We may be on the verge of World War III as a reckless, clueless president is intent on starting a war to distract from his impeachment, but all is not lost because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Oh Deer. So there I was falling asleep last night when the security system alarm goes off on my phone telling me that there was a person on the side of my house and in my back yard. I thought it might be a cat trying to get into the catio again, but Jake and Jenny were in bed with me. Nope... definitely not a cat... it was A FAMILY OF DEER! A couple others came along after this video...
Apparently with the warmer weather they are looking for something to eat, because they spent some time in my shrubs before moving on...
I feel horrible that somebody may harm them as they try to survive by heading into suburbia.
• RIP Syd Mead. It's unbelievable how so much of how we envision the future was defined by one guy... Syd Mead. He has created a tremendous volume of incredible work, and I was saddened to hear of his passing.
2010, him. Aliens, him. Blade Runner, him. Blade Runner 2049, him. Star Trek the Motion Picture, him. Tron, him. You will be missed, sir.
• Poop. I loathe coffee. I have never liked it despite my proximity to Coffee Central (AKA Seattle). On those occasions where it's the only thing to drink, I will try it (again) and want to barf (again) so I've just stopped trying. Finally, finally I've found a video which encapsulates how I feel about the entire situation...
• Persevere. And speaking of cats... for all the challenges you meet in 2020... take courage from this cat who perseveres over whatever life throws at them!
Way to go, buddy!
• Squishy. HOLD UP A MINUTE... how many butternut squashes were y'all going to let me buy, peel, and cube before telling me that they make LUXURY BUTTERNUT SQUASH that comes pre-peeled, pre-cubed, and frozen for my convenience?
Y'all are on my list now. — I think I was dangerously close to breaking down crying in the supermarket when I saw it in the freezer case. This changes so much!
• Fly Someone. And lastly, I missed this adorable Christmas commercial from Heathrow Airport. Well worth your time to watch...
What a nice way to end Bullet Sunday! Have a good one, everybody.
Stay safe and be kind, everybody...
Yesterday I ran to the grocery store to throw some money away on food. It never ceases to amaze me the cost of food nowadays. Every time I go shopping it seems like the prices have gone up. Ten items... $45, please.
One of the items I purchased was a bottle of spicy brown mustard.
To eat it.
Which, if you have known me for any length of time, is a surprising turn of events given that I spent the majority of my life hating mustard. Sure I've always got a bottle of that yellow stuff in my refrigerator for friends who come over for barbecue, but the only time I use it is as an ingredient for potato salad.
But then last month I had a Market Fresh Sandwich at Arby's and everything changed.
Let me back up a second there.
I don't usually buy Market Fresh Sandwiches at Arby's because I don't like having to pay for something I'm not eating. They don't have a cheese sandwich at Arby's, so I have to order the Roast Turkey & Swiss Market Fresh Sandwich and have them hold the turkey... AND DEFINITELY HOLD THE MUSTARD.
Except last month when I ordered I forgot to tell them to hold the mustard because it had been four or five months since I last had one.
The sandwich was incredible.
And it took me a minute to realize that the reason it was incredible was because there was mustard on it. I was dying to know what kind of mustard it was, so I went up to the counter and asked for an extra packet. But I didn't put it on my sandwich. I took it home so I could add it to my shopping list.
And so here we are.
Except the store didn't have spicy brown honey mustard like they use at Arby's so I had to buy regular spicy brown mustard and mix a touch of honey in.
Tonight for dinner I had a Swiss cheese sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion, and the spicy brown mustard with honey. It was delicious, as I knew it would be. And now I am wondering what other things in life I need to try that I decided I don't like because they might be something that I actually like. Well, except cauliflower and broccoli. I know that shit hasn't gotten any better since childhood.
The plan was to meet a friend for dinner in nearby big city 20 minutes away. But it was pretty dark at 4:30 and snowing like crazy so I called to cancel. Turns out my friend had forgotten all about meeting up, so it was no harm no foul. Instead my dinner consisted of veggie hot dogs. Which was lame, but better than the bag of potato chips I had for lunch.
Though it's tough to feel too sorry for myself after I saw this video this morning...
Animals around the globe are having such a tough time of it... and people are not doing enough to help. Indeed, it seems so many of the problems animals face are due to humans in the first place. This kind of shortsightedness is incredibly depressing, and I can't help but wonder how close we are to catastrophic failure of our ecosystem.
Then we humans will be the ones having a very tough time of it.
And it will be fully deserved.
Happy birthday to one of my favorite people on earth: BETTY WHITE! 98 years young! I've been a fan long before The Golden Girls... mostly thanks to appearances on The Tonight Show and reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Today I finally finished a project I've been working on all year long (ha!), so I decided to leave a couple hours early so I could bake bread and do some cooking.
Namely, trying to figure out the perfect egg bite recipe.
There are dozens of recipes on the internet, possibly even hundreds. I've gone through a lot of them and have cooked many of them. Eventually I started experimenting on my own, combining recipes and adding my own ingredients.
Some things I've learned...
Which brings us to...
Dave's Spicy Egg Bites.
Start by dumping all this in a blender...
Blend on medium speed until well-mixed. Then add...
Pulse-blend on slow just until mixed, don't pulverize the peppers!
Spray silicone egg cups with cooking spray (I know they say you don't have to, but they always stick if I don't). Evenly divide egg mixture amongst cups. Place a cup of water into the bottom of your instant pot then lower the silicone bite tray into the pot with the wire steam rack. Most recipes say to put a circle of foil on top of the egg tray so condensation doesn't drop onto the eggs. I don't bother.
I have an 8-quart Instant Pot. I have no idea if this makes a difference if you have the 6-quart, but I often have to increase cooking times from recipes I find. There are two ways I've tried to cook these things. There doesn't seem to be a big difference. I prefer to steam because they seem softer, but I am including the pressure-cook version which also works...
If you don't eat all of them, you can put them back in the silicone egg cups and use the provided plastic lid to store them in the refrigerator for a few days. I just pop them on a microwave-safe plate, cut in half, then cook for 30 seconds to warm them.
If you're not going keto you can chop them up and eat them on toast, which is my most favorite way to eat them. Also delicious? Chop up, mix with crispy hash brown potatoes and more cheese, put in a steamed flour tortilla with salsa.
These are pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself, and it's the Queso Blanco which ended up being the key. I didn't find it on any recipe I dug up, which is strange. Adding it seems obvious, it was the other factors that took a lot of time to figure out (I wasted many a batch with different onions and cottage cheese until I got rid of them completely).
I'll keep experimenting and post any changes if I find out they work better.
I'm still sick and dying, but the show must go on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HDR. I've had a 4K AppleTV since the day it was released. The 4K part isn't a massive improvement over 1080 because my television isn't big enough (or rather I'm not sitting close enough) for it to make a big difference. When I get up close, fine details do look also nice... especially fine lines like strands of hair and the like. And so I just left the settings to the default of 4K because my TV can do that. Sometimes if it's a really beautiful movie that's being displayed in 4K I'll pull up a chair so I can see all the incredible detail up close. In discussing this, I was told that the default 4K is in Standard Dynamic Range and I should check to see if my television can display High Dynamic Range. A quick look at the specs and... my television CAN display HDR. I thought my AppleTV was already set to HDR, but I went into my AppleTV settings and, sure enough, it was set to SDR instead. So I made a quick comparison by switching back and forth while watching Captain Marvel. SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
The glow when Captain Marvel uses her powers alone is worth the switch. But where it really makes a difference is in the black levels. Any time people are in shadow you can see much more subtlety in their presence. Even more important, Agent Fury and Maria Rambeau's gorgeous skin tone is far better defined and doesn't get lost when they're in shadow. Just watch the scene where Fury and Carol are washing dishes and you'll see what a difference it makes... far more of a difference than going from 1080 to 4K. Another movie that just luxuriates in HDR? Blade Runner 2049. If you've got a television that can display HDR, then that's the most important setting you can make.
NOTE: The Marvel movies are not... I repeat NOT... in 4K or HDR if you purchase them on iTunes. You have to watch via a different app which has them in Ultra-High-Def HDR. If you purchased with MoviesAnywhere, you're good. The Disney+ app looks like it's HDR, but I haven't done a lot of testing.
NOTE: The "Movies" app on AppleTV stupidly does not seem to tell you when movies are encoded in HDR. You have to look them up on the shitty AppleTV desktop app on a computer to know that. So lame.
NOTE: Just to say... I've been running through the movie purchases I have which are in HDR and the picture quality is stunning. Even movies like Crazy Rich Asians which don't seem like they would be affected have a delicious richness to them. Seriously, wow.
NOTE: After watching a while, I am relatively confident that the AppleTV app for Disney+ is showing 4K HDR. Yay! So even if you only own the crappier iTunes versions, you can still watch in HDR with Disney+, I guess. Boy is Thor: Ragnarok disappointing. I thought once they got to Sakaar the color would be off the hook. Alas, not as often as you'd think, just in certain scenes. But the lightsaber fight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens nice.
• Reprisal. I suspended Netflix a couple weeks back, now I've also suspended Hulu so I can reactivate CBS All Access for ten weeks to watch Picard (unless CBS is a total dick and skip weeks like they've done with Discovery, the assholes). For the two days left I've got Hulu I've been watching it non-stop to get my money's worth. The last show I had on my list to watch was Reprisal...
A cross between all those revenge movies and Sons of Anarchy, this show is one of the most drawn-out, uneventful, dull, and overall boring series you'll ever see. Long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Characters that have loads of screen time yet are somehow one-dimensional. There's also moments of real stupid which pad runtime just because there were ten episodes to fill. And yet... it was a fascinating, stylish, twisty, interesting ride that accelerated to the finish line. And had some great moments. I don't regret watching it. I do regret that I spent so much time watching it. So if you've got time to kill, here's a show to check out. You'll need to tough it out those first five episodes though.
• Kindness. It's not that difficult, really. If you can't be supportive of people living their best life at zero cost to you, you can at least be kind. So be kind. Offer kindness to those who are being treated unkindly. Stand against those who are treating others unkindly. As a fellow human, it’s the very least we can do.
