Saturday, September 18, 2010

A comeback for Sam the Butcher?

MSNBC ran an article Friday about the return of the boutique butcher shop.

It seems that more and more Americans are taking an interest in the harsh realities of factory farming. Unfortunately for all involved, the current economic situation has got to be making it tough; I know I've had to cut way back on pasture raised meats since losing my old job.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Powershell Quick Hit - Text in quotes

I'm beginning to piece together the intricacies of text pattern matching using regex wildcards. It's tricky stuff, but that's not the point of this Quick Hit, it's just something interesting that I picked up along the way.

Today's Powershell quick Hit has to do with text in single or double quotation marks. Powershell treats each of them very differently, especially when variables and wildcards are being used.

Consider these 2 variable strings:

PS:\ $date = get-date
PS:\ $single = 'Today is $date, and my Windows Directory is $env:windir.'
PS:\ $double = "Today is $date, and my Windows directory is $env:windir."
PS:\ $single
Today is $date, and my Windows Directory is $env:windir.
PS:\ $double
Today is 06/23/2010 22:51:00, and my Windows directory is C:\WINDOWS.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Powershell Quick Hit - Doing it X times, again....

Continuing with the theme of using an easy array (1..20) with a forEach to do a code block a defined number of times, I cobbled this together yesterday. I can't figure out how to get the output on a single line yet, but it works; will ping entire subnet and report which ones respond.

(1..255) | % {
"192.168.0.$($_)"; Test-Connection "192.168.0.$($_)" -quiet -count 1 | % {
IF($_ -eq $True){"IP above pings"}

The % is an alias for ForEach

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Powershell Quick Hit - Doing it X times

I learned a cool and easy trick today for running a block of code a defined number of times.

It started with a simple commandlet called get-random, which, as you might expect, is a random number generator. You can feed it -min and -max values.

So "get-random -min 1 -max 10" generates a random number between 1 and 10. I wondered how I could do that 20 times.

There's a "for" looping contruct that works like this:

FOR ($i = starting value; $i -le X (less than or equal to) (max value); $i++ (increment by 1)
{do code here}

PS>for ($i = 0; $i -le 10; $i++) {$i}

Combining those 2 concepts together works fine:

for ($i = 0; $i -lt 20; $i++) {Get-Random get-random -min 1 -max 10}
generates 20 random numbers between 1 and 10.

But here's the cool Powershell quick hit - look how easy Powershell makes doing this using forEach and a range (1..20)

PS>1..20 | ForEach {get-random -min 1 -max 10}

Powershell Quick Hit - Out Gridview

Bring up a PS prompt, and type $a = $env:windir

You just assigned $a to your Windows directory.

You could just as easily have done $a = C:\Windows, but I thought I'd throw 2 tips in for the price of one. :)

Just to verify, do:

get-childitem $a (or dir $a, or ls $a, or gci $a...)

and you should see the contents of your windows directory. Now here comes the fun part. Are ya ready?

pipe that to "out-gridview"

get-childitem $a | out-gridview

And watch what happens.

See the "Add Criteria" button at the top? Press it, select all the options. Cool eh??

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vintage Citizen Multi Alarm - I love this watch!

For a little while I've been collecting 80's "alarm" watches. Nothing serious, just a little hobby.

I got this little gem on eBay. I didn't pay a lot of attention to it at first, because it's style predates the type I usually collect, but I had to admit that it was in great shape, and there was no reserve on the auction. I picked it up for $32. I just saw another one sell on eBay for just north of $113, so I'm feeling pretty good about what I paid for it. I've since seen others just like it, all for sale from the same guy. He's letting them trickle out on eBay I guess.

I don't know the year it was made, but I suspect from the style that it would probably be from 1978-1980. it has 2 separate alarms, an hourly chime, a countdown timer and a stopwatch.

The pusher buttons have color coded cabochons. I put a vintage style metal bracelet on it.

I love the display, it's so clunky. Kind of big, bold 70's. The watch is heavy too. The alarms are loud!

