Monday: not as good as it should be, not as bad as it could be.

January 11, 2010 at 9:15 am | Posted in food, life | 5 Comments

I got to my office this morning and realized that I did not have my mug of coffee. My 32 ounce cup of organic, fair trade, locally roasted, freshly ground coffee made in my french press … it was gone. I must have left it on my kitchen counter. Even worse, I had some before I left my house, and that coffee tasted good.

That description makes me sound like such a coffee snob, and I am, though I’m not as bad as some. For instance, when having a breakfast at the local greasy spoon I’ll drink a cup of diner coffee and ask for a refill with a smile. I’m not as picky about my coffee as I am about my beer, for example. I’ll drink water before Bud. (Unless I’m a guest at someone’s house who drinks it. When in Rome, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.)

So it wasn’t as if I couldn’t get a cup of Maxwell House in the lunch room, it’s just that I took the time to make it and now it’s wasted. Wasted coffee … wasted *good* coffee, and wasted time.

The hell with that. I’m only 5-10 minutes away from home anyway, and I realized my lack of coffee just as I reached my office so I know that cup of coffee’s still hot. It’s a pain in the neck, but I’ll go and save the good coffee. Also, sometimes when you have to put extra effort into something it adds something akin to a feeling of accomplishment. Almost a righteous feeling. Like the kind of feeling you get from choosing to not take the easy way out, fixing your mistake, cleaning up after your own mess … that sort of thing.

So I put my coat back on, grabbed my keys, went out across the frozen parking lot to my car and what do I see? Lo and behold, there in the cupholder was my cup of organic, fair trade, locally roasted, freshly ground coffee brewed in my french press, still hot my favorite 32 ounce to-go mug.

Vindication! Sometimes you get rewarded for choosing to not take the easy way out, without having to actually do the extra work you were going to do. Definitely a righteous feeling.

Damn, this coffee tastes good!

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More cooking

October 18, 2009 at 10:36 am | Posted in family, food | 4 Comments

It’s stew season! Last week we altered a BC (Betty Crocker, from the plaid cookbook) recipe. It called for butternut squash, but one squash gave us more than double the amount of squash called for! One of the reasons we like this particular recipe is that it has red wine.

I don’t have the recipe in front of me, but here’s a brief sketch. Brown a pound of stew meat in oil and drain it. Then simmer it in a cup or two of red wine, a couple of minced cloves of garlic, a cup or two of broth, and some spices (thyme, oregano, salt, pepper) for about 20 minutes. Then add 4 to 6 cups of stew veggies cut into 3/4 inch cubes (we added onions, garlic, butternut squash, and celery) and simmer for 1/2 hour or until the veggies are cooked. Then take 1/3 cup of plain unsweetened yogurt and 3 Tbsp flour mixed together with some of the broth and mix it in. Stir it in and let it simmer some more to thicken it, and it’s done.

The red wine and yogurt are really the only things that make this recipe different from your basic stew. We’ll often do this sort of thing in a crock pot and let it cook slowly the entire day. When it’s done in a crock pot, we put the meat on the very bottom so it cooks relatively quickly. The meat should be relatively low in fat, or trimmed of fat, since you won’t have a chance to drain the fat as in the above stove-top method. Then the onions and garlic go right on top of that so their (relatively strong) flavors get the most chance to cook into the stew. Then everything else. Do this in the morning (you can cut the veggies the night before), turn on the crock pot for eight or so hours on low, and you come back from work to an awesome meal.

Last night Jenny & I made an apple pie. Straight out of BC, but I substituted unsalted butter for shortening. I almost ruined the pie crust, though. I added way too much water. I used all the tricks that Morgan from the co-op gave me, but I added too much water. It was way too sticky, and it was sticking to the wax paper like crazy even though I sprinkled the wax paper liberally with flour before rolling. When I finally got it into the pie plate, it was all holey. So I just gathered it all up, formed it into a ball again, added a few more Tbsp of flour, and it was fine. *whew!* I got lucky.

