Monthly Archives: February 2007

Foodie weekend

This past weekend I spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen.  Truth be told, that’s about my favorite place in the whole wide world.  I’m not so sure why I like cooking so much.  Maybe it’s the thrill I get when the people I’m feeding are so enthusiastic about the food they are eating.  Maybe it’s just because I like to eat.  Anyway, that’s a topic for another day I think.  I wanted to talk about some of the things I did this past weekend.

Saturday we were going to have some friends over (which was derailed by the little snow storm we had) but I had most of the items already working in various forms before they cancelled so we ended up enjoying some of the items anyway. 

I planned to make spring rolls as an appetizer for our meal, mostly because I was curious about them and I wanted to see how hard they were to make on my super scientific difficulty scale.  Seriously, I was shocked how easy they were to make.  They took some prep work, and some tedious work with phyllo (fillo) dough (however you spell it), but they were fun to make and super tasty. 

During my college days I worked at the campus cafeteria and one of our most enjoyable tasks was to make all the crab rangoon for the Chinese diner on campus.  (other great tasks consisted of cutting up 50 lb sacks of onions, making bacon bits and bread crumbs and slicing steaks.  Ok, that last one was OK because we took some home, but the rest were horrible.  If you are cutting up that many onions your hands will stink, even if you are wearing 8 pairs of plastic gloves.  Trust me.)  You wouldn’t think making crab rangoon would be that bad, until you had to make about 1200 of these little suckers.  It took two people 4 hours each to make them all.  But, that must have given me some good practice because I didn’t have much trouble whipping up these spring rolls.  Even better, since the company didn’t come they are safely stored in the freezer for retrieval the next time I make up a stir fry.  Oh boy!!

I would recommend two sheets of dough for the rolls though as one is a little flimsy.

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Notice the lovely Tupperware in the picture?  I don’t even know where that came from.  Is that yours Mom?  If it is let me know and I’ll make sure to make a note in my will so you can have it back when I die. 

That same day we ended up having soup for dinner because that was on the stove to serve to the company.  It was a Latin Chicken soup.  I don’t have a picture, but it was a pretty good soup.  I wouldn’t say it was the best ever, but we liked it well enough.  The recipe did call for Cilantro though and that was a little bit of an overpowering flavor in the soup.  I think it came from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, as did the spring rolls recipe.

Then our power went off for a while.

On Sunday we had soup again, only this time it was Italian Wedding Soup (follow link for recipe and a Midwest version of the Soup Nazi).  I cut the recipe way, way down and didn’t add any escarole, but this soup was quite good.  The Parmesan cheese the recipe calls for added some great flavor and we even put some freshly grated Parmesan on top in each bowl.  The boys really liked it so that’s a good sign.  Of course, any chance for them to eat crackers is one that they are very enthusiastic about.  Not to mention it was really easy to make.  I had previously frozen meatballs and  homemade chicken stock so I just put those in the pot to heat up.  After they simmered for a while I added the cheese and eventually the noodles.  It was quick and easy.

At the same time the soup was working over on the stove I was getting some preparations ready for a second attempt at bread making.

I decided this time to follow a fairly simple white bread recipe in the cookbook/manual that came with my mixer.  I did mix in a little whole wheat flour though, what the heck.  Bread came out pretty good.  Still not perfect but quite an improvement over the previous one. 

One difference this time is that I added the right amount of yeast.  Yes, upon further research it appears that last time I shorted the yeast by roughly half.  (Perhaps explains why there was not a lot of rising in the bread.)  I also used my handy dandy thermometer to measure the water for the yeast and to measure the internal temp of the bread and removed them from the oven when they hit about 195.


They turned out with a lot less crust and more spongy.  And we ate them warm with some fresh butter I made.  Man, that is some good eats.  They were still a little too crusty and dense, but we haven’t had a problem eating them.  I perused the King Arthur Flour website yesterday and they had even more tips about baking successfully so it should be even better this weekend.  (Incidentally, if you live in the Cedar Rapids area King Arthur is putting on two bread making seminars tomorrow, one from 12-2 (yeast, sweet and whole wheat breads) and one from 7-9 (artisinal breads).  I’ll be attending those, probably the only guy there, and learning even more.  Now registration required and they’re free too!!  I LOVE free.  They are at the Longbranch Convention/Meeting room on Twixt Town road.)

And yes, I did use a parenthesis inside a parenthesis.  Deal with it.

Sorry for the long post.  



Seed starting

I need some help from you gardners out there.  Give me some pointers on starting seeds.  Impart your great wisdom upon me so that I can make fewer mistakes. 

I’ve got some onions and bee balm going now.  Should I place them in front of the window, even though it will be cold, but maybe sunny once a week or so (if we’re lucky)?  Or place them close to the corn stove so they can get the constant warmth it produces and move them in front of the window as they pop through the ground?

According to my frost date and the dates on the back of my seed packets the next thing I’ll need to start will be the peppers followed up shortly after by the tomatoes.  (Maybe I need to make up a spreadsheet or project plan to keep them all straight…) I can screw up the balm and onions without being upset but I can’t screw up the peppers or tomatoes or I’ll be short on my salsa needs, and I just can’t have that.

Give me some hints. 

Also, anyone know where I can get some worm castings?  All the stores in my area are out and my worm supplier didn’t have worms to sell me this winter so I couldn’t run my worm bin through the winter so I’m out of worm poo.  Until my compost pile thaws out I’m out of fertilizer.


