Bird

Mmmmmm… bacon.

On the bright side (and something to be quite thankful for), Chopper gets done with work at 7pm. If we figure most folks aren’t packing everything away till nine, that gives us two whole hours to house hop from one relative to the next and pig out on leftovers!

Best of all, we won’t have a pile of dirty dishes at home.

Well,

Poach Me Deadly (an EoMEoTE tale of passion and poultry)

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Poach Me Deadly, a noir drama of passion and poultry, was inspired by far too many movies to count, and by Chopper’s delicious Eggs en Plastic recipe, which you’ll find at the end of this tale. Chopper’s recipe was inspired by a passage in Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, wherein Bourdain describes a chef using truffle oil and plastic wrap to poach an egg. For more hard boiled adventures (and more egg puns than you can shake a whisk at), visit this month’s End of Month Eggs on Toast Extravaganza over at Dispensing Happiness. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some of the most egregious jokes in Poach Me Deadly are entirely Chopper’s fault.

(more…)

WCB: No, for realz they’re back

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

Somewhere around these parts, I have photos of Ahri lolling about in the sun. Now there’s a cat who appreciates seasons. (In fact, I believe he’s located the one remaining sunny window spot in the house. Soak it up while you can, orange guy.

(Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted this week by Amar and Luna over at CatSynth’s…. what? Their FEMA TRAILER? Where are those evil hackerz? Let me sick my kitties on ‘em!)

WCB: No, for realz they’re back

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

WCB: No, for realz they’re back

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Fresh Posts

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Belly Timber

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Belly Timber

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

WCB: No, for realz they’re back

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

Somewhere around these parts, I have photos of Ahri lolling about in the sun. Now there’s a cat who appreciates seasons. (In fact, I believe he’s located the one remaining sunny window spot in the house. Soak it up while you can, orange guy.

(Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted this week by Amar and Luna over at CatSynth’s…. what? Their FEMA TRAILER? Where are those evil hackerz? Let me sick my kitties on ‘em!)

WCB: No, for realz they’re back

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

WCB: No, for realz

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling Angry Cat.

WCB #28: Angry Cat Sings!

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Don't touch my crumply paper

That’s it.

Now the dog gets to be part of Weekend Herb Blogging and I’m neglected again?

Hrrrmph. Last week it was all about rock stars.

Well, I said I’d show them, so guess what? I made a few phone calls (yes, my paws can hit one number at a time, what of it?), and I tracked down some assistance. Sure, my male captor cooked dinner for a rock star, but did he then get the rock star to write lyrics for him? Hmm? I think not.

And okay, I admit it; my female captor did give me a nice, smelly, crumply paper prezzie to go along with these photos, but the things I had to do…

Well. I’ll let my rock star lyrics tell the rest of the story.

mmm... crumply paper

Just an angry cat on an island called San Juan.
If I could have my wish, I’d wish this puppy gone.
More misery than any cat could bear.
Rescue me before I shred your favorite chair!

I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed
I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed

And hope that someone brings me
And hope that someone brings me

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle, yeah

A year has passed since I met this place.
I cursed my captors right from the start.
Always the puppy got the special toys.
Oh, give me catnip or I’ll rip this couch apart!

I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed
I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed

Hey, look now someone brought me
Hey, look now someone brought me

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

I love the smell of crumply paper in the morning

Woke up this morning. Don’t believe what I saw.
A hundred billion kitties, clawing at my door.
Seems I underestimated the smell.
A hundred billion angry cats to give the puppy hell!

We’ll hurk some big hairballs on the bed
We’ll hurk some big hairballs on the bed

And hope that someone brings us
Oh, someone better bring us

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Hurkin’ up some big hairballs
Hurkin’ up some big hairballs
Hurkin’ up some big hairballs…

Catnip in a bottle...


(For more weekend cat blogging, check out Clare and Kiri’s hep cat pad over at Eat Stuff!)

Weekend Cat Blogging: Angry Cat Vents!

Friday, November 14th, 2008

kitten's little window

My captors are toying with me again. First, we move from my island paradise to this tiny basement with but one window ledge for me to perch on and no outside access whatsoever, and then, adding insult to injury, they place an alien cat (a large and rather quarrelsome black and white creature) just beyond my reach to taunt me. I am in feline agony. And worse: I’ve no means to vent!

Yes, for the entire month of September, venting was, due to circumstances far beyond even my captors’ control, a lost cause. Why? Apparently someone in this overburdened flophouse of slackertude determined that they were the sole arbiter of internet access and — would you believe — HID THE MODEM when they weren’t using it for themselves.

Needless to say, my captors and I weren’t pleased. Oh, to be as blissfully ignorant as that silly furball. Ha. Just wait. Some day SHE’LL have literary aspirations, and they too will be squelched!

kitten, veiled

But I digress. You see, we’re no longer in that tiny purgatory of spiders and cement. We’re almost home! ALMOST.

Trouble is, my captors promised me a move toward better things. Toward a YARD again. Maybe even a CAT DOOR. Well, guess what? I’m still waiting.

And, where am I waiting? In yet another basement, only this one doesn’t even have a window ledge!

Oh sure, there’s carpet instead of cement, and I haven’t seen any spiders, but I ask you, is that supposed to make up for the SECOND EVIL CAT lurking outside the glass door, or the TWO ADDITIONAL DOGS in the house?

Be patient, they say. It’s just a week of house sitting they say, but I am cursed. Cursed!

Well, I’ll get them, I will. And meanwhile, I’ll laugh in the face of their daily traumas. Can’t find a tea kettle? The iron is broken? Allergic to one of the dogs? Oh, SUFFER. Next time, when you’ve got to dump the leftover gravy out of your one suitable pan so you can make a cup of evening tea, put some of it on my freakin’ cat food or I will walk all over your keyboard like I’ve never walked on it before.

sgdgeroAOPIAGDFOUPsfjiTW-9UEoIRQO
54\]6],K2L.WSW,VFRVF-VIOSX8AS76Z6TSGVKJ
KL=-9]4132 RSD57EA3XFRSRWYGVUPKJBGDECV
G5AZ6ERJFCFDGGHG46I9-304=91
3Q59Y0[TEHAP’DHL;’30-360-3463Q
SJNVKGSDAFSDADS;VC;’LASL;KVBC

THERE. SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT. I’VE GOTTEN THE CAPSLOCK STUCK AND YOU’VE NO IDEA HOW TO UNDO IT, DO YOU?

BWAAHAAAHAAA!

OH, AND NEXT TIME YOU WANT TO WATCH ONE OF THOSE SILLY BRITISH SCIFI SHOWS, IT BETTER NOT BE AN EPISODE WHEREIN ALL THE CATS ARE VILLAINS. TRUST ME ON THIS. YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT ELSE I’VE GOT PLANNED.


(Check out lots more Weekend Cat Blogging over at the House of (Mostly) Black Cats!)

WCB: No, for realz

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Oh, I get it. She’s channeling

WCB: No, for realz

Friday, November 14th, 2008

She tried to enjoy it while she could...

Port, aka Portimus Minimus, gives you her SERIOUS face. Also, as seen from the foliage, this was taken during the summer when kitties could have carefree days in the garden. That Port, she looks so carefree, doesn’t she?

Hmmm…

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Turkey Curry (Indian style)

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late. (And why you might be reading this on a generic WordPress Template.)

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.
Turkey Galantine with Anaheim pepper sauce
The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late.

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.

The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late.

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.

The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late.

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.

The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late.

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.

The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Paper Chef: We missed you too.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

"This is the best Indian curry I’ve ever made," Chopper announced after devouring several bites in rapid succession. "Of course my specialty is Thai curry, but still…"

"Om nom nom," I said.

"Yes," Chopper agreed, "Om nom nom."

We weren’t certain if we were ever going to make it back. After all, a year is an eternity in Internet Time, and during that year, Belly Timber just sat, gathering dust, taunting us with rapidly aging posts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished completely. Internal Server Error, our home page announced. I thought: crap. I need to do something about this, pronto… and proceeded to get excessively busy on six other projects. What finally got the ball rolling was Chopper’s incessant chomping at the bit every time anyone would bring up the name "Paper Chef."

"It’s this weekend," I told him. "The ingredients are turkey, Anaheim peppers, winter squash, and lentils."

Within three nanoseconds he was making a shopping list and planning recipes.

And me? I was battling the dreaded Internal Server Error.

Which kinda sorta explains why this entry is so excessively late.

What follows (now that we’ve finally got this blog working again) are three of Chopper’s creations inspired by this month’s set of four ingredients: Meatloaf, Turkey Galantine, and Indian curry. A galantine is a French dish that’s typically made of boned meat wrapped around forcemeat. It is poached, coated in aspic, and served cold. Surprisingly (for us) we skipped the aspic.

The best part about joining in this month: three of these ingredients are large quantity ingredients by default, so we’ve got delicious leftovers for days!

(more…)

Blog Action Day: Go Green in the Kitchen

Monday, October 15th, 2007
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

“On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.”

A few months back, I attended a Greener Homes and Gardens show. As I walked past all the vendors pitching solar heating systems, hybrid vehicles, Energy Star appliances, I became discouraged. I can’t afford any of this stuff, I thought. How the hell am I supposed to go green on my budget?
bring your own bag
Baby steps. I had to stop and remind myself. Baby steps. We do the things we can do, and work toward the day when we can do the things we can’t yet do. At this moment, for us frugality comes first. But that doesn’t mean we have to forgo being green. Not in the least. In fact, it’s amazing how often being frugal and being green go hand in hand.

Here, for Blog Action Day, are eight ways we go green in the kitchen and save a little money in the process.

1. Ignore the packaging and shop bulk

Buying in bulk is my favorite kitchen tip because it hits the trifecta of green, frugal, and healthy. You can’t get much better than that. Here are just a few of the items we get in bulk:

  • Beans. Not only are they cheaper than canned, but home-cooked beans just taste better. Plus, if you cook a big enough batch you can do double-duty. Chopper did this the other night: used half the home-cooked black beans in a chili, then refried the other half for taco fixings.
  • Granola. When the granola in the bulk section at New Seasons goes on sale, I’m all over it. (The blueberry and flax mix especially rocks my world.) Bonus health benefit: You’re not going to find high fructose corn syrup in bulk organic granola.
  • Spices. If you can buy two ounces of bulk nutmeg for $3.69, why buy a jar of the same amount for $6.50? Bonus tip #1: Check thrift stores for old spice jars if you’re in need of more containers. The Goodwill near our house has them all the time, dirt cheap. Bonus tip #2: Last time I bought bulk spices, a fellow shopper was doing the same, only he’d brought a plastic bag from home, recycled from his previous trip. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

2. Seek out additional recycling options
recycle your tofu tub
Portland Metro’s recycling program is pretty good, but they’ve got a few gaps in their service. At curbside recycling, they only take plastic containers with necks, so yogurt containers, sour cream or tofu tubs, plastic take-out containers, trays from cookie packages – that all ends up in the trash. One solution is to eliminate as many non-recyclable packages from your shopping trip as you can, but if you’re still left with a few stragglers, then solution number two is to find a recycling depot that will take these items. Here in Portland, it’s Far West Fibers, a privately-owned recycling operation that takes everything from shrink wrap to scrap metal, CD cases, carpet pads, planting trays, and even old sneakers. In the plastic tub and tray department, if the recycle label is #1-7, they take it. I’m so relieved I don’t to invent craft projects for all those old tofu tubs!

3. Buy the whole bird

I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” There’s no scolding. No telling people they’re evil if they eat meat or buy a banana trucked in from Belize. Just a simple reminder that we’d all be better off if we didn’t stuff our faces with burgers, tater-tots, and Twinkies quite so much. With that in mind, this one’s for us meat eaters: don’t buy chicken thighs on Styrofoam wrapped in plastic; buy the whole bird, and use the whole bird. Imagine the tasty goodness you can get out of a winter’s worth of home made chicken stock! (Mmm, Chopper’s got some on the stove right now…)

4. Make leftovers on purpose (and eat them!)

The title of this tip might also be “Plan ahead” but to be honest, we suck at planning ahead and I’d rather not preach something I don’t practice. What we are good at is making large batches of food that last several days. Chili works well, as do taco fixings, but Thai curry’s my favorite. I could eat it every day for a week. Now this might seem more of a frugal tip than a green tip, but here’s the thing: More leftovers = fewer food packages = less trash!

5. Compost

Not everyone’s got a yard, but if you do have the means to compost, then by all means, do it! I’ll admit, we’re not skilled in this department. Our “bin” is an old plastic garbage can with holes drilled in the sides and it’s nearly full. Building a new one – with worms this time! – is on our short list of yard projects. Bonus budget saver: No need to buy bags of fertilizer for spring planting!

cloth not paper
6. Use cloth instead of paper

We haven’t bought paper napkins or even paper towels in months. Instead, we’ve got a stack of terry cloth towels, dish rags, and cloth napkins that, when used, just go into the regular laundry with our clothes. If they’re disgustingly dirty, they might need a pre-wash in the sink, but that’s rarely necessary. I haven’t added up the savings to our grocery bill yet, but the impact on our volume of kitchen trash is obvious.

7. Take a bag to the store

I don’t always remember, but I do my best to grab a cloth shopping bag before every trip to the market. On a good day, I might even make it home with a bag full of groceries and absolutely nothing inside that needs to head for the trash. Bonus budget saver: New Seasons knocks five cents off our bill when we bring our own bag. Hey, every little bit helps!

8. Conserve water

How much clean water goes down the drain while waiting for the tap to get hot? How about that extra water in the kettle after a cup of tea? No need to waste it when there’s a thirsty pooch nearby – just grab the Dog Water jug and fill ‘er up. Keeps the cats happy too. If you don’t have pets, water your plants!

So, how green is your kitchen?

dogwater

Blog Action Day: Go Green in the Kitchen

Monday, October 15th, 2007
Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

“On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.”

A few months back, I attended a Greener Homes and Gardens show. As I walked past all the vendors pitching solar heating systems, hybrid vehicles, Energy Star appliances, I became discouraged. I can’t afford any of this stuff, I thought. How the hell am I supposed to go green on my budget?
bring your own bag
Baby steps. I had to stop and remind myself. Baby steps. We do the things we can do, and work toward the day when we can do the things we can’t yet do. At this moment, for us frugality comes first. But that doesn’t mean we have to forgo being green. Not in the least. In fact, it’s amazing how often being frugal and being green go hand in hand.

Here, for Blog Action Day, are eight ways we go green in the kitchen and save a little money in the process.

1. Ignore the packaging and shop bulk

Buying in bulk is my favorite kitchen tip because it hits the trifecta of green, frugal, and healthy. You can’t get much better than that. Here are just a few of the items we get in bulk:

  • Beans. Not only are they cheaper than canned, but home-cooked beans just taste better. Plus, if you cook a big enough batch you can do double-duty. Chopper did this the other night: used half the home-cooked black beans in a chili, then refried the other half for taco fixings.
  • Granola. When the granola in the bulk section at New Seasons goes on sale, I’m all over it. (The blueberry and flax mix especially rocks my world.) Bonus health benefit: You’re not going to find high fructose corn syrup in bulk organic granola.
  • Spices. If you can buy two ounces of bulk nutmeg for $3.69, why buy a jar of the same amount for $6.50? Bonus tip #1: Check thrift stores for old spice jars if you’re in need of more containers. The Goodwill near our house has them all the time, dirt cheap. Bonus tip #2: Last time I bought bulk spices, a fellow shopper was doing the same, only he’d brought a plastic bag from home, recycled from his previous trip. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

2. Seek out additional recycling options
recycle your tofu tub
Portland Metro’s recycling program is pretty good, but they’ve got a few gaps in their service. At curbside recycling, they only take plastic containers with necks, so yogurt containers, sour cream or tofu tubs, plastic take-out containers, trays from cookie packages – that all ends up in the trash. One solution is to eliminate as many non-recyclable packages from your shopping trip as you can, but if you’re still left with a few stragglers, then solution number two is to find a recycling depot that will take these items. Here in Portland, it’s Far West Fibers, a privately-owned recycling operation that takes everything from shrink wrap to scrap metal, CD cases, carpet pads, planting trays, and even old sneakers. In the plastic tub and tray department, if the recycle label is #1-7, they take it. I’m so relieved I don’t to invent craft projects for all those old tofu tubs!

3. Buy the whole bird

I’m a fan of Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” There’s no scolding. No telling people they’re evil if they eat meat or buy a banana trucked in from Belize. Just a simple reminder that we’d all be better off if we didn’t stuff our faces with burgers, tater-tots, and Twinkies quite so much. With that in mind, this one’s for us meat eaters: don’t buy chicken thighs on Styrofoam wrapped in plastic; buy the whole bird, and use the whole bird. Imagine the tasty goodness you can get out of a winter’s worth of home made chicken stock! (Mmm, Chopper’s got some on the stove right now…)

4. Make leftovers on purpose (and eat them!)

The title of this tip might also be “Plan ahead” but to be honest, we suck at planning ahead and I’d rather not preach something I don’t practice. What we are good at is making large batches of food that last several days. Chili works well, as do taco fixings, but Thai curry’s my favorite. I could eat it every day for a week. Now this might seem more of a frugal tip than a green tip, but here’s the thing: More leftovers = fewer food packages = less trash!

5. Compost

Not everyone’s got a yard, but if you do have the means to compost, then by all means, do it! I’ll admit, we’re not skilled in this department. Our “bin” is an old plastic garbage can with holes drilled in the sides and it’s nearly full. Building a new one – with worms this time! – is on our short list of yard projects. Bonus budget saver: No need to buy bags of fertilizer for spring planting!

cloth not paper
6. Use cloth instead of paper

We haven’t bought paper napkins or even paper towels in months. Instead, we’ve got a stack of terry cloth towels, dish rags, and cloth napkins that, when used, just go into the regular laundry with our clothes. If they’re disgustingly dirty, they might need a pre-wash in the sink, but that’s rarely necessary. I haven’t added up the savings to our grocery bill yet, but the impact on our volume of kitchen trash is obvious.

7. Take a bag to the store

I don’t always remember, but I do my best to grab a cloth shopping bag before every trip to the market. On a good day, I might even make it home with a bag full of groceries and absolutely nothing inside that needs to head for the trash. Bonus budget saver: New Seasons knocks five cents off our bill when we bring our own bag. Hey, every little bit helps!

8. Conserve water

How much clean water goes down the drain while waiting for the tap to get hot? How about that extra water in the kettle after a cup of tea? No need to waste it when there’s a thirsty pooch nearby – just grab the Dog Water jug and fill ‘er up. Keeps the cats happy too. If you don’t have pets, water your plants!

So, how green is your kitchen?

dogwater

cloth not paper

Monday, October 15th, 2007

cloth not paper

recycle your tofu tub

Monday, October 15th, 2007

recycle your tofu tub

dogwater

Monday, October 15th, 2007

dogwater

bring your own bag

Monday, October 15th, 2007

bring your own bag

WCB: One Web is enough for All of Us

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

a serious Port

OneWebDayMy web savvy cats have informed me that today is OneWebDay. What’s OneWebDay? It’s a day for celebrating the web because, simply put, the web is worth celebrating. Here’s more from the OneWebDay site:

OneWebDay is one day a year when we all – everyone around the physical globe – can celebrate the Web and what it means to us as individuals, organizations, and communities.

As with Earth Day – an inspiration and model for OneWebDay – it’s up to the celebrants to decide how to celebrate. We encourage all celebrations! Collaboration, connection, creativity, freedom.

By the end of the day, the Web should be just a little bit better than it was before, and we’ll be able to see our connection to it more clearly.

Now, I might be off to a late start (almost 6pm, PST), but that’s not stopping me from joining in the festivities. For my small part I’ve made a list of things to accomplish before the day is out. Fortunately for me, my “day” doesn’t end till Chopper gets home from work at 10pm, so there’s time yet. Let’s see how well I do…

MizD’s OneWebDay Nine Things To Do List

  1. Write a post for OneWebDay. (Hey! Almost done with this one!) Done!
  2. Leave comments on five blogs I’ve never commented on before. Done!
  3. Leave comments on five blogs I haven’t visited in far too long. Done!
  4. Start a new blog. (I never said I wasn’t going to challenge myself!) Done!
  5. Contact an old friend via email. Done!
  6. Share new photos with my Flickr groups. Done!
  7. Join a new social network. Done!
  8. Participate in an online community event (Does Weekend Cat Blogging count? Sure it does!). Done!
  9. Give back. (stay tuned…)

A final thought for OneWebDay: As most readers of Belly Timber know, Chopper and I spent all of 2005 and most of 2006 away from our home, caregiving for my parents. We were on an island, not unpopulated by any stretch, but separated from our friends by hours in the car and more hours on an expensive ferry ride. We didn’t get out much. Had it not been for the internet — for email, for chat, for this blog, and for our other online communities — we would have lost touch with nearly everyone save for those few who still rely on phones and snail mail. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good old-fashioned letter on paper, but how many friends of mine still write them? Let me count. Um… Yup, none.) Point is, during our island stint, the web was our lifeline. It saved our sanity more than once, it brought us opportunities well worth having, and it gave us many many new friends. I only hope that some day we’ll be able to travel and meet the friends we’ve made who live further than a day’s drive away.

And now, because it is also Weekend Cat Blogging, and Puddy and Katie have declared an optional theme of “Favourite Things,” here is Ahriman doing one of his favourite things: Color-coordinated sleeping.

Ahri on manila

A few weeks back it was the orange Top Ramen box. Today, it’s manila envelopes. Ahri is also quite fond of the blond wood of my computer desk (which indeed matches his fur quite nicely). Trouble is, he can never quite decide where on that blond wood to plant his orange butt. In fact, I think his favourite thing might just be the act of strolling back and forth in front of my computer screen while I am trying to work. Hmmm. Here’s a question. If I paint the desk a color that clashes with his fur, will he finally stop this madness?

(Much more Weekend Cat Blogging over at A Byootaful Life, wherein all “favourites” get that extra-nifty extra “u.”)

Taggity tag:

Paper Chef #25: A (rare) day at home

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

A (rare) day at home

The happiest recent news in Gastroblogia is that Owen of Tomatilla has revived Paper Chef after a six-month hiatus. Paper Chef was our introduction to the food blogging world, and it’s always been Chopper’s favorite event. He loves the excuse to play.

For this episode, Paper Chef #25, the four ingredients are:

Smoked Swordfish (or any kind of smoked item)
Eggplant
Chiles
Something from home

Now, the irony isn’t lost on us that Owen picked “home” for this month’s theme. Over the past months we’ve rarely ever had time to do much cooking at home. For a while this summer, Chopper was working six days a week with most of those days on shifts that lasted through the dinner hour. “Home” meant “where we crash at the end of a long day” and not much else.

This fall, things are finally looking up in that department, and — quite amazingly — this Paper Chef coincided with two days off wherein we weren’t booked solid with errands and social obligations. Of course those two days were yesterday and Monday so we still ran smack up against (and fell over) today’s deadline. So what else is new?

Given this rare opportunity to play, Chopper gave himself the challenge of creating three dishes: a canapé, a soup, and a main. We picked up a sampling of eggplants and chiles at our favorite Asian market, and for the fish — since smoked swordfish is unheard of in these parts (and I’m not a swordfish fan to begin with) — Chopper found a nice big slab of cod, coated it in spices and threw it on the smoker.

My (ongoing) challenge, in addition to my usual sous chef duties, is to put together a photo post of the day using my old, borrowed camera and Chopper’s computer, which lacks my usual photo editing software. Why that, you ask? Well, remember that computer that needed fixing? Ahhahahah, yup. It’s dead again. Soon as I’m done with this post, I’m constructing a shrine to Saint Isidore.

But first, photos…

(more…)

Paper Chef #25: A (rare) day at home

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

A (rare) day at home

The happiest recent news in Gastroblogia is that Owen of Tomatilla has revived Paper Chef after a six-month hiatus. Paper Chef was our introduction to the food blogging world, and it’s always been Chopper’s favorite event. He loves the excuse to play.

For this episode, Paper Chef #25, the four ingredients are:

Smoked Swordfish (or any kind of smoked item)
Eggplant
Chiles
Something from home

Now, the irony isn’t lost on us that Owen picked “home” for this month’s theme. Over the past months we’ve rarely ever had time to do much cooking at home. For a while this summer, Chopper was working six days a week with most of those days on shifts that lasted through the dinner hour. “Home” meant “where we crash at the end of a long day” and not much else.

This fall, things are finally looking up in that department, and — quite amazingly — this Paper Chef coincided with two days off wherein we weren’t booked solid with errands and social obligations. Of course those two days were yesterday and Monday so we still ran smack up against (and fell over) today’s deadline. So what else is new?

Given this rare opportunity to play, Chopper gave himself the challenge of creating three dishes: a canapé, a soup, and a main. We picked up a sampling of eggplants and chiles at our favorite Asian market, and for the fish — since smoked swordfish is unheard of in these parts (and I’m not a swordfish fan to begin with) — Chopper found a nice big slab of cod, coated it in spices and threw it on the smoker.

My (ongoing) challenge, in addition to my usual sous chef duties, is to put together a photo post of the day using my old, borrowed camera and Chopper’s computer, which lacks my usual photo editing software. Why that, you ask? Well, remember that computer that needed fixing? Ahhahahah, yup. It’s dead again. Soon as I’m done with this post, I’m constructing a shrine to Saint Isidore.

But first, photos…

(more…)

WCB #116: The (very late) Great Round-up Adventure!

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Ahri, computer repair assistant

I’ve learned my lesson. Never say “hey, let’s test that new hard drive” in the middle of a project. Days later, and after much agony over ribbon cables and cooling fans, I’m back online. Fortunately, the cats did not interfere with the computer rebuilding process (this time.) Also fortunately, I was able to get quite a bit of writing done by hand, including a large portion of the following post, which I hope will cheer up those of us who are having a rough week.

So now, fellow cat bloggers, it is (at long last) time for the VERY LATE (it’s about freakin’ time) Weekend Cat Blogging #116 Round-up.

Or, as I prefer to call it:

AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 CATS:
An Epic Adventure of Airships and Sausages!

(more…)

Stay tuned, kitties…

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

missing the days of pen and paper

This was my weekend. How was yours?

(Weekend Cat Blogging Round-up will be up as soon as the computers are as cooperative as the cats. In brief, we had an emergency upgrade issue and everything’s in pieces. Somewhere in this office, there’s a hard drive with half a round-up post on it. I think it’s the drive on the table in the photo, but I can’t be certain. On the bright side, the cats haven’t yet knocked anything onto the floor, nor have they turned ribbon cables into playthings. Phew!)

WCB: Prologue

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

orange, furry reminder

“Is it time already?” the orange one asked as he lounged before the great calendar of all household things.

A room away, his little gray companion sat up. “Time?” she said. Her voice was louder than its usual squeak. “Indeed it is! Something’s coming. Something… shiny.” She paused, transfixed by a tail of multicolored yarn that floated across the ceiling and disappeared through the glass of a closed window.

On the couch, just a few feet away, the dog stirred but didn’t wake from her daily squirrel-chasing dreams.

“Pack your kit bag,” the gray one said. “We’re going on a journey.”

up

(It’s Weekend Cat Blogging here at Belly Timber. Leave links to your Cat Blogging posts in the comments or email us at the_cat(at)belly-timber(dot)com. Ahriman and Port’s Weekend Cat Blogging Round-up Adventure will begin Saturday Sunday and continue through the weekend with a final installment on Monday.

Please link back to us if you get a chance, and don’t forget this weekend’s other cat blogging adventures at the Friday Ark, and the Bad Kitty Chaos Festival.)

WCB: Prologue

Friday, August 24th, 2007

orange, furry reminder

“Is it time already?” the orange one asked as he lounged before the great calendar of all household things.

A room away, his little gray companion sat up. “Time?” she said. Her voice was louder than its usual squeak. “Indeed it is! Something’s coming. Something… shiny.” She paused, transfixed by a tail of multicolored yarn that floated across the ceiling and disappeared through the glass of a closed window.

On the couch, just a few feet away, the dog stirred but didn’t wake from her daily squirrel-chasing dreams.

“Pack your kit bag,” the gray one said. “We’re going on a journey.”

up

(It’s Weekend Cat Blogging here at Belly Timber. Leave links to your Cat Blogging posts in the comments or email us at the_cat(at)belly-timber(dot)com. Ahriman and Port’s Weekend Cat Blogging Round-up Adventure will begin Saturday Sunday and continue through the weekend with a final installment on Monday.

Please link back to us if you get a chance, and don’t forget this weekend’s other cat blogging adventures at the Friday Ark, and the Bad Kitty Chaos Festival.)

One Tiny Summer

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

first one

See that tomato? It’s our one and only tomato. Oh, we’ll have more later (with some 12 tomato plants in the yard, we’d better!) but right now, this is it. Our August bounty.

Hey! I think we just saved fifty cents on our grocery bill!

We really do have a great yard for gardening — good soil and decent light when the pruning gets done — it’s just that this year (The Interminable Year of Reclaiming our Lives as I’ve been tempted to call it) we kinda forgot about Summer.

Seriously. It was April and we were talking about getting some plants into the garden as soon as we could find a spare moment. Then somewhere in June we found one day to till a bit of soil and drop in a few assorted tomatoes, chiles, and herbs. Then, next thing you know, it’s August and the damn plants are just sitting out there in the jungle — barely growing — in this absurd late summer weather of sun one day and rain the next.

So now we’re crossing our fingers for a summery September, or if not for that, then at least for a harvest that doesn’t involve heavy rain and an onslaught of tomato blight.

Meantime, I’ve made a note in the Reclaiming our Lives mental file: Please try not to be completely busy and broke next planting season, and for the love of all that’s photosynthetic, remember: even if you’ve got just five spare minutes three times a week, pruning shears and chain saws are your friends!

(WHAT’S NEXT: Ahriman and Port will be hosting Weekend Cat Blogging on August 25th & 26th. Look for a Friday afternoon post where you can add your kitty links in the comments. The round-up will begin on Saturday and be updated in fits and starts over the weekend.)

WCB #115: Storage compartments? Storage compartments?

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

making plans

I am not usually susceptible to advertising. I tend to ignore what the hucksters are hucking my way on the telly. Sure the gecko’s kinda cute, but he’s not going to get me to switch insurance companies just because he’s shiny and green and sounds like Brick Top from Snatch — minus the bit about feeding people to the pigs, of course.

Same goes for print ads. Mailbox to round file: it’s such a short, short trip.

I even toss catalogs.

I should note that I don’t actually subscribe to any catalogs. Not a one. (No magazines either, but that’s another story.) When they show up unannounced, I rarely give them a second glance and I am so, so proud of my superior resistance to Madison Avenue.

But then this thing happens. This store opens within a short drive of our house. And a catalog for this store appears in my mailbox and… and…

we're doomed

Aagh. I can’t stand it any longer.

Look. Just look. Pages and pages of drawers and shelves and baskets — glorious storage compartments, and all with terrifyingly cute names like Björken, and Aspvik, and Ivar.

shopping

(I am MizD’s crumbling resistance.)

I can almost taste the Swedish meatballs and lingonberries as I turn the pages.

I know, I know, I have to fight it. We can’t do it. Can’t go shopping. The risk is too great.

But… but… if we acquired more storage compartments — badly needed storage compartments for things like laundry…

…we could prevent this from happening:

"sit here" the arrow says

Yes, Port has discovered the dryer.

(Visit CatSynth for the Weekend Cat Blogging #115 Round up! Next week’s WCB will be hosted right here at Belly Timber, by our new feline residents, Port and Ahriman. I hear they are planning something unusual, but I’ve no idea what. Even the dog’s not talking.)

WCB 113: Clever Pet Tricks

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Ur Laundrys

It’s one of those days.

I’m in the middle of transferring a large number of websites, databases, lists, galleries, and so on to a new hosting service and it is tedious work. For those who don’t know, one area in which I freelance is web design and I host sites for my design clients. My current host has been frustrating of late — frustrating enough that I’ve decided it’s time for a change.

This means Belly Timber will be moving hosts as well so there’s a chance we’ll be down for a bit later this week. I’m hoping to make the transition as quick and painless as possible, but I can’t guarantee that a certain persistent orange lummox won’t step on the keyboard at exactly the wrong time and delete my database backup. He has a rather uncanny knack for getting his paws into my work at inappropriate moments, just as Angry Cat used to shed on the articles of clothing that most needed to be clean.

Yes, that’s Angry Cat from the photo archives, above. The Belly Timber Home Photo Uploading Service is on the fritz yet again. I have half a month’s worth of photos stuck on my flash card and no way to show them to you.

On the bright side, with no way to take pictures, we now have a great excuse for lazy, ugly meals.

Another (temporary) bright side: Port and Ahriman have not yet discovered the sleep-on-warm-clothes-in-the-dryer trick. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

(The delicious Boo-licious hosts this week’s Weekend Cat Blogging over at Masak-Masak.)

Blogathon 2007: the wrap-up

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Twenty Four Hours in Forty-Nine Thumbnails:
Pick a post at random, or follow the progress from eclipse (start) to fireworks (finish).

That shadow Kaiser on the stairs Yes, Virginia The candidate Smokey Helen Confidential
Weathered Home Bleeding Hearts Jaws held shut Dad, Gandalf Expanse
Hello, Kitty Hey, Little Sister Pickett's Last Fence Jackson Pollock had a swamp Drift Away A postcard
Ground Control Back away from the rodent Imaginary Friend Watch the skies Revenge is the easy answer Look what's crawling up my wall
Stop!  Not that one! Gone Fishing Keepsake Lost world An appearance in the garden Our house
Golden years I've Seen Better Days After the landing The visitations continue I live by the river Columbia Gorge Time-Slip
Motor West Love, true love Storm brewing White Castle Balance Eternity
Elton meets Prairie Girl Late Night Abs Keeping the beaches shipwreck free A caution A kvetch Once turned
Fin
Sponsor Belly Timber in Blogathon 2007Hey!
 
If you’re reading this post before Tuesday, July 31st at 9pm Pacific time, you can still make a pledge to the Electronic Frontier Foundation by visiting my Blogathon sponsor page!

 

And now…

(more…)

49. Fin

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

finale!

Cue the John Philip Souza.
Toss confetti.
Pop open the champagne.

Nah, how about just sleep!

Good night (morning!) everyone, and thanks again to all my sponsors and commenters!

48. Once turned

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Once turned

The ghosts of the forest stand tall though they never have need of sun. They are secretive, travel in numbers, and thrive in dark places. They whistle and rattle, but you won’t hear them. On certain moonlit nights, they turn their faces Westward and sing across the ocean. The echoes in answer circle the globe in a resolute wind.

47. A kvetch

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

A Kvetch

Oy. Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Is it over yet? Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. Oy. Oy,, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy. It’s five twenty-three A.M. Oy. Could I be any more meshugge? Oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy.

(The cast of Stephen Berkoff’s Kvetch at Storefront Theatre)

46. A caution

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

A caution

Beware the web’s voluminous smile.
Its dewdrops are deceiving.
Its mistress bears the rain with style,
And seldom stops her weaving.

45. Keeping the beaches shipwreck free

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

keeping the beaches shipwreck free

(Jason and his countless Argonauts are safe, for the moment.)

44. Late Night Abs

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

the late night abs of Iggy Pop

Why does Chuck Norris even bother? Honestly.

43. Elton meets Prairie Girl

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Elton meets Prairie Girl

Prairie Girl: So, do you actually own a mohair suit?

Elton: Well, yes, but I don’t wear it on stage.

Prairie Girl: Oh… What about the electric boots?

Elton: Don’t tell anyone, but they’re actually gas-powered.

(Special guest star script writing by Chopper. And yes, I really, truly did make an Elton John doll to go with my Prairie Girl doll. I’m sure it made perfect sense at the time.)

42. Eternity

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

eternity

There’s a well-beaten path to this place now. There’s signage. Even parking. For a while, it was lost to all but the few who remembered. It was our secret. The old-timers. The natives. And the ones we don’t talk about.

They’re all gone now, though nobody wants to say where. To some other island perhaps — a place without regular ferry service, without tourists, without quite as much daylight.

They’re gone, but they haven’t left this place. Not for certain. And definitely not at night.

41. Balance

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

balance

Must rocks always remind us that balance is easier than we think it is?

Or is it harder and rocks are just damned clever? I’m beginning to suspect the latter and this is cause for concern. Think about the number of times we say “dumb as a box of rocks.” Then think about how many rocks there are in the world and how big and strong some of them are. Get the picture? Good. We’re screwed, aren’t we?

40. White Castle

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

White Castle

The tiny forest gnomes were incensed! A gnome’s home is his castle, not his burger fixin!

39. Storm brewing

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

storm brewing

And only a lone tree knows which way is up.

38. Love, true love

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Love, true love

Oh, my snugglykins, it does not matter that you are a shark and I am a large unidentifiable furry creature with no ears. It’s love, true love and you simply must teach me how to swim!

37. Motor West

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Motor west

This one’s a beaut. She’ll take you all the way from Amarillo to Barstow. Only driven by a little old lady on Sundays. What’s that? Why’s the little old lady driving around on Sundays when she lives walking distance from her church? Well, hell, young man. Haven’t you ever heard of the “Sunday Drive?” Hop in. Fill ‘er up. Let ‘er roll.

36. Columbia Gorge Time-slip

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Columbia Gorge Time-slip

I’m certain the falls were iced over yesterday. Or was that last week? My memory is failing me and I’m certain only that it was the day I went to the library. Or was that the dentist? A gray Suburban sped past, eastbound on I-84. I remembered it from last time — that distinctive off-color driver’s side door, the crimp in the front bumper where I’m certain it had tangled with an elk or possibly something larger and more dangerous.

Last time? What last time was I thinking of? The day the falls froze over and I was stuck on the highway? That wasn’t yesterday. It was last Tuesday.

But if that’s the case, then why have I taken so many pictures of the frozen falls and why is my camera still stuck on exposure number twelve?

35. I live by the river

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The only band that matters

I summon dogs with my karaoke. This is no easy feat, I should tell you.

It goes something like this:

I have tiptoed around the songs of my favorite punk band (the only band that matters, of course) for far too long. They’re raspy and filled with British punk testosterone and sure I’d sound like a silly little American girl fool singing them, but you know what? I don’t care. I love the Clash and I will sing the Clash.

Now, on the night I decide this, there’s a dog at the bar. Our bar, you see, is not one of those trendy, upscale nightspots, no sir. It’s… well, I don’t quite want to call it a dive, but let’s just say it’s “divesque.”

So, here we are at the bar, me doing everything I can to trash my voice ahead of time (because there’s no point in singing Joe Strummer when I’ve just warmed up to sing Sheena Easton), dog sitting a few tables away, and it’s my turn. I’m singing London Calling.

If you know how the song goes, you can guess the rest. I get into it. I mean really get into it. My voice is gone. By the time I’ve gotten to the part where Joe sings “I live by the riverrrrrr” and follows it up with a “Oo – Oo – Oo – Oo – Oo – Oo – Oo!” I am making some serious noise.

So serious, that, yes indeed, the Oo – Oo – Oos summon the dog. He is up from his loungy spot by the table and in the blink of an eye, he’s at my feet, eyes wide, tail wagging, ready — no, make that desperate — to be Mick Jones to my Joe Strummer.

I’m all set to let him sing the third verse, but much to my dismay (and to the detriment of this particular performance of London Calling) the owner comes up and totes him off by the collar. Poor pooch. I think he missed his calling.

34. The visitations continue

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The visitations continue

First sunflowers, now this. Is there something you’re trying to tell me? It doesn’t have to do with that chip in your neck, does it?

33. After the landing

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

after the landing

They get like this and they frighten me. They start to resemble aliens. Can’t you see it? War of the Worlds? Those big pod things on stalks that look like — like street lamps or — or dead sunflowers? Can we leave now? Just take your picture so we can go.

32. I’ve seen better days

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I've seen better days

Death, just slightly warmed-over, having a bad hair day, not entirely pleased with how that theatrical makeup class is going but taking a self-portrait nonetheless. Death finds this self-portrait years later, notes that at least her hair isn’t quite so stupid, then thinks, boy, I look kind of awake in that shot. Perhaps I need a nap.

 

31. Golden years

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Golden years

Not just the sun and sky. Not just the ocean. Even the rocks. They held hands. She turned to him. “Perfect,” she said.

“Which planet was this again?” he asked.

30. Our house

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Our house

 
 
 
 
 
1BR, SPEC LK VW, PRIV, DOCK AVAIL, PETS.

 
 

29. An appearance in the garden

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

An appearance in the garden

She wasn’t expecting the elf to appear that day. After all, she had her camera with her, and elves are notoriously shy. Her elves, anyway. Her neighbor’s elves — they were another matter. They’d pull stunts to get in the school paper. They dressed in orange. With polka dots.

This elf, he only made occasional appearances and only on this one particular bench. One summer, her father rearranged the garden furniture and the elf was nowhere to be seen. She dragged the bench back into its proper place (after rolling the stone birdbath out of its improper place), and waited, camera in hand.

The air shimmered, smelled of lilacs, and, after an abrupt crackle-pop (like pop-rocks, she noted), he appeared.

She slipped her finger over the shutter release and pressed down. He smiled.

“I know you’re not really my brother,” she said. “But I won’t tell Mom.”

28. Lost world

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

what these eyes have seen

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Narwhals in formation off the Laurentian Abyssal. Colossal squid in a dark ballet, lit only by the bioluminescent glow of their subsequent prey. Sea horses leaping coral reefs in tandem. All those moments, lost in time, replaced by beach balls and so much tasteless kibble.

27. Keepsake

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Keepsake

The best part about the wedding was nobody minded that their clothes had no hems, or that the groom was barefoot and the bride had a rubber band for a belt. It was perfect. They were both radiant, so much in love, and their smiles never wavered.

26. Gone fishing

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Gone fishing

I caught a tire once. Put it on my bike and rode off, just like new.

25. Stop! Not that one!

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Too many buttons

It’s the bone one! No, the abalone! No, the one with the anchor on it! Agggh, I don’t know which one! Too many buttons! We’re all gonna die!

(This completely frivolous moment brought to you by someone who really needs a nap.)

24. Look what’s crawling up my wall

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Boris

Boris was fond of microscopes. He thought, if only I could just get under one, hang out on a petri dish for a tick, then everyone could see and admire my luxurious fur. ‘Oh!’ they’d exclaim, ‘That Boris! He wouldn’t make a half-bad pet!’

Unfortunately, Boris was quite wrong.

23. Revenge is the easy answer

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Revenge is the easy answer

“…wilt thou kneel with me?
Do, then, dear heart; for heaven shall hear our prayers;
Or with our sighs we’ll breathe the welkin dim,
And stain the sun with fog…”

—Titus Andronicus, III, i

(Alan Waldock as Titus and Debra Ann Lund as Lavinia. The first full-length play I directed out of college. A razor’s edge, a crazy moment in time. I wish I had it on tape.)

22. Watch the skies

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Watch the skies

Because orange is such a friendly color, no one ever suspects them until it’s too late.

21. Imaginary Friend

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Imaginary friend

When she paints her face, she slips into a second universe. Her garland grows black with wanting to go home, but the girls there, they need imaginary friends too. They shout and squeal and she says, “Shhh. Later, when it’s dark as roses, I’ll slip from my hiding place and be the thing that glows in the corner of the garden while no one’s looking.”

20. Back away from the rodent

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Back away from the rodent

Look. I’m serious. You do not want to mess with me. See those waves back there? You think they’re just crashing against the shore because they’ve got nothing better to do? No. Those waves are trembling at my presence. So, I’m giving you one last chance. Set down your bag of trail mix and I will let you walk away.

19. Ground Control

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Ground Control
Time for a brief check in!

For those of you joining in for the first time, this is Blogathon 2007, and I’m blogging for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. But, since I do a terrible Jerry Lewis impersonation, I’ve chosen not to spend time writing about the cause, but rather just spend time doing art. After all, preserving our right to do art as we see fit is part of what the EFF’s all about.

To read more of what the EFF’s about (and follow some damned funny exploits to boot) drop by L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station. Proprietor Fuzzface is doing a bang-up job as EFF spokesman for this year’s Blogathon.

Now, if you’re new to Belly Timber, you might be asking yourself: Who the hell IS this crazy person and isn’t this supposed to be a food blog?

Well, truth is, we started as a food blog and now (because I’m a firm believer that niche blogging is so last year) we’re more of a whatever-we-damn-well-please blog. The “we,” I should note, includes the husband, the dog, two live cats, and one very persistent dead cat who insists on posting from beyond the grave.

Our old About page is here.

A few of our favorite past posts include:

The Christmas Cookies of Cthulhu

What’s for Pud: Figgy Dowdy (In which we cook Jack Aubrey’s favorite dessert.)

Piggy Goes to War (Which should further explain the two American Camp themed posts I’ve put up today.)

and

Mighty Cheese Warriors: An Historical Perspective (A glimpse into the future archives of the great nation of Gastroblogia.)

A huge thanks to all my sponsors (and there’s still time to join that happy crowd), and to everyone who’s stopped by and left comments so far. I’m going to attempt to catch up enough so that I can actually reply to comments, but I can’t guarantee I’ll ever get there. Seriously, if I get a spare moment, more than likely, I’m heading for the fridge. There’s a jar of peanut butter in there that’s threatening to rebel and feed itself to the dog if I don’t retrieve it this instant!

18. A postcard

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

A postcard
Having great time.
Sandcastle contest a blast.
Kite flying weather perfect.
Come soon.
Bring boat.

(Long Beach Peninsula, Washington.)

17. Drift Away

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Drift Away

And after she set them free, they floated on a breeze to a far off land where all was good and buoyant, and nothing ever popped.

16. Jackson Pollock had a swamp

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Jackson Pollock had a swamp

The early morning sun turned the water to a golden mirror and I, with only black and white film at hand, turned the swamp into a scribble.

15. Pickett’s Last Fence

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Pickett's Last Fence

Four years before the Charge, and on the other side of the continent, he built a fence. No one knew quite what it was supposed to keep out. The rabbits had their run of the place, and folks knew all too well what happens when you try and fence in a pig.

But, he built it anyway, sent it at right angles across the parade grounds, over the hills, through the gullies, and down toward Grandma’s Cove. Grandma used to look out at it — this was long before she was Grandma and back when she was washerwoman to the troops — and say he’d built the darn thing to keep the trees in line. The soldiers were never all that good at lining up, but those trees, by God, they were regimental.

(American Camp on San Juan Island, where George Pickett served before he became a general in the Civil War.)

14. Hey, Little Sister

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Hey, little sister

Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy, don’t ever change.

Those other Idols, they’re just idle. They’ve got nothing on you. You don’t have to warble, sing five notes when you only need one, strain yourself with inappropriate covers of Celine Dion doing inappropriate covers of some other singer we’ve all only heard at one a.m., karaoke night, when no one’s paying attention and the KJ’s desperate.

Billy, you’re still the bomb. My main ’80s man. Well, except for those other guys, but we don’t have to talk about them. They never learned to work the camera like you, all flirt and sneer wrapped up in one.

13. Hello, Kitty

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

hello kitty

Felines have disrupted my work flow. They threaten me with trips to the zoo to meet their larger cousins.

12. Expanse

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

expanse

Breathe. The day is wide as sand, but not beyond reach.

11. Dad, Gandalf

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Dad, Gandalf

Dad, Gandalf, — yes, I know you hate it when I do that (I can’t help it, wise, bearded one) — don’t go yet. You’ve still got secrets to whisper in my ear, and I — well, I was stupid. I didn’t listen often enough. I yawned at stories. Left the room to play with my dolls. I never sang along with Down in the Valley, and sometimes, sometimes when I was all too rude, I asked you to stop because I thought I’d heard it too many times.

Dad, Merlin, sing it in my ear again. That one, or maybe the one about the monkey and the weasel and the carpenter’s bench because I promise I’ll screech in surprise at the end just like I did so many years ago.

Dad, Obi-wan, don’t go yet. I won’t even tease you about the robe we gave you that made you look like a Jedi (okay, too late for that), and you can sing all your favorite songs. The valley, the carpenter’s bench, and even the one about acres and acres of clams, alive alive-o.

10. Jaws held shut

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

jaws held shut

When the words don’t flow, imagine only that the words can’t flow, that restraints contain you from all sides, that you’ve been denied expression. Jaws held shut. And one little thing screams to get out. A simple idea, as simple as reaching up to a clothesline and hanging a blouse in the summer breeze.

9. Bleeding Hearts

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

bleeding hearts

A flower blooms for each one she’s left behind. She’s lost track now. The centuries shamble by. The garden riots. Foxglove and nightshade cry for attention, but always, always the bleeding heart wins.

8. Home

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

home

A block away from the theater building at Portland State, in a space we all shared. Stop. Talk. Listen. Oh, the stories.

7. Weathered

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

weathered

I’m feeling it — weathered, that is — already.

The project: sort, scan, blog old photos.

But, sadly, far far too many of my photos from this early era are failed experiments in the darkroom, photos damaged by the ravages of a leaky basement, and photos discovered only in contact sheet form. I have many of the latter, and though they don’t scan well — they’re too small and the texture of the photo paper too apparent as I enlarge them — I will post a few anyway. Think of it as peek behind a weathered old door, but a door that only opens just a little because the hinges are so rusty.

6. Confidential

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

confidential

They’re all trying to make deals with the devil. Sometimes the light hits just right, and those chords ring out, and you have to wonder: successful, yes? Oh, hell yes. And you say, thank you, Mr. Devil, for being such a damn good dealmaker, and then you kick back and enjoy the show.

(The Confidentials, 1984)

5. Smokey Helen

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

smokey helen

I had to look twice. Photo so beat up, so grainy, you’d think it was from Krakatoa, not St. Helens.

We missed the big one. Our whole class was down in desert country, Malheur, bird watching. I remember the teachers filing into the cavern where we’d gathered for lunch. I remember the tall ceilings, metal beams, caged light fixtures.

She blew, they told us. Helen blew.

And we, panicky school kids, spent the next twenty-four hours convinced Portland was completely buried under mountains of ash.

4. The Candidate

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

the candidate

When you first see the harbingers of the candidate, you have trouble counting how many eyes they have. Maybe it’s the rain, slick, too shimmery, or maybe it’s how tightly they move in formation, or how they blink in unison at every corner.

Seven, you think it is. Red, blue, two orange, two a sort of silvery brown, and one white hot, dead center. Don’t look at that one. Look down. Just listen to the soothing buzz of their approach. The harbinger’s buzz. I hear it tells you things you ought not know.

(Presidential candidate’s arrival, 1988)

3. Yes, Virginia

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

In July?

There is a Santa troll.

What he’s doing out and about in July is anyone’s guess.

(I have a hunch he’s here to help me with a few housekeeping duties. Do you think trolls know how to make coffee? Tinker with WordPress templates? Cook eggs? Stop time? I’ve heard rumors…)

2. Kaiser on the stairs

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

entrance

Kaiser Wilhelm stood at the base of the stairs. “This fuss. It was about this, yes?”

His clerk nodded. He brushed a bit of rabbit fur off his sleeve and made for the first step. The Kaiser held him back.

“No, no,” he whispered. “I want to gaze at it a while. Out of astonishment, you see.”

“Astonishment?”

“Well, the stairs. They go nowhere. Where is the end? Why does one fight for such things?”

The clerk was silent. In the distance, another pig rooted for potatoes in the fresh snow.

(Stairway at American Camp, San Juan Island, WA)

1. That shadow

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

eclipsed

That shadow, I remember it.
Flew over the hills like — what was that horse?
Secretariat.
That’s the one.
All of us filled with oohs, aahs.
Yawns, too.
It was early, wasn’t it.
Even for a school night.
Tuesday. I think it was a Tuesday.
English teacher made us write poetry.
Mine sucked.
Mine too. I rhymed “penumbra” with “slumbah.”
Got a picture. Don’t quite know how; thrusting that camera in the sky, not looking.
Eh, if you can’t see the sky, you can look at the picture.
Still do, from time to time.

(Eclipse, Goldendale Washington, 1979.)

WCB #112: Yellow, no, orange!

Friday, July 27th, 2007

In honor of the new Simpsons Movie, Katie and Puddy, this week’s Weekend Cat Blogging hosts, have declared an optional “Simpsons” or “yellow” theme.

We are sadly lacking in Simpsons figures in these parts (a rather glaring oversight, considering we live in Matt Groening’s home town), and yellow… well, I’m afraid we don’t do well with yellow either.

We do, however, have an abundance of orange, and since orange is just one small step away on the color wheel (and the Simpsons are a rather orangey yellow to begin with), we’ve decided that our theme for the weekend will be orange.

See, here’s Ahriman in all his orangey glory.

Orange at Window

And here he is again.

Orange on Aqua

And since he is so keen on the color orange (and keen on locating entirely inappropriate places to lounge), here is Ahri, demonstrating the design concept, Orange on Orange. Todd Oldham would be proud.

Orange on Orange

Now, since we do reside in the hometown of Matt Groening, I would be remiss if I didn’t share two tidbits of trivia.

Item the first: Long before The Simpsons came into being, Matt Groening drew a little comic strip called Life in Hell. Its characters resembled the sort of bunny-like doodles one might draw in the margins of one’s notebook if one is horribly bored in Social Studies class. In fact, that’s exactly what one Mr. Groening used to do back in Social Studies class. I know this because my sister sat in the next row and never had much luck at tests when she peeked at his notes.

Item the second: Years later, my brother lived next door to the house Matt Groening grew up in. You might think that the opening sequence in The Simpsons — wherein the entire family bolts through a door at the back of the garage and into their living room — is entirely made up. You’d be wrong. There’s a door at the back of the real garage, and last time I checked it had a wooden sign over it, emblazoned with the name “Homer.”

So there you go. All that home town love and trivia and still they put Springfield in Vermont! Hrrrmph.

(Check out all the Weekend Cat Blogging this week at A Byootiful Life!)

And don’t forget:
Sponsor Belly Timber in Blogathon 2007

Saturday, July 28th is BLOGATHON 2007!

I’ll be posting from 6am till 6am (Pacific time), or at least until I drop. Check out all the details in my previous post, and sponsor me if you can!

 

 

Blogathon 2007: Changing the world, 30 minutes at a time.

Friday, July 27th, 2007

blogathon 2007

We lost someone close to us this last week, and all too young. On that Monday, when we gathered to celebrate her life, the joy she brought to everyone around her overflowed. It burst through the walls of the church and tumbled home after all of us with a playful whisper — an echo of the laugh we loved so well.