I also made my second attempt at a lattice top. The last one I made was too tightly woven; you couldn’t even see the apple filling underneath! I wove this one more loosely, and you can see the apples inside. It was bubbling over at the very end (smokey!), and when I took it out of the oven I decided to tip the pie and drain some of the liquid. I was thinking this would make the pie not quite so wet, so the slices would hold their shape better. I hope it doesn’t turn out too dry. Even if it does, we’ll just have to serve it with ice cream FTW!

My next food post will probably be about sauerkraut and sauerbraten. Kurt gave me a fantastic sauerbraten recipe back in college, but my Dad’s side of the family has been making suaerbraten since before I was born. So I’ll probably have to do both recipes and compare them to make a final judgement as to which will be “my” recipe.

*Post edited to incorporate Jenny’s corrections to stew recipe*

I cooked.

October 4, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Posted in food | 4 Comments

Here’s what I came up with. It’s a mixture of a couple of recipes, most notably this one. I think it worked.

Polenta-stuffed tomatoes, peppers, squash, … whatever.

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 chile peppers, diced… Read More
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 15-oz. can of black (or pinto or kidney) beans
1 cup dry polenta
3 cups water (or chicken broth)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 large tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook polenta in watter (or chicken broth). Cut open the tops of the tomatoes, scoop out the insides and set aside. Cut a very thin slice off bottoms of tomatoes so they sit without rolling. Saute the onions, peppers, garlic and spices for 4 minutes in olive oil. Add beans and the tomato insides; cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Add polenta and parmesan cheese and mix. Stuff tomatoes and top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 15 minutes and serve. Serves 4.

There will be plenty of leftover stuffing. Stuff 4 hollowed out bell peppers and bake for 40-50 minutes, or stuff cooked acorn squash and top with cheddar cheese. (To cook acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise, place inside down on greased oven pan and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F or until soft. Scoop out seeds when cooked.) Bake stuffed squash for 5 minutes if everything is still hot, or 10-15 minutes if filling or squash was allowed to cool.

Houston, the ice sculptures have melted.

February 22, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Posted in canada, food, life, wine | 3 Comments

This weekend Jenny and I took a nice trip to Ottawa to see what was left of Winterlude. The only ice sculptures we saw were half melted and falling apart, but we had a nice time anyway. Due to leaving late and rearranging our plans on the fly, we didn’t get to skate on the Rideau canal. Next time.

Instead we had very good, long, relaxed dinner at Le Twist across the river in Gatineau. It was very good, but it wasn’t great. I don’t even know if I would expend energy to go back there. Its looks were nothing special, and the lamb burgers, though tasty, were a bit small. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t avoid the place if we were in the neighborhood again.

I think part of why my experience was so good was that Jenny and I were kind of snipping at each other all day, having left later than we’d planned and being hungry, and when we got there and relaxed and had a glass of wine and some food in our tummies, everything just got better. We started talking easier and laughing more, and it finally felt like we were on a little vacation together.

And though the food was slow to come, the appetizer was quick, and our waitress was nice and formally served our bottle of wine. It was an Argentinian red wine, a Marcus James Tempranillo; I don’t remember the vintage. A nice wine. Nothing to write home about (though apparently good enough to blog about), but I will look for it at the wine shop next time we go.

The Tombs Of Eternity exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization was pretty cool, as was the accompanying IMAX film about the mummies. Then we hung out at By Ward Square market, found our new favorite Irish pub, the Heart And Crown, and had dinner at our favorite sushi place, Wasabi.

All in all, a nice break from the day to day, or for that matter, the week to week.

If you live in/by NYC

May 8, 2008 at 6:42 am | Posted in food | 2 Comments

This Friday, 5-9-08, Legendary Magpie Mead will be pouring a free tasting at
The Heights Chateau
123 Atlantic Avenue
From 5-8 pm

Mead in NYC

April 10, 2008 at 2:49 pm | Posted in food | Leave a comment

Remember when we talked about mead? Well, Magpie will be doing free tastings in New York City! Here’s the email I got from him today.

