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Tenacious Flog
Thursday, March 31

Baskin Day  
According to intimate sources, this is my "baskin robbins birthday". So I imagine that you can guess what number that means. And this is the year where the age and the date of the month coincide, so that's kind of nifty.

I have been behind on posting, and I aim to rectify that later today. I have a grand time planned for food today, so *those* photos should be up tomorrow.

Now for your trivial entertainment, a selection of "of the day" items for today:
+ Word of the Day: "oxymoron", so you can read into that whatever you'd like.
+ Wiki Quote of the Day: "Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it, that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess." ~ René Descartes
+ The Johnny Depp photo of the day.
+ Daily Dose of Shakespeare, which for today is, "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows." -The Tempest
+ NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day
+ Finally, not to be undone by my advancing age and in tribute to my weightlifting mentor, the Fart of the Day!

Time posted: 09:40 [permalink]
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Friday, March 25

Makes Me Want To Throw Hot Menudo At P.F. Chang's...  
...and ALL the other chain restaurants out there in this town with their "family friendly" food and "safe" atmosphere (whom I was going to link to individually, but fuck it).

In about a week, the critically-lauded Nouveau Noodles in Cedar Crest will be closed. Robert Griego, the owner and chef, is looking for other opportunities locally (*whew*), but suffice it to say that every single time YOU thought about going because someone recommended it to you or you had read those glowing reviews, but you decided it was too inconvenient and you ended up at P.F. OliveRomanoBuca Fudd-Landry's like usual, this end result became a little bit more inevitable.

Go now if you're that interested, the extra bit of cash at the end might give new hope to people like me who'd like to see Robert in a kitchen again SOON, but know that when it would have made a difference, you weren't there.

Time posted: 16:21 [permalink]
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Thursday, March 24

Tenacity of the Colon  


For my inaugural appearance at Is My Blog Burning, I will get down and dirty. This episode is #13 of IMBB, and it is called "My Little Cupcake (or muffin)", hosted by Maki.

I've had a craving for awesome bran muffins lately, so that's exactly what I made, with some liberal modifications to suit the mood. Don't be afraid of the ingredients list... I just kept adding stuff as it suited me, so if you'd like to see the original on which this is based, check out Alan's Ultimate bran muffins. I owe Alan a debt for these awesome creations.

Tenacity's Terrifying Muffins (makes about 15)
1/2 cup whole grain flour (I used a mixture of wheat, oat, and buckwheat)
1/3 cup oat bran
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp maple extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or milk or yogurt, but buttermilk helps them stay really moist)
1/3 cup sugar/sweetener (I used mixture of brown rice syrup, molasses, and BLACK SYRUP)
1 egg
2 prunes (check to make sure no PIT remains!)

Combine dry ingredients. Toss wet ingredients into blender and puree until prunes are obliterated. The first time I did this one of my prunes had a pit, so I ended up with pit shards all over the place. Luckily a) it didn't kill my blender and b) I didn't mix it with the dry ingredients before I noticed. So I strained out the pieces and started over with 2 new and soft prunes. Eesh.

Mix gently together the wet + dry, then pour into muffin cups or tins (greased).
350 degrees for about 20 minutes, and you're done.

This batch made 12 regular muffins, and 9 mini-muffins. Here's one of the cutie little minis:

The large ones rose gently but then flattened out, as you can see in this view where they instead look like brown oatmeal cookies:

The flavor? Moist, just a teeny bit sweet, and very rich. The espresso powder and the black syrup helped a lot this time around, so I will probably use them again. Next time I might add different fruit, like dates. Mmmmm, dates.

Time posted: 21:54 [permalink]
Talk at me:
Glad you like them - tried to respond to your email but it bounced. I like the changes you've made as well. If you like these, you'll also like my Granola Bars. I give the recipe several times here as I refine it each time. Refer to the one near the bottom. But read the whole thread to see how flexible this recipe is.

How did you stumble upon my recipe?
You know, I can't remember. I was probably googling for bran muffins and eventually found the "ultimate" link to your site and was impressed by the amount of time you put into troubleshooting before getting them right.

I've also sent you another email to try to troubleshoot the bounce problem... thanks!
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Wednesday, March 23

Quick Chard Omelette  
Step 1. Make an omelette, and toss some lightly steamed chard on top:

Step 2. Finish omelette in oven, fold over itself when done, and serve:

Time posted: 21:48 [permalink]
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Beets and.... more beets  
Monday night I made two varieties of pureed beet soup; either could be served chilled or warmed.