• Dietary Sadness. Quaker rice cakes are a staple of my diet. I love them. They are high in carbs (7g to 11g ea.), but it's a far better option for dessert than say... three Chips Ahoy cookies (22g) or your average cupcake (40g). I have a Plain or White Cheddar or Popcorn cake with my lunch and a flavored cake with my dinner for dessert. My favorite for dessert, by a wide margin, is Caramel Chocolate Chip. Except you can't get them any more. You have to choose either Caramel or Chocolate. Caramel Chocolate Chip has been replaced by Tomato Basil.
I decided to try them and I can't make up mystery mind. The first bite and I'm like "Tastes like crackers in tomato soup!" The second and I'm like "Tastes like pizza sauce!" Then things start to go wrong. The flavor powder accumulates on your taste buds and suddenly it's awful for some reason. I am so very, very sad that my Caramel Chocolate Chip rice cakes are gone.
• Pantone. There is beauty to be found in diversity. And this is amazing.
• Help. And before I go... I read this week that there's now a hotline specifically for caregivers... "Depression. Exhaustion. Burnout. Stress. Those are just some of the words people are using to describe their experiences as caregivers. Helping care for a family member or loved one can be hard work. People don't often talk about the emotional toll it can take on the actual caregiver. Now the Caregiver Action Network is trying to provide help by launching a hotline specifically for caregivers." — Had this existed, there were days I would have totally called this number.
And now... probably time for a nap considering I'm about to pass out anyway.
It's Oscar Sunday but I just don't care, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Crapple! Given my longstanding rant against Apple being complete and total assholes by sticking their customers with shitty butterfly keyboards for years before they FINALLY thought to replace them with something not-quite-so-horrible, this one's for you. It's at the 2-minute mark...
People think this is funny... but, but I'm the biggest Apple Whore I know, and even I was seriously shopping for PCs before the 16-inch MacBook Pro was released. I hope Apple is fucking embarrassed at this, because they should be.
• Gold! I used to do a big thing on the Oscars, but I stopped giving a shit when they kept rewarding the same old crap. This year it looks like things are on a better track. Here's my list...
The love for Parasite, which would usually be thrown in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category (it still was and won there too), was a breath of fresh air. I didn't see it until last week or else it surely would have been one of my favorite movies of 2019.
• Mythical! If you haven't been watching Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+, it's worth a look. Especially if you love video games. Apparently Rob McElhenney (who is at his most Rob McElhenneyist here) and Charlie Day consulted heavily with Ubisoft to get some semblance of accuracy even though this is a comedy about what goes on behind the scenes at a video game company. It shows. The show is absolute gold, and will easily make my list of favorites for 2020. It's not quite The Office or The IT Crowd, but it kinda draws from both...
The jokes come fast and most of them land well. I cannot believe that they got F. Murray Abraham. He has the perfect amount of gravitas for his part. But this is Rob McElhenney from start to finish and he's absolutely perfect.
• Starch! Wow. How come nobody told me that adding corn starch to scrambled eggs makes them taste like they've been slow-cooking for 30 minutes? This is reeeeeally nice. So creamy and rich. If you haven't tried it, these are pretty great. Also works wonders with omelettes. I will never cook scrambled eggs without it.
• NEWS: Antarctica logs hottest temperature on record with a reading of 18.3°C. That's 65°F, people. When I visited, there were many times I took off my jacket because Antarctica was too warm to have it on. I worry for the wildlife which calls this continent home. How is this going to disrupt their habitat and can they survive it?
Penguins are already having a tough time of it, and things look to be getting worse. And then there's polar bears starving in the Arctic. Troubling times for our planet.
• trAIn! Apple has put Artificial Intelligence "Machine Learning" in their iPhone and are making good use of it (especially with the camera). As time goes on, it's just going to be surreal how it changes our lives. Take for example this footage from Denis Shiryaev, which upscaled the video to 4K with machine learning and resounded it... Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, by Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896...
Looks old, but almost new. Here's the original footage...
We are really close to the unreal easily being mistake for the real, if we're not there already.
• Netflix Fix! And, lastly, apparently there is a God... you can finally tell Netflix to STOP AUTO-PLAYING FUCKING PREVIEWS WHILE YOU ARE TRYING TO SEARCH FOR SOMETHING TO WATCH! People have been complaining about this bullshit FOR YEARS and Netflix did nothing. Apparently somebody finally figured that customers were worth listening to... or maybe it's because many other streaming services are treating customers with a lot more respect by not irritating the ever-loving-shit out of them...
Apparently you set it once in your preferences and it goes into effect everywhere. I haven't yet verified this, but I sure hope it's true.
And that's a wrap, little golden statue dude!
Thanks to Martha Stewart's meal kit service I've been cooking a lot more often. Not just her recipes, but recipes off the internet, recipes friends give me, and recipes my mom collected. I don't necessarily like cooking... I certainly don't like the mess... but it's cheaper than frozen meals and tastes considerably better.
Problem is that my cookware is less than ideal and that makes cooking difficult.
All my pots and pans were inherited from my mom. They are a mish-mash of stuff... some of which was probably a wedding gift over 50 years ago... and some of it just random stuff she purchased as she needed it. The two best pieces are Revere Ware that's in great shape but seems to have problems on my glass cooktop. They don't boil water so much as dance when you attempt it. Likely because the bottom is never in full contact with the element so it never gets hot enough to boil stuff.
Ignore my filthy stove (I filmed this right after cooking lunches for the week)...
In order to boil water, I have to stand at the stove and press down on the handle so it stops dancing. Even then it seems to take forever. For the longest time I blamed my stove, even though I bought it new when I moved in.
And so... I really need new cookware.
But do you know how many different kinds there are? Cast Iron, Enameled Cast Iron, Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Nonstick, Copper, and Aluminum, to name a few. There are pros and cons to each and I spent more time than I'd care to admit trying to figure out which would be best for me.
On Sunday I sponged off a friend's Costco membership to buy a new set (a full set being the most economical way to replace my entire eclectic collection). Turns out I needn't have wasted my time since Costco only had one set I could afford (my budget was $100, the cheapest they had was $119).
Say hello to my Kirkland Signature brand 12-piece Hard Anodized Cookware Set...
I have to say... this is some really nice stuff. Probably not compared to the high-end cookware that's out there, but definitely compared to what I was working with before. It's heavy enough to sit flat when hot. It heats evenly (something I didn't even know was important until I cooked in it*). The surface is phenomenally non-stick. It's oven-safe so I can bake in it. There's a great variety of pieces, including a deep skillet which I love. The lids have a built-in strainer that's awesome.The only down-side is that it's not recommended that you put them in the dishwasher, you're supposed to wash by hand. At first I was disappointed, but once I saw how mind-bogglingly non-stick these things are, it's actually easier to wash them by hand than trying to fit them in a dishwasher. Nice.
And, oh yeah... when it comes to boiling water? It happens SO DANG FAST that I was picking my jaw up off the floor. Turns out that having a good set of cookware is going to really up my cooking game.
I kept my mom's two Revere Ware pieces just to have them. Everything else I tossed. Usually I donate stuff I no longer need, but all the pans were Teflon (which will apparently kill you now) and the pots were banged up so badly that I'm guessing nobody would want them.
As I was going through my kitchen junk to see if there was anything else I could get rid of, I happened upon an enduring mystery... I have a missing bowl. Maybe a houseguest broke it and forgot to tell me or something, but there's one less than I purchased. It's not a big deal. It's not something I'm pining over even a little bit. But I would just like to know what happened to it, you know?
In the meanwhile I'm just going to blame the cats.
*Seriously. My old pots would bubble up in some spots but not others which causes scalding and burning. Even heating makes it so much easier to avoid this.
My buying into the Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon meal kits has reignited how often I cook. Which is most every day now. Don't get me wrong... there are still plenty of crappy frozen pizzas and moderately good Mexican entrees piled up in my freezer for those days I can't manage a kitchen adventure... but I'm cooking my own meals 95% of the time. And you know I'm serious about the craft of it all when I spend $120 on new cookware.
Some of the things I've learned...
Another thing I've learned is that it takes a lot of time to develop a recipe. Even things I think I've nailed (like potato salad) ends up getting experimented on. Pasta sauces will never be nailed down because I'm always thinking of something new to add or change about them. But the thing that I've found to be the toughest to perfect? One of my favorite foods... falafel. Last night I made some because I finally remembered to soak the chickpeas the day before. Before starting I carefully reviewed my notes from my previous attempts at creating the perfect falafel so I could get closer this time. The problem is that onions, which are a huge part of what makes a good falafel "work," never taste the same. I try to accommodate that by eating a piece to see if I'm going to need more (when the onion is weak) or less (when the onion is strong) but I can never seem to figure out what I need to do until after I've finished it and fried up a few patties...
They were good... very good... but had too much onion and not enough red pepper flake and cumin. Yet if I had put in less onion then there might have been too much red pepper flake and cumin. It's enough to drive you crazy. Kinda like the delicate balance between apples, lemon juice, and sugar it takes to make the perfect apple pie. My grandmother had it down. She could taste an apple and know exactly how to adjust to get a fantastic-tasting pie every time. I get better at it year after year, but am still a long ways from being able to figure it out like she could.
Developing a palate sensitive enough to know how to adjust recipes correctly is the final frontier of cooking. Once you can master that you can be a truly good cook, and I'm not there yet. And what's awful is that our sense of taste changes as we age... even if you don't smoke or drink coffee or whatever... so even if you DO manage to figure things out with your palate, it likely won't be for long.
I guess if things get too awful I could go back to frozen dinners and use my new pots and pans for sorting nails and screws while woodworking.
Always have a backup plan.
Food has gotten so incredibly expensive that I do everything I can to not waste it. Wasting food is literally burning money. But now that trips to the grocery store could come with a COVID-19 bonus and shelves are bare, it's even more critical to not waste any edibles.
Late last night I pulled everything out of my cupboards and organized it by expiration date. Then I pulled everything out of my refrigerator and arranged it by expiration date. Then I worked up a meal plan to try and use as much of it as I can before it goes bad... and freeze everything else. It's making for some eclectic meal planning.
Potato salad with applesauce.
Veggie dogs with yogurt.
Macaroni and cheese with beans.
Tacos and summer salad.
Veggie burger and cheese sticks.
It's like a 5-year-old is creating the menus up in my house. Not that I'm complaining. I'm grateful that I have food to eat. And, one thing's for certain, it will really help me clean out my cupboards and refrigerator/freezer from stuff that's been sitting there for months.
