Post # 100 What’s Being Served Next

March 8, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There are a lot of milestones in blogging.  The first post, the first comment, the first time your number of hits surpasses your expectations.  The one year anniversary of a blog is a big one.  Another big one is the 100th post.  I thought I’d take a minute and tell you some things I learned from blogging over the past several months, and let you know what to expect in the upcoming 100 posts.

I started this blog for a lot of reasons and all of them selfish.  But I would bet that’s not so unusual in the world of blogging since blogging is all about one person writing whatever they want to and hoping people will read and respond.  Blogging is all about “me” and “my opinion” with input from readers.  One thing I learned as I wrote more posts was that I was more interested in giving out good information in a fun and friendly manner than in just racking up a bunch of blog posts.

When I was first given the idea of doing a blog by Partner/Spouse it was an evolution of an idea that he had given me earlier.  See, I like to write, and I like to tell stories, and I like to make people laugh.  What I want is to be a novelist and in the course of the past 100 posts, I’ve actually completed my first novel, and started on my second and third.  I also write short stories but hadn’t been doing that for quite a while.  Then one evening, Partner/Spouse said, “I think you should write down all these funny stories you keep telling about food and put them in a book.  But at the end of each story you should put the recipe for the food in story.”

I sat back in amazement at how simple the idea was but how effective it was.  It took me some time, but I blocked out ideas for about two dozen stories, then started writing them.  I wanted to get the stories completed before I wrote out the recipes because, for me, that was the important part of the project.  I was about halfway finished with writing the stories when another friend posted something on Facebook about using all the different knives in her knife set.  She was surprised that each knife served a different purpose, although many could be used for multiple purposes.  She wrote “Who knew?”  So I commented and said, “I knew.”  She replied saying she wasn’t the least bit surprised, and why wasn’t I sharing all my knowledge with my friends?

About the same time, I read a review of a book that I eventually ended up buying called How To Blog a Book.  I’m constantly looking for ways to break into the publishing industry.  This showed how to create a blog that would stand out and get noticed, and gave several examples of blogs that had been turned into not only books but successful television series and movies.  The short story/cookbook idea lent itself to that perfectly to blogging.  I had a lot of grand ideas at the beginning, but scaled back at the start as I got used to blogging and the commitment to blogging.

One of the things that the blog has done for me is helped me get used to writing on a regular schedule.  Knowing that I have to write something every Monday and Wednesday and Friday, even though those are self-imposed deadlines showed me not only that I could do it without much hassle, but it also showed me how to do it without much hassle.  Also, as long as I’m committed to the blog, my family is committed to the blog and respect the work time I put into it.  The only thing I refused to commit to time-wise was a specific time each day to publish.  I wanted some flexibility, hence the odd hours when posts appear.

Initially, I was going to post three times a week, with a recipe at least once a week.  The recipes were going to be tied to a specific post and be on separate pages so people could look through a list of recipes for what they were looking for and then look back at the post for any tips or more detail about the recipe.  I was also going to post one food related story each month, again on a separate page for those who simply wanted to read the stories and not worry about the food.  I’ve fallen way behind on the stories, and haven’t lived up to the ideals I set for myself for the recipes.  Well, that’s going to change.

In the upcoming weeks, you’ll see changes coming to the blog.  It will still retain the informal, fun (I hope) style, but I will go back to less lengthy posts and separate recipes.  I’m also going to follow some other food blogs and invite them to follow me back.  You’ll see my list of favorite blogs start to grow.  I may also add advertising.

I’ve been getting a GREAT DEAL of spam on this site from commercial porn sites, and lending sites.  I’m going to work to get rid of them somehow.  But I’d also like to see more comments and discussion going on.  I’m going to look around for a way to make comments easier.  I’m also going to find a way to put a link to my email account for those who would like to contact me directly.  Not sure how that will work yet.  I’m also going to start using tags and categories in case anyone is interested in searching through the old posts without having to look at each post individually.

So, there it is.  I hope the changes will be helpful.  As always, if there is ever something that you want to know about, or a post you want to know more about, please let me know.  Thanks and Enjoy!

