Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sayonara, September

Oh, will you look at that? Baby 'mater plants with their very first "true" leaves. This is almost as exciting as when the kidlets sprouted their first teeth. I'm so proud.

I'm also terribly nervous. Because now it's time to thin them out. Yes, "them." You can't tell in that photo but there are actually five tiny plantlets there. The strange thing is, I only planted three seeds. [blink blink] So what have I got here? Two sets of twins? In any case, all but one plant must go. I cringe to think about it. I'm convinced no matter which ones I toss, the one I choose as healthiest is gonna turn around, give me the raspberry, and flop dead before my very eyeballs.

I did mention to y'all that I was going to attempt some indoor container gardening didn't I? Toward that goal, I scooped up some of those compressed peat disks that swell up when soaked with water. September 13th I carefully sowed the grape tomato babies pictured above, some incredibly tiny - practically microscopic - seeds of spearmint, a couple of Orange Jasmine seeds and two kinds of chili pepper: Thai Yellow and Lemon Drop.

The 'maters came up first, bless their vigorous little hearts, and the mint -- with little leaves not much bigger than those minuscule seeds -- showed up next. The Lemon Drop popped its first leaves out yesterday and the Thai Yellow is just starting to show a bowed stem. It should do the pop-up tomorrow, I think. As for the Jasmine, I'm not even guessing about them. I understand germination is iffy and often lengthy so I'll just wait and see.

The plants should have all felt cozy and safe today. Well, they would have if they'd been tall enough to peek out the window. Today brought the first storm of the season. Not a serious one but certainly one that meant business. Plenty of rain off and on -- same for the wind. I hadn't realized how many leaves had turned to their fall colors until I looked out the window this afternoon and saw how the wind had tossed them hither and yon along the streets and verges. It looked like someone had flung thousands of golden doubloons all over the place. Boy, I wish!

And my Raiders won their game this morning, please let me shout it out. That makes me hugely happy, in spite of the fact that an inordinate number of other teams let me down. My weekly picks total is simply pitiful. You just can't trust those durned football players, you know? It must be those tight Spandex pants cutting off the circulation to their brains.

I had to say that. I haven't had any chocolate today so my Nice quotient is on the low side.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Quick Fix In A Mug

This has been a long day of waiting. Seems I'm long overdue for some Microsoft downloads, which I hadn't noticed because I've been using Firefox as a browser. Today, because I needed to download a program that allowed me to view Excel files from versions newer than mine, I also had to update the Service Packs. Oh woe.

I do not believe these people in Redmond. I mean, they have to peek into the innards of your computer so they'll know what you need to download, right? So they lined up the three packages I needed and assured me that with the connection I had, it should take less than a minute.

Excuse me? They can't tell I'm on dial-up? Really? Just one of the three downloads I'm supposed to have was 108MB. My connection speed averages 5k/sec -- and that's when it's running hot! It took almost six hours to get all those megabytes in the barn! One minute, my ass-terisk.

Somewhere in the middle of all that download angst I got an overwhelming urge for a quick chocolate fix. Now, I have succumbed to that temptation more than once, whupping up a batch of wonderful brownies or maybe a couple dozen cookies. Unless I'm able to share the bounty with others, invariably the better part of the goodies goes to waste. What I needed was something large in satisfaction and small in volume. The thought of cake in a coffee mug, nuked in the microwave, floated across my inner vision.

Ah, no. I've done that. Microwave "baked" goodies just don't quite get it. No. I don't want to do that.

I fidgeted. I casually browsed along with Google, pretending I wasn't really looking at the recipes for cake in a mug. Just slumming, you know? Then there was this one site with photos of different experimental cakes. She used plastic freezer containers but I don't think that's a good idea. Still, there didn't seem to be any reason why the same recipes couldn't work in mugs.

If I was going to do that, I mean. Not that I was.

Then there was another choccy cake in a mug recipe that looked to be in just the right proportions for a quick fix. I mean, if it turned out as bad as I remembered that sort of thing, I wouldn't have wasted much. On the other hand, if I got lucky, my jones for choccy would be temporarily appeased and I would be fit for human company again.