Beet Soup I:
2-3 medium beets, cooked (boiled), plus the blood-red cooking liquid.
3 slices dried apple (or some fresh apple)
1 T creme fraiche
1t salt
1 T mirin, or a little white wine vinegar plus a little sugar
1/2 - 1 c veggie stock

Beet Soup II:
2-3 medium beets, cooked (boiled), plus the Hamlet-esque stained boiling juice.
3 slices dried apple
1/2 c butter milk
handful of walnuts (about 10 halves)
1 t salt
1 t dried dill
splash of walnut vinegar

In both cases, blend to desired consistency, topping up with water if you end up with beet pudding. This depends on your blender, of course. I have been recently coveting a VitaMix.... which would require far less water to make a decent puree without choking. Mmmm, expensive blender....

I like soup #2 better. It is creamier from the buttermilk, and is a beautiful bright shade of fuschia (soup #1 is just deep purple beet color, with specks of creme fraiche that didn't incorporate... oops).

I warm both up before serving, as I haven't quite gotten used to cold soups yet. Possibly I just would rather have a smoothie if I'm in the mood for a chilled and moderately thick food item.

Time posted: 10:04 [permalink]
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Monday, March 21

Treaty Weekend  
I made treats this weekend for my brother, who just turned 29 (for the first and last time). They will be shipped over to La-La land shortly, but in the meantime I'll hold off on describing them because I know he reads this blog. Hehe.

Other cooking this weekend included my new fascination: dehydrating food. I have had a dehydrator for, oh, about 10 YEARS, and finally I'm seeing how it can be used to rescue nearly-dead produce for future use. So far, I've used it to shrinky-dink cremini mushrooms, banana slices, and zucchini. I'm venturing into fruit leathers shortly, and possibly into leafy greens like chard and spinach (after being blanched). The main benefit is going to be camping trips, regarding which I'm tentatively planning a BIG ONE this summer, and being able to have along with me a special soup mix, or trail snacks, etc. Jerky won't be too far off in the future, as well.

I also started a batch of borscht (by steaming the beets), which is criminal that I've not had before since I love beets, and will be completing that tonight or tomorrow.

Photos of some of the weekend projects will be forthcoming, so just hang on.... *grin*.

Time posted: 10:23 [permalink]
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Friday, March 18

One of my first flirtations with art+cooking....  
I had been cooking at home, getting better at it, honing my knives and my knife skills for about a year when I purchased for myself a first - a coffee table cook book. It is called A Return to Cooking and it set my mind racing of the amazing possibilities for the exquisite food experience. The photos were gorgeous and at times abstract as the tome follows Eric Ripert through 4 seasons in 4 locales, exploiting the local fresh specialties all around.

I love that book. I thought at some point it would be nice to eat this guy's food. Gratefully, since I've acquired my gastronaut beginnings, his creations have only gotten better in the eyes of the patrons. 1995 was the last time that Le Bernardin was reviewed in the New York Times, by Ruth Reichl, a mere 1 year after Eric assumed chef duties following the death of Gilbert Le Coze.

Ten years later, Frank Bruni puts Le Bernardin through the gauntlet and comes away with no choice but to give it yet another 4 star rating, making it almost 20 years straight that the restaurant has held its stature. (Bruni mentions in his piece that the next runner-up at 10 years is the other NY establishment I'm also drooling to visit: Jean-Georges.)

Congrats, Mr. Ripert. Maybe I will see you soon. *grin*

Time posted: 16:20 [permalink]
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Thursday, March 17


Finally, after hearing people wax poetic about larb (or laab or larp) for eons, and having it myself twice at Thai restaurants, I made it myself.

Of course it is amazingly tasty, but the sweet suprise is that it is put together in about 15 minutes for a hasty dinner.

The key components seem to be:
1. a ground up protein
2. ground toasted rice
3. various spices

Thus, here is the gist of what I did.
Take 2T raw jasmine or basmati rice and toast it in a dry skillet until slightly tan and fragrant. Remove from pan and let cool.
Then start to brown 1lb of lean ground beef (or pork, or chicken, or tofu....), and prep your seasonings:
1T soy sauce
juice of one small lime
2 diced thai chiles
1t chile powder
1t galangal powder (or to taste - its strong)
1-2 chopped cloves garlic
2T fish sauce (nam pla)
salt & pepper to taste

While the meat is still cooking, add all of the seasonings and stir to combine. Take the rice and put it in a tiny food processor or a spice/coffee grinder and powderize it. When the meat is done and looking juicy, stir in the rice powder and stir until everything thickens up.