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Post # 99 Travels Abroad #4 Helsinki, Finland

March 6, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 99 Travels Abroad #4 Helsinki, Finland

One of my favorite places to travel is Europe.  To my mind, the European people have a lifestyle that fits my sentiments more closely than anywhere else.  They care about history; they care about quality of life; they care about food.  Just north of Europe, in Scandinavia they  care about those things, as well, but in a different manner.  I as in Helsinki Finland several times and each time was a different experience due to the various times of year I was there.

The food in Helsinki was amazing.  Helsinki is a port town and fish of various kinds is a staple.  It comes in all varieties and methods of preparation.  Some of the best fish I’ve ever had was in Helsinki.  The Finns, however, have raised drinking to an art form.

Winters in Finland tend to be long and gray.  The buildings reflect this.  The architecture and scale are very ornate.  Color is very bland.  When the cold sets in and the days get shorter, everything gets a little dreary.  Then the snow falls and everything brightens up.  During the cold and gray times, it seems like the national pastime is drinking.  I’m not sure if it’s indicative of all of Scandinavia, but Finland purely likes to drink.

In preparation for my first trip, I was reading a guidebook, trying to figure out what there was to see and do in the city.  The book warned that when you were in a bar, you had to maintain a discreet silence.  When tourists make the mistake of talking too loudly or to frequently, a local will turn to them and ask “Are you hear to drink or to chat?”  Drinking is done in bars; chatting is done in cafes or restaurants.

The food in the restaurants is as bright and pleasant as the days can be gray and chilly.  The first time I sat down to lunch in a restaurant with the group I was working with, I ordered a piece of grilled salmon on a salad.  I got this huge plate filled with salad greens, fried cheese, and seasoned grilled salmon.  The cheese was fried haloumi, the salmon seasoned with salt and lemon, and was the freshest piece of fish I’d ever tasted.  It practically melted in my mouth and the flavor was out of this world.  I’ve heard people say before and since that the fresher the fish is when cooked, the better it will tasted.  Even after all these years, I still remember the flavor and tenderness of that salmon.

I also got my first taste of Nepalese cooking in Helsinki.  I got some rice and lentils, and a chicken dish that was so spicy, I was sweating for an hour after finishing it.

There was one place called the Wharf Market reasonably enough since it was located on one of the wharves.  It was on the way to work so we stopped by every day on the way home to pick up something to eat.  It was long and narrow and warm.  We entered one end and walked several blocks inside.  It was like walking through a toy store at Christmas.  The crowd moved from one end to the other perusing the displays.  Every fresh fish and vegetable available was out.  In some areas, they were cooked; in others, they were smoked.  The aromas were almost overwhelming, and made my mouth water.  I wanted to buy some of everything.  I usually got a fish sandwich and chips.  However, a few times I was able to get either a smoked sausage, or grilled beef strips on a stick.  I have no idea what spices they used on them, but they were delicious beyond imagining.  When I had the beef on a stick, I seldom made it back to the hotel before it was gone.

Oddly enough, one of the best fast food places in the area was the Pizza Hut!  It was the same menu, but the ingredients were local and that made all the difference.  Good stuff!

The first time I went to Helsinki it was November.  I was meeting two coworkers and we were going to be there for about a week and a half as we completed a site survey in prep for an upcoming installation.  I was also studying the new applications and the whole installation process.  I was preparing for another trip as well.  So it was understandable that as I packed for the short days-long (rather than weeks-long) trip that my mind was in other places.  I arrived in Helsinki in mid-November with no coat.  I had several sweaters, and a couple of blazers, but no coat.  In Helsinki.  In November.

I reasoned that with the undershirt, shirt, tie, sweater, blazer, scarf, and gloves I would be warm enough.  I lasted about two days and bought a good thick coat made locally.  I kept that coat for years before giving it away to someone who lived in Pennsylvania.  It kept me warm through many harsh winters.

Hope you enjoyed this.  Holler is you have any questions or comments!