So I sort of mixed and matched a couple of different recipes and techniques and went for the gusto. One thing I think I can dispense with next time -- although some recipes say to use a loose lid or covering, I would suggest not. The first minute I forgot the lid, so I put it on for the second minute -- and that's when my cake ran over. Screw the lid, okay?

The mug I used is actually a soup bowl that holds about 1 and 2/3 cups of whatever. I'm not sure how much batter I got out of this recipe but I might have been better served to divide it between 2 smaller mugs. In any case, this is how it goes:

Lightly oil or butter the inside of your mug(s). In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or melted butter), 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup brewed coffee. Whisk together well. Add 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 4 heaping tablespoons baking cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix together just until blended. (One source said if you beat the batter too much, you get rubbery cake from the microwave.) Pour the batter into the mug(s) and microwave 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. You'll have to experiment with your own setup. I continued to nuke it in 30-second increments for a total of 3 1/2 minutes and it was perfect. In spite of the run over. With 2 mugs going simultaneously, it might take longer. Or not.

I was amazed at the result. Not just the flavor -- which was great -- but the texture. It was firm but softly fluffy. It was moist without being gooshy. The part that sort of ran over looks raw but is really a bit on the fudgey side so it's like have just a touch of frosting. Which you don't need. The cake is fine, bare-nekkid-nude. And the amount is perfect for me. I munched away at half of it over the course of the afternoon. I'll probably finish it off in the wee hours. And nothing will go to waste.

Gee, I like happy surprises like that. It will sustain me as I wearily continue with the Download From Hell tonight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Has Breaked My Brain

I really have. Broken my brain, I mean. There are those who would say (unkindly) that first one has to have something to break. I will just say that whatever it is that sloshes around inside the hollow bony thing mounted atop my neck -- whatever is in there, it's been tinkling a bit like broken glass. If I tilt my head just right, I'd swear there are tiny metal ball bearings rolling around loose, clicking and rumbling.

Two activities are the cause of this most recent brain strain. One is too much concentrated perusal of political writing. The other is too much concentrated effort at deciphering the arcane intricacies of Excel.

On the politickin' stuff: I have never been particularly politically inclined. Most folks don't have the kind of time necessary to do any serious, in-depth study of the field and, truth be told, I have come to doubt there's all that much truth being told anywhere you look, listen or read. But I've been trying really hard to educate myself. I've read on the left. I've read on the right. I've burrowed down the middle and dug underneath. The unescapable conclusion so far?

The inmates really ARE running the place! All over the world!

This worries me. I've taken to muttering a lot. And twitching. The phrase I most often use lately is, "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot," which is a sanitized version of "WTF?" which is my legitimate reaction to the insanity laid before us in all seriousness.

As for Excel, at least when it makes me crazy, I don't fear for the obliteration of civilization as we know it. Learning to make and use a spreadsheet is a comfortable kind of craziness. One that really does have a worthwhile goal and doesn't harm living creatures in the process. I can even reward myself with chocolate when the occasional light dawns. Yay! Let's hear it for the Light!

I realize I am probably the last person in the world to finally begin learning about spreadsheets. To give you a clue, I finally broke down and got a software program -- uh -- four years ago. Excel 2003. To help me learn to use it, I also got "Excel 2003 For Dummies" and "Teach Yourself Visually Excel 2003."

The problem is, I've never had a particular reason to use a spreadsheet. At least, none I was aware of. Enthusiasts tell me they're the handiest tool since the flathead screwdriver but that doesn't exactly inspire me when I've all too often used table knives or dimes or fingernail files when sans screwdriver.

But this fall, for whatever reason, the beginning of NFL football season and a burning desire to manipulate picks and stats have melded in a program of total immersion in Excel. Boy, what I can do with cells now! And once I've tackled Function Junction, the free world will never be the same.