Some weird things; you can't use both the stopwatch and timer at the same time. If one is in use, the other greys out. Also, the timer doesn't keep the last input. If you set it for 5 minutes, it will count down and the alarm goes, but it resets to zero - not 5 minutes. Odd. And the stopwatch is only to the second. I can't think of anything I do that requires greater precision, but tenth of a second would be nice. It looks like you could modify the hourly chime to go off at different intervals, but you can't. All minor complaints.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

e. coli traced to hamburger on MSNBC

Via the New York Times:
E. coli path shows ground beef inspection flaws
Hamburger patty traced to illness that paralyzed 22-year-old woman

Comes this terrifying 3 pager. The highlight of the article:

"The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria."

Mmmmm, mmmm - the Chef's selection!!!

So what does Cargill have to say for itself?

"Cargill, whose $116.6 billion in revenues last year made it the country’s largest private company, declined requests to interview company officials or visit its facilities. “Cargill is not in a position to answer your specific questions, other than to state that we are committed to continuous improvement in the area of food safety,” the company said, citing continuing litigation..."

Bullshit. Cowshit, anyway.

Does the article offer any suggestions? No, other than the usual from the USDA about stepping up inspections.

No mention at all of the CAFO's role in e.coli outbreaks. No mention of grass fed alternatives.

My advice? Find a farmer. Pay a little more for beef that has been humanely raised, fed a diet that it was born to eat, slaughtered with compassion and butchered by a person that you can talk to if you have any questions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My favorite tomato sauce

I picked up a huge box of bruised roma tomatoes at the Raleigh farmer's market this weekend and spent most of Sunday morning making tomato sauce.

I'm not sure where I picked up my technique. Almost all of the advice I see on line says to boil the tomatoes, remove the skins, scoop out the seeds...why would you do that? That's what a food mill is for.

I sliced the tomatoes into flat pieces, lay them out on a baking sheet, season them with salt, marjoram, basil, thyme and oregano then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I fill the pan up, and put it in the oven - 450 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

While they cook I prepare the next pan.

Once they come out of the oven they go directly into the food mill which is over my stock pot. The food mill does the work of removing the skins and seeds.

The stock pot simmers over low heat. I probably did about 12 trays worth. I reduced the sauce by at least a quarter, and all I added to it was a poor of marsalla wine.

The sauce is red, beautiful - tastes so fresh, and clings to pasta like crazy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hope to see more of this; mobile slaughterhouses

The Seattle Times has a story today regarding a topic I've been following for awhile; mobile slaughterhouses.

My beef farmer has to transport his cattle to a USDA 'inspected' facility to be able to sell his grass fed, all natural beef to me. Ask him how happy he is about this sometime. From what he's told me about it, it really sounds like a hassle, and if the USDA inspector can't be there for some reason, the whole trip has to be rescheduled.

Using something like this, the slaughterhouse would come to his farm.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More tainted ground beef

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here...err, I mean that tainted ground beef is making the rounds again.

The most recent one looks like salmonella. Which is, sad to say, the good news. Could have been more e. coli like they saw in Colorado this past June.

Regarding the first story, I saw a quote in Fox New's report:

"The beef was repackaged and sold under different retail brand names, so customers are being urged to check with their local store to determine if they bought any of the beef."

Repackaged. Resold under different names. Let the 3 card monte game begin. Follow the queen, here we go....

Who do you call to complain?

If I have a problem with my beef, I call my beef farmer Roger (or his wife Brenda). Of course, I don't have problems with Roger's beef, because they don't treat their animals like commodities.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fried rice, wonton soup and egg rolls

I made dinner for a couple in our neighborhood last night. We're both subscribers to an on-line forum where neighborhood issues are discussed. In a post regarding good Asian markets in the area, I happened to see her ask about places to buy chicken fried rice. She was lamenting an expired Costco membership, where she used to buy it frozen. I explained that chicken fried rice was very easy to make at home, but she wasn't convinced - so, seeing an opportunity to get to know a neighbor better and show off my fried rice prowess I invited them over for a casual dinner.

Fried rice is great by itself; but I had made wonton soup before and it turned out really well, and I've been itching to try my hand at egg rolls - so that was the menu plan.

I'd have rather done shrimp egg rolls and pork wontons, but since I didn't know if they had any issues with those foods I took the easy route and went chicken across the board.

The soup was my own home made chicken stock, seasoned. The wontons I filled with dark meat left over from one of the last times I made chicken picatta and had only used the breast meat. I cooked the meat, removed it from the bones, then left the bones to simmer to augment the frozen stock I had on hand. To complete the wonton filling I used ginger and some panko, a little salt and ponzu sauce and then processed it smooth. I thought they tasted very nice; I it the ginger level right where I was aiming for.