Post # 98 Kitchen Nightmares pt 2 – The Method

March 4, 2013 at 11:07 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Okay, who remembers this picture?

drawer

For those who don’t, several weeks ago I explained the trials and tribulations of blending four households worth of stuff.  Two areas where it was the worst were the kitchen and the books.  Well, I’m thrilled to report that the book situation has been dealt with.  Every single book we own in every single box (and there were a LOT) has been sorted and is now on a bookshelf or in a bag to be donated.  There are NO MORE book boxes in this house.  Cue Kermit T. Frog screaming “Yay!” as he flails his arms.  Or flippers, or whatever it is he has.

So, why not the kitchen first?  Who knows?  I just chose one and did it.  However, I came up with a plan to sort the kitchen on an ongoing basis.  And here it is.

To get the books cleared away, I stacked every box of books in the bedroom so they’d be in the way and a constant reminder that something had to be done.  Today, I will be stacking the six or eight boxes of kitchen stuff (I honestly don’t recall how many boxes there are, but I think it’s six) in the living room.  Again, in the way, and a constant reminder that something has to be done.

In the meantime, that mess of a drawer in the photo above?  That’s the drawer where I shoved all the spoons, spatulas, wire whisks, etc. that we’ve come to own over the course of the last five and a half years together.   I’m a firm believer in having a backup.  Goes back to my computer tech days.  Plus, things wear out; wooden spoons break; knives get dull and can’t be re-sharpened.  So here’s what I’ve been doing.  It’s a three drawer system that includes a kitchen tool holder.

First, there’s the Drawer full of stuff as seen above.  If anyone needs to find something, that’s the first place to look.  Then there’s the silverware drawer.

kitchen 03

This is the primary drawer and is self-explanatory.  Those things we used several times a day are in this drawer.  That’s a bamboo divider, by the way.  Totally cool.  We love it.

Next, is the Sorting Drawer.  Any of those utensils that are used often enough to be awkward when stored in The Drawer are placed in the Sorting Drawer.  It’s the drawer just above The Drawer (every time I type that or say that it has a very ominous sound.)

kitchen 05

What this accomplishes is letting me know what gets used often and what should I do with it?  It can either go to the silverware drawer if it gets used several times a day, or it can go to the Kitchen Tool Holder.

kitchen 04

This is one of those things that no kitchen should be without.  Mine is on a wooden spinner so I can turn it to find what I need, but I never turn it since everything is in line of sight.  I put those things that are used about once a day.  Wooden spatulas, wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, salad tossers, etc.  are all in this thing.  It’s handy, practical, out of the way, but I don’t have to search when I need a wooden spoon to stir gravy or something.

What this system does for me is allows me to see at a glance what I use often enough to keep, and what is extraneous.  In another few weeks, when I’ve run this system for two months, I’ll empty The Drawer and decided what I really want to keep.  I’ve got wooden spoons in The Drawer that are in their pristine condition, never once sullied by any foodstuff of any kind.  I’ll likely keep them, because wooden spoons break eventually and why buy new ones when I’ve already got new ones?  But those old fondue forks wrapped in newspaper to keep them from skewering anyone?  Those can go.

So that’s the method.  In the meantime, today the boxes of kitchen items that are outside come inside.  I will open one every other day or so, and with luck will be through them by the end of the weekend.  I will have to either find storage for the stuff, or donate it.  There’s some stuff I’m keeping regardless (anything in cast iron, for instance) and there’s stuff that we have two or even three of.

People often ask how we came to accumulate so much stuff.  There are really two reasons.  The first is that we blended four households when we came together and the kitchen stuff is the result.  The second reason is that with so much stuff in boxes (and it’s been that way for us almost from the start) lots of times when we’re looking for something like, say, a crock pot, it’s often easier to just go buy a twenty dollar crock pot than to search through several boxes to find the one we know we have but don’t where it is.

With a little perseverance and luck, in a week or so the kitchen will be sorted out and I’ll be able to not only report success but show pictures of a great looking kitchen!  Wish me luck!