Garnish with cilantro & sliced scallions, and serve with or on big pieces of lettuce. Butter lettuce is nice because of its rounded scoopy leaves:

Yummy num!

Time posted: 21:00 [permalink]
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Tuesday, March 15

Snow Cone  

....That's a FULL-SIZED trash can, by the way.

Time posted: 11:58 [permalink]
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Monday, March 14

Fiery Foods Show 2005  
I went, I ate lots of salsa, and even took just a few photos:

The trip netted 2 bottles of fiery sauce, 1 chile plant, 1 envelope of chile seeds, 2 jalepeno lollipops, 3 dried peppers, and one tiny cute bottle of hot sauce on a key chain. Definitely the emergency supply! *grin*

What I wasn't expecting was how crowded the place was. I was expecting several hundred people, not thousands that I had to wade and fight my way through. However, it was the "Fiery Foods and BBQ Show", so I guess lots of Amerry-kans like their BBQ. I just steered clear of sampling most of those - to me they are a too-sweet and not-spicy-enough kind of salsa. No, thanks.

Time posted: 21:45 [permalink]
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Wednesday, March 9

Snupper Club II: Mexico  
The location of Snupper Club numero dos was to be my own kitchen, and I wanted to go Bayless-style. Thus, a more or less traditional Mexican menu, slightly tailored to northern Chihuahuan foods. I got the pork and soup recipes from Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook, while the rest were re-assembled from memory after spending a few days with my 2 Diana Kennedy books.

The menu:
(no photo) Jicama salad with lime, cilantro, and chipotle

Tortilla soup garnished with tortillas, avocado, lime, queso fresco, and cilantro

Pork loin broiled in a garlic-cumin marinade, then braised in mulato-tomatillo sauce
Corn pudding
Zucchini gratin (because I am a zuke freak, it is the only thing in focus in the photo.)

(no photo) Almond cinnamon panna cotta with cinnamon syrup

All in all, things turned out well. There were several in the group having seconds, and even some trips back to the kitchen to see what remained in the pots on the stove:

Next round, it will be a trip to Spain and I definitely can't wait for some real Paella.

Time posted: 22:10 [permalink]
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Tuesday, March 8

Nouveau Noodles  
A mini-review of a beloved Cedar Crest eatery.

March 1st was merely the 5th or 6th time I've dined at Nouveau Noodles, yet I do believe that I've gotten a good sense of the cuisine that is offered.

There are a few themes contained on the menu that could be loosely described, even within the confining classification of "eclectic" or "fusion" that this restaurant would normally be categorized under. I'll identify three, though there could be more.

1. 'Across the table' food. Take any 'normal' American to a restaurant that you've been gushing about and chances are they will just find it OK. They will not revel in the succulence of the rare flesh, nor be dazzled by plating or sauces. They will order the steak. Or the chow mein. No disrespect is to be inferred here - your companion is doing what is right for them and also providing you with company at a place that gives you pleasure by the mouthful. Indeed, on the menu at Nouveau there is a steak or two, a chow mein dish, and some lightly sauced noodle dishes that include meat but do not include a lot of 'weird' vegetables. I've tried the T-bone, and it was prepared well and served with very tasty thin fries. Nouveau is safe for those who "don't like Asian".

2. 'Fusion' food. Here we have mostly normal offerings like Cashew Chicken, Orange Beef, etc. One of the appetizers, the Mango Chicken eggrolls, I've had and it is 2 not-small egg rolls, enough for an entree for one person. The mango flavor is subtle but nice with the chicken, and the dipping sauce completes the dish nicely. It does not include the marinated red onions as other items on the menu do, but if you have some handy, take a bit of egg roll with onions - POW! - a great combination of tastes. Some of the other more fusion-y offerings are based on Asian staples like udon or mushrooms but then have the addition of green chile (the Cashew Chicken) or perhaps a red chile dusting on the meat (Red Chile Encrusted Tuna). Many of these flavors are sweet-hot and do work well with the lean cuts of meat offered, such as tuna and skirt steak.