But I'm going to have to take a break tonight. To heal my brain break. Went to the library this afternoon and came home with some more books. Before I could stop myself, I'd grabbed a couple more damned political books but, thank God, I think the rest are murder mysteries. I'll just tuck in and start one of those. Good for what ails you, murder mysteries are. Trust me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aunt Della's Unexpected Dills

While exploring the world of pickle potential in my Googlemobile, I found one site where the blog owner asked readers for favorite refrigerator pickle recipes. The response that charmed me came from a woman who said, simply, "I always use Aunt Della's recipe," and she laid it out for everyone. It called for 1 cup mayo, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Slice in 1 large cucumber. Keep in covered container in refrigerator.

Okay. That's just about exactly the same mixture I was taught to use when making traditional cole slaw dressing -- except I was taught to go heavier on the sugar and vinegar. And I had one regular green cuke in the basket. And I was pretty sure Aunt Della wouldn't mind if I dilled up her recipe. See, it tastes pretty good the way Aunt Della lays it out and, to my mind, tastes even better when I jack up the sugar and vinegar portions. Still, something was lacking.

Aha! As I munched away at a dressing-coated slice of cuke, my gaze fell upon the bottle of McCormick's "It's A Dilly" seasoning. This is good stuff, Coffee Mates. A salt-free mixture of onion, garlic, dill weed, lemon peel, dill seed, and jalapeno pepper. (Don't worry -- I think they just waved the jalapeno pepper in the general direction of the mixture because I sure can't taste any.) I sprinkled a generous portion into Aunt Della's dressing, mixed everything up good and sampled another cuke dripping with the thick and now dill-speckled dressing.

Oh yeah. Oh, this is righteous. It is. During the early football games, I had a most excellent sandwich that consisted of a layer of cukes, a layer of cheddar, and another layer of cukes. Although the dressing is thick, it really is a good idea to eat the sandwich over a plate because it's messy, messy, messy. Good stuff often is, have you noticed?

Now for the report on the pickles I packed away yesterday. I'm happy to tell you they turned out pretty close to perfect. Okay, fairly close. Well, they would have probably been fantastic if my grandson James -- who is a Steelers fan but otherwise a great kid -- hadn't been laying some serious smack on my Raiders just as I was sprinkling the dried chili peppers into the pickle mixture. I vaguely remember thinking the chili was old so maybe not as robust as fresh so I should probably use a bit more. Mostly, though, I was concentrating on defending my gridiron guys so there was, perhaps, not quite as much attention paid to detail as there should have been.

What I'm saying is, when I sampled the pickles this morning, they were crunchy and tasty and crispy and -- HOLY FLAMETHROWER, BATMAN!

I think there are only skid marks where my tonsils used to be but I'm afraid to look. Needless to say, I have performed emergency procedures to alleviate the crisis. First I drained the pickles and then I rinsed the bejaysus out of 'em. Then I dumped them in a bowl and covered them with equal parts cider vinegar and water, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Put everything back in the freezer bag and returned it to the refrigerator. I just checked -- the procedure was successful. Although the pickles still generate heat, now it's merely Pleasantly Toasty instead of Raging Inferno From the Third Ring of Hell.

The final pickle procedure of the day was a far more sedate sort of production and is pictured below. In a small saucepan, put 1 cup water, 1 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup wine vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer four minutes. Thinly slice 2 or 3 cucumbers (a couple of cups?) and put in container. Slowly pour hot liquid over cukes, filling to the top. Let cool to room temperature, top off with remaining liquid (if any) and keep covered in refrigerator.

Okay, the thing is, with refrigerator pickles, you're not supposed to leave them sitting there forever, the way you can do a jar of pickles that has been seriously processed, either commercially or at home. Which is why most refrigerator pickle recipes are for small quantities that, theoretically, can be consumed in a couple or three weeks. And I now have one small batch of the sneaky hot pickles, one small batch of the sedate pickles and a dilly of a bowl of Aunt Della's pickles.

And I still have some cucumbers left.

