Aug 1 2012

Christmas 2011 Thank Yous

Ran into my friend Logan last summer. He apologized for not having replied to my email–from two years ago. He said he started a reply, but every time he went to send it he ended up revising it and  it is still in his Drafts folder.

It sounded funny at the time, but I now have a blog post that I started December 26 and have never posted, thanking everyone for the gifts that I asked for and/or received for Christmas. The problem was that I started the post in the hospital, then got out, and then got massively sick from what I assume to be a virus I picked up in the hospital.

So here it is. View this as an uncompleted time capsule from Dec 26, 2011:

This year I am endeavoring to do what I should have done every year: spend as much time thanking people for gifts as I did asking for them.

First, as noted on my Christmas list, I really wanted the first two books in Alan Gordon’s Fool’s Guild series of mysteries. Got em! Glad of it too–I spent all of Boxing Day (O Canada!) and part of the next day in the hospital with another bout of A-fib, and I was glad for a good book. So, I thank you, Tom. I’m sure the roommate I didn’t push out the window would thank you as well.

Its not like I just go around pushing hospital roommates out of windows, but I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, either. The guy talk–loudly. He had a hearing aid, but didn’t wear it, and spent the entire visit talking–to his visitors, on the phone, and then when he went to sleep, to himself. But sometimes he didn’t talk, like when he was watching TV. Without his hearing aid.

Anyway, thank you for keeping me entertained and from being a felon.

Speaking of the hospital, I got to wear my sharp new retro Star Wars sleep pants instead of looking like a mental patient, so thank you, The Baby. While we’re on the subject of Star Wars, my brother Nube gave me a sweet Boba Fett shirt. You would think as popular as he is, BF shirts would be easier to find. It was nice to wear it after I doffed my mental patient gown.

Speaking of Nube, he also got me something I have wanted for a while: a 3 pot Crock Pot. The reason was so that I could experiment with my various stews without ruining an entire batch (especially when making Irish Lamb Stew).

Is there anything better than a bag of coffee for Christmas? Yes, yes there is–two bags of coffee. A bag of The Dunks from The Robert, and a bag of Drowsy Poet White Christmas coffee from Jessica. So appropriate, because if you have ever seen a cup of Jess’s coffee, you would know how amazingly white it is.

The Baby also got me Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, which I read quickly, while I was having cabin fever, and it was great.

While I was reading all of these books and wearing all of these clothes, I was eating like a king, as a great number of people made us homemade desserts. The Herberts made us some buckeyes, which are peanut butter and chocolate confections, the Clarks made us cookies–specifically and including gingerbread (the best!), the Spencers made us hard candy, and the aforementioned Robert made us turtles and Russian tea cakes.

Now would be a good time to mention that between July and November I lost twenty pounds. When I went to the ER I found that I had made up for most of the loss.

Tom also also got me some seeds so I can grow some Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango! I can’t eat ’em any more, but I can still dream…(cue sad music).

From Jake the Snake, Heather and I got matching Mickey and Minnie Mouse Mugs, all the easier for when Heather wants to slip me a mickey (ba dum ching!).

My brother Dahoo got me the Dreams of Flight CD I had so long coveted, and it was every bit as awesome as I remembered (even more so, because I don’t have to rewind it).

The Other Bruce got me a router table–now I can set my internet router on it. I don’t know why he thought an electronic appliance the size of a sandwich needed its own large table, but hey, it’s all good. Unless he meant for me to use it with my Porter Cable plunge router…in which case, that is pretty flipping’ awesome. Plus, it was wrapped very nicely, like a life-sized Tin Man.

Coda: For everyone I forgot, I am truly sorry. Like I said, I drafted this while in and recovering from the hospital, and, like you learned in Fellowship of the Ring“…some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.”



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Jan 12 2010

I made pie

I made my first two pies this weekend. I’ve been re-reading Pascale LeDraolec’s American Pie (nothing to do with movie of the same name). It chronicle’s the author’s drive across America looking for pie, and it includes a bunch of pie recipes.

My first two attempts were marriage pies (pies containing two different but complementary fruits). I made AppleBlack™, or blackberry-apple first. I hybridized the crust recipe from the back of the Crisco package with Dave’s Huckleberry Pie recipe from Pascale’s book. I adapted the filling recipe from Doris Kemp’s Accidental Apple-Blueberry Pie from Mammy’s Cupboard in Natchez, Mississippi.

The AppleBlack was good, but not awesome. The crust turned our great: nice and flaky. The filling, however, I had two complaints about:

  1. Way too much nutmeg. I only used .5 teaspoon, in accordance with the recipe, but that was still way too much.
  2. Way too much sugar. I thought 1.5 cups of sugar seemed like a lot, and it was.

My second pie was strawberry-peach. I used the same crust recipe, but accidentally mixed in the spices destined for the filling with the dough. It didn’t seem to make any difference, good or bad. For the filling, however, I omitted the nutmeg and .5 cups of sugar. This pie was much better. In the future, though, I will add more strawberries (I was afraid of adding too many).

I’m really enjoying cooking and baking, so much so that I turned down my wife’s offer to bake me an apple pie.

“It’s not just the having of pie, but the baking of pie,” I told her.

While I am far from conquering pie, I do think I made a good first attempt, at least good enough to eat, and encouraging enough to keep trying. However, this could turn into an expensive habit. Not so much the fruit and flour, but the dishes, utensils, and appliances that I will no doubt need if I keep this up.

Next step: apple dumplings!