She was an artist, a painter, a creative spirit. She reminded me of dreams I’d long forgotten. Her whisper, as it kissed the air above the hot sidewalk while we made our way home, spoke of inspiration and of remembering her not for how she died, but for how beautifully she lived.

I set things aside far too often. I bring fear to the table when I mean to bring joy. I hate that. There’s not much worse than the gut feeling of knowing you’re just not living.

Just three days ago, I stumbled across an announcement for Blogathon 2007. I remembered last year’s event (and Sam’s delicious farmer’s market exploits over on Becks & Posh), and I thought to myself, no. No no no. I can’t do this. It’s too scary. I’ll run out of things to say. I’ll pass out over the keyboard. I’ll make an ass of myself in forty-eight ways.

And then this little whisper — many whispers actually; whispers from every creative soul I’ve ever known and loved — said, do it, you idiot. Get off your chickenshit ass and do it.

Deep breath.

Okay. I will. I promise. To all of you I’ve lost, I promise.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do for this. Write about food? Auugh, no. I hate to break it to my food blogging friends, but I think I’d burn out on that in two hours and two plates of summer salad.

No, I’m going to try something a little different. It begins with a trip to my basement and the hauling upstairs of many boxes of old photographs.

In the years before I owned (and then broke) my first digital camera, I had a love affair with film. Black and white, mostly, home developed and printed in my basement darkroom. I photographed everything from woodland fungi to sweat drenched punk icons. I carried my trusty Nikon everywhere. I ended up with stacks upon stacks of photos, contact sheets, negatives. All now in boxes. All unsorted.

I intend to remedy this situation. I intend to sort my photos. And while I sort them, I’ll pull out random images, scan them, post them, and write what comes to mind.

I may write a memory. I may write flash fiction. Maybe a lyric. I won’t know till I get there. Forty-eight unexpected photographic adventures. Without fear.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Blogathon, for those who aren’t familiar with it already, is blogging for charity. For this part of my adventure, again, I gave it a great deal of thought and at last settled on an organization that I believe does vital work for artists in this digital world. I am blogging for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF does so much good work in so many areas it’s hard to put it all into a short paragraph. So, I’m going to quote two snippets. First, from EFF’s About page:

EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.
(www.eff.org/about/)

And second, from EFF Fellow, Cory Doctorow:

EFF are canaries in the coal-mine, the first responders of cyberspace, building coalitions and briefing lawmakers, users and companies on the risks coming down the pipe. This is a critical job: if the resistance to these issues only mobilized once their risks had percolated out to the wide world, it would be too late. You need to start work on these issues as they are born, not when they are about to mature.
(From BoingBoing.net, January ’06)

Just a few of those issues: Intellectual property, fair use, censorship, and bloggers’ rights. Visit the EFF’s site to learn more, read about their case victories, and check out their current campaigns and projects.

And if you like what you see, sponsor me in Blogathon 2007.

Sponsor Belly Timber in Blogathon 2007

You can pledge a flat amount, or a dollar amount per hour; whichever you prefer. EFF’s donor page doesn’t require a minimum, but I will note that larger donations come with cool swag.

A couple of important notes: You may sponsor me (or any of the other terrific bloggers in Blogathon 2007) through the duration of the event, so if you’re reading this post and I’m in the thick of it, it’s not too late! Also, if you want to donate directly to the EFF and not through the sign-up page on the Blogathon website, just let me know and we can arrange for a “proxy” pledge.

And now, I really have to rest up a bit and if not get my ducks in a row, so to speak, then gather all those whispering voices beside me so that I might launch into this with the sort of wild abandon I think our lost loved ones would appreciate. Jo, and Dad too, this one’s for you.

Oh no she isn’t!

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Blogathon 20071

Oh, yes she is.

Details in a jiff…

Improvisation

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

looking out on the morning rain

No list today. I’m tossing the list.

It’s a Portland birthday. Rainy, but filled with friends, destinations, and hot chocolate.

Perhaps, instead, I’ll make a list as I go along.

  1. Catch Ahriman watching raindrops through the window.
  2. ??

And now I’m off to explore…

My Aprons. Let Me Show You Them.

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

I have no childhood apron memories. I’ve no gift box of aprons. Strangely enough, Chopper also has never been given an apron — which I believe is a good thing as I wouldn’t put it past certain nameless relatives to find him one of those hideous novelty jobs that says DANGER: MEN COOKING or HEY PRINCESS, BRING ME A BEER, because god, just shoot me now if he ever dons one of those.

However, this does not mean we’re bereft of aprons. On the contrary, we have many. Thing is, almost all our aprons look like this.

Kitchen Attire 101

Yup. Culinary school aprons. If you peek under the folds you’ll find more grease stains than a bay at Jiffy Lube.

I said almost all our aprons. There’s one apron that stands out from the crowd.

This one.
my one and only

It’s not terribly unique. I got it out of the Chef Wear catalog so there are chefs, aspiring chefs, and chef’s assistants all over globe with this exact apron.

The only difference is, this is my apron. My only apron. And when I wear it, I match. See?

Matching chefs!

That’s Chopper and me back in the summer of 2006 when we co-hosted a Geek Dinner in Seattle. Don’t we look spiffy? We wore the same matching outfits for the wedding we catered later than summer, and again for a Christmas party this past December. People took pictures of our matching spiffiness. (People need to give us copies of those pictures, too, ahem.)

But, as much as I love matching, sometimes I need to do my own thing, and for that I’d really rather not wear one of those tedious culinary school numbers. It’s just not my style. Besides, someone might see me in it and be fooled into thinking I can actually cook!

So, I think I might play a little.

(more…)

WCB: Meet the New Bosses (Furry as the Old Boss)

Friday, July 13th, 2007

angry cat

Ahh, dear humans, I’ve snatched a quick visit with my favorite medium, Madame Kittikatsky, because I’ve something of great importance to tell you!

You see, it’s been nearly half a year since my untimely demise at the tender age of 19 (us felines should live till we’re three hundred in cat years, I tell you. Like Vulcans, we should live), and now at long last, my humans have delivered. They’ve brought in new kitties to torment the furball.

Oh, you might think I’d be miffed at their nerve. After all, I am irreplaceable. But no, all I need do is gaze down from my happy hunting ground and witness Platelicker cowering at incoming claws, and I am content. Jubilant, in fact!

So, dear humans, let me introduce the two newest members of Casa Belly Timber:

This is Ahriman.
Lounger

And this is Port.
Port, Window

These kitties come to the casa from Rancho Lake, home of the illustrious human author Jay Lake, who longtime readers may remember for his scrumptious Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. At least I’m told they were scrumptious. My humans ate them far too quickly for me to discover for myself.

Ledger
Back to the story: Port and Ahriman have lived in the grand style of Author’s Cats for several years now, assisting their human in his many endeavors, always making certain his computer was graced with fur of one shade or another. During this time, the human’s career took off, quite like that rocket in his first novel — the novel my human blogged about while dusting ginger chocolate chip cookie crumbs off her keyboard.

In fact the rocket took off with such fantastical style that Port and Ahriman’s human had to leave Rancho Lake for exciting, career-related adventures, sometimes days at a time.

The poor kitties grew sad and did what all kitties do when left alone for far too long: They told their human in no uncertain terms that they wanted more company.

Typing comes next
And so, my human (being a friend and neighbor of their human) said, “let me take your kitties. My furball has had the run of the house for far too long!”

At least that’s what I trust she said.

So now, these two fabulous Author’s Cats are here and ready to keep my human’s computer in fur (as all computers should be), and I am confident they will carry on in my fine cat blogging tradition as soon as they learn their way around their new keyboard.

Now, before I go, I would be remiss not to put in a good word for Port and Ahriman’s latest masterwork, Mainspring. Oh, of course it has their human’s name on the cover, but who’s fooling whom, eh? Now, I haven’t read this novel yet myself, but I hear it’s quite spectacular. But, don’t listen to me, listen to Boing Boing. (You know, I’m quite certain a cat writes all of Boing Boing’s best posts as well.)

(For more Weekend Cat Blogging, check out all the brilliant, keyboard-savvy felines at over at Dragonheart’s Domain! For animals of all sorts, visit the Friday Ark!)

office cats

WBW #4: Move over!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

dodge fur, write draft.

This week’s Whine Blogging Wednesday is a short one. Not because I don’t have plenty to whine about. I do still have that whole House Fiasco to cover, you know. (You thought the bathroom was bad? Just wait!) Oh, and then there’s this heat. I mean what’s with the hundred-degree days, I ask you? I’m like three-eighths Scottish. I start melting when it stops raining.

Nah, the issue, as you can plainly see is fur-related, and you’re just getting a sneak peek. And really, it’s not so much an issue but a minor inconvenience, which could easily be solved by installing a bed of nails between my keyboard and the monitor. Or perhaps a lake. Or loch, as I prefer. With invisible, feline-deflecting monster.

Now, next week — next week, there’s no whining on Wednesday. Not a scrap of whining allowed. Why? Because next week’s Wednesday is my birthday and I fully intend to do right by it this time.

(When one spends one’s previous two birthdays on a tiny island away from all one’s friends, one gets rather pissy about it and one vows to do right by one’s next birthday.)

So, the plan: I am making a list. (Have I mentioned I love lists? I should do a quick site search to see how many times I’ve mentioned I love lists and then make a list of… oh never mind, you get the idea.)

This new list?

Forty Five Neat Things To Do On My Birthday. The goal: Collect a list of at least 45 neat things (that don’t take all day or destroy my bank account), and attempt to do as many of them as possible between sunrise on the 18th and sunrise on the 19th. (I should note that I didn’t invent this idea; I just borrowed it from a friend with a recent birthday because it was simply too cool not to use.)

Of course I’ll blog on the Big Day — but alas, no moblogging or voiceposting as I lack them newfangled technogadgets — and I’ll even share pictures because for some bizarre and unexplainable reason, my flashcard reader is functioning again. (Lappy is still quite dead, though, but that’s a whine for another time.)

There is one discouraging part (and I won’t whine! I won’t!): Chopper has to work that day. ALL day. From seven a.m. well into the evening. So, for the vast expanse of my daytime birthday, I’m on my own. Or, with friends just crazy enough to join me.

And I need a list.

(It’s WBW: Share your whines in the comments and while you’re at it, help MizD plan her birthday!)

notes

One Local Summer: the virtual dinner edition

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

what's up, doc?

This week it’s all about preparation.

Or lack thereof.

(Serious lack.)

We’re not among the clever few (or many?) who’ve stashed away food from previous seasons or who’ve (ahem) planted their gardens before mid-July. Yeah, we’re that late.

(We have a bushel of excuses, trust me.)

This week, once again, it appears we’re not even well enough prepared to work a trip to the farmers’ market into our busy schedule.

Gah, schedules. They really are the bane of our existence.

Take this weekend for example.

Yesterday, I picked up a few items from the market (grocery, not farmers’) to do a simple local meal of potato latkes with fennel and snap peas on the side.

Then I sat down to get my Weekend Cat Blogging post done before I had to run out the door and head to a Move On sponsored Live Earth gathering, because yes, Cookiecrumb, I am that much of a hippie.

And do I even need to say it? I ran out of time to cook.

No problem! I’ll cook Sunday!

And here it is Sunday and what happens? I’ve got a dim sum date with friends in the morning and this evening we’re dealing with cats.

Oh, we can still cook — a rather late dinner — but then there’s this little thing called a 6pm Sunday deadline for the One Local Summer round up and Chopper doesn’t even get home from work till after seven.

So, for this week, just imagine local latkes. I’m imagining them right now. In fact, it’s just after six and my stomach’s already grumbling.

Oh, and I don’t have a picture handy of either potatoes or fennel, so you’ll have to settle for carrots from opening day of the Moreland Farmers’ Market, back in May.

Hey! I had time to go to the market back then! What the hell happened?

WCB: Blogging from Planet Earth

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

stuart stalks the sidewalk
(From the 35mm vaults, Stuart on the sidewalk. My old tomcat who owned our home and garden from seventh grade through college.)

July 22nd, 2006, the cat reminded me…

I was a kid with home grown veggies, pies from our own cherry tree, eggs from our own chickens, and a compost bin long before you could head to Lowe’s and buy one pre-fab. We did pretty well on the environmental front, and I carried those lessons with me when I moved out on my own — for a while at least.

Thing is, I was surrounded by consumers who loved to consume. Consume and toss, consume and toss. It was college life in the Greed is Good era, and it was damned hard to not fall into it, lock step.

I pulled myself out when I made the transition from apartment to shared house, and then again, when I first lived in this place with its jungle of plums, figs, grapes, and berries. One year, I canned all the plums and made a tasty, spicy plum syrup. It was supposed to be jam, but I never quite got a handle on that pectin thing.

Then, for a long while, it all just slipped. I was tired. So tired and overworked, and I never had the funds or the time to do anything to the garden. I let it go, let my other efforts go, and I teetered perilously close to that 80s, trickle-down Uncle Ronnie love fest I hated so much. No. I’m not going to be like that. I hated it then, and I hate it now.

But dammit, I said, looking around at my clutter and chaos, it takes so much time and effort. It’s so hard and I’m still so very tired. And the money — good lord, all those rich people going greener-than-thou with their hybrid cars and their solar panels and their low VOC paint. I can’t afford any of that. Not even the paint.

Still, I wanted to do something — whatever I could — so very very much.

So, I started making lists of the small things. The little efforts I could afford, both in time and in money. And for a while, I thought, what’s the point. My efforts are microscopic. What good are they?

I knew my discouragement needed a good smack in the head, yet still I was discouraged.
(I still am, some days, but not today.)

Chopper joined me in thoughts, plans, and tiny deeds, and we were in turns optimistic and discouraged together, but never quite forward-thinking about any of it until we both got that head smack we needed when we took time last summer from our crazy tourist season schedule to head to the theater and watch An Inconvenient Truth.

Angry Cat took over the blog on an especially hot weekend just after to remind us all of how climate change mucks with the habitat of her furry friends to the North. She’s gone now, but we’ve got our sled mutt to keep the reminder alive in our house.

And we’ve been active. We take tiny steps where we need and bigger steps where we can. It’s microscopic, still. A drop in a monstrous bucket, but action of any kind is a hell of a lot better than inaction, or discouragement.

And now, looking ahead…

See the sparsely populated sidebars on Belly Timber’s front page? That’s a reminder to me as well: that we’re overdue for a shift in focus. The food’s not going away, nor are the occasional cats (in fact, we are knee deep in cat acquisition as I write this), but Belly Timber needs to reflect where we are with our lives, and right now our lives are about so much more than tripe, truffles, and checkered ravioli.

Not that I don’t still love those things, mind you. Not that we don’t still have a few crazy culinary ideas up our sleeves…

Just know that today — 07.07.07 — I’m not a food blogger and I’m not a cat blogger. I don’t know what to call myself just yet. Life blogger? Earth blogger?

Eh, how about just Blogger on Planet Earth. The only planet we’ve got.

stuart sees the sky

Calculate your carbon footprint.
Take the Live Earth pledge.

(Check out the Weekend Cat Blogging: How To Beat The Heat! round up at What Did You Eat?)

One Local Bummer (week one)

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

berries for dessert

Sometimes, you’ve got to just jump back into the water, even if you can’t find your swimsuit.

No, I’m not naked.1 More likely, I’m wearing an ancient t-shirt from a show I’ve no recollection of doing, and sweats covered in house paint. It’s been that sort of past few months.2

But, even if I’m not ready, I have to get back into the water. See, I signed up for something and I’ve got to do it.

That something? One Local Summer hosted by Liz at Pocket Farm.

The goal: from now till the end of summer, once a week, eat an all-local dinner. Or a dinner as local as we can make it. 85% local still gets us an A for effort. The point is to take time once a week to think about where we get our food.

Me, I’m thinking maybe this time I’ll actually fare better than I did during the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge. What? Missed my posts on that one? That’s because there weren’t any. That’s how well I did.3

This time, I figure, hey! More crops are in season. We can do this.

I tell Chopper. He gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up… and then promptly goes out and lands a new job that puts him out of the house five nights a week.4 And, since this week we’re busy the other two nights, and I’ve put it off till the last minute, it comes down to me and my brilliant culinary mind (stop laughing) to produce Belly Timber’s One Local Summer dinner, week one.

And here’s how it goes:

First item of note: For reasons involving utterly chaotic schedules and tight deadlines, I am unable to make it to the farmers market. Go figure. At least this time of year the grocery store’s got more options. On the other hand, I’m in a rush and I don’t have time to do much looking around. Also, we’re between paychecks and I need to skimp. A lot. I remember our eggs at home are relatively local (Stiebr’s Farms in Yelm, Washington, about 135 miles away), and I’ve already got half a Walla Walla onion (245 miles, so sue me), so what better than to grab some local spinach and make a nice big tasty (and easy) omelet! What the hell, I think. I’ll work up to the creative meals later.

So, I get home and I am ready to wash spinach, and then all hell breaks loose.

The dog, you see, has broken a window. Not only has she broken a window, she has decided that her locally-sourced meal of the day will be the bee that is buzzing frantically between the cracked pane and the closed storm window just inches to the outside.

She dives for the bee. Repeatedly. I scold her (repeatedly) and tell her that Very Bad Things will happen to her should she actually catch this bee.

Of course she ignores me, so of course I shoo her away and grab a newspaper, thinking I can reach around the glass and give the bee a quick smackdown.

I do this. My hand slips, the bee flees, and the next thing you know, the outside base of my thumb is bleeding like Steve Nash’s nose in game one of the Western Conference Finals.5

Now, since I (like the NBA) lack a courtside cut man, it took a while for me to get the bleeding to stop, and once it did stop I was in no condition to wash spinach. The mere thought of sticking my heavily bandaged hand under tap water or near a stove was enough to send me running for the microwave.

That’s right. One Local Summer dinner number one: Microwaved eggs.

(Now is our lack of blogging beginning to make a little more sense?)

Oh! Wait! I almost redeemed myself. For dessert, I stepped outside and I ate fresh raspberries and blueberries from the yard and they were quite tasty!6 Better yet, I didn’t even snag my bandages on a raspberry cane!


footnotes


1. Shameless ploy to get more hits. Shut up, Kevin.

2. Stay tuned for details. I mean it this time. No, don’t leave. Honest. I really truly mean it.

3. My diary for the Pennywise Local Challenge went something like this:

Day One: Crap. Farmers market was yesterday, wasn’t it? All right then, let’s try the store. What’s local in April? Produce section should make it easy with the signage, right? Walk down the aisles, and the origin list goes like this: Mexico, California, California, California, California, California, Washington, California, California, California, California, Idaho, California, California, California, California, California, California, California, California, HEY LOOK OREGON!, California, California, California, California, California… and so on. Wow. Microgreens, leeks, and radishes. That’ll fill me right up.

Day two: We found Penn Cove mussels at the fish market. That’s only (checks google maps) damn… 235 miles away. Hey, we tried.

Day Three: Oh, like I have time to do math. Honey, search the couch cushions for another quarter. I need to buy a radish.

Day Four: I wonder of there’s another farmers market before the week’s out? (Checks listings) Ahahahahah. They all start next month. Ah well, back to the store. Oh, look! Microgreens, leeks, and radishes. Woo hoo! Too bad I actually like to feel like I’ve — oh, I don’t know — EATEN SOMETHING after I’ve eaten something.

Day five: Look, honey, I know Umpqua Valley Lamb is local, but I don’t know if it’s in the budget. I DON’T HAVE TIME TO DO MATH!

Day Six: That’s it. I do not care where it’s from. I’m taking it as an exemption. I can’t afford prozac, so I want my goddamned dark chocolate! What do you think this is, Medicate Local Week?

Day Seven: Free food at your mom’s house? Fuckit. I don’t care if it was imported from Neptune. We are so there.


4. Remember when we said we were going to go freelance and start our own personal chef business? We still are. We’re just starting slowly. Very very slowly. Why? Talk to the Sallie Mae corporation. Tell ‘em we said hi. On the bright side, Chopper’s got the first job he loves since I can’t remember when. Before this blog existed, I can tell you that much.

5. I would like to take this opportunity to note that we here at Casa Belly Timber are big NBA fans, and I am, more specifically, a big Steve Nash fan. I used to hate him, back when he played for the Mavs, because, well, the Mavs. Also, when he had long hair I called him “stringy,” but I was still rather secretly fond of him because he is from Canada and I am from Canada, and us stringy-haired Canucks should stick together, especially when we end up with profusely-bleeding body parts.

6. I suppose you’re wondering where the food photos are, and why I’ve posted a watercolor instead? No, it’s not because microwaved eggs are frighteningly unphotogenic and it was too gloomy outside to photograph the berries — although that does sound like a pretty reasonable excuse. Nope, it’s computer troubles. Again. Remember that lappy? The one that made us so happy back in September? Well Lappy seems to have suffered what we like to call a “surprise,” and Lappy contained my one remaining route for moving photos from camera to computer. But, hey, look on the bright side. If this continues and I keep blogging, either I’ll actually learn how to paint, or I’ll start posting pictures of Chopper at age ten wearing a powder-blue tux.

Twelve ways not to blog while in crisis mode

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

1. Forget you have a blog.

2. Start a three part series and only post part one.

3. Crash your hard drive and lose two months worth of post drafts.

4. Listen to emo rock until the paint peels off all your dark elf figurines and the only posts you can write are the ones that begin with the phrase “Dear World.”

5. Post a poll about what you did on your vacation, even if it wasn’t a vacation and you really don’t want to talk about it.

6. Forget other people have blogs. In fact, forget blogs exist at all and be completely stunned when you accidentally click on that button on your Google home page that says “reader” and discover some five thousand unread posts.

7. Read a print media opinion piece on the destruction of ‘high culture’ by evil, egalitarian bloggers, and almost believe it, just for a second.

8. Teach a seminar on blogging, hand out your card, then add in a tiny voice: “but, um, remember all that stuff I said about updating on a regular basis? well…”

9. Post a gleeful “return to blogging” announcement and then forget to return to blogging.

10. Better yet, make the cat post it!

11. Reintroduce yourself to the world of blogging with a photo retrospective — on the day your hard drive goes belly up and you can’t access all your archived photos.

12. Wait till your third wedding anniversary to post because at least then you’ve got an excuse to include a pretty picture:

Three years ago today

WBW#3: HOUSE: F.U.B.A.R.

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

(In which we welcome back the Belly Timber tradition of bringing a little Whine into your Wednesday…)

paging the house doctor
MizD: Look! Just look what they did!

Chopper: (with a heavy sigh) I know. I know.

MizD: But — But —

Chopper:
You need to get it out of your system.

MizD:
All of it?

Chopper: Yes. All of it.

MizD: At once? Like, maybe in a blog post?

Chopper: If it works for you, baby, then yes. In a blog post.

MizD: Hah! At last! I have a reason to bring back Whine Blogging Wednesday!

This week’s episode: House: F.U.B.A.R.
(or, what part of “no substantial changes” did the tenants not understand?)

Once upon a time, we had a cute little Victorian bungalow and it was well on its way toward restoration as a perfect and cozy sanctuary away from the grind of the workaday world. Oh, all right, maybe half on its way if I’m going to be perfectly honest about it. It still had its share of problems. Damaged floor in the bathroom, cracked window in the living room, kitchen in dire need of a makeover. But all in all, it wasn’t too shabby of a little house for being almost a hundred years old, and we’d put many long hours into chipping away at our Big List of House Projects.

Some of our improvements were small: A new ceiling fan for the kitchen, a new light fixture in the bathroom. And some – three in particular – were quite the challenge. Those three: The bathroom, the studio, and the yard.

One: The Bathroom.

Our bathroom is tiny. Seriously tiny. It is, as they say, a one-ass bathroom. We’ve yet to tackle the ugly shower walls, or the sink counter, or the floor, but we did take on the rather ominous job of painting the walls. Eh, it’s a small room. No big deal, right? One gallon of paint and it’s done? Hah. This place has nooks and crannies that would scare the crap out of a cockroach. It’s not just a major pain in the ass to paint, it’s a major pain in the ass just to reach around the toilet tank to clean.

(Yeah, ick.)

So, when we took on the task of scrubbing it down and prepping the walls for painting, we knew we’d have to pick a good quality paint and a nice rich color that wouldn’t show off every steam-laminated dog hair that clings to its surface. Seriously. Dog hair. It migrates to the bathroom like swallows to Capistrano, only by the hour, not by the year. Trust me. I’d need to be Joan Crawford on speed to keep up with that cleaning project.

We went for a coffee color and found faux antique bronze fixtures to match. The eventual plan was to redo the shower in tile of various shades of cream, brown, and black. Ditto the floor. Very cappuccino. Very au lait. (Or au soy lait, to appease my crabby digestion.)

We made it as far as the paint job and the cabinet hardware before we had to move north. Of course, that didn’t stop us from further planning: Let’s do something with slate so it’s all dark and rustic. Let’s get a clawfoot tub!

And then we came home…

What a paint job!

…and discovered the tenants had repainted the bathroom pale blue with crappy paint and not much of an eye for staying between the lines. (I bet they suck at coloring books, too.) The hardware’s mostly still there, though blue-tipped in places, but there’s a curious absence where the sliding door to the toiletry cabinet once was.

Oh, and the dog hairs? So, so visible.

But you know what? This is nothing. This is, comparatively speaking, a weensy whine; a warm-up before part two and then the grand finale. Renters, they repaint all the time. It’s when they tear things apart and muck with the landscape that things really get interesting.

Shelf, disassembled Look ma, no tape!

MizD: There. I whined about the bathroom.

Chopper: All out of your system yet?

MizD: Not exactly. I’ve still got the studio and the yard, and then there’s all those little things… windows painted shut, mildew from the houseplants… I could go on and on.

Chopper: But it’s Whine Blogging Wednesday, not Whine Blogging Week.

MizD: Hey. WBW. Same initials. Who’s going to notice?

Chopper: (another heavy sigh) You will have this out of your system when you’re done, right?

MizD: (fingers crossed behind her back) Of course, pookie. Why would you ever doubt me? Blogging is cathartic. I’ll be just peachy dandy about the condition of the house next week.

Chopper: You will?

MizD: Absolutely! Especially if you clear all these boxes of kitchen crap out of the living room!

Chopper: Oh, yeah, that.


(In the tradition of Whine Blogging Wednesday — established in a fit of grump on July 25th, 2006 — readers are encouraged to share their whines in the comments. Bonus points for exceptionally traumatic whine and food pairings.)

Dear USDA, When it says “organic,” it better be organic

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

USDA seal of approval

If Angry Cat were around today, she’d be livid. I mean tearing the paint from the walls livid. See, we don’t know for certain, but Angry Cat may have died from tainted food. And now, in the wake of that – in the wake of the Menu Foods disaster – the USDA, in their infinite wisdom, is considering a rule change that’ll further dilute the meaning of the word "organic."

That’s right, under the new rule, all those big Agri-businesses we already trust so, so much? They can call beer "organic" even if it’s made with pesticide-treated hops.

They can call food items "organic" even if they contain synthetic food colorings, fish oil from farm-raised, mercury-tainted fish, sausage casings from factory-farmed animals, and (among other things) inorganic whey protein concentrate.

Huh. Protein concentrates from crappy overseas factories. Just what we want in our "organic" foods after we’ve been so careful about finding new resources for our surviving pets.

Yeah, Angry Cat would be pissed.

But since she’s not here at the moment, I’m going to send you over to this most excellent diary on Daily Kos, and to the Regulations.gov page where you can leave a comment and tell the USDA just how you feel. (The Daily Kos diary includes detailed instructions for maneuvering through the rather unfriendly comment form. I highly recommend that you write up your comment first and then copy-and-paste to the site; the form has a bad habit of timing out.)

And by the way, because, as we all know, the USDA is indeed infinitely wise about such things and infinitely willing to listen to the average consumer, they’ve given us a teensy window of time for comments. In fact, that time runs out at the end of day TODAY. (Believe me, if I’d known about this a week ago…)

No doubt Agri-businesses had months of lobbying time. Us? We got a week. Thanks, USDA! Love you too. Here, have a burger and some fries. No clue where the ingredients came from, but you told me they were organic.

Note to husband…

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

too many bones

I think it’s about time we made some chicken stock.

(This brief post brought to you by MizD’s freezer, over-stuffed with bones.)

WCB #101: Angry Cat in the Happy Cat Hunting Ground

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

(If my dad’s spirit is the heart of this blog, then Audrey, aka Angry Cat, aka Kitty Kaga, is Belly Timber’s snarky soul. Audrey died in December, following a brief but brutal illness, but it seems that even death hasn’t kept her completely quiet. Take this crazy rant that showed up on my screen this morning… –MizD)

Audrey's last photoshoot

Oh, you wee evil humans. Listen up.

A curious thing happened these past few months. Not long after I made my rather abrupt journey to the Happy Hunting Ground, my humans ran into a bit of misfortune. Not that my untimely demise wasn’t unfortunate. Hellish is more like it. I wasn’t even around to reap the benefits of that silly thieving newspaper’s forking out for my photo. What are they going to do? Ship catnip to the afterlife? Right.

(By the way, I have things to say to humans about the number of new arrivals around these parts. Things unfit for a family blog. And yes, my humans will never know for certain, but it is entirely possible that I too was a victim of this abomination. My food was on the list.)

So, here I am, off in the beyond (where there are plenty of fat, juicy mice with no toxic additives, thanks much), and what do I see? My humans aren’t posting! NO! This is my legacy, you freaky, pink-skinned good-for-nothing…puppies! Mrrooooar.

I’ve half a mind to go down there and haunt their dreams.

See, it seems they experienced what humans like to call “hard times.” The one called Chopper, he ran out of work and couldn’t get this thing called “unemployment” because he hadn’t been back in the state long enough, and the Miz D one? Well, she tried to do this thing called “freelancing” and the people who were supposed to hire her flaked off like so much icky, half-dried pouch food.

Miz D, she even came up with a name for what she didn’t want to do: BWB. Blogging While Broke. Sucks, she says. Can’t write about tasty foods, can’t write about cool trips, can’t even start that personal chef thing they want to do ’cause there’s no start-up funds, got to spend spare time searching couch cushions for quarters, mrow, mrow, mrow, you get the picture.

Audrey's last photoshoot

Of course I’m thinking: If I were there, I’D be posting. Just POST already, bipeds.

But noooo. They take a hiatus. Don’t even let the furball post. Not that the furball would have much to say aside from: Hey! House to self! No kitty! Wheee!

Huh. I wonder if she misses me.

What’s that? You want to know how I got here? Ahah. See, I’ve found a very nice medium with a keyboard. Madame Kittikatsky, she calls herself, and she’s managed to sneak access to the Belly Timber Angry Cat Blog account.

Audrey's last photoshoot

(She tells me she has a cunning plan for future postings – a plan may involve the appearance of a new kitten. Mroow. Clever medium. I think I’ll keep her.)

So, here I am with a message from the beyond: Oh humans, my humans? Don’t make me come down there and smack some sense into you. If I can BWD, then you can BWB. Besides, I know things are looking better for you. I can smell it. Fried kippers? Steamed mussels? SALMON?

Excuse me. I’m hungry. I have a mouse to catch.

(And now, for your viewing pleasure, My final photo shoot: Angry Cat + Back Scratcher = Happy Cat.)

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Eye of Newt, Blood of Pig: The black pudding variations

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

black pudding

No, we’re not done with the pig’s blood just yet.

In fact, I’ve a feeling there could be 38 different dishes you can cook with Black Pudding. Thirty-eight at the very least.

Not that I plan on naming them all here.

In fact, I’ll just mention two or three.

First off: Chopper’s Lancashire Hotpot. He made this one on the Saturday after the black pudding was done and served it to unsuspecting guests. The guests were quite pleased and went back to the kitchen for seconds.

That Sunday morning, Chopper made a scramble with spinach, onion, more bits of black pudding, and the last remaining smidge of Lancashire Hotpot. It too was quite tasty, though it could have used something sweet to temper the spinach/onion/pig’s blood nexus.

Enter, apples. Inspired by denzylle’s comment on our Happy Entrails to You post, Chopper created a frittata wherein the black pudding mixed it up with tasty, crunchy bits of Granny Smith apple and the whole thing was topped with grated kasseri.

We declared it tasty and wolfed it down, thus ending Black Pudding Days at casa Belly Timber after only three dishes.

Only three? Surely there must be more!

Now, I’d offer up a challenge to see who can come up with the largest number of black pudding variations, but to be perfectly honest, after writing this post up I think I’m quite ready to move on from pig’s blood for at least a short while. So instead, because we’re never completely done with All Things British in these parts, and because we believe in extending all birthday celebrations at least a week and a half, your challenge (with a hat tip to Riba Rambles for the meme) is this:

Grab a pencil and paper and without looking at any resources, see if you can list all 38 (most commonly agreed upon) Shakespeare plays. And don’t give me any of that silly Francis Bacon really wrote them twaddle.

Mmm…. bacon.
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Happy Entrails to You…

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

happy entrails to you

Is English food a joke?

No! It’s not a joke, it’s an adventure!

I happen to believe one should firmly embrace one’s ancestors’ culinary traditions. Especially when one has ancestors who interbred, had bad teeth, killed one another off on a regular basis, and consumed far too many unnervingly rich, meat-based dishes.

proud pig-eating yorkist

I am, of course, talking about the Plantagenets. We’ve got a chart somewhere around here. On it, I can draw a rather crooked line from me back to Henry II. Not that I particularly want to be related to the king who offed Thomas Becket, but I am happy to claim a few other connections, including the fellow on the right here, who was, despite what those bratty Tudors say, a pretty decent guy.

I bet he ate some damned tasty food before riding off into battle.

Like this crazy thing Chopper’s making.

It looks like a sausage, but he tells me it’s called Black Pudding. I am told it is tasty and not at all dangerous. Not like that Black Pudding that enveloped and digested Timion Vayla, my second level paladin in the Dungeon of Aeras Kinth. Boy, was that a bad night.

No, this Black Pudding is made from tasty things like oatmeal and onions. Oh, and pig’s blood. Lots of pig’s blood. Turns out our local Asian market sells pig’s blood by the pint, and when Chopper made this discovery, I knew we were left with only two choices: Black Pudding or a reenactment of the prom night sequence from Carrie. Since the latter would mean a Chopper impersonation of John Travolta, we opted for the Black Pudding.

Now, I haven’t tasted it yet, so I can’t tell you anything about the results. I can tell you that it’s quite black (the hour and a half plus in the oven congealed the blood quite nicely), and the sausage stuffing procedure was quite messy. So messy, in fact, I may have give up that fantasy I have about CSI Warrick Brown showing up at the door with a spray bottle of Luminol. Far, far too risky.

On the bright side, no prom dresses were ruined in the procedure, and I’d like to think we did my Plantagenet ancestors proud. Especially the ones who preferred a good feast over a good beheading.

(Next: we devour the happy entrails and live to tell the tale.)

Yeah? So?

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Where are we?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

We’re on a vacation from blogging, tackling unruly to-do lists and musing over new bloggy directions. A minor change in our blog wardrobe may be in the works. (I’m thinking neon leg warmers, how about you?)

Meantime, let’s see who’s still around:

Visitor Map
Create your own visitor map!

So long, and thanks for all the noodles

Friday, January 12th, 2007

so long, and thanks for all the noodles

Last Saturday, my daily browse of Boing Boing brought us the sad news of the death of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen and personal savior of many a broke college student. He was a ripe old 96, which has got to say something for the greatness of ramen, and because we here at Belly Timber salute ramen’s greatness by buying it by the case, we couldn’t let this passing go unnoticed.

There’s a bit of advice I’ve seen on more than one personal finance blog. It goes something like this: Don’t ditch your broke college student lifestyle the minute you get out of college; ditch it when you’re absolutely certain you can pay off all your student loans.

Now some advisors to the young and in debt suggest a year of living like a student, others suggest five. Some even say keep it up till the loans are gone — which scares the heck out of me, let me tell you. I got out of college ages ago; Chopper’s been out of culinary school for just two years: does this mean we must continue to live like broke students till I’m old and gray?

(Eh, I’m used to it.)

But, back to the noodles. The thing about ramen is that it can be boring. (What’s for dinner? Starch and a flavor packet, again?) The other thing about ramen is that it doesn’t need to be boring, even if you’re living like a broke college student.

For our tribute, we didn’t so much as concoct a recipe, as raid the fridge and create our very own faux phở. (How faux is our phở? So faux, the noodles aren’t even rice.) No lemon grass, no strips of beef, just what we had on hand, college student style, in honor of Momofuku Ando who once said “Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat.” Amen to that.

Now, for the details:

Ramen, we’ve discovered, can be had at our local WinCo for just $1.98 a case. That’s 24 packages, so it figures out to a mere 8.25 cents per package.

Most of the remaining ingredients came from our local Asian market, and that too saved us a bundle. Not only is their produce super-cheap, but you can find extreme deals on other items as well. We snagged a bag — not a tiny jar but a big bag — of gari (pickled ginger) for dollars less than the equivalent amount in the “ethnic aisles” of a Fred Meyer or a Safeway.

Here’s the breakdown:

Ingredient Amount Unit Cost Cost
Ramen 3 packages .0825/package 0.25
Lap cheong sausages 1/4 package $4/package 1.00
Chinese long beans 1/2 bunch $1.37/bunch 0.69
Scallions 1/4 bunch .98/bunch 0.25
Carrot 3 1/2 ounces .69/lb 0.15
Tempeh 1/2 loaf $2.58/loaf 1.29
Bean sprouts 1/8 bunch .08/bunch 0.01
Cilantro 1/8 bunch .69/bunch 0.09
Gari 1 ounce .16/ounce 0.16
Soy sauce smidge
TOTALS 3 bowls $3.39 $1.30/bowl

Note that all fractions of cents were rounded up in an effort to allow for the smidge of soy sauce we added at the end. (If we’d had lime juice handy, we would have added a smidge of that as well. Lime juice is a great way to punch up a bowl of faux phở.)

Our three bowls (at just $1.30 a bowl) were huge, by the way. So huge even Chopper couldn’t finish his and had to stow it back in the fridge for later.

I should also note that without our two splurgy items — the sausages and the tempeh — our faux phở comes to just 53 cents a bowl, and it’s still mighty tasty, and still proof that broke college students need not live on starch alone! (Or Cheetos and PBR for that matter, but that’s another story for another time.)

So, Momofuku Ando, for your tasty, portable, dirt cheap, and versatile contribution to the culinary world, we at Belly Timber salute you and say so long, and thanks for all the noodles!

Kitchen photos, you say?

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

A promise

Ilva has asked to see kitchen photos and I am compelled to comply.

I blame a web stat for this.

See, back in October of 2005, way back when Belly Timber was less than a year old and our notion of search strings was all shiny and new, we discovered something quite amusing: More people showed up on our doorstep because they’d googled “messy kitchen” then for any other reason.

The cause of this glorious notoriety was the photo I’d posted on our About page. Yes, that photo.

Funny thing, though: That wasn’t a photo of our current kitchen on San Juan Island. It was a photo of our Portland kitchen – a kitchen we’d deserted ten months earlier. So, not wanting to disappoint Seekers of the Mess, we then posted new photos of our new messy kitchen, complete with messy diagrams. Little did we know where that would lead.

Just a day later, Kevin took up the gauntlet (we’d thrown a gauntlet?) and posted photos of his kitchen. Shortly thereafter, Kalyn followed suit, and within hours of this first trio of posts, Kevin declared it a “movement” and announced it on Food Blog S’cool. Soon, everyone was showing off their kitchens and soon it became apparent that ours was indeed the messiest.

In fact, our messy kitchen photos took on a life of their own, appearing in unexpected places, sometimes even illustrating a cautionary tale, or a “how not to” Q&A on a blog far more serious than our own. (Geez, people, we thought, don’t you ever make messes when you cook?)


Oh, look -- our infamous messy kitchen

And now? Now we’re back in that Portland kitchen and though it’s still messy, it isn’t quite as messy as it was before. There’s a reason for that. (No, we didn’t clean up for the camera this time.) We’ve a new tale to tell: We’re renovating.

See that corner just past the stove? We’ve got a gas cooktop for that corner. It’s going in at a 45 degree angle, with a nice big counter that stretches from near the doorway over to the drawers just right of the sink. Above it, we’ll have a range hood, and instead of those half-broken drawers? A dishwasher – our first kitchen ever with a dishwasher! Oh, and that scungy linoleum floor’s going away, and needless to say, we’re painting the walls and the ceiling, and check this out:

our kitchen island

It’s our work island. Cute, eh? Don’t worry, it won’t be that small forever. Soon it’ll be taller, and have shelving, and be suitable for vegetable slicing in all its butcher-blocky glory. And just beyond it, we’ll have more counter space, and storage space, and (oh, I love this part!) a pot rack above so we’ll finally have a place for all our pots!

Oh, and… shhhh… we’ve got a secret:

We’re barely spending anything.

How’s that?

It’s like this:

  • All the paint? We’ve got from the Habitat for Humanity store Habitat ReStore and from the mis-tinted five-buck-a-gallon section at Rodda.
  • The gas cooktop is from the last time my brother renovated his kitchen. We snagged it at his yard sale for free.
  • The pot rack, Chopper’s step dad made from copper pipe scraps at his place of work.
  • The butcher block island is an old table my sister’s restoring for us as a Christmas present.
  • The shelving? We’re building it ourselves and the lumber’s all used cedar decking, free from Craig’s List.

We’re still on the prowl for flooring, more counter tops, a dishwasher, and an oven (or a double-decker, if we’re extra lucky), and we’d die happy if we could score replacement cupboards, and of course this would be tons easier if we could just hire a contractor or buy everything new, but here’s what makes this extra cool:

before

Not only have we spent just twenty bucks on the entire project so far, we are saving trees from the lumber mill and junk from the landfill! We are frugal eco-warriors! Woohoo!

And, naturally, because we’ve got lots of searching and building to do, this project will take quite a while, and that means one thing for certain: many many messy kitchen days in our future!

Mac-n-Cheese: The Final Frontier

Friday, January 5th, 2007

mac n' cheese, all goat

Prologue:
At first, I was horrified. Cookiecrumb and Kevin hosting a Mac-n-Cheese event? But I can’t! You don’t understand. I just can’t. I cried to Chopper: Look what they’re doing, I said. How cruel. How evil. Can I ever forgive them? If you make mac-n-cheesy goodness and eat it alone, can I ever forgive you? Chopper merely shrugged and said, hey, it’s me here. I can make it happen. I bit my lip in fear. But… the history, I whimpered… my history…

1.A cheesy childhood.
Oh dear lord did I love mac-n-cheese as a child. It wasn’t just that it was vast and goopy and satisfying beyond all reason, or that it sometimes held the exquisite secret of little salami nuggets, tucked beneath its placid surface. No, it was this: It lacked vegetables. And for a child, especially one in a house wherein vegetables were routinely cooked to oblivion, this was nirvana. I always went back for seconds. Sometimes even thirds or fourths. If the mac-n-cheese pot had been bottomless and my plate accompanied by an equally bottomless glass of Nestle’s Quick, I would never have left the table. Not even for episodes of Star Trek.

2.College in a box
When one is single and one is in college and living in a tiny apartment, one’s episodes of Star Trek are accompanied by a box. The blue kind. You know the one. Gross, eh? I bet Spock’s Plomeek soup never tasted so bad. Perhaps it was just the way I (ineptly) cooked it, but my Kraft mac-n-cheese always came out a little gritty. Not that this stopped me. Nope, not one bit. After all, it was cheap and easy and isn’t college all about cheap and easy? Hey! I’m talking about food, here.

3.Is that a shot put in my gut, or am I just sorry I ate you?
We’re on break from the gaming session, it’s been five weeks and still no one knows my red shirt security goon is really a Romulan spy. I love surgical alteration. Now, if only I could get some surgical alteration on my gut, I could make it through this cheesy meal without feeling like I’ve been injected with an elephant’s dose of cordrazine. What is up with this? I used to love mac-n-cheese and now I can barely touch the stuff. Could it be… no, say not so! It’s true. My gut hates cows.

4.Cold turkey (sandwiches)
Are you coming over for dinner, the in-law says, I’m making mac-n-cheese! I attempt to hide my sour face and fail miserably. Oh, right (now, she remembers), you can’t do cheese. There’s some cold turkey in the fridge! Dave can make you a sandwich! I try very hard not to pout, but I’m just not good at it. Oh, I’ve no doubt the sandwich will be just dandy. Heck, it may even have fancy Dijon mustard on it, but must I watch everyone else eat mac-n-cheese? Can’t I go downstairs to the family room instead? C’mon, Sci Fi Channel’s running a marathon, and I could be communing with Chekov and the space hippies right this very instant! Hey! You think they solved lactose intolerance in the 23rd century?

5.Nirvana, with goat.
So, if I’m going to make it, Chopper says, I’m going to make the creamy kind. Not that crusty stuff that ends up tasting like a rubber waffle. We’ll have to get kasseri, since we know it melts and we know you can eat it, and we’ll need something other than cow’s milk. Um, I say, just a wee bit optimistic for once, would you believe I saw a quart of goat’s milk in the health food section at Fred Meyer? No way! Way! We (boldly) go, we shop, we find. Chopper cooks. He serves me up a small but perfect portion (not too much on my first try in over a decade), and I take a bite. Simple, unadorned with frivolity save for a dash of smoked paprika and a sprig of fresh thyme. Creamy, just like Mom used to make. I am in nirvana. Hey, I think, I should eat this in front of the telly with the boys in gold, red, and blue. But, damn, SciFi channel never shows Trek episodes anymore. Ah well, that’s okay. I get to eat mac-n-cheese.

Goatie Mac-n-Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce Whole Butter
  • 1 ounce Unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 pound Kasseri cheese
  • 1 pint Goat milk
  • 1/2 pound Dry rigatoni
  • To taste Salt and white pepper

Method

  1. Cook the rigatoni until “al dente,” then strain and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add flour, mix thoroughly to make a roux, and cook until a “popcorn” aroma can be detected.
  3. Add milk and whisk until the roux is completely mixed in. Then bring to a boil, and quickly reduce to a simmer. Reduce by one quarter. Some milk will burn to the bottom of the pan, DO NOT WHISK BURNT MILK INTO THE SAUCE. (He really means this!)
  4. Add the cheese and stir until it is all melted.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stir to coat. Serve hot, garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and fresh thyme leaves.

mac n' cheese with dog


Look! A Technorati tag!

It. Could. Work.

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

Lucky Soup

Yes, in the immortal words of Froderick von Frankenstein, It. Could. Work.

“It” being this fantabulous bowl of Lucky Soup Chopper produced last night at about 25 minutes till midnight. We’re told (now that we’ve finally caught on to such things, being sequestered in the Northwest and all) that black eyed peas will change our luck if eaten on New Year’s Day. And, since our luck is in dire need of changing (see yesterday’s post, and the day before’s and well, you get the idea), and since we are all about the Cheap Eats these days, how can we possibly resist a meal that not only brings good luck but figures out to about fifty cents a bowl?

Yup, just get a half pound of bacon ends from the butcher (New Seasons Meat counter at a buck a pound), three cups of black eyed peas (a buck thirty nine for a bag), a bunch of collard greens for two bucks, throw in three quarts of that duck stock you made from those two duck carcasses you’ve got sitting in the freezer — you know, from those ducks that only cost a buck sixty seven a pound at the Asian market; those ducks that already gave you meals from their breasts, legs and thighs — then add garlic powder, salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and a teaspoon and a half of Valentina salsa picante extra hot sauce for that extra kick, and you are set, baby. So set.

In fact, better yet, eat just a little on the first day, then forget about it. Hell, leave it on the stove because you haven’t cleaned out fridge. Pop a bowl in the microwave while you’re watching football. Take a bite —

And oh my lord if it was damn good on New Year’s Day, on the second day of the year it’s transcendent. The soup of gods.

And it WILL work.

(Steamy-lensed photo taken with “Loaner,” Belly Timber’s unofficial temporary camera, with many thanks to our dear friend of the ginger chocolate chip cookies… cookies which would make for a fine dessert after this soup, I should add.)

Hey, 2006, we’re talking to you!

Monday, January 1st, 2007

Yeah, you, 2006. You did your best, bucko, but you failed. We’re still here and we’re not giving up.
Challenge, eh? You wanna talk challenges? Like messing up our house? Sticking us with hideous bills? Making our move more hellish than a rancid vat of velveeta? And in the end, you have the gall to take away our cat and we’re supposed to say oh, thank you kind year, may I have another because we so love your idea of a challenge!

Well, we got news for ya, 2006. You’re gone. History. Outta here. And guess what? 2007 is so much cooler than you. You thought you’d make us all better with that tough love crap. Make ‘em suffer. Then they’ll rise to the occasion, you said. Right. Nice one. Working real well for that Bush clown too, isn’t it?

Well, I’ve got a secret for you: 2007 knows where it’s at. 2007 is on our side, letting us pick our own challenges, and trust me, those challenges aren’t going to be the sort that just keep us treading water, no sirree bob. We’re talking kick-ass, get ahead in life challenges – you know, the kind you never let us touch, you scum sucking P.O.S. year, you!

So, take a hike, 2006, cuz us and 2007, we got plans. Big plans. Hell, I’ll even spill the beans and tell you what the first plan is: 27 days from now, it’s Chopper’s birthday, and the next day — 28 days from now — we’re going to have this house transformed from tornado zone into cozy cottage, all ready for one colossal, long-overdue house rewarming party. Oh, sure it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work. We’ve got shelves to build, a kitchen to paint, dozens of boxes to unpack, and a list of repairs and missing items a mile long, but you know what? We’ve got 2007 on our side and we don’t even care if we’ve got a budget the size of a single app at French Laundry: we’re doing it anyway.

And in February, we’ll have a new challenge, and in March, one more, and on and on, until, at the end of glorious 2007, we’ll have kicked butt all over hell and back and turned you, scuzzy little inconsequential 2006, into a distant, fading memory.

Sounds good? Good. Now don’t let the door hit your sorry ass on the way out.

For Audrey

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

The Cat gets serious

My dearest, sweetest kitten,

I’m going to tell the truth.

To the blogging world, you were the ever cynical, ever snarky, furball-hating Angry Cat, but to me, you were always Audrey. Dear, sweet, little Audrey, the best kitten in the world, and I want the world to know.

I remember many years ago — many in human years, even! — when you first adopted me. You were a scared little thing, hiding in furnace ducts, certain I wouldn’t understand your dread fear of doorways and brooms. I loved your funny little tail, kinked a full quarter angle at the end, and your cracked maa – aaaa of a meow, which, if Dad were here, he’d insist I write phonetically — mæʔæ — just because. We had a different house then, and you had a brother, long lost now. I miss him too.
unplugged

When we were losing Dad, you sat by his pillow like a temple guardian and soothed him with purrs. When Dad was gone, his pillow became your bed, and Mom became your constant companion, and for that she loved you, even when you typed silly nothings across her keyboard.

Oh kitten, these last days were rough for you, I know. Losing eyesight, and strength, breath, all of it slipping away so sudden when before this time we’d never fought anything more fierce than a hairball or an occasional pack of fleas. audrey_sleeping

I suppose, in those final hours, you were indeed Angry Cat, angry at your ancient, failing body, angry you couldn’t speak and tell me exactly what to do to ease your pain. And me, your miserable, inadequate human, could only reach back to memories of Dad and bring the same small comfort I knew from before; a drop of water, a warm blanket, a song sung quiet in your ear.

Cat in motion

You are my Audrey, my only Audrey.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know, cat, how much I love you…

Sweet, silly, broken-voiced cat, I once had a crazy notion you’d live forever. Those nine lives of yours outlasted so many others – cats, fish, our dear little guinea pig, and even crazy Elvis the mini rex who once chased you up the plum tree. (Yes, my Audrey, I do have to tell the truth – you were never as tough as your alter-ego. Me neither.)

mellow_cat

And now, little one, I have another secret to share. It’s a vision and it goes like this: I see a rocking chair on a weathered porch on a warm island day. And a lap – Dad’s lap – and the best little tabby in the world, perched, regal as a temple guardian. She raises her chin for a skritching, this magnificent cat, and Dad obliges. And then he sings to her, and she sings to him — mæʔæ — and no one, not anywhere, is angry.

xxox

Your devoted human,
MizD robin

cat_and_mouse

End Note: Dave and Mishka and I wish everyone the best for the new year, and we hope there are indeed new beginnings on the horizon. 2006 was a rough one. May 2007 take us beyond choppy waters and deadly shoals and out into the tranquil sea. Peace to all.

(See more Weekend Cat Blogging over at Lisa’s Champaign Taste and give all your kittens extra skritches for me!)

Paper Chef Mystic #23: The Curse Defying Edition

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

painter's meal

It was the event that almost wasn’t. The event that re-emerged from the abyss, from the long lost annals of Gastroblogian history, stifled by photographic traumas, by the death cries of a computer far past its prime, and by the evils of a creature known only by the minacious name Blogger BETA.

The event, Paper Chef, mystic number 23.

The task: complete a dish using the following ingredients: cranberries, vermouth, a sparkling drink, and something wild.

The obstacles? A first gourmet meal in a kitchen half-unpacked. A photographic session in a studio cobbled together from end tables and random draperies. An unfamiliar camera, on brief loan. An ailing computer, resistant to all WinExplorational cooperation. And at the last, the evil BETA beast, chomping its way through the blogosphere, disrupting our illustrious host’s posting efforts.

Could we be cursed, we ask?

No. We refuse to believe it. And why? Because this meal was just too damned good.

gelee with a boing

It’s true, I confess it. We haven’t finished unpacking our kitchen. We’ve got reasons, many of which I’ll explain another day, but in brief, we’re still using our picnic basket plasticware, and we’ve no idea where we put our favorite can opener. Not that this will stop us.

It’s also true: Our camera is broken, my computer’s throwing tantrums (Lappy jealousy, I’m certain of it), and we’ve yet to figure out where we can set up a reasonable spot for food (or for that matter, craft) photos. Not that we’re deterred by this either, dang it all.

Nope. We’re determined. We’ve been away from our favorite food blogging event far too long. We’ve had too many months without proper kitchen access at all.

herbs, untended

And so, Paper Chef Weekend, we took to the store, and subsequently armed with a bag of cranberries, a bottle of sweet vermouth, and a glug of cheap champagne, we embarked upon our search for something wild. And cheap. Cheap is good. We’re on a scary budget these days. And with that in mind, first stop: the freezer and that chunk of wild Alaskan salmon we snagged from the in-laws while we were house sitting.