I was most worried about the egg rolls. I'm very picky about egg rolls, and I knew exactly how I wanted them to taste, but I wasn't 100% sure how to get there. I had studied several recipes and videos, and there was conflicitng advice. I knew I wanted a very crunchy cabbage. I knew I wanted the nuttiness of bean sprouts, but did the filling need to be cooked prior to being fried? Two videos I watched had both pre-cooked the filling, but I didn't think I wanted to. Fortunately I had plenty of time, so I did a test roll, and was very happy with the result. So my filling (thin sliced cabbage, sliced carrots, bean sprouts, chichen, leftover wonton filling, an egg, sugar, salt) was not pre-cooked. Everyone said they were very good, and I was certainly happy with them.

The fried rice was just how I always make it, rice, butter, scrambled egg, chicken. onions, carrots, peas, soy and oyster sauce. I thought it was a good batch. Had a ton left over so I sent them home with a package of it. I'm about to eat mine for lunch in a few minutes.

Sorry I didn't take any pictures, but if it's any consolation everything looked pretty much like you'd expect.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Go see Food Inc.

Food Inc in theaters now.

More folks are buying food from the farm

At least they are according to this article in The Packer.

"“To me, what it shows is a recognition of value there is in having a relationship with a farmer,” said Miller, who works for an advocacy group that represents farmers markets on state and federal levels."

Amen to that.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

4 year olds are funny

I got home from work later than usual on Tuesday. I hadn't give any thought at all to dinner, and folks were hungry. I had some ground sausage leftover from the weekend that I had to use up, and some ground beef.

I wanted something fast and easy, so I made spaghetti and meatballs. I made the meatballs on the smallish side of ping pong balls, and they were done by the time the spaghetti was cooked.

As an afterthought and with 5 minutes to spare I made some ghetto garlic bread out of some older hamburger and hot dog buns spread with butter and a shake of garlic powder under the broiler.

My daughter was fascinated by this new type of bread.

"What kind of bread is this?"
Garlic bread, sweetie.
"Are you going to take pictures of it??"

Slate article on HFCS

Slate has a remarkably balanced article regarding high fructose corn syrup.

Dark Sugar - The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup.

"High-fructose corn syrup first started trickling into our food supply about 40 years ago; by 1984, it was flowing from just about every soda fountain in the country. These days HFCS accounts for almost half of all the added sugars in the U.S. diet, but the corn Niagara may soon be over. Last week, PepsiCo became the latest manufacturer to turn its back on America's sweetener, introducing three new soft drinks—Pepsi Natural, Pepsi Throwback, and Mountain Dew Throwback—sweetened with a "natural" blend of cane and beet sugars."

So is it really the end of the line for HFCS? I don't think so. It'll be a game of Whack-A-Mole; get it out of soda and it'll pop up somewhere else.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Agribusiness mad at Obama's organic garden

I keep reading this thinking it has to be a late April Fool's day joke.

Some PAC named MACA ( Mid America CropLife Association) has sent Michelle Obama a letter asking her to use regular pesticides in the White House Garden.

No - I'm not making this up!

"Did you hear the news? The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama's and their guests. While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder. As a result, we sent a letter encouraging them to consider using crop protection products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire U.S. economy."

Read all about it here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hummus and flatbread.

I love hummus. I love fresh bread. Why not have both for dinner?

The hummus started as dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and then boiled for about 40 minutes.

Strain them, put them in the food processor and add tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.

I like mine drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sumac.

The bread is also brushed with olive oil, and then sprinkled with a spice mix called za'atar. It was cooked directly on the ceramic tiles of my oven.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Babyback ribs

You know who makes a decent dry rub? McCormick. Shake a good coating onto the meat side of a slab of baby back ribs. Rub it in. Let it set for a while, bring it up to room temperature, then into a 250 degree oven for 4 or 5 hours covered with some foil.

Slather on some sauce and then onto the hot grill for 20 minutes. Not exactly low fat; but live a little.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The North Carolina roll. Aldi imitation crab, Harris Teeter wasabi sauce, cucumber and red pepper.

Are you in favor of irradating food?