Well, guess what? You can also make freezer pickles! These can be kept up to 6 months in the freezer but should be consumed in a week or so after being thawed in the refrigerator. Which means one should freeze them in small portions, correct? Okay. I've got a couple of recipes lined up for freezer pickles but haven't decided which one is gonna make the cut. In the meantime, here are a couple of links that might interest anyone wanting to pickle any excess produce. This one, for instance, is a Yahoo Directory of 15 links to pickle sites. One of which is my guy, Alton Brown. If that's not enough for you, venture over to Hungry Monster for an unbelievable list of 286 pickle recipes. That'll keep you from playing in traffic!

Now if you'll kindly excuse me, there is an evening football game to entertain me as I munch on some more of Aunt Della's Unexpected Dills. To which I'm going to add some cherry tomatoes -- just because I can.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pucker Up!

Well, you know, I do love a good pickle, especially in my sandwich fixin's. So today, when youngest dotter, Patti, brought me a batch of lemon cukes from their bumper crop, I thought, "Gee, there must be an easy way to pickle these puppies." Because, you also know, I like my food preparation to be fast and easy. All that muss and fuss with regular canning is simply not on my list of Things I'm Eager To Do.

Nothing for it, then, but to Google for the appropriate refrigerator pickle recipe. I can't tell you I've got a bingo on it yet because the pickles have only been in the refrigerator for an hour or so. They sure smell good, though. And, Lord knows, they were definitely fast and easy.

This is one of those gigs where you play the amounts by ear. I made enough to fill a 1-quart freezer bag so you take it from there. In this case, 2 of the lemon cucumbers, lattice-sliced, were enough to do the job.

The recipe I found calls for 2 cups water and 1/3 cup vinegar. At that point, Patti and grandson James assured me a friend had told my son-in-law, Roger, to just use straight vinegar -- no water at all. "Are you sure?" I asked. "Absolutely. Roger says they taste great and they 'pickle' quicker." Hmmm. Okay. Whuddahey. If the vinegar comes across too strong, water can always be added later. I merrily splashed in enough vinegar to just cover the cuke slices in the bowl. Pucker power, that's what I say.

Then I added 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, approximately 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about a teaspoon of dill and probably another teaspoon of dried chili peppers. Gave it a good stir and had James hold the plastic bag while I spooned everything in. It just fit.

So it's doing its pickling thing as we speak and sometime tomorrow I'll give it the first taste test. Might want to add a bit more of this or that or the other thing. On the other hand, I might want to call the Poison Control Center. I'll let you know.

On another front, more fun and games with the water gel crystals. I loaded another 1-quart freezer bag with hydrated crystals and designated it as my homemade heat/cold pack. First I nuked it, 30 seconds at a time, until it reached what seemed to be the appropriate temperature. The final total was 2 minutes but if you do this, I recommend the 30-second segments because different microwaves do things at different speeds, okay?

I have this terrycloth bag made from a kitchen towel that is the perfect size to use as a comfort cover for the pack. Forgot to note the time but the pack held its heat for a good hour I think. Once it completely cooled down, I tossed it in the freezer. It freezes up just beautifully and, once again, slipped into the terrycloth cover, it performs perfectly.

This is a comfort to me. If I strain myself fixing pickles, I already have the healing heat/cold pack in place, ready to go. You can see it below, in its cold mode. Schweet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gellin' With The Taz

It wouldn't be difficult to believe that's a photo of a delicious new drink, perfect for a hot summer afternoon on the patio or maybe for Sunday brunch instead of the usual Mimosa.

It's not.

Okay. Maybe it's a new Margarita-flavored Jello?

Nope. Not that, either.

What it is, is just about the most amazing thang I've seen in a long time. Imagine a tablespoon of little bitty crystals no bigger than the crystals of sea salt you get in the grinder bottle from Trader Joe's. In fact, that's exactly what they look like so I'd better make sure the packet is stored in a well-labeled container. I'd hate for anyone to mistakenly sprinkle them on their eggs and swallow them. They're not at all toxic but moisture does something else entirely to the little rascals.