Eventually... when (if?) things ever get back to normal... I'd like to do more meal planning in advance. Right now I go to the store and buy anything I can eat that's on sale, then just do whatever I can with what I end up with in my cart. That's how I end up with these weird orphan ingredients that don't really go anywhere and just take up space for months at a time. Perhaps if I could think about what meals I can make from what's on sale at the moment, I can stick to buying only the stuff I need to be getting.
In other news... yet another childhood hero has left this cold, cruel world. Lyle Waggoner passed away at age 84. I, like oh so many others, remember him as the lucky bastard who got to star opposite the incomparable Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman... my childhood crush and the most phenomenally perfect woman to have ever existed...
Photo from Warner Bros. & DC Comics
How many times did I dream of being Steve Trevor getting wrapped up in her magic lasso as a kid? Entirely too many to be healthy, I'm sure.
Even though his time on The Carol Burnett Show came before Wonder Woman, I didn't see it until it came to reruns years later...
Photo from CBS Television
The series was more memorable to me for Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman... but Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner were excellent supporting characters and it's hard to imagine The Carol Burnett Show without them.
The remainder of his career seemed to consist of appearances on shows of the day like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder She Wrote, and even a spot on The Golden Girls. I don't remember him doing a regular series after, but he must have been keeping busy.
And speaking of keeping busy...
If you're in isolation and looking for something to entertain you, then a good place to start would be visiting the Great Big Story channel at YouTube. It's filled with cool and interesting videos that will lead you down a rabbit hole several hours deep. Here's a few to get you started...
Any of these Great Big Story videos could lead you to Google for more information. I end up there after every new video they release. The last video on the Kryptos statue is something I actually keep up with because I'm interested to see it get solved. Especially since clues are released from time to time, with the latest clue having been dropped back in January. I'll save you from having to Google it by pointing you to a very good Wikipedia article on Kryptos right here.
Stay vigilant, viral warriors!
My mom loved peanut butter. She would be happy to eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner every day. When her memory was failing her, I saw her eat them for breakfast on more than one occasion. Whenever she was bored and hungry, a peanut butter sandwich was her go-to snack. I once remember her laughing while reading an article out loud to me which had somebody saying that peanut butter breaks down after three months and shouldn't be eaten. For a jar of peanut butter to last her more than two weeks was a rarity.
After I had to move her out of the house, I threw out a jar with a few spoonfuls left in the bottom and stopped buying peanut butter.
That was almost four years ago.
Yesterday when I was buying groceries for a friend's mom, one of the items on her list was peanut butter. It sounded delicious after so long not having it, so I bought a jar. Mom preferred creamy JIF, but she would buy Extra Crunchy JIF too because she was happy to eat it as an occasional change of pace and knew that it was what I preferred.
And, oh yeah, that loaf of bread I bought yesterday? I thought I would try the new Franz "Keto" bread in case I couldn't find flour to bake my own. But before I stuck the loaf in the the freezer, I pulled out two slices and put them in a baggie to give it a try with lunch today. People were raving about the stuff, so why not? Well, to start with, there's the $6 price tag. Secondly, the loaf is a small.
Turns out there's a third reason why not... it tastes like crap.
Maybe it's because I'm used to the delicious breads I bake, but this dry, tasteless, boring "Keto" bread was awful. Don't get me wrong... if you can't have carbs, it's definitely better than nothing... but I will not be buying it again, that's for sure. Even when loaded with tons of Extra Chunky JIF peanut butter I had a tough time choking it down.
As tonight is my third night of Quentin Quarantino I watched the next two films in his catalog... Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2...
Likely one of the most stylish revenge flicks ever put to film, Kill Bill features Uma Thurman hacking her way through her former fellow assassins until she gets to her former boss, Bill. It's a brilliant and bloody spectacle with amazing fight sequences. The movie features cool wire-work which gives it a magical quality... but not so much that it feels surreal. The dialogue is pure Tarantino and, because he decided to cut the movie in two rather than cut down on the dialogue, it makes for a good balance.
Like the balance between my delicious homemade bread and this here JIF peanut butter I'm eating while blogging.
Can't believe I waited four years.
As I mentioned a while back, I've been buying meal boxes from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon. I can't afford to buy them every week, but the recipes are so amazing and have expended my meal options so wonderfully that I can't afford not to buy some of them either. They've still been shipping during the quarantine which has been really nice. If I had my way, I'd eat crackers and ice cream all day, but Martha Stewart has forced me to cook. And that's a good thing.
Here's a look at the last eight meals I've been sent...
11. Vegetable Pot Pie with Parmesan-Herb Drop Biscuits
I reeeeeally hesitated to order this recipe because the idea of soggy dumplings in a creamy stew didn't sound appealing. But... a lot of people eat dumplings so it can't be all bad can it? Well... the rosemary dumplings were fantastic and the creamy stew/soup was tasty as all get out. Really makes me want to take a chance on more dishes like this. Odds of me making this again? 100%
These soup and stew recpes are great to pack up for taking to work for my lunch...
12. Three-Cheese Cannelloni with Chopped Italian Salad
I've tried to order less and less Italian dishes because they aren't very inventive. It's always some kind of pasta in a red sauce with a greasy, oily salad. And this was no different. I ended up ordering it because I like cannelloni and was hopeful. Turns out they didn't use cannelloni shells, but still more of those pasta sheets that they use for everything. This wasn't terrible... the taste of the pasta was good... but I couldn't take another greasy salad, so I skipped the oil vinaigrette and used Italian dressing I had, then added croutons and parmesan. THAT was actually a nice side salad. Odds of me making this again? 50%
13. Detroit-Style Pizza with Roasted Peppers & Salad
Martha uses this crazy frozen pizza dough whenever they need a dough for their recipe. It arrives thawed which means it's all stuck in the bag and has to be scraped out. This is messy and really tough to work with. It will not stay stretched out, so you have to keep letting it rest and then try again and again and again. This means you end up with a denser dough than what's intended. I like the taste of the red peppers quite a lot, so I may make this again but with my own sauce. Once again I used my own dressing for the salad because I didn't want vinegar and oil yet again. Why can't Martha get more inventive with her dressings? Odds of me making this again? 50%
14. Cheesy Red Pepper Pesto Tortelloni Bake with Garlic-Butter Green Beans
Okay... just to get this out of the way... the garlic green beans were incredible, and I will absolutely be making them again. Soon. The tortellini bake was boring. Yet another boringred sauce recipe that I could have done without. Odds of me making this again? 25%
15. Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa
Bar far one of the best meals I've had from this service. When I want a quesadilla, I just toss some cheese in a tortilla and nuke it in the microwave. These are so much more amazing. The filling is flavorful and delicious. The tomatillo sauce is so fantastic that I want to make it for every Mexican meal I ever make from here on. I usually eat half of the recipe since it's meant for two people, then take the rest to work for lunch the next day. Not these. I ate every last bite of both servings and would have eaten more even though I was full to bursting. Odds of me making this again? 1000%
16. Roasted Veggie Pinwheels with Creamy Fontina Cheese Dipping Sauce
Here we go with that wacky frozen dough that sticks to the bag and is impossible to work with because it thaws during shipment. Except this time I re-froze the stuff. Made ALL the difference. So much easier to work with... and no sticky mess! There were really, really good. Mostly because the Fontina dipping sauce was aces. When I make these again I think I will try a pastry dough instead of pizza dough. The flakier, lighter, less tough pastry will make for a nicer meal, I think. Odds of me making this again? 100%
17. Baked Cheddar & Veggie Quesadillas with Salsa & Guacamole
These were delicious. Just not as good as the incredible quesadillas from two meals ago. Odds of me making this again? I will likely make these again once I get tired of the other quesadillas (the poblanos in the filling were great), but that won't be any time soon. 50%
18. Smoky Black Bean Soup with Cheddar Chive Cornbread Biscuits
I am not a "soup person" and I don't really know why. It's not that I don't like soup... I'd just rather eat other things. But since soup can store so well for lunches and such, I've been ordering some of them. Tonight was a Smoky Black Bean Soup with Cheddar Chive Cornbread Biscuits. Phenomenal. The soup has a smoked paprika in it which elevates it to another level entirely. And these biscuits! Perfect accompaniment!. Odds of me making this again? 100%
And that's a wrap!
A lot of hits, only a couple misses... but even the misses were worthwhile.
Apparently Martha got enough complaints about their stupid decision to stop including recipe cards that they have started including them again. This is much nicer than what I can print out here, and I save every one of them so I can cook them again later.
This morning I was awakened at 5am by the sound of a cat puking. Since this happens so rarely, I immediately grab my iPhone so I can use the flashlight on it to see who's sick. Turns out nobody is sick. Jake just had a hairball and, of all the places in my home, he decided to puke it up in my bedroom. Thanks, buddy!
Guess I need to step up my brushing with the Furminator.
And now for something entirely not cat-related.
I have been craving bread for a week. But I haven't baked any because 1) I don't want to use up what precious little flour I have left... and 2) I am too tired after work for a long process of multiple rises. And so... tonight I decided to just whip up a loaf of single-rise "wet bread" which doesn't taste as amazing as my beloved SourJo bread, but it does taste like bread. AND I NEEDED IT!
Bread. At last.
Dutch oven bread always gives me the nicest crust. I used to have a cast-iron Dutch oven that I inherited, which I hated. Eventually I replaced it with an Emile Henry potato pot after a friend and I were discussing bread and she recommended it. The thing is made in France and was really expensive... $100 I think?... but it's so perfect for bread. The reason being that "regular" dutch ovens are deep with a shallow lid. It can be tough to get in and out of it when you're dealing with a "wet loaf" that doesn't hold its shape and may be sticky. The potato pot is less deep but has a tall lid. So there's room to rise, but it's easy to work with. Apparently so many people ended up using this potato pot for bread that it's been rebranded "bread & potato pot" by Emile Henry (a company founded 1850 in Burgundy!).
Which is all a convoluted way to say that my Dutch oven is a French oven, I guess.
UPDATE: The pot is indeed pricey. The red one I have is now $120 at Amazon, but they have a black one for $110 as well. As you can see, the pot is split in the middle instead of the top so that the lid is deeper and the base is more shallow, making it much nicer for bread-making...
And it also does a bang-up job of cooking potatoes, as it was originally designed for.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I just ate dinner and am going to have a slice of bread for dessert!
So... not a great day.