Greetings My Friends!
Magpie Mead will be pouring at:
The Greene Grape Downtown 55 Liberty Street New York, NY 10005 This Friday, 4/11/2008 5-7 PM
The Greene Grape -Brooklyn 765 Fulton Street Brooklyn, NY 11217 This Saturday, 4/12/08 5-7 PM
Come in for a free tasting during this time! Perfect excuse to invite your friends from out of the area to come visit you in the city. Be well
Magpie

I won’t be there; I will be in Syracuse at a Math conference. But if you are anywhere near the city, you should go! Best mead ever. You won’t be sorry!

What do you think of mead?

February 29, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Posted in food | 10 Comments

I like mead. I do. Well, ok, I like lots of different liqueurs, beer; I’ve even enjoyed red wine recently on a regular basis. But I’ve liked mead for a long time. For almost 20 years now, since shortly after I went to my first renaissance faire. (Thanks, Shannon.)

But mead has stuck with me. And I’ve found an excellent local brewer, Magpie. Yes, the name of the website is, “Legendary Magpie Mead.” Yes, he’s a little full of himself, but dammit, he’s right! His mead is just the best I’ve ever had. No qualifiers. No, “well, it’s hard to say since I’ve tasted so many meads in my lifetime.” No. It’s really just the best. And this is about 20 years after the newness of mead first entranced me. I’m no starry-eyed pup with virgin tastebuds. This stuff is the real deal. And if you guys who have known me long enough to say, “That’s a strong endorsement from the king of understatement,” consider that I just may still be understating how superior this mead is.

Ok, I’m done gushing.

Anyway, this all came up because of an article by Nicholas Day about the recent popularity (?) of mead. Ok, the local wine shop these days always has at least (at most?) one bottle of Chaucer’s, the Ernest & Julio Gallo of mead. His main point is that, though you can find it at many farmers markets alongside the beekeepers hawking their various exotic strains of honey, mead hasn’t earned a place on the dinner table. It’s just not acidic enough, he says. Well, perhaps. If I enjoy mead, it’s generally after dinner, perhaps with a non-chocolate dessert. I agree that I have yet to find a mead and a meal that I can honestly believe is a good pairing. But that is at least partly because I haven’t really looked.

I’ll tell you this, though … the first place I’d look is Magpie.

Christmas in Montreal

December 30, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Posted in canada, food, life | 3 Comments

The most wonderful time of the year. Well, it was pretty darn good. We had family over for Thanksgiving (Part 1, Part 2), so this holiday was fairly low key, just the two of us. We got presents for each other, and we got presents from generous relatives. I’m a little upset since some of our presents for them haven’t gone out yet due to shipping delays. One package’s tracking information shows as having arrived at Syracuse on 12/20 on its way here, and it just stopped there. The company offered to send a new one, but I would think they’d rather find out where the old one went to?! Anyway, that’s a different story.

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home hanging out and playing games. Jenny got me a model kit with three different Starship Enterprises! That will be fun.

The following two days were spent in Montreal! That was a nice trip. Highlights include a nice basic room at Auberge le jardin d’Antoine (complete with a nice last-minute-online-booking discount!), fantastic crepes across the street at Cafe Croissant De Lune, stupendous vegetarian Vietnamese food at Chu Chai (well, Chuch, actually), dessert at Juliette & Chocolat, visits to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Écomusée du fier monde, and last but not least, the discovery of Cafe Pi! They sell fair trade coffee and organic desserts, and they have a lot of chess sets available. Two people were playing when we went in. I’m rather rusty with my chess personally. But the idea is still great. I got a shirt and a mug! Oh, and Jenny got a fancy arty tea cup at a boutique named ARTHÉ. She adores it, and it’s so her.