“Overpopulation is not a problem”

snipshot_b2ofat1784n.jpg“…Despite many doom-and-gloom predictions, explosive growth in the world’s population isn’t something to panic about says Nicholas Eberstadt…”

So starts a WSJ opinion article from Friday February 23, 2007 discussing overpopulation and how the planet has not reached it’s limits.  How all the previous naysayers regarding population expansion have been wrong.  How the predictions for the future are dubious at best.    

“Mr. Eberstadt says the strains that Malthus and others predicted from a surge in population haven’t materialized.  Instead, as population has increased so has most people’s standard of living.  The world’s population quadrupled to more than six billion people during the 20th century, a time when per capita gross domestic product almost quintupled.  Similarly, while a shortage of resources would be expected to drive up commodity prices, costs actually fell in the 20th century…” 

He is correct.  Projections for practically all matters into the future are difficult to pin down and really count for something.  But here are some statistics you CAN count on.


Currently half the people in the world live on less than $2 a day, almost 3 billion people.  (So much for an increased standard of living.)  And don’t forget about those books out there like Nickel and Dimed or Morgan Spurlock’s reality series discussing how people try to live on minimum wage in America.  They are making a lot more than $2 a day and they are not getting by.    

Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are chronically malnourished, while most Americans are severly or grossly overweight.   

Almost 11 million children under the age of 5 die every single year from poverty.   

From a survey published in 2000, 47% of the world’s agricultural land is considered severely degraded.china.jpg  In China in fact, 900 square miles of land is converted to desert each year.  (If our agricultural land is degraded and disappearing how do we feed this endless supply of humans?)   

For 6 of the last 7 years the annual grain harvest has fallen below the annual grain demand.  And even more scary, that doesn’t even take into account all the demand from the enthanol plants that are coming online.  That means less and less of our grain will be exported to other countries for their consumption.    

Mr. Eberstadt forgets the one thing that most everyone who isn’t concerned about the population levels of our world forget.  Oil.  Oil makes the world hum and he is forgetting the bonanza that was the Petroleum century.  This stored energy allowed humans to way exceed the carrying capacity of the earth by using millions of years of stored energy to generate more food and feed more people.  Oil allowed countries to ship excess food all over the world and allowed many, many countries to dramactically exceed their carrying capactiy.  We’re all aware that oil is already running out, and with it our ability to produce copious amounts of food will run out.  Oil allowed some countries to subjugate other countries and extract their natural resources and exploit their populations.  Oil is the thing that makes it all possible.  What happens when there is less oil?

It’s time to start talking and thinking about this forgotten bogeyman hiding in the closet because sooner or later it’s going to rear it’s ugly head.       


Poverty Facts and Stats

China’s desertification

Soil degradation

Cross posted on Groovy Green

Food enthusiast

I read this post today from Liz at Pocket Farms and I just felt like it really summed up my eating/cooking/food experiences.  I hadn’t really given them much thought, but upon reflection it’s all right there in front of me/you.

You just have to be willing to see it.


There’s a new site out that tracks the amount of CFLs sold by location.  So you can see how many bulbs have been sold in your specific location.

Check it out.

They even have a tool where you can display a running counter for your city on your sidebar.  (If you have WordPress and can figure it out let me know.  I couldn’t.)


Stop touching me!

These two make me sick.

Aren’ t they supposed to be grownups? 

It reminds me of the two kids sitting in the back of the car and after numerous fights the parents have decreed that from now on no child will be allowed to touch the other child.  So thenpelosi.jpg the little one reaches over and holds their finger inches from the older child.  cheney.jpg(The little one always starts it) At that point, the older child snaps and starts applying the beat down to the younger child.  Then the parents snap and everyone starts getting a beating (figuratively).

People, these are the people who tax us and control trillions of dollars.  Is it any wonder why nothing ever gets done?

This line is the worst.  It totally smacks of “I’m going to tell mom.”

 …and the California Democrat accused the vice president of questioning her patriotism, saying she was going to call President Bush directly with her complaint…

“You better take that back or I’m going to tell the President.”  

“Go ahead.  See if I care.  He likes me better than you anyway.” 

Jesus.  Grow up.  It’s time to be big boys and girls.   It’s time to let the grown ups talk a little.  OK? 

Can we just get rid of them all and start over?


Why parents drink

A boss wondered why one of his most valued employees had phoned in
sick one day. Having an urgent problem with one of the main computers, he
dialed the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s

“Is your daddy home?” he asked.
“Yes,” whispered the small voice.
May I talk with him?”

The child whispered, “No.”
Surprised and wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is
your Mommy there?”
“May I talk with her?”
Again the small voice whispered, “No.”
Hoping there was somebody with whom he could leave a message, the
boss >asked, “Is anybody else there?”
“Yes ,” whispered the child, “a policeman”.
Wondering what a cop would be doing at his employee’s home, the boss
asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy”, whispered the child.
“Busy doing what?”
“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman,” came the whispered

Growing more worried as he heard a loud noise in the background
through the earpiece on the phone, the boss asked, “What is that noise?”
“A helicopter” answered the whispering voice.
“What is going on there?” demanded the boss, now truly apprehensive.
Again, whispering, the child answered, “The search team just landed
a helicopter.”

Alarmed, concerned and a little frustrated the boss asked, “What are
they searching for?”
Still whispering, the young voice replied with a muffled giggle…