The volunteer work I do has been suspended indefinitely. No travel through all of 2020 and while there's a hope we can get things back together in 2021, it's looking grim indeed. Which is pretty much where we're all at right now, I think.
Sure this opens up some free time I could use for other endeavors, but it also takes away some of my purpose for being on this earth. I suppose I could look into other organizations where I could donate my time (and maybe I will eventually), but I don't know that my heart would be in it. Not like it has been for the past five years.
I guess we'll see. I try to remain hopeful.
Because life goes on.
I've been doing everything I can to avoid going to the grocery store. For the second time in a month, I took everything out of my cupboards and took inventory of my freezer and refrigerator to see what I can make from what I already have.
There's a lot of pasta. A goodly amount of cheese with a month or two on the expiration date. A surprising amount of canned beans. A couple cans of soup. Not much else by way of ingredients. I do have a stash of boxed rice dishes. And a half-dozen frozen meals. I think I could get away with another week... possibly two... before having to go shopping.
Tonight my tomatillos felt ripe enough that I could pull out the ingredients I've been saving to make one of my favorite recipes I got from the meal service I've been using (Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon, which you can read about here). I had never cooked with tomatillos before, and have fallen in love with them. They make a great green sauce. I bought some weeks ago, but they were pretty tough. And so I kept them in the refrigerator in the hopes they would take their time to ripen so I could have something nice as my food supply ran out.
And tonight was the night...
That's "Cheesy Baked Quesadillas with Green Enchilada Salsa"... but the filling is actually a mix of canned refried beans, onion, garlic, and taco seasoning with cheese. It's pretty fantastic, as you can imagine. My leftover cilantro and green onion had not held up that great, but I managed to salvage enough to drop on top with some crema and more cheese.
'Dillas on a Monday evening of the apocalypse won't compensate for what I lost today... but it's a good enough start, I suppose.
Showtime's brilliant series Episodes, starring Matt LeBlanc (Joey of Friends fame) was added to Netflix back in 2018 but I only recently started watching it from the beginning. I had Showtime for the first two seasons, but since that was a while ago, I thought it best to start from the beginning and power my way through all five seasons. Tonight I finally got to the last episode.
I had forgotten just how funny and depraved it was...
So much so that I was sad when I got to the final episode. At least they wrapped it up pretty well. If you haven't seen it yet and have Netflix, then it might be worth your valuable time.
And now, because I have nothing better to blog about, I figure I might as well catch up on my latest meals from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon!
19. Bean & Cheese Taquitos with Tomatillo Salsa & Sour Cream
I fell in love with tomatillos in a previous Martha Stewart recipe box, and automatically order any dish that has them. This is essentially the same meal as the quesadillas I had weeks ago, but rolled into taquitos. I should have made them into quesadillas, because the taquitos are a heinous mess. All the filling runs out while they bake. But still... fantastic meal and super delicious!
20. Risotto Primavera with Asparagus, Leeks & Peas.
Nothing great. And the instructions were really confusing... plus I have no idea why they have it served on a bed of greasy spinach, which was kinda gross. Won't be making this one again.
21. Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans.
This is the first time I ordered a duplicate recipe... something I wasn't planning on doing except... well... quarantine and not wanting to go to the grocery store. It was their AMAZING Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with Blistered Zucchini & Green Beans that I loved so much the first time. THIS TIME when I made it, I held back half of one of the Sriracha packets because I felt the full amount overwhelmed the peanut butter flavor. FLAWLESS! PERFECT! AMAZINGLY BALANCED NOW! When I make this on my own, I will switch to blistered green beans only. I am getting a bit tired of the way Martha puts zucchini in everything, and I think it lacks the flavor that green beans have.
22. Fresh Fettuccine Alfredo in a Hurry with Baby Kale Salad.
I hate to say it, but this entire meal was kinda embarrassing. First of all... this was a lot longer process and a lot more difficult to make than ACTUAL FETTUCCINE ALFREDO! The real recipe is fettuccine noodles with butter and grated parmesan AND THAT'S IT! If you make it any other way, IT'S NOT FUCKING FETTUCCINE ALFREDO! No cream. No lemon and garlic and other extra shit. It's parmesan and butter. Period. And I would know... I've eaten at the restaurant where it was invented several times when visiting Rome! But this? Just no. Instead of fettuccine noodles, there I was cutting up pasta sheets AGAIN. Instead of a load of parmesan, you get two tiny squares to grate up. Instead of butter you get mascarpone cheese, garlic, and LEMON?!? The result is a bland, senseless pasta fiasco that should NEVER be called "Fettuccine Alfredo." Luckily I had some extra parmesan to throw on top for SOME added flavor. And don't get me started on the Baby Kale Salad. Yet AGAIN Martha wants you to toss the shit with oil. I am so sick of fucking greasy lettuce in these meals that I couldn't stomach the thought of it. And so I dumped a bunch of French dressing on top to help cover up the kale. ATTENTION MARTHA STEWART... OTHER SALAD DRESSINGS EXIST OTHER THAN OIL. HOLY SHIT!!! From now on I will be looking at the recipes very carefully instead of just clicking stuff that looks good. I thought this was going to be a simplified one-pot recipe for Alfredo or something. Turns out it wasn't even the dish advertised.
And I guess that's the end of that.
I'm bored out of my mind without being able to hang out with my friends, but excitement awaits me... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Nadiya! One of my favorite Great British Bakeoff contestants, Nadiya Hussain, has a new Netflix series out... Nadiya's Time to Eat. Not all of it is vegetarian, but I've gotten some good ideas from her show. Including this gem...
Sounds amazing, right? And how charming is she with her lovely British accent? Nadiya's got some cool ideas for quick and easy meals that makes her show a great thing to watch. Just keep in mind that the British terms for certain foods can be different ("caster sugar" there is "fine baker's sugar" here), and sometimes products (such as Double Cream, which is 48% milkfat, for example) may not even exist where you live (the thickest I can get is Whipping Cream, which is only 36% milkfat. Also? Nadiya provides all oven temperatures in Celsius, so you'll need to convert to Fahrenheit.
• Facebook "Standards!" It's gotten to the point where I can't understand the point of Facebook any more. They are so wildly inconsistent with the posts they ban that you can't really know what is acceptable or not. Take for instance this tweet I reposted that is clearly a joke on all the "5G causes the Coronavirus" conspiracy theorists...
Meanwhile, some of the anti-vaxers and homeopaths and flat earthers and other morons are posting shit that is ACTUALLY MISINFORMATION THAT CAN CAUSE HARM and have free reign? Dafuq? I have posts taken down more and more lately, and in no case did I agree with the decision or even see why they took it down in the first place. Facebook has no concept of context or humor and are acting like total dipshits with this ban-hammer crap.
• Love Is Love! One of the members of my "Bible Study for Non-Christians" group brought up the movie Road to Edmond, which they decided to watch because it sharply divided Christians who saw it. None of the rest of us had heard of it, but it was free to watch on Amazon Prime Streaming, so we all agreed to take a look so we could have a discussion about it. I honestly don't know what my takeaway is. I almost stopped watching 20 minutes in because one of the characters was driving me crazy and the non-budget and amateurish acting was almost too much to take. But I stuck with it because I didn't want to be left out of the conversation with my group. Turns out that everything was building to something, not everything is what it seems, and it's actually a fairly remarkable film. I definitely understand why some people are completely incensed with it... heaven only knows there's enough to provoke that reaction. But I also understand why some people have fallen in love with it too. As I said, I honestly don't know how I feel about it... maybe I'll have more perspective once I've discussed it. All I definitely know is that I love the closing credits song as much as I could possibly love any song... it's Love is Love by Trey Pearson.
Trey Pearson has a lot of great songs, this one is called Silver Horizon and is every bit as good...
And if not for Road to Edmond, I likely never would have found it.
• Download! Boo! BOOOOOOOO! AMAZON'S GREAT NEW SHOW, UPLOAD, ENDS ON A HUGE CLIFFHANGER! And what are the odds that they won't renew it? Fuck all the television studios who refuse to show a complete story in a season. All this does is fuck over fans of the show when they cancel it.
BOOOOOO! And what's so frustrating is that they didn't need the cliffhanger. It's just lazy writing, and NO show should end a season on a cliffhanger unless they have the next season already started. So rage-inducing. If Amazon cancels Upload I'll be more furious than usual when this happens.
• After! Somebody edited together the underlaying narrative of grief that runs through one of my favorite shows so far this year... and it's almost unbearable to watch. What makes After Life so amazing is how it tempers the grief with humor. Without the humor though? It's a serious exploration of the human condition. Spoilers, obviously...
Ricky Gervais really knocked it out of the park with this show. He's already said that he's been so touched by the outpouring of love for the show that he's working on a third season. And, oh well yeah, HE DOESN'T END HIS SERIES ON A FUCKING CLIFFHANGER BECAUSE HE KNOWS THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THAT THERE WILL BE A NEXT SEASON! He's talented enough to come up with a way to start a new season without cliffhangers.
• Suess Raps! These videos of a guy rapping Dr. Suess over Dr. Dre beats is total genius...
I hesitate to guess how many times he had to practice these before getting this good.
• Better! TIME IS JUST A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT TO KEEP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU WANT TO DO IT! WELL SCREW THAT! I AM IN CONTROL OF MY OWN DESTINY! SO... MORNING DRINKING at 9:00AM IN MY UNDERWEAR WITH CHEETOS AND TELEVISION, BABY! — MY DAY IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAY!
So how was your day?
And that's that for bullets on this fine Sunday in quarantine.
XXX, but XXX... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• TAIKAAAAAAA! And lo did an angel descend from the heavens and declare that Taika Waititi will be writing and directing a Star Wars movie, and it was good. I frickin' adore Taika. What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok (Korg!)... everything the guy touches turns to gold whether he's writing, directing, or acting. As if that's not enough, he just seems like a genuinely smart, talented, funny, interesting, and exceedingly nice person...
We got a taste of Taika in the Star Wars universe when he directed an episode of The Mandelorian (and provided the voice of IG-11). Now he's bringing us more Thor (Thor: Love & Thunder), a new Flash Gordon, a new Time Bandits, plus a new Star Wars. Naturally, I couldn't possibly be more thrilled that he's working on projects I desperately want to see.
• Swoop! I love stories like this...
Birds are awesome.