Second stop? The yard. Yard? Wild? Come again?

Trust me on this. The yard is wild. At least we haven’t had anything to do with it for our two years away, and since then? We chopped a few branches off the fig tree so the satellite dish would (ostensibly) work, but yes, the yard is wild. Weeds gone wild, herbs gone wild, and most of all, apple tree gone wild. As in, it’s been two years plus since it met a pair of pruning shears.

fallen

Result? Rosemary, sage, and thyme to gather by the bunch, and apples, apples, everywhere. Most of our apples hit the ground before we could get to them, but even so, we managed a partial harvest — enough for several treats, including this Paper Chef’s dessert.

A note about the apples. I believe they’re Granny Smiths, but in all honesty, I haven’t a clue. All I know is this: they are green, they are sour, they are crisp and they are damn good.

make-shift

Here’s our makeshift studio. It’s a tiny end table atop a coffee table, with a TV tray table to the side to hold the desk lamp. Both desk lamp and the bridge lamp above have full-spectrum daylight bulbs to help with the color balance, and behind the setup, I’ve got an old curtain rod and one of our freshly unpacked curtains, which I think might belong on a window around here somewhere. I’ll figure that one out someday soon.

After we’re settled in (ha ha, in our distant future), I’ll build my first true photo set-up. See, up on the island, we had a luxury — a luxury in summer at least — of an enormous bank of west-facing windows. We were in daylight heaven. Here, well… we’re in a bungalow, a tiny bungalow with tiny windows and tall trees. (My S.A.D. is sad, I tell you.) Photos in natural light will be a rare occurrence this time of year. Or, I should rephrase, considering the current condition of the camera: photos will be a rare occurrence this time of year.

But enough of that. On with the food!

(more…)

It’s Paper Chef time!

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

Extra special reminder! It’s a Paper Chef Weekend, now until noon on December 11th! Check out all the details over at Tomatilla!

Weekend Cat Blogging Lucky #79

Friday, December 8th, 2006

enough already
Yes, you’ve borrowed a camera for the weekend.
No, you don’t need to test every setting on me.

Angry Cat’s Cunning Plan Revealed!

Angry Cat’s faithful readers may recall last week’s incident of tragic proportions: Angry Cat, minding her own business, discovered HER PHOTO in the local newspaper.

the claw

Shocked (and just a teensy bit flattered) Angry Cat plotted her revenge. She drafted not one but two letters and then proceeded to consult with regional experts on feline exploitation. One such expert of the grayling persuasion made an ingenious remark. You have claws to count with, he said. Do the math.

The math, eh? Which math would that be?

Why, the math that indicates this newspaper would, were the tables turned, charge you fifty dollars for the single use of a photo, and thirty dollars for each additional use. Now, how big is their circulation and how much catnip is that?

Angry Cat stretched her claws and counted. Three hundred twenty five thousand papers, minus one at fifty dollars, times three hundred twenty four, nine hundred ninety nine at thirty dollars, add back the fifty, and…

HOLY CRAP, THAT’S A LOT OF CATNIP!!!

Catnip in a bottle, yeah

Needless to say, Angry Cat was quite grateful for the clever calculation, and embarked upon letter number three.

Now, said letter is still in progress (Angry Cat being much distracted by the recent photographic goings-on of her captors), but its lack of completion does not prevent her from taking this glorious opportunity of Weekend Cat Blogging Lucky #79 to make the following announcement to the human world:


HUMAN CAPTORS BEWARE. WE CATS WILL ALL BE STINKY RICH SOON AND THEN WE WILL OWN YOU!

Don’t even attempt to resist. We mean it!

So, who’s with The Cat?


Welcome to Weekend Cat Blogging Lucky #79! Post your links here, or email them to the_cat(at)belly-timber(dot)com. The list of Feline Warriors will be updated throughout the weekend.


Here’s Taboo snug again in her cave at whaleshaman’s place. Or is she just resting up for future adventures?

Angry Cat insists on signing up Xena and Kai for her feline warrior army this very instant. Their human Chris has trained them well in the ways of self defense!

Over at T.bird’s, a clever barn cat makes future (devious) plans for the bird feeder.

Here’s Sam, or “His Royal Sam-ness,” as his fellow felines prefer to call him, contemplating the less fortunate on a chilly day at Ostara’s place.

At Kimberly’s Music and Cats, Sasha is a cat after Angry Cat’s own heart, all filled with motion (and emotion) for the camera.

Burekaboy’s got a fine collection of cat tales, and one mighty fine tail over at Is that my buréka?

Apparently Kitikata-san’s humans use her for photo demos too! Angry Cat sympathizes, but, hey! Wait a sec. Kitikata-san has her very own blog!

Little does Jason know, but Kazon is actually practicing his laser death ray.

Over at Kross-eyed Kitty, Ramona introduces the magnificently sleek Mr. Mao to that curious thing called “snow.”

Georgie knows where it’s at. Angry Cat is impressed and commends Champaign Taste’s human Lisa for her expert feline pampering skills.

At Westering Hills, Shannon makes mulled wine and Colin and Trixie take advantage. Clever cats!

Upsie gets rid of the squirrels and puts his angry face on. Wait, that’s his joy face? Zoinks! All that and Sher’s got squirrel pics, too!

Over at Amar’s CatSynth.com, Luna contemplates Calder. Surely those mobiles were designed for giant cats, right?

At Rosa’s Yummy Yums, Maruschka the dictator demands a belly scratching and Rosa must comply!

Here’s Knut luring us in with his kitteny charm. Angry Cat decides not to warn Pia. The extreme cuteness fools humans every time.

Hey! Wait a steeenkin’ minute! Tess has catnip!!!! (And D reports that Boots is not at all pleased.)

Ah, to be a queen. At Shelly’s place, Sheba shows off the breadth of her domain and demonstrates the finer art of feline camouflage.

The humans are doomed! Helpless against the kitten hordes, against the champion KitchenMages KittenMages, Dargo, TC, Trubble, and T3. Doomed, I tell ya. Doooooooooooomed!!

S’Kat might think Shishi, Spot, Sirius Black, and the Princess Melange are merely in room-conservation mode. But, shhhh, don’t tell. They’re planning a coup!

Poor not-so-lucky Lucky, forced to wear a bow for the holidays! Angry Cat thinks he looks quite ready to have some serious words with his human, Riana.


Next week, Weekend Cat Blogging takes a trip down the mighty Columbia to KitchenMage’s house of oh-so-clever Graylings!

R.I.P.

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

R.I.P.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the life of MizD’s camera: a camera whose essence was suddenly, though not unexpectedly, extinguished on the evening of December the Fifth in the year of our Lord, 2006.

True, the signs were all there: The stuttering LED that too often spewed forth cuneiform in place of digits. The dimming sensors crying for light. The morning’s greeting, not cheerful and informative, but tragic — a single, solitary and altogether ominous utterance: ERR.

Oh, poor camera, you never had a name. Poor camera, you suffered through far too many cursings while your feckless owner struggled with your outdated controls. Poor, poor camera, so battered, so used.

We commend you to the box of non-functionals, oh camera, and to Elmo, patron saint of misguided electrical discharges, we offer up this prayer: may your afterlife be filled with light and joy, and may it always be in focus. Amen.

MizD’s camera. August 2002 – December 2006.


Reminder! Weekend Cat Blogging Lucky 79, right here at Belly Timber! Leave your cat blogging links here, or email our clever host at the_cat(at)belly-timber(dot)com. Check back for the official WCB post Friday night!

Weekend Cat Blogging #78: Extra! Extra! Angry Cat Sits on Newspaper!

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

the cat

A curious thing happened this past Wednesday. A newspaper appeared on our front porch. How odd. My human captors don’t have a subscription to the local daily. Did it belong to the neighbor? Was it a gift? A hint, perhaps, that the papers under my catbox need replacing on a more frequent basis?

Now me, being a cat and not caring much for human news, ignored the paper’s first arrival. On Thursday, the paper came again. This was definitely not a mistake. Someone wanted my captors to read. And my captors, being the messy humans they are, left sections of the paper on various easily accessible locations around the house providing me with multiple informative sitting opportunities (because, of course, we all know the old joke about why us cats sit on newspapers: we read with our butts).

This is all fine and dandy and all rather tedious (not once was the paper left open to a pet advice column or the latest Garfield) until yesterday. Until they left the paper open to this:

hey, that's me!

Does that fine specimen of felinity look familiar? Well it should.

Angry Cat vs the paparazzi

Yes. It’s me. I’m in the paper, and if I interpret correctly the general rantings and ravings that ensued after the discovery of my published state, my captors knew absolutely nothing about it!

Indeed, my catnip fund is woefully empty.

Now, this photo (which — oh the irony — involved me fending off paparazzi whilst communing with my favorite herb-laced crumply paper) accompanies an inexplicably feline prelude to a brief notice of the Portland Holiday Ale Fest — an event my humans are certain to attend as it is well known in these parts they cannot resist any beverage bearing the name “Sledcrasher.” The prelude begins with an attempted rescue of a cat from under a radiator and ends with, well, beer. Yes, humans are that baffling.

I should note as well, that this piece is featured in the paper’s Arts & Entertainment section, and this week’s cover piece is a Holiday Wired Gift Guide. Oh, the further irony, I say (or should I say o teh ironies?). Humans who are keenly, expertly wired know full well one does not swipe photos from websites to publish in print media! Look, I may just be a cat, but even I know that theft off of other people’s intertubes is just plain wrong!

Which brings me back to that woefully empty catnip fund. I’m thinking I need to do something about this. Contact the paper and ask for something in return. Fleeting fame? Not good enough, buckos. I want remuneration. In fact, I believe I will draft a letter.

Angry Cat gets Angrier

There. If that doesn’t work, plan B is already in progress. Here’s a sneak preview:

DEAR SIR OR MADAM,

I AM PLEASE TO BE MAKE YOUR AQUAINTANCE ON MATTER OF UTMOST URGANCE. I AM SOLE PRIOR OF EXPERT OFFSHORE COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN FELINE ACCESSORY OF HIGHEST QUALITY AND I HAVE THE PRIVILEDGE TO REQUEST FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE THE TRANSFER OF 47,000,000 (FORTY SEVEN MILLION) U.S. DOLLARS INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS. MY EQUITY HAS BEEN IN SUSPENCE ACCOUNT FOR TEN HUMAN YEARS AND UPON RECEIVING FROM YOU THE SMALL SUM OF 47,000 (FORTY SEVEN THOUSAND) CANS OF PREMIUM CAT FOOD, I CAN GUARANTEE THIS TEN TIMES RETURN ON YOU INVESTMENT RISK FREE AND WITH STRICTEST CONFIDENCE.

FROM THE DESK OF ANGRY CAT
INTERNATIONAL IMPORT/EXPERT DIVISION
SUPREME CAT ACCESSORY MULTICORP

There. About two hundred or so of those ought to do it.

Now, back to my reading. A new paper arrived today and at last one mystery was solved. Wrapped around the paper’s fold, a lime green flyer with the following text: Enjoy your complimentary copies of The Oregonian compliments of The Winter Hawks.

Apparently we have our local WHL hockey team to thank for this week’s curious adventure, (and for my subsequent fortune, thank you very much). Wait. What’s this I hear? My captors are now talking about taking funds they might acquire from the proper sale of my photo and attending a hockey game?

Look, I’m grateful, but I’m not that grateful. Hockey, schmockey! Where’s my catnip? Where’s my gourmet meal? And while I’m at it: Hey, cat stuck under the radiator? What the heck are you thinking? Just plant your butt on the floor vent like I do.


Lots more Weekend Cat Blogging over at The Hidden Paw, and come back next week — Weekend Cat Blogging lucky number 79 will be hosted right here at Belly Timber!

Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

heart and bones

(Now we are three!)

At the waggy tail end of a full day, our pupper celebrates her third birthday with home made doggie biscuits. A pound of chicken liver, an egg, a half cup of corn meal, garlic powder, parsley, and enough flour to make a rollable dough, and here are the happy results:

dogs heart biscuits

That’s right. Dogs heart ‘em.

Hey pupper, did you know you’re three years old today? Wait a sec… you did! You even blogged about it over on Dogster!

Dogster

Dig your own badge
Visit my family

Uhoh! Now I’ve done it. I’ve given away her secret identity.

anticipation

There, there. Good pupper.

Bird in the Oven

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

counting down the hours

I know, I know, stuffing the turkey could kill ya. Take it up with the in-laws. We tried.

On this Thanksgiving, we are grateful to be back in our own little house, grateful to be back in the big city, grateful to be around good friends, and — when we have a spare moment to cook — grateful for good food.

But today, most of all, we are grateful to Google Cache because it saved my butt last night getting our posts back up after that server crash!

(This year’s turkey, brined for 48 hours in salt water and maple syrup, barded with bacon, and tented under tin foil. Current thigh temperature, 140F and rising. Stuffing make you nervous? In-laws insist on cooking it the old-fashioned way? Get the temp up to 165F and when you’re done feasting, don’t forget to scoop it all out of the turkey and refrigerate it separately!)

The Neighborhood

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

For Belly Timber’s first 20 months, our home base was on the beautiful (but annoyingly remote) western shore of San Juan Island in Northern Washington State. We still have stories and photographs to share from our island life, and we’ll bring them to when time permits. To catch a few glimpses of the island, check our posts under the category Island Local.

Where are we now?

We’re located in Portland, Oregon, in Sellwood, a funky, eclectic neighborhood along the East bank of the Willamette, just south of Brooklyn. No, not that Brooklyn. This Brooklyn.

Sellwood’s jam-packed with restaurants, antique shops, and crafty meccas of all sorts, and we’ve just begun to explore what’s popped up here while we were gone. In the coming months, we’ll be posting about our surroundings under the new category, Walking Distance.

Oh, look! A blog!

Monday, November 20th, 2006

window discussion

Mercy goodness.

Where the heck were we all weekend?

Seems our hosting service experienced what we like to call a “surprise.” SQL databases belly up, mail server down, two days of laborious rebuilding and here we are, at long last, back, and, and…

What’s this?

The last post is from November 2nd?

Aww, crap.

Ahem. Brief announcement: I will be restoring the last three posts shortly, each backdated to their appropriate release into the wild. And with a little luck, or perhaps a large amount of sweat and bacon elbow grease, comments on those posts will reappear as well. Cross fingers.

Have I mentioned yet that this sort of thing has been entirely too common around here of late?

PS: I’m unpacking my sewing supplies…

Like Juggling while Herding (more) Cats…

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

(or Belly Timber’s new adventures in Portland, a three part introduction)

Like Juggling While Herding Cats

2. In which MizD goes crazy with the crafty thing.

Freshman year of high school, I had an English teacher I couldn’t stand. I’ll call her Ms. Rhubarb. Ms. Rhubarb was new to our school and had her own peculiar way of seeing things. This way included the rather brazen assumption that her Freshman English class was the single most important class of my entire high school career. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an academic slacker. If anything, I was a nerd. The sort of nerd who cluelessly wore flowered underwear under white pants, and never missed a day of class even if it meant pockets stuffed with Kleenex and cough drops. I did my work for Ms. Rhubarb, but apparently my nerdly efforts weren’t good enough.

"She takes on too many things," she announced at my parent-teacher conference, "Theater and soccer and art classes and all these other extra-curricular activities. She needs to focus."

My math teacher nodded in agreement. At least I assume he did — I haven’t been good at math since sixth grade.

My mom (who’s always appreciated my scattershot attempts at finding life’s purpose) searched for something appropriate to say.

My advisor, who was, thankfully, also my theater teacher and had a rather Gandalfian presence which served him well, rose to my defense. "If she can’t try all these different things now, when can she try them?"

Ms. Rhubarb, who would have been fearful of a follow-up firebolt had she any interest whatsoever in genre fiction, backed down, muttering all the while that one day she would be proven right. My appalling lack of focus would do me in.

And to this day (conveniently ignoring the "now" part of my advisor’s remark) I am still determined to prove her wrong.

Oh, I have a calling. It’s not that I don’t have a calling. It’s simply that my calling is rather…

Okay, I admit it. It’s scattered.

Playwriting, fabric art, painting, film, comics, sculpture, decoupage Easter egg depictions of the complete works of John Norman… Honestly. Do I have to make up my mind?

Now, here’s the thing. For the past twenty months, I’ve been on a crafty starvation diet. Oh, I’ve had my compy and my camera and my sketch pad here and there, but damn, the craving for my old art supplies has been extreme.

And now that I’ve got access to them again at long last…

And now that I need to buckle down and kick some freelancing butt…

Well, the short ending to all this is, yes, I’m working with Chopper to build a personal chef business, but that’s not all: I’m rebuilding my arts and crafts studio and I’m hitting the marketplace. With a vengeance.

Scattered, you say, Ms. Rhubarb? Just watch me.

Next up: Part 3: In which we embark upon the rescue of our wayward house.


Note: This is a repost, as the first edition was devoured in a server crash, with chocolate sprinkles on top. Some of the first edition’s comments and final edits may have gone the way of the Seven Up Bar; my apologies to all.

Like Juggling while Herding Cats…

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

(or Belly Timber’s new adventures in Portland, a three part introduction)

for love of fruit

1. In which we leap off a tall cliff without a safety net.

On the final weekend of July, this past summer, we did something rather extraordinary that I never thought we’d pull off: we catered a wedding.

It was our gift to our dear friends, this wedding feast. We took a weekend away from our island home to shop, and prep, and cook up a storm, and we accomplished it all — wedding feast and rehearsal dinner for 50 people — for just shy of $350 (with, I freely admit, a few key donations from the Belly Timber personal pantry; our friends were on an extremely tight budget and we were determined to wow them with our frugality).

a wedding spread, July 2006

Now, even though we’ve cooked for many of our own parties (and for our own wedding), this was different. Daunting. It’s our friends’ wedding, after all. We can’t screw it up. They’ll never forgive us!

So, to doubly ensure everything would go off without a hitch, I donned my stage manager hat and began making lists. Lists, lists, and more lists. (I love lists.) We were prepared. Frighteningly prepared.

And of course, because nothing ever goes exactly as planned, we ran into tiny glitches here and there: a misplaced corkscrew, a lost container of yogurt, a –

You know what? I can’t think of a third glitch. It went that well.

In fact, I have to say, we loved every minute of it.

And the guests and the wedding party absolutely adored our food.

at the spread

And when we were all done and we’d nothing left but the cleaning, and everyone was happily gorging themselves on shrimp satay and baba ganoush, we looked at each other and said, Dude. We need to do this again because we kicked some serious culinary butt.

That was the moment. The moment we knew our vague post-island plans had to become much much more than just vague post-island plans. The moment we knew we had to start our own personal chef business.

Oh, sure we’d talked about it before, tossed around ideas, names, researched the local competition, but now we had the confidence to do more than just daydream.

Jump ahead three months.

In the interim, we’ve taken a beating. I’ve written (and The Cat’s written) in brief about dead computers and other internet disasters, and I’ve mentioned — also in brief — a small portion of our house woes. They’ve been immense. So overwhelming at times that we’ve spent days wondering who the sneaky bastard was who slapped "kick me" signs on our backs.

But even so, we are ready. Not financially ready, mind you, but more than ready in spirit. The return to our own house marks a substantial change in our lives. Not just a change from the nomadic existence of the past 22 months, but a deeper transition from treading water to moving forward. In short, we need to leap so that we do not fall.

A while back, on a certain Sugar High Friday, I wrote a little tribute to Chopper. Happy Chopper Day, I called it, his first anniversary of his graduation from culinary school. "The scariest wagers," I said, "are the ones you make on yourself and on your future success." Well, this, after Chopper’s stint in school, is scary wager number two. Can we do it? Can we be our own bosses and make a success of it? Are we completely nuts?

On this past Memorial Day, I wrote about the caregiving experience, about Dad’s cancer and how this blog was born out of a need for release. Now, as we shift into a new phase in our lives, Belly Timber shifts with us, and as our lives expand, so too will the blog expand to encompass the bigger picture: MizD and Chopper leaving limbo and starting from scratch. A disaster zone house, a budget the size of a postage stamp, and a mountain of student loan debt, and still, we leap. It’s that or the daily grind, and lordy are we sick of the daily grind.

So, happily, crazily, we leap.

Tomorrow: part two: In which MizD goes crazy with the crafty thing.


Note: This is a repost, as the first edition was devoured in a server crash, with chocolate sprinkles on top. Some of the first edition’s comments and final edits may have gone the way of Pepsi Blue; my apologies to all.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Psssst!

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

painter kitty
im in ur hous paintin’ ur wallz

So, you’ve probably noticed things have been a little sparce around these parts. Crazy stuff going on, from captors with computer troubles to household disasters to — would you believe — sabotage of the internets?

I kid you not.

And I wasn’t even the saboteur.

But here’s the thing: My captors have a GROOVY NEW PLAN they’re going to announce on Monday and it’s not just about this here blog. I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s got something do with business plans and tax ID numbers.

Oh, and speaking of this here blog, and um, that there blog?

Well….

My female captor, she is SO indecisive. First day she wants two blogs. The next day, one. Next day, two again. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, HUMAN!

So, this morning, as I was leaving a household contribution on the paper just outside the rim of the catbox (my aim is impeccable), I noticed this nearby notebook, open to a page of female captor scratchings. Ahah! She’s written her bloggy thoughts. Let’s have a look!


Belly Timber – playing with our food everything since 2005.

A blog about food, crafts, DIY, frugality, and random fits of chaos.

Note: Everything is interconnected: food to frugality to sustainability to DIY to craft. It’s all part of a whole (One Blog to Rule them all – mwaahaahaa!); all moving toward the same goal of living well on a low budget and not fucking up the environment in the process.

DIY and crafty things? Oh happy day! More distractions! More time for Meeeee! And, best of all, do you know what crafting means?

That’s right:

YARN.

My life is almost complete.

Hey. Wait a sec. Frugality doesn’t include ditching the canned cat food, does it?

(Check out more Weekend Cat Blogging over at Skeezix’s Scratching Post!)


Note: This is a repost, as the first edition was devoured in a server crash, with chocolate sprinkles on top. Some of the first edition’s comments and final edits may have gone the way of Jello 1-2-3 — my apologies to all.

Back to our roots

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

back to our roots
Portland Farmers Market, October 2006

Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out.

–Talking Heads, Road to Nowhere

So many changes, so much to say, but it’s late and I promised I’d post before midnight.

Also, pssst. A work in progress, over here.

Bad Compy, No Cat

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

It’s like this:

Chopper’s compy is dead.
My compy is mostly dead.

We have only the lappy, sans cat pictures, now perched on a TV tray table in Chopper’s parents’ basement, because – crazy but true – our house still lacks internet service.

Oh, that Comcast, she is a slow one.

We’ll be back soon, we promise. Even if it means we have to nail our local cable guy with a tranq dart and hold him hostage till he brings our poor little house into the 21st century.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Silly, huh?

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

Silly?

unplugged

Nope. Sorry. Not happening. I’m Ninety-Three in cat years. I don’t do silly.

Not that my female captor didn’t try, mind you. Little catnip, little taunting with the props, but frankly, I’m just not in the mood.

I mean, look. Look at this:

painted into a window

It’s yet another window ledge (again with that not going outside thing!), and this time, the window’s got duct tape all over it!

Apparently — or so I’ve overheard — there were humans living in my house while my captors and I were away. And apparently, even though these humans agreed they’d take good care of the place, they left it in quite a shambles.

Which explains the duct tape. And the painter’s tape. And the little painty paw prints I just tracked across the living room floor.

And the fact that my captors are so busy reclaiming my house that they’ve no time to blog.

Hey. Wait a sec. Captors too busy for three weeks running? No time to…

Ha! It’s mine! Mine, I tell you! At long last, the blog is ALL MINE!

contentment

(For more Weekend Cat Blogging, including silly cats, check out Rosa’s Yummy Yums!)

Weekend Cat Blogging: Moving Day

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

moving day
(From the 35mm vaults: Stuart on Moving Day, many many moves ago)

Oh, how we hate moving. We hate it even more when it’s a tedious, agonizing process that involves the endless juggling of tenants, relatives, and mountains of semi-packed kipple. At this point, it’s a wonder we know where The Cat is.

(She’s fine, in fact. Cooped up a little, lonely at the moment, but surrounded by her treasured catnip-imbued crumply paper. She and Platelicker will be reunited soon… and then — ahhhh — life back to normal. Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria, the usual tranquility.)

This past week we spent three days in a tiny mountain village in Central Washington: Our first true vacation since our honeymoon (which was, go figure, in a tiny mountain village in Central Oregon). It was a refreshing break from moving madness, but more than that, it gave us quiet time to sit back and say hey, what’s next.

Not that we lacked plans before this moment, it’s just that now our plans are beginning to crystallize. I’m not ready to go into specifics just yet, but I will soon, and the specifics will involve a few changes to Belly Timber, and the addition of a new blog in our repertoire.

This latter bit should be good news for The Cat, who is always looking for a new sandbox to defile. Er, I mean a new playground wherein she might romp, chase butterflies, and do all the adorable things sweet little (non-angry) kitties do.


For more Weekend Cat Blogging, check out Boots and Tess and all the WCB links at The Hidden Paw.


WCB Schedule:
October 14 – Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy yums.

October 21 – Jelly from I Got 2 Shoes.

October 28 – Linda from Kayak Soup.

November 4 – Lali from Lali et Cie.

November 11 – Skeezix at Skeezix the Cat.

November 18 – Amar at Catsynth.

November 25 – Sanjee and all the cool cats at the House of the (Mostly) Black Cats.

December 2 – D at The Hidden Paw.

December 9 – Miz D and the Angry Cat right here at Belly Timber!

December 16Kitchen Mage.

December 23chefsarahjane.

December 30 – TBA

Weekend Cat Blogging: Angry Cat Vents!

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

kitten's little window

My captors are toying with me again. First, we move from my island paradise to this tiny basement with but one window ledge for me to perch on and no outside access whatsoever, and then, adding insult to injury, they place an alien cat (a large and rather quarrelsome black and white creature) just beyond my reach to taunt me. I am in feline agony. And worse: I’ve no means to vent!

Yes, for the entire month of September, venting was, due to circumstances far beyond even my captors’ control, a lost cause. Why? Apparently someone in this overburdened flophouse of slackertude determined that they were the sole arbiter of internet access and — would you believe — HID THE MODEM when they weren’t using it for themselves.

Needless to say, my captors and I weren’t pleased. Oh, to be as blissfully ignorant as that silly furball. Ha. Just wait. Some day SHE’LL have literary aspirations, and they too will be squelched!

kitten, veiled

But I digress. You see, we’re no longer in that tiny purgatory of spiders and cement. We’re almost home! ALMOST.

Trouble is, my captors promised me a move toward better things. Toward a YARD again. Maybe even a CAT DOOR. Well, guess what? I’m still waiting.

And, where am I waiting? In yet another basement, only this one doesn’t even have a window ledge!

Oh sure, there’s carpet instead of cement, and I haven’t seen any spiders, but I ask you, is that supposed to make up for the SECOND EVIL CAT lurking outside the glass door, or the TWO ADDITIONAL DOGS in the house?

Be patient, they say. It’s just a week of house sitting they say, but I am cursed. Cursed!

Well, I’ll get them, I will. And meanwhile, I’ll laugh in the face of their daily traumas. Can’t find a tea kettle? The iron is broken? Allergic to one of the dogs? Oh, SUFFER. Next time, when you’ve got to dump the leftover gravy out of your one suitable pan so you can make a cup of evening tea, put some of it on my freakin’ cat food or I will walk all over your keyboard like I’ve never walked on it before.

sgdgeroAOPIAGDFOUPsfjiTW-9UEoIRQO
54\]6],K2L.WSW,VFRVF-VIOSX8AS76Z6TSGVKJ
KL=-9]4132 RSD57EA3XFRSRWYGVUPKJBGDECV
G5AZ6ERJFCFDGGHG46I9-304=91
3Q59Y0[TEHAP’DHL;’30-360-3463Q
SJNVKGSDAFSDADS;VC;’LASL;KVBC

THERE. SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT. I’VE GOTTEN THE CAPSLOCK STUCK AND YOU’VE NO IDEA HOW TO UNDO IT, DO YOU?

BWAAHAAAHAAA!

OH, AND NEXT TIME YOU WANT TO WATCH ONE OF THOSE SILLY BRITISH SCIFI SHOWS, IT BETTER NOT BE AN EPISODE WHEREIN ALL THE CATS ARE VILLAINS. TRUST ME ON THIS. YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT ELSE I’VE GOT PLANNED.


(Check out lots more Weekend Cat Blogging over at the House of (Mostly) Black Cats!)

I Heart Craig’s List

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

espresso iterations
Lappy!

So, here I am, total dork, reveling in my newfound wirelessness by snapping pictures of Chopper at the Ugly Mug Coffeehouse while he reads the sports page and we drink our double espressos. Yes kids, this is me, blogging our very first trip to a coffee shop with a laptop that actually CONNECTS TO THE INTERNET!

(And with that technologically antediluvian confession, we’ve completely lost all of our geek cred.)

In truth, I wasn’t expecting to luck out like this, but two days with mouse poised to refresh and browser open to Craig’s List really can pay off.

Seriously, this little baby’s processor is faster than the one in my desktop. And it’s got a DVD player that I swear plays DVDs better than the gizmo that’s hooked up to our TV. Crazy, huh? I’m like a kid in a candy shop and I’ve just discovered this newfangled thing called the gummy bear. What’s next? Phones that take pictures? How cool is that?

Now for the fun part: No, not formatting, uploading, organizing, watching Platelicker and The Cat fight over who gets to be on my wallpaper… Not that tedium. No, the fun part is naming my new lappy!

Whaddya mean you don’t name your computers? Doesn’t everyone name their computers? Hell, I even name my hard drives within my computers. My desktop? He’s Aziraphale, after the angel in Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. (There, that should restore some of that geek cred.) My three internal drives? Horrabin (after the terrifying clown-on-stilts in Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates), Jivecow (after, er, nothing at all – I’m certain Chopper made that one up), and Seraphim (yeah, I know, it’s plural. Get over it.)

So now I’ve my new lappy, and lappy needs a name!

In fact, oh what the heck.

It’s MizD’s Name My Lappy Contest!

Submit your suggestions here.

The winner, selected either by MizD, Chopper, or The Cat as she walks across the keyboard and votes with her claws, will receive the fabulous prize of:

The Undying Gratitude of MizD’s New Laptop, Which, by the way, is an Inanimate Object and Completely Incapable of Expressing Undying Gratitude!

good morning, Sellwood
(Ahem. Bonus geek cred restoration, courtesy of Chopper’s t-shirt logo.)

Whine Blogging Wednesday #2

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Red Rust West

It’s baaa-aack.

Today’s whine from MizD is brought to you by the letter I for Irritable Intractable Impeded Internets.

Here goes:

Once upon a time, many months ago, before MizD dropped everything to go care for her ailing parents, she had a growing web design business. Okay, it was slow-growing, like asparagus in Alaska (she imagines), but point is, she had opportunities to build her client base and actually do well at this web design thing. Then, she moved to a tiny island where not only did everyone’s websites look like they were designed by Front Page version 1.1 circa 1996, but MizD’s caregiving efforts took precedence and the web design fell by the wayside.

Now, many months later, MizD has returned to her roots in Portland and she, with meager savings from a summer’s work in tourist retail, is determined to dive into the freelance thing again. She is excited. She has many ideas. She knows that some success in this endeavor may even give her and Chopper the resources they need to start a culinary business together. She forges ahead.

Or rather, she would forge ahead, but MizD is stuck in a place with crap-for-internet service. In short, there’s a big nasty hairball in her tube and she’s completely lacking in CyberDraino.

Why just yesterday, MizD attempted to upload a single CSS file for a client’s website, and it took her an hour because of how many times the connection failed.

So, what did MizD do? What every frustrated geek would do at that juncture: She stomped out the door of her tiny cave, trudged down the street to the nearest coffee shop and ordered a double espresso.

And when she received her rich, supposedly mood-enhancing beverage, she took a single sip, opened her sleepy eyes, and promptly wept at her surroundings.

For MizD was in a forest of wireless laptops. Laptops at every table, and at each one, fingers tap tap tapping away, writing blog posts, shopping, networking, surfing the web at 21st century speeds. She was, in a word, surrounded by productivity and none of it was hers.

Alas, all MizD could do was drink her now bitter espresso and wander back to her cave to spend another hour trying to upload a new index file for a soon-to-be-annoyed client’s website.

Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tube (beyond the hairball). For in just two short weeks, MizD will be out of this cave of antiquity and two weeks after that, MizD will be in her own home at long last, and there, at long last, she can make leaps and bounds toward her ultimate goal of freelance success.

Providing she doesn’t run out of money and clients first, she thinks, glaring at the evil hairball that looms before her at every turn.

(And speaking of turns… got something to whine about? Share the love!)

Chickpea and Baby Turnip Spread

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Chickpea and Baby Turnip Spread

Chickpea and Baby Turnip Spread

Makes ~24 ounces

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 bunch baby turnips, trimmed, greens reserved and roughly chopped.
  • 1 bunch sorrel, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon shiro miso paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Method

  1. Blanche the turnips until they are soft, but not mushy.
  2. Place a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of butter.
  3. When the butter is melted, add turnip greens and sorrel and cook until the leaves are wilted.
  4. Add chickpeas, turnips, miso, lavender, and paprika.
  5. When everything is heated through, transfer to a food processor and puree.
  6. Serve hot, with either toast points, pita bread, or crostinis.

Chickpea and Fermented Tofu Fritters

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Chickpea and Fermented Tofu Fritters

Chickpea and Fermented Tofu Fritters

Makes 25-30 fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces spicy fermented tofu
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz can of chickpeas
  • 1 bunch green garlic, sliced, green part only
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
  • 2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup milk

Method

  1. Add the egg to the milk and beat to combine.
  2. Add the chickpeas, tofu, miso, and lavender to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
  3. Place mixture in a bowl with the flour, and add the egg and milk.
  4. Whisk to combine all ingredients into a thick batter.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet with 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom over medium heat.
  6. Test the oil by dropping bread crumbs into it. When they sizzle, the oil is ready.
  7. Add spoonfuls of the batter to the pan, about six to seven at a time. Cook on each side for 30-45 seconds, or until brown.
  8. Serve with the Lavender Miso Aioli

For the Aioli

  1. Place two egg yolks, one teaspoon of Chinese hot mustard, one teaspoon of shiro miso paste, 1/2 a bunch of green garlic (white part only), and one teaspoon dried lavender flowers into a food processor.
  2. Start the food processor and slowly add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Then add canola oil until the sauce is thick enough to spoon out.

Spicy Baked Clams

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Spicy Paper Chef Clams

Spicy Baked Clams

Makes 20-30 clams

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds Westcott Bay clams
  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a 15 oz can of chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
  • 4 fresh spicy chiles
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Method

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F.
  2. Place the clams in a medium sized pot over high heat.
  3. Add 1/2 cup mirin and one tablespoon of chopped garlic, and steam the clams just until they open.
  4. Remove clams from the heat and quickly get all of them out of their shells.
  5. Place the shelled clams, chickpeas, miso, and lavender into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is roughly chopped. Place the mixture into a bowl.
  6. Split, scrape and slice the chiles and add them to the clam mixture. Stir well to distribute.
  7. Spoon the mixture back into the clam shells; don’t fill too high.
  8. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated Manchego cheese, then top with a thin slice of compound butter.
  9. Place in the oven and bake until butter and cheese are melted and the bread crumbs start to brown.
  10. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Spicy Empanadas

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Spicy Empanadas

Spicy Empanadas

Makes 12

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons shiro miso paste
  • 1 cup water*

Method

  1. Dissolve the miso paste in the cup of water.
  2. Add flour and shortening to a mixing bowl, and with your fingertips “cut” the shortening into the flour. Stop when the shortening is down to pea-sized chunks covered in flour.
  3. Make a “well” in the center of the bowl, and begin adding the liquid in 1/4 cup amounts. Add just enough to bring the dough together. You may end up having to use more water, or less miso liquid.
  4. Cover your board with plastic wrap, and without too much handling, turn the dough out onto the board.
  5. Form the dough into a rough disk and wrap it tightly in the plastic. Then place it in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes to a hour; the longer the better.

For the filling

  • 1 pound chorizo, uncased
  • 2 lamb kidneys, diced small
  • 1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers

Method

  1. Place a medium sized pan over medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of oil.
  2. When the pan is hot, add the chorizo and break it up.
  3. Add the diced kidneys and cook them with the chorizo.
  4. When the meats are near fully-cooked, add the chickpeas.
  5. When everything is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the lavender.
  6. Allow to cool to room temperature.

To finish the empanadas

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F.
  2. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and unwrap.
  3. On a well floured board, roll the dough out to roughly 1/4 of an inch.
  4. Cut three inch discs out of the dough, collect the scraps, and repeat.
  5. Lay a small dab of the filling in the center of a disc.
  6. Lightly wet the edge of the disc and fold it up around the filling, pinching the edge closed.
  7. When all the empanadas are ready you can place them on a parchment lined pan, brush with a little eggwash, and place in a 350 F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. You can also pan-fry, or even deep-fry them, my personal choice.

Vodka Watermelon Sorbet

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Vodka Watermelon Sorbet in a tuile cup

Vodka Watermelon Sorbet

makes lots

Ingredients

  • 1 6 pound seedless watermelon
  • 6 shots top shelf vodka (Grey Goose, Ketel One, etc.)
  • 2 cups simple syrup
  • 10 sheets gelatin
  • 3 lemons, juiced

Method

  1. Peel and cut watermelon into chunks and puree in a blender, then place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make simple syrup and heat over medium low, then dissolve gelatin in syrup.
  3. Add lemon juice, gelatin, syrup, and vodka to the pureed watermelon, and freeze in a gelato machine.
  4. Harden the sorbet in the freezer for at least three hours before serving.

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

For the masa

  • 2 cups Masa Harina
  • 3 cups Home made chicken stock, slightly warmed
  • 1/2 cup Pine nuts, raw
  • 1 teaspoon Salt

Method

  1. Place masa harina in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Grind pine nuts in a food processor or mortar and pestle and add to the masa.
  3. Add stock and salt to the bowl, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Allow bowl to sit for about five minutes, or until the masa is a very soft dough.

For the filling

  • 2 pounds Turkey hindquarter meat, roughly cubed
  • 3 cups Home made chicken stock
  • 2 2/3 tablespoons, Coriander seed, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin seed, toasted
  • 5 Chipotles marinated in adobo sauce
  • To taste Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Puree the chipotles and grind the toasted spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Add the turkey and brown evenly.
  4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
  5. Add the chipotles and ground spices and cover tightly.
  6. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until turkey is fork tender, then remove the top and reduce away the liquid.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salsa

  • 3 Medium tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, diced small
  • 3 Serrano chiles, diced small
  • 1 bunch Fresh cilantro, minced
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • To taste Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Combine ingredients in a non-reactive (i.e. non metal) bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

To assemble

  1. Preheat and oven to 375 F.
  2. Carefully split open eight nopales along their length and fill with a “pocket” of the masa.
  3. Place a layer of the turkey filling into the “pocket,” then cover with another layer of masa.
  4. Place the tamales in a roasting pan and coat with oil.
  5. Place pan in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the masa turns golden brown and crunchy.
  6. Serve with refried black beans, a generous crumbling of queso fresco, and a huge spoonful of salsa.

Spicy Salmon Ceviche

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Salmon Ceviche

Salmon Ceviche

Seves 8

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds fresh Copper River sockeye salmon
  • 9 poblanos
  • 6 red jalapeños
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced small
  • 1 bunch cilantro, minced
  • 1 large pink grapefruit, juiced
  • 1 navel orange, juiced
  • 2 large lemons, juiced

Method

  1. Roast one of the poblanos and all of the jalapeños over an open flame or under a broiler until skin is blackened. Then place in a small bowl and cover with plastic. Allow to sit for five minutes, then peel, remove the seeds, and dice.
  2. Cut salmon fillets into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a non-reactive bowl or pan.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive container and marinate for at least 2 hours.
  4. Remove tops and seed pods from remaining poblanos and carefully place them in martini glasses.
  5. When ceviche is done marinating, place portions in each poblano and serve.

Tandoori Style Chicken Wings with Stone Fruit Chutney

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Paper Chef 20: Tandoori Style Chicken Wings with Stone Fruit Chutney

Tandoori Style Chicken Wings with Stone Fruit Chutney

serves 5

For Chutney

  • 1/2 cup Rice vinegar
  • 1 Peach, pitted and diced small
  • 10 Bing cherries, pitted and diced small
  • 10 Rainier cherries, pitted and diced small
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, diced small
  • 3 Red jalapenos, split, seeded, and diced small
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Mountain Pepper Leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients but the pepper leaves in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the mixture is reduced to a thick, chunky paste.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in the pepper leaves, and serve.

For Wings

  • 25 Chicken wing drumettes
  • 1 quart Plain yogurt

For Masala blend

  • 2 teaspoons Smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon Ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Ground clove
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Black pepper, ground fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Method

  1. Combine spices and seasonings with yogurt in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly.
  2. Add chicken wings, making sure all are totally covered with the yogurt, then cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.

To Finish

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Take the marinated chicken wings and lightly shake excess yogurt away, then skewer the wings, leaving enough space for them to fit easily between the bars of your oven racks.
  3. Place the skewers in the oven with a pan underneath to catch any drippings, and roast for 25-30 minutes.
  4. Serve with steamed rice, and a dollop of chutney.

Chile Rellenos with Stone Fruit Salsa

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Paper Chef 20: Chile Rellenos with Stone Fruit Salsa

Chile Rellenos with Stone Fruit Salsa

serves 2

For Rellenos

  • 2 Poblano chiles
  • 1 Small wheel, queso fresco
  • 1 cup Tempura batter
  • 1/2 cup Beer

For Salsa

  • 1 Peach, pitted and diced small
  • 10 Bing cherries, pitted and diced small
  • 10 Rainier cherries, pitted and diced small
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, diced small
  • 3 Red jalapenos, split, seeded, and diced small
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Lemon Myrtle

Method

  1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok, or deep saucepan filled with oil to 350-375 F.
  3. Cut a slit in the side of both poblanos and remove the seed pods.
  4. Fill both with queso fresco. (Other recipes ask that you roast and peel the chiles first; personally, I like them crunchy.)
  5. Combine tempura and beer to make a thick batter.
  6. Dip the rellenos in the batter, making sure they are thoroughly coated, and place them in the oil. Fry until the batter turns golden brown.
  7. Serve with generous amounts of stonefruit salsa.

Spicy Braised Short Ribs with Dueling Gastriques

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Spicy Braised Short Ribs with Dueling Gastriques

serves 3

Paper Chef 20: Spicy Braised Short Ribs with Duelling Gastriques

For Ribs

  • 10 2″ cut Beef short ribs
  • 3 cups Chicken stock or broth
  • 2 Habenero chiles, split and de-seeded
  • 2 teaspoons ground Wattle Seed

Method

  1. Brown ribs on all sides in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Add broth and chiles and bring to a low simmer.
  3. Simmer for 40-45 minutes, adding the Wattle Seed in the final two minutes.

For Gastriques: Cherry

  • 10 bing cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Turbanado sugar

Method

  1. Dissolve sugar and vinegar together over medium heat. Add cherries.
  2. Simmer until syrup is reduced to desired thickness.
  3. Separate out three cherries for garnish, then puree the rest with the syrup in a blender or food processor and strain through a fine sieve.

For Gastriques: Peach

  • Use same method as above, but substitute rice vinegar for red wine vinegar, and use one white peach that has been pitted, peeled, and diced.

Serve short ribs with a small ladle of both gastriques and a light sprinkle of Wattle Seed.

Roasted, Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Monday, September 11th, 2006

perfectly stuffed patty pan

Roasted, Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Ingredients

  • 4 Patty Pan squash
  • 1/4 cup Black Sheep Creamery “Pale Blue Ewe” cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Chevre, any flavor
  • 1/2 cup Panko
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Take the squash and trim the blossom end in order to make a level platform for them to sit on. Then hollow out the top with a Parisian scoop (a.k.a melon-baller).
  3. Mash the chevre and the blue cheese together in a small bowl. When they are thoroughly combined, stuff the cheese blend into the hollowed out squashes, mounding it high.
  4. Combine panko, parmesan, paprika, thyme, and pepper in a bowl. Then coat the squash with oil and dip the cheese into the breading mixture.
  5. Place breaded squash onto a parchment-covered sheet pan and into the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes.

Menudo a la Chopper

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Menudo, not just a boy band...

Menudo a la Chopper

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Beef honeycomb tripe
  • 1 15 ounce can Yellow hominy
  • 4 Red jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon Cloves, whole
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, minced
  • 1 Pig’s foot
  • 2 quarts Chicken broth
  • To taste Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Toast spices in a small, dry pan and grind.
  2. Wash the tripe thoroughly with luke-warm water, then cut into one inch squares.
  3. In a pot, bring the broth to a boil and add cut tripe and pig’s foot. Cover tightly, and boil for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Add hominy and jalapeños and continue to simmer for another half hour.
  5. Add spice blend, and half of the minced cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish with avocado slices, a crumbling of queso fresco, and a pinch of minced cilantro.
  7. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Salmon and beet mousse barquettes

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Salmon and beet mousse barquettes

Salmon and beet mousse barquettes

For candied lime zest:

Zest of 2 baby limes
1/2 c white sugar
1/4 c water

Combine water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. When the mixture begins to get “frothy” add the zest strips.

Cook for 5 minutes, then strain. Place zest on a silpat, or parchment and into a 150 F oven and allow to dry.

For the mousse:

4 oz smoked salmon
2 oz cooked red beet
4 tbl tofutti cream cheese
1-1/2 tsp wasabi powder
5 ea large sprigs of fresh dill

Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

For barquettes:

2 c AP flour
1/2 c shortening
1/4 c butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 ea bosc pear, peeled, cored, and pureed
1/4 c water

Biscuit method:

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together thoroughly.

Add butter and shortening, and “cut” into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Add the pureed pear and fold into the mixture, then add water as needed to bring the dough together.

Mold dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When dough is properly chilled, roll portions into thin (1/8 inch) sheets and place in barquette molds, trimming away excess. Dock (poke holes in the bottom) as needed to keep the dough flat as it cooks.

Place molds in a 350 F oven until golden brown. Then remove and allow to cool.

Final assembly:

Pipe finished mousse into cooled barquettes in whatever style you like. Garnish with a small dab of caviar (or in this case; black lumpfish roe) and candied lime zest.

Snails in beet cups with truffle butter

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Snails in beet cups with truffle butter

Snails in beet cups with truffle butter

Ingredients:

1 very large red beet
Snails, as needed
Compound butter (see below), as needed
Red chiles
2 tsp coriander seed

For compound butter:

1/4 lb European style butter
1 T red bosc pear, minced
1 T garlic, minced
Zest of 1 baby lime, minced
1 small black truffle, minced
1/2 t red chili flakes

Take two tsp of butter and melt in a small sauté pan over low heat.
Add remaining ingredients and sweat over low heat for five minutes or until aroma is pungent. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Season to taste with salt.

When ingredients in pan are cool and remaining butter is soft, fold both together until thoroughly combined and roll into a log with parchment paper.

For beets:

Fill a small pot with water, and add enough salt to make it taste briny. Then add a small handful of red chiles, and 2 teaspoons of coriander seed, and bring to a boil. Add the beet, skin on, to the boiling water and allow to come back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook the beet until it is tender but not mushy, about 30-45 minutes. Remove it from the boil and place in a bath of ice water until its cool enough to handle. Then peel the skin off by hand and cut into thick slices.

Cut rounds out of the slices with whatever tool you can find; a biscuit cutter, ring mold, etc. With a Parisian scoop (a.k.a melonballer) hollow out the rounds, making them into little cups.

Place a shelled snail into each cup and add a thin (1/8 inch) slice of the compound butter on top.

Place all the prepared cups onto a sheet pan lined with parchment, and roast in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.

Serve hot. Olympic Rings configuration optional.

Molasses & White Wine Zabaglione

Monday, September 11th, 2006

molasses and white wine zabaglione

Molasses & White Wine Zabaglione

Makes up to 6 portions

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (we used Brer Rabbit Full Flavored molasses)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Method

  • Start by whipping the heavy cream and crème fraîche until stiff peaks form.
  • Set aside.
  • Beat egg yolks, wine, molasses, and sugar over a double boiler until pale and thick.
  • Add egg mixture to heavy cream/crème fraîche mixture. Fold till combined.

molasses and white wine zabaglione

Molasses Brittle (a garnish)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 tbl butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbl molasses
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Method

  • Boil all ingredients until brittle in cold water (hard crack stage)
  • When the sugar mixture reaches the hard crack stage, pour it onto a silpat or parchment and let it cool, then break it into pieces of desired size for the zabaglione garnish.

Lamb Vindaloo Naanizza

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Lamb Vindaloo

Lamb Vindaloo Naanizza

(makes two naanizzas that can be cut into 8 slices each)

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe of Chopper’s Pizza Dough*
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless lamb loin chops, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup vindaloo pizza sauce (see below)
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced
  • 12 ounce kasseri cheese, grated

(*Okay, okay, so we spaced yogurt at the store and made pizza dough instead of naan and still Chopper can’t resist the word play. It’s a curse, I tell you.)

Naanizza dough

For the vindaloo sauce
(Spice blend based on pork vindaloo spice paste, Indian Home Cookingby Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness, page 136. Special thanks to Bilbo of Smorgasbord for the great book!)

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 10 whole dried red chiles
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and mashed into a paste
  • 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Salt to taste

Sauce method

  1. Toast the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns in a dry sauté pan (see our post on
    homemade curry paste
    for spice toasting details.)
  2. When spices are aromatic, place them in a grinder along with the chiles and allow them to cool. Once cool, grind into a fine powder.
  3. Stir spice powder together with the garlic, ginger, turmeric, and vinegar.
  4. Drain tomatoes and crush, then place them in a small saucepan along with the tomato paste, and place over medium heat.
  5. When the pan contents start to bubble, stir tomatoes and paste together with a whisk until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add spice paste to the pan and continue to stir. Then add the red wine.
  7. Season to taste with salt.

Naanizza method

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  2. Roll out the dough creating an oblong shape that’s about 1/4″ thick, and spread olive oil on one side, as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  3. Place the oiled side down on either a heated grill or griddle, and oil the other side.
  4. Allow the dough to cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat.
  5. Once the dough is browned, move it to a sheet pan.
  6. Spread a thick coating of the sauce over the surface, then sprinkle on a generous layer of kasseri cheese.
  7. Layer on the other ingredients, then cover with the remaining cheese.
  8. Place the “naanizzas” in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the lamb is caramelized.

Eggs in a Nest ala Chopper

Monday, September 11th, 2006

eggs in a nest

Eggs in a Nest ala Chopper

serves 4

nest waiting for eggs

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of flavored bread (whatever flavor you like, but we used a garlic loaf)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 oz smoked bacon, cut into lardons (thin slices)
  • 2 oz butter
  • Pinch of garlic salt
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Dried basil leaves
  • Fresh oregano
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Black truffle oil for garnish

Method

  • Take bread slices and cut 1-1/2 inch holes in the center. Have eggs cracked and ready in a bowl.
  • Melt butter in a sauté pan over “medium-high” heat and wait for its water to evaporate (i.e. it stops foaming).
  • Add cut bacon and cook until the rendered fat makes a shallow pool in the pan.
  • Add cut bread and toast to golden brown on one side.
  • Turn bread over and pour eggs into the holes in the bread, one per slice. (Mrs. D sez, okay, clearly, from the photos, we cheated and made two slices with two holes each. What can I say? We were hungry!)
  • As eggs cook, sprinkle with paprika, garlic salt, and dried basil. Then add a liquid (in this case whisky!) and cover until steam cooks the whites over the yolks.
  • Reduce heat to “medium-low” and uncover. Allow to dry for two minutes
  • Plate, and garnish with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, black truffle oil, and a sprig of fresh oregano.

eggs in a nest

Strawberry & Red Wine Granita

Monday, September 11th, 2006

strawberry granita

Strawberry & Red Wine Granita

For Granita

  • 1-1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

Thaw and puree strawberries.

Mix all ingredients until sugar is dissolved, then put in freezer, fluff with a fork occasionally.

Melt 2 oz of white chocolate and spread dollops on parchment.

Refrigerate parchment and peel white chocolate wafers off later for garnish.

For quenelle topping

  • 2 tablespoon ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon almond paste
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

Mix these ingredients together, then form into quenelles and lay on top of granita servings.

Add white chocolate wafers and a strawberry flower with leaves for garnish.

Chopper’s Scotch Eggs

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Our pub food diet

Chopper’s Scotch Eggs

makes six

For the sausage

  • 2 pounds ground pork butt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly with your fingertips and set aside.

For the Scotch eggs

  • 6 hard cooked large eggs, peeled
  • Flour, beaten egg, and panko for breading

Method

Have a deep pan or wok of oil ready at 375 F ready for frying.

Divide sausage into 5 ounce portions and mold each portion evenly around an egg. This will make an orb roughly the size of a tennis ball.

Bread each one using the flour, beaten egg, and panko.

Place three at a time into the hot oil and fry until they turn a deep caramel brown. If you are unsure about the doneness you can check the internal temperature with a probe thermometer. When it reads 160 F, you’re there!

Serving suggestion: Hot Mustard, and/or HP Sauce.

Chopper’s Pickled Eggs

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Pickled Eggs

Chopper’s Pickled Eggs

  • 2 1 quart jars
  • 20 Hard cooked eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablesppon Granulated sugar
  • 15 Dry red chiles
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 5 Bay leaves
  • 15 Whole Cloves
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seed

Put all the pickling ingredients together and place over medium heat, stirring until sugars dissolve. Then remove from heat and cool.

Put 10 eggs in each jar and pour pickling liquid over top, making sure to get some of the spices into each jar.

Place in cool, dark, dry place for at least three weeks.