It was a good trip. If you want to go to a foreign country where they speak a different language, it’s a pretty easy introduction. French is the first language spoken there, but in the big city of Montreal, just about everyone is bilingual except for the English-only speakers. Everyone starts speaking French, but after it’s evident you don’t speak French, they automatically switch to English. Having said that, I’m told it’s generally appreciated if you make some effort. I do the minimum of, when someone starts speaking to me in French, I look vaguely apologetic and say, “Je ne parle pas français,” (I don’t speak French) and if they can speak English, they do. I also say oui, s’il vous plaît, merci, … yeah, that’s about it. But I’m told a little effort smooths the wheels, and we had no problems. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I’m much more relaxed about going to Montreal. I do plan on learning a little more French. And I think it would be fun to understand a bit more French than I let on; maybe I can catch someone talking about me behind my back in front of me.

Makes me want to tell General Mills to go Bake Off

December 10, 2007 at 10:05 am | Posted in food, local | 7 Comments

The Potsdam Food Co-op, who has been running its Holiday Bake Off for 10 years to benefit a local food bank, the Potsdam Neighborhood Center, has to change the name. Apparently, Pillsbury owns the word “Bake-Off,” and threatened legal action if they didn’t stop using the term immediately. In fact, Pillsbury didn’t even contact the co-op, they did it through the local community paper, North Country This Week. And they did it only a week before this year’s event, after deadlines for advertising submissions had passed, even though they knew about the co-op’s use of the term for a year. Registered trademark or not, that’s rude.

Here is the story in North Country This Week. NPR picked up the story, too.

Thanksgiving: part 2

December 1, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Posted in food, house, life | 5 Comments

After the second shift of Thanksgiving dinner, Mike wanted to take a look at things. For those who don’t know him, I have to tell you he can fix anything. Anything that moves, and anything that doesn’t move, he can fix it. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, electronic devices, mechanical devices, all parts of a house from the foundation to the structure to the electrical, and yes, the plumbing!

So we went down in the basement, and in about ten seconds, he figured out where the clog was. Apparently somebody put a reducer (from 1 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ pipe) on a horizontal section. Also, there was black PVC mixed with white PVC. I don’t know why that last one is bad, but Mike was sure of it. Furthermore, there was a section wrapped in duct tape. The removal of said duct tape revealed that the pipe had been cut, and never reattached! Apparently this clog has happened before, so we took advantage of the cut and made a makeshift snake with a wire hanger. Soon afterward, the washing of dinner dishes commenced.

By this time, it was time for dessert. The pies were a big hit, as were the liqueurs. Especially the coffee liqueur! Apparently I didn’t ruin it as I feared; it’s darn tasty! Imagine what it will be like when I don’t screw up the recipe. During dessert, Mike made a shopping list. He had a goal that such a clog would never happen again. After planning the plumbing coup, we watched the Mad About You Thanksgiving episode. The rest of the night was spent with Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, turkey sandwiches, and homemade hooch.

The next morning, Mike tackled the plumbing. To make a long story short, we went to the hardware store and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon in the basement. Well, to be honest, I switched between helping him and working in the kitchen. Max helped also, probably more than I did. All of the pipe from the sink to the copper leading into the sewer output pipe is new, and now the horizontal section runs slightly downhill. I felt bad though, because they had to rush off right after he finished. We packed a few turkey sandwiches for them for the road. Next time, I swear, we’re going to spend time just hanging out.

After the plumbing angel of mercy and his posse left, we hung out with Jenny’s family. We all played rummy and Apples To Apples, which is a fantastic game if you’ve never played it. More Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, more pie, more liqueur. Yum.

The rest of the guests left early the next morning, and Jenny & I cleaned up. I spent most of the day clearing out the garage, making room for the car and getting rid of the piled up cardboard recycling. We can get the car in, but one of the springs is busted. I’ve known about it for a while, and I was going to get Mike’s advice on it while he was here, but the plumbing issues screwed that up. I found where the local hardware store stocks replacement springs, and I might try to do that one of these weekends. If we can get the garage door working, I want to get an automatic garage door opener. I’m find with shoveling the driveway, but not having to clean off the car every time we want to use it would be lovely!

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing. Now I’m swamped with work because of it. (*heavy sigh*)

So, this Thanksgiving was the best Thanksgiving involving a clogged drain we could have hoped for. 🙂 Come on by this holiday season. We still have egg liqueur and coffee liqueur, and it’s still yummy!

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