• BMO! I had no plans... none to invest any more money in television. Especially HBO Max, which has nothing to offer me. Well... almost nothing...
BMO is one of the best parts of Adventure Time and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see where they take the character.
• PATATJES MET! I found this article on A Global Taxonomy of French Fry Dips to be especially enlightening. I, of course, choose fries with Dutch mayo. It's the only way to fry.
• Wood! Watching Netflix's Hollywood left me mildly entertained, but I can't stop thinking that they're trying to do a good thing badly while missing a bigger opportunity. Revisionist history is a fine line to walk. You either go for broke, rip up the rulebook, and grab your reimagining of history unapologetically by the throat... or you float through history making random changes that are all rainbows and cotton candy but ultimately don't mean anything to anybody but you. Quentin Tarantino *IS* revisionist history cinema, and Inglourious Basterds is a genius-level event of just how powerful a tool it can be. Ryan Murphy's Hollywood is just whispy fluff in a genre wrapper that "what-ifs" real events to mild effect. The final episode is just ridiculous with its pie-in-the-sky over-the-top goofiness. THAT BEING SAID... holy cats is Jim Parsons good in this thing! His character is a predatory monster which perfectly illustrates how power in the wrong hands can lead to a nightmare of a human being. I am guessing his take on Rock Hudson's manager is based on a real person who did these horrible things, and that's a really scary thought...
Good on you, Mr. Parsons. I'm excited to see where you take your post-Big Bang Theory career next.
• Advice! I generally roll my eyes at all these "lists of life advice" that make the rounds of the internet a couple times a year. But this one, titled 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice is pretty great and some of them (such as "A vacation + a disaster = an adventure" are exceptional. Well worth a read.
• Monk! Okay... this is pretty cool. I kept hoping and hoping that we'd get a Monk movie or two so we could see what he was up to now...
And now I just want a Monk movie even more than I did.
• Remember! And, lastly, just read this. There are some remarkable people doing wonderful things in the middle of our current crisis. They should be recognized and appreciated.
And that's a wrap on Bullet Sunday. At least for today.
I've finally reached my potato salad nirvana.
It's been a long road to get here. I've experimented with dozens of recipes and married that to the way my mom and grandma used to make it. My biggest breakthrough occurred when I didn't have any eggs so I decided to add small cubes of Dubliner Cheese as a substitute.
It was sublime.
Hard boiled eggs are squidgy and don't add any flavor that isn't already well-represented by the mayo. They also add a stink to the salad that's a bit off-putting.
This is my current recipe, and I think I'm done now because it's exactly where I want it to be and I've reproduced it a half-dozen times now...
Mix above together and put in refrigerator to chill. Cook 1 package of Simply Potatoes dices in a mesh basket in an Instant Pot with 1-1/4 cup of water for 6 minutes, then quick-release. Put potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. Fold potatoes into dressing mixture, then chill for 20 minutes or more before serving (I usually can't wait and end up eating it while still a bit warm, and it's delicious). Garnish with paprika (or, if you have it, smoked paprika) and chopped fresh dill or green onions sliced thin. Because I can't help myself I always add more little cubes of Dubliner on top. Sometimes I like crushed potato chips on top too!
After refrigeration, the potatoes soak up a bit of the mayo and sour cream so things can get a little dry, I just stir in a tablespoon of mayo and everything is good again!
The latest meme making its way around social media is people sharing photos from their "last day of normal." I don't even know what that means, but I do know the last day that I did something normal with my friends before lockdown was when we all got memorial tattoos on February 28th.
But things in my life were far from normal, even back then.
My volunteer work had been shut down 11 days earlier. Usually by late May I'd have already taken anywhere from four to six trips for that. This year I haven't been anywhere. The last time I traveled was December 26th. I have no idea when I'll travel next.
Given I have no idea when my normalcy went away, I try to create it by slipping into comfort meals I like. Up near the top of that list is heating up a bag of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Whole Grain Medley, toss in a handful of almonds, and call it dinner. When I was at the store last month, I was sure to grab a couple bags.
Then tonight when I finally cooked it I noticed that it looked funny. It smelled funny. It tasted funny.
I dug the garbage to see if I purchased expired rice only to find that it wasn't what I usually buy... my local grocer replaced the "Whole Grain Medley" I get (which was apparently subtitled "Brown and Wild") with a new blend that's "Quinoa & Brown with Garlic." I didn't notice because the packaging had been changed...
So much for my comfort food. This is not comforting at all. QUINOA ISN'T EVEN A FUCKING RICE!
AND ON CARB APPRECIATION DAY, NO LESS!
I might have been able to overlook gross quinoa if it actually had garlic as advertised, but the garlic was barely there. Uncle Ben's? More like Uncle Bullshit! They even got rid of the guy's awesome bow tie on the package!
Just one more sign that things will never go back to normal again.
I don't even know what to say... but here's a new Bullet Sunday anyway...
• BLM! Despite being so crestfallen about the state of politics in this country that I'm trying not to blog my rage on a daily basis... something needs to be said. I fully believe that an unarmed citizen should not be dragged from their car by the police and get choked out on the street... all while crying out because they can't breathe as other citizens are telling the officers they they're killing somebody. For nine minutes. That's not law enforcement, it's murder. And when the murder disproportionately targets Black Americans? Well, that's why people are protesting. And I support the protesters 1000%, because this shit has got to stop. And, quite honestly, I don't understand why everybody can't support the protesters. I mean, my God, Black Americans have been trying to get attention to their plight via peaceful protest forever now. And no matter how they try to protest and bring awareness, they get criticized for it. Can't kneel at a football game (even though a veteran advised you it was a respectful way to protest) because people don't like it. Can't try to mention what's happening in an award speech because people don't like it. Can't have a sit-in. Can't have a march. Can't hold a rally. Can't carry a sign. Can't write an article. Can't make a movie. Can't do anything without pissing people off who don't want to be reminded of the horrific systemic racism which plagues us (and from which they likely benefit). Well, too fucking bad. Your "inconvenience" is what's going to lead to change. That's how shit gets done in this country. Just ask those who took part in the Boston Tea Party.
And, lastly, for the love of everything holy, STOP EQUATING PEACEFUL PROTEST TO LOOTING! The vast, vast number of people protesting are not looting a damn thing. As more and more information comes to light, the looting and violence are being started not by protesters, but by others for their own ends. Which include Far Left Anarchists, Far Right White Supremacists, and The President of the United States of America. They want to watch the world burn so they can start something new. Black Americans just want to be able to walk down the street and not get shot by the people sworn to protect them. Don't get me wrong... I support the idea of a police force. And I believe that officers on the front lines should have the tools they need to do their job and stay safe. But the grotesque militarization of our police has only served to escalate violence, and the lack of training for de-escalating situations before they turn violent is woefully inadequate. Instead we've got rogue police officers acting like judge, jury, and executioner. That's heinous. That's wrong. That needs to stop. Today. And a lot of police officers agree, which is why they are joining up with the protesters. It's their community too, and any officer true to their mission should be supporting peaceful protest of law enforcement abuses.
And now I'm going to go scream for a half-hour.
• Predictable! And meanwhile, this is happening...
I’ve been called a lot of names & accused of a lot of things by ER patients but it’s surreal to have a patient accuse me of falsifying their COVID result - bc they don’t believe the virus is real - as I’m actively trying to keep them from dying from multi organ failure from COVID pic.twitter.com/gyv9HQfL0F— Ryan Marino (@RyanMarino) May 20, 2020
• Misbehavin'! One of my favorite TV shows from 2019 took me completely by surprise... it was The Righteous Gemstones starring John Goodman as a mega-church televangelist pastor. And one of the best bits to come out of that show was the performance of a song called Misbehavin' by the wife of John Goodman's character and her scheming brother...
I've watched that video at least a dozen times. And if your curious about how the song came about, here's an article for you.
• From My Ranch To Your Kitchen! I've not been cooking much lately because I just haven't felt up to it. But yesterday I decided that I really need to start using the ingredients I've purchased while they're still good, so I started looking for ideas. Then somebody on Facebook reminded me of one of my favorite cooking channels on YouTube... De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina. Sure, she cooks most everything with meat, but it's fascinating. And, thanks to Google's auto-translation subtitles, you can actually follow along fairly well when you turn them on (CC button) and select "auto-translate" in the settings (gear button)...
Great stuff. Love her. It was this channel that convinced me to give a recipe with tomatillos a try with my Martha Stewart recipe box subscription.
• Armchair Traveler! So many museums and cool places are putting up virtual tours and I'm absolutely loving it. But the best one I've seen so far is the Statue of Liberty, which is sensational. You can go around and inside of it and look around 360°. Here's just a sampling of what I saw when I virtually-visited...
In the day time. But there's also night views from the exterior...
Having been up the Statue of Liberty a couple times, I fully admit that the dizzying heights and cramped quarters aren't something you can reproduce virtually, but at least you can get a taste of it. This is a view inside the crown...
The photos I just posted (courtesy of the National Parks Service) really don't do the experience justice. Head over to their site to see for yourself.
• Dates! One of my favorite vloggers, Johnny Harris, has yet another cool video up. This time he's exploring the International Date Line and why it's the way it is...
This wouldn't be the first time Google Maps has screwed up. A decade ago there was an error which caused Nicaragua to invade Costa Rica. So even though Google Maps is often viewed as a definitive source of information because it's so heavily used, it really shouldn't be. Always check your sources. And if you can't get enough Johnny Harris, check out this fascinating video about Swiss neutrality.
Stay safe, everybody.
I've been avoiding trips to stores whenever possible. My reduced lung capacity (which is why I stopped SCUBA diving) makes me an excellent candidate for death if I catch COVID-19, so I just don't risk it. I think the last time I went was two weeks ago, but it was just an in-and-out at Safeway for some rice noodles and Sriracha. I didn't hang around to do any serious shopping.
Which means that my groceries are running low.
Which means I have to psyche myself up for my monthly grocery run.
I was planning on going yesterday, but I had my Martha Stewart & Marley Spoon recipe box to use up, so instead I cooked Salsa Verde Cheese Enchiladas with Sour Cream & Scallions, which was phenomenal...
Then tonight I had Pasta & Fresh Tomato Sauce and Seasoned Ricotta, which was also excellent...
I can only really afford to get Martha's boxes when I have a coupon, so they're a rare treat now-a-days. And a delicious one, when the recipes end up being as amazing as these.