What you do is, you put 'em in a big bowl and pour in a couple of quarts of water. Come back in a couple of hours and shake your head in utter disbelief because now the bowl is filled with what looks like rough chunks of ice and feels like gelatin. And there's no water left.

There might have been if I'd added the three quarts of water the instructions said to use, explaining that I should drain off the excess after two hours. But I didn't really believe those itty bitty granules were going to even soak up the two quarts, never mind the three. Oh ye of little faith! Now do you see why I wouldn't want anyone to swallow them? Zowie! Needless to say, the manufacturers stress you should never put them down your plumbing. House or personal.

So what am I gonna do with them? Well, for starters, house plants. These magical little crystals have been around for quite awhile, actually. You've probably heard of them before. Maybe some of you have used them. To over-simplify, they're highly absorbent polymer crystals. There are different formulations for different purposes, I understand. For me, it will be the plants first and some fun crafty stuff later.

For instance, some plants can be grown in a container with nothing but the hydrated crystals. The roots can access the moisture they need as they need it. You can include fertilizer in the water when you hydrate the crystals so the plants get that, too. Think of them as chunky little water reservoirs. As they give up their load of moisture, they begin to shrink back to the original size. Just add more water and they plump up again.

Another way to use them is to mix the hydrated crystals in with the potting soil. Not only do you not have to water as often, the expansion and contraction of the crystals keeps the soil aerated. At least, that's what they claim. We'll see. I've got all kinds of plant experiments lined up. For instance, in one small pot full of just the chunks of gel, I'm hoping to start a chunk of ginger. That may or may not take no matter how I do it so I figured, whuddahey. I've also got some assorted seeds about to germinate in those little expanding peat disc-thingies and I'm thinking to insert them in either straight gel or mixed dirt and gel once the seedlings have a little muscle to them.

The big thing I did today, though, was to repot The Taz. I haven't introduced you yet, mainly because I just met ol' Taz my own self. I was over at the feed store to pick up a bag of chow for Ralph and wandered around in the outside plant section while I was waiting. Sitting in a corner looking bedraggled and forlorn was a pot labeled Tasmania Vine-pink, or Billardiera longiflora. It had a few small pink berries on it and lots of dead vines poking out but it was valiantly trying to maintain. "Take me," it whimpered. "Please give me a home."

Well. How could I turn my back on such a pitiful plea? Taz came home with me and the cat chow and I spent an hour at the dining table, carefully clipping away the dead stuff. Then I said, "Brace yourself, Taz. I'll try to be gentle with you." Before he could object, I ruthlessly yarded him out of his pot. It was as I expected -- the poor guy was totally rootbound.

Not any more. I got his roots all worked out loose and mixed the soil with a generous helping of the gel crystals and repotted him in a nice new home. Re-tied him to his bamboo pole with some strips of sexy black panty hose and set him in the window. You know, I think he's already looking much happier. At least, that's what I tell myself. Just in case, I'm going to try to start some seeds from one of his berries, which is supposed to be easy when the berries are fresh.

I hope he makes it, though. Come spring, he's supposed to put out fragrant yellow blossoms which will turn into edible berries in late summer and early fall. Some sources say the berries taste mildly apple-like but the implication is that it's nothing to get excited about. One fellow said the berries are good fried, though. Hmmm ... Anyway, that's how the plant gets one of its names -- appleberry vine.

I won't do a full-body shot until he's looking less bedraggled but below is a closeup shot of one of his berries. They're not very big -- the largest is no bigger than a cranberry. Maybe he'll be feeling good enough next season to produce bigger ones. We'll see.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


There should be a glorious photo in this spot. If it existed, it should send your salivary glands into instant overtime. You would have liked that, really you would.

So what do you get instead? My version of the Blond Moment, the Oh, Duh syndrome. Because I took the glorious photo of which I spaketh above. And then I ate-eth up that which I photographed. And then, when I went to prepare the photo for this post, I found I had rushed things a bit in my eagerness to partake of the bounty and the picture was disgustingly blurred. And now it's too late to do anything about it.