UPDATE:  Okay!  There were eight boxes, fairly large, marked “kitchen.”  I put them in the living room yesterday.  Today I emptied them all out.  Turns out that the things we had already donated were the only things to be donated.  We had done a huge amount of donating before moving here, so I guess I was still thinking of those things.   So now everything is out of boxes, and most of them are put away.  There are still a few things left to find spots for.  So!  What’s the next step in my kitchen nightmare?  Next on the agenda is relax.  I have to wait for the dishwasher to finish up so I can put stuff away, but after that I’m going to wait for things to settle down a bit.  I’m going to re-evaluate the shelf structure in both the kitchen and laundry and determine if any modifications need to be made.  Then I tackle The Drawer.  Once it’s straightened out, I’ll have more room to put things away and hopefully be done with the kitchen stuff.  Wow!  Books and kitchen done.  Never thought that would happen!  Take care and enjoy!

Post # 97 Lemon Pie

March 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 97 Lemon Pie

I like lemon pie.  I like the gummy lemon paste pie you can get from Dolly Madison with Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt on the wrapper.  I like the fried lemon pie I got once in Oklahoma.  I like the wafer thin lemon pie you get in many diners.  I like lemon flavored cheesecake.  I like lemon curd that can be baked into coffee cakes.  I like lemon meringue pie in almost any form.  I just really like lemon pie.

My favorite is Mile High Lemon Pie and the best recipe is from Cook’s Country (link below.)  It makes the best lemon pie ever!  I made it for a dear friend’s birthday once a few years ago.  It was easy, and made a pie that tasted amazing with a cooked egg white topping that tasted as good as marshmallows!  My only complaint was that the recipe was almost too tart.  Good stuff, let me tell you.

Years ago, my brother was married to a young woman who liked to try her hand at different things, to stretch herself, experiment with something new, learn new things.  I always admire her fearlessness in that respect.  One summer day, she announced she was going to make a lemon meringue pie.

“From scratch.” she said.

We had lemon trees in the backyard, along with various other citrus trees, so I jokingly said, “Yeah?  You going to take the lemons off the tree?”

She rallied to the challenge and replied, “Of course!  I’m squeezing the lemons, baking the crust, everything!”

My mouth started watering.  Like I said, I love lemon pie!

“When are you doing this?” Mom asked.

“How about Sunday?”

I said, “That’s great.  I’ll make burgers and dogs on the grill.  That’ll be the dessert.”

Suddenly we all got into the spirit of the thing, and the lemon pie was going to be the feature of a great Sunday barbeque.

I don’t know what all she went through, because she made the pie at her house.  She and my brother and their two kids came over early in the afternoon to swim and play and have a good time.  The pie looked amazing!  It could have been taken right out of a magazine.

“Wow!  That looks really good!” I said.  “Have much trouble making it?”

“I’ve never made one before.” she said.  “Apart from that, it wasn’t too bad.”

I took the pie from her and put it in the fridge.  It didn’t feel too heavy, the meringue didn’t slide around, even the lemon filling felt like it had set properly.

“I can hardly wait to eat it.” I told her.

We had a fun, relaxing afternoon, and Dad and I got the grill ready.  Everyone stuffed themselves with burgers, hot dogs, potato chips, potato salad, and sodas.  About six, my brother’s wife brought out the pie.

“Everyone ready?”  She started cutting to a rousing cry of approval.  Her smile showed her justifiable pride.

When everyone had a piece, we all dug in.  The crust was flaky and perfect.  The meringue was sweet and delicious.  The lemon filling was tart, sweet, and crunchy.

Crunchy?

I looked at my mom who look puzzled, too.  It was a delicious pie, but it shouldn’t have been crunchy.  I looked more closely at the filling and the bits inside it.

“Umm,” I said to her.  “Did you remember to strain the juice before cooking it?”

She looked confused then started to giggle.  She has a unique, high-pitched giggle and at times it’s difficult to tell if she’s amused or embarrassed.  I was pretty sure I knew which she was this time.  “I wondered about that!   I didn’t know why to do that so I skipped it.”

I spit out another lemon seed.  “It’s a great pie, but the crunch factor is a little high.”

We laughed for a long time over that.

Check out the link below for one of the best lemon pies ever!

mile high lemon pie

 

http://www.cookscountry.com/recipes/Mile-High-Lemon-Meringue-Pie-Recipe-Cook-s-Country/7646/

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