And now that I'm done with my meals-by-mail, I have to start thinking of groceries again.
I started making a list... trying to think of things I really love that can be prioritized by how quickly they expire. Fresh fruits and vegetables are used up in the first week or two... canned, frozen, and dry goods are saved for the rest of the month. Which is to say that my early meals are awesome, then get progressively worse as time goes on. I try to plan my meals so it's not too horrible, but when you can't run to the store for a missing ingredient, it's tough.
Especially when all I really want are cookies.
So this time they are going at the top of my shopping list, and we'll see if I'm strong enough to talk myself out of it again.
This was starting out to be yet another killer day at work so I decided to get up early. This way I had a minute for breakfast, which allows me to work on perfecting the perfect egg and cheese biscuit sandwich.
So I got up... I fed the cats... then I went to grab a pan to fry up some eggs... and... whoops. All my pots and pans were dirty. And I just didn't feel like washing them by hand, which you have to do because they don't recommend the dishwasher since it ruins the coating. It's not even like it's that hard. My pots and pans are totally easy to clean because nothing sticks... it's just having to stand at the sink and turn on water and squirt the soap and scrub with a brush and dry them off and put them away... no individual task is tough or takes long, but when taken all together it seems like a lot in the morning when I'm trying to get out of the house.
So instead I went out back to take a look at my hydrangeas.
These things are amazing because after having been chopped to the ground in the Fall, they don't seem to do anything when all my other flowers are starting to sprout in the Spring. Then... in what seems like a few days... they explode with growth. Seriously, it's several inches a day, and then the flowers magically appear out of nowhere. Last night I noted that they were all in full bloom...
Madonna famously loathes hydrangeas, but I think they're pretty. They certainly take up a lot of space... and they don't stink, which is nice. I'm happy to just let them keep growing year after year since it doesn't require any effort by me (except to chop them down again in October).
When I got home I really wanted some creamy walnut sauce on pasta.
But I was so tired after 12 hours working that, once again, I had very little motivation to scrub my pots and pans. And since every last one of them was dirty, I figured I'd just take a pass.
But then I couldn't bring myself to eat another peanut butter sandwich like I did last night, so I spent the 15 minutes it took to clear my sink and start cooking for 25 minutes.
Totally worth it...
Delicious to the last bite. Except now I've got a sink full of pots and pans again.
Then it was time to ignore the dirty dishes and hunker down with Jake and watch television, which was pretty much all I had the energy for...
Except for a bowl of chocolate ice cream with walnuts and whipped cream, of course.
My mom had a particular way of mixing chocolate milk when I was a kid. She wouldn't just pour a glass then dump in the Nestlé Quik powder... instead she would pour an inch of milk, add the Nestlé Quik, then mix and mix and mix until all the powder was gone. THEN she'd pour in the milk and stir it up into chocolatey goodness.
I was thinking of that last week and made a note to get some Quik when I went to the store. But when I got to Safeway, I couldn't find the cans of Quik anywhere...
Eventually I found something called Nesquik in a plastic box, which I assume was the same thing. I kinda recognized Quik the Bunny, despite the fact that he's wearing stupid human clothes and no longer has a big Q necklace on...
Here's Quik the Bunny I remember...
It tastes pretty much like I remember. Unlike Hershey's Syrup which is bitter and shitty, Quik... ahem... Nesquik... is sweeter and tastes more like you want chocolate milk to taste.
And, yes, I mixed it just like mom used to make.
My favorite burger... by a wide, wide margin... is the Impossible Whopper at Burger King.
It used to be the Boca Burger "Streamliner" at Johnny Rockets, but then Boca was bought out by Kraft and they decided to "new and improved" their recipe into something that tastes like toxic sludge, feels like fiber, and has a grotesque artificial brown color that looks like (literal) shit. Johnny Rockets couldn't serve that to their customers, so they replaced it with a Spicy Black Bean Burger. It's not bad, but not what I want. At least it's edible though. Red Robin replaced Boca Burgers with their own disgusting "ancient grains and quinoa" patty which tastes like vomit.
Since losing Boca Burger, I've tried dozens of other vegetarian burgers to eat at home. The one I end up going back to is Morningstar Farms "Grillers Original," but the texture is awful. It's squidgy and gross and I only eat it when there's nothing else in my freezer.
Impossible Burger finally released their heme-infused burger "meat" in frozen form a while back.
I finally found some to buy at the local Albertson's so I could give it a shot.
And it's everything I was hoping for. When cooked in a hot skillet you can get a nice brown sear on it, so the taste and texture are flawless. Which is to say that now I can make my own Impossible Whoppers at home whenever I want. Impossible Burger is expensive... $10 for 12 ounces... which works out to about $2 a burger because I like them really thin... about 2-1/2 ounces...
I get a skillet really hot... then squish a ball of Impossible Burger between two plates lined with wax paper... drop in some butter... then fry it up for a couple minutes each side (weirdly enough, it smells like chocolate as it cooks).
Just look at the glorious char. It adds flavor and a thin, crispy exterior that tastes great...
I haven't barbecued them yet, but I'm anxious to try it because it might taste more like an Impossible Whopper that way. I just worry about my burger falling apart on the grill, so I might have to try freezing it before cooking.
The good news is that I finally... finally... have a decent vegetarian burger to eat at home. That's no small feat... even though it seemed like such a simple thing. But, hey, being able to tell Kraft to take their shitty "Boca Burgers" (that are not Boca Burgers at all) and shove them up their asses is something I've been dying to do.
But what to have for dessert?
I'm too dang tired for bullets, but it's not like I can stop... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Nuke 'Em! I've been using my microwave less and less. I prefer my food cooked in an oven or on a stove with real heat, and that's how I've been preparing my meals for a long while now. The rubbery texture and uneven heating don't make the convenience and speed worth it. And then I discovered microwave pancakes and French toast. If ever there was a perfect application for a microwave, this would be it. Since the items come frozen after having been fully-cooked, you're not really cooking them so much as reheating them, and they reheat beautifully, evenly, and without cold spots...
I like the Eggo pancakes great. But FarmRich has better French Toast Sticks.
• NEWSFLASH! American Passports Are Worthless Now — "I think it is difficult for Americans to understand that they are, to use an epidemiological term, completely fucked."
• NEWSFLASH! Netherlands plans to remove gender from ID cards entirely — Sensible. Because what possible fucking difference does it make? You don't have to be male to vote or drive a car... at least not in this country... so why is this something that has to appear on your identification?
I’ve found most D&D players take coronavirus seriously. We know two things from experience:— Patrick Sean Farley (@blueshifter) July 6, 2020
(A) a 2% risk is *not* as low as it sounds.
(B) no matter how high your Constitution score, you can *always* fail your saving throw.
• NEWSFLASH! Disney World Emphasizes Safety Protocols Ahead of Reopening: "You Must Follow All Posted Instructions" — Be our GUEST! Be our GUEST! Put your health up to the test! Be our GUEST! Be our GUEST! The worst than can happen is your death!
• Grey! The Tom Hanks WWII movie Greyhound on Apple TV+ is such a wasted effort. Yes, the battles are thrilling... but there's nothing personal about any of these characters so you can relate to their struggle against overwhelming odds. You root for them just because you know you should root for them, not because they've earned it. I know this is supposed to be based on a true story, so they likely wanted to restrain embellishment, but they might as well just made a documentary.
And don't get me started on the musical score. The MUSIC parts are not bad at all, but they accent it with stupid-ass sound effects that sounds like whales screaming and other horrific shit that assaults your auditory senses and makes you want to put the entire movie on mute so you don't have to listen to this shit. Who approved it? It's awful, awful, AWFUL.
And that's enough for tonight. Have a good one.
2020 never seems to end, but neither does the bullets... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Umbrella 2! I liked the first season of The Umbrella Academy despite the fast that it took some serious liberties with the comic book source. The second season just dropped and I binged it all in a day...
Even better than the first season! Number 5 must be one of the best comic book characters ever brought to life on the small screen. If I have a small bit of criticism, it would be that the series got a bit mired in personal drama that was boring and not terribly important towards moving the story forward. Particularly Vanya's time on a farm(?)... a diversion that could have been adequately addressed in 1/3 the screen time. Otherwise? genius.
• Just Do It! There is some serious image re-mapping and aligning going on here and it's incredibly well done. This is beautiful to behold...
Bravo to the art director and their team for how this came together.
• Cheapness! A couple people asked me about the "cheap movies" I bought and where I bought them. I monitor a site called Cheap Charts then, when I find the cheapest price on a sale movie I want, I go ahead and buy it if it's from iTunes (because that's where all my movies are). If it's not on iTunes, I check MoviesAnywhere to see if the movie can be bought at a member site, which means iTunes will import it automatically. Usually iTunes is the most expensive place, with Amazon Digital and Microsoft Digital being the cheapest. If the movie is not a part of MoviesAnywhere, then I usually don't buy it... unless it's super-cheap, then I just suffer through having to use Amazon or Microsoft's player to watch it. And now you know.
• How to Mask! Sarah Cooper has been on fire with her last several videos, but this one is just beyond...
Nice to know at least one thing to laugh about when it comes to the horror show we're currently trapped in.
• Biscuits! Thanks to friends on Facebook, I've finally cracked the puzzle of making the perfect Egg & Cheese McBiscuit! I start with FROZEN Pillsbury Grands and smear the tops and bottoms with butter. Cook pushed together as directed. THEN I smear the tops with butter AGAIN... separate the biscuits AND FLIP THEM OVER. Increase the heat to 400º and cook for four minutes longer so the tops get fried on the hot cookie sheet. VOILA! Perfectly crispy biscuits with fluffy insides that taste every bit as good at McDonalds!
Now I no longer have to pay ridiculous prices (THREE DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS EACH?!??) to get one of my favorite treats! Hooray!
• US History! It's easy to see how the reason so many people are so ignorant about how things actually are in this country is that they don't have an accurate picture of how we got here. The mind boggles...
Smartly done. But the people most needing to see this and understand this are exactly the people who will never watch it.
• Memory! Face, Velvet, Church, Daisy, Red. Yep, still got it a week later.
I guess that's all I got for this week. See you next Sunday.
My favorite paper towels are Brawny brand. But Brawny is owned by the Koch Brothers, so I buy Bounty brand.