But don't take my word for the fact that the dish I'm about to lay on you is nothing short of fantastic. It's also fast and easy so you'll have a ball whuppin' up a batch for your own self. This is actually two separate recipes that I ran across when I was looking for inspiration to use up all that orange juice the family left with me when their vacation was up. You can call it whatever you want but I call it:


Part One: Orange Rice. Use a heavy sauce pan that has a lid. Drop in 3 tablespoons of butter and let it melt over medium heat. Dump in a 1/2 cup of finely diced celery, leaves and all, and 2 tablespoons of minced onion. Saute until onion is tender but not brown. Add 3/4 cup water and 1 cup orange juice, 1 teaspoon salt and, if you've got it, 2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel. Bring to a boil and slowly stir in 1 cup of long grain white rice. Immediately turn the heat down to low, put a lid on it, and let it simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. (If you use brown rice, you'll need to cook it more like 45 minutes.)

Part Two: Orange Chicken Stir Fry. Take a nice big boneless, skinless chicken breast and cut it up into little bite-sized pieces. Toss the chicken in a mixture of 2 tablespoons cooking sherry or rice wine and 1 tablespoon corn starch. Let marinate about 30 minutes. While the chicken is doing its thing, in another bowl mix together: 1/3 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil (I used olive oil -- so sue me.), 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon chili paste (or whatever hot sauce you have handy). On the side, mince up 1 clove of garlic and about a teaspoon of fresh ginger. If you want to add any veggies, prepare about a cup of whatever you fancy. I used up the fresh snow peas because they were begging to get into the game. Yay, team.

Okay. The rice should be done. Lift the lid and fluff it a bit with a fork and cover it again. (Don't forget to turn off the heat.) Put a deep frying pan on medium-high heat and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in your garlic and ginger and stir fry a bit. Then toss in the chicken and stir that around until the chicken bits have all turned nice and white. If you decided to include veggies, now is the time to add them. Keep stirring everything around for another minute or two, then shove it all to the sides and pour your orange sauce in the middle. It will start bubbling almost immediately. Stir the chicken and veggies into the sauce and cook for about another minute.

Pile a steaming, aromatic mini-mountain of rice on your plate and then drape a few big spoonsful of the chicken stir fry over it. Sit down at the table with a fork and a napkin. Light a candle for ambiance, pour a glass of wine, remember to acknowledge an Attitude of Gratitude and dig in.

Now, wasn't that easy? And fun? And unbelievably delicious? We should all commit to doing That Orange Stuff more often, that's what.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Widget Fidget

Excuse my yawn. Boy. Sometimes you just can't help it. You either yawn or you bust. This ol' tigger perfectly illustrates my current condition and it's no wonder -- I bailed out of bed somewhere around 5:30 this morning and, in spite of a quickie nap after lunch, the eyelids are getting heavier by the minute.

Not much to tell tonight, anyway. You may have noticed I've changed the decor a bit. That's part of why there was no entry last night -- I spent too much time trying to decide which new template to choose. Actually, that wasn't the worst of it. What took way too long was trying to decide what new widget to place in the sidebar.

I may have been in danger of becoming a widget idjit but, thank heaven, I overdosed on 'em last night so I guess I'm safe. And so are you. You will have noticed the Bluf'r widget is no longer with us. (Sorry, Bonnie.) That's what started the whole thing. It seemed to be on some kind of strike so I decided, whudda hey, it was time for a change anyway.

So, okay, after much judicious perusal of the available supply, I thought perhaps the widget listing screwball ebay auctions would be fun. That lasted, what? Two, three days? Maybe it was okay for those of you with broadband but my wretched dial-up slowed down something fierce with that widget. Took for-flippin'-ever for my silly page to load.

Looking for a suitable replacement was what kept me up late last night -- too late, in fact, to bother posting a new entry. All for naught. It isn't that there aren't plenty of marvelous widgets to choose from. It's that the best ones would slow the page load even more than what I've already used. Phooie. Except for the election countdown widget, I shall remain widgetless. I'm sure I will feel ever so much more virtuous.