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Dec 30 2009

Pasta in Black and White

I gotta say that’s a darn good title for a blog post, as well as a good title for:

  • a mystery novel (she walked into my kitchen like a 6-burner Vulcan range)
  • an album
  • an art-house flick that garners a bunch of Oscar noms and wins Best Cinematography

Anyhoo, it turns out that Heather and I are fundamentally dissimilar when it comes to pasta. She likes long noodles covered in several molecules of spicy pasta sauce. Me, I like short screwy noodles covered in plethoras of sweet pasta sauce. I don’t like spaghetti, and peppers belong in chili, not pasta sauce.

But perhaps it goes deeper than that: maybe we like pasta the way Greeks like their gods: like us. Heather, being tall, likes her pasta tall. Of course, I guess that makes me short and screwy. Moving on, we like our sauce like we like our spouses: Heather likes hers spicy, I like mine sweet.

Like all analogies, this one breaks down at some point. For instance, might I like my spouse full of garlic and basil? Well, yes in fact.

Anyway, this was just a followup to my previous post re: MadMan Dan’s Antimario Pasta, and Heather doesn’t care for it.

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Dec 29 2009

MadMan Dan’s Antimario Pasta Sauce

Did you ever wonder why spaghetti sauce is cheaper than just plain tomato sauce? Let’s put it this way: would you put carrots in your spaghetti? Heck no, you wouldn’t. You also wouldn’t add all the other stuff on the side of the can that those guys add.

Today I made my best batch of homemade pasta sauce EVAH. Here’s the recipe:

MadMan Dan’s Antimario* Pasta Sauce


  • 2 onions
  • ~1 lb hamburger
  • 1 tube R.B. Rice Italian sausage
  • 3 29 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 3 TBL basil
  • 3 TBL oregano
  • 3 TBL minced garlic


  • cast iron skillet
  • large pot


  1. In the large pot, combine tomato sauce, 2 TBL basil, 2 TBL oregano, 2 TBL garlic and begin heating on high.
  2. Chop onions into small pieces and sauté in the cast iron skillet in either garlic oil or olive oil. Sauté the onions until they are translucent, then mix into the sauce.
  3. In the cast iron skillet, combine hamburger, sausage, 1 TBL basil, 1 TBL oregano, and 1 TBL garlic. Stir together, and when the meat is brown, drain off the grease and mix into the tomato sauce.
  4. Continue heating sauce until it begins bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce is nice and thick, then remove from heat.
  5. Pasta is always better after it has stuck in the fridge for several hours, so if you have already cooked your noodles (I use rotini almost exclusively–more surface area to hold sauce) then add them to the sauce and stick it in the fridge.

Enjoy! Prep time is pretty short; I made this whole dish in just about an hour.

Also, why Antimario? Because I don’t like mushrooms in my pasta sauce.

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Dec 28 2009

MadMan Dan’s Emerald Isle Stew

Just in time for Christmas New Year’s! You wanna make some yourself? Here’s the recipe:

MadMan Dan’s Emerald Isle Stew

  • 6 potatoes
  • 5 carrots
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 6 leeks
  • 1-3 lb lamb shank / leg of lamb
  • salt
  • pepper
  • thyme, (chopped fresh thyme is best, but dried is doable)
  • chicken broth
  • fresh parsley

Hardware required:

  • good, sturdy knife
  • cutting board
  • tablespoon
  • cast iron skillet
  • large pot
  • aluminum foil

This recipe is based on a year of research culminating in the best batch I ever made back in October of this year.

  1. Cut up the potatoes, carrots, and celery into small bit-size pieces.
  2. Cut the whites of the leeks in half lengthwise, and then slice into small pieces
  3. Put all the vegetables into a pitcher. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of thyme and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  4. Pour in chicken broth until it covers all the vegetables. Put a lid on it and stick it in the fridge for 1-4 days (this step is optional, but it was contributory to my best batch of stew ever).
  5. 1-4 days later, cut your lamb shank into bit-size pieces. Set the pieces on the cutting board on the counter and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of dried thyme. Let it sit for a half an hour.
  6. Set aside a sheet of aluminum foil on the counter large enough to contain the cut lamb.
  7. Heat up your cast iron skillet crazy hot and put just a wee bit of oil in the bottom.
  8. Brown your lamb in the skillet. After it is browned, wrap it in the foil from step 6 for 10 minutes, then dump them in the stew.
  9. Bring the stew to a boil for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes.
  10. Chop your fresh parsley and sprinkle on the top of the stew when it’s time to serve.

Like most good food, it tastes better if you stick it in the fridge overnight after cooking.


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Dec 22 2009

My fingers smell like leeks

That’s not a complaint. Last night I cut up all the vegetables for MadMan Dan’s Emerald Isle Stew.

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Dec 12 2009

Review: Julie & Julia

julie-juliaI just finished staying up with Heather watching Julie & Julia, a 2009 movie about two women: Julie Powell, as she spends a year cooking her way through all the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking while living in post-9/11 New York with her husband. It also tells the story of Julia Child, living in post-WWII France with her husband, learning to cook and to write and publish said book.

I really, really liked this movie. I know, some of you are probably thinking this is a chick flick, and in some ways it is. However, this movie was about a lot of things I love: eating, cooking, writing, blogging, books, and being married. How can you not love a movie about food and marriage? I freaking love both, and consequently loved the movie.

However, the ending does seem kind of incomplete and anticlimactic, kind of like they brought in Zombie Michael Chrichton to write it for them. SPOILER ALERT: if you think the two women are going to meet you are going to be disappointed.

Speaking of cooking, I made my second attempt at pasta sauce this week, and I was very happy with it (much better than last week’s mediocre maiden sauce).

Also speaking of things in the movie that I can relate to in real life, like the protagonist I am staying up doing one thing when I should be doing another. Good night.

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