I've been trying to use less paper towels in an attempt to live more sustainably, but there are some times that it's the perfect tool for the task at hand so I still buy them on occasion. Thanks to the pandemic, that's a hit-or-miss proposition lately. My small-town grocery had no name-brands available when I last went shopping so I ended up getting something called Simply White which totally sounds like a resort for white supremacists or something, but it was my only option...
And now... perhaps somebody can answer a simple question for me?
Why is it that cheaper brands can't make a paper towel which tears off the roll properly?
Because I've had to buy other cheap brands when I was on location for work... or I was too poor for name brands... or couldn't find anything else... and they ALL have one thing in common. THEY DON'T FUCKING RIP AS ADVERTISED! You go to rip one off the roll and it doesn't tear along the perforation, it tears everywhere except the fucking perforation!
So what is it? The major brands are the only ones who can afford perforating blades that are worth a shit? Cheap brands are manufactured by major brands who want them to suck so you won't buy them? The laws of time and space don't allow cheap brands to exist any other way? I don't get it.
The mind boggles.
And speaking of mind-boggling stuff... I just found out last night that most of the sourdough you buy in a store is not made from an actual sourdough culture. It's just regular old bread that has a sourdough flavoring. I was video-chatting with a friend and complained that the sourdough I bought tastes like it was made from chemicals.
"Probably because it was. Most mass-market sourdoughs you find at the grocery store are just flavored that way."
A few minutes Googling that shit and, sure enough, that's a thing.
Products are apparently designed to disappoint. On top of not being built to last.
Okay... this is probably TMI (Too Much Information) but last week my ass exploded.
I had made fresh potato salad in the morning so I could have it for lunch at work and dinner that evening. Not so long after eating my lunch, I suddenly felt the cramping as my insides were turning to liquid. It's that feeling you get when you know it's only a matter of time before you have a serious problem on your hands. Well, not on your hand... hopefully... but in your toilet.
And so I looked through my bag for an Imodium, took it, then hightailed it home where I made it to my bathroom jussssssst in time. Thinking that perhaps I had caught a bug... or the coronavirus... I worked at home, staying close to my toilet for the occasional detonation of my intestines.
And of course I had a big bowl of potato salad for dinner. It tastes so good because my potato salad is wicked awesome.
Which, in retrospect, was an incredibly stupid thing to do... but, in my defense, I hadn't quite put
To say that I had a bad night is a gross understatement. I think at one point I actually fell asleep on the toilet because I dare not leave it. And since it was always an emergency run I never got the door closed. Which means my cats were compelled to come in and say hello from time to time. Not necessarily because they cared that I was dying, but because they wanted to know if they could have a treat since I was up already.
I was able to go into work the next day, but I was feeling pretty poorly. I almost packed more potato salad to eat for lunch, but thought better of it because I remembered that it was after eating it that my problems started. Instead I put the salad back in the fridge and took saltine crackers instead.
Fast forward to this morning and I see this pop up in my newsfeed as an update:
Onions sold at Kroger, elsewhere recalled due to Salmonella outbreak.
My "instenial distress" happened within 45 minutes each time. Apparently Salmonella poisoning doesn't develop until around 6 hours. So was the problem I had related to the onions in my salad? I dunno. But to be safe I threw out all the onions I had left because there was no sticker to tell me whether or not they were from "Thomson International."
And of course the lawyers are all over this:
Ron Simon & Associates files the First Lawsuit in the Red Onion Salmonella Outbreak.
I don't want to sue for a million dollars... well, I do, but not really... I just want replacement onions! Food is expensive, yo, and I can't afford to be throwing purple onions in the trash!
Even when they cause me to spend 24 hours within toilet-reach.
Oh well. Thanks to the pandemic I wasn't going anywhere anyway, but it still wasn't a fun way to pass the time.
Wait! I don't just want to sue for replacement onions... I want replacement Imodium as well! Wonder what lawyer will take that case?
Probably all of them.
Now that I'm hip-deep in my kitchen remodel, I've been trying to take a serious look at how I cook so I can streamline how I organize things and get rid of stuff that I no longer use.
Oh... and also make room for tons and tons of spices.
As a vegetarian, things can get a little boring, so I am always looking for something different. Back when I was able to travel the world, discovering new flavors was a huge part of what made it so much fun. Since I may not be able to travel for a long time, I decided to bring the flavors of the world to my kitchen. Thanks to the exceptional spices and blends to be found at The Spice House in Chicago, it's pretty easy.
I ordered 33 items... old friends and new ones to try. Tonight I decided to fry up some potatoes and try six of the blends I bought...
Then I wrote some notes so I could find out which ones I liked best...
But here's the thing... I LOVED THEM ALL!
And my kitchen smells amazing.
Around the world in 15 minutes. Whether it was Parisian Shallot Herb Blend from France or Garam Masala from Southern Asia or Za'atar from the Mediterranean or Market Blend from Marakesh or Adobo from Spain or Village Blend from the Ukraine... they were all really different and tasty! The most surprising blend was the Garam Masala, which had cinnamon and cloves that I most associate with sweet foods... but they were really savory in the absence of sugar. Tomorrow night I want to try out some of the spicy blends I bought. I expect I'll love those as well.
I suspect that I'll be placing another order for more spices soon. Because once I have my new kitchen, I'm going to want to cook in it, and I'm piling up recipes to use all these spices with.
The Spice House gave me a 15% Off link if you're looking to spice up your life. Click here to shop!
Growing up I never had much exposure to cilantro. It appeared in salsa, but that’s about it. Over the years I’ve been kinda meh on cilantro, but once I started exploring Martha Stewart’s meal service, I’ve come to love it (so much so that I’m going to try growing it eventually).
Yesterday I was craving cilantro but too tired to cook after getting some from the grocery store, so I made me some Coconut-Peanut Rice Noodles with extra cilantro for dinner tonight...
Amazing stuff. I find it sad that some people have tastebuds that register cilantro as “soap” tasting, because it’s become a favorite flavor of mine.
And speaking of Martha Stewart's meal service...
On of the meals this past week was Spinach & Tomato Lasagna Rolls. I made half without the Spinach, which I felt were far superior because the texture of the spinach was kinda gross. Great stuff though. They have you mix pesto into the tomatoes for a darn delicious sauce. The best part is that the noodles crisp up on the edges when you cook them. I honestly thought that the filling would come pouring out as they cooked, but nope...
Yummeh. If I can find pasta sheets, I have to make this again.
Well, that's enough cooking for a while. Back to peanut butter sandwiches for a while.
The world may be on fire, but don't let that dissuade you from pulling out the marshmallows... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Transplant! I've written a couple times about my favorite show of 2020, the Canadian medical drama Transplant. It's just fantastic television and deserves a look. If you're heere in the US, NBC is airing it on Tuesdays and on their Peacock streaming service. Today I found out that Apple iTunes Store is offering a Season Pass for all 13 episodes for $25. It didn't take me even one second to purchase it, even though I already have Canadian recordings of all the episodes. I support shows I like by purchasing them whenever I possibly can. This was a no-brainer.
• Farmer! In an age where laughs are getting harder to find, this was exactly what I needed...
Almost makes me want to get on TikTok to keep up with him.
• HEADLINE! Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity, researchers suggest. Not that anything wil ever dissuade the dumb-fuck anti-mask brigade, but any news is good news, right?
• Float! Apple sure does know how to create amazing retail spaces. Every store I've visited around the world... even the most basic... is incredible. My favorites are those which take classic old buildings and turns them into jaw-dropping shops. But there's something to be said for their mind-blowing original creations...
Apple Stores are practically destination-worthy. If we were in different times, I'd take a diversion to Singapore to see this marvel.
• New New Order! One of my all-time favorite bands has released new music!
It's different. But as a huge fan of dream-pop, this half-step in that direction is not something I hate. I actually rather like it, even though it's not what I was expecting.
• Lunch! Yesterday I was going to get up at 7am, get some bread started, clean the kitchen, put another coat of paint on the cabinets, then cook up a vegetable bake with dumplings for lunch. But then I took one look out my window as smoke was pouring into the valley and decided I'd sleep until noon. This was lunch...
Now-a-days, you do what you can do and try not to feel like a failure for not doing what you feel you should be doing. Just getting up in the morning to feed my cats was doing good during a pandemic. But while the world is on fire during a pandemic? Vodka Coke and frozen veggie corn dogs is a frickin' miracle.
And now... once more into the breach.
I became a vegetarian because the girlfriend I had at the time didn't want to kiss me because she said I smelled like meat. That was on Earth Day 1986. We broke up after that, but I stuck with the diet because the horrific allergies I had been plagued with all my life evaporated. It also fit in with my newly acquired Buddhist philosophies, so it was good all the way around.
Back then, vegetarian versions of my favorite foods were not easy to find. And most of them you could find tasted like ass. But all that changed when I walked into a Johnny Rockets diner in Santa Monica, California where they offered "Boca Burgers" for sale. I ordered one (no grilled onions or mustard), tasted it, then had to call the waitress over because I was convinced I was accidentally served a meat burger. But nope! It was just that good.
Eventually I found them at my grocery store and was eating them at least once a week for decades.
But then my world came crashing down when Kraft bought out Boca Burger and "new and improved it." They claim that they updated the texture and taste to serve modern consumers. But to me? It tasted like liquid smoke and burning hair smeared on pencil erasers. It was fucking disgusting. But no big deal... I could still eat the "Vegan Original" which had the original taste. Until Kraft discontinued it and replaced it with a fake turkey burger. When people complained, they said that when their customers wanted a vegan burger, what they really wanted was turkey. Which is a load of fucking horseshit... which, coincidentally, is what I'd rather eat than one of their fucked-up "turkey" burgers.
And so I stopped buying their horrific "food" products.
A lot of other people probably stopped as well, because when I was at the grocery store yesterday I was shocked to see that the "Vegan Original" had returned! SWEET! I looked very carefully at the box. The photo indeed showed the light color of the original instead of the dark brown plastic look of the "new and improved" model. I bought two boxes and couldn't wait to have one for dinner.
Then I opened the box...
These are NOT the original recipe. Not by a fucking longshot. And now I'm stuck with two boxes of this gortesque shit. So as not to waste my hard-earned money, I did cook one up to give it a shot. It's not as horribly over-flavored as the non-vegan option, BUT IT'S STILL NOT THE ORIGINAL THAT THEY PROMISE YOU RIGHT ON THE FUCKING BOX!
