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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pan fried flounder with leeks

Everything here with the exception of the leeks came from Aldi. That's a $6 bottle of Pinot Grigio in the top right corner. I use it all the time for cooking, and it's not terrible as a table white either.

Gotta clean those leeks, grit likes to hide between the layers.

Leeks in the pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.

After a few minutes on high heat, back it down to medium. Add white wine, lemon juice, a knob of butter and garlic.

Cover and simmer.

Time to dredge the fish. Pan is hot, this goes quickly - butter and olive oil in the pan. Dredge each side of the fish and knock off excess flour, you're going for a thin coat.

Into the pan.

Doesn't take long with fillets this thin...maybe 90 seconds?

How's the sauce? Add tomatoes and olives.

Ready to serve.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wonton soup

Found a great Asian market; picked up some wonton skins. I'm thinking I can make these on my own next time; seems to be a simple pasta recipe.

The filling was thigh and leg meat salvaged from a dismembered chicken in my freezer. (I had used the breast meat earlier in the week for chicken piccata.) Added a chunk of ginger, panko and soy sauce and put it all in the processor until it was a pate.

The soup base was a fabulous chicken stock I made with all the wing tips left over from making a huge plate of Buffalo Wings for a superbowl party, diluted and seasoned.

I boiled the wontons separately then added them to the soup base with some scallions. Very pleased at how it turned out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cincinnati Chili - For Dummies

I was born in Columbus, OH - a mere 2 hours from Cincinnati, yet I grew up blissfully unaware of Cincinnati Chili. So when when I went away to school at The University of Cincinnati, it didn't take long to figure out that this town was crazy for chili.

There are the big 2 chains; Skyline and Gold Star - but there are bunches of smaller players and countless Mom and Pops that sell the stuff too. I don't think you can travel anywhere in Cincy without being less than a mile from a chili parlor.

At this point in my life, I had got no problem with chili, it was a fine dish - but I just couldn't understand how a town that wasn't even anywhere near Texas could get so worked up about chili.

So one day, at the University Plaza near the Kroger, I walked into a Goldstar Chili. (It later became a Blockbuster Video store). The menu made no sense...3 way? 4 way? Huh? What;'s a cheese coney? Why would I eat that if you sell chili, right? So I ordered what I figured was something easy - a bowl of chili.

Right now anyone that has actually HAD Cincinnati Chili knows exactly what's wrong with this scenario. Because when I was handed a bowl of watery brown liquid that tasted of cinamon...well, my mind was blown. This was NOT chili; it was disgusting and the whole town was INSANE.

It took me about 2 years to try it again.

Let's get it out of the way right now - it is chili in name only. Approach it as you would a dish you've never heard of before and this gets a lot easier.

Cincinnati Style chili is a sauce. You'd no more eat a bowl of it than you would sit down to eat a jar of Ragu. We don't eat bowls of it; we eat it over noodles. In the case of Cincinnati chili, the noodles are thick spaghetti. It is spooned on top of the noodles, and topped with finely shredded cheddar cheese in 3 distinct layers; cheese, noodles, sauce. That's a 3 way.

A 3 way is the most popular configuration for eating Cincy chili, but you can upgrade to a 4 way or 5 way by the addition of beans (red kidney) and/or diced onion. (A 4 way has onion by default, but you can switch for beans if you like).

You don't twirl it around a fork like Italian spaghetti though - this dish you cut pieces off with a fork and scoop, like a casserole.

As I found out that day, while you can order it by itself in a bowl, hardly anyone actually does that. The texture is very runny. The meat is ground very fine. The savory spice mixture is heavy on cinnamon and has a Greek heritage.

It is also a hot dog sauce; thus the cheese coney.

Friday, January 30, 2009

So me and N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler are like, buds now.

One of my new year's resolutions was to try to get to know Steve Troxler better. So when I saw the News and Observer was having an "Ask Anything: 10 Questions with Steve Troxler" feature, I was all over it.

And my question was selected and answered.

9. A December 2006 article in Rolling Stone magazine painted a very ugly picture of pollution and cruelty perpetrated by the Smithfield Foods corporation in North Carolina. Smithfield refutes the claims, and I know we've since passed Swine Farm Environmental Performance Standards Act. What is your position on so-called CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and their role in North Carolina agriculture? Do you see CAFO's as the future of hog farming? – Matt McCann, Durham

By and large, North Carolina hog farmers care about the environment and care about humanely treating the animals on their farms. It doesn’t make good business sense for them to think, or do, otherwise.

Raising hogs indoors allows farmers to properly care for and feed their animals. And hog farms are held to strict standards regarding manure storage. Currently, there is a moratorium on construction or expansion of any hog farms with more than 250 hogs.

Well - there ya go. Thanks Steve.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The whole family has a cold, no one was really hungry enough for a full dinner. I had a feeling that might happen, so before I went to bed last night I left half a bag of dried garbanzo beans to soak overnight.

When I got home from work, they had doubled in size.

The first time I tried to make hummus, I put them directly in the processor after soaking overnight. Ick. Don't do that.

They need to cook, and for quite awhile at that. I'm going to guess it took about 25 minutes until they were squishable under light finger pressure - and that's the stage you're looking for. Drain the beans and put them in the processor. Give them a good spin.

To that I added a a couple of cupfuls of concentrated lemon juice. Fresh would have been way better, but use what you have is my motto. A good pour of good olive oil, some garlic, a lot of salt and of course tahini. Someday maybe I'll try to make that from scratch too, but for now I used a jar. How much? Eh, 2 big spoonfuls? Mix it until smooth.

I top mine with a pour of olive oil, a big pinch of za'atar spices, a shake of sumac and some kosher salt.

Would have been nice with pita slices, but we had tortilla chips.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slow cooked pulled pork

A Boston butt is actually a shoulder. You rub it down with spices and stick in in a cast iron dutch oven and let it cook on 200 degrees for about 5 hours and it becomes something else entirely.

I'm not going to call it BBQ. Around these parts; what I made might be close to BBQ - but missing some key things; smoke and the rest of the pig.

But it is good eats. When I took the lid off of the pot I was amazed at how much fat had turned to liquid. There must have been between 3 and 4 cups of it. I didn't keep it (I've got a whole jar of bacon drippings in the refrigerator for all my pork fat needs). Once you can pull the bone right out and you can break up the roast into smaller chunks - it's ready to drain and shred.

Some folks like it just like that. I added some cayenne pepper, cider vinegar, a squirt each of ketchup and mustard and a good pinch of Kosher salt.

I served it up with home made baked beans and slaw. No corn bread though...maybe next time.

Are you in favor of irradating food?