Or maybe lighter.


Okay. Less cluttered.

Yep. That'll work.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cabbage Marathon

Okay, I promised to tell you about my cabbage marathon -- like you're waiting with bated breath to hear about it, right? Nod your head and mutter, "Yes." Thank you.

Where were we? Oh, yes -- I had mentioned being in possession of 2 1/2 heads of cabbage. I believe I also mentioned my brother and his wife were here for a 2-week visit. Before they closed up the lake house, they emptied the refrigerator and brought all the remaining food to me -- Old Hollow Leg -- so it wouldn't go to waste. Part of what they brought was 1 1/2 heads of cabbage -- and I already had 1 head. Of cabbage, I mean.

I don't care what anybody says, that's a lot of cabbage for one liddle ol' leddy. Two heads are not only better than one, they're way more. Not that I'm complaining, nope, nossiree. Cabbage is good. I love cabbage. Really. But, gee, how was I going to fix all this cabbage before it spoiled on me?

The first thing I did was to haul out my trusty little V-Slicer and shred every single bit of it. Such a pile of cabbage! Very impressive. I got four rather full quart-sized freezer bags right off the git-go. Then I made the 30-day salad I told you about yesterday. Then, with the remaining cabbage, I made the Grandmother of all veggie soups.

Took my next-to-biggest kettle -- which holds something like six-plus quarts -- and threw in the cabbage. Next came a couple of cups of lattice-cut carrots, a couple of cups of sliced zucchini, one large diced Walla Walla sweet onion, and most of a clump of celery. This might make you blink but it works for me -- I also tossed in a cup of very spicy-hot grape salsa which included cilantro and jalapeno. Didn't need any other seasoning after that. (Wiggling eyebrows wickedly.)

I had made cottage cheese with a quart of buttermilk so I drained off the whey into the pot. Then came, oh, I dunno, probably 6 cups of chicken broth and 1 can of V-8 juice. The last item to go into the pot was 1 cup of uncooked rice.

Brought all that to a boil, then turned it down and put a lid on it so it could cook slow until everything was tender. And it did. And everything was. I had a bowl for dinner and pronounced it sublime.

All of which is fine but it must be noted one bowl hardly makes a dent in that much soup. I was now faced with the logistical problem of portioning out all that good stuff for later consumption and -- lord have mercy -- finding room in the freezer to put it.

Well, if one excavates deeply enough, one can find assorted items that are so far past their Use-By date they could hail from the Jurassic period. I'm not sure how long that half-quart of ice cream has been in there but I think it had fossils in it. And there were all those packets of sauce that come with the frozen stir-fry veggies. I don't know why I save them because I like my own sauce better. Lots of space gained by tossing them.

After much diligent and fairly ruthless effort, I'm happy to report my freezer is now neatly rearranged and all the soup is safely stored and there is even a little room left over for more stuff. Heh, heh ... I'll think of something to cram in there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Crime Prevention

What you see here are cookies, of course. On the back of the Baker's Semi-Sweet baking chocolate box, the recipe is labeled "Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies." They are, I assure you, so completely decadent, depraved and delicious that they could topple empires, cure fourteen different diseases and prevent crime. I don't know what more you could ask from a cookie.

Yes, they will prevent crime. I was ready to put out a hit on Mike Shanahan, coach of the Denver Broncos, for his despicable time-out call a nano-second before See-Bass kicked what would have been the winning field goal in this afternoon's hugely exciting game. As a consequence, the kick was negated, the next try barely missed and the Broncos went on to win in overtime.

Okay. There is a long tradition of "icing" the kicker by calling a timeout just before they get ready to do their thing. The theory is, the longer they have to wait, the more nervous they will be and, possibly, the more likely to miss. But you rarely see the timeout called almost simultaneously with the kick. It just seems -- well -- mean-spirited, you know?