Braised Oxtail with Mustard sauce

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Braised Oxtail

Braised Oxtail, with Mustard sauce

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 6 large sections of oxtail
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 elarge rutabaga, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 red bell peppers, one diced, the other cut into strips
  • 2 garlic bulbs, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 lb baby carrots
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 lb dried fava beans, soaked overnight, and peeled
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons mustard (I used Lopez Larry’s Smokey Chardonnay Dijon, but any kind that isn’t French’s will do fine.)
  • 1 teaspoon Israeli zahtar
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Place stock in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add soy sauce as needed for body and flavor (trust me; it works astoundingly well).
  • Season both sides of the oxtail sections with salt and pepper.
  • While stock is heating, take half of your baby carrots and dice them to the same size as your diced onion. Take the other half and slice them lengthwise.
  • Place a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom.
  • When the oil starts to smoke, add the onion, diced carrots, and diced bell pepper. Caramelize these vegetables well and stir occasionally to avoid burning. Then deglaze the pan with red wine and add all the contents to the stock.
  • Add another tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and place back on medium high heat. When the oil starts to smoke again, add the oxtail and caramelize well on all sides. Then, again, deglaze with red wine and add to the stock pot, which should now be at a simmer. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover tightly. Allow the pot to cook for at least an hour; two would be better.
  • While the pot is simmering, fill another pot with 4 cups of water. Add 4 tablespoons of Kosher salt and the 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, and bring to a boil.
  • Blanche and shock vegetables as follows: When the water is boiling, add the carrots and rutabaga and bring back to a boil. Cook until softened but not mushy, then remove them and place in a bowl of ice water.
  • Then place the asparagus in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to overcook. Then move it to the ice water with the carrots and rutabaga.
  • Now, place the fava beans in the boil and cook until tender, then remove from heat, but leave them in the pot (ie, do not shock the fava beans).
  • Fava Beans

  • When the oxtail is “fork tender, well done,” you’re ready to serve. Ladle out two cups of the stock and place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, making sure the starch is thoroughly dispersed. When the stock is at a boil, add the mustard and whisk until it’s fully incorporated, then add the starch water (known as a ‘slurry’) a little bit at a time. You won’t likely need to use it all. Reduce until the sauce attains the desired thickness.
  • Take your cast iron skillet again, and add two tablespoons of EVOO, and place back on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the vegetables from the ice water and lightly sauté with the zahtar.
  • Plate the sections of oxtail on top of a bed of fava beans, then spoon the sauce over top. Arrange the vegetables as you like, and serve with a nice chianti.

Chopper’s Lab: Menudo – not just a boy band!

Friday, September 8th, 2006

Menudo, not just a boy band...

Most people recoil in horror when they are told what the primary ingredient is in the classic Mexican breakfast dish menudo. No, it’s not Ricky Martin…

The first time I ever tried menudo was at a tiny Mexican cafe in San Diego back in the mid-nineties. My friends told me it was good, and having never heard of it before — I was rather young — I ordered it. Little did I know I was about to have a “Mikey” moment, where my friends were just seeing if I’d eat it. Well, I did, and I really liked it, especially the little tender chewy bits.

“What was that?” I asked my friends as they were about to burst into laughter…

no, really, it's tripe

That’s right, beef tripe. Stomach of cow. The funny part for me was that I didn’t mind.

Now, I’ve always been up for a good experiment, so why not try my hand at this culinary gem?

Menudo a la Chopper

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Beef honeycomb tripe
  • 1 15 ounce can Yellow hominy
  • 4 Red jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon Cloves, whole
  • 1 bunch Cilantro, minced
  • 1 Pig’s foot
  • 2 quarts Chicken broth
  • To taste Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Toast spices in a small, dry pan and grind.
  2. Wash the tripe thoroughly with luke-warm water, then cut into one inch squares.
  3. In a pot, bring the broth to a boil and add cut tripe and pig’s foot. Cover tightly, and boil for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Add hominy and jalapeños and continue to simmer for another half hour.
  5. Add spice blend, and half of the minced cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish with avocado slices, a crumbling of queso fresco, and a pinch of minced cilantro.
  7. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

I think I did it justice. It was spicy the way I like it, and the texture was just like I remember. It was good enough for Mrs. D to give it a try. In her words…

MizD sez:
First, let me get this out of the way: The tripe terrified me. I mean, look at it. It looks like industrial insulation gone horribly wrong. Or the famous lost hive of the Killer Sea Bees of the Great Barrier Reef. Something entirely inedible, at the very least.

Oh, and it stank. It stank for a rather long time. That “2 to 2 1/2 hours” up there in the directions? Figure on at least half of that time with windows open and fans on high. I can’t quite place the smell — I have to think back, as this dish was one of the last Chopper prepared up on the island — but I imagine it reminded me of the County Fair. And not in a good way.

But then… somewhere around three hours into the process, everything changed. I began to notice the spices, the chiles, the hominy, and at long last the kitchen smelled like dinner.

And I was hungry.

And I chowed down. And it was good. Tripetastically delicious. Indeed, I didn’t have to pretend the tripe wasn’t there, because once it’s cooked (or rather, once it’s been boiled to an inch of its freaky life), tripe is a tender thing that grabs onto it’s little spicy neighbors and makes them taste all the better.

Now, I’m told by various well-informed sources that menudo is the cure for a wicked hangover. We’ll have to keep that in mind, but it will require planning. As in: cook first, party later. I don’t think I need to tell you that boiling tripe while nursing a hangover is not an activity we intend on trying in this or any other lifetime.

A final note: Although we prepared and ate this dish several weeks ago, Chopper just passed the recipe along to me today. Nothing terribly surprising, there — we’ve been horrendously busy with the move — but in the recipe itself, you’ll note an item that I did not mention in my report above: Pig’s foot.

In fact, just an hour or so ago when I glanced at the recipe for the first time, I blinked, stared across our basement cave and said “WTF, PIG’S FOOT??” (Or words to that effect.) You see, I had absolutely no idea Chopper had slipped a pig’s foot into the brew. Truth is, he pulled it (or what was left of it) out before serving, but he tells me that the removal of the pig’s foot is entirely optional and up to the discretion of the menudo master at hand.

Thank you for that one, Chopper. One scary meat at a time.

Chopper sez: So, I’ll consider this experiment in Chopper’s lab a success. What’s next, you may ask… Just wait and see.

MizD sez: Braaaains, I tell you. Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiins. (Hey, what can I say? We’re only seven and a half weeks from Halloween.)

La Festa al Fresco: A Farmers Market Bounty

Monday, September 4th, 2006

perfectly stuffed patty pan

We come bearing tasty gifts from the Portland Farmers Market!

Oh, yes I know, we’re last minute (yet again), but allow me to explain. See, Friday, we had every intention of participating in this month’s Paper Chef. We tossed ideas about — meat pies and paté for the most part — and briefly considered calling up an unsuspecting relative to take over their kitchen for a weekend afternoon (our current kitchen access being spotty, at best). But then, Saturday morning, everything changed.

Portland Farmers Market

Saturday morning, we went to the Portland Farmers Market.

And at the Portland Farmers Market, one is generally not lured in by such things as fermented black soy beans and giblets, two of this month’s Paper Chef foursome.

No, indeed. Instead, we heard the siren call of maitake mushrooms, patty pan squash, and glorious, fat leeks for a dollar a piece.

Mushroom Bounty at Portland Farmers Market

(Okay, so we didn’t exactly hear the call — the market is rather noisy and what with that odd band playing some sort of world beat, syncopated version of the 70′s disco hit “Ring My Bell,” well, the quiet voices of vegetables and fungi were completely drowned out. But boy did they look good!)

So we brought them home, stashed them away near last week’s Moreland Farmers Market purchase of Pale Blue Ewe from the Black Sheep Creamery in Southern Washington, and were promptly distracted by household and family issues.

Try some cheese!  Moreland Farmers Market

That is, until tonight when Chopper announced he was going to make goat cheese stuffed patty pans with crispy pan fried leeks and sautéed maitake mushrooms. (And, after a quick and boisterous exclamation of YUM, I scampered to the computer, double-checked the date and the rules and declared: Hey! This is perfect for Festa al Fresco!)

So, to Ivonne and Lis, I hope we’re not too late to join the party! Chopper finished our dish just as the sun lost itself behind the giant elms and maples to the west, but the hazy summer light lingered long enough for me to snap a few shots out on the porch railing of our current, temporary abode. Look! There’s even a tree in the background. Perfect for a picnic!

sauteed maitake temptation

Roasted, Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Ingredients

  • 4 Patty Pan squash
  • 1/4 cup Black Sheep Creamery “Pale Blue Ewe” cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Chevre, any flavor
  • 1/2 cup Panko
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Take the squash and trim the blossom end in order to make a level platform for them to sit on. Then hollow out the top with a Parisian scoop (a.k.a melon-baller).
  3. Mash the chevre and the blue cheese together in a small bowl. When they are thoroughly combined, stuff the cheese blend into the hollowed out squashes, mounding it high.
  4. Combine panko, parmesan, paprika, thyme, and pepper in a bowl. Then coat the squash with oil and dip the cheese into the breading mixture.
  5. Place breaded squash onto a parchment-covered sheet pan and into the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve with crispy, pan fried leeks, and sautéed maitake mushrooms.

It’s BlogDay 2006!

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

What was it I said yesterday about lounging? Ah, yes. We are in a loungy state of mind these days. And deservedly so (thanks, Cookiecrumb!).

Not that I didn’t have every intention of rising bright and early this morning (that’s 9 am west coast time), and industriously tackling my BlogDay 2006 post, but see, there was this cat.

I mean what are you supposed to do when you’ve got a cat perched so lovingly on your tummy? You just can’t bear to move her, right? So you scritch behind her ears. And then under her chin. And then you do that thing where you curl your hand into a loose claw and she slides her jaw across your fingertips, teeth behind slightly retracted gums, scritching your nails, your fingers catching on her ears as she tilts her head and shifts sides…

…and she’s so damn purringly content that the next thing you know it’s two hours later and you’ve just finished giving a full body deep tissue Swedish massage (plus Rolfing session) to your cat.

Well, I’ve had worse mornings. And possibly even lazier mornings.

But seeing as the day is now passing by and it is indeed BlogDay, it’s high time I get to my BlogDay post.

First a brief official bit about BlogDay:

BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. In this way, all Blog web surfers will find themselves leaving around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.

The BlogDay site archives are down at the moment, but I’ve got the full instructions posted over at Food Blog S’cool, so check ‘em out. If you join in, don’t forget your Technorati tag so you’re part of the official blog exploration route!

Now, for my five, I didn’t exactly pick “new” blogs, but, as Paz points out on her BlogDay is coming soon post, new means “blogs that you’ve recently discovered or blogs which are new to you.” I’ll add to that (because I’m all about bending the rules): newly discovered bloggers within larger, well-known group blogs.

So, without any further ado (or feline interruptions):

1. Gastronautical Gastronomicon: So here we are in Portland and I’m thinking: where are all the local food bloggers? I’ve run across two or three of them, but is there such a thing as a food blogging community around here? Surely those lucky Bay Area kids can’t be the only ones having fun, right? Well, after dipping my toes into the Portland Food forum, what do I discover but Gastronaut’s tasty (and deliciously snarky) blog and — lookie! — he’s just started a Carnival of PDX Food Blogs! With baseball references! We are so all over this.

2. Pacific Northwest Cheese Project: I’d heard about this bloggy love letter to the great artisan cheese makers of the Pacific Northwest some time ago from my friend Jay Lake (author, baker of fantastic ginger chocolate chip cookies, and occasional cheese blogger), but for the longest time I resisted checking it out. Why? Because I was trapped on an island that was almost entirely bereft of affordable goat and sheep cheeses for my poor, lactose intolerant tummy. But now that I’m in the big city (where I can hardly swing a cat without hitting a damn fine piece of non-cow cheese), I can read and salivate and rejoice.

(The Cat objects strenuously to that last parenthetical statement and though she too adores the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, she would be much happier if her captors were to accidentally leave a portion of their recently-purchased Black Sheep Creamery Pale Blue Ewe in an accessible location.)

3. Global Voices Online: I only just discovered Global Voices Online, and there’s much there to explore, but for today’s five I want to single out one contributor who’s a familiar face in the food blogging community: Melissa, the Cooking Diva. I’ve dropped by Melissa’s blog on a number of occasions to check out her delectable Latin American recipes, but here’s my new discovery: she’s got an amazing collection of global food blog reports over on Global Voices Online. Seriously, if you’re looking for one-stop global culinary inspiration, this is the place, hands down.

4.Now we take brief detour from Gastroblogia and head over to Daily Kos where I offer up three diarists well worth a read. First up is OrangeClouds115, who writes eloquently and passionately about organics, pesticides, family farms, and the politics of food in her series Vegetables of Mass Destruction. Second is bonddad a hard-hitting economic writer who isn’t afraid to use the term “Class War.” Third is nyceve. She writes about the shambled, killing state of health care in the U.S. and oh, you’ve got to have a heart of Halliburton steel to not be moved by her stories from the trenches.

Now, why these three with the latter two stepping outside the realm of culinary blogging? Because it’s all so sadly and horrifyingly connected: lack of access to healthcare, to decent employment, to healthy and affordable organic, locally produced food — how many millions in this country have hit this ugly trifecta? It’s a national disgrace and it deserves our attention.

(The Cat is now horribly depressed and would like me to choose something of a more cheerful nature for my final slot. So…)

5. Teapots Teapots Teapots: The other day, on a whim, I decided to search for tea blogs. I found several lovely ones, but the one that most appealed to my sense of whimsy was Andy Titcomb’s UK blog about teapots. Not only does Andy blog about unusual teapots (and teapot collectors, and newsworthy moments in teapot history), he also makes teapots and has quite a nice gallery on his main website. The Cat has asked me to point out this one as her personal favorite.

Well, there you have it — my list of five many blogs to visit on BlogDay 2006, and hereafter. I’m told you can still join in even if it’s just turned September in your time zone, just so long as it’s still August 31st somewhere in the world! Okay, I made that last bit up, but it sounds good to me!

Finally, if I may kidnap a grand suggestion from Sam, leave a link in my comments if you’ve got your own list of five (or more) to share!

Special Poached Pear

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Poached pear with agave caramel sauce

Poached pears with agave caramel sauce

2 ea Bosc pears
4 c sweet white wine
1/2 c lime juice
1/2 c agave nectar
4 oz butter
2 ea vanilla beans
Beet powder for garnish

Poaching method:

Combine wine and lime juice in a two quart saucepan over low heat.

Split and scrape vanilla beans and add both the seeds and the hulls to the liquid.

When the liquid reached between 160 and 180 F peel the pears, leaving them whole, and place in the poaching liquid.

Cover the pan, and poach the pears for at least two hours, three would be better.

When pears are cooked through, remove from the liquid.

For sauce:

Ladle off 2/3 of a cup of the poaching liquid and add to another pan over medium-high heat.

Add the agave nectar and bring to a boil. Reduce until the mixture is thick, dark, and caramelized.

Add the butter, and stir until it is melted.

Plating:

Make six cuts along the length of the pear, being careful not to cut through the stem end. Push down onto a plate, giving a slight twist, allowing the pear to “fan out.” Spoon the sauce over top, and garnish with a vanilla bean hull, and a sprinkling of beet powder.

Chopper’s Blackening Spice

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Chopper’s Blackening Spice

  • 8 dried paprika chiles (ground)
  • 3 dried cayenne chiles (also ground)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (minced and dried)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves (dry)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Our first (lazy) days in Portland

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

24 hour tea station, Share-it Square, Portland

So here we are in our strange little cave, surrounded by the glories of the big city.

(Big city dwellers, stop laughing now, dammit. Portland is big. She is a fierce and feisty corgi next to your fussy whippets and poodles. Heart the size of a mountain, this corgi has.)

Chopper’s in front of me on our foam pad bed watching tennis (Agassi!) on the telly while I’m typing on my tiny Visor, foldable Stowaway keyboard atop a banker box on the floor. We’ve got a cooler across the room for vodka, beer, wine, juice (in that order of priority), and open cans of food for the cat. Poor Cat has hairball issues and is on a special diet these days.

Next door (cave part two), Platelicker’s sprawled on the cool cement just beyond my mini-office: one table, one chair, one file cabinet, computer, scanner, printer, and the most important purchase since our arrival: a hotplate for emergency tea.

What’s this? We moved from an island to a basement?

No worries. It’s just temporary. In a month or so, we’ll have our old house back (and our own kitchen at long last!), but in the interim we’re staying with friends, just a short hop away and still in our old neighborhood.

And what a neighborhood!

New restaurants, new shops, even a new weekly farmers market, and all within walking distance! We are ready for some serious exploration and re-discovery. I mean, dude, there’s a cheese shop that’s goat and sheep central, and damn that espresso across the street hit the happy caffeine spot.

Not that we’re leaving the island behind for good, mind you. See, time up there was always at a premium; frantic bits of freedom jammed between long hours at work and long hours of caregiving, and so we’ve got quite the backlog of adventures (and photos) to blog. And, on top of that, we’ll be back for visits. Can’t keep these two barflies away from the pub forever, you know.

(Brief pause for a wave hello to the boys at the pub.)

Meanwhile, we’re taking it easy these first days, getting our bearings, organizing our small collection of unpacked belongings, reconnecting with old friends.

Oh, and lounging. We are all about the lounging. In fact, our goal (after this exhausting and quite annoyingly busy summer) is to perfect the fine art of productive lounging.

Cooler full of tasty beverages just five feet away from the bed and me with a keyboard? I think we’re off to a good start.

Chopper’s Crazy Delicious Burritos

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

A Crazy Delicious Burrito

Chopper’s Crazy Delicious Burritos

For the pico de gallo

  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 bunch curly parsley (or Cilantro, or 1/2 of both)
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Dice tomatoes, onion, and parsley to the size you want and mix in the rest.

For the rice

  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic

Blend all ingredients together thoroughly and cook it up in a rice cooker.

For the pork filling

  • 1 1/2 pound pork loin roast
  • 1/2 pound lard
  • 1 1/2 cup Mr. Pibb
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 chipotles, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried epazote
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Toast and grind cumin and coriander seeds.

Melt lard and mix together with Mr. Pibb.

Bring to simmer in a large pot and add pork. Then bring to a low simmer and add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Roll it all up into soft tortillas with the rice, the pico de gallo, and:

  • Black beans
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt
  • Avocado slices

Or whatever the heck else you want!

Southwestern Corn Tortilla Soup

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

corn tortilla soup

Southwestern Corn Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 whole fryer chicken
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups High Desert Herbal Tea – Chimayo Sunset (just the particular brand I used, but any fruit tea will do)
  • 8 ounces jicama, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 10 pearl onions, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon round, toasted cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large pot, place enough water to cover the whole chicken. Remove chicken and bring water to a boil.
  2. Put chicken back in the pot and blanch for 8 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken, shock (cool rapidly, usually using ice water), and refrigerate. Keep water at a low simmer.
  4. In a separate pot, bring tea and chicken broth to a boil.
  5. Tear tortillas by hand and drop into boiling liquid.
  6. Reduce head to a simmer, and stir often. Make sure nothing sticks. Add some of the liquid used to blanch the chicken if it gets too thick.
  7. Disassemble chicken, and dice the meat into 1 inch cubes
  8. When tortilla pieces have fully broken down, add vegetables and chicken. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  9. Continue to simmer until chicken is “fall apart” tender.
  10. Serve hot.

Brandy Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Bread pudding

Brandy Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding

serves 18

Brioche (adapted from Professional Baking p. 141)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) half & half
  • 1 ounces active dry yeast
  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 10 ounces eggs
  • 1 pound all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce sugar
  • .35 ounces (2 teaspoons) kosher salt
  • 14 ounces butter, softened

Method

  1. Scald half & half and cool to lukewarm.
  2. Dissolve yeast in half & half, add flour and mix to make a sponge.
  3. Let rise till double.
  4. Place sponge in mixer with paddle attachment.
  5. Gradually mix in eggs.
  6. Then add dry ingredients to make a soft dough.
  7. Beat in butter, a little at a time until it’s completely absorbed and the dough is smooth. (It will be very soft and sticky.)
  8. Let rise 20 minutes, then pan.
  9. Bake at 375 F for at least 45 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

Bread & Butter Pudding (adapted from Professional Baking, p. 467)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds brioche sliced thin
  • 8 ounces butter, melted
  • 2 pounds eggs
  • 1 pound sugar
  • .16 ounces (1 teaspoon) kosher salt
  • 1 ounce vanilla extract
  • 5 pounds (2 1/2 quarts) half & half
  • 8 ounce brandy

Method

  1. Cut each slice of brioche in half.
  2. Brush both sides of each piece with melted butter.
  3. Arrange the brioche slices so that they overlap in the pan.
  4. Mix together eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and brandy until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add half & half.
  6. Pour custard mixture over the brioche in the pan.
  7. Let stand, refrigerated for at least one hour until brioche absorbs the custard mixture.
  8. Set pan in another 4″ hotel pan, filled with one inch of hot water, then place in oven preheated to 375 F.
  9. Bake for 1 hour or until set.

Chopper’s Irish style Beef Stew

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

irish stew

Chopper’s Irish style Beef Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Beef Chuck, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • 5 medium sized carrots, peeled, quartered, and sliced thick
  • 5 large stalks of celery, topped and sliced thick
  • 3 large leeks sliced into rounds
  • 4 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 quarts beef stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red wine
  1. Place liquid in a large pot and put on high heat.
  2. While liquid is heating, caramelize carrots and celery in a separate pan, and add to the pot.
  3. When pot comes to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and add potatoes.
  4. Brown beef in the same pan used to cook the vegetables, deglaze with red wine, and add to the pot.
  5. Add leeks to the pot, and cover.
  6. Simmer until beef is fall apart tender, then add thyme, and season to taste.
  7. Serve with Irish Soda Bread.

Goat Cheese and Herb Soufflé in Armor

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Goat Cheese and Herb Soufflé in Armor

Goat Cheese and Herb Soufflé in Armor

Ingredients

  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Carefully score egg shells and remove tops. Rinse and save top halves for garnish. Rinse and dry inside of lower halves, then drizzle with olive oil and rub to cover interior. Drop a pinch of kosher salt in each shell, making sure to evenly distribute throughout the surface. (This will help the soufflé grab onto the shell’s inner surface as it rises.)
  • Set shells upright into a muffin tin. (I used rice to keep them standing.)
  • Separate egg whites and yolks and place them in separate bowls. Add the whites from two more eggs to the three already collected.
  • Take three egg yolks and whip together with the goat cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper until fully combined and slightly fluffy.
  • Whip five egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold egg yolk mixture into whipped egg whites.
  • When fully combined, quickly pour mixture back into egg shells and place into 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  • filling the eggshells

  • Garnish with oregano, and place top portion of egg shell over the soufflé as a helmet.
  • Serve hot, before they fall.

Duck Leg Confit with savory Strawberry Compote

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Duck Leg Confit with savory Strawberry Compote

Duck Leg Confit with savory Strawberry Compote

For Duck Confit

  • 1 quart rendered duck fat
  • 1 cup water
  • Small handful of fennel fronds
  • Small handful of chives
  • Small handful of thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

Set duck fat to simmer.
Drop herbs in.
Add four duck legs.
Simmer gently for 3 hours or until meat is fork tender.

For Compote

  • 1 finely chopped red onion (cut small dice or brunoise)
  • 3/4 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 medium-sized yellow bell pepper (also cut small dice or brunoise)
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon almond paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon white wine

Reduce until nearly dry (au sec).

Add

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (add as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon ricotta
  • 1/2 ounce white chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Serve on a bed of fresh chives (preferably with blossoms).

Duck Leg Confit with savory Strawberry Compote

Chopper’s meatball deep dish pizza

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Chopper's meatball pizza

Chopper’s meatball deep dish pizza

For the dough

  • 1 pint water
  • 3/4 ounces active dry yeast
  • 1 pound 12 ounces flour
  • 1/2 ounce sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon sugar

Whisk water, corn syrup, and sugar together until fully dissolved. Then add yeast, and whisk until yeast is also dissolved.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt.

When the liquid mixture looks “foamy” on top, add to the dry ingredients, and then add the oil.

Fold the ingredients together until all of the flour is hydrated. Then knead for 20 minutes, and mold into a large ball.

Clean out and dry the bowl, then apply a thin coat of oil with a paper towel. Then rub another thin coat of oil on the ball of dough and place in the bowl, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

While the dough is resting and rising, make your sauce, meatballs, and grate your cheese ;-)

For the meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground pork butt
  • 1/2 pound ground beef round
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb shoulder
  •  
  • 2 teaspoons dry basil
  • 2 teaspoons dry parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • More bread crumbs for coating

Work all ingredients together with your hands, making sure not to be too rough.

When everything is fully combined, portion into 3/4 to 1 oz balls, and set aside.

Place 1 quart of vegetable oil in a pot over medium high heat, and have a bowl of bread crumbs ready (about 1/2 a cup will do).

When the oil is hot enough to fry, roll your meatballs in the bread crumbs in batches, and lightly fry them, just enough to get a crust on the surface, but not enough to thoroughly cook them.

For the sauce

  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 each medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry basil
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 2 teasoons dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Put a medium sized pot over medium heat, and add 2 tbl of olive oil.

Crush the tomatoes by hand in a bowl and set aside

Add onions and garlic, and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the aromas start to become pungent and the onion turns translucent.

Add herbs, and sweat another minute, then add red wine.

Reduce the mixture by about 1/4, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, then puree the sauce (I use a stick blender), and bring back to a simmer.

Add sugar, and season to taste.

There, that’s all the components. Though, you may want to add some vegetables to your pie as well.

Now, I really like Chicago style, deep dish pizza. And the best part of making it is that you don’t really need a pizza stone (though having one would still be nice). All you really need is a good cast iron pan.

Preheat your oven to its highest possible setting (most just say “broil” which is fine, but if yours goes up to 550 F, you’re good to go).

By now your dough should be well rested, and about twice its previous size. Turn it out of the bowl, and “punch” it down to get rid of any oversized air pockets. This should be enough dough to make two or three ten inch pizzas.

For that size you’ll need 10 ounces of dough, rolled thin enough to line your pan from edge to edge, and all the way up the sides as well.

Then ladle in your sauce and spread evenly, make sure not to add too much, or your crust will be soggy.

Now, here comes the first layer of cheese. Since Mrs. D is lactose intolerant, we scoured the cheese aisle at our local market to find something we could use, and we did! There’s a wonderful Greek sheep/goat cheese called Kasseri, “the melting cheese of Greece.” Mrs. D was jubilant. Anyway, layer on about 1/2 a pound over the sauce, then add your condiments, in this case split meatballs, mushrooms, black olives, and red onions, and fresh roma tomatoes.

Place your panned creation in your oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until the crust turns a deep brown. And, there you have it. Pizza a ‘la Chopper!

Chopper’s Chicken and Dumplings

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

once again, comfort food isn't pretty

Chopper’s Chicken and Dumplings

For Broth and Meat

  • 2 whole fryer chickens
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 ounces mushrooms (variety up to availability and cost)
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

For Dumplings

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup partially cooked polenta
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup other flavorful liquid

Method

  1. Place chickens in a large pot, and add enough water to cover. Place on medium high heat.
  2. As the pot is heating, lightly caramelize carrot, celery, and onion in a separate pan. Add caramelized vegetables and bay leaf to pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Season with salt. Continue simmering for 2 hours.
  3. For dumplings; combine flour and polenta, baking powder, 3/4 tsp kosher salt, and thyme in a bowl. Mix until fully combined.
  4. Combine liquids and melted butter, and add to other ingredients. Stir until flour is fully hydrated.
  5. Strain contents of the pot, reserving liquid. Measure 6 cups into a saucepan and return to a simmer.
  6. dumpling construction

  7. While broth is simmering, remove the cooked chicken meat from the bones by hand, and tear into bite sized chunks. (If you want to watch your calories, I would advise removing the skin too.)
  8. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of dumpling mixture into the simmering pot. Cook for 10 minutes.
  9. As dumplings are cooking take the last 1/2 cup of flour and mix it with enough water to make a slurry. Gradually add the slurry to the simmering broth while stirring constantly. Add chicken meat, in order to bring it up to heat. Continue stirring until the sauce gets to the desired consistency.

Chopper’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

sin

Chopper’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Serves 16

For the cake base
(Adapted from Joconde Sponge Cake, page 354, Professional Baking, Fourth Edition by Wayne Gisslen.)

  • 1 1/4 ounces ground hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 ounce cake flour
  • 1/2 ounce cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 ounces whole eggs
  • 1 3/4 ounces egg whites
  • 1/4 ounce granulated sugar
  • 1/2 ounce butter, melted

Method

  1. Mix together hazelnut, confectioners’ sugar, flour, and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  2. Add whole eggs and mix until smooth and light.
  3. Whip egg whites and sugar together until they form firm peaks.
  4. Gently fold egg whites into the other mixture, being careful not to allow much air to escape.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring-form pan with parchment, and brush the sides with more melted butter.
  7. Pour cake batter into the pan, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  8. Bake at 400 F for at least 10 minutes, until firm to the touch. Then remove from oven and cool in the pan.
  9. When pan is cool, brush the sides again with melted butter and line with strips of parchment.

For Mousse
(From Chocolate Mousse IV, page 488, Professional Baking, Fourth Edition by Wayne Gisslen.)

  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 6 ounces egg yolks
  • 8 ounces egg whites
  • 2 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces heavy cream

Method

  1. Melt chocolate in a dry bowl over a hot water bath.
  2. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
  3. Add egg yolks and mix thoroughly.
  4. Whip egg whites and sugar together until firm peaks form, then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Whip cream until firm peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Transfer mousse into the parchment-lined cake pan that contains the baked cake base, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  7. Place pan in the freezer.

For ganache top layer

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 2 ounces butter

Method

  1. Place cream in a pan over medium-high heat and bring just to a boil.
  2. Add chocolate and butter, and remove from the heat.
  3. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk contents together, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken and temperature is under 100 F.
  5. Take your cake pan from the freezer and pour ganache on top, making sure distribution is even, and there are as few bubbles as possible.
  6. Place back into the freezer and allow everything to set, about 4 hours, though overnight would be ideal.
  7. Remove from pan and serve. Makes 16 decadent slices.

Plating suggestion: Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and use the leftover ganache as a sauce.

Chopper's Triple Choclate Mousse Cake

A long, strange trip…

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

It’s moving day. See you all on the flip side!

Weekend Cat Blogging: substitute kittens!

Friday, August 11th, 2006

three kittens on the porch

MizD is off-island on family business, but she knows the proper way to entertain in her absence: kittens! These particular three date back almost to my childhood, over 90 cat years ago. Of course that’s my porch they’re on. I’m so generous.

–The Cat

Paper Chef 20: The Final Island Edition

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Paper Chef 20: Spicy Braised Short Ribs with Duelling Gastriques

This is our last Paper Chef in this house.

In two and a half weeks, we’ll be moving back to Portland after 20 months of camping out and caregiving on an island we only occasionally called home. I can’t say that we’ll miss this disastrously tiny and ill-equipped kitchen, but we will have fond memories of a few small miracles we were able to pull out of the chaos.

At long last, this Fall, we’ll be back in our own home sweet home and our own kitchen. Sure it’s in serious need of updating — the linoleum floor has divots you could hide a mouse in, the drawer faces have a habit of falling off at inconvenient times, and there’s no dishwasher — but it’s ours, ALL ours, and that’s what counts!

But, because we’re here and because it’s Paper Chef time once again, we had to create just one last bit of chaos before we ramble on, and this time we had a grand bit of help from the annals of Paper Chef history and our bloggy neighbors from Down Under.

This month’s ingredients? Peaches, cherries, something hot & spicy, and a “new herb.” Now, by “new,” our Paper Chef host, Owen (welcome back, Owen!) means something we’ve not tried before. Not an easy command for Chopper to follow, as he’s used just about every herb on the island and then some.

But wait! What about that scrumptious and heady prize we received from Noodle Cook for Paper Chef 13? Aussie herbs and spices, the likes of which we’d never seen before? Perfect!

For this challenge we bent the rules a tiny bit to include spices (though by strict definition, two out of our three selections are ground leaves and should be considered herbs) and chose one for each of Chopper’s dishes. For his Tandoori Style Chicken with Stone Fruit Chutney, Chopper used Mountain Pepper Leaf, for the Chile Rellenos with Stone Fruit Salsa, Lemon Myrtle, and for the Spicy Braised Short Ribs with Dueling Gastriques, Wattle Seed. All three of these spices came from the Oz Tukka “A Taste of Australia” gift pack, part of our wonderful gift from Noodle Cook and his fellow Paper Chef 13 judges.

The gift pack includes five spices (ours has Mountain Pepper Berries and Bush Tomatoes in addition to the three we used for this adventure), and a helpful flyer with spice information on one side and recipes on the other. Not that Chopper used any of those recipes. For him it’s all about sample and invent first, read what others do later.

(more…)

Whine Blogging Wednesday

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

whine blogging wednesday

Since we here at Belly Timber are just too darned swamped to cook this week, we’ve decided to launch a new tradition:

Whine Blogging Wednesday!

That’s right. Forget the pairings and the earthy undertones and that three foot square terrior that’s so unique because it’s where old Vintner Joe buried the mule 45 years ago, it’s Whinin’ Time.

Go on. I’m sure you’ve got something to whine about. Share the love.

Here. I’ll start:

4:30 am wake-up call for catching the ferry out of town.
Far, far too many hours on the freeway.
More complicated logistics than you can shake a stick at.
and…
Five and a half days without blogging because Mrs. D’s ancient laptop is about as dead as Vintner Joe’s mule.

Cross fingers we can steal a moment on a computer while we’re away.

Meantime, whine amongst yourselves.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Too Hot?

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006


too hot for fur

Try living with fur.

Seriously, people. You think you have it bad? How about a day in this heat as a tabby.

I know, I know, we’re all miserable.

Thing is, it’s only going to get worse.

Unless we do something about it.

For starters, get your human asses over to the nearest (air-conditioned) theater and see An Inconvenient Truth.

Seriously. I’ve got furry friends who can’t find any freakin’ ice flows to live on and this is pissing me off.

And if you think Angry Cat is bad news when she’s angry…

claws in waiting

I hear Mother Nature’s got one hell of a set of claws.

(Check out more Weekend Cat Blogging over at Eat Stuff, and welcome back, Clare & Kiri!)

Mrs. D Turns…

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

Today is Mrs. D’s birthday!

Five years ago we were both struggling our way through life in low paying theatre jobs. We met through mutual friends while doing shows, she was stage managing an excellent production of Sweeney Todd, while I was across town running lights for an equally great production of La Cage Aux Folles. In a town like Portland, where the theatre community is comparitively small, one can play “six degrees of seperation” and remove up to five of those degrees between anyone who ever worked there. So, when two of our actor friends that I had worked on a show earlier that year with ended up as the main characters in Sweeney Todd, one could almost say it was Kismet.

Five years and five birthdays later, after trial, tribulation, knocks, culinary school, and the occasional out-of-state move, we are looking to expand our horizons. Details will, of course, be forthcoming, but for now just keep the number 43 in mind…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MRS. D!!

Weekend Cat Blogging: from the soccer vaults

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Rita tackles Soccerbowl 77

In honor of the World Cup and of the new documentary Once in a Lifetime — about the rise of the New York Cosmos in the 1970s — here’s Rita tackling a few players during Soccerbowl ’77. I think Pelé might be somewhere under her paw.

The Spice is Right: Salmon Ceviche

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Salmon Ceviche

Finally!

For the past three months we’ve had a hankering in the worst way to participate in Barbara’s The Spice is Right over at Tigers and Strawberries, and for the past three months, our cooking schedule (such as it is) has failed us. But not this time! Not when chiles are on the menu and Chopper’s in the kitchen.

This month’s theme, It’s Too Darned Hot, brings to mind a myriad of tongue-burning dishes, but our inspiration comes from the cold waters of the North. Copper River, Alaska, to be exact, and that slab of salmon at the local market that was just too darned good of a deal to pass up.

But what to make with salmon and chiles — especially when the goal is to feature the chiles? Something cold for our hot summer weather, perhaps? Something with an extra chile kick to make cooling off all the better?

Ah, that’s it. Skip the oven altogether and make ceviche.

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Piggy Goes to War

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

(In our so-tardy-it-shouldn’t-count second entry for Paper Chef, we stick close to home for our tale of Independence. How close to home? Oh, about 400 yards up the road. And as for that tardy thing — what was it the late, great Douglas Adams once said? Oh yes: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Words to live by.)

Belly Timber Presents The Pig War

So, Independence Day, yet again.

You probably thought we Yanks were done with those pesky Brits back in 1776. Wrong. ‘Round these parts, sovereignty didn’t get settled till almost a hundred years later. We blame the pig.

The roots of our story can be traced back to Article III of the Treaty of 1818: the joint occupation of Oregon Country by the United States and Great Britain. How the treaty signers thought two countries vying for land claims and navigation rights would resolve any boundary issues is anyone’s guess, but nevertheless, the increasingly tumultuous Oregon Country free-for-all continued for 28 years, until, in 1846, the two sides determined they’d had enough. They signed the Oregon Treaty on June 15th, set the border between the US and Canada at the 49th Parallel (excepting lower Vancouver Island), and that was that.

Or so they thought.

Trouble is, the folks signing the treaty were, to put it bluntly, cartographically inept. The border between Canada’s Vancouver Island and the US mainland, they said, should lie down the middle of the “major channel” through the islands. Easy to say if there’s one major channel.

Not so easy if there are two.

And not at all easy if both Yanks and Brits are enjoying the resources of the group of islands that lie in the middle.

And so, while politicians squabbled over maps and over which strait was “major” — Haro to the west or Rosario to the east — settlers arrived from other parts of the continent and soon American “squatters” (as the British preferred to call them), had laid claim to land just a stone’s throw from the sheep runs of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Belle Vue Farm at the southern end of San Juan Island.

And for the most part, the sheep ran along their runs, and the handful of Americans eked out a living on their tiny parcels of land (which the British insisted were most decidedly not theirs), and all was, if not calm, at least not explosively tense.

Until the pig entered the picture.

For sheep will trot right past a farmer’s potato patch, even if there’s nothing much for fencing in their way, but pigs, or more specifically Berkshire boars? They’re born for rooting, and when they sense potatoes, they have at it.

And having at it was just what one particular Hudson’s Bay Company pig was doing in Lyman Cutlar’s potato patch on the morning of June 15th, 1859. And Cutlar had had enough. He grabbed his rifle and shot it.

Charles Griffin, Belle Vue Farm’s manager, was not pleased in the least. He demanded exorbitant compensation. Cutlar, being an obstinate sort, refused. Griffin, being equally obstinate, demanded Cutlar’s arrest. A blink of an eye later, the American settlers on San Juan Island (all 18 of them or so) had armed themselves and were demanding military protection.

In July, the first American soldiers arrived. In August, British war ships. By the end of the summer, the count was Americans: 461, British 2,140, and — most happily for all involved — not a single casualty of war.

Except, of course, for the pig.

This peaceful standoff — so peaceful that troops from both sides celebrated holidays together and held sporting events on the prairie at American Camp — continued for 13 years. In November of 1872, the Royal Marines withdrew from English Camp at the north end of the island, not because they’d been defeated in battle, or even because the Crown had called it quits. No, in fact, the American and British governments did what governments do so well in border disputes such as this: they passed the buck. They turned to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and said, excuse me, could you figure this one out for us?

And, after a year of meetings by his three-man commission in Geneva, Kaiser Wilhelm did just that, and ruled in favor of the United States.


These days, the Pig War is serious business. We’ve got our two National Parks, the 4th of July Pig War Barbecue, the Pig War Museum, Encampment, over a dozen books about the subject, and no doubt a good forty other things I’ve forgotten. Truly, there’s a bit of a porcine glut in these parts.

Even so, when it came time to commemorate Independence Day (or rather the San Juan Island version with all its local piggy trappings) we couldn’t resist adding our own culinary homage to the mix. And, because we are (as I mentioned in the intro) only 400 yards from where this all happened, I took said homage on a field trip.

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Paper Chef #19: Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

Monday, July 10th, 2006

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

Paper Chef, July Independence Edition

The ingredients

  • Corn
  • Ground Coriander
  • Pine Nuts
  • And (from Kevin at Seriously Good): The wild card for this event is Independence Day. Whether you’re American, Ethiopian, Chilean, or Thai, create a recipe that celebrates your nation’s emancipation from its previous rulers or form of government or whatever other thing celebrated to honor nationhood.

So, because we’re contrary sorts, we’ve got two entries into this month’s Paper Chef and neither of them have anything to do with July 4th.

Oh sure, we had a billion Independence Day ideas: Grit Cakes with Boston Harbor Tea (pre-dumping, of course), Firecracker Popcorn, The Most Frightening Apple Pie Ever, Pine Nut and Coriander Encrusted Corn Dogs, but truthfully, I think the onslaught of holiday tourists to our tiny island was just too much for us to bear, and by midweek we were ready to step out into the middle of Spring Street with a bull horn and direct all traffic off the docks and into the harbor.

In short, we are over the whole 4th of July celebration thing. So very, very over it.

So, for our first entry, we declare ourselves Citizens of the World (or at least of North America), and as such we are celebrating El Grito de Independencia, Mexican Independence Day.

Which is not, some may be surprised to learn, Cinco de Mayo!

El Grito de Independencia (the cry of independence) is a festival that begins on the night of September 16th with a reenactment by Mexico’s current president of the famous Grito de Dolores of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the priest who, in 1810, changed the course of Mexican history with a ring of his village church bell and a cry to his countrymen to rise up against Spanish rule. And though Hildalgo himself was captured and executed in 1811, the fight for independence continued and was eventually won in February of 1821.

Now, Chopper’s the lucky one. He’s been to Mexico, eaten the fabulous food (and no doubt consumed more tequila than he’d care to tell me). Someday soon, he hopes to return and bring me with him and we’ll take the tour, Rick Bayless style.

Meanwhile, for our El Grito de Independencia Paper Chef entry, we’ve got a list of Mexican ingredients a mile long, all worthy of the number 4 spot on our Paper Chef ingredient list, but in the spirit of competition, I’m going to pick the one that makes this Chopper invention unique: Nopales — prickly pear cactus pads.

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

For the masa

  • 2 cups Masa Harina
  • 3 cups Home made chicken stock, slightly warmed
  • 1/2 cup Pine nuts, raw
  • 1 teaspoon Salt

Method

  1. Place masa harina in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Grind pine nuts in a food processor or mortar and pestle and add to the masa.
  3. Add stock and salt to the bowl, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Allow bowl to sit for about five minutes, or until the masa is a very soft dough.

For the filling

  • 2 pounds Turkey hindquarter meat, roughly cubed
  • 3 cups Home made chicken stock
  • 2 2/3 tablespoons, Coriander seed, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin seed, toasted
  • 5 Chipotles marinated in adobo sauce
  • To taste Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Puree the chipotles and grind the toasted spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom.
  3. Add the turkey and brown evenly.
  4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
  5. Add the chipotles and ground spices and cover tightly.
  6. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until turkey is fork tender, then remove the top and reduce away the liquid.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salsa

  • 3 Medium tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 Sweet onion, diced small
  • 3 Serrano chiles, diced small
  • 1 bunch Fresh cilantro, minced
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • To taste Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Combine ingredients in a non-reactive (i.e. non metal) bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

To assemble

  1. Preheat and oven to 375 F.
  2. Carefully split open eight nopales along their length and fill with a “pocket” of the masa.
  3. Place a layer of the turkey filling into the “pocket,” then cover with another layer of masa.
  4. Place the tamales in a roasting pan and coat with oil.
  5. Place pan in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the masa turns golden brown and crunchy.
  6. Serve with refried black beans, a generous crumbling of queso fresco, and a huge spoonful of salsa.

Tamales de Guajolote en Nopales

What I love most about Chopper’s exploration of Mexican cuisine is the closer and closer he gets to the authentic, the further and further he moves from the horrid, cheese-laden Americanized crap we find at so many poor excuses for Mexican restaurants in these parts. Not that he ever cooked horrid, cheese-laden crap, mind you. I think of it more as an ongoing discovery on my part of just how good Mexican food can be. And, I should add, how good it can be for my poor, lactose-intolerant digestion! Swap out the quesa fresca with a little goat cheese and I’m set. Can’t get that sort of goodness at Chevy’s!

(In just a bit, I’ll post our second contribution to this month’s Paper Chef. It is, I promise, quite scholarly and historical in nature and entirely lacking in silly content involving a meal dressed as a pig. Okay, I lied about that last part.)

Weekend Cat Blogging (with shiny, wiggly things)

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Cat in motion

I won’t sit still for it.

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Chopper, Beach Gourmet

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

And now, the celebration post, in which Chopper Dave explains the glorious meal he presented for Mrs D on the occasion of their second anniversary. Alas, no maid outfits, no cotton candy, just fine cooking under a crescent moon on the rocky western shore of San Juan.

Salmon, mango salsa, saffron rice pilaf

As most of you are aware, it was Mrs D’s and my two year anniversary back on Monday, and both she and I had work-related problems with celebrating on the actual date. We did however get a plethora of great suggestions on what to do with our special day (well, except for the whole maid outfit thing).

I decided that I needed to do something very special on Wednesday to make up for our lack of ability to celebrate on the proper date. First, I knew that I had to get Mrs D to the beach, and second, I absolutely had to cook a knock-her-socks-off meal.

These things came together beautifully when I remembered that we had brought up our propane-fueled camp stove and our wonderfully decked-out picnic basket. Soon the ideas for the food started to emerge. I needed at least three courses, and I knew that Mrs D absolutely adores fish, or more appropriately, anything that lives in and/or breathes water. First I thought about halibut, but then I remembered that we had a gorgeous chunk of salmon brought to us by our good friend, Farhad (long time readers might remember him from our post about the potlatch last year). I found it right where I left it in the freezer.

Alaskan King Salmon

MizD sez: I was wondering when the heck Chopper was going to cook that salmon. It’s been taunting me for months now. Of course I had a hunch about it on Monday when Chopper called from work and I mentioned my sister (visiting from Portland) was cooking salmon for dinner. Chopper was crestfallen. So much so, that I suspected something was up. I had to reassure him that I would indeed be quite happy to eat salmon more than once a week. Come to think of it, more than seven times a week would be perfectly fine with me.

Then I did some more scouring of the fridge and came up with a half-gallon of home-made brown chicken stock, half a bottle of cheap white wine, a log of herb and roasted garlic compound butter, half a Walla Walla sweet onion, some Roma tomatoes, and the piece de resistance, three perfectly ripe mangoes. Next, it was off to the pantry where I found our customary jasmine rice as well as a small bag of wild rice, a bottle of sherry vinegar (left from our very first post… a paper chef entry), a couple heads of garlic, and one last shallot.

The idea solidified, and while Mrs. D was off at work, I went into action.

I drove out to Wescott Bay Sea Farms and picked up a mixed bag of their world famous mussels and clams. Then I was off to our local market to get the last few things: some organic mixed baby greens, a loaf of artisan bread, one bunch of cilantro, a bunch of scallions, and a small pack of sliced almonds.

And what did I come up with?

A lovely three course dinner served in the picturesque environs of San Juan Island’s South Beach.

just past sunset

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When, in the course of human events…

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Speak now…

Friday Harbor, 4th of July Parade

March now…

Friday Harbor, 4th of July Parade

Vote now…

Friday Harbor, 4th of July Parade

…so someday our children may do the same.

Friday Harbor, 4th of July Parade

Photos: Friday Harbor 4th of July Parade, 2006

Buy Books, Not Food!

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Food bloggers often sing the praises of the independent grocery, the farmer’s stall, the microbrand that outshines the big boys in taste, texture, and all things crucial to the palate of the discriminating gourmand.

Today, I’m going to ignore that trend completely and blog about the wonders of Wonder Bread.

Kidding.

All Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories from Wheatland Press

In truth, I’m going to ignore food completely — which is easy to do at the moment, considering we’ve now got one (count it, one!) burner working on the stovetop — and blog about the wonders of small press publishing.

Or, to be more specific, I’m going to sing the praises of one particular small press publisher that’s near and dear to my heart.

And now… the sales pitch!

Love genre fiction but tired of the same old same old? Wasn’t it just last week that you threw that doorstop fantasy across the room because it contained just too damn many elves?

You want something different. Something with literary sensibilities, but weird. Yes, you crave weird. Trouble is, all the big stores, all the supermarkets, all they’ve got are those same authors over and over and over again, and no, Michael Crichton doesn’t write good science fiction (or good fact for that matter), and no, you are done with that silly Brown fellow because if you want secret histories of the world, you want them to contain copper flying machines, and pretzels of causality, and crafty pugs dressed as Sir Philip Sidney, and sentient, tool wielding apes who could kick Charlton Heston’s ass with both hands tied behind their hairy backs.

Yes, what you want are books from Wheatland Press!

Why the pitch? Why now?

Because — like many of the finest microbrands in the world — Wheatland Press is deserving of wider recognition.

And, because Wheatland’s got a holiday special:

Buy any Wheatland Press title (from the Wheatland Press website) by midnight July 4, 2006 (Pacific Time) and receive any one volume of the acclaimed cross-genre anthology series Polyphony (1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5) absolutely free.

Polyphony 5 from Wheatland Press

All you have to do is place your order via the Paypal link on the website and in the space marked “Comment,” specify which volume of Polyphony you’d like to have.

Now, I haven’t read every single story in every single volume just yet so I won’t give out any definitive recommendations, but I can tell you this: if you snag Polyphony 5, you’ll snag a story by a certain author who has been known to haunt these parts and write silly fictions about poached eggs and poultry puns.

Just sayin.’

Vodka Watermelon Canada Day Sorbet

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Vodka Watermelon Sorbet in a tuile cup

Our tiny kitchen in this home away from home of ours is rife with tragedies (don’t get me started on this week’s flood), but during the hottest of summer days, perhaps our greatest sadness comes not from the kitchen itself but from our lack of an ice cream maker. True, ice cream with actual cream in it is an evil that must be avoided by Mrs D’s tummy at all costs, but what of sorbets? Soy gelatos? Frozen yogurts? Must I debase myself by buying hideous supermarket products, laden with high fructose corn syrup? No! I won’t have it!

And so, because I long for the real thing, and because Chopper makes it so well, I must sneak off to his place of work every so often and sample his latest concoction.

Last time (back on Chopper Day) it was rum raisin ice cream and my tummy only allowed me the tiniest of bites.

But this time… ah, this time: Sorbet! And not just any sorbet, but the perfect holiday weekend treat of Vodka Watermelon Sorbet in a tuile cup! Oh, hell yum. There’s nothing… nothing at all like homemade sorbet with real fruit, not to mention a good top shelf vodka. It’s not sticky. It’s not cloyingly sweet. It’s just the perfect frozen cocktail refreshment for a warm summer evening.

Vodka Watermelon Sorbet in a tuile cup

I dropped by Chopper’s work last night to snag a few photos (and devour this tasty treat) just in time for the Canada Day Ice Cream Event over at sweet pleasure : plaisir sucré.

(Okay, so Sam at sweet pleasure : plaisir sucré didn’t actually call it a Canada Day event, but since he’s from Canada and since I am always happy to proudly wave my maple leaf of dual citizenship, I say it’s a Canada Day event! (Which probably means Chopper should have made something strictly Canadian for his sorbet, eh? Ah well, watermelon vodka will have to do. And do quite nicely, thank you very much!)

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Two Years Ago Today…

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Two years ago today...

They tell us the second one is the cotton anniversary. We’re thinking of getting each other t-shirts or dish towels, but surely we can find something more exciting in cotton!

Geeking Out in Seattle

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

On June 3rd we took a road trip to Seattle and indulged in a wee bit of geeky revelry. Here, at long last, is our trip report.

Our Stormhoek Swag

1. The party begins with a cheese sandwich.

It’s the beginning of February and we’re waist deep in The Great Cheese Sandwich Controversy of 2006. Chopper’s just grilled up this crazy tuna melt extravaganza, and I’m all set to blog on it, when I see this post over on Food Blog S’cool. Andrew of Spittoon is pointing us toward free wine from the Stormhoek Winery in South Africa. Free wine? Cool! How can I pass that up?

So, I head over to gapingvoid and the free wine blurb …. and get utterly sidetracked reading Hugh Macleod’s most excellent manifesto on How to Be Creative. Now that’s what I’m talking about, I think, and promptly rewrite my first cheese sannie post, pack my bags, and run off to the crazy land of Gastroblogia.

And then, I sign up for the free wine, because first of all, duh, free wine, and second of all, this whole Geek Dinner thing is just plain cool.

Now, where to go to find a bunch of geeks?

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For those who like their Sugar Cookies Dirty…

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

After returning from Seattle, we took a week off to clean the crap out of the house (and yes, even the messy kitchen is clean!), but now we’re back. Back and posting again, only today I’ve gone to South Dakota. Well, not really. Read on.

Dirty Sugar Cookies

A while back, the scrumptiously wacky Ayun Halliday, author of No Touch Monkey!, Job Hopper, and The Big Rumpus, dropped me a line and asked me if I’d be willing to host a day of her virtual tour for her newest book, Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste. At first, I tried to pawn the duties off on The Cat, but Ayun wisely balked at that suggestion, knowing full well what sort of mincemeat an Angry Cat can make of her victims (even those who are interviewed at arm’s length). Good thing too because now I had a fun book to read and The Cat would have just turned it into 219 pages of crumply paper that once contained rompingly entertaining tales of a culinary life more ordinary.

Also there’s theater. Not so much in the book, but since I knew that Ayun was from a theater background and her husband Greg Kotis was a Tony Award winning playwright, I couldn’t not at least talk a little about theater. So, out with The Cat, and in with the interview.

But, you know me. I’m not content to simply conduct a virtual interview for book tour day #15 after witnessing all the recent and deleriously mouth-watering shared meals over at Dirty Sugar Cookies, no sir. Instead, I determined we should throw convention to the wind and meet halfway. So I got out an atlas and a ruler and we took a little trip.

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Weekend Cat Stormhoek Blogging

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Angry Wine Cat

My captors are deserting me for the weekend, yet again. This time, it’s all about wine. Free wine. And some thing called a Geek Dinner. Hah. Geek dinner. Can I tell you just how geeky they are? They have Lord of the Rings action figures above the TV. They’ve memorized the entire script of Wrath of Khan. Don’t even get me started on the gaming books.

So, apparently, this whole wine thing has something to do with marketing. Like I don’t know about marketing.

See? I’ve even made my own ad for this silly wine:

The Cat's Stormhoek Ad

Let’s see those humans do better than that!