3. 'Wacko' food. My personal favorite comes in here - the Seared Ahi Tuna and Seaweed Timbale. This is a salad molded into a cylinder (that's all you need to know about the 'timbale' part) made out of salad greens, soba noodles, chunks of rare and fleshy tuna, tart pickled red onions, and crunchy seaweed. Under the tower of craziness is a shallow pool of wasabi cream sauce that I could drink as a smoothie.... or eat as ice cream(!) (Robert, are you listening?!) The seaweed is strange if you've never had it - it crunches but does not yield easily like, say, a bean sprout. I adore this salad and frequently make it my main entree, especially if the soup of the day is tempting. Other examples in the wacko category would be Spicy Pork, which marries chorizo, green chile, snow peas, baby corn, and rice noodles.

Combine all of these themes, and consider the ingredients that show up in many of the menu items: green chile, orange-chile sauce, baby corn & snow peas, and noodles.... and you might just have an inkling of what awaits you in the little building on the other side of the mountain, a scant 10 minutes away from Tramway & I-40.

But don't forget on your way out the door, the apricot bread pudding. You won't regret it. Say hello to Robert as he comes around to make sure your food is great, and promise you'll be back often.... I promise that I will.

Time posted: 12:37 [permalink]
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Monday, March 7

Oink, oink!  
Being a piggy is fun: wallowing in great food and letting it soak into my depleted muscles. Eating a part of a piggy at the same time is even better, especially if that piggy part was roasted and then braised in a tomatillo-chile sauce to a fork-tender lusciousness.... and THEN the side 'dish' is a ripe mashed up avocado with salt. Yum-my.

I will divulge the details of the pork and other accompaniments when I post about the Mexican dinner I made last week, but for now I just wanted to bask in the glow of my amazing leftover lunch. *grin*

Time posted: 14:06 [permalink]
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Wednesday, March 2

I am left slack-jawed and astounded by this account of one day working at a 2-star French restaurant. Love of food, I have that. Fondness for cooking, ditto. Desire to work 16 hour days, not so much.

Cooks obviously do it because they are drawn to the profession. Those that make decent money are few, those that make a lot of money are exceedingly rare. I wish them all the best, regardless, as they are doing what they desire.

Time posted: 12:17 [permalink]
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Tuesday, March 1

Words that flow like meat into an intestine...  
I've found (Of course, not really - like the Washington Post's new slogan, "you heard it here twelfth!"; they and I have great blogger sources.) yet another gastronaut who can write like a dog can lick himself.

Here is a quick (and dirty!) teaser, enough to sputter and percolate green tea in a not-normal-direction through my nasal passages:

"Best of all it comes with sausage nozzles. These are plastic inserts which fit over the grinder plate enabling one to roll on rinsed pig intestines like a forty foot condom and watch as the pork paste is pumped in. For reasons rooted deeply in Carry On films, music hall ribaldry and the darker reaches of the Freudian subconscious, this is hysterically amusing to watch. And so, by eight o clock last night, I was pleasantly drunk, generously coated in a film of blood and fat and laughing hysterically at a 30lb pile of preserved meat. My kitchen looked like Jeffrey Dahmer's basement."

The gastroporn blogosphere needs more people like this, and I personally am inspired to attempt more actual *writing* on these pages rather than mere blow-by-blow documentation of culinary events in my tiny world.

Time posted: 14:17 [permalink]
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Word of the Day  
For those of you who haven't met me, I'm definitely somewhere along the dork-geek-nerd spectrum so it shouldn't suprise you to hear that I subscribe to the "A Word A Day" email service. All this week they are featuring words related to food or drink, and here is today's:

"sitophobia (sy-tuh-FO-bee-uh) noun

Morbid aversion to food.

[From Greek sito- (food) + -phobia (fear, aversion).]

The word is also spelled as sitiophobia. Two related words are sitomania
(abnormal craving for food), and sitology (the study of nutrition)."

What's interesting to me is that I've never heard the base "sito" used before, and many latin and greek work bases are at least somewhat familiar looking to my eyes. It puts an interesting phonetic spin on the use of CYTO as a prefix for supplements and nutritional aids, for example Cytomax and the like.

Having caffeine an hour earlier than usual can't be all bad, can it? *grin*

Time posted: 07:29 [permalink]
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