Granted, it might have backfired. It might have been that Janikowski missed the first one and made the second one. Boy, that would have been sweet. Alas, it was not to be and we lost a real heartbreaker. And I was ready to start Googling for hit men. Fortunately for Mr. Shanahan (not to mention me and my own karma), my cookies were done and ever so capable of soothing my bruised feelings and cooling my rage. Just in case you, too, need something to lift your spirit and save you from yourself, here is the recipe.


You'll need two 8-ounce boxes of semi-sweet choccy. I only had one but I also had a pounder-plus of Trader Joe's dark choccy so I used half of it. Anyway, take half of your chocolate and coarsely chop it and set it aside. Take the other half and melt it in the microwave (2 minutes on high should do it), stirring to smooth it out.

Now add 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat it really good with a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. (I really didn't believe that was enough so I made it 1/2 teaspoon.) When that's all mixed in good, add your chopped choccy and 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts. I think I only had 1 cup of nuts but it seemed to be enough. I toasted them before chopping them up because I think they taste better that way.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fairyheight and take a couple of soup spoons to drop dabs of dough on ungreased cookie sheets. The recipe suggests 1/4 cup per cookie and says your yield will be 18. I got 20. Your mileage may vary. Bake the cookies for 14 minutes. When you remove them from the oven, let them sit for a minute, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

I know. I was going to explain about my cabbage marathon today but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I consider this choccy recipe to be a mission of mercy -- just in case you feel like hunting down a hit man your own self.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thanks, Gordy!

That colorful collage above is a mouthwatering view of one of my favorite salads -- Gordy's 30-day Cole Slaw. Gordy, alas, is no longer with us. He was a vet and a regular customer when I was bartending at the VFW. In civilian life, he sold and installed carpets and would often come in after a hard day for a few beers and conversation. His libation of choice was always Heidelberg in the can.

There was maybe half a dozen of us in the canteen when he came in one afternoon. When he finished his second beer, he shoved the empty across the bar and asked me for a new one while he visited the men's room to recycle what he'd already imbibed. I picked up the can and started for the cooler when -- I dunno -- a Wicked Moment overcame me. Instead of tossing the empty, I filled it with ice-cold water from the tap and put it neatly on his coaster. The other customers smiled ... and waited.

Gordy came back and rejoined the conversation. Every now and then he'd raise the can to take a sip and we'd all lean slightly forward, anticipating. Then he'd think of something else he wanted to say and replace the can on the coaster while he talked. And we'd all sit back and wait some more. This happened several times -- Gordy raises can, crowd leans forward, Gordy lowers can and talks, crowd sits back and sighs.

Finally the moment came. Gordy raised the can, took a good slug and swallowed. His eyes ballooned out in shock as he shot the can forward and exclaimed, "This beer is FLAT!"

And half a dozen people immediately collapsed in laughter, trying really hard not to pee our pants. It was years before that man would let me open a can of beer for him.

Fortunately, that didn't stop him from giving me the recipe for the 30-day cole slaw and he was absolutely right -- it will probably be eaten long before the 30 days are up but it just gets better every day. Since I just found myself in possession of 2 1/2 heads of cabbage (more about that tomorrow), one of the things I did today was fix a batch of the slaw. And this am the way it goes:


You'll need a large bowl for tossing everything. Shred or dice the following: 1 large head of cabbage, 1 each red and green bell pepper, 1 medium onion (or 2 large leeks or half a dozen green onions), 1 cup of celery and 1 large carrot. Toss everything together.

In a sauce pan, mix 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. (I don't know why one needs sugar when one has honey but that's what Gordy said and the results tend to validate him.) Bring mixture to a boil and immediately remove from heat. I say "immediately" because that puppy will boil over in a New York minute if you're not careful. Let cool. You may need to skim off the foamy stuff from the honey after it cools down.

Once the dressing is cool, pour it over the slaw and toss thoroughly. Now you can transfer everything to a smaller bowl. Keep covered in the refrigerator and give it a stir every day. And don't forget tip your spoon (after you lick it) and say, "Thanks, Gordy!"