Oh, and since this is the one year anniversary of Weekend Cat Blogging, I’ve got a special treat over at You Tube. No, not me meowing. (Even though my meow is glorious.) It’s a small sample of just what I have to endure around here. Crumply paper. Dog. I don’t think I need to say more.

Check out more Weekend Cat Blogging at Eat Stuff!

Triple Mousse Remix

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Check it out: Aussie food blog Tuna Ranch has a “remix” of Chopper’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake with metric measurements and ingredients substitutions for your local Woolies in Queensland. How cool is that?

On this day, looking back, looking forward

Monday, May 29th, 2006

I wrote this piece back on May 9th, then set it aside for other concerns, and because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say. Today, Memorial Day, it seems fitting that I pull it out again and post it, though I’ve always felt it a bit strange that we should set aside just a single day a year to remember the loved ones we’ve lost.

Dad and a kidmouse, long ago

Dad.

One year ago today, early on a Monday of a Paper Chef weekend, Dad, the gentlest soul and the best patient a caregiving daughter could ever hope for, breathed his last breath. I was there, by his side, morning medicine in one hand, my other hand on his forehead.

Chopper had to go to work that day and I had to make phone calls, arrange for the funeral home to come from the mainland, and ready Dad for his final journey.

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The Cat’s Gallery of Feline Beauty

Friday, May 26th, 2006

a big meowThe lovely Sam of Becks & Posh (who doesn’t mention cats nearly often enough) has posted a link to a new Flickr toy over at Food Blog S’cool and ponders whether this toy works with blogging software other than Blogger.

Well, viola!

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Ripped again…

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Oh, if only I were referring to a good bottle of wine instead of the continuing feud between a pair of chef pants and the handle of a freezer door…

(Note: I have filed this post under crafty only because I intend to make my stitches quite small and tidy, and then I intend to add Velcro to the pockets to prevent this malicious ruination of chef pants from ever happening again.)

Permalink update

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

The permalinks for the old MT install are down, but I’ll have the redirects up by the end of the day.
Whazzup? Well, some pernicious little files in the MT install kept doing rewrites and reinstalling my old MT html index. Aaaaaghhh! I tried to delete them, and they reappeared even so. So… silly me just hits delete on the entire MT install, then says “oh crap, the permalinks!” but it was too late. MT permalinks, bye-bye. At least I killed the pernicious files as well. I think. We’ll see. Meanwhile, Chopper and I are off to see a brewer about some beer.

Belly 2.0: The Re-hatching

Monday, May 22nd, 2006
Baby Cthulhu, hatching
No re-hatching is complete without eggs. Here, a cuddly, baby Cthulhu bursts forth from his shell and plots world destruction. He’s young, though. Perhaps we can avert disaster with some motherly love and a perky little chant or two. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!

Not that changing over to a new blogging engine bears any resemblance to a horror movie, mind you. Nope, not at all.

It was all going swimmingly, honest. Last Tuesday, I hatched this grand plan to upload and install WordPress (and transfer over all our archive posts) during the Day Without Food Blogs. I’d created a bare-bones page in honor of Net Neutrality, and set up a redirect so that I could, (meanwhile and quite nefariously) work behind the scenes and ready Belly 2.0 for a grand unveiling.

And then the WordPress import engine stripped all of the CSS out of every single last archive post and my two hours of work turned into, well, many more. Many, many more. Because you know, once you’re forced to futz with one thing, you end up futzing with another, and then another, and then the futzing just explodes into a giant, week-long futz-o-rama.

Temeraire hatches from his egg
Here, we have an egg discovered on board the French frigate Amitié during the Napoleonic Wars. Little did anyone suspect at the time, but this egg contained not just any dragon, but a most impressive Chinese dragon (with a most charming personality, to boot). To read about the dragon’s adventures during the Age of Sail, you simply must check out Naomi Novik’s Temeraire trilogy, new from Del Rey.
“It’s crunchy and delicious, just like cow!” — Dragon Dish Daily

(At which point Chopper says “enough with the futzing already. Get the damn site back up!”)

So, here we are. (And, yes, I still have more futzing to do.)

And now, a few truly boring technical notes:

1. Why the change over? Don’t get me wrong, I’m awfully fond of Movable Type and it’s served me well since the day we started this puppy, but when MT introduced version 3 and started charging for it, I said no thanks, I’ll stick with free because free and my budget get along better. All fine and good until MT Blacklist fell by the wayside. Within days, we were inundated with comment spam and my only recourse was to ether screen all comments or shut down almost all of our old comment threads. When I found myself spending more time closing threads and deleting spam than futzing (creatively) with the blog, I knew it was time for a change.

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Welcome to the snackbar!

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Watch this space for site updates and mini-posts!

About

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

Paper Chef #17: Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Spicy Paper Chef Clams

Not so long ago, I ducked back into our archives to take a peek at the very first comments left on our infant blog, just over a year ago. Turns out, comment #1 was left by Jen of Life Begins at 30, comment #2 by Kevin of Seriously Good, and comment #3 by Owen of Tomatilla!.

How appropriate is that?

See, here we are, launching into the first Paper Chef since our one year Blogiversary, and not only is Kevin hosting (while Owen takes a much-deserved break), but this month’s theme includes local ingredients, in solidarity with the Eat Local Challenge, organized by Jen! It’s The Circle of Knife Life, Paper Chef style!

Now, some of our more observant readers (okay, okay, everyone) will notice that we haven’t been posting much lately. It’s spring fever, I tell you. It’s going around. The garden calls my name, the pooch begs for serious ball time; who am I to ditch that in favor of slouching at the computer?

But, when Chopper read this month’s ingredients and went on an immediate culinary brainstorm binge, I knew my time away had to end. Chopper cooks and I must blog.

And boy oh boy did he cook this time. Seriously. This food is so damn tasty, I want to head to the kitchen for seconds, thirds, and fourths before I type up another paragraph.

Hang on. Just a sec…

Inside the Empanada

Okay, back.

(Dusts crumbs off keyboard.)

Now, where was I?

Ah yes, the ingredients. For this month, Kevin used his fine scientific skills in Haberdasherdivination to produce these pleasing results:

Lavender
Miso
Chickpeas
Something local

And Chopper, because he loves this style of food (and no, not because we’re trendy, dammit! We’re NOT trendy!), immediately announced his decision to produce a four course tapas extravaganza, with a different local ingredient for each course.

For our local ingredients, we hit three places: the Farmers’ Market, Westcott Bay Sea Farms, and, er, our freezer.

Now, here’s the thing about eating local on the island in May: There’s not a heck of a lot available. The San Juan Island Farmers’ Market (in its weekly, outdoor incarnation) has only been running two weeks now, and at last Saturday’s visit, I counted a grand total of 15 stalls, only three of which were actually selling produce. This time of year, local produce means greens, greens, and more greens, with the occasional baby root vegetable thrown in. Lucky for us, greens at the Farmers’ Market are surprisingly cheap — especially compared to later season vegetables (and to the scary-expensive $6.99/lb bucket of “organic mixed greens” at the grocer’s).

Baby turnips and sorrel

In our short jaunt along the thoroughfare (I’d say main thoroughfare, but at this market, there’s only one thoroughfare), we scored green garlic from Blue Moon Produce, and sorrel and a lovely bunch of baby turnips with greens attached from Thousand Flower Farm. (Total cost for the three bunches: $5.50) Both of these farms are located on Waldron Island, a remote island northwest of Orcas that’s known for its amazing produce. (For a great chapter on the farmers of Waldron, I highly recommend Greg Atkinson’s book In Season: Culinary Adventures of a San Juan Chef.)

Next, it was off to Westcott Bay Sea Farms for clams, because as far as Chopper is concerned a tapas spread just isn’t a tapas spread without clams.

Westcott bay clams

Lastly, we took a trip to our freezer where, among all the other oddities that deny us room for ice cubes, Chopper had stashed a pair of lamb’s kidneys. Yes, local lamb’s kidneys. These particular kidneys came from last year’s farmer’s market and from Local Island Meats, a stand run by the fine folks at Z Lazy J Farm & Feed, which is located just a few miles up the road from us. Chopper had been saving them for steak and kidney pie, but this weekend, they just screamed empanada filling.

Now, how close to home did we find these goodies?

Well, inspired by Tana’s Chefs & Farms map over at Small Farms, I’ve launched Island Local, a map for San Juan County growers and producers of culinary products. So far, I’ve just marked the locations listed above, but I’ll be adding more in the weeks to come. (Now, if I can just get Platial to recognize all these wacky island addresses…)

In case you’re wondering, Casa Belly Timber is just south of the map’s visible area, right below the ©2006.

A quick word about our other ingredients:

We discovered, though it wasn’t much of a shock, that neither of the two grocers on the island carry dried chickpeas, so all of our dishes were made with the canned variety. The miso was from a container of shiro miso paste already in our fridge, lucky for us.

Our attempt to use local lavender in addition to our other local ingredients was thwarted by two things: our own tiny lavender plant that’s not even close to blooming, and the exorbitant price the local lavender farm charges for their culinary lavender. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I love about the lavender farm, especially in mid-July when the fields are all in bloom, but nine bucks for a container the size of a tin of shoe polish? That’s not one of ‘em. So, our lavender came from an herb and spice distributor and I haven’t the foggiest idea where it’s grown.

Chopper made all four of these dishes at once so we could have a true tapas spread (and I could go a little nuts with the photography). I garnished everything with herbs from our garden, quickly snapped away, and then we dug in. And oh, was it good.

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WDB #32: Yawp!

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

We’re off to the big city for three days to play with other puppies, so everyone be good to each other while we’re gone and remember: messy cooks spill the best treats, so what ever you do, don’t clean up as you go!

(More Weekend Dog Blogging over at Sweetnicks!)

What’s For Pud? Figgy-dowdy!

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006


We’ll rant and we’ll roar like true British sailors,
We’ll range and we’ll roam over all the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England:
From Ushant to Scilly ’tis thirty-five leagues.
    — traditional sea shanty, as sung by the crew of the HMS Polychrest

For this post, in honor of St. George’s Day and Sam and Monkey Gland’s inspired food blogging event, What’s For Pud, Belly Timber takes to the high seas.

Or, to be more precise, Belly Timber takes to the English Channel, and to a rather peculiar double-ended boat and its famous captain, Lucky Jack Aubrey.

What’s What’s For Pud, you ask, and what the devil does it have to do with sailors?

Exactly this: What’s For Pud is a celebration of English ‘afters’ — pud, pudding, biscuits, sweets — those sticky sweet, scrumptious dishes that prove wrong all the naysayers who turn their noses up at quintessential English cuisine. And we here at Belly Timber, being rather nautically inclined to begin with, believe that nowhere else can one find dishes more quintessentially English than aboard the great ships of the British Navy during the Golden Age of Sail.

Because, as we know, meals aboard Lord Nelson’s fleet were all about two glorious things: Rum and suet.

Yes, I did indeed say suet.

And nice big bottles o’ rum, by gum.

Which brings us to our splendid St. George’s Day dish: Figgy-dowdy.

figgy-dowdy

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SHF #18: Holy Crepes, it’s Chopper Day!

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Rum Poached Apple Crepes

Happy Chopper Day!

It’s not his birthday. Our anniversary isn’t for another two months, so there’s really nothing special about this occasion at all, though it is Sugar High Friday and Chopper’s got a new rum poached dessert on the menu at his place of work.

Oh, and this week marks a year since Chopper’s official graduation from culinary school.

And that, in itself is extra special.

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Easter colors, folded paper

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

Origami Candy Box

(Head to the end of the post for step-by-step origami box instructions!)

January 2004, six months before the wedding, budget the size of a postage stamp, I had this crazy notion. Why spend money on flowers when they’ll just wilt the next day? We’ll go origami! So, I horded paper, starting with all the leftover post-Christmas sale paper I could get my hands on. (Everything silver, that is; snowflake patterns when folded aren’t that different from random festive swirls, right?) And, under the guidance of our dear friend R.C. (origami expert and karaoke D.J. extraordinaire), I added roses and lilies and decorative boxes to my feeble repertoire of cranes, balloons, and silly hats.

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WCB #45: Origami is evil

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

This has gone on long enough. First, the internet connection goes out two weekends in a row (right when I’m about to launch my nefarious plot to take over the blog… just you wait… mwrooow…) and then this weekend? It’s a frickin’ holiday weekend, so what does my female captor do? She taunts me with paper. Look at this:

Origami Candy Box

She folds paper up into pretty shapes and I don’t even get to play with it! Where’s my justice, I ask? Where’s my crumply paper?

Ah… there it is.

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Poach Me Deadly (an EoMEoTE tale of passion and poultry)

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Poach Me Deadly, a noir drama of passion and poultry, was inspired by far too many movies to count, and by Chopper’s delicious Eggs en Plastic recipe, which you’ll find at the end of this tale. Chopper’s recipe was inspired by a passage in Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, wherein Bourdain describes a chef using truffle oil and plastic wrap to poach an egg. For more hard boiled adventures (and more egg puns than you can shake a whisk at), visit this month’s End of Month Eggs on Toast Extravaganza over at Dispensing Happiness. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some of the most egregious jokes in Poach Me Deadly are entirely Chopper’s fault.

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Eat Your Peas

Monday, April 10th, 2006

I’m one of those picky eaters who never grew out of her childhood hatred of peas. I’m fine with peas in things. Peas in Chinese style fried rice. Peas on lamb vindaloo pizza. Peas in chicken pot pie. But just plain peas? Unless they’re fresh from the garden and inside a pod, forget about it.

Then Chopper made me peas with onions and garlic. And they were almost extremely tasty. Almost. To anyone who loves peas, they’d be ambrosia. For me, maybe just a bit more garlic to completely cover up that pea taste and I’m there. But still, I ate my peas. Which is more than I can say for any moment of my entire childhood.

And the moral of this? Well, it’s my round about way of saying that sometimes life gives you a yucky little bowl of peas and you’ve got to make the best of it by adding garlic and onions.

Like this weekend.

The second weekend in a row wherein we lost our internet connection.

I kid you not.

Last weekend it was all about a billing screw-up.

This weekend? Two hour island-wide power outage, followed by a complete pooching of all of our local ISP’s DSL accounts. Follow that up with multiple attempts to reconnect and a rather unfortunate phone conversation with the Worst Tech Support Person Known to Computerkind (courtesy of our local ISP’s farming out of weekend tech support to one of those call centers halfway across the planet), and we end up with 48 hours’ down time and an ISP administrator who’s scratching her head Monday morning because someone in Bangalor or Beaverton or wherever canceled our repair request and changed our account password without our permission.

So, did I sit at home and eat yucky little bowls of peas all weekend?

Nope. I went all onions and garlic on my (now belated) entry for End of the Month Eggs on Toast and wrote a 2500 word hard boiled tale of passion, puns, and poultry, which I will be posting quite soon. As soon as I scour the pantry for something other than pea soup to eat for supper.

Fox on the Run

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Fox above South Beach, San Juan Island

Tuesday Fox blogging?

Alas, Platelicker and The Cat have been usurped by wildlife yet again. It’s not that they weren’t engaged in entertaining and photogenic activities over the weekend — wait a sec, is shedding photogenic? Okay, scratch that last part. What I mean to say is, our domestic critters had every intention of sharing their charms with the world (we understand The Cat had something rather nefarious up her Kaga sleeve for Saturday), but a glitch in the matrix a series of unfortunate events resulted in our entire house being thrown back into the dark ages (about 1988 or so) for what felt like days on end.

Shocking but true: we were without the internet for the entire weekend.

I thought I was going to die. For about five minutes, and then I read a book.

And I cleaned the cat box.

And we took the puppy to the beach.

And, without posting, we quietly celebrated Belly Timber’s first anniversary. (More on that later: the end of the world as we know it minor internet snafu has prompted us to postpone our tedious, introspective golly-it’s-been-a-year post anniversary celebration until later this week, when we’ve recovered from the horrors of sitting down and engaging each other in actual conversation.

(We’ll be fine. Really.)

Fox above South Beach, San Juan Island
Fox above South Beach, San Juan Island

Meanwhile, about that fox.

Attentive readers might note that this fox sighting and last month’s golden eagle sighting both coincided with trips to the beach. In fact, the two sightings occurred not more than about fifty yards from one another, and near this same spot, we’ve seen hawks, bald eagles, even a great horned owl on a misty moonlit night. So, what makes this barren bluff such a hotspot for carnivorous wildlife? This mid-winter shot of the prairie across the road might offer up a clue or two.

Ah, lapin. Délicieux. Too bad the wild ones are so stringy.

Fusing the Wild Vindaloo

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Lamb Vindaloo

“Of course! Lager! The only thing that can kill a Vindaloo!”
Dave Lister, Red Dwarf

We can’t help it. Someone mentions Indian food, and soon enough someone mentions vindaloo, and the next thing you know, we’re off on tangents involving curry monsters from outer space. Silly DNA modifiers, acting up again.

But, where the vindaloo mutations on board the good ship Red Dwarf are quite dangerous and must be dealt with (Leopard Lager into the beast’s maw generally does the trick), here on Earth, and at Casa Belly Timber, we find the notion of vindaloo mutations quite intriguing and potentially delicious.

And so, even though we’ve been horrifically busy of late, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join this month’s From my Rasoi event over at Meena’s Hooked on Heat, and create a bit of Indian fusion of our own.

This month’s theme: Pick a favorite international dish and give it an Indian flavor. Now we mulled this over a bit, pondering pasta, contemplating enchiladas, but in the end we agreed that there was nothing we wanted to do more than tame a wild vindaloo and turn it into the perfect Red Dwarf party food, because if a bunch of scifi geeks like us are going to get together to watch episodes of our favorite British science fiction comedy, the last thing we should do is order our pizza from Domino’s.

Lamb Vindaloo Naanizza

That’s right, pizza! Delicious, steeped in the flavors of India, lamb vindaloo pizza. Or, as Chopper calls it, because he just can’t help himself…

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Healthy, Schmelthy

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Now don’t get me wrong, we love our local pub. They brew great beer, their Manhattan chowder is a godsend for my tragically lactose intolerant tummy, and on St. Paddy’s day, they served Chopper one hell of a mean steak and kidney pie.

But, sometimes we long for the Horse Brass, that brilliant British pub on Portland’s eastside. It’s not the darts we miss so much, or that crazy Randall hopper they’ve got hooked up like a hooka at the bar.

It’s not even the bangers and mash.

No, it’s the most horrific, fattening, demonic temptation on the menu we miss: the Scotch egg.

Scotch eggs

Imagine if you will, a hard boiled egg (and already you’ve got some dietician’s voice in your ear, yammering away about bad cholesterol).

Now imagine covering the egg in a layer of deep fried sausage.

Yes, Scotch eggs are that evil.

And they’re that tasty.

So tasty, that Chopper figured out how to make ‘em at home. Now all we need is a dart board, about thirty beers on tap, a way to keep out the zombies, and we’d never leave the house.

Billiards, anyone?

Chopper’s Scotch Eggs

makes six

For the sausage

  • 2 pounds ground pork butt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly with your fingertips and set aside.

For the Scotch eggs

  • 6 hard cooked large eggs, peeled
  • Flour, beaten egg, and panko for breading

Method

Have a deep pan or wok of oil ready at 350 F ready for frying.

Divide sausage into 5 ounce portions and mold each portion evenly around an egg. This will make an orb roughly the size of a tennis ball.

Bread each one using the flour, beaten egg, and panko.

Place three at a time into the hot oil and fry until they turn a deep caramel brown. If you are unsure about the doneness you can check the internal temperature with a probe thermometer. When it reads 160 F, you’re there!

Serving suggestion: Hot Mustard, and/or HP Sauce.

Our pub food diet

Bonus link: Still confused about the Scotch egg? Ricky Gervais from the BBC comedy The Office explains it all to you.

Midweek Woof

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

puppy in the garden

Shhh. I may look like I’m just lazing about in the garden with the daffodils, but actually, I’m on duty. Mommy’s not feeling well so I’m guarding the blog until she returns. (Feline enemies, beware! I know your hiding places. Well, most of them, anyway.)

This is not a blog post

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

this is a fish wrapper

It’s like this. Chopper leaves for work and I say goodbye with a quick acknowledgement that I’ll get a post up tonight. And then I stare at the words. All those words. All those messy, messy words in half-written posts in the bursting Post-in-Progress folder. That Post-in-Progress folder that’s beginning to look like a curse rather than a blessing.

(It taunts me, it does. Gives me nightmares. You know the kind; the kind where you’re back in school and it’s the final exam and it dawns on you that you never attended a single day of class and you haven’t the first clue about the mating habits of the English stoat and their impact on allegorical portraiture of the latter 16th century.)

(Oh, and you’re naked. Always with the naked, those dreams.)

So, I close the folder. Later, I tell it. Go away.

I’ll dig through it when I’m in the mood, but for now, submitted for your approval, a gratuitous fish wrapper on a lightbox and a brief expression of longing for more seafood. We are on an island and we long for seafood. So much so, that I am sorely tempted to sign up for the San Juan Nature Institute’s Sea Urchin Lab (“in which you will see the process of fertilization and the early development of sea urchins”), just so I can raise my hand halfway through and say “that’s all good, but when do we get to eat them?”

Fly Like an Eagle

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Fly like an eagle...

Tuesday bird blogging?

A quick drive up the road and down toward the beach with the dog, and there, sitting just a few feet from the old split rail fence at the top of the bluff, is a huge bird. Dude, quick! Turn the car around, I say to Chopper, and he does, and I scramble to get my camera ready and within a minute we’re parked and I’m stealthily climbing out — or rather, I’m klutzedly attempting to climb out and set the camera’s exposure at the same time.

And the bird, which I now realize is a Golden Eagle, looks at me from about 20 feet away and then takes off. So I point and click and am completely amazed that I managed to get the entire bird in the frame. (So many times I have tried this and failed.)

Needless to say, the beach jaunt that followed was a bit anti-climactic. Leaping dolphins might have helped, you know.

But of course now I’ve got that Steve Miller song stuck in my head and I keep thinking about the opening lines and wondering if it’s something mystical or if it’s just about looking at the calendar and saying Holy Crap, it’s halfway through March, already? Why the HELL does time keep on slipping, slipping into the future?

We’re edging toward tourist season faster than we’d like, and we’re definitely not ready for it. Oh, sure, there’s a plus side. Soon we’ll be adding hours upon hours to our daily work schedules and soon, like so many islanders, we’ll be busting ass to make up for the lean winter months. Bills will get paid, but our leisure time — our time to putter in the garden or play in the kitchen; our blogging time — will dwindle to tiny portions.

Last summer — our first summer here and our first summer of blogging — we struggled and stumbled and I never quite found the balance that allowed me the unexhausted hours I needed to write with frequency or joy. This year, I’m hoping — no, make that striving — to avoid a repeat performance.

In fact, I’ve got nefarious plans in place for that very purpose. Well, almost in place. Providing I can get anything done before tourist season kicks in.

What was that?

I’m working extra hours this week? Already?

Damn.

...to the sea

Mr. Pibb + Pork = Crazy Delicious

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

A Crazy Delicious Burrito


So it’s gettin’ near lunch — time to make some burritos.
Let’s put in something weird!
Like a big bag of Cheetos?
That’s gross!
Yeah I know – hey this’ll satisfy your wishes: Mr. Pibb + Pork = Crazy Delicious!

Yes we know. There is a special place in hell reserved for us for this post.

Never mind that until the execs at NBC got pissy about it, Lonely Island’s Lazy Sunday clip was in heavy rotation on my YouTube favorites (along with Hasselhoff’s Hooked on a Feeling, so now you really know I’m going to burn in hell), truth be told, Mr Pibb and pork do indeed make a burrito Crazy Delicious.

What, you ask? Soft drinks in food? Are you insane? Oh, if only I could find photographic evidence of Iron Chef Chen’s Cola stewed piglet…

I mean, holy crap, someone even wrote an entire book about it. Look: Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola, it’s called, and yes, I’ll admit, it frightens me. Almost as much as this recipe for Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake frightens me, but here’s the thing: Sometimes really frightening food combinations taste good.

The trick is to just not tell your snobby food friends that you dumped a can of Coke into your stew, right Chen? (Hey, don’t knock it; he won that episode.)

mr pibb + pork = crazy delicious

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Sproing Cleaning

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

is it spring yet?

The thing I hate about pruning is when you have to let go of a branch and it sproings back at you and slaps you in the face.

That and Platelicker’s land mines, buried so nicely in the newly-tall weeds. Aw, thanks pooch, you shouldn’t have.

Meanwhile, two small hints of things to come:

is that an angry cat? who is that mysterious man?

Also, soon appearing on our sidebar: an exciting two-word phrase containing the initials R.A.

(No, not Rodent Alert, you doof.)

Sin, Quantified

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

sin

We taunted you back on Valentine’s Day with this shot of Chopper’s scrumptious Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. Recipe to be posted later, we said.

Well, guess what! It’s later!

I can see it now: Belly Timber readers shaking their fists in our general direction. “Later? You call this Later? Later is all about hours, not days or — harrumph — weeks! Shame on you, depriving us for so long!”

Yes, we’re evil that way.

Or distracted.

Or frightfully busy.

You decide.

(If I weren’t so A. evil, B. distracted, or C. frightfully busy, I’d create a poll wherein you could all vote.)

Three notes regarding Sin, Quantified:

1. You need a 9-inch springform pan to do this. Use of any other pan would be folly. Parchment is also a must.
2. Chopper makes this cake at work. Patrons weep tears of joy over it. I, however, can eat no more than one tiny bite per sitting due to the ultimate evil known as “heavy cream.” If you make this cake and love it, please weep for me.
3.This is a three-part recipe. Needless to say, you should proceed in the proper order, otherwise you’ll end up with a very strange cake. I’m sure it’ll still taste good, though.

Chopper’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Serves 16

For the cake base
(Adapted from Joconde Sponge Cake, page 354, Professional Baking, Fourth Edition by Wayne Gisslen.)

  • 1 1/4 ounces ground hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 ounce cake flour
  • 1/2 ounce cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 ounces whole eggs
  • 1 3/4 ounces egg whites
  • 1/4 ounce granulated sugar
  • 1/2 ounce butter, melted

Method

  1. Mix together hazelnut, confectioners’ sugar, flour, and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  2. Add whole eggs and mix until smooth and light.
  3. Whip egg whites and sugar together until they form firm peaks.
  4. Gently fold egg whites into the other mixture, being careful not to allow much air to escape.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring-form pan with parchment, and brush the sides with more melted butter.
  7. Pour cake batter into the pan, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  8. Bake at 400 F for at least 10 minutes, until firm to the touch. Then remove from oven and cool in the pan.
  9. When pan is cool, brush the sides again with melted butter and line with strips of parchment.

For mousse
(From Chocolate Mousse IV, page 488, Professional Baking, Fourth Edition by Wayne Gisslen.)

  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 6 ounces egg yolks
  • 8 ounces egg whites
  • 2 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces heavy cream

Method

  1. Melt chocolate in a dry bowl over a hot water bath.
  2. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
  3. Add egg yolks and mix thoroughly.
  4. Whip egg whites and sugar together until firm peaks form, then fold into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Whip cream until firm peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Transfer mousse into the parchment-lined cake pan that contains the baked cake base, making sure it is evenly distributed.
  7. Place pan in the freezer.

For ganache top layer

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 2 ounces butter

Method

  1. Place cream in a pan over medium-high heat and bring just to a boil.
  2. Add chocolate and butter, and remove from the heat.
  3. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk contents together, and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken and temperature is under 100 F.
  5. Take your cake pan from the freezer and pour ganache on top, making sure distribution is even, and there are as few bubbles as possible.
  6. Place back into the freezer and allow everything to set, about 4 hours, though overnight would be ideal.
  7. Remove from pan and serve. Makes 16 decadent slices.

Plating suggestion: Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and use the leftover ganache as a sauce.

Chopper's Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Dine & Dish #6: Amazing Graze

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006

yum yum dim sum

Pssst. I’m cheating.

See, I’ve got something I want to write about for the newest edition of Dine and Dish from The Delicious Life, but I need to break the rules.

It’s not that I intend to write about something other than a restaurant that serves small plates — oh, I’m all about multitudes of small plates (just ask the nurse who weighed me in at the doctor’s office today) — it’s that time frame thing that’s got me in a pickle.

More specifically, this, Sarah’s rule #2:

Go eat any time betwixt now and Monday, February 27, 2006.

(“Now” being February 3rd when Sarah posted her announcement.)

First, can I tell you where we’ve eaten betwixt February 3rd and February 27th? Aside from around our dining room table or in front of the telly laughing at melodramatic ice dancers, that is?

   The pub.
   The Thai place for lunch.
   The pub again.
   The crappy Chinese place when the pub was unexpectedly closed.
   Oh, yeah, and the pub again.

Note the alarming trend. The trend that screams: It’s Off-Season! It’s the pub or (almost) nothing, baby, cuz until the spring tourists arrive, this place is all about wonky restaurant hours and tiny paychecks.

Yup, winter on the island; so not conducive to culinary exploration.

Not that we’ve got much of that to begin with, mind you. Take this month’s Dine and Dish theme, for example. Amazing Graze? Small plates? I can think of one — yup, one — restaurant that falls under that category on this island, and go figure, we already covered it back in Dine and Dish #3: The Freshman.

Now the Thai place could count as a small plate venue — if we were to write about their spring rolls — but we got that one back in Dine and Dish #4: Rachael Ray for a Day.

And the pub? Hah. Been there, done that in Dine and Dish #1: Barfly. Not that their plates are even remotely small, mind you.

So, nothing left to write about. Or, I cheat.

Which (after this absurdly long preamble), brings me to the place I want to tell you about. The place that’s 251 miles (plus ferry ride) away and we haven’t been to since Christmas. Chopper’s and my favorite dim sum joint, Fong Chong, in Portland’s Chinatown.

a lion's appetite for dim sum

Now Fong Chong isn’t much to look at — in fact it’s got detractors who bitch about the lack of atmosphere (as if that’s more important than a damn fine steamed hum bow) — but we’re not here for pretty décor. I can find plenty of places that scream heavenly temple and serve up deep fried MSG-laden crap any day of the week. Well, any day I’m in an actual city, mind you.

No, Fong Chong is not about elegance. It’s a cavern of a space with scuffed floors and smudgy windows, but it holds a special place in our hearts and come hell or high water, when we take a trip to Portland, we make a stop at Fong Chong.

My first time dining out with Chopper’s parents was at Fong Chong. It was one of those early, get-to-know-the-folks meals, and we couldn’t have picked a better place. At any other restaurant we’d of run the risk of gulfs of silence; each of us engrossed in our own private plate, only occasionally exchanging pleasantries.

How’s the salmon? Oh, good. How’s the steak. Fine. Vegetables are over-cooked though.

Not at dim sum. Here, we shared the excitement of approaching carts together. Is that ginger chicken? Yes! Oh, and yu chee gow. Score! We sampled our favorites together and together we came just inches away from the big dim sum Do-We-Dare Challenge: Chicken feet.

In the months that followed, Fong Chong became our spot, and Chopper and I were such regulars we even had a favorite server who recognized us on sight and popped by our table soon after we were seated. “Two Tsingtao?” she’d ask after every greeting, to which we’d invariably say “of course,” because we could never resist a crisp Asian beer to follow up a good chomp of dim sum.

We had our favorite dishes – mine was the har gau, Chopper’s the siu mai, but every so often we’d venture out of our safety zone and try something we’d never tried before. Sometimes it was a one-shot deal, but more often than not we’d finish the meal exclaiming “I can’t believe we waited this long to try that one! We are idiots! Gah!”

(Yes, that last line should be read in a Napoleon Dynamite voice.)

Even so, we never quite got up the courage to face the chicken feet. That is, until a day we arrived and found Fong Chong so busy they were seating multiple groups of diners at their large, Lazy-Susan centered tables. Not that this hadn’t happened before; we’d shared tables many times — it was just that this time was different. We landed at a table with an absolutely charming and loquacious Chinese couple who’d just come into town from Astoria out on the coast. Fong Chong, they told us, was a necessary stop to their every Portland trip, and then they proceeded to recommend their favorite dishes, including — oh look, there they are on the next cart! — chicken feet.

How could we resist?

And y’know? Those crunchy collagen-filled feet, they aren’t half bad.

(I could go on, but remember, I’m terrible at waxing eloquent about flavors. See, I even admitted it. Ooh, the chicken toes, so crunchy yet tender in my mouth! They make me happy! They are happy feet! [giggle])

Actually, I’m lying. The chicken feet were just a little too fatty collagenesque strange for my liking. Chopper, on the other hand dug them so much I feared this would lead to a new culinary extremity trend. Pig’s feet, frog’s legs, lizard toes…

When Chopper started culinary school full time, we had to cut back on our visits to Fong Chong, sometimes going without dim sum for two to three months at a time. (Agony!) Meanwhile, we were working hard, saving what we could for our absurdly DIY wedding, which we’d foolishly planned for month number eight of Chopper’s schooling.

The day after the wedding (which I may write about sometime after our second anniversary, when I’ve fully recovered), we were so utterly dim sum deprived, we had to make the Fong Chong trip. Nothing else mattered. Presents? They could wait. Cleaning up the mess from our 11th hour wardrobe construction? Feh. What’s a living-room full of fabric scraps, anyway? A sign of creativity, that’s what!

So, off we went with visions of sesame balls and onion buns dancing in our heads.

As luck would have it, the new (and newly married) manager was working that morning, and she was so tickled to learn we’d made Fong Chong our choice for First Meal Out as a Married Couple, she knocked the price of the food right off our ticket. All we owed for was beer and tip — and a good thing too because oh did we pig out that day!

Now, you might think that my ode to Fong Chong will end on a melancholy note. That things have changed or that we’ve moved on to a new favorite spot. Not a chance. Even after our longest dry spell — a gap of nearly half a year without a Fong Chong visit — our return was just like old times. Last December, halfway down I-5, driving late at night after catching the 10:15 ferry (Chopper having hightailed it from pastry station to ferry line), the urge kicked in.

“You realize what we need to do tomorrow,” I said.

Chopper glanced at me from the driver’s seat to check my expression. He saw my smile and returned it.

“I mean, we’re getting into town at what, 2 a.m. at the earliest,” I said. “We can get ourselves out of bed by 10:30, and…”

“Fong Chong,” Chopper said.

“Fong Chong,” I echoed. I was grinning from ear to ear now in the dark car; the anticipation of har gau, hot chili oil, lotus leaf rice… it was almost too much to bear.

We were there within 45 minutes of waking the next morning. And there, first at our table, was our favorite server.

“Two Tsingtao?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, oh YES!” we answered.


Fong Chong
301 NW 4TH Ave
Portland, OR 97209-3882
(503) 228-6868

Fri-Sat 10:30am-10pm
Sun-Thu 10:30am-9pm

Best time to go: Fong Chong opens for business at 10:30, but they don’t really get rolling till a little after 11. Show up between 11 and 11:30, before the line kicks in, and you’ll be there when the carts first hit the floor with goodies fresh from the steamers.

On the table: The hot chili oil (that fire orange liquid in a jar) is a must. Pour it on your plate. Lots of it. Don’t be shy.

Thirst quenching: We love our Tsingtao and think you should too, but if you’re not in a beer mood, don’t worry, the house tea that comes with every meal is a light jasmine blend that tastes great even if you’ve been sitting at the table for an hour letting the tea pot go cold.

What is on those carts, anyway? You might not be able to understand everything the servers say, but here’s a tip: Just try it anyway. You can hardly ever go wrong, and at just two to three bucks a serving, the experimentation’s worth it. P.S. Chicken feet. Chopper insists on it.

Rejoice, citizens of Gastroblogia!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

We have an honorary new member!

Okay, so he doesn’t know it yet, and he missed the official day by a week or so, but see for yourselves. Wil Wheaton, the man, the dude, the Dennis…. no, wait… the Geek Extraordinaire (and one of my personal blogging heroes, I might add) has written a post titled Is it actually just about a sandwich? Yeah, I guess it is.

And is the post actually just about a grilled ham and cheese sandwich?

Yes it is.

And it’s hilarious.

Welcome to Gastroblogia, guymanndude. You rock.

WDB #23: So close, and yet so far away

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

weather warm; pond still frozen

On the plus side, Platelicker clearly understands that stepping onto a frozen pond to retrieve a ball is a Very Bad Thing.

(Check out Sweetnicks for more Weekend Dog Blogging! Posts about food will continue when I remember where I buried the kitchen counter…)

WCB #38: Angry Cat Battles Paparazzi

Friday, February 24th, 2006

the claw
I said Mrrrreeeooowww.

Private moments with my catnip are strictly off limits!

(For more Weekend Cat Blogging, check out Clare and Kiri’s Eat Stuff!)

Not quite spring cleaning

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

spice_jars.jpg

It’s not spring here just yet, at least not according to the outside temperature which still prompts me to wear thick, long-sleeved shirts. (Chopper, meanwhile, wears shorts, but then Chopper wears shorts in a blizzard, so this means nothing. Well, nothing other than my constant ability to admire his shapely Chef Legs, but that’s neither here nor there.)

(Is there such a thing as “Chef Legs?” Chefs do a great deal of standing, and do therefore tone their muscles, rather like soccer players, who have, in my humble opinion, the best legs in the world… but I digress.)

So. Cleaning. Not quite spring cleaning.

The short of it is: we’re mired in it. I spent yesterday organizing our spice drawers, liberating old jars for new spices, and creating a new set of labels which I then slapped on the jars so that they’d all look pretty, like they matched, like they were part of a set or something. (From a distance, they even fool people!)

Today, we threw out things around the house and surveyed the garden (much, much pruning to be done), but more importantly, I’ve wallowed myself in deep reorganization regarding the computer and the website.

Short version: Blogging may be somewhat light until I get reorganization work done.

Long version: One gig of free space left on my computer and I’ve got how many photos and graphics I want to play with? Time to bite the bullet, snag a new hard drive and shuffle everything around so that Photoshop says nice things to me like “yes, I have room to play, thanks much” instead of “holyfreakinghell are you insane trying to save that huge-ass file?”

Second half of long version: Blog changes coming up. Things could get weird around here. I mean, weird, cuz, you know, we’re not at all weird now.

Mighty Cheese Warriors: An Historical Perspective

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

cheese_square.jpg

Damn time machine was on the fritz this week. I gave it a few kicks in the side, it sputtered, then belched spicy, persimmon-colored steam, then at long last, it spit out the piece below, which is apparently an encyclopedia entry of some sort. Is this is from our future or from the future of an alternate present (and if so, how the heck did the machine make it back here)? Eh, no matter. After all, it’s rather hard for Gastroblogian historians to resist a good yarn.


(The following transcript is from the speeches of Jaques Rochefort Gouda, circa 4246 AD, Gastroblogia Central Archive. As much as we historians would like to believe we know the facts revolving around the birth of Cheese Sandwich Day, and the accuracy of Gouda’s elaborations, alas, we have only spotty records; myths and bedtime stories passed down from generation to generation, and we can only say that we hope every inch of it is true. Especially the parts we’re least likely to believe. )

Citizens of Gastroblogia, today on the 2240th Anniversary of Cheese Sandwich Day, it is vital that we reflect upon the humble origin of this great symbol of our freedom, and so, I offer up a brief history as precursor to our riotous and cheese-filled celebration that will begin in just a few short moments.

(crowd goes wild)

Let us travel back through the mists of time to the origin of our beloved nation and to the mighty cheese sandwich that will forever be so dear to our hearts.

(more thunderous applause)

Few of you realize that the birth of our great nation was not an easy one. Oh, no. We had a rival. An older nation, confident in its supremacy but so attached to the old ways it had grown stagnant. Yes, East Epicurikstan –

(boos and hisses throughout the crowd)

East Epicurikstan, where the average citizen, despite his professed love of cookery, did not concern himself with what he ate, or what his neighbor ate, or his second cousin for that matter –

(cries of shock from the crowd)

Yes, East Epicurikstan, a harsh regime that claimed status as a meritocracy, but was, in truth, beholden to such outdated notions as “advertisers” and “editorial boards.”

(more hisses)

Always, in East Epicurikstan, the interests of the few trumped the interests of the many, and always, they looked upon the newfangled activities of neighboring Gastroblogia with disdain, for here in Gastroblogia, it seemed, we lacked censorship. We lacked corporate overlords. And shockingly (to the East Epicurikstanians), we allowed — even encouraged — our citizenry to do anything they wanted.

(a mighty cheer from the crowd)


At the height of the Great Controversy, citizens of Gastroblogia declared their solidarity by carving their cheese sandwiches into outlandish and suggestive shapes. This particular artifact was found on the steps of the East Epicurikstanian Embassy by a writer of “glossies” whose name has long since faded into the dark recesses of forgotten history.

Now, one would think that would lead to chaos. Well did it?

(crowd responds with a resounding “NO!”)

No! Not chaos, but community!

Yes, poor East Epicurikstan, stalled in the dark ages because they clung, white-knuckled, to the archaic notion of top-down information dispersal, and yet, they still tried to impose their rigid beliefs on their neighbors, including the notion that one should not discuss what one ate for dinner, especially if one ate a cheese sandwich!

(crowd boos and hisses)

But, good citizens of Gastroblogia, we knew better. Even then, in the early days of our great nation, we knew better. We knew we did not need such impositions. We cast aside their glossies and the trappings of their so-called meritocracy and we rose up, declaring our autonomy. Who was East Epicurikstan to impose their trends upon us? We could start our own trends, peer to peer!

(crowd cheers)

And that’s exactly what our great ancestors did! But it didn’t end there. Oh no, dear people, this was only the beginning!

Shocked at Gastroblogia’s impudence, the East Epicurikstanians rattled their sabers and cried absurdities. “There are too many bad food blogs,” they said, “Some of you should just go away!”


It is believed that in Days of Legend, centuries before the Birth of Blog, Mighty Cheese Warriors carried their sandwich gifts to neighboring tribes via canoe, thus ushering in a resplendent era of universal cooperation, feasting, and cheese production

Our great Gastroblogian ancestors responded, puzzled. “What does this mean?” they asked. “You might as well say there are too many stars in the sky simply because some shine brighter than others.”

One Gastroblogian cried, “Define many!” Another cried, “Define bad!”

The East Epicurikstanians couldn’t respond. They groped at “many.” “Well… lots” one said. “So many, I can’t find the good ones,” another proclaimed.

“How long did you search?” the first Gastroblogian asked.

“About ten minutes,” the East Epicurikstanian replied and twiddled his thumbs.

“Ahah!” the second Gastroblogian exclaimed.

“But,” said the East Epicurikstanian, “you don’t follow the rules. That’s why you’re bad.”

The Gastroblogians could only look at each other and shrug. “Rules?” they cried. “We have rules? Did someone give us a rule book?”

(laughter from the crowd)

And still, despite this all, the East Epicurikstanians rattled their sabers.


Firemen who rescued errant cheese sandwiches from tree tops were held in the highest regard in Gastroblogia and days were named in their honor. It is not now known how so many cheese sandwiches found themselves in need of tree-top rescue, but if Gastroblogian myths hold any grains of truth, we suspect that herds of “sentient sammies” (brought about by human-cheese hybrid experimentation) had something to do with it.

Now, one industrious Gastroblogian, not content to leave the discussion where it stood, set out to find these supposed rules, hoping that a definitive answer would at least curb the aggressions of their irritable neighbor. She searched high and low and found many different sets of rules, yet none of them matched one another and many were composed by the same corporate paymasters the citizens of Gastroblogia so disdained.

She found manifestos, each different, each pertaining to an individual citizen’s needs and desires. At long last she happened upon a collection of statements that best summed up the philosophy of Gastroblogia. She gathered them up from their various sources, carried them home and then spoke to the citizens of both Gastroblogia and East Epicurikstan.

“A blog is a conversation,” she said. “You may have it with yourself, or with your friends, or with your family. You may have it with your community, or with all the world at once; no matter. You choose, just as others may choose to partake in that conversation or leave as they see fit.

“You may find a conversation with yourself suddenly extends to the world, or you may find that in a conversation with the world, you are the only participant. Some conversations are more interesting than others. Some punchbowls at parties contain better punch. You are not obligated to serve the best punch, nor are you obligated to drink the worst punch.

“Nor are you ever, even when you share your blog with the world, obligated to engage in conversation with anyone but yourself. The point is only to do what you want to do because you want to do it. Beyond this, there are no rules.”


Cheese sandwiches often bore likenesses of great figures of Gastroblogian culture. It is well known that the Julia Child sandwich, considered priceless, is, to this day, kept in a temperature controlled vault in the Great Hall of Cookery. Sandwiches bearing the likenesses of East Epicurikstanians were often met with a less noble fate. Others were simply consumed. One legend tells of a Gastroblogian who constructed the world’s largest cheese sandwich, only to discover it bore the image of Jeffrey Steingarten. Unable to resist its siren song, the Gastroblogian devoured the entire thing in a single sitting and was promptly sent to the hospital.

Satisfied, the Gastroblogian sat back from her podium and took a bite of her sandwich.

“But,” the East Epicurikstanians cried, “What about professionalism? Who wants to read about what you ate for dinner?”

The Gastroblogians could only roll their eyes. They looked at one another and shook their heads, fearing the worst: The East Epicurikstanians just didn’t get it. The only thing to do now was to ignore their rending of hair and gnashing of teeth.

“We need a symbol,” they cried, “An emblem to represent our autonomy and our celebration of all that is good and delicious and lacking in rules.”

Briefly, they considered such things as the three bean casserole or tuna surprise.

But then the woman who’d sought out the rules rose from her seat, stood in front of her people and, with her half-eaten meal in one hand spoke the phrase that we all know so well today: “Ich bin ein Käsesandwich!”

(wild cheers from the crowd)

And so, great citizens of the Most Delectable Autonomous Collective of Gastroblogia, let us not forget our humble beginnings. Let us not forget the mighty cheese warriors who carved a path from our dining rooms to the stars and beyond!

(crowd applauds)

Let us not forget our eccentric and irreverent ancestors of Gastroblogia!

(crowd cheers)

And most of all…. Let us…. EAT!

(crowd digs in)

Paper Chef #15: Mighty Aphrodite

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

pear, freshly poached

I wanted to spend the weekend making cheese sandwiches. Trouble is, every time Chopper sees the ingredient list for Paper Chef, his eyes light up like a puppy in a butcher shop. And this time? Beets, lime, pears, and aphrodisiacs, and us a couple blogging together? Ahem. How could we resist?

So, we hit the books. Or rather, the Google, and discovered all sorts of nifty lists and references to dozens of aphrodisiac foods, from the obvious (caviar) to the unexpected (coriander).

Now, I have a personal favorite aphrodisiac. It’s a combination of dark chocolate and Barry White. Gets me every time. But Chopper had other plans (or maybe he’s saving the dark chocolate and Barry White for later). See, he’d recently received a $25 gift certificate to our local grocery, and now he’d found the perfect excuse for some sensuous splurging.

So, to completely knock us out of contention for Paper Chef’s Super Saver category, we picked up three lusty participants for our lusty trio:

Caviar (Okay, black lumpfish roe, close enough for our purposes. Ah, mystical fish eggs, symbol of fertility…)
Truffles (They’re musky. Need we say more?)
Snails (I’m told it has something to do with their shape. What? It’s suggestive?)


Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat oysters?
Antoninus: When I have them, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you eat snails?
Antoninus: No, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?
Antoninus: No, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn’t it?
Antoninus: Yes, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: And taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals.
Antoninus: It could be argued so, master.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters.

Sparticus, 1960, Lawrence Olivier as Marcus Licinius Crassius; Tony Curtis as Antonius

Ahem. So, where was I?

Oh, yes, we weren’t done yet. Chopper had other ingredients in mind for our Lusty Trio, and surprisingly, we found that several of them were also included on various lists of aphrodisiacs. Here are six more:

Vanilla (Its powerful scent evokes strong and sensuous emotions.)
White wine (In moderation, of course, or the hot date ends badly.)
Wasabi (Nature’s Cialis, rumor has it.)
Red chiles (Hot, hot, hot.)
Coriander (According to The Arabian Nights, a coriander concoction once saved a merchant from 40 years of infertility!)
Agave nectar (Not fermented agave, like tequila or pulque, but still…)


In Aztec times, pulque was the highly esteemed drink of the elders, priests and warriors, a nectar that according to myth oozed from the 400 breasts of the goddess Mayahuel.
–source: Sign on San Diego

Four hundred???

Okay, I think that should do it for aphrodisiacs. Time for some recipes.

a slice of red

Snails in beet cups with truffle butter

Ingredients

  • 1 very large red beet
  • Snails, as needed
  • Compound butter (see below), as needed
  • Red chiles
  • 2 tsp coriander seed

For compound butter

  • 1/4 lb European style butter
  • 1 tablespoon red bosc pear, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • Zest of 1 baby lime, minced
  • 1 small black truffle, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

Take two tsp of butter and melt in a small sauté pan over low heat.
Add remaining ingredients and sweat over low heat for five minutes or until aroma is pungent. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Season to taste with salt.

When ingredients in pan are cool and remaining butter is soft, fold both together until thoroughly combined and roll into a log with parchment paper.

For beets

Fill a small pot with water, and add enough salt to make it taste briny. Then add a small handful of red chiles, and 2 teaspoons of coriander seed, and bring to a boil. Add the beet, skin on, to the boiling water and allow to come back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Cook the beet until it is tender but not mushy, about 30-45 minutes. Remove it from the boil and place in a bath of ice water until its cool enough to handle. Then peel the skin off by hand and cut into thick slices.

Cut rounds out of the slices with whatever tool you can find; a biscuit cutter, ring mold, etc. With a Parisian scoop (a.k.a melonballer) hollow out the rounds, making them into little cups.

Place a shelled snail into each cup and add a thin (1/8 inch) slice of the compound butter on top.

Place all the prepared cups onto a sheet pan lined with parchment, and roast in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.

Serve hot. Olympic Rings configuration optional.

Snails in beet cups with truffle butter

Salmon and beet mousse barquettes

For candied lime zest

  • Zest of 2 baby limes
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Combine water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. When the mixture begins to get “frothy” add the zest strips.

Cook for 5 minutes, then strain. Place zest on a silpat, or parchment and into a 150 F oven and allow to dry.

For the mousse

  • 4 ounces smoked salmon
  • 2 ounces cooked red beet
  • 4 tablespoons tofutti cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 5 large sprigs of fresh dill

Place all ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

For barquettes

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bosc pear, peeled, cored, and pureed
  • 1/4 cup water

Biscuit method

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir together thoroughly.

Add butter and shortening, and “cut” into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Add the pureed pear and fold into the mixture, then add water as needed to bring the dough together.

Mold dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When dough is properly chilled, roll portions into thin (1/8 inch) sheets and place in barquette molds, trimming away excess. Dock (poke holes in the bottom) as needed to keep the dough flat as it cooks.

Place molds in a 350 F oven until golden brown. Then remove and allow to cool.

Final assembly

Pipe finished mousse into cooled barquettes in whatever style you like. Garnish with a small dab of caviar (or in this case; black lumpfish roe) and candied lime zest.

Salmon and beet mousse barquettes

Poached pears with agave caramel sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Bosc pears
  • 4 cups sweet white wine
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • Beet powder for garnish

Poaching method:

Combine wine and lime juice in a two quart saucepan over low heat.

Split and scrape vanilla beans and add both the seeds and the hulls to the liquid.

When the liquid reached between 160 and 180 F peel the pears, leaving them whole, and place in the poaching liquid.

Cover the pan, and poach the pears for at least two hours, three would be better.

When pears are cooked through, remove from the liquid.

For sauce:

Ladle off 2/3 of a cup of the poaching liquid and add to another pan over medium-high heat.

Add the agave nectar and bring to a boil. Reduce until the mixture is thick, dark, and caramelized.

Plating:

Make six cuts along the length of the pear, being careful not to cut through the stem end. Push down onto a plate, giving a slight twist, allowing the pear to “fan out.” Spoon the sauce over top, and garnish with a vanilla bean hull, and a sprinkling of beet powder.

Poached pear with agave caramel sauce

Now, I should note that I neglected to include smoked salmon on my list of nine (nine!) aphrodisiacs, above, but whether documented or not, as far as I’m concerned, in my book the combo of smoked salmon and Peter Gabriel is right up there next to dark chocolate and Barry White. (Follow all that up with a glass of port and Alan Rickman, and I’m done.)

Oh, I could go on, but never mind that. Our Lusty Trio turned out quite delicious and so rich that just the smallest helping did me in for the evening. In fact, the both of us have been in recovery for three days, so it’s a wonder we’ve gotten any blogging done at all!

Tagged with:

Sin

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

sin

(Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, served up by Chopper on this fine Valentine’s Eve.)

(Recipe available to the highest bidder.)

(Just kidding. We’ll post it later.)

The Mighty (and Creative) Cheese Sandwich

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

festive, but cheesy
Mexican tuna melt with goat cheese and pico de gallo.

Sometimes the timing is just perfect. Take today’s random link hop, for example. In it, I stumbled across this terrific piece titled How To Be Creative (The Long Version) over on Hugh Macleod’s most excellent blog, gapingvoid. Yes, he’s the guy who’s doing that cool Geek Dinner (with free wine) thing mentioned over at Food Blog S’cool.

Here are three of my favorite snippets from How To Be Creative:

5. You are responsible for your own experience.
Nobody can tell you if what you’re doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is.

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.
This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.

(Oh, just go read it. It’s great stuff.)

Point is, since I’m in the middle of a (long overdue) redesign of the site, and I’m in Brainstorm Central for new Belly Timber-related projects, this resonates. Oh, how it resonates.

And, I think it’ll resonate with a great many fellow food bloggers now that we’re in the middle of the Great Cheese Sandwich Controversy of 2006, because what is this all about if not celebrating our diversity to blog about food any damn which way we want to — including singing praises to the Mighty Cheese Sandwich?

Non-bloggers (and yeah, I’m generalizing a teensy bit) don’t get it. They seem to think we’re all on the same page. We all want to put up a professional front. We all want attention from the print media. We’re all gunning for that elusive golden ring of getting noticed or better yet, landing that coveted book contract. (Silly non-bloggers; such a narrow view.) Truth is, many of us are here for the fun, or for the community, or (to steal from Alton Brown) we’re just here for the food.

Some of us are professional creative types in our other lives; some not. Some of us know full well what it’s like to be on the receiving end of criticism (hell, someday let me dig up the snarkfest of a review I received for my production of Titus Andronicus; it’s got serious trash-the-director entertainment value); some of us are new to it. No matter. If we didn’t think we could handle criticism with grace, or humor, or snark or however we damn well please to handle it, we wouldn’t be here, would we?

Which brings me to my fourth wonderful snippet from How To Be Creative:

19. Sing in your own voice.
Picasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldn’t paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinberg’s formal drafting skills were appalling. TS Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play guitar.

But that didn’t stop them, right?

Exactly. (And oh lord, do I agree about Dylan…)

Point is, not all of us are skilled bloggers. We’ve got strong points; we’ve got weak points. I suck ass at restaurant reviews, and I don’t particularly like describing how food tastes because I am terrified of the bad Iron Chef Judge food cliché. (“Oh, this dish is so profound! The flavors in my mouth — they make me so happy!”)

(That’s three gulps in the Iron Chef Drinking Game, right there, by the way.)

Some of us are still learning how to take decent food photos. Some of us are timid in the kitchen and stick to the strict following of tried-and-true cookbook recipes. Is that wrong? Is that bad?

More importantly, is it a reason for us to give up blogging?

(Obvious answer: hell no. We blog for ourselves, first, dammit.)

Anyway, I’d have lots more to say on this, but Chopper’s due home from work and he’s going to be awfully grumpy if I don’t spiff up and resize all those photos I took of what we ate for dinner.

WCB #36: Cats and Dogs Living Together!

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

cats and dogs living together

Do NOT touch my catnip-infused crumply paper until my licking is DONE!

(For more Weekend Cat Blogging, check out all the cute (and fierce, and sneaky) kitties down at Clare and Kiri’s Eat Stuff!)

Eek, a Meme, Part Two

Friday, February 10th, 2006

Hey kids, it’s time for yet another get-to-know-your-bloggers meme!

Wait a sec. There are so many of them. Isn’t it a little suspicious? I mean, does anyone know who starts these things? Is it one of us, innocently curious? Or could it be… Alberto Gonzales?

Ahah! Just wait. Next meme, it’s gonna be last four books checked out of the library and last four protest marches attended, and then we’ll know for sure. Sneaky bastard.

Oh, all right, I’ll take off the tin foil for a moment and play. (But I’m putting it right back on after, I swear!)

So, what have we got? It’s the 4×8 meme — or in our case, since there are two of us: the 4x4x8 meme. (Hey! We’re in 3-D!) This week’s tag comes from Biscuit Girl of You Gonna Eat All That? And since we trust her to not have ulterior motives, we’ve attempted to answer all questions to the best of our abilities.

The 4×8 Meme

Four Jobs I’ve Had in My Life:

Chopper:
1. Jiffy Lube Technician.
2. Gaffer for USA Network shows Silk Stockings and Renegade.
3. Jenny Craig Food Distributor (stop laughing!)
4. Pastry Chef

Mrs D:
1. Stage Manager of the most annoying dinner theater ever.
2. Art Department Coordinator for a cheesy low budget film about evil space bugs.
3. Restaurant hostess
4. Fabric store clerk

I should note that were Chopper to say “mom made me do it,” on answer #3, he would not be lying. I should also note that the food served at the most annoying dinner theater ever, was also the most revolting excuse for Italian banquet food ever.

Four Movies I Could (and I do) Watch Over and Over:

Chopper:
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
2. Galaxy Quest
3. The Big Lebowski
4. The Usual Suspects

Mrs. D.
Ummm… Four big fat dittos. Heck, why do you think we first went all googly for each other. Yes, it was the Trek. But… oh hell, I can’t help myself. Here are four more:
1. The Hunt for Red October
2. Shaolin Soccer
3. Shaun of the Dead
4. Master and Commander

Four Places I’ve Lived:

Chopper:
1. Portland, OR
2. San Diego, CA
3. Vancouver, WA
4. Friday Harbor, WA

Mrs. D:
1. Portland, OR
2. Boston, MA
3. Reno, NV
4. Vancouver, BC

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch:

Chopper:
1. Iron Chef
2. Battlestar Galactica (the new one, duh.)
3. Stargate SG1
4. Good Eats

Mrs. D:
Once again, ditto. Oh, and…
5. 24
6. CSI
7. Invasion
8. The Daily Show

Four Places I Have Been on Vacation:

Chopper:
1. Disneyland
2. Black Butte, OR
3. Tijuana, Mexico
4. Encenada, CA

Mrs. D:
1. Disneyland
2. Black Butte, OR
3. Northern British Columbia
4. Carmel, CA

Dang, we need to get out more. Not only do we need to get out more, we need to get out more together. I will note, with much embarrassment, that of all of those vacations, only one took place after Chopper and I met: the trip to Black Butte, which was our honeymoon.

Black Butte Ranch, August 2004

Four Websites I Visit Daily:

Chopper:
1. Daily Kos
2. Nation States Forums
3. Ill Will Press
4 Homestar Runner

Mrs. D:
1. Boing Boing
2. 43 Folders
3. Food Blog Scool
4. Flickr

And lots of food blogs, but y’know, diplomacy and all that…

Oh, and lots more leftie blogs, but you know, the G-man could be watching and… right. Like they don’t already know what we just ate for dinner.

Speaking of food…

Four of My Favorite Foods:

Chopper:
1. Tacos
2. Foie Gras
3. Sausage
4. Single Malt Scotch (yes, it’s a food.)

Mrs. D.
1. Sushi
2. Dark Chocolate
3. Any kind of fish, so long as Chopper’s cooking it.
4. Asparagus. Ditto on the Chopper’s cooking it thing.

(Oh, and cheese sandwiches. Pssst. Pass it on.)

About that foie gras: Chopper got to sample some while in culinary school and he’s not been the same since. Sometimes I catch him looking up websites that ship the stuff and then checking our bank account…

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

Chopper:
1. Seattle
2. Thailand
3. London
4. Prague

Mrs D:
1. Seattle (Yes, we have a thing for Seattle. Call it unbridled lust, if you will.)
2. Vancouver BC
3. Yorkshire
4. Oh, to heck with it. I’ll settle for a house with a clean kitchen.

Four Tags: People I’m Tagging to Continue this Meme:

(Yes, four is plenty. Eight tags would be just plain excessive. Not that we’re not excessive on many occasions, but really now, could we even find eight food bloggers who haven’t been tagged already?)

1. Brett of In Praise of Sardines
2. Jamie of 10 Signs Like This
3. B’gina of Stalking the Waiter
4. Cyndi of Cookin’ With Cyndi

hints of spring

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

an early spring

So, I had every intention of baking referee striped gingerbread cookies on Monday and then biting their heads off, but then this freaky yellow thing appeared in the sky and I noticed equally freaky purple things in the garden and got distracted.

Oh, and because it was sunny, we had to spend half the day cleaning the car. Is it wrong of me, as a food blogger, to confess I found a green cheeto in the hatch?

WCB #35: Pekoe in the leaves

Friday, February 3rd, 2006

The Cat is brooding. She cannot get past that whole Year of the Dog thing.

We tried to lure her out for photos, but alas, she keeps to darkened rooms and dusty corners.

So, we’re diving into the archives. This week: Vintage 1980s, Pekoe in the leaves.

Pekoe in the leaves

Meanwhile, the puppy is giddy. See, Chopper came home with three ginormous packages of ribs (on sale, dirt cheap), and the puppy (as usual) is anticipating many table scraps this weekend. She will, alas, be disappointed. Not only are we expecting a colossal wind storm that may very well knock out our power during the Superbowl broadcast, but Chopper must go to work Sunday afternoon because (ahem) some person who has no respect for great sporting events has made dinner reservations at 5:30 p.m. Dude. We’re less than 100 miles from Seattle. Have you no heart?

Ah well. There’s always TiVo. If the power stays on.

And I swear, if anyone gives away how many touchdowns Shaun Alexander scored before Chopper finishes watching the fourth quarter, there’ll be hell to pay!

(Look for more weekend cat blogging at Kiri and Clare’s Eat Stuff!)

Eek, a Meme, Part One

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

In which Chopper and I are tagged for two memes and reveal to the world just how incredibly geeky we are. (As if we haven’t done that already…)

First, the Ten Things You Never Knew About Me meme. Oh jeez, this hoary old thing? It’s so last month. Well yeah, I was tagged by Cookiecrumb on January 11th and I’m just now getting to it. Color me slow. (Did I mention that I always completely write off the month of January? No? Okay then. Blame it on Paper Chef #14, the Extreme Workload Edition.)

So… at the risk of, well, revealing something, here are, a la carte, ten things you never knew about me.


actual drawing, done by me, before I knew how to draw arms.

                      1. Plomeek Soup
Spock was my first childhood crush. A crush so intense that I learned how to draw by drawing Spock. A crush so long-lasting that years later, I still cry every time I watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

                      2. Heinz Baked Beans
If there is one thing and only one thing I can do with a guitar, it is play a fierce but rather bad rendition of Pinball Wizard from Tommy. I will not, however, reenact the Ann-Margaret gushing TV scene from the movie.

                      3. Meatloaf
My first paid theater gig was as a Transylvanian in a stage production of The Rocky Horror Show. It ran for months. It ran so long that the Bag-o-Eddie-Guts I built (as props assistant) went bad and started to stink of, well, Eddie Guts. Don’t ask me what I used to make the Bag-o-Guts. Thankfully, I can’t remember.

                      4. Iron Rations
You. Yes you. The geek in the corner. Also, you, Misters Diesel and Colbert. You know what I’m talking about. That’s right, Iron Rations for a hard campaign. To go along with that plus one scimitar and that handy cleric with his Cure Light Wounds spell. Did I mention I still have a folder full of character sheets. Make that two folders.

I'm attacking the darkness!

                      5. The Number Two
Once upon a time, I was attending classes just a short stroll from a theater that was showing the Terry Gilliam masterpiece, Brazil. One fine spring day, my classmates and I decided to attend a showing after class. The next day, we did the same. And the day after that. And… well, this was back when movies were cheap so I lost count.

                      6. Suet Pie
When Chopper and I planned our wedding, we knew one thing and one thing only, right off the bat: Chopper would not be wearing a tux. We didn’t know what he’d be wearing; we only knew: no tux. And then we went to the theater and saw Master and Commander and our fate was sealed. Or rather my fate, since I had to sew the damn thing. Fortunately, our British nautical theme did not extend as far as the food.

                      7. Shameful Head Pasties
So, I get out of college and the first thing I decide to do with my utterly useless arts degree is direct Shakespeare. Something simple perhaps? Twelfth Night? Romeo and Juliet? Nah. Gimme that cannibalistic blood bath, Titus Andronicus. I should note that the theater was tiny and we came awfully close to paying the front row’s dry cleaning bills on more than one occasion. Ahhh, stage blood.

                      8. American Pie
Another college (yes, there were two of them; I was indecisive), and another odd job. This one involved photographing visiting performers for the school paper. Don McLean was one of the funniest, nicest guys ever, but I still can’t help but sing “My, my, this here Anakin guy” every time that song comes on the radio.

dude, I haven't a clue what that song means, either.

                      9. Herzwesten Dark
Ah, nothing like a good, well-aged dark beer to save you from invading Janissaries. I’m a sucker for great tales of historical intrigue with secret magical underpinnings, and nobody does it better than Tim Powers, one of my all-time favorite authors. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Tim for a (sadly now defunct) genre magazine, and still heed his writing advice today. Especially the bits about obsessively researching and ignoring deadlines. (I heartily embrace the ignoring of deadlines.)

                      10. Psycho Amber
Remember back, I mean waaaaay back when we first started this blog and said we were going to write about beer? Well, um. See, we’ve got this Tiny Kitchen and brewing is rather a bitch around here. Someday, we promise. Someday. Meantime, back, waaaay back before we landed in this house, we had a large kitchen and Chopper brewed a batch called Psycho Amber, and I made a label for it, and entered it in a contest, and won us a wort chiller — which we have yet to use because we’re stuck with this tiny kitchen. Come springtime? We’re taking over the living room and brewing between the comfy chair and the entertainment center.

The birth of Chopper Dave's modeling career.

Chopper’s Cheap Eats: Oxtail

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Braised Oxtail

This past weekend I was strolling the aisles of our local supermarket. Because we live on an island, it sometimes gets difficult to find quality foods at decent prices, but Saturday was a glorious exception.

First, I found one of my favorite main items in the meat case — oxtail — cheap! $1.49 a pound, and it was the good stuff too — from Misty Isle Farms, near Seattle — so I got two packs. Total so far: $6.50

Then I remembered that I also had a pound of dried fava beans in my pantry at home that I had purchased at a farmer’s market during a previous trip off island. I also remembered that we had onions, carrots, and garlic left unused from another meal preparation.

At this point, my brain gears began to turn and I bolted off to the produce section. I was in luck. A major sale on produce items was happening that day. I found asparagus for $1.09 a pound, and red bell peppers at 2 for 88 cents. Top it all off with rutabagas at 69 cents a pound and I was set for veggies.

The only other thing I needed was a “flavorful liquid,” and to my surprise I found quart containers of my favorite brand of stock, also on sale at $1.99 each

Total for the day: $11.35.

Total for the entire meal, not including a $10 bottle of wine (on sale), but estimating the cost of items already on hand: ~$16.00

Which leads me to this…

Oxtail

Braised Oxtail, with Fava Beans and Mixed Vegetables

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 6 large sections of oxtail
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 elarge rutabaga, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 red bell peppers, one diced, the other cut into strips
  • 2 garlic bulbs, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 lb baby carrots
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 lb dried fava beans, soaked overnight, and peeled
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons mustard (I used Lopez Larry’s Smokey Chardonnay Dijon, but any kind that isn’t French’s will do fine.)
  • 1 teaspoon Israeli zahtar
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Place stock in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add soy sauce as needed for body and flavor (trust me; it works astoundingly well).
  2. Season both sides of the oxtail sections with salt and pepper.
  3. While stock is heating, take half of your baby carrots and dice them to the same size as your diced onion. Take the other half and slice them lengthwise.
  4. Place a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom.
  5. When the oil starts to smoke, add the onion, diced carrots, and diced bell pepper. Caramelize these vegetables well and stir occasionally to avoid burning. Then deglaze the pan with red wine and add all the contents to the stock.
  6. Add another tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and place back on medium high heat. When the oil starts to smoke again, add the oxtail and caramelize well on all sides. Then, again, deglaze with red wine and add to the stock pot, which should now be at a simmer. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover tightly. Allow the pot to cook for at least an hour; two would be better.
  7. While the pot is simmering, fill another pot with 4 cups of water. Add 4 tablespoons of Kosher salt and the 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, and bring to a boil.
  8. Blanche and shock vegetables as follows: When the water is boiling, add the carrots and rutabaga and bring back to a boil. Cook until softened but not mushy, then remove them and place in a bowl of ice water.
  9. Then place the asparagus in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to overcook. Then move it to the ice water with the carrots and rutabaga.
  10. Now, place the fava beans in the boil and cook until tender, then remove from heat, but leave them in the pot (ie, do not shock the fava beans).
  11. Fava Beans

  12. When the oxtail is “fork tender, well done,” you’re ready to serve. Ladle out two cups of the stock and place in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, making sure the starch is thoroughly dispersed. When the stock is at a boil, add the mustard and whisk until it’s fully incorporated, then add the starch water (known as a ‘slurry’) a little bit at a time. You won’t likely need to use it all. Reduce until the sauce attains the desired thickness.
  13. Take your cast iron skillet again, and add two tablespoons of EVOO, and place back on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the vegetables from the ice water and lightly sauté with the zahtar.
  14. Plate the sections of oxtail on top of a bed of fava beans, then spoon the sauce over top. Arrange the vegetables as you like, and serve with a nice chianti.

Braised Oxtail


Mrs D sez:

We snagged the Israeli Zahtar at World Merchants spice, herb, and tea shop just below Pike Place Market in Seattle. Zahtar’s a spice blend that’s used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. It’s got multitudes of variations, but this particular blend is made with toasted sesame seeds, Syrian sumac, and Moroccan thyme. It’s subtle and herbaceous, but even the light touch of it in the sautéed veggies gave this part of our meal a distinct and delicious Middle Eastern flavor.

Happy New…

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Year of the WHAT?

…Year of the WHAT??

Mozart, Lewis Carroll, and…

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Chopper at work

Chopper, the Birthday Boy!

(No, I’m not telling how old.)

Paper Chef #14: The Big Honkin’ Winners Post

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

The Chaircat
A recent conversation at Casa Belly Timber:

Kitty Kaga: (positively dripping with disdain) Oh. So you’re back.

Platelicker: (bursting, as usual) Oooh! Kitty!

Kitty Kaga: I would have wished you gone forever, but there’s work to be done here, and I cannot do it alone. I suppose my captors completed the judging for Paper Chef?

Platelicker: Must! Chase! Kitty!

Kitty Kaga: Ahem. They were in Seattle almost a whole week, you know. They could have posted, or at least completed their judging notes.

Platelicker: Seattle has many dogs. Wheeee!

Kitty Kaga: Right. So, about the judging…

Platelicker: And yummy food and big hills and…

Kitty Kaga: They weren’t able to finish, were they?

Platelicker: If I tell you, can I chase you?

Kitty Kaga: If you tell me, after I am done eating, I shall let you lick up the scraps of food that fall from my dish to the floor.

Platelicker: Wheee! Free food! Okay, okay, so they didn’t finish, and they couldn’t post and — you’ll probably hear about that later cuz it all has to do with stuff like bowling and dancing, and meeting other food bloggers, and strange, yummy food they wouldn’t let me eat — and, well, they tried to think it all through, but they just got pooped, and then there was this whole planning for the future thing, and visiting relatives, and knee injuries and…

Kitty Kaga: Planning for the future thing?

Platelicker: You’ll hear about that later too. It has to do with words and jobs and more strange, yummy food they wouldn’t let me eat, and — Hey! Do I get to lick up your food scraps now?

Kitty Kaga: Silly furball. You always lick up the scraps of food that fall from my dish to the floor.

Platelicker: Oh. Right. (a befuddled pause) Oh! Guess what! I’m going to take climbing lessons!

Kitty Kaga: Wonderful. Now, go away.

Platelicker: I’m starting with chair backs and working my way up to counter tops and trees.

Kitty Kaga: (after a heavy sigh) How nice. Say, isn’t that a leftover pig ear out in the garden?

Platelicker: Pig ear!! Wheee!

(exit dog, kitchen left.)

Kitty Kaga: Well then, it appears I must complete my chairmenical duties and announce the winners for this month’s Paper Chef Competition. Oh, shut up. I know chairmenical isn’t a real word. Do I look like I care?

So… on with it.

This was, as can be deduced by the lateness of this post, a most arduous process. I have reason to believe my captors quibbled and quarreled over their decisions for days on end. (When they weren’t off bowling or shopping or planning their futures that is. Silly creatures.)

I have, since their return, obtained their copious notes, reviewed them, and am now prepared to post the official announcement.

First of all, a collection of whimsical and delicious Honorable Mention categories to whet your appetite for the grand finale:

Festival of Enticing Ingredients:

Honorable Mention, Quinoa Division: Kimberly at Music and Cats. for her Quinoa in Blueberry-Yog(h)urt Vinaigrette with Cashews and Three “Babies.” A lovely first outing with a new grain, with emphasis on quinoa as the center of her dish.

Honorable Mention, Yog(h)urt Division: Lyn at Lex Culinaria for her Roasted Baby Beet, Labanya and Quinoa Salad. Another handsome, architectural dish with a scrumptious layer of labanya in the middle.

Honorable Mention, Cashew Division: Lady X at Experiment in Writing. for her Cashew Praline Frozen Yogurt Pie. Mmm… praline. Need we say more?

Honorable Mention, Baby Division: The Culinary Bookworm at Weekly Dish for her Quinoa King Cake with Orange-Yogurt Cashew Filling Okay, so you wouldn’t want to eat that particular baby, but…brilliant!

Special “Maternity Ward” Honorable Mention for Best Multiple Babies: Katherine at ToastPoint, for her Baby Curry and Quinoa Fritters with Cashew Cream. Too much fun — remind us to never ever challenge her to a game of Scrabble!

Honorable Mention, Overall Use of Ingredients: MagicTofu at Slurp and Burp for his full day of Paper Chef inspired meals. We especially liked the resourceful shift from breakfast crepes to lunch crepes. Nicely done!

Fiesta of Thematic Excellence:

Honorable Mention, Healthy Division: Cookiecrumb at I’m Mad and I Eat for her Quinoa Tabbouleh D’Brickashaw. Simple, elegant, and with all those fresh herbs, who needs multivitamins?

Honorable Mention, Simplicity Division: Cyndi at Cookin’ with Cyndi for her Sweet Potato Quinoa Corn Bread. A comfort food classic with a Paper Chef twist.

Honorable Mention, Renewal Division: The Culinary Bookworm at Weekly Dish for her Quinoa King Cake with Orange-Yogurt Cashew Filling Celebrating a great city’s rebirth.

Fête of Culinary Goodness:

Oooh, Pretty — Honorable Mention for Extreme Culinary Beauty: Rachael at Fresh Approach Cooking for her Broiled Perch with Quinoa-Cashew Crust and Pinapple-Kumquat Salsa. Simply exquisite.

Yum Yum! — Honorable Mention for Immediate Desire for Culinary Consumption: Sylvie at Soul Fusion Kitchen, for her Baby Back Ribs with Quinoa and Cashews with Two Yogurt Sauces. It’s Chopper. He can’t help himself. He’s like a rib magnet.

Zoinks, Whaa? — Honorable Mention for Extraordinary Innovation: Brendon at Something in Season. for his Spinach Sushi with Quinoa and Cashews . Ingenious, offbeat, and with only eight ingredients!

Splort! — Honorable Mention for Fall-on-Floor Culinary Humor: MagicTofu at Slurp and Burp for his multigrain cashew nut loaf… in swaddling clothes. Hug it? Eat it? Hug it? Eat it? Hug it? Eat it?

And…. The grand finale….

Paper Chef’s Best of Show: For outstanding use of ingredients, food we’d order again and again, and a fine dose of both healthy scrumptiousness and culinary whimsy:


MagicTofu at Slurp and Burp!

Chopper was impressed with the day-long extravaganza and multiple usage of required ingredients. Mrs. D was especially fond of the lunch crepes which sounded not only super-healthy but like something that could easily become a lunchtime favorite. Kudos to MagicTofu for a fine Paper Chef performance!

Kitty Kaga

Well, there you have it. The results of my captors’ arduous quibbling.

Oh, wait! They appear to have attached an additional note to their abundantly annotated scoring page:

This was such a difficult decision; we’d be remiss in not mentioning three fellow entrants that make up our three-way-tie for Best of Show Runner Up: The Culinary Bookworm at Weekly Dish, Lyn and Lex Culinaria, and Kimberly at Music and Cats. All excellent and worthy choices as well. Also, a huge thanks to the entrants not mentioned above. Everyone did a fine job and it was quite tempting to award all twenty three participants with honorable mentions!

–Mrs D & Chopper Dave

(Meanwhile, Platelicker has returned to the room)

Platelicker: Mommy and Daddy are asleep! I want to play and they’re asleep!

Kitty Kaga: Oh. Back again?

Platelicker: Why are they asleep?

Kitty Kaga: I don’t suppose you know what the phrase “It’s been a long week” means, do you?

Platelicker: Play with me?

Kitty Kaga: Not a chance.

Platelicker: (pouting) They won’t be doing this Paper Chef thing again any time soon, will they?

Kitty Kaga: Not if they can help it. As much as I relish this donning of finery — and don’t you dare raid my wardrobe again! — I do possess great sympathy for their battle with this thorny task, and understand completely if they choose to run screaming from such competitions in the near future.

Platelicker: But, but… next month could be cream and salmon and tuna water and juicy mouse head month!

Kitty Kaga: Cream… Salmon… Juicy mouse head… Ahem. Well. My sympathies can be short-lived if the occasion warrants. You were saying?

Platelicker: Play with me?

Kitty Kaga: (with a flexing of claws) Don’t push your luck.

Platelicker on the porch

Paper Chef #14: The Big Honkin’ Brand Spankin’ New Round Up

Saturday, January 14th, 2006

The Chaircat
It’s round-up
time!

I don’t know whether to blame it on the ingredients, or on planetary alignments, or on our our own Paper Chef Gourmet Academy Chairman, Owen of Tomatilla! but we have a record twenty three entries for our Brand Spankin’ New Paper Chef #14.

Twenty Three!

(We hereby announce our retirement from food blogging and subsequent publication of Quinoa! It’s Not Just For Hippies Anymore!)

Ahem.

Needless to say, the judging (which isn’t done yet) is going to be a four-beer-at-the-pub challenge. Yes, we’re taking a page from last month’s Down Under crew and hitting our favorite ale house to sort out the winners. Look for our results sometime… um… soon.

Meantime, a couple quick notes before I launch into our round-up. With 23 entries to cover, I’m going to attempt to not make this The Post That Wouldn’t Die and be somewhat brief. (Cough — Oops, she says about six hours later) I encourage everyone to follow the links and check all our participants’ tasty dishes.

it's a baby!

When I tossed in that photo of baby food into our ingredients post I had no idea those little jars of flavored mush would be so useful! Several participants were — most wonderfully — weirder than we expected, and found nifty ways to Gerber up their entries. Other ingenious “baby” choices included sprouts, seeds, biscuits, and yes… an actual baby. (Read on. You’ll see.)

Another highlight of this month’s adventure: the number of entrants cooking with quinoa for the first time. Not everyone had complete success with it, but check out the comments on some entries and you’ll already see cooks sharing their tips and tricks and, in at least a few cases, planning to add quinoa to their regular repertoire. It’s a great grain (at least we think so!) and it’s always exciting to read about culinary discoveries.

The yog(H)urt (okay, okay already, I’ll ditch the H!) and cashews sent many entrants in the direction of Indian cuisine. Cumin, coriander, and curry powder abounded (yum!), but we found some complete surprises in the mix as well, and for all of those (and for the baby)… well, read on!

Paper Chef #14: The Big Honkin’ Brand Spankin’ New Round Up

Cyndi Cooks

First up is California blogger Cyndi from Cookin’ with Cyndi and her Sweet Potato Quinoa Corn Bread. Cyndi’s entry came to us first and, yes, she uses baby food. (Right from the beginning, I knew we were in for surprises in the “baby” department.) Cyndi grinds her quinoa in a coffee grinder to make meal, and, to give the corn bread an extra healthy touch, she uses Splenda Brown Sugar Blend instead of sugar. The results? Husband asks for seconds and the bread is declared a success!

Slurp and Burp

Another bread baker this month was Magictofu from Ottowa’s Slurp and Burp, who provides us with a full day’s menu, including a most adorable baby multigrain loaf in swaddling clothes (nope, that’s not the real baby). Ever cheeky with his entries, Magictofu declares the need to avoid prions by not baking actual baby, and instead launches into an impressive menu that includes French Canadian Quinoa Crepe with Cashew Butter and Maple Syrup for breakfast, Quinoa Stuffed Crepes with Sprout Salad for lunch, and Lamb Extravaganza for dinner. Magictofu also takes an alternate route to boiling the quinoa: dumping it raw in hot oil till it puffs. The result: a tasty boost to quinoa’s nutty flavor.

Lex Culinaria

Also from Canada: Lyn from Lex Culinaria and her elegant Roasted Baby Beet, Labanya and Quinoa Salad. Lyn tells us she stepped out of her “comfort zone” for this one, tackling quinoa for the first time and combining it in layers with baby beets and a luscious favorite of hers: Labanya. Labanya is a Middle Eastern soft cheese that’s made from suspending yogurt in cheesecloth so all the excess liquid drains away. It’s a fascinating process, and Lyn’s skillful use of yogurt for this Paper Chef produces beautiful results.

Kalyn's Kitchen

A salad of a different style comes from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Regular readers of Kalyn’s blog know she’s a master of low carb recipes, but for this one, she cheats just a teensy bit, producing a Curried Cashew Chicken Salad with Quinoa and Baby Peas, that (in Kalyn’s words) is “something slightly resembling a low carb dish” owing to the dominance of tasty low carb ingredients like chicken, celery, cashews, and green onions. Mmmm, protein!

Noshes Thoughts and Reves

Another chicken dish comes from Lady Amalthea of Noshes, Thoughts & Reves! in New York City. Her Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Stir-Fry with Cashews, over Quinoa is an impressive bit of fusion, combining techniques and ingredients from China, India, and Mexico –and possibly Italy too, if you count the extra-dry Vermouth! She uses one of our personal favorite babies — baby Bok Choy — and the quinoa makes for a nice stir-fry bed, replacing the usual rice.

Sould Fusion Kitchen

Jumping across the U.S. from New York to L.A., we’ve got Sylvie from Soul Fusion Kitchen, who not only resists the taunts of our ingredients to go vegetarian, she embraces her inner-carnivore with a nice heaping plate of Baby Back Ribs with Quinoa and Cashews with Two Yogurt Sauces. It sounds almost All-American, save for that tasty Curry, Cilantro and Garlic flavored yogurt sauce. Sylvie is also one of several entrants to toast her quinoa as well as cook it, bringing out the grain’s flavor. Combine that, the yogurt, and those ribs, and Chopper’s still drooling.

Fresh Approach Cooking

We’re still in California, and we’ve got Rachael from Fresh Approach Cooking who provides us with our solo seafood entry for this month (outside of our N.E.E. non-entry entry salmon): Broiled Perch with Quinoa-Cashew Crust and Pinapple-Kumquat Salsa. Rachael contemplates pandering to us (with penguins and spraypaint??), but no need, her plating is exquisite, and the fish, with yogurt under the crust to keep it tender, sounds melt-in-your-mouth divine. Rachael bends the rules just a wee bit with her “wee” instead of “baby” kumquats, but we’ll forgive her!

Something in Season

Another member of this month’s California contingent is Brendon from Something in Season. When I saw “Sushi” in his entry title, I expected a second serving of fish, but Brendon surprises us with a unique, minamalist approach, setting a goal for himself to use as few ingredients outside the chosen four as possible. His Spinach Sushi with Quinoa and Cashews uses exactly eight ingredients, and that’s including salt and water! Another bit of ingenuity — ground cashews in the quinoa to turn “fluffy” into “sticky.” A perfect substitute for sticky rice.

Erin's Kitchen

Still in California (and still resisting hippie food!) is Erin from Erin’s Kitchen with her offering: Red Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, Cashews, and Baby Apples. (Still no actual babies yet — hang on…) Erin uses Inca Red quinoa in her dish — a heirloom variety known as Pasankalla. (A quick google search tells me there are five basic categories of quinoa but thousands of varietes.) With baby apples, red bell pepper, green onions and a healthy dash of lime to prevent the apples from browning, the end result is a pleasingly colorful dish that would be perfect for a picnic.

The Laughing Gastronome

Now we head down to Wellington, New Zealand for minimalism of another sort. Emma of the The Laughing Gastronome gives herself a ten dollar challenge for this event and comes up with a tasty Indian dish: Baby Biryani. Emma is another quinoa first-timer, and gets great results with her yogurt-marinated chicken dish. And the babies? Black cumin seeds, because if microgreens and sprouts are babies, then seeds, being “A ripened plant ovule containing an embryo” are most definitely babies!

Music and Cats

A second seed-baby (pomegranate this time) makes an appearance in Kimberly’s Quinoa in Blueberry-Yog(h)urt Vinaigrette with Cashews and Three “Babies” at her Seattle, Washington blog, Music and Cats. Kimberly’s an architect by day and her attention to design shows in this elegant dish. She’s not cooked quinoa before, and so embarks first on a simple rinse, boil, and steam to experience the grain on its own before playing with flavors. For her other two babies, Kimberly chooses baby citrus (satsumas or clementines), and baby spinach. The result: a light dish with an emphasis on the flavor and texture of the quinoa.

Taste Everything Once

Jumping east of the Cascade range, but sticking to our home state of Washington, we’ve got Jennifer of Taste Everything Once and her Quinoa-Cashew Crusted Lamb over Baby Greens with Yogurt Dressing. This meal looks refreshing and meaty all at once and is a breeze to put together: quinoa and cashew crust for the lamb in the food processor and a complementary yogurt dressing with shredded cucumber and garlic powder. Add tasty greens and salad veggies and it’s dinner time. So simple and super healthy!

ToastPoint

Now we’re off to the other Washington — DC this time — and more lamb! Katherine of ToastPoint, in a witty, baby-laden entry, brings us Baby Curry and Quinoa Fritters with Cashew Cream. The babies? Baby sheep, baby spinach, butternut squash baby food, baby bananas, baby chickens (okay, eggs) and (“double word score!”) Yobaby Yogurt. And though her cashew cream doesn’t contain any babies, it sounds extremely good. Now, where’s my blender?

Chopsticks

More multiple babies (but no actual babies just yet) abound at Kitchen Crazy Daffy’s Chopsticks blog, where Daffy whips up two treats: Mustard ‘Quinoa’ Salad and Cinnamon ‘Quinoa’ Pudding with Cashew Cookies and Roasted Grapes. Why the quinoa quotes? Turns out Daffy, away from her usual UK haunt, has a beast of a time trying to track down the grain at the local Tesco, and ends up with bulgur wheat and pearl barley as most excellent substitutes. Her babies? Spinach, plum tomatoes, and — what fun — baby biscuits!

The Cook's Cottage

In India, apparently quinoa is also quite hard (if not impossible) to find, so Deccanheffalump from The Cook’s Cottage lucks out when her good friend Uma provides some for her Feisty Quinoa Salad. Deccanheffalump, finding this event a great excuse to expand her salad repertoire, creates a lovely, healthy dish with baby corn, spring onions, dates, apples, and beautiful golden raisins sprinkled on top. For her dressing, she employs the same hanging trick as Lex Culinaria, and blends her thickened yogurt with salt, pepper, and freshly chopped garlic.

No Sauce Thanks!

Now we travel south east across the Indian Ocean to Australia, where Paul from No Sauce Thanks! shows off his Quinoa, Baby Chantenay Carrot, Cashew Pilaf with Pan fried Turkey chops and Cranberry Apple Relish in the very first post for his brand new blog. He doesn’t even have an intro post up yet! (And we thought we were jumping into it!) Maybe it’s the turkey and cranberries, but this takes us right back into winter comfort food after our previous entrant’s spring salad. Only twist is — it’s the southern hemisphere and the carrots are fresh from the garden!

An Electronic Restaurant

Still in Australia but definitely switching seasonal influences, we’ve got Noodle Cook from An Electronic Restaurant who defies computer problems and comes up with the niftiest plate of heart-shaped ice-creams we’ve ever seen. There’s Cranberry Cashew Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Wattleseed Cashew Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Banana Macadamia Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Caramel Cashew Ice-Cream with White Truffle Oil, and Salted Macadamia Ice-Cream. Again — Ice creams? With these ingredients? Using baby food? Just go take a look, and take notes for Valentine’s Day!

Experiment in Writing

Another frozen entry (would you believe we’ve got two?), is from Lady X’s Experiment in Writing. Her entry? A Cashew Praline Frozen Yogurt Pie. The quinoa flour lends some unexpected protein to the dessert world — and it makes for a surprisingly nutty, tasty crust. Now, Lady X tells us she didn’t include a “baby” in this recipe and so — in a last-minute save — she provides us with an adorable photo of her younger self dining on baby food (no, that’s not the real baby yet!). But, remember, with our stretchy rules, eggs are baby chickens, so her frozen pie passes the test. (Though we still love the photo.)

Jonski Blogski

Another last-minute save comes from Jonski Blogski in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where husband spies the serving bowl, suggests the addition of yogurt (completely unaware this is a Paper Chef dish!), and Tricia snags the appropriate container out of the fridge. Tricia’s Three Babies Quinoa with Cashews and Yog(h)urt uses baby spinach, baby corn, and (raiding her pantry) a mysterious leftover jar of sweet potato baby food. She serves her dish with chicken, sautéed and seasoned heartily with green chile salt and (yum!) orange Muscat champagne vinegar.

I'm Mad and I Eat

Yet another jar of baby food makes an appearance in Cookiecrumb’s fun duo of entries from her Northern California blog, I’m Mad and I Eat. First up, complete with shredded coconut, allspice, stuffed animals, and the theme from Backdraft; Creamy Quinoa Pudding with Tropical Flavors. How to get tropical flavors? With a jar of tropical flavored baby food, of course. Next, not content to let her bulked up boatloads of cooked quinoa go to waste, Cookiecrumb engages in a bit of improvisational kitchen alchemy and produces Quinoa Tabbouleh D’Brickashaw. (You’ll have to follow the link to see what that’s all about!) Despite this being January, and Marin County being in the Northern Hemisphere, Cookiecrumb raids her patio garden and supplies her dish with home-grown baby mint, parsley, tomatoes and arugula.

Seriously Good

Cookiecrumb isn’t the only one to toss allspice into the mix, Kevin, from Seriously Good, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, uses allspice in his Quinoa Pilaf, and though he isn’t thrilled with the quinoa’s performance, he does, as you can see from the festive photo, try to put a happy face on his result. Kevin uses baby zucchini for his infant addition, and adds dried apricots as well, which — happy face or no — sounds pretty tasty to me!

A Veggie Venture

Next up, another pilaf, and another blog from the southern U.S. Also, another adorable baby picture! (But we’re not quite to the real baby just yet!) Alanna, from A Veggie Venture brings us a “definite keeper” with her Quinoa Pilaf with Raita. For the pilaf, she toasts the quinoa before boiling it, and includes fennel, carrot, and baby Portobello mushrooms. Raita is an Indian yogurt sauce, similar to tzatziki, and Alanna’s version is an easy blend of cashew butter, ginger, spices and lime juice. It sounds like the perfect complement to the nutty-buttery pilaf.

Weekly Dish

Our culinary traditions, such as they are in the Pacific Northwest, are nothing compared to those in the south, and we are delighted to discover a new one in the form of the Culinary Bookworm’s Quinoa King Cake with Orange-Yogurt Cashew Filling from her Baton Rouge blog, Weekly Dish. Turns out, Paper Chef Announcement Day coincided with the first day of Mardi Gras season, and what better way to embrace the theme of renewal than to bake a New Orleans King Cake. Traditionally, King Cake is a brioche with cream cheese or almond paste filling, but since this is Paper Chef, out goes the usual, and in comes quinoa flour, yogurt, and cashews. And the baby? Well, you’ll just have to check out the Culinary Bookworm’s post because we never would have dreamed it, but she really did bake a baby into her cake!


So, there it is! The Paper Chef #14 Round-up Extravaganza. Phew! I feel like I just spent the last week in a maternity ward.

I hope you all enjoyed the entries and our (oops, we weren’t very brief) recap, and for the final results — all I can say is check back soon! Meantime, we’re off to the ale house for our four-beer-at-the-pub judging challenge. Wish us luck!

Paper Chef #14: Quinoa Moai

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Babies? What were you people thinking?

Oh, wait. That was us.

Seriously, we’re utterly gobsmacked by the quality and quantity of Paper Chef entries this time, and it’s going to be a full day’s adventure going through them all, just for the round-up, never mind the judging! You people are all insane. And we mean that in a loving, join usssss, be one of ussss way.

In the meantime, we’ve got our own N.E.E. (Non-Entry-Entry) to post. Now, since we’re non-competitors, we’ve allowed ourselves a wee bit of laziness. We didn’t come up with brilliant takes on “baby” ingredients, nor were any actual babies baked into our dish. Instead, we simply snagged two of the ingredients we’d featured in our Paper Chef Announcement Baby Food Photo Set: Baby Food and Baby Ruth bars.

Ahem, make that baby bok choy, and baby Yukon gold potatoes.

Chopper, always one to find ways to envelop seafood in a crust, zipped to the market for a few salmon fillets and produced this tasty dinner treat: Quinoa crusted salmon with baby bok choy, baby Yukon gold potatoes, and chipotle yogurt sauce.

Quinoa crusted salmon with baby bok choy, baby Yukon gold potatoes, and chipotle yogurt sauce

Quinoa crusted salmon with baby bok choy, baby Yukon gold potatoes, and chipotle yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb salmon filet
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 5 baby Yukon gold potatos
  • 3 baby bok choy
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 4 chipotles, de-stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablesppon fresh sage, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Slice potatoes into rounds and toss in a mixing bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Lay out seasoned rounds on a parchment-lined sheet-pan and place in oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, remove skin from the salmon filet and cut the filet into one inch strips across the grain season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook quinoa until tender in a one quart pot with 2 cups of salted water.
  5. Transfer quinoa to a mixing bowl and add cashew butter and sage; mix until combined and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Place a sauté pan over medium high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.
  7. When the oil begins to smoke, sear the salmon slivers on both sides for five seconds, then remove and allow to cool.
  8. When the salmon is cool enough to handle, wrap the slivers in the quinoa mixture, and arrange on another parchment-lined sheet-pan.
  9. Brush the crusted slivers with olive oil and place in the oven, cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is brown and crispy.
  10. For Sauce

    Place yogurt in small sauce pan over medium heat. Add whole chipotles and paprika. When the yogurt begins to simmer, transfer to a blender and puree. Season with salt to taste, and strain through a fine sieve.

Some notes on our curious dish:

The crust was crumbly, very crumby, which meant we had a limited number of plating options. Salmon medallions were out of the question, as was slicing the fillet lengthwise and standing one half up against the other. So, after various ill-fated architectural endeavors, we opted for the simple, upright, halved fillet.

Quinoa crusted salmon with baby bok choy, baby Yukon gold potatoes, and chipotle yogurt sauce

Hmm… Something almost mythic about that stark statue of salmon. What is it?

Ah, yes. Now I see it:

The Easter Island edition

Now, the sauce. A word about the sauce. It’s hot. I mean really hot. Yosemite Sam biscuits-are-burnin’ hot. You might want to tone it down with more yog(H)urt. Or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Meanwhile, we’re reviewing this month’s record number of Paper Chef entries and we promise a round-up tomorrow or Friday, with judging and awards to follow soon after. (And, let me tell you, this is not going to be easy! I mean… can I trade places with an Oscar voter? Please? Please?)

Quinoa crusted salmon with baby bok choy, baby Yukon gold potatoes, and chipotle yogurt sauce

Brand Spankin’ New Paper Chef #14 !

Friday, January 6th, 2006

angry kitty
Hey! Who’s been messing with my wardrobe?

oh noes, it's Poochie Kaga!
Ahhh… this black one looks especially good on me!

fight fight fight!
Mrrrrrrreooooow!! Phhhhhtht!

Kitty, victorious
There. Much better.

Yes, my fine feline friends, Kitty Kaga is back, just in time for Paper Chef #14!

It’s a brand new year, which means time for brand new ingredients and a brand new theme!

Right. The ingredients are new every month. I knew that.

So, without further ado…

Our first three ingredients, chosen at random from the nomination list:

1. Cashews
2. Quinoa
3. Yoghurt

And for our fourth, specially chosen ingredient, in honor of the brand new infant year….

(No, not BABIES, silly!)

Here, have a lookie:

baby corn baby bok choy
baby taters baby clams
Baby Ruth baby food

Got it yet?

That’s right. It’s Baby Food!

Er…

Or rather, it’s the baby variety of any older food, be it veggie, fruit, meat, or fish. Baby corn, baby bok choy, baby clams… the possibilities are endless!

Now, if you’re feeling a bit scary adventurous, we’ll also allow any food that’s got the word “baby” in the title! (Though, if you go for either of those last two in our photo set? You’re weirder than we are, got it? Weird.)

So… go healthy, go vegetarian if you like, go for simple elegance, and express the spirit of a brand new year’s renewal with your brand spankin’ new burblin’ baby ingredients!

Oh, and don’t forget to play!

Now, here, freely lifted from Tomatilla, are excerpts from Owen’s Paper Chef event guidelines:

As a reminder, here are the ‘rules and regulations,’ which I prefer to think of as something akin to the pirate code of Captain Jack Sparrow and thus ‘more like guidelines.’

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

About a week before the event opens, I post an ingredient list from previous events here at Tomatilla! Older ingredients fall off the list, as does anything that actually got used in an event. Those ingredients are ‘banned’ for a month just to prevent the choices being cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and…you get the idea. Any reader … can nominate a new ingredient (one only please) and it can be anything within the bounds of good taste (both kinds). Three ingredients are chosen at random from the final list and the host (usually me but not always) picks one more ingredient that is topical or seasonal or that suits our whimsy. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. … The previous month’s winner gets to be judge (and is ineligible that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I’ve had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog – I’ll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges – if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good…

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy – just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.

The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren’t sticklers for timekeeping here – a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you’ll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like.

And now for our nitty gritty details:

Entries are due midday (PST) on Monday, January 9th. We’re pretty lax around here, so any time before mid-Monday evening will probably do, and even after that we’ll be forgiving, if, say, you managed to torch your kitchen while inventing Baked Baby Yukon Gold Alaska.

Send your entries to mrs_d AT belly-timber DOT com, and include your name, blog name, location, and a permalink to your entry. You can also post your entry information here on this comments thread. Also, I’d like to encourage everyone to add a “Paper Chef” technorati tag to the end of their post, thusly –

Tagged with: <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Paper Chef” rel=”tag”>Paper Chef</a>

– so it gives everyone an extra place to search for entries before we post the round-up.

Have fun, and once again, Kitty Kaga sez:

Allez Cuisine!

Play with your food

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

Infant Basghetti Explosion

Get your
Paper Chef
Ingredient Nominations

in now!

Since we here at Belly Timber believe that you should never refrain from playing with your food, we are delighted to be once again judging one of the food blogging community’s premiere excuses for massive foodplay: Paper Chef.

Wait a sec, you ask. Didn’t the great founder and Paper Chef guru, Owen of Tomatilla! declare this month’s theme to be simplicity, health, and renewal?

Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play too. Think of it like creating a stunning tic tac toe board, versus spending six weeks designing your own Neverwinter Nights module. Capiche?

After all, we here at Belly Timber are all about simplicity, health, and renewal.

Okay, I lied. That’s not even remotely true.

We are all about getting the clutter out of the kitchen, losing twenty pounds, and taking those damn overdue books back to the library.

Close enough, right?

So, if your New Year’s Resolutions are anything like ours, maybe that clean kitchen, that drive toward slimness, and another six weeks with the library’s copy of The Essential Dalai Lama will lead you straight down the path toward the perfect, simple, healthy (and playful) Paper Chef entry.

Nominations for ingredients are happening over at Tomatilla! and they’re only open till Friday mid-morning. After that, we pull three out of a hat and add a fourth of our own choosing. The photo accompanying this post, I should note, contains a huge hint relating to our secret fourth ingredient.

I should also note, that the photo is of Chopper’s niece and if we have anything to say about it, it will remain on the internet for all to see until she’s old enough to date.

All is lazy on New Year’s Day

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Tortilla Espanola, new year's day

For me, New Year’s Day has always been the one day a year specifically dedicated toward complete and utter laziness. All other holidays have activities — hell, even Saint Paddy’s Day involves the technicalities of green food coloring — but New Year’s Day?

Wake up late. Make leisurely breakfast. Watch TV. Veg out. Watch movie. Go to bed. End of day.

That’s it.

Of course, sometimes we cook. A few years back, down in Portland, we had friends over and made a killer spread of dim sum we devoured during the Food Network’s Iron Chef marathon.

This year we kept things simple. Chopper’d worked late the night before (no holiday rest for employees of the hotel industry), and we hadn’t had time to pick up more than a few essentials at the grocery store, so for our New Year’s Day?

Football, and the perfect lazy breakfast utility food: the tortilla española.

For our version, Chopper included:*

  • 2 Whole eggs
  • 3 tablespoons mashed potato
  • 1 Red bell pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1 Shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 Garlic bulb, cloves peeled and sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

And you know what? I’m still in lazy New Year’s Day mode, so I’m not even going to post the procedure. (And I call myself a food blogger. Hah.) Just go over here and read all about these simple-to-make, tasty puppies.

Oh, do I dare point out that I’m writing about New Year’s Day a day late? How much more lazy can I get?

Well…

I’ve got one of those ubiquitous end-of-year, looking back/looking ahead posts half-finished and lazing about in Word.

I totally blew off cat, dog, and herb blogging this last weekend — though I did entertain the brief notion of throwing both pets into the rosemary bush, snapping a quick pic, and covering all three activities at once.

Oh, and hey, because I’m a bum, a lazy bum (if just for one more day, I promise), I’m going to send everyone elsewhere for yet another activity: Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations, now open over at Tomatilla!

We’ll be back in gear shortly, if only because Kitty Kaga’s eying us from her favorite pillow and sharpening her claws.

[*Oh look! An update with slightly less lazy details: Chop your veggies & garlic. Take a "handful" (or rather, how ever much you want per tortilla), and sweat them in the bottom of a skillet. Then add two eggs (raw, beaten) mixed with three tablespoons mashed potatoes to the skillet and cook, omelet-style, with much Iron Chef Chen style flipping. Okay, maybe not so much the last part. It can get messy and then you'll miss part of the Seahawks game.]

Look what we left out for Santa Cthulhu!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Cthulhu

“One night I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the sea. She lived in a phosphorescent palace of many terraces, with gardens of strange leprous corals and grotesque brachiate efflorescences, and welcomed me with cookies.”

–H. P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth,
Revised Home Economics Edition, The Sisters of Pi Beta Omega, Miskatonic University, 1939.

Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Nyarlathotep Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Elder Thing

Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - shoggoth

Cookie recipe:
Alton Brown’s Sugar Cookies
from the Good Eats episode, “The Cookie Clause,” substituting 1/ 1/2 cups cake flour for AP flour, for extra lightness.

Frosting:
Powdered sugar and vanilla flavored rice milk.

Cookie cutters:
Good old-fashioned DIY poster board templates and an Exacto knife.

cthulhu cookie template

Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Nyalarthotep & Shoggoth

Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Elder Thing Cthulhu Christmas Cookies - Cthulhu

Menu For Hope: Go 15k!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

menu for hope

December 24th,

12 am, PST.

Hey you!

Yes, you!

See that deadline up there? The one just 32 or so hours away? That’s the deadline for this year’s Menu For Hope campaign. So… whaddya waiting for?

The food blogging community’s lined up some seriously cool gifts (including our own Belly Timber Island Insanity Package) to make this far more than just your every day fundraiser, and don’t forget — all of the donations go to Unicef and are specifically earmarked for Kashmir earthquake relief. So… if you haven’t had a chance to check out the gifts and donate… go! (Cracks whip!)


unicef

Ah, I wish we could be around to watch the total climb up to $15,000 (and I think it will), but alas, we’re on the road for two days, hauling our exhausted asses down Interstate 5 to visit relatives in Portland, and then hauling our exhausted asses back up here — bright and early on the 25th so Chopper can cook dinner at the restaurant for silly people who want to eat out on Christmas Day.

Who are these silly people, anyway?

Well, never mind them.

Oh, and about these holidays…

I finally figured out what’s bugging me so much about being around food bloggers during the holiday season.

It’s the dairy products. They’re everywhere. Puddings, cream-filled pastries, cheeses, egg nogs… no, no, please, not egg nogs!! Aaaaaauughhhh. It’s enough to make me want to throw my hands over my ears and sing lalalalalalalala I can’t hear you till January.

Seriously, you’re all wonderful people, I’m sure, but you’re killing me with these dairy products.

(Yes, the Holiday Season is the worst time of year for the lactose intolerant. In the summer, we’ve always got sorbet. Now? We just stare longingly at platter after platter of scrumptious, untouchable food and drown our sorrows in mulled wine.)

Mmmmm…. mulled wine….

So, just ‘cuz, here’s a gratuitous food photo of sushi. Neener, neener.

homemade sushi

WDB #14: No Anchovies, Please

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

It’s the anchovies. It’s all their fault. I kept thinking about those cute little fish, and I kept thinking about that anchovy-mobile I’d mentioned during Paper Chef, and the fact that I hadn’t actually made one…

And then Weekend Dog Blogging came along with this week’s theme of featuring dog pics with food, and, well, anchovies are a bit small for the dog but I’m still feeling the need to create art, and… wait a minute…

Bacon!

The puppy and the bacon-mobile

The puppy and the bacon-mobile

The puppy and the bacon-mobile

Lots more bacon-mobile pics over on Flickr. No puppies were taunted too horribly during this photoshoot. Oh, and we shared the bacon with her when we were done. :-)

(Check out Sweetnicks for more Weekend Dog Blogging!)

WCB #28: Angry Cat Sings!

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Don't touch my crumply paper

That’s it.

Now the dog gets to be part of Weekend Herb Blogging and I’m neglected again?

Hrrrmph. Last week it was all about rock stars.

Well, I said I’d show them, so guess what? I made a few phone calls (yes, my paws can hit one number at a time, what of it?), and I tracked down some assistance. Sure, my male captor cooked dinner for a rock star, but did he then get the rock star to write lyrics for him? Hmm? I think not.

And okay, I admit it; my female captor did give me a nice, smelly, crumply paper prezzie to go along with these photos, but the things I had to do…

Well. I’ll let my rock star lyrics tell the rest of the story.

mmm... crumply paper

Just an angry cat on an island called San Juan.
If I could have my wish, I’d wish this puppy gone.
More misery than any cat could bear.
Rescue me before I shred your favorite chair!

I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed
I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed

And hope that someone brings me
And hope that someone brings me

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle, yeah

A year has passed since I met this place.
I cursed my captors right from the start.
Always the puppy got the special toys.
Oh, give me catnip or I’ll rip this couch apart!

I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed
I’ll hurk a big hairball on the bed

Hey, look now someone brought me
Hey, look now someone brought me

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

I love the smell of crumply paper in the morning

Woke up this morning. Don’t believe what I saw.
A hundred billion kitties, clawing at my door.
Seems I underestimated the smell.
A hundred billion angry cats to give the puppy hell!

We’ll hurk some big hairballs on the bed
We’ll hurk some big hairballs on the bed

And hope that someone brings us
Oh, someone better bring us

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Catnip in a bottle
Yeah.

Hurkin’ up some big hairballs
Hurkin’ up some big hairballs
Hurkin’ up some big hairballs…

Catnip in a bottle...


(For more weekend cat blogging, check out Clare and Kiri’s hep cat pad over at Eat Stuff!)

WHB: a frosty harvest

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

frost leaves

Second frost

Second frost? Not first frost?

Well, it’s like this. It’s midnight before first frost and I’m reading, and the plot thickens and then it thickens some more, and then more after that, and then it’s two thirty in the morning and Chopper asks what happens next, and I check the next chapter title and I tell him, and he says, Hagrid’s back! You have to keep reading!

So, blame the lack of first frost photos on J.K. Rowling and the fact that we’re well over a year behind on our Harry Potter reading. And the fact that one simply cannot stay up till 3:30 am and expect to wake before the frost melts.

So, second frost.

Also, rose hip harvesting time.

rose hips in the frost

Our meadow is thick with wild roses. Nootka roses, or rosa nutkana to be exact. They bloom delicate pink in May, and by fall their Christmas-red hips are everywhere. I spend October and November, impatient; chomping at the bit. I want to get out there and gather my bucket of vitamin C-laden nuggets, but I’ve got to wait. Rose hips are best after first frost when their sugars have concentrated, but if I wait too long, if we have a late first frost, many of the hips will have died; shriveled up into useless black lumps.

rose hips

Patience, patience… some will still be red. I’ll still have enough for a harvest.

So, when first frost hits, I leap out of bed and go a-gathering.

(Or I would have, if it hadn’t been for that damn Harry Potter book.)

Two days later we are thick with snow, so harvest is delayed again. Then, second frost. I leap out of bed (for real this time, only because we’d hit a slow spot and Chopper’d drifted off early during some bit about centaurs or celestial orbs or whatnot), and I head out to the meadow with camera and puppy.

First, I take photos, then I harvest.

frost thistle

snowberries in the frost

I soon discover that harvest is easier said than done. I need gloves. And boots. And thick, snag-proof pants, not these ancient sweats — which I notice, too late, are on backwards so they’re saggy in front like freaky old man trousers. And I need Tall Guy.

Tall Guy, alas, is in the kitchen cooking kippers and eggs and I’m most grateful he doesn’t ask me to photograph the finished product because if ever a dish fit the comfort food is butt-ugly bill, it would be Chopper’s kippers and eggs. The kippers, chunked up and tossed into the scramble, give the whole plate a rather sickly beige tint, reminiscent of a few of the more frightening entries in the My Blog Went up in Flames competition, or of something the cat’s hurked up.

They do still taste good, and they give me a nice little boost of energy for the harvest, if only I can drag Chopper out into the meadow. (Whaddya mean you’ve got other things to do?)

Oh, okay, the harvest can wait a few more days.

Meantime, I gather what I can reach, take a few more photos, and spend most of the time viewing the surroundings in a blur:

blurry puppy

The puppy, who loves the frost, cannot help but do figure eights around my every move. I’m surprised I don’t end the expedition on my ass.

I return to the warm house with just a small bag of rose hips. Not enough yet for tea, or jelly, or crumble pie, but we’ll be out there again shortly; as soon as we’ve got the time. Just hold on, I say as look out our window and spy the telltale red dots that pepper the meadow. Don’t shrivel up and turn black just yet. Stay tasty.

To harvest rose hips, you must cut them open when they are mostly dry, remove the hairy seeds from inside, and then set the rinds out to dry completely. Removal of the innards is a crucial step — and one that prevented some aboriginal coastal peoples from eating wild rose hips at all. Says Nancy J. Turner in her most excellent handbook, Food Plants of Coastal Peoples:

One Kwakwaka‘wakw woman, when asked if her people had eaten rose hips, laughed and said, “Oh no! They would give you an itchy bottom!”

Okay, so she says lots more interesting things than that, and I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in aboriginal food sources of the Pacific Northwest, but hey, when you’re harvesting rose hips with intent to consume them later, you remember the bit about being stuck with an itchy butt.

rose hip harvest

(Check out more Weekend Herb Blogging over at Kalyn’s Kitchen!)

A Flu Journal, Part two

Friday, December 16th, 2005

From A Flu Journal, Prologue and Part One:

(Inspired by Carolyn Smith-Kizer’s “Cooking the Old-Fashioned Way” blogging event at 18th Century Cuisine, I dove into research on the subject and soon found myself imagining a scenario where we’d lost power and were struggling to get by. I’ll write up what I’ve learned, I thought, and then determined, no, I’ll write what I imagine. What follows here is a fictional account of our first day without power. It’s early February of next year, and in this fictional world, we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we shouldn’t expect the cavalry. This is just a small beginning. I hope to follow soon with later days in our scenario, and with more failures, more lessons learned, and a deeper search into life off the grid.)

It’s December now, and with the holiday season upon us, it feels like the country’s gotten complacent about disaster again. In the food blogging world we’ve kept it in the forefront with our fundraising campaign for the earthquake in Kashmir, but in the outer world — in this country anyway — the daily hue and cry about the season’s religious trappings or lack thereof has drowned out follow-up reports on the victims of Katrina, and any discussion of the potential threat of bird flu (or of any other disaster for that matter).

So, feeling delinquent (since I’d promised to finish this piece long ago), I pulled out my flu journal notes and stitched together a hypothetical day two. The more I work on this, the more I discover what I don’t know, and so I should say up front: this is not do-as-I-do writing. This is me, exploring a topic, guessing, stumbling, and occasionally hitting upon something that will be quite useful should we ever face a situation like this for real. When I’m done with the full series (or perhaps sooner, if I get to it), I’ll post a Big List of Links that’ll include all the websites and books that have helped me along the way.

Part Two: Water, Water Everywhere

February 6th, 2006

My, but the poochie looks tasty today.

Kidding.

So, we make it through the initial scramble of day one without too many casualties. A few hideous leftovers in the fridge we weren’t going to eat anyway got chucked, as did this week’s bag of spinach. (Department of so-what-else-is-new: we never seem to eat spinach before it goes bad.) I’m still figuring out what to do with the few bags of rapidly unfreezing blueberries in the ice chest, and contemplating homemade fruit leather.

The Northern Straits people were big on fruit leather and dried fruit cakes — they’d spread their berry pulp out on maple or skunk cabbage leaves set within a wooden frame to keep the juice from spilling, and then they’d lay the structure out to dry in the sun, usually near a fire to keep the yellow jackets away. Of course this was during harvest season, when the sun would dry the berries quickly, but now, in the dead of winter, we have to rely on the smoker instead.

For a moment, I think: crap! It’s the wrong season for leaves! And then I remember a most useful item from the dim sum section of our pantry: Dried lotus leaves. Damn, these things are going to be useful! Soak ‘em, cook with ‘em, rinse ‘em off, and reuse ‘em. If we didn’t have a single pan, we could still steam rice over a bed of coals with just a lotus leaf.

Dried Lotus Leaves

Meanwhile, Chopper’s moved on to the fridge contents and his latest food preservation discovery: pickled eggs. He made a couple jars of these babies back in November and they turned out quite good. Chopper tells me the eggs need to sit in a cold, dark environment for three weeks before they’re ready. After that, they can keep for quite a while — so long as the storage stays consistent. No sunlight, and 40F or less. We’ve been checking out the crawl space under the house, and it’s looking like it may make quite a good little root cellar for this time of year. I’ll be hanging a thermometer down there just to be safe (no, I don’t want botulism, thanks much), and the only light these eggs’ll be seeing is from a flashlight.

Pickled Eggs

Still, even with the successes we’ve had — the smoked meats, the pickled eggs, the dried berries — we’re not out of the woods yet. This is still the beginning and there’s a chance that some day soon (if our self-imposed quarantine must continue), we’ll have to make the transition from food salvage to food sustainability. And that, even with our woods and our tiny garden, won’t be easy.

Meanwhile, we’ve more pressing issues to address, like water.

Since the power went out, we’ve been able to access and retrieve enough water to last us a little over a week. We’re figuring on a gallon a day per person, which is what the disaster manuals all say — though in a colder, damper climate like ours, half a gallon is probably sufficient. Even so, it’s best to guess high, just in case. Fortunately, we’ve got a few other liquids kicking around — some bottled juice, some beer, a little wine (alcohol to prompt further dehydration, woohoo!), and a nice supply of cartons of soy and rice milk. At long last, I have a reason to revel in my lactose intolerance: Unopened, soy and rice milk cartons can last for months!

Another useful item in this department: Powdered Gatorade. I’d never been much of a Gatorade fan, even in my college jockette days, but I learned to love it last spring when caring for Dad. His cancer made it excruciatingly hard for him to eat, so we constantly fought dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. I bought jugs of Gatorade and poured him cups on a regular basis and, on days when I needed the boost as well just to keep going in the face of such difficult duty, I added it to my regimen.

And so, in one of my rare moments of planning ahead at the grocery store, I snagged not only a few more jugs of my favorite strawberry lemonade flavored Gatorade (which will forever remind me of Dad), but a can of the powered stuff as well, thinking, if the water ever gets crappy, we’ve got something to help us manage.

And so, back to the water.

Chopper’s Pickled Eggs

  • 2 1 quart jars
  • 20 hard cooked eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 15 dry red chiles
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed

Put all the pickling ingredients together and place over medium heat, stirring until sugars dissolve. Then remove from heat and cool.

Put 10 eggs in each jar and pour pickling liquid over top, making sure to get some of the spices into each jar.

Place in cool, dark, dry place for at least three weeks.

Wait. A brief sidetrack first, because well (in case you’ve been wondering), yes, what goes in must come out, and we can’t keep flushing the toilets forever when the electric pump’s out.

Thus, the second project for the second day: Digging an outhouse. Oh joy.

The good news: The ground’s not completely frozen.
The bad news: We still need to dig a pretty decent sized hole, and the soil is rocky.

Okay, so there are alternatives to this, but the ones I know are pretty short-lived. Like a five gallon plastic paint bucket with a toilet seat on top and flushable kitty litter inside (flushable so that you can flush it all down the toilet when the power comes back on). Fine and dandy for three days without power in an apartment, but for us? Nope. We need an outhouse.

I’d like to take this moment to mention that digging a hole in the ground leads to much extra consumption of Gatorade and the need for a hot shower. Uh… damn. (Note to self: next pandemic? Get one of those camping sun-shower thingies and pray for sun.)

Back to the water. They (the ubiquitous, amorphous they) say that we can survive a while without food, but after a few short days without water, we’re toast. So, solving the water problem is crucial.

Now, we’ve got propane for the camp stove, so we can always boil any water we collect, but how long will that effort last? Hell, I don’t even know how long a single propane cylinder lasts before crapping out, and we’ve only got four. (I suppose after that we could boil water over an open fire, but my previous open-fire camping experience tells me that there ain’t no way we can get a fire hot enough to keep a pan of water boiling for the required 10-12 minutes needed to really rid it of nasty microorganisms.

So, on to strategy number two — or rather, Mrs D. gets paranoid about water and comes up with a redundant system to make it as potable as possible.

First, it’s all about getting the sediment out. What’s the point of boiling if the water’s still cloudy, and if we’re collecting either pond or rain water — I’m avoiding ocean water for the moment because I don’t want to muck with the issues of desalination or boat oil — we’re going to need some amount of filtration.

Now, since we’re not prepared survivalist types, we don’t have a handy dandy pre-fab water filter. But what we do have is some activated charcoal (courtesy of the aquarium department of the local pet store) and a box of coffee filters. I’m improvising here, but hey — if it works for fish, then why not for us?

About that charcoal: I read somewhere once that it’s possible to make one’s own activated charcoal because the activation is just oxygen making it super-porous, but then I read somewhere else, that it’s a special process one can’t do at home, and then I read in a third place that you can concoct something close enough with burning coconut shells or peach pits, and well, the short of it is, I gave up trying to figure out what can or can’t be done and just bought some charcoal for the fish tank.

The important point about charcoal? Don’t use the barbecue kind. That would be, well, icky — especially if you buy matchlight charcoal and end up with water that tastes like lighter fluid.

Anyway, I staple two coffee filters together with charcoal between and then jam the whole thing into a funnel and stick the funnel into an empty, sanitized juice bottle.

Step two in Mrs. D’s Redundant Water Purification System involves setting the filled juice bottles up on the roof in the sun. Assuming we have any sun. Hah. In February. In western Washington.

Hey. It’s a thought, anyway.

Thing is, the heat of the sun and the UV rays of the sun are supposed to do a nice job of getting rid of even more little nasties in the water. Just as good as boiling, some people say, though the jury’s still out over whether it’s the heat or the UV rays doing the work. Trick is to use a nice clear bottle that doesn’t block rays (the ones labeled PETE by the recycling logo work best), and to get the thing up to 150F degrees in the sun. One way to check that is with a thermometer, but I ran across this cool alternate method (that of course we can’t do because we don’t have all the supplies for it) that involves a tube inside the bottle that contains a string, a ball of wax, and a weight to hold the tube upright. The wax must have melting point of 150F. When the wax has melted, then we know the water’s gotten hot enough.

Simple, eh? Yeah, for chemists living in the desert. Here with us? Not so much.

But still, it’s something to keep in mind if we need it in the summer, and meanwhile we can toss the bottles on the roof and hope they get hot enough and we can use some of the propane from the camp stove to boil the water just to be sure. (Hey, I said I’d be redundant…)

As Day Two draws to a close, we have a few accomplishments – the outhouse mostly done, the yummy pickled eggs, dried blueberries, water in process of purification — but it’s hard not to play a game of woulda shoulda coulda with so many things. Shoulda planted more of a winter garden. Shoulda stocked up on more water.

(And oh lordy shoulda gotten me one of those sun shower things to fill with warmed camp stove water, cuz I steeenk!)

I head to the upper deck to check the bottles. They’re warm against our metal roof, but there’s no way of knowing if they’ve gotten quite warm enough. I take them down, and as I do so, I notice smoke from a house nearby. Someone’s got a barbecue going, and I wonder about their food supply. I’d promised myself a walk today to check on the neighbors, but we never quite found the time. There’s just so much to do.

But, we can’t retreat, can we; be the ones who shut the blinds and hope the world just goes away? Where’s the sustainability in that?

–end of Part Two–

sunset

Dude!

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

uncannily accurate portraits

Dude, check out the announcement thing for Paper Chef, dude.

Whaddya mean, dude?

I mean, dude, check it out.

No way.

Way.

I am so totally dreaming this. I’m going to wake up and find out I’m really twelve years old and I just got grounded for feeding foie gras to the dog.

Dude, those other entries totally kicked ass.

I know, dude.

Dude, make a speech.

No, you make a speech, dude.

Oh, wait. I got it. I’m going to talk about something else, something more important. It’ll be the heartwarming moment at the end of the show, you know, like when the kid turns to the camera and says, “but most of all today I learned that cuttlefish have feelings too, and if you chop their heads off to eat them, their tentacles will retaliate and drag you down to a watery grave.”

Dude, that is so heartwarming.

That was just an example, dude. Here’s my heartwarming moment: Hey. People. Go to this Menu for Hope site here, okay? And donate money to help all the kids and stuff who were injured and left homeless from the earthquake, because, dude, they need more help and not enough people are paying attention and you could win all sorts of cool prizes like our Island Insanity Gift Package. So like, donate a lot, okay?

Right on, dude.

Oh, and dude?

Yeah, dude?

We should tell them that there’s just one day left to nominate blogs for the food blog awards and that it would really rock if we got more nominations.

Dude, way to ruin your heartwarming moment with total selfishness.

Hey dude: A vote is free.

Good point, dude. So like donate. And vote.

Right on, dude.

Right on.

IMPORTANT Update: Pim’s most excellent menu of raffle items has been munched by Typepad, but will be back up soon. Bookmark her main page and check back for updates!

A Menu for Hope

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005


Our
fashionably
late
entry…

I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of A Menu for Hope until just this week. Last January, when food bloggers raised money for tsunami relief, Belly Timber was four months from birth; an item on our to-do list, constantly shoved below “pack for the island” and “get all the damn laundry done, for once.”

So, I was quite stoked to discover that we can still join in this year, even if we’re fashionably late.

What is this year’s A Menu for Hope? It’s the international food blogging community’s campaign to raise money for earthquake relief in Pakistan. October’s devastating earthquake in Kashmir registered 7.6 on the Richter scale and the death toll stands near 87,000 with another 80,000 injured and 3.3 million left homeless. And with winter coming on (and the potential for more disasters — a 6.7 quake hit the remote Kush region of neighboring Afghanistan just this morning — further relief is urgent.

So, we bring you A Menu for Hope II. Head on over to Chez Pim, where Pim, the gracious hostess and coordinator of this event has gathered together an impressive list of gifts from food bloggers around the world. A donation of as little as $5 puts you in the running for one of these gifts, and trust me, this isn’t just landing another travel mug from Public Radio; there’s some amazing stuff here.

All the proceeds go to Unicef through the Firstgiving website, and the fund will be earmarked for the victims of the Kashmir earthquake. In just two days, Menu for Hope’s raised over $5000, and we’ve got till December 23rd to donate. The generosity of this community is simply outstanding.


unicef

And meanwhile, what’s Belly Timber adding to the mix?

Well, because we’re a little stir crazy on this rock, and we can’t snag any hip, big city gifts for our prizewinner, we’d like to offer up…

Belly Timber’s Island Insanity Gift Package

The exact contents of the package will be a mystery (oh, come on, we all love surprises), but we can promise the following (insane island) treats:

pelidaba gifts

1. Culinary products from Pelindaba Lavender Farms. (Yes, people here are so strange, they have entire 20 acre farms devoted to a single herb.)

2. Jellies and sauces from our sister islands, Lopez and Orcas. (Now, how can you pass up a jar of Lopez Larry’s “soon to be famous”TM Smokey Chardonnay Mustard Sauce? Yes, that is a TM next to the phrase “soon to be famous.” We assume the trademark will be changed once he becomes famous.)

???

3. And behind door number three? Here’s where the fun begins. The rest of the care package will be (we promise) home made, and could resemble anything from culinary delights from our kitchen to craft projects, Belly Timber style. (And Mrs. D has been known to get pretty crafty, given a pair of scissors, a stack of hand painted rice paper, and a carton of bottle caps. Okay, maybe not so much with the bottle caps, but trust me, Mrs. D likes to play with crafts a lot more than she likes to talk about herself in third person!)

So, there you have it: Vague but adventurous, kind of like the average day on San Juan Island!

Now, to put your name in the hopper for our gift, or for any one of the fabulous gifts on this year’s Menu for Hope, just follow these simple rules:

1. Find the gift you would like on the menu.
2. Go to A Menu for Hope II donation page and donate $5 or whatever sum you can spare.
3. Use the comment section of your donation form to indicate which gift(s) you would like to have. Each $5 donation will give you one chance at winning the prize of your choice. (Yes, if you donate more than $5, you are allowed to specify more than one prize.)
4. That’s it!


unicef

Menu for Hope II ends on December 23rd. Winners will be announced at Chez Pim after January 1st, 2006.

Please join us in helping a region in desperate need.

Cook ‘n Books: Cookies and Rockets!

Monday, December 12th, 2005

Jay's Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

cook n the books
I’ve got a secret to tell you: There’s a UFO hidden in my best friend’s barn.

Actually, that’s not my secret, it’s Vernon Dunham’s secret and I’ll get to Vernon in just a moment. My secret is this: When I’m not doing the food blogging thing, I’m doing the genre fiction thing. I’m either writing it, or reading it, or discussing it, or playing silly games of “Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?” (Answer: no lie, I’m Kirk.)

Now what’s this have to do with food blogging? Well, just this:

I’ve met some fine authors in my genre fiction travels and when I catch them swapping recipes or proclaiming their latest Copyedits Complete Commemorative Homecooked Cobbler, my ears perk up. I think: Hey! Authors + recipes = cool new content for Belly Timber!

So, allow me to introduce Cook ‘n Books: An occasional series of book reviews, excerpts, and miscellaneous fictions, each accompanied by a recipe from the featured author.

Rocket ScienceFor our inaugural edition, we’ve got fantastically tasty cookies (I just wolfed one down a moment ago), and Mrs D’s review of the spiffy new novel Rocket Science by Jay Lake.

Jay Lake is the 2004 John W. Campbell Award winner for Best New Writer. He’s been a Hugo nominee for his short fiction, and a World Fantasy Award nominee for his editing. Just a few of his many projects include the critically-acclaimed Polyphony anthology series (co-edited with Deborah Layne), All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories (co-edited with David Moles) and two short story collections, Greetings from Lake Wu and American Sorrows.

Jay is a fiercely imaginative and prolific writer, and someone Chopper and I are proud to call a good friend, in no small part due to his willingness to wear shockingly bright colors and his wicked sense of humor. Also, he writes kick-ass stories, but you’ve probably guessed that already.

For this post, Jay offers us Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. He’s taken a classic recipe and given it a twist, which is, I have to say, a perfect match for Rocket Science and what’s lurking in Vernon Dunham’s best friend’s barn…

Rocket Science by Jay Lake
Reviewed by Mrs. D
Trade Paperback, 220 pages
Fairwood Press, August 2005
ISBN 0-9746573-6-0

Vernon Dunham’s best friend Floyd Bellamy went to war and came home a hero. Vernon stayed behind with a bum leg from childhood polio. Floyd fought Nazis, got a chest-full of medals, and landed the 1942 prom queen. All Vernon’s got is the label of a wartime “stay-at-home” (even with his aircraft engineering job at Boeing), and a dad who’s the town drunk. It’s the kind of disparity that would put a strain on any friendship, but what really knocks it for a loop is the cargo Floyd’s brought home with him from Europe: a Nazi halftrack and a top secret weapon that looks like no airplane Vernon’s ever seen. How Floyd got it past all borders and authorities is anyone’s guess, but now it’s sitting in the Bellamy’s barn and Vernon knows one thing and one thing only: He’s got to fly it.

Of course, this being science fiction, we know right away that the “rocket” is no weapon and it most definitely wasn’t built by Nazis. A little digging in the local Augusta, Kansas library points Vernon toward the truth, Golden Age style: The rocket was found buried under the Arctic ice.

Trouble is, once Vernon starts digging, others discover he’s been digging and soon he’s neck deep in bad guys. Government agents, Nazi spies, mobsters, and moonshiners; they’re all after him and it takes Vernon (and the reader) most of the book to sort out who’s who.

Not that this is a bad thing. On the contrary, the twists and turns are enough to fill six months of Saturday serials, and through all of this, Vernon’s got one heck of an ally. See, his UFO isn’t just a McGuffin, it’s a character. In fact, it talks. The moment it starts talking is classic, old school. Vernon, in a borrowed Caddy, hears a voice from the rocket’s handset and is convinced he’s gone plum crazy. After all, where are the radio tubes? Yes, this is smack dab in good old 1945, and the pocket transistor won’t hit the market for another nine years. And A.I.? Again, wait till the 50s. (I can only imagine what Vernon would make of OnStar. Total meltdown of incomprehensibility.)

But, once Vernon accepts that his “doo-dad” does indeed do what no Earthmade radio can do, well… I won’t spoil for anyone what happens next.

Augusta Kansas, the setting of Rocket Science, is about as perfect a small town in 1940s America as anyone can find. It’s Mayberry, complete with law guys named Ollie Wannamaker. But when Vernon digs deeper and finds the town’s dark side, the narrative doesn’t go all David Lynch on us. It stays firmly optimistic, so much so that you’d almost expect an ending with the happy rocket in the hands of the good-guy Feds and Vernon landing Miss Butler County.

But you’d be wrong. This sly tale does end happy, but the final twist leaves behind the expected and sends Vernon to the land of childhood dreams. And trust me — you’ll want to be right there with him when he goes.


Rocket Science is available through Fairwood Press, or at fine independent booksellers everywhere.

Clarkesworld Books

Check out Rocket Science and more books by Jay Lake at

And now… cookies!

Jay Lake’s Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is derived from the standard Nestle recipe, so all you really have to do is remember the variations and work off the back of the bag — that’s how I do it.

Cookie ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon (or to taste — you can also use nutmeg here with the cinnamon)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 pound) butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups turbinado (raw, large grain) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 medium ginger root, grated or finely chopped (vary amount to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups (24-ounce package) chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (I prefer pecans or walnuts, but peanuts work just fine)

Cookie batter

Method

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, turbinado sugar, vanilla and almond extract in large mixer bowl. Add ginger. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets covered with baking parchment.

#

Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Jay's Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies


Don’t forget: It’s Annual Food Blog Award Nomination Time! Head on over to The Accidental Hedonist and keep those nominations coming!

WDB: the Black on White Edition

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Snow Puppy

What’s this about The Cat taking over the blog?

Aw, never mind that… Snooooooooow!

Snow Puppy

Snow Puppy

Snow Puppy

Snow Puppy

(Check out Sweetnicks for more Weekend Dog Blogging!)

Weekend (dead) Herb Blogging

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging is in its 10th week and so far, sad to say, I’ve been all good intentions and no posts.

I’ll think of an herb — like fennel a month or so ago when it was still all perky and feathery in the garden — and then I just run out of time to photograph it. Or, I decide I’ve nothing interesting to say about fennel other than yum, and ooh, the bronze kind sure is perty.

Sometimes, I’m gone over a weekend, and then I pay no attention to the blog at all (much to the obvious dismay of The Cat, ahem). But, this weekend? I’m at home while Chopper works extra long hours.

Yay! At long last I can do herb blogging! So, what’s still pretty in the garden?

Well, pretty much nothing.

Besides, all my garden herbs are so ordinary. Thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage. Yawn.

Wait a sec. I’ve got that cool Cuban oregano I brought up from Portland. Now where did I leave that pot?

cuban oregano

Uhhhh…. whoops.

Heavy sigh.

My first foray into Weekend Herb Blogging has morphed into How Mrs. D Completely Sucks at Caring for House Plants.

For example:

The one leaf left on the philodendron:
almost dead philodendron

Mrs. Haversham’s Jade plant:
mrs haversham's jade plant

This citronella repelled its last mosquito months ago:
dead citronella

Also, that truly hideous, frost-bitten Cuban oregano used to look like this:

cuban oregano

And I wrote about it back in April in the post Mrs. D. Eats a House Plant. (Which is much better than Mrs. D. Kills a House Plant.)

So, long story short, with profuse apologies to Kalyn, I’m joining Weekend Herb Blogging, but only to send people to my archives, wherein they’ll read about this nifty, lesser-known succulent herb, Cuban oregano.

Next time I promise I’ll find something new and tasty, and I won’t kill it.

WCB #27: (Twenty SEVEN?)

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

The Cat has things she needs to discuss

My captors have neglected me yet again.

Three weeks, I tell you, three weeks without cat blogging. Will this torment ever end?

I am told they are (as always) busy. My male captor, the one called “Chopper” for reasons that quite terrify me, is keeping long hours at the restaurant and cooking for rock stars.

I kid you not. Here’s the conversation upon his return last night:

Dude, he says (he often calls my female captor “dude”), Steve Miller came in again. He loved the cod so much he had to come back. And my Egg Nog Panna Cotta was a huge hit!

Cool beans, my female captor exclaims, despite the fact that she’s eating soup out of a box for dinner and has completely ignored my requests for a third meal of the day.

So. You gonna blog it? he asks.

If I get to blog about the time I once served dinner to the Ramones, she answers.

Oooo. See? Now aren’t we special? Well, I’ll show them. I’ll find my own rock star and I’ll… well, just you wait.

Oh, and meanwhile? What’s my female captor been doing while she’s stuck at home not cooking? Trying to learn a new blogging platform so she can do new and pretty things with the blog and link to important posts in the archives like this one and this one and this one.

Yes, those links are all about me.

As well they should be, dammit.

Come to think of it, this entire blog should be about me. In fact… that’s it. Tonight, when she’s fast asleep, I’m taking over the computer, learning Photoshop, and designing a new logo. Here’s a sneak preview. Shhhh. Don’t tell.
There, now isn't that better?

(For weeekend cat blogging of a less sinister nature, check out Clare and Kiri’s blog over at eat stuff!)

Paper Chef Lucky 13: Oooh, Fishy, fishy, fishy, fish…

Monday, December 5th, 2005

Panko Fried Shrimp in Chili Sauce

I’m not sure what’s gotten into him, but Chopper’s been chomping at the Paper Chef bit extra hard for days. Usually, when the time grows nigh, he gets notions. “Whatever the ingredients are,” he says, days before they’re announced, “I’m gonna use _____.” And then he proceeds to name some exotic item in our pantry or our freezer that quite possibly won’t go with anything on the final Paper Chef ingredient list.

And so, on Friday afternoon, when we checked the list, it was no surprise that thoughts of the freezer item du jour fled out the window and instead we began the required pondering of item number four.

Ingredient 1: Rice
Ingredient 2: Carrots
Ingredient 3: Anchovies
Ingredient 4: Something from the other side of the world that helps make this dish a celebration for you.

Hmmm… Something from the other side of the world, we contemplate, conveniently forgetting the whole “celebration” bit because just finding something from the other side of the world around these parts can be quite the challenge.

Immediately, Chopper starts talking Asian food because, well, the ingredients rather scream Asian, but I interrupt and say, “hey, let’s figure out where exactly the other side of the world is. Who knows. It could be nowhere near Asia, geographically speaking.”

So, after several minutes of semi-fruitless longitude, latitude, and antipode googling, we pull out our trusty National Geographic Atlas of the World and do the math.

Ahah. Page 168, 48S, 57E give or take a few degrees, and there we are. In the middle of the Indian Ocean.

But wait! There’s land nearby! Maybe they’ve got a national cuisine!

Right. The nearest land to our antipode, as it happens, is a tiny little island called ÃŽle de l’Est, the (appropriately named) Eastern most member of the Crozet Islands.

Hey! They’re a French Colony — we can cook something French! Wait a sec. France still has colonies?

Well, an interesting thought, but probably not exactly what Owen, our illustrious Paper Chef host, had in mind. No, let’s check out the local flora and fauna… No trees, not much growing on the ground that looks edible… a few imported species that, for the most part, have vanished… Ah, here we go:

atipodean lunch

Whoa. Okay, okay, we’re not really going to cook penguin. They’re too cute and fluffy, and honestly where is one supposed to find penguin meat on this short notice?

(By the way when searching (unsuccessfully) for nearby penguin vendors, we happened upon a place in Seattle that sells kangaroo! Note for future reference…)

So then, no food from the antipode, sad to say.

We stare at the map a while longer.

“Well,” I offer, “it’s kinda close to Africa.”

(And no, we are not googling that scary place in the Midwest that sells lion meat.)

So, Chopper dives into a bit of quick spice research and comes up with tamarind, a tasty fruit native to tropical Africa. He jumps in the car, heads out to the store and… comes back empty-handed. Tamarind is not to be found on our island.

Back to the spice research.

Ahah! Fenugreek, indigenous to Northern Africa through the Mediterranean and into Asia, this herb is extremely common in African cuisine, so that could count, right? You know fenugreek was used by ancient Egyptians to embalm mummies? How cool is that?

Okay, that’s one… close to our antipode, though rather far to the north. So, we fudge a little.

Meanwhile, there’s that whole “celebration” thing we’ve forgotten about. We ponder a bit further, and unable to settle on a single ingredient number four, decide to celebrate the following cool, far-from-home items we’ve located on recent culinary expeditions, first to our local favorite shop The Gourmet’s Galley, and then to Uwajimaya in Seattle.

1) Szechwan peppercorns. I spotted a bag of these at Gourmet’s Galley a short while back and sent Chopper into paroxysms of joy. These babies aren’t easy to find. For a while, the FDA had a complete ban on their importation because they carried a citrus canker, but this past spring that ban was lifted after it was discovered that heating the peppercorns to 160F killed the canker bacteria. Now, they’re simply heated before importation. (And there was much rejoicing!)

2) From Uwajimaya, dried shitake mushrooms. Yeah, they’re not that hard to find — unless you live on an island, and then the come in tiny, “gourmet” packages that cost an arm and two kidneys. So, we got the nice big bag at Uwajimaya, and again, there was much rejoicing!

3) Last, because it’s on the list already, the piece de resistance for our festive dish: anchovies. Not anchovies in a tin, or anchovies in a jar, but dried anchovies from Japan. The ones that still look like cute little fishies, so much so that if you glued strings to them and hung them from the ceiling under a blue light you’d have quite a lovely little aquatic mobile (not to mention one hell of a great Christmas present for the cat). Yes, those anchovies, because there’s nothing that says Insane Belly Timber Paper Chef Entry quite like dried fish leaping out of shitake mushroom cap siu mai.

Fishy Siu Mai

Special Siu Mai and Fried Shrimp in Chili Sauce

Flavoring paste (for both recipes)

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 2 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil

Toast spices and grind them with mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Blanch carrot in boiling water until soft, then place all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Special Siu Mai

  • 3/4 pound pork spare rib meat
  • 6 whole water chestnuts, julienned
  • 2 tablespoon flavoring paste (see above)
  • 15 dried shitake mushroom caps
  • 15 dried anchovies

Cut sparerib meat into cubes and place into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

Place meat and flavoring paste in a mixing bowl and gently kneed together with your hands and then refrigerate for at least eight hours.

Siu Mai in prep

After meat mixture is chilled, soak mushroom caps in enough water to cover for 30 minutes.

Remove the mushroom caps from water and squeeze out excess.

Take meat mixture and mold it into small balls. Fill the mushroom caps with meat and place a dried anchovy in each as garnish. Steam for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice.

A plate of fishy Siu Mai

Fried Shrimp in Chili Sauce

  • 15 21/30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Flour, egg, and panko for breading

For the sauce

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese hot bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons Flavoring Paste (see above)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Panko shrimp in prep

Bread and fry shrimp in vegetable oil until golden brown.
Remove from oil, drain and set aside.

In a wok, heat peanut oil until smoking.
Add hot bean paste and flavoring paste
When the aroma becomes thick and ingredients begin to smoke, add fish sauce.
Add shrimp and toss until the shrimp are thoroughly covered with the sauce.

Serve with steamed rice.

Serving suggestion: Furikake for an extra fishy kick.

(Okay, we admit, the rice isn’t so much in the dishes as under the dishes, but we’ll just plead “dim sum” as an excuse and suggest that one does not ever eat dim sum without copious amounts of steamed rice.)

Leaping Siu Mai fish

Now, for this month’s Paper Chef, previous winner Noodle Cook (and yes this is, happily, all our fault!) has created categories! And there are prizes! (I now officially feel like a complete slacker.)

So, without further ado, here are Noodle’s categories and our self-nomination within each appropriate one.

Paper Chef Personality – creative, clever or witty writer. ::cough:: Um, penguin meat and fishie mobiles. Do you need to ask?

Paper Chef Super Saver – budget meals or crowd pleaser specialist. We’re probably not suited to this one because, frankly, I’m too lazy to do the math. I will say that the only items that cost more than a buck or two were the shrimp and the pork spare rib meat, and even all of that was pretty darned cheap. Hell, if dim sum’s not cheap, it’s not doing its job and should be sacked immediately.

Paper Chef Prestige – food styling, presentation or plating up expert. Styling? Hahahahahahahah. Sorry. Do leaping fishies count?

Paper Chef Nutrition Genie – magician for getting fussy diners to eat veggies, less salt, less fat. Usually, Chopper Dave and the phrase “eat veggies, less salt, less fat” do not belong in the same kitchen, but with Asian food he makes an exception. On the Chopper Health Scale, I’d give these dishes a solid 8.5.

Paper Chef Supreme – the champion for Paper Chef #13. Well, one would assume that if we’re here at all, we’re here for the big prize, eh?

So then, clear as mud.

But wait, there’s more! Didn’t Noodle say something about bonus points?

Oh crap! We forgot the festive atmosphere! Quick! Scramble for the camera and –didn’t Noodle Cook say something about — what was it — beer? Incense?

Ah, here we are:

Special Siu Mai, with beer
Hey, don’t bogart that siu mai, man.

So, how’d it all taste? Bonus versatility points to Chopper for inventing a distinctive flavoring paste that stood out in both recipes, even though one was pork and the other seafood, and one was mild and the other hot and spicy. The water chestnuts added a great texture to the sui mai and the fish didn’t so much add a fishy flavor but a perfect salty seasoning. The shrimp, despite being tossed in a sauce, remained crunchy, yet succulent. I was amazed at how well I could discern each individual ingredient in the mix for both dishes — even the fenugreek and the carrot, which I would have expected to be lost, were evident. All in all a splendid meal!

Teh Fotoz R Burninated

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

Honestly now, was there any chance we could resist this one?

I mean, we’ve already just graced our pages with the most unappetizing plate of mashed potatoes ever (and trust me, that was the prettiest food of the week), and our regular readers all know we have no qualms whatsoever about showing off our Messy Kitchen.

Bad food photos? We’re all over it.

When Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking put out the call with her My Blog Went Up in Flames competition, I dove into our photo archives like Platelicker diving into the five-day-old dried chicken remains that fell behind The Cat’s dining counter. Okay, maybe not. Ick.

Anyway.

Now, I could tell long, agonizing stories of food photos gone horribly wrong, but instead I think I’ll just let the photos tell their story. A story (with brief, out-of-focus interludes) of what it’s like to be the photographer when someone else is doing the cooking…

For this delicious meal, we focus on…. furniture!

Hey, honey, could you move your hand? I’m trying to get a shot here.

Yes, this would be the ass end of the chicken…

Honey, your hand is in the way again!

I’ve no idea what this is.

Oh, that’s right. It went inside this rather attractive lasagna.

Ahem. Hand.

Ah, always nice to photograph the duck fat before it’s rendered for confit.

Honey, what part of move your hand before I take the picture did you not understand?

Well, apparently that was tasty.

Hey! I didn’t say move the food too!

Ten Days

Monday, November 28th, 2005

…or, busy, busy, are we done yet?

Saturday:

1. Note to self: When traveling to Seattle with a dog, one should bring an extra coat, and not leave it in the back seat of the car where the dog can puke on it. Such things can lead to Seattle in November in a T-shirt, which is not terribly pleasant and not at all conducive to much hoofing about.

2. Loft apartments above Uwajimaya? I tell ya, we would never leave home.

3. Big John’s PFI: A cheese counter with many goat and sheep cheeses. And there was much rejoicing.

4. Pike Place Market? How many blocks of walking? In a T-shirt? Curse you, pukey puppy!

5. Damn. Ran out of time for the rest of the list. Next trip…

Sunday:

1. Note to self: When one goes out of town, one ought to get more sleep.

2. An equation:
      Ferry engine trouble
    + Fog bank
    = Chopper arriving at home five minutes before he has to leave for work.

3. Note to self: When one has not gotten enough sleep on trip out of town, one should really not be talked into attending a 9:30pm showing of Goblet of Fire (Even if one is hopelessly devoted to the big screen appearances of Alan Rickman).

Monday:

1. Strange but true: purple mashed potatoes turn blue in the fridge overnight and then turn purple again when reheated in the microwave. See:

blue mashed potatoes?

2. That, believe it or not, was the most photogenic food we ate all week.

3. Note to self: Ahem. When one has fallen behind in one’s word count for one’s novel because one has taken on another creative project with a deadline… and then one wants to catch up with one’s novel, one is not particularly inclined to write food blog posts. (Not that this would have anything to do with me. No sir.)

Tuesday:

1. Chopper’s cornbread chestnut stuffing is most excellent but not terribly photogenic.

2. Chopper’s persimmon chutney is even more excellent and even less photogenic.

3. Someday soon when Chopper has time again, he will post recipes for the above mentioned highly unphotogenic foods. Mrs. D will resist posting hideous pictures.

Wednesday:

1. Chopper spends a full day at work baking pies and pumpkin cheesecake. Mrs. D weeps uncontrollably at the pumpkin cheesecake she cannot eat and attempts to catch up on her word count. The blog glares at her from a distance.

Thursday:

1. Chopper works a 13 hour day serving a special prix-fixe Thanksgiving Dinner to over eighty hungry patrons.

2. Mrs. D has dinner with friends and is thankful. Look ma! No dishes!

Friday:

1. Chopper wows patrons and staff alike by being king of the kitchen for the night when the executive chef heads home with the flu. Mrs. D visits Chopper’s work and is offered a slice of pumpkin cheesecake while she waits. She weeps uncontrollably.

2. Note to self: When one mucks around with another creative project and falls behind in one’s blogging, one contemplates possible reasons for the falling behind, and considers that perhaps one’s blog needs mucking with as well. (Much creative note-taking ensues.)

Saturday:

1. It is cat blogging weekend. The Cat will not be participating. She is in the doghouse, as it were, for certain behaviors that are best kept restricted to flowerbeds and boxes of kitty litter.

2. It is, however, not Chopper’s weekend. Chopper is working yet another ten hour day at the restaurant. At home, much cooking from cans ensues.

Sunday:

1. It is dog blogging day. It is also a special day in the life of the puppy. Though she may not act it, being prone to much wagging and jumping, she has turned a terrible two. Here, a day late, are then and now pictures of the pooch:

Mishka at 6 weeks Mishka at the beach

2. Once again, Chopper works a full day at the restaurant. At home, all notions of cooking go out the window when Chopper returns mid-evening with take-out.

Monday:

1. At long last, Chopper has a partial day off. Mrs. D considers posting to the blog, but her novel draft snarls at her and makes threatening gestures. Chopper considers cooking, does so, but curiously refrains from anything that would involve photographs or transcribed recipes.

2. Note to self: When one has just a few words left to complete one’s monthly assignment, one should simply buckle down and do it.

3.

Zokutou word meter
50,848 / 50,000
(101.7%)

(This Nanowrimo word meter brought to you by copious amounts of Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate, cheap port, nag champa incense, and the soundtrack to Gladiator played repeatedly at full volume on Mrs. D’s cheap headphones.)

Seattle/Stew

Friday, November 18th, 2005

pike_place.jpg

What does one do after a crazy/busy week full of deadlines and dilemmas? Why one jaunts off to Seattle for the day!

We’re off bright and early tomorrow morning, and our goal is to cram in as much great food-related shopping as possible in our tiny window of time. (I say tiny because we’ll also be meeting up with friends, prepping for an evening party, and hauling the infamous poochie around with us everywhere we go.)

So, if any of Seattle’s denizens have food shopping recommendations… speak up! On the list so far, Uwajimaya and World Spice Merchants — but that’s only because we know about those places. Tell us about all those cool and super cheap places no one knows about.

Oh, wait. Then everyone would know.

It’s okay. Whisper a name or two in my ear. Mum’s the word.

Meanwhile, here’s a simple Irish style stew for another rainy weekend.

irish stew

Chopper’s Irish style Beef Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Beef Chuck, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
  • 5 medium sized carrots, peeled, quartered, and sliced thick
  • 5 large stalks of celery, topped and sliced thick
  • 3 large leeks sliced into rounds
  • 4 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 quarts beef stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red wine
  1. Place liquid in a large pot and put on high heat.
  2. While liquid is heating, caramelize carrots and celery in a separate pan, and add to the pot.
  3. When pot comes to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and add potatoes.
  4. Brown beef in the same pan used to cook the vegetables, deglaze with red wine, and add to the pot.
  5. Add leeks to the pot, and cover.
  6. Simmer until beef is fall apart tender, then add thyme, and season to taste.
  7. Serve with Irish Soda Bread.

WDB #9, with Onion Rings

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

How to spend your gloomy Sunday afternoon:

1) Stare out the windows at the rain and think wistful thoughts about summer and puppy excursions to the beach.

The puppy is gloomy

2) Promise the puppy a walk. Soon. When it stops raining.

3) Take a nice big yellow onion (the one you’ve been saving for spaghetti sauce) and slice it into rings.

4) Mix up some batter:

       2 cups of AP flour or tempura batter mix
       2 cups of beer. (Damn, now you’ve broken the symmetry of the six pack. Guess it’s time to drink the rest.)
       2 Tbl lemon pepper
       1 1/2 tsp sea salt

5) Heat up a wok full of vegetable oil to about 350 to 375 F and have a wire rack on a cookie sheet and a warm oven standing by.

6) Pour some flour into a bowl.

7) Dredge a ring of onion in the flour, shake off the excess, then dunk it in batter. Drop the battered ring into the hot oil and let it fry up nice and golden. Remove and place on the wire rack. Repeat until you’ve got a good assemblage of rings, then stick them in the oven to keep them warm till you’re done with the frying and ready to chow.

8) Serve with ketchup or barbecue sauce or whatever other condiments you have in your fridge, and — of course — with any left over beer.

Onion rings on a rainy day

9) Turn on the TV and watch the Seahawks stomp the Rams.

10) Notice the fading daylight and make it up to the puppy by playing chase around the living room furniture. Be sure you’ve consumed all the onion rings and all of the beer so that nothing is wasted, even though the puppy would really like her share.

WCB #23: The Cat Gets Serious

Friday, November 11th, 2005

The Cat gets serious

Today, I am not an angry cat. Nor am I a frivolous cat, dressed in Kaga finery. Nor even a hungry cat, fending off my kibble from the evils of Platelicker.

No, today I am a sad cat.

My dear kitty friend Kiri’s owner Clare has been injured due to an attack by an evil canine creature and some people think it’s Kiri’s fault! Poor Kiri, doing only what us cats do best: freaking out in the face of imminent danger. I know he didn’t mean it. He’s a good cat and a sweet cat and, I imagine right now, a very sad cat as well.

And so, for Kiri and for Clare, since I can’t get to the chocolate (as it’s being heavily guarded by humans with cravings), I offer this small token of my appreciation…

…a fall color explosion!

Nasturtiums

Sunflower in Alice's Garden

Fall Flowers

Vine Maple

(For more special get well soon Weekend Cat Blogging, visit Boo the cat over at masak-masak!)

Paper Chef #12: Round-Up & Results

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

No more hypotheticals, it’s round-up and judgment time!

First of all a huge thank you to Owen for allowing us to do the whole shebang: hosting, selecting, and judging. Oy, was it work! Fun, but work. (Next time remind me not to do this in the same week I’ve scheduled 10,000 words of writing and a trip to the mainland. Kerthunk, indeed!)

So, first things first, a reminder of our intriguing set of ingredients. We opted for the grab-em-out-of-a-hat method and came up with a threesome of basil, oranges, and fish sauce. To that, being ever devious (and just to see what amazing concoctions we’d get), we added lamb. This intriguing foursome took our participants on a culinary trip around the globe with influences from the Mediterranean to South East Asia to right here on our home turf of the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, we had two first-time participants, four pseudo-participants (not including our own non-entry entry), and a nifty collection of discoveries along the way. So, follow along as we check out this month’s Paper Chef extravaganza. (And don’t forget to drop by all of these great blogs to see what other goodies they’ve got to offer!)


First up, Shauna of Gluten Free Girl, just a short jaunt from here in Seattle, brings us a twosome of Lamb Shank Braised with Orange and Basil, and Shauna’s Seafood Soup. A one-time vegetarian, Shauna had a lamb epiphany with this post. She cooked it for the first time, and she’s going to cook it again and again! The soup — with Shauna’s creative, gluten-free substitution of fish fumet for fish sauce — sounds just delicious and brings a Northwest flair to this month’s Paper Chef with fresh Dungeness crab. Yum! Shauna’s post also celebrates her return to the kitchen after far too long of being laid up with a miserable foot injury. As Shauna says: “Oh goodness, of all the good meals I’ve eaten in the last few months, this was one of the best. It was made with joy, It tasted of joy.” Welcome back, girl!


Next, another full and tasty meal from the Bay area’s B’gina at Stalking the Waiter. B’gina, who is still sadly sans photos this month (curse you, evil technical difficulties!), takes us to the Mediterranean with her Pastitsio (Greek lasagna) inspired Greek Lamb Trainwreck with Orange, Basil, and Onion Salad with Feta and Poppyseed Style Dressing. B’gina says, “What actually gave me the idea for this dish was a Greek pork sausage flavored with orange zest.” (Ah, orange zest. I can’t express how cool it is to see so many participants discover the joys of orange zest!) The match of “Trainwreck” and Greek salad sounds quite good, and I particularly liked B’gina’s addition of fennel to both dishes.


Sticking with the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern influence, we’ve got first time participant and brand new food blogger Tanja from Tanja Dahl with Couscous with Kebabs and Sweet Orange and Chili Sauce. Tanja is a Swedish blogger now based in the UK and has been at this for less than a month, so stop by and give her a hearty food blogger welcome. She told us, “Being new to the food blogging scene I was a tad apprehensive to begin with but I couldn’t stop thinking of the ingredients so I had to give it a go.” Hurray for enticing ingredients! Her kebobs look juicy and succulent and we appreciate the simple presentation and the nifty cheese cups for the couscous. Also, who can resist a good spicy sauce? I’d go drizzle-happy with this one.

Now we jump from the UK to Down Under and to An Electronic Restaurant where 2-minute Noodle Cook (a name that has nothing to do with the astonishing amount of time and dedication to his craft) brings us Bush Tucker Lamb Parfait with Orange Basil Seed Champagne Jelly and Whitebait Tapanade Sauce. Noodle Cook, who regularly wows us with unique Australian-influenced dishes, chose an extra challenge this time: a budget of $5.00 AU for all four ingredients. Now, I had to go check the exchange rate on this and was floored to see that $5.00 AU came to only $3.66 US, so… damn! Several things about Noodle Cook’s entry impressed us, including the home charcuterie of the lamb parfait, the home-made fish sauce, and the ingenious substitution of basil seeds for basil. Says Noodle Cook about the results: “The champagne jelly not only looks sensational, but the licorice, citrus and honey aromas can only be described as WOW!” Sigh. When is someone going to invent smell-o-vision for the home computer, huh?


Also working on a low budget and impressing us with his attention to detail, was Magic Tofu from Kitchen Blog based in Ottawa, Canada. At first he was concerned about combining fish sauce with lamb, then said “faced with such dilemma, the best option available to me was a South-East Asian inspired curry dish. After all, citrus fruits, herbs and fish sauce are great flavoring accents to curries.” Ah, curries. A chef after our own hearts. MagicTofu didn’t just make a curry dish, he made his own curry paste, and (as we know all too well) that’s not easy. His presentation with Napa cabbage, orange segments, puffed wild rice, basil chiffonade, and chopped pistachios turned his Lamb Medallions with Orange Curry Sauce into one hell of a feast for the eyes — and, we imagine, for the stomach as well!


Next up, Stephen, from Stephen Cooks, straight across the continent in Maine, brings us a traditional lamb chop with quite a twist: Shiso-Marinated Lamb Chops with Orange Curry Gastrique. Stephen’s revelation for this Paper Chef? “Fish sauce! Wow! It’s like liquid anchovies!” Stephen had a challenge tracking down fresh basil and came up with a clever substitution — shiso, a Japanese version of the herb — at his local Asian market. Armed with that and a memory of roasted curry-citrus flavored cashews, he set to marinating, juicing, and reducing and produced what sounds like a scrumptious meal with the orange curry gastrique as a perfect complement to the lamb. Stephen served this one to hungry and appreciative guests and promises details about his tasty side dishes in upcoming posts. We’re looking forward to it!


Heading south to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we’ve got the Culinary Bookworm of Weekly Dish, and her impressive spread of Lamb Stuffed Acorn Squash with Spicy Marmalade Vinaigrette and Buttermilk Basil Biscuits. Undaunted by the (rather evil) addition of a cuddly lamb photo to our Paper Chef announcement, the Culinary Bookworm snagged some tasty lamb sausage from her local vendor and assembled acorn squash stuffing that included orange, pesto, garlic, and Fontina cheese. The vinaigrette turned out so well she drizzled it over the whole plate, and as for the stuffed squash? “The lamb sausage filling really worked well with the squash: the eating experience involved mouthfuls of creamy, savory filling and sweet, buttery squash flesh, with hints of the sweet heat from the vinaigrette.”


Another first timer for Paper Chef is Katherine from ToastPoint, based in Washington DC, where people are so culinarily in tune with the universe they can go to bed and dream an entire menu. How cool is that? Katherine almost skipped this one, but then she woke up with a breakfast of Chilled Caramelized Oranges with Yogurt and Tangy, Spicy Lamb Sausages in her head and had to make it! Good thing too, because this looks mighty delicious. We are especially fond of her unique take on oranges for this entry, and… breakfast! It’s always great to see a surprise breakfast entry. Says Katherine of her tasty dish: “The aromatic basil complimented the super-sweet oranges, the tang of the fish sauce made the sausages sing.”


Last, but certainly not least, our Paper Chef Founder Owen of Tomatilla, brings us South-East Asian Lamb Braise with Orange-Basil Rice. Since Owen’s got (go figure) tons of tomatillas on hand, he’s putting them into every dish, and this one is no exception. He added tomatillas to a marinade of fish sauce, garlic, orange juice and chiles, and while the lamb was doing its tasty thing for an hour or so, he made a lovely, sweet basmati rice dish by substituting a cup of coconut milk for water. But for Owen, the real revelation was the crispy orange zest he created as a garnish. “The crispy orange zest was totally brilliant,” Owen says, “I will be trying it again with many other dishes.”

Now, of course no Belly-Timber version of Paper Chef would be complete without a nod to our brilliant comic relief team of pseudo-entries.

Yesterday we posted Cookiecrumb’s Hypothetical Imperial Rolls, which, though hypothetical (there I go with that word again) sound awfully good and definitely worth a try.

Adding to that, we’ve got Lady X over at Experiment in Writing whose craving for sweets outdid her desire to participate and prompted her to post a Not Paper Chef #12 entry of Pink Lemonade Cupcakes, “which uses none of the ingredients suggested and was totally about me eating something pink and sugary.”

And lastly, Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking cracked me up with her pseudo-entry from the Paper Chef Announcement comment thread: “A salad of Lambs Ear Lettuce and Purple Thai Basil, with a Taramosalata and Dried Orange Peel dressing (Get it? Fish egg sauce. I’m so darned clever.)”

Hee.

the chaircat
And now for the moment we’ve been waiting for.

Whose cuisine reigns supreme?

(dramatic pause)

This month’s winner of Paper Chef is…

Noodle Cook of An Electronic Restaurant! Remember when we said knock our socks off? Well, consider us officially sockless. Noodle’s combo of Lamb Parfait and Orange Basil Seed Champagne Jelly is nothing short of stunning both visually and in the description of flavors — flavors so uniquely combined we can only begin to imagine how sublime this dish tastes. Well done!

We’d also like to give special nods of recognition to three other entries that especially impressed us: Magic Tofu at Kitchen Blog for adventuring into the labor-intensive land of homemade curry paste, Culinary Bookworm at Weekly Dish for great utilization of what Chopper likes to call “nature’s edible servingware,” and Katherine at ToastPoint for dreaming up a breakfast treat for the morning after all our tasty dinners.

Many thanks to everyone for participating. This was a fine group of entries and a challenge all around. Next month, I swear we’re making something simple. Really simple so we can sit on the sidelines and cheer all of our fellow crazy food bloggers on.

Good show, everyone!

Oh, and…

Kerthunk.

Mrs D & Chopper out.

Tagged with:

Mussaman Curry Lamb with Orange and Jasmine Rice

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

Mussaman Curry

Why we thought we’d have time and energy to actually make a Paper Chef dish (and write it up) along with our judgment and round-up duties is anyone’s guess, but here we are, and here’s our dish. Before I get into the details, let me just say that my admiration for food blog event hosts has gone through the roof this past week. Talk about ass-busting work. Wow.

So, about those four ingredients… The tricky thing with Paper Chef is that it’s global so it can’t ever be truly seasonal. The best we can ever hope for is to have a list of ingredients that anyone anywhere can approximate. And since we went random for three of them this time, we ran the risk of drawing one that was so seasonal, people on half the globe would be S.O.L. Even so, I will admit that I was surprised that some folks had trouble finding fresh basil (it’s easy to think “well, if I can get it here on this tiny island…”), but I’m pleased to see the fascinating substitutions folks came up with for their entries this month. We’ve been guilty of griping about ingredient accessibility in the past ourselves, and it wasn’t until serving as hosts that we came to realize how tough this whole process is.

And now, on with the dish. Since we’re hosting and not feeling compelled to do anything mind-bendingly creative, we opted for the first thing that sprung to mind, moments after selecting our list of basil, fish sauce, oranges, and lamb: a Thai curry dish.

For this particular dish, Chopper chose Mussaman (also called Massaman) curry. Mussaman is a Thai transliteration of “Muslim” and this curry originates with Muslim immigrants and the spices they brought to Southern Thailand many years ago. It’s a mild curry compared to most other Thai curries, and works well with lamb and with the subtle shifts of flavor brought on by the addition of orange and basil.

Mussaman Curry

Mussaman Curry Lamb with Orange and Jasmine Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb lamb shoulder chops, bones removed, and sliced thin against the grain
  • 1 medium sized eggplant (or 3 Thai eggplants… they’re small…), cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 baby bok choy, quartered
  • 2 arge carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Mussaman Curry Paste
  • 20 whole basil leaves (Thai basil is preferred, but not required)
  • 1/4 pound cashews
  • 1 1/2 cup clear beef broth
  • 1 cup Satsuma orange juice (about six oranges worth of juice)
  • 3 tablespoon fish sauce

First things first. The curry paste. (This is very much like the Red Curry paste we posted about earlier, but if you look, you’ll note the changes)

Home made Thai Mussaman curry paste

  • 1 pound dried red chiles
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 12 husked cardamom pods
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons minced galangal
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • 2 cups minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • Beef stock or broth, as needed

Have a large mortar and pestle ready.

First, stem and seed the chiles. Then soak them for 20-30 minutes, or until they are hydrated enough to peel. Then remove the skins.

Put a small sauté pan on medium high heat, no oil. When the pan is hot, add the cinnamon stick and shake it around in the pan until you begin to detect its aroma. Then add the peppercorns and wait again for the aroma. Then add the coriander, repeat, and also with the cloves, cumin, and cardamom.

When all the spices are toasted, place them in the mortar and pestle, and allow them to cool.

While the spices are cooling, take the lemongrass and bash it with the flat side of your knife until it’s bruised and frayed. Then slice only the white parts and mince.

Pound spices into a powder, then add lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, and shrimp paste. Pound down to a thick paste, then add chiles.

Keep pounding, adding beef stock or broth until the paste has the desired consistency.

***

Now, toast the cashews in a 350 degree oven, until golden brown and fragrant.

While the nuts are toasting, add two tablespoons of peanut oil to a wok over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add carrots.

As carrots begin to caramelize, add lamb and brown.

When both lamb and carrots are sufficiently browned, remove from the wok and set aside.

Put wok back on the heat, and add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.

When the oil begins to smoke again, add curry paste. Mash the paste into the oil, and allow it to fry for 2 minutes, then add the fish sauce.

Mix paste and fish sauce thoroughly, then add the bok choy, lamb, and carrots to the wok, and toss to cover with the mixture.

Add broth and orange juice and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, checking the tenderness of the lamb periodically. When lamb is cooked to just under the desired tenderness, add the eggplant and nuts and continue to simmer until eggplant is tender, but not mushy.

Serve with Orange Jasmine Rice…

Orange Zest Rice

Orange Jasmine Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • Zest from six Satsuma oranges

Place the ingredients in your handy-dandy rice cooker, and add enough water to cover the rice by 1/2 an inch.

Cook until rice cooker “pops”

Chopper says: Mmmm mmmm, I love Thai curry!

Mrs D. says: I think I died and went to Thai curry heaven. Seriously, this one rocked our little culinary world. We loved it so much, Chopper made it twice. (And I will force him to make it again, and again, and again…)

And now… stay tuned…. Paper Chef Round-Up coming right up!

Mussaman Curry

A Hypothetical Round Up (with Imperial Rolls!)

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

Orange Zest Rice

KERTHUNK!

This is the sound our brains made after yesterday’s long, exhausting day on the mainland. A day that ended, I might add, with a flat tire on the ferry boat.

Yes, our brains are on the floor. Today, still deep in recovery mode, they are sad, tired brains. Brains too tired to write the Paper Chef Round-Up. We have, however, reviewed all the wonderful entries, and decisions are at hand… but, today, our poor brains lack the ambition to do justice to this grand competition. So, our tired brains beg forgiveness and ask for your return on Thursday, when all will be revealed.

(Uh, yup. That was a long-winded, sorry-ass way of saying, hey, we’re going to be a day late. Don’t kill us!)

In the meantime, since, hypothetically, this post should be a round-up, we offer instead — courtesy of the always entertaining Cookiecrumb of I’m Mad and I Eat — a Hypothetical Paper Chef entry.

Cookiecrumb sent this my way with the endearing title (below) and an equally endearing introduction of “I didn’t actually make this dish, but I sure as heck thought it up.”

Now, since (hypothetically) these rolls sound damn tasty, I figured what better way to beg forgiveness for our late round-up than to offer up this nifty (hypothetical) entry!

Okay, I’m done with the word hypothetical now. Really.

Hypothetical Imperial Rolls

by Cookiecrumb

Serves 2

  • 4 big rice paper wrappers
  • 1 lamb shank (of course, since you’re cooking lamb shanks, you should do as many as you want, and just use bits of one of them for this dish. And eat the others later. Braise the lamb shanks in a Dutch oven with liquids – tomato sauce and red wine, probably, possibly even a squirt of fish sauce – and flavor the mix with aromatics such as bay leaf, rosemary, garlic, and grated orange rind. Get ‘em cooked to the point of shreddy.)
    Some chiffonade basil. To taste. About a tablespoon, I’d guess.
    Mung bean thread noodles, cooked briefly in warm water and drained.
  • Grated carrot. Not a lot.
  • Dipping sauce: Fish sauce plus an equal portion of orange juice. And some diced fresh hot red pepper. (To taste, duh!)

OK: Pull apart lamb meat until you have about 1/2 cup of succulent shreds. Maybe even less.
Soak rice paper wrappers in warm water to soften. Blot dry.
Line wrappers with drained mung bean noodles, enough to – well, line them.
Spread meat shreds over the noodles.
Distribute carrot shreds over that.
Sprinkle with chiffonade basil leaves.

Roll up the rolls in such a way as to be sure they don’t fall apart in the hot oil.

Oh, did I mention hot oil?

Heat oil for frying in a pan. Guess for yourself how much oil you want to fry these babies in. Don’t go nuts. Fry the rolls, turning, until crisp and golden. Or crisp and brownen, depending.

Cut attractively at a slant, and put four halves on each plate.

Serve with that awesome dipping sauce.

Probably ought to place a fresh basil leaf on each plate for pretty.

“Brownen.” Snicker.

Many thanks to Cookiecrumb for this tasty (hypoyaddayadda) recipe!

Sometimes you have to go the mainland

Monday, November 7th, 2005

Ferry to the mainland

That twelve pack of tuna-in-water at Costco’s been calling my name for far too long…

We’ll be back on Wednesday with a Paper Chef round-up!

***
Meanwhile:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
16,204 / 50,000
(32.4%)

(Today’s word meter advancement brought to you by the cheapest bottle of port I could find at the liquor store. I think the label was red.)

Paper Chef…. ooh, the suspense is starving me!

Monday, November 7th, 2005

basil in curry

The delectable dishes are starting to come in and oh, are they making us hungry! So hungry in fact, that Chopper’s made a second batch of our non-entry entry for today’s lunch. That’s a sneak peek of it above, but we’re not giving away any details till we post the recipe just before round-up time.

And speaking of round-ups and time, we’re busy tomorrow, which means no round-up till later in the week, which means — you guessed it — there’s still time to enter! Quick! Race to the market before supper! Lamb, basil, oranges, and fish sauce. You know they go great with Monday Night Football, right?

WDB: Superfluous Dog Photo #6

Sunday, November 6th, 2005

The Mighty Tongue of Mishka
Platelicker’s mighty tongue strikes again!

(For more Weekend Dog Blogging, Check out the cute pups’ round-up over at Sweetnicks!)

Obligatory Cat Photo #12 (WCB #22)

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Rita and Stuart
Another one from the kitty photo vaults: Rita and Stuart celebrate Laundry Day.

(For more Weekend Cat Blogging, visit our fabulous guest host Boo the Cat over at Masak-Masak!)

(And don’t forget, it’s Paper Chef Weekend. Get cooking!)

Paper Chef #12: Kyou no teema….

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Ah, November. The month of late harvests, of turkeys and cranberry sauce, of battering storms and evenings snuggled by the fire, of blockbuster holiday movies and screaming Christmas commercials that inundate the airwaves all too soon, of four day weekends and raging political arguments at the Thanksgiving table, of cold mornings and days too short for decent dinnertime photography. Ah, November, how we wish… how we wish it was, well, June.

But, here it is, November. And Paper Chef time at that. And since we here at Belly Timber are particularly crabby about what this time of year does to the Northern Hemisphere, we have decided that this will be a Theme-Free Month. No pilgrim celebrations. No preemptive strikes on the game-day turkey gorge. And, absolutely no maize.

So, this month, we go random. Roll the dice, Chopper. What have we got?

1. Fish sauce
2. Basil
3. Oranges

And for the fourth ingredient of our own selection (no, Owen, it’s not quinoa)…

lamb

That’s right. Lamb. Cute little fuzzy lamb. Say it with me now: awwwwwww……. yum.

Now, here, freely lifted from Tomatilla, are excerpts from Owen’s Paper Chef event guidelines:

As a reminder, here are the ‘rules and regulations,’ which I prefer to think of as something akin to the pirate code of Captain Jack Sparrow and thus ‘more like guidelines.’

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

About a week before the event opens, I post an ingredient list from previous events here at Tomatilla! Older ingredients fall off the list, as does anything that actually got used in an event. Those ingredients are ‘banned’ for a month just to prevent the choices being cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and…you get the idea. Any reader … can nominate a new ingredient (one only please) and it can be anything within the bounds of good taste (both kinds). Three ingredients are chosen at random from the final list and the host (usually me but not always) picks one more ingredient that is topical or seasonal or that suits our whimsy. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. … The previous month’s winner gets to be judge (and is ineligible that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I’ve had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog – I’ll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges – if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good…

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy – just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.

The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren’t sticklers for timekeeping here – a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you’ll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like.

And now for our nitty gritty details:

Entries are due midday (PST) on Monday, November 7th. We’re pretty lax around here, so any time before mid-Monday evening will probably do, and even after that we’ll be forgiving, if, say, you managed to torch your kitchen while inventing fish sauce brulee.

Send your entries to mrs_d AT belly-timber DOT com, and include your name, blog name, location, and a permalink to your entry. You can also post your entry information here on this comments thread. Also, I’d like to encourage everyone to add a “Paper Chef” technorati tag to the end of their post, thusly –

Tagged with: <a href=”http://technorati.com/tag/Paper Chef” rel=”tag”>Paper Chef</a>

– so it gives everyone an extra place to search for entries before we post the round-up.

As for judging, I regret to say that we will not be including any actresses, lower house members, baseball commentators, fortune tellers, or Rosanjin scholars on our panel. Photographers and songwriters, on the other hand, will play a key role in our virtual Tasting and Judgment.

So what are we looking for?

We love dishes that are original, inventive, and make use of the chosen ingredients in unexpected ways. We love dishes that sound like we’d want to gobble them up in a heartbeat. We appreciate traditional dishes as well, but we love them even more when they come with a twist. Dishes can be extraordinarily complicated or beautifully simple, but it’s the perceived flavor that will count the most. We hope to choose not just one winner, but runners up in additional categories. In short, knock our socks off.

Allez Cuisine!

Gratuitous Food Photo #2

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

juicing an orange
Poetry, even if I can’t find anything that rhymes.

Meanwhile…

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
6,652 / 50,000
(13.3%)

Today’s word meter advancement brought to you by Ghirardelli’s 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips. On sale, so I can eat more without feeling guilty.

Kitty Kaga reminds you…

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

The Chairman Just one more day for Paper Chef ingredient nominations! Post ‘em here if you’ve got ‘em.

Our current ingredient list:

Fresh coconut, something you get from a neighbour’s garden, walnuts, lavender, tofu, parsnips, sweetcorn, apples, red peppers, seaweed, rice, carrots, a root vegetable, basil, fish sauce, butternut squash, scallions, little fishes, quinoa, anchovies, olives, yoghurt, barley, fennel, Halloween candy, pumpkin (or any squash) seeds, fancy vinegar, and cranberries.

Remember, one nomination per person. Nominations close November 4th at 8am, PST. At noon (PST) Friday, November 4th, we’ll be posting the four selected ingredients: three chosen randomly from the nominated list, and a fourth, chosen by Chopper Dave and Mrs. D (who promise not to be too horribly devious in their selection).

Paper Chef participants have till noon on Monday to send in their entries (though creative excuses for lateness are acceptable). Check back on Friday for more details on entries, judging, and of course, for the secret ingredients!

Pizza!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

a slice of pizza

Pizza. This crusty Italian pie has become one of the most popular foods in the world. And, everywhere pizza is made a different approach is taken. From the crispy, thin crusted, simply topped, New York style, to the hearty, cheesy, thick crusted pan style pizza of Chicago, to the “specialty gourmet” pizzas that originated on the west coast, and infinite others, pizza is one of the most diverse food offerings to share a single name.

Pizza’s humble beginnings can be dated all the way back to the 6th century B.C., when Persian soldiers baked a simple flat bread on their shields which were placed over top of camp fires, topping the bread with cheese and dates. In the following centuries this simple, easy to prepare food became popular in Rome, and evidence of shops that bear a striking resemblance to more contemporary pizzerias has been found in the unearthed ruins of Pompeii which date back to the year 79 A.D.

Pizza didn’t reach the U.S., though, until the early 20th century, when an Italian immigrant, Gennaro Lombardi, is widely known to have opened the first Pizzeria in New York City in 1905.

Pizza later spread to the “second city.” In 1943, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was created by Ike Sewell at his now well-known establishment called Pizzeria Uno (which later became a nation-wide chain).

pizza in the pan

In 1945, American soldiers that had been stationed in Italy during World War II returned, bringing a taste for the savory pie with them — so much so, that a mere three years later, in 1948, a niche was found, and the first “kit” was produced that allowed pizza to be made at home, called “Roman Pizza Mix.”

The popularity of pizza in the U.S. really took off in the 1950s, however. Americans really started noticing pizza when Italian-American celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Jerry Colonna, and Joe DiMaggio all could be seen enjoying pizza. Then, in 1957 frozen pizzas were introduced by the Celentano Brothers, and could be found in local grocery stores. Soon afterward, pizza became the most popular of all frozen foods.

Pizza has had a long and, for the most part, illustrious history. From its obscure beginnings as a simple food for soldiers on the march, to its modern incarnations where just about anything goes, pizza will continue to be enjoyed the world over.

Now, after that long-winded overview of my favorite pie, here’s my version!

Chopper’s meatball deep dish pizza

For the dough

  • 1 pint water
  • 3/4 ounces active dry yeast
  • 1 pound 12 ounces flour
  • 1/2 ounce sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Whisk water, corn syrup, and sugar together until fully dissolved. Then add yeast, and whisk until yeast is also dissolved.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt.

When the liquid mixture looks “foamy” on top, add to the dry ingredients, and then add the oil.

Fold the ingredients together until all of the flour is hydrated. Then knead for 20 minutes, and mold into a large ball.

Clean out and dry the bowl, then apply a thin coat of oil with a paper towel. Then rub another thin coat of oil on the ball of dough and place in the bowl, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

While the dough is resting and rising, make your sauce, meatballs, and grate your cheese ;-)

For the meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground pork butt
  • 1/2 pound ground beef round
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb shoulder
  •  
  • 2 teaspoons dry basil
  • 2 teaspoons dry parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • More bread crumbs for coating

Work all ingredients together with your hands, making sure not to be too rough.

When everything is fully combined, portion into 3/4 to 1 oz balls, and set aside.

Place 1 quart of vegetable oil in a pot over medium high heat, and have a bowl of bread crumbs ready (about 1/2 a cup will do).

When the oil is hot enough to fry, roll your meatballs in the bread crumbs in batches, and lightly fry them, just enough to get a crust on the surface, but not enough to thoroughly cook them.

For the sauce

  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 each medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry basil
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano
  • 2 teasoons dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Put a medium sized pot over medium heat, and add 2 tbl of olive oil.

Crush the tomatoes by hand in a bowl and set aside

Add onions and garlic, and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the aromas start to become pungent and the onion turns translucent.

Add herbs, and sweat another minute, then add red wine.

Reduce the mixture by about 1/4, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for about 10 minutes, then puree the sauce (I use a stick blender), and bring back to a simmer.

Add sugar, and season to taste.

There, that’s all the components. Though, you may want to add some vegetables to your pie as well.

Now, I really like Chicago style, deep dish pizza. And the best part of making it is that you don’t really need a pizza stone (though having one would still be nice). All you really need is a good cast iron pan.

Preheat your oven to its highest possible setting (most just say “broil” which is fine, but if yours goes up to 550 F, you’re good to go).

By now your dough should be well rested, and about twice its previous size. Turn it out of the bowl, and “punch” it down to get rid of any oversized air pockets. This should be enough dough to make two or three ten inch pizzas.

For that size you’ll need 10 oz of dough, rolled thin enough to line your pan from edge to edge, and all the way up the sides as well.

Then ladle in your sauce and spread evenly, make sure not to add too much, or your crust will be soggy.

Now, here comes the first layer of cheese. Since Mrs. D is lactose intolerant, we scoured the cheese aisle at our local market to find something we could use, and we did! There’s a wonderful Greek sheep/goat cheese called Kasseri, “the melting cheese of Greece.” Mrs. D was jubilant. Anyway, layer on about 1/2 a pound over the sauce, then add your condiments, in this case split meatballs, mushrooms, black olives, and red onions, and fresh roma tomatoes.

Place your panned creation in your oven and cook for 15 minutes, or until the crust turns a deep brown. And, there you have it. Pizza a ‘la Chopper!

Chopper's meatball pizza

As if she isn’t crazy enough already…

Monday, October 31st, 2005
Zokutou word meter
0 / 50,000
(0.0%)

Worm!
Yeah, what is that odd little grey thing, anyway? It looks like a Good n’ Plenty that fell under a theater seat way back when David Spade had a movie career. And what’s with those numbers? Fifty thousand? That’s a lot of donuts. Are you sure you wanna eat all that?

Nope. Fifty thousand words.

That’s right, be it known that I, Mrs D, of sound mind and body — oh wait, better strike that last part — that I, the certifiably insane Mrs D, will not only be blogging during the month of November, I will also be participating in NANOWRIMO, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

I will write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel between November 1st and November 30th. No, you don’t get to read it. Not yet, anyway.

You do get to nag me. As much as you want.

See, I work well when nagged. Chopper may laugh at this (in fact, he’ll probably run in here shortly, screaming “No, no, for the love of all that’s holy, please dear god, not with the nagging!”), but trust me: public humiliation at lack of writing progress is a Very Good Thing. Especially when the resulting desperately achieved success is accompanied by pom poms and confetti. (And a nice glass of chocolate port, thank you very much.)

So, here’s the deal: I’m starting bright and early November 1st, and to get the full fifty thousand in, I’ve got to write on average 1666 words per day. Cake, right? Big chunk of Triple Chocolate Mouse Cake. (Note to self: remind Chopper to post that recipe sometime.)

Cake to some, maybe, but I, on the other hand, am a notorious slowby.

After all, it took me all last week to do this:

OHMYGODTHEKITCHENCOUNTERISCLEAN!

(And here you thought I was busy stitching the cat’s Chairman Kaga outfit. Oh, we loves the Photoshop, we do… Ahem. No, I did not Photoshop a clean kitchen counter.)

So, what’s all this rambling about?

It’s about turning this:

Zokutou word meter
0 / 50,000
(0.0%)

Into this:

Zokutou word meter
50,000 / 50,000
(100.0%)

And it’s about the madness that goes with. Meaning, things might get a little weird around here in November.

(Hey! I heard that! Weird already. Harrumph.)

WDB: Superfluous Dog Photo #5

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Mishka at Afterglow Vista
Weekend Dog Blogging, the Halloween edition:
Beware the fierce guardian of the ancient temple… she will lick you to death with her mighty tongue!

(Check out Sweetnicks for more Weekend dog blogging!)

Kitty Kaga Speaks! (WCB #21)

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

If my memory serves me right, this, the weekend of October 29th and 30th, holds a special dual significance. Not only do we don our festive attire and celebrate the birth of Kiri, beloved cat of Clare’s Eat Stuff, we also mark the launch of the internationally acclaimed Paper Chef Ingredient Nomination Week.

Ahhh, Paper Chef. It was nearly a year ago that one man’s fantasy became reality and this grand event of the food blogosphere came into being. From humble beginnings, Owen of Tomatilla has risen to the occasion time and time again to bring us this quintessential competition, where masterful chefs from all corners of the globe celebrate their creativity and their diversity in artistic dishes never tasted before. Each month, the secret ingredients are revealed, and each month, the illustrious winners are announced. Who can forget the majestic Cocoa-Pomegranate Roast Chicken with Eggplant Stuffing, the salacious Feta Soufflé with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens, the mighty Po’ Boy?

So now, bloggers, show me the ingredients you so desire for the creation of your culinary masterpieces. Remember, you may only nominate once, so choose wisely. Let Paper Chef Ingredient Nomination Week begin!

Oh, and happy birthday, Kiri!

(Paper Chef ingredient nominations run today through Thursday. The four chosen ingredients will be posted Friday, November 4th at Noon, PST. Stay tuned for a complete list of nominated ingredients. Not eligible this time: duck, pears, ginger, & nut butter.)

(For more weekend cat blogging, visit Kiri’s Birthday Bash at Eat Stuff!)

A Flu Journal, Prologue & Part one

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

lamp_and_books

(Inspired by Carolyn Smith-Kizer’s “Cooking the Old-Fashioned Way” blogging event at 18th Century Cuisine [for which I am woefully late], I dove into research on the subject and soon found myself imagining a scenario where we’d lost power and were struggling to get by. I’ll write up what I’ve learned, I thought, and then determined, no, I’ll write what I imagine. What follows here is a fictional account of our first day without power. It’s early February of next year, and in this fictional world, we’re in the midst of a pandemic and we shouldn’t expect the cavalry. This is just a small beginning. I hope to follow soon with later days in our scenario, and with more failures, more lessons learned, and a deeper search into life off the grid.)

Prologue

Murmurs and preparations

“Many days you have lingered
outside my cabin door,
Oh, hard times, come again no more.”
–Stephen Foster

The world, or at least most of the world, sat up and took notice last October. Well, not exactly true. A good chunk of the world took notice a heck of a lot earlier; but in October, the U.S. uttered a collective “whaaa?” and then started paying a little more attention. (The politics of this whaa are a subject for a whole separate discussion, and really, the only thing that matters now is that we got hit and we weren’t even remotely ready.)

In October, it was all about small clusters of cases in Southeast Asia, and flocks of dead birds in Greece, and then Turkey, and then Romania. We watched as this thing crept into Europe and then Africa and asked, tentatively, you don’t think it’ll mutate will it? There’s not that big of a chance it’ll mutate, right?

Well, it did. Christmas season. The clusters were now large enough that the formerly unthinkable had become undeniable. H5N1 leapt from person to person with the greatest of ease.

By mid-January, clusters appeared deep into Western Europe, and just two short weeks later, the once green “No cases reported” map of North America had bloomed an angry red. All this, it seemed, almost at the blink of an eye — much too quickly for effective containment measures, and long before anyone could cheer a functioning vaccine or a ready supply of Tamiflu.

Here, in our tiny corner of the continent, three things happened in quick succession: rumors, more rumors, and then panic. First, rumors of cases as close as Burlington. Then, rumors of a state-wide ferry service shut-down. Next day, an island-wide run on groceries, medicines, sporting goods, and liquor. In three days the shelves, at low capacity during the off-season to begin with, were empty. In three more days: quarantine.

A week after that, we lost power.

Part one: Could be worse. Could be raining.

February 5th, 2006

It was bound to happen sooner or later. They don’t call OPALCO “Occasional Power and Light” for nothing. A few years back, a garbage truck slammed into a transformer on the mainland and the entire archipelago was dark for a week.

But, here’s the thing about being without power: We’re fine if we know it’s for a short chunk of time. A couple of days; maybe a week. I remember ice storms in Portland where we’d throw all the frozen food into a cooler, save what we could, toss the rest if it thawed, light a few candles, eat canned food, and then animate the walls with evil shadow puppet mutations and sulk when the lights came back on all too soon.

Today is different, I can feel it. Mid-morning, power’s been out for an hour maybe, and we’re hunkered around the radio searching for information. The news is vague. Something about grid instability and manpower issues, and no, they’ve no idea when we can turn on our coffee makers, our electric juicers, or our bread machines again.

This is it, kids. We’re in it for the long haul and there’s no making a run to the store for pop tarts.

We immediately launch into, if not panic mode, then at least a state of moderate scramble. First things first: the food in the freezer. (Now, I don’t know if this is the right ‘first things first,’ but it’s what we do, and hey – we’re in scramble mode.)

Chopper’s been buying meat on sale and the last thing we want to do is throw it out, so instead, we implement the emergency Casa Belly Timber Meat Triage system (yeah, I just made that up).

It goes like this:
Black Sharpie – smoke it
Blue Sharpie – cure it
Red Sharpie – eat it now

Salmon — cure, beef — smoke. Pork — smoke — wait no, I wanna make smoked sausage — label that for the meat grinder. Moon fish — we’ve got more moon fish? Um, moon fish jerky? Hey, it could work. Box of Eggos, bags of home made pasta… looks like it’s carb central for the next two days. Mystery meat… I give up. Holy crap, we still have some of that stew? Yeah, baby. That’s dinner.

We get it all sorted into two camping coolers; bags of ice from the chest freezer in each. Of course halfway through the process I realize that all this moving around of food is just going to make things thaw faster, and if we’d really been smart we would have slapped triage flags on all the meat before this shit went down. (Note to self: Next pandemic? Strategize the meat ahead of time.)

smoker

Meanwhile, on the side deck, Chopper’s got the smoker going. For this, we’re lucky. We’ve got briquettes, and we’ve even got a bucket of untreated hardwood sawdust from the lumberyard to use in lieu of wood chips. And it’s not raining.

The smoker was a serious score back in October. We’re out on Roche Harbor Road, just south of the Alpaca ranch, and stop by this thrift store. More of a junkyard than a thrift store really; gravel and scrub between herds of half broken-down ranges and refrigerators. Chopper’s plan is to scavenge parts for a smoker and go the Alton Brown/McGyver route with trash can, 3 inch bolts inside to hold a grill in place, door cut in the side with a hacksaw, pie tin for water… Then we find this thing. A whole smoker. Or, almost a whole smoker. It’s missing the bottom charcoal pan, the top pan’s got a hole in it, and one of the legs is wobbly, but for seven bucks, we aren’t complaining. Especially not when we discover that the smoker fits perfectly over our Coleman charcoal grill. It’s as if the two are made for each other.

I have to think for a minute about what we’d do if we didn’t have the smoker or the grill. Dig a steam pit in the garden, I think. We’ve got rocks everywhere, kelp on the beach just a ten minute walk away, fir branches, ferns. The fire has to burn a good long time to make the coals and rocks hot enough. Kelp keeps off the dirt and adds flavor. Dad used to tell me about this — how the Northern Straits people would dig camas bulbs and bury them in steam pits for hours, sometimes even days. I imagine we could do the same with the meat and fish, or maybe thread strips of meat onto spits of ironwood and lean the wood like a prairie fence over a low, steady fire.

Back to our modern jerry-rigged smoker, coals heating up while Chopper and I are digging through supplies for the brine. Salt (and tons of it), check. Black pepper, check. Brown sugar, check. Water —

Um…

Crap, electric pump! Pipes are still full, and there’s the water tank. Yeah, but what if there’s not enough pressure? We can drain the tank, right? With what — the garden hose? Well, does the water tank need a working pump to deliver water through the pipes? No, duh, the pump’s for the well. Jeez, do I look like a plumber? So, we have to save the pipe water, which we’ve already wasted, not to mention, somebody flushed the toilet. I didn’t flush the toilet. Did you flush the toilet? No, did you? Arrgh!

Oh, the joys of imminent lack of water.

Brief pause to assess the water situation (noting that we’ve got meat everywhere, only so much ice, and outdoor temperatures that have an uncanny knack for getting unseasonably warm on short notice).

We have:
Ten gallons in the shed.
Four bags of ice from the freezer, currently keeping food cold.
Hot water tank (44 gal) that may or may not drain out easily.
Water from the downstairs toilet tank. (Yeah, ick, but hey, water’s water.)

Also, a short walk from the house: a rather skanky pond. Also, a slightly longer walk from the house: a rather salty ocean.

Ahah. I announce my plan: Water Triage. (No sharpies this time, and I’ve a feeling “triage” is going to become both my most and my least favorite word over the next while.)

Here’s the order:
1. Drinking
2. Cooking
3. Washing
4. Waste

Not much we can do about #4, I imagine, but the goal is to find ways to move #3 to #2, and #2 to #1, ideally, without making ourselves sick. I’ve got notions involving charcoal, coffee filters and juice bottles, but first, back to the meat.

Chopper needs water for the brine. We go back and forth on this. Technically, it’s cooking water, and we don’t really want to use drinking water, but without a hierarchy of potability in place, all we’ve really got is stuff to drink and stuff to avoid. We are not brining meat in the skanky pond.

“Well, since it’s brine,” I offer, “how about the ocean?”

It’s not a completely silly idea. We can add more salt, boil it first to kill any nasty pathogens, and presto — brining water without losing drinking water.

I contemplate a walk to the beach. It’s afternoon now, getting toward dusk. The day’s been cloudy and dead still. The prayer flags hang limp and I realize for the first time I’ve heard nothing from the neighbors.

If this were summer, we’d walk to the beach past a heavily-laden crabapple tree, inviting a rich harvest and weeks of Dutch oven cobblers and fresh-pressed juice. If it were spring, we’d follow the beach trail past new stands of stinging nettles, best (and carefully) picked when they’re young and tender, then steamed or sautéed. In mid-summer through early fall, first we’d find salmonberries, then thimbleberries, then, finally, those fat, juicy blackberries — so tasty that we just might forgive their vines’ invasiveness.

crabapples

Now though, it’s winter, and we won’t find much. Just quiet houses full of scared people who may or may not peek out their windows at us as we walk by. We’ll go tomorrow, I think, when I’m feeling brave. I don’t want to be paranoid. Sooner or later, I know we’ll all need to reach out, share resources, barter, care for the sick.

But today — today we just muddle through and hope that we’ve done enough planning to get by. Of course we could wake up to a warm and brightly-lit house in the morning and learn this was all just a glitch. That’s the tricky part: no one knows. We could live a lifetime with our dependence on the grid — on electricity, on municipal water, on food distribution — never tested. Or, it could all go belly-up tomorrow. Or today. Time to light the lamps, dive into the old books and learn all that we should know already.

–end of part one–

Read Part Two here.

Is my blog on a sugar high… the (belated) brainwave edition

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Submitted for your approval: The tale of a chef and his doppelganger, separated by a continent, each devoted to his own unique culinary path, yet driven together, inexplicably, time and again, by a mysterious force. Some might call it fate, some might dismiss it as the natural result of expert training and the synchronicities of our modern age. In a moment, witness the true compulsion that drives these two men to labor from the same page in that great cookbook we call life. Recognize it for what it is.
For it is a recipe whose ingredients can only be found… in the Twilight Zone.

Can I just say that we adore Stephen of Stephen Cooks. His recipes always look positively scrumptious and it’s clear that he enjoys mucking about in the kitchen as much as Chopper does (though I’d hazard a guess his kitchen is a lot cleaner). Over the past few months we’ve gotten a kick out of the fact that, on more than one occasion, Stephen and Chopper have been on the same wavelength. It’s as if they’re channeling each other; as if this curious culinary conduit stretches all the way from Maine to the Northern tip of Washington and then, from the aether — or perhaps from Saint Lawrence, the patron saint of chefs — they receive their instructions. Tonight, it will be bread pudding. Next week, a soup… Then, in October…

The IMBB/SHF combo chocolate soufflé!

orange_chocolate_souffle

Chocolate Orange Frozen Souffle

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: But this is Monday. Why are you posting this on Monday?

Well, it’s like this:

Me: Hey! Let’s make the chocolate soufflé on Friday!
Chopper’s Boss: Can you come in early on Friday to bake bread?
Me: Okay, how about Saturday? After the rummage sale?
Chopper: If there’s time. Oh wait, time for work!
Me: Hey, it’s Sunday, shouldn’t we be making that soufflé?
Chopper: Um, what time was that White Sox game again?

So, Chopper did eventually finish the soufflé, and the White Sox won, making it an even better evening, but by the time we had the puppy plated and had photos taken, we were just too dead dog tired to post.

Okay, I lied. I was too lazy. Chopper was tired. He did all the baking.

Which brings me to the next part of this post. Or rather, an apology. No recipe this time. I can tell you that Chopper took the Cointreau Iced Soufflé recipe on page 515 of Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen (fourth edition) and adapted that. (How much adaptation, I really can’t tell you. You’ll have to pester him.) The sauce is from pulped orange, the topping is candied orange zest and dark chocolate shavings, and the base under the frozen soufflé is a squashed macaroon.

We gave the plated version to Mom who gobbled it up with gusto. Me, I just had a small tasty bite (to save my lactically incompetent stomach), and nibbled on the leftover candied orange zest.

Meanwhile, we will gaze in awe at Stephen’s half of the IMBB/SHF brainwave. Where Chopper’s is ice, his is fire. To be exact, a dark and fiery chocolate soufflé with espresso, brandy, and cayenne pepper. I think I just died and went to heaven.

I swear, one of these days we’re taking that cross country road trip and putting these two in the same kitchen. The results might just be astounding. Or, it could end up like that old Trek episode where if the guy from the matter universe meets his twin from the anti-matter universe, life as we know it will cease to exist. But hey, that would be pretty astounding too.


+

WDB: Superfluous Dog Photo #4

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

mishka at six weeks
Inspired by Clare’s Mini Kiri photo over at Eat Stuff, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite Platelicker baby pics. Here she is at six weeks, certain I’ve got something quite edible right behind my camera. Ah, they grow up so fast…

(Check out Sweetnicks for this weekend’s dog blogging round-up!)

Obligatory Cat Photo #11 (WCB #20)

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

audrey sleeping

In case of power outage: Light lamp, cuddle cat.

(For more weekend cat blogging visit Clare & Kiri’s all-cat round-up and kitty party announcement over at Eat Stuff!)

Um, about that curry paste…

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

Not long after my first experience with home made Thai red curry paste, I wrote up a remembrance of the blessed event in my journal. This was months before the launch of Belly Timber. We were, in fact, waist deep in all things culinary school at the time, meaning, time to blog? Hah. Sleep first, blog later. Oh, yeah, and drink. And cook crazy, succulent inventions with fellow students till all hours of the night.

Curry paste night did not include fellow students. Instead, it was just me, Chopper, and a serious lack of protective equipment. So…

Be warned, the following contains large doses of C.I.P. (Capsaicin Induced Profanity). Proceed with extreme caution. Seriously. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya. I get near Capsaicin and I swear like a sailor. I mean it.

curry past preparations

September 15th, 2004

I swear to God, I did not fucking touch my eye.

So, here I am, at the computer, taking a break from web design hell to read the latest treatise on kerning and superscript properties in ancient Sumerian clay tablets, when Chopper calls me into the kitchen for assistance. We’d just gone to An Dong, aka the world’s cheapest Asian market that happens to be located on 54th & Powell, and Chopper is now dealing with his main purchase: a one pound bag of dehydrated red chile peppers.

Chopper says, “I need to remove the seeds from all these chiles. There’s a ton of them, so I need your help.”

I think. Sure. How hard can this be? Stand at the cutting board and strip seeds from the insides of dried chiles. Chopper hands me a small knife to open the chiles up and I get to work.

Now, I know already that chile seeds are hot, and that the oil from chiles can sting if it gets in the wrong place; tongue, nostril, eye — and lord help you if you have to take a piss while stripping chile seeds — but what I do not know is that the oil from dried chiles is more concentrated than just any old chile oil, and a mild sting (back the last time I made salsa) is now the agonizing fury of a thousand matches, all trained at my screaming, membrane-peeled eyeball.

I swear to God, I did not fucking touch my eye.

I got my finger close to it, remembered, then stopped. But, when de-seeding a third of a pound of dried chiles, close counts. The oil has a life of its own. It leaps from fingertip to eyeball, and the next thing I know I’m in the bathroom, in agony, splashing water on my face, screaming “I swear to God, I did not…” Well, you get the idea.

After that, perhaps twenty minutes later when I am able to open my eye again, I rub my nose. Holy crapping hell, it feels like the eighth week of the Worst Cold Known to Mankind. It is hemorrhagically painful.

I curse Chopper out for his inability to remind me to be more careful. And then he has to go take a piss.

Later, when we’ve both recovered, we mix up the Thai red curry paste — lemongrass, galangal, ground peppercorns, cumin, fenugreek and coriander, lime zest, garlic, shallots, and the I-am-so-not-touching-those-ever-again chiles. The smell permeates the kitchen. My eyes water, but do not sting. The final product: A pint of the stuff, ready to mix with coconut milk and a meat of choice, potent enough to last many meals.

Still later, my neck aches from too much web design hell, so I get out the tiger balm and apply it liberally. By this point I’ve washed my hands several times, but — and Chopper does not believe me but I swear to this — the remaining chili oil is reactivated by the tiger balm and my fingers begin to sting like crazy. I go to sleep with stingy fingers and I wake up with stingy fingers.

In the afternoon, we make Thai red curry with pork and coconut milk over jasmine rice.

Chopper takes a bite, says “It’s a little bit hot. Too.”

“Too?” I ask, thinking if it’s too hot for Chopper it’ll be way too hot for me. He has the tolerance of NASA heat shielding.

“No, two,” he says. “On the scale.”

I take a bite.

Sweet Jumping Jehosiphat almighty, it’s hot. It’s not a two. It’s a fucking seventeen. I go back to the kitchen and dish all of the remaining rice out of the steamer, pour myself a pint glass of water and curse my gut for being intolerant of milk.

Next time, I tell him. One teaspoon full of paste to two cans of coconut milk. The paste will last longer that way, and it’s oh-so-tasty so we oh-so-want it to last a Very Long Time.

Hours later, as I type this, I note that my fingers still sting ever so slightly, and I’m still afraid to bring them within an inch of my eye.

I wonder if Chopper will mind if I suggest we learn how to do home made sorbet next?

Curry Paste for months!

Monday, October 17th, 2005

mortar and pestle

I used to be a dork.* A big ol’ American dork who thought all cool ethnic foods like chutneys and curry pastes came straight from jars which came straight from factories because who the heck would ever make this stuff from scratch, right? I mean nobody but chefs and people with tons of time ever did that.

At my house it was never about tons of time. It was about throwing some Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce on a bowl of Top Ramen, calling it “ethnic” (hah!), and then chowing it down in five minutes flat before rushing off to an evening’s rehearsal of The Pigeon by Some Guy Who Thinks He’s Anton Chekhov But Clearly Isn’t.

Yes, I lived a life of culinary… well, to be honest, the word culinary didn’t enter into it. (That is, except for those late nights at the theater bar with too many oyster shooters… but I digress…)

Then, wonder of wonders, I met a chef. Okay, he wasn’t exactly a chef when I met him, but point is, he knew things. Wondrous things. Like: You can make curry paste at home! Really! You can!

In fact, about this time last year, we made quite a batch of Thai red curry paste, and it was scrumptious. Hot as a freakin’ sun spot, but scrumptious.

The thing I adore about home made curry paste is that it’s so much more aromatic than the store bought kind, and you can tweak it into a hundred different varieties. It lasts a nice long time, too. Cook up this stuff, use just a spoonful or two (or a cup if you’re feeling bold) and freeze the rest. Curry paste for months!

Here’s Chopper’s recipe for Thai red curry paste. Check back in a jiff and I’ll have posted about the time I assisted Chopper in the making of Thai red curry paste. It was — how shall I put it — a memorable experience. One I shall treasure forever. Right along side that time I took my hiking lunch break atop a 4′ ant hill. Not that this should stop you from…

curry paste preparations

Home made Thai Red Curry Paste

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dried red chiles
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon minced galangal
  • 1 teaspoon minced lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Have a large mortar and pestle ready. I know, not everyone has one of the primitive tools, but it works best, and they’re not as expensive as one might think if they know where to look. We got ours at an Asian market in Portland for $22. But, a food processor can work as well.
  2. First, stem and seed the chiles. Then soak them for 20-30 minutes, or until they are hydrated enough to peel. Then remove the skins.
  3. Put a small sauté pan on medium high heat, no oil. When the pan is hot add the peppercorns and shake them around in the pan until you begin to detect their aroma. Then add the coriander, wait again for the aroma. Then add the cumin, repeat, and also with the fenugreek.
  4. When all the spices are toasted, place them in the mortar and pestle, and allow them to cool.
  5. While the spices are cooling, take the lemongrass and bash it with the flat side of your knife until it’s bruised and frayed. Then slice only the white parts and mince.
  6. Pound spices and salt into a powder, then add cilantro, lemongrass, galangal, lime zest, garlic, and shrimp paste. Pound down to a thick paste, then add chiles. Keep pounding until the paste has the desired consistency.

This method is not fast or easy. It is long, and difficult. But your toil will be rewarded with enough paste to make fine curries for weeks.

–Chopper Dave

(*Actually, I still am a dork. “Used to be” is only to suit the purposes of this post and to illustrate that sometimes I do indeed learn things.)

Obligatory Cat Photo #10 (WCB #19)

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

cat, still angry
Hah! They think it’s all about them, but they are mistaken. In truth, it’s all about ME. See, I peeked at that latest webstats and you know what? “Messy Kitchen” is no longer the top search string. That’s right, It’s been replaced. The top search string now?

ANGRY CAT!

Ha ha! I am jubilant! I am vindicated! I will celebrate with Friskees and dead voles! I will revel in my anger!

I will…

What’s that you say? You want to look at pictures of happy kitties too? Oh very well. You know the drill. Weekend Cat Blogging #19, over at Kiri’s pad — check it out!

Paper Chef #11: Just Ducky

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

pears

Ah, fall, my third favorite season.

To salute the equinox with this month’s edition of Paper Chef, Stephen of Stephen Cooks offers us a tasty list of ingredients.

  • Duck
  • Ginger
  • Nut Butter
  • Pears

Now, as to the first ingredient, I was apprehensive at first (I even commented on Stephen’s blog about it), but as I lay in bed that night I remembered that I had a large amount of duck bones hiding in the back of my freezer. YES! I thought. Finally a chance to put them to use!

The next day I set about making those (usually discarded) portions of our favorite water fowl into a rich stock.

(Note: the following is a rather wordy version of most stock recipes you can find in nearly any cook book.)

I began by removing the bones from the freezer (duh… and yes I weighed them: almost 10 lbs) and placing them in a roasting pan. I recommend that you try to break some of the larger bones before roasting. Next, I preheated my oven to 375 F. When the oven came to heat, the bones were just thawed enough for my purposes. I placed the pan in the oven and roasted the bones to a beautiful golden brown. Then I dropped them in my 16 quart stock pot and added enough water to cover. I then placed the roasting pan on one of my two still-functioning burners, and caramelized one pound of chopped onion, 1/2 pound of chopped carrot, and 1/2 pound of chopped celery (also known as 2 lbs of mirepoix to the French). I deglazed the pan with red wine (does it really matter that it was Carlo Rossi “Burgundy”? I didn’t think so) and added that to the pot as well. After bringing the whole thing to a boil, I then added a tablespoon of black peppercorns, two tablespoons of dried thyme leaves, five medium sized bay leaves, and a small handful of Italian parsley. I then reduced it to a very, VERY low simmer (about four bubbles a second), and allowed it to cook overnight.

Duck’s Head Soup (stock): View at your own risk!

The next day I strained the amazingly flavorful brown liquid and put it back to the heat. After a number of hours on the stove reducing, I was able to extract more than 80% of the water from the stock, leaving an immensely flavorful glace (that’s pronounced “gloss”).

Now the next thing was to make a “nut butter.” I didn’t want to just buy something; that seemed to me to be a cop out. (Though I’m not disparaging anyone who did. I just knew that I had the tool — i.e. my food processor — to do something homemade.) So, I chose pistachios, because I LOVE them.

My pistachio butter goes as follows:

  • 1 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon green crème de menthe

Instructions

Grind pistachios in the food processor to a sticky powder. Add confectioner’s sugar and process thoroughly. Add corn syrup, one tablespoon at a time, then the crème de menthe, processing after each addition.

Mmm, mmm.

At this point I began to think of the best way to bring the remaining chosen ingredients and my two variations, together. The first thing that came to mind was Italian, and how better to incorporate these ingredients Italian style than in ravioli with a sauce?

To that end, I grabbed about four ounces of gorgonzola cheese and a couple of “starcrimson” pears. After peeling and coring the pears, I brushed them with melted butter, and placed them in a 400 F oven, allowing them to come to a nice golden brown.

Then I pureed them and combined then with the cheese, which I crumbled by hand. After that, I added two teaspoons of the glace, thus making the perfect filling for Fall.

Next was the dough. I took a page from The Pasta Bible by Christian Teubner, Silvio Rizzi, and Tan Lee Leng, and, again turning to my trusty food processor — this time with its “dough blade” — I spun up pasta dough. Then we broke out our pasta roller.

This was the point when we (Mrs. D and I) thought: “How can we make this dish even more fancy?” When we spotted the oregano growing in our yard, the idea came. We took our pasta dough and rolled it out almost as thin as filo, thus allowing one to see things through it. We then made creative patterns on the dough with oregano leaves and folded the dough back on itself, sealing the leaves between the two layers. This created a most flavorful, and at the same time decorative, ravioli, which we filled heartily, and cut using a tartlet pan, meaning that they were BIG.

Before cooking, I felt the need to attend to a sauce. And, there were still two ingredients to use to make this Paper Chef worthy! So, I took a tablespoon of my pistachio butter and a tablespoon of grated ginger and placed them in a saucepan along with 2/3 of a cup of white wine, whisked them all together and allowed them to reduce. When the mixture was reduced by about 3/4 I took it off the heat. When it stopped bubbling I added 4 tablespoons of butter, and swirled it vigorously to create an emulsion. Then I strained it, leaving a wonderful green-tinted sauce that went perfectly with the raviolis and left the oregano decorations in the pasta easy to see.

And now I present:

Ravioli dell’autunno with Sliced Anna Kiwi

duck ravioli

After that I found that I still had large amounts of my ingredients left. So, I decided to plug on! The next thing I made was a soup. Rather than regale you with the process of this one, I’ll give you the recipe:

Duck Soup with Chicken, Pistachio Ginger Flavor

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons duck glace
  • 2/3 cup red quinoa
  • 2 medium sized onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced VERY thin
  • 2 teaspoons pistachio butter
  • 1 pound cooked chicken meat
  • 1 whole roasted pear

Method

  1. Dissolve duck glace and pistachio butter in the water and bring to a simmer.
  2. In a separate pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until golden brown, and add to the broth.
  3. Bring broth back to a simmer and add quinoa.
  4. When quinoa is fully cooked, add chicken meat (make sure to break it into small pieces).
  5. Serve, garnish with slices of roasted pear and a dab of pistachio butter.

duck soup

After the soup, I STILL had some of the ingredients left and another thought jumped to mind: Risotto!!

Here’s another recipe for you…

Nutty* Duck risotto with Ginger and Caramelized Pear

(*because Daffy is trademarked)

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons duck glace (and 1 tsp per serving as garnish)
  • 2 teaspoons pistachio butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 starcrimson pear
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ounces parmigiano reggiano cheese

Method

  1. Dissolve duck glace and pistachio butter in the water, and bring to a simmer.
  2. Peel and core the pear, and in a 400 F oven, caramelize.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan and add rice and ginger. Stir until all of the rice is coated.
  4. Add liquid to the rice one ladle at a time, stirring constantly between additions to make sure the liquid is absorbed each time.
  5. When all the liquid has been added and absorbed, add cheese and stir until it is melted.
  6. Serve, garnishing with a half teaspoon of duck glace, allowing it to melt on top. Then add a fan of caramelized pear slices.

duck risotto

Phew! That was fun! Good ingredients. What’s next? Bring it on!

–Chopper Dave

EoMEoTE #11: Huevos Rancheros

Monday, October 10th, 2005

His name is Chopper, he cooks a breakfast
With yellow over-easy eggs, it looks so good the puppy begs.
He adds chorizo, and a tomato
For this September Eggs on Toast, a little hot sauce is the most.
He tosses cheese with flair. This dish is debonaire!
But he cuts the toast and goes for tortillas
So now is this fair?

When it’s Huevos, Huevos Rancheros!
You can bet it’s worth mucho dineros!
It’s Chopper’s Huevos, Huevos Rancheros
Mexican dishes are always delicious,
When there’s huevos….
Serve me some eggs…

I, um, really apologize for that. It came to me in the shower, and
I. Just. Couldn’t. Stop.

(For more eggy hits from the 70s, check in with Dispensing Happiness for September’s EoMEoTE round up!)

Obligatory Cat Photo #9 (WCB #18)

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Pekoe at the birdbath
From the cat photo vaults, Pekoe at the birdbath: Here, dinner dinner dinner…

(For more kitty photos, check out Weekend Cat Blogging over at Clare and Kiri’s hep cat pad!)

Mom’s Secret Stash: Irish Soda Bread

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

irish_soda_bread_4

Here’s another one from the Mom’s Secret Stash files: Irish Soda Bread.

I couldn’t find the old recipe card this time, but as with the not-so-Hungarian Goulash, I did locate the source: Page 132 of Ann Rogers’ A Cookbook for Poor Poets (and others).

This book is a Mom Favorite and I’m convinced it’s not just because of the simple, rustic recipes inside, but because of the title. Trust me, in our house growing up, it was all about being Poor Poets. (Or poor writers, or poor anthropologists for that matter. You get the picture. Everyone did the follow-your-bliss thing. Too bad bliss didn’t come with nice salaries.)

I don’t remember much else from the book aside from Poor Poet’s Chicken (p. 113), and a dish I never cared for called Hog and Hominy (p.76). I am grateful Mom never attempted the dish in the introduction on page 10: Cats’lleatit. “Cat’slleatit,” the author says, “is manufactured from equal parts of heart, liver, tongue, kidney, sweetbreads, and/or brains (eater’s choice) along with a handful each of dried salt pork and sliced onions. And a clove or two of garlic for those who like it.”

Sorry, but a vat of dark chocolate, for those who like it, won’t get me near that one.

But, back to the bread.


(Important note: this is an old book, and therefore has a peculiar type face that tends to make threes look like fives at smaller resolutions. It may not look it, but that does indeed say “bake for about 45 minutes at 350°”)

If I’d been thinking clearly when I wrote up my childhood memories post, Irish Soda Bread would have been near the top of the list. Those crisp fall days when I came home from school to the smell of freshly-baked bread in the kitchen were the best ever. Tea time was a mandatory occurrence at our house and I’d even give up a stack of soda crackers and a rerun of Gilligan’s Island if I could sit at the table with my parents and eat Irish Soda Bread so fresh that the butter melted on contact. (Yes, this bread is meant to be devoured warm and if you’re hungry enough, it’ll be gone before it hits room temperature!)

Fairhaven Flour
Delicious fine grain whole wheat bread flour from the Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Bellingham, Washington. Discovered during the Eat Local Challenge!

Now, I don’t make this often, and since we’ve a rather small and (say it with me now) Messy Kitchen, there’s not much room for actual baking. So, I have to improvise. On days when I’m thinking straight, I’ll move the bread board over to the dining room table and work there. It’s a little low for counter-work, but it gives me the space I need to get messy. And I do get messy.

See, I like to make this stuff the old-fashioned way. Or maybe it’s just the bizarre Mrs. D way, who knows, but when the recipe calls for just combining all ingredients and working on a board, I do just that, starting with all the dry ingredients in a big mound. I then turn my lovely flour mountain into something more resembling Crater Lake, and pour the mixed-up wet stuff into the middle. At this point, with extra flour close at hand, I work it all together until the sticky mess becomes a nice round lump of dough.

irish soda bread

That is, if I remember to move the bread board to the table and set out the extra flour.

Last time, I didn’t.

The tragic results were as follows:

First, I misjudged the amount of wet stuff to pour into the middle, and Crater Lake sprouted Crater Creek, which soon turned into Crater Falls right off the edge of the counter and onto Crater Swamp.

Second, since the “additional 3/4 cup of flour” was still in the flour bag, my dam-building attempts were less than successful, and I ended up jostling the bread board around on the counter, thus resulting in this woeful casualty of war:

oh woe my broken grinder

Oh, beloved pepper grinder, we hardly knew ye.

Third. Well there wasn’t exactly a third, except I had to holler at Mom (across the room) to come over and dump some flour onto the board because otherwise this was going to be one big colossal waste of ingredients.

Amazingly, after all the chaos, I ended up with this:

irish soda bread

And it tasted good. And we ate almost all of it before it reached room temperature.

irish soda bread