100% false advertising. I'm writing to Kraft and insisting on a refund based on their fucked-up lies. I mean, why in the hell not put the ACTUAL product's picture on the damn box? Had I seen it was this new brown plastic crap, I would have never bought it!
And so I guess I'm finally done with Boca Burger now. After clinging to the memory of that amazing burger I ate in a Santa Monic Johnny Rockets so very many years ago, this was the last straw. I'll cook up Impossible Burgers or whatever else isn't going to taste like the physical manifestation of fucking disappointment.
Red Robin, Johnny Rockets, and everybody else has already moved on from Kraft's Boca bullshit, I guess I can as well.
I've posted a couple times about making my own burritos so I can freeze them, microwave them, and serve up a tasty and convenient meal. Plus it can be healthier and far less expensive than buying them pre-made at the grocery store.
The problem is that I have never found a way to make and freeze breakfast burritos. When you microwave them they end up tasting horrible. The eggs are awful. The potatoes are awful. The salsa bleeds into everything. It's a gross, rubbery mess.
And so you have to make them fresh every time.
It's not a big deal, really. Scramble some eggs, cook up some tater tots, get out the cheese, salsa, and sour cream. Fry up some fake meat or real meat if you want it. Then slap everything together in a warmed flour tortilla.
So, not a big deal... but more of an ordeal than I want to mess with.
How I compensate is by making them every morning for an entire week. Once you get the process down and have all the ingredients grouped together in the refrigerator, it's easy to just stick with it.
I've just my eighth straight day of breakfast burritos and I think I'm done.
Until the next time.
Now I have to figure out what breakfast food I'm going to get addicted to next so I can get sick of it and have to find something new again. It's a vicious cycle.
Sorry, but thanks to the COVID pandemic and the fact that I can't travel, this is the kind of thing I have to blog about now.
Everybody's getting the COVID, but all news is not bad news... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Tiny! In addition to Ted Lasso, my favorite show of 2020 (or possibly any year ever) and The Long Way Up (another exceptional program), Apple TV+ has also released a new series called Tiny World...
Fascinating, fascinating stuff. Another homerun for Apple.
• Long! And speaking of The Long Way Up, the series just keeps getting better and better with each new episode. Ewan McGregor has absolutely zero ego in the three The Long Way... series. He never complains about the accommodations. He never complains about the food. He never complains about running into fans. He's just grateful to have a place to stay, something to eat, and people who are friendly towards him. Above all else, he's grateful for the opportunity to be able to experience the world. Contrast and compare to so many travel shows where people are relentless assholes about even the tiniest inconvenience. If you want all the comforts of home and are going to be raving assholes when you don't get it... STAY THE FUCK HOME! Needless to say, I give The Long Way Up my highest recommendation.
• Battle! How I missed this fantastic video with Lin-Manuel Miranda from 2009 is a complete mystery. I guess sometimes I am completely out of the loop with things...
How he does what he does so brilliantly is a mystery. Makes me want to watch Moana for the hundredth time.
• Subway? If you still eat at KidFuckers, you should know that they don’t build their sandwiches on bread... they build them on candy Which is probably all fast food joints, but that's why they taste so good.
• Yup! My brain in a nutshell...
I'm procrastinating cleaning my kitchen with this post!
• Vote! Okay... okay... it can't all be good news, right?
Democracy is under siege, but so long as it's happening to people you don't agree with it's okay, right? Politicians seem to think so. VOTER FRAUD IS EXCEEDINGLY RARE! But facts don't matter anymore, I guess.
And that's all I got this Sunday.
For the longest time I believed everything you've likely heard about MSG. Causing headaches... being unhealthy... made of chemicals... blah blah blah... MSG is bad.
It's all (mostly) bullshit. MSG is none of those things. MSG is fucking great. And I've been cooking with it ever since I saw a video back in 2018 explaining how the backlash against it took hold in the USA. Turns out the bias against MSG was actually just anti-Asian xenophobic stigma. Something you might have guessed when the media dubbed it "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome."
MSG is used in a bunch of foods we eat all the time... especially canned foods, snack foods, and fast foods... but since those are American foods, nobody seems to be getting "Campbell's Soup headaches" or "Doritos headaches" or "KFC headaches." MSG is also naturally occurring in foods like cheese. But you also don't hear about people getting a "mozzarella headache" either. And since it's manufactured by fermenting sugars, the process is no different than making vinegar, but somehow vinegar is okay to use and MSG is not?
Lord people are stupid. But that's racism for you.
I use MSG in everything from pizza sauce to potato salad. It just adds a little something extra to my cooking. A little more depth and body to the experience.
So if you've bought into the racist, xenophobic, and overall idiotic hype on the "dangers" of MSG as I once did... then you're missing out. Or you may be missing out. Some people (like me) think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Other people can't taste much of a difference (oh how I pity you). The most "balanced" look at MSG I could find is this...
MSG is pretty darn cheap. So there's not much to lose by giving it a try. EXCEPT PHENOMENAL FLAVOR!
And that original video which got me hooked on MSG in the first place is here...
Yara Elmjouie (from the Eat This with Yara video above) has some interesting takes on cuisine on his channel over at AJ+ (Al Jazeera Plus). If you're an open-minded foodie who can handle your cooking videos having a political slant, it's worth a look.
And, on that note, looks like it's time to start making dinner... probably with MSG added.
Cooking on Sunday seems like a tough sell before facing your Monday, but sometimes life throws you an easy recipe... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• LEWKS! Dolly Parton is one of my favorite people on earth. This video of her looking back on her leaks over the year is a great indication why...
• Rona! Thinking that overcoming COVID gives you immunity is most probably a mistake.
• UnHallmark! SQUEEEs in Hallmark...
Amazing how some of the best Hallmark movies aren't actually made by Hallmark any more. This film, for example, features an interracial couple. That is so exceedingly rare at Hallmark that you could reasonably argue that it doesn't exist. But, hey, they're producing a gay Hallmark Christmas movie this year, so maybe anything is possible?
• Meow! This made my week. Do not mess with a cat's pet!
The cat is fantastic, yes... but that puppy is too adorable.
• Pete! I think it's important to revisit this moment in Pete Buttigieg's "town hall" on FOX "News" from 2019. It's where he's asked about what people are labeling "late-term abortion"... something which is not medically accurate ("late-term" is past an expected due-date for birth), but generally accepted to mean 21 weeks or later in pregnancy. I keep seeing "late-term abortion" pop up in conversation lately, and I honestly don't think people truly get what it is. As explained by Mayor Pete in the video below, for the vast majority of women who have been carrying a baby for 21 weeks, they're expecting to carry it to term. They want that baby. So if they're needing to get an abortion into the third trimester, it's not because they've changed their mind, but because of a catastrophic medical problem for either the mother or child. So to deny women a necessary medical procedure under those circumstances is both horrifying and cruel (read this, as just one example... there are thousands more). Yet this is what some very unreasonable and sadistic people are wanting to deny a woman in need at one of the worst times in their lives.
I was initially a fan of Buttigieg, but ultimately problematic in some areas. That being said, I'd sure pick him over Trump or Biden. His thoughtful, measured response to serious issues is something we are sorely lacking in government.
• Flix! I laughed far more than I should have at this...
Lord only knows what people would think when looking at my Netflix!
• T-RAV! One of the best things about visiting St. Louis is their "Toasted Ravioli" (AKA "T-Rav"). Which, most places, is actually deep-fat-fried instead of toasted. It's amazing stuff. It's not always easy to find a non-meat version, but it's always worth it. My problem is that St. Louis is 1600 miles away, so the only way I'm going to get it is to make it myself. Fortunately, it's pretty easy, and I'm giving my recipe below...
And that's a wrap on this delicious Bullet Sunday. THIS TIME!
I've been buying less and less meal boxes from Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon because... A) They are expensive, and... B) It's sometimes tough to find two new recipes I want to try on the same week. Most of the older recipes I like have been made numerous times on my own for less money, so it's only the new ones I really care about. This week finally had two that I wanted to try, so I coughed up the money to pay for them.
Tonight was Indonesian Vegetable Nasi Goreng with Crispy Shallots...
I was dubious about the taste because the sauce has ketchup, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, chili garlic sauce, salt, and... sugar? But it was actually very good.
Last night was Black Bean & Quinoa Taco Bowl with Crispy Tortilla Strips. And I guess I owe an apology to Martha Stewart. I ordered this one even though I don't care for quinoa very much. I do love me a good taco bowl though, and it sure looked great in the photo...
It was a lot more work than I expected, but hey... TACO BOWL FOR DINNER! Then I got to the part of the recipe where you slop marinated romaine and tomatoes OVER HOT QUINOA AND SPICED BLACK BEANS! And I was all... BLECH! The lettuce is going to wilt immediately and I'm going to end up with a gross, sludgey, toxic mess. Bad Martha! But NOPE! Martha is always right, and I should have known she wouldn't endorse a bad recipe. This was ONE PHENOMENAL SALAD! Absolutely loved it, even though mine didn't look as nice as the photo...
And while it wasn't as good for my leftovers lunch as it was fresh, it was still pretty good...
Boy, gotta hand it to Martha's meal service... she's opened me up to so many amazing recipes that I never would have found on my own! And now I have two more. Both of which might actually be good for me? Say it isn't so!
Now that's some food for thought.
Because thought has to be put somewhere now-a-days.
I'm experiencing a tea renaissance. Last night I had some amazing Winter Chai and I'm still thinking about it this morning. I stopped drinking tea for the longest time, but took it up again when I was served some amazing native tea in Laos back in 2013. After a couple years I started favoring sodas, but now I'm drifting back into tea-land again. Figured I might as well since the tea I ordered for my 2020 guests in January (that wouldn't end up coming thanks to the pandemic) will have to be replaced soon anyway... even though I froze it to keep it fresh like you're supposed to.
Winter Chai Blend from Tea Forté, whose pricey teas I love.
I have a free pizza to thank for my renewed interest in drinking tea.
Last week I went out for groceries and got yet another free pizza. Safeway/Albertsons is forever giving away free pizzas with purchase of something else. And since the "something else" is usually something I'm buying anyway, I always grab one. I don't like frozen pizza, but I'm not going to pass up on free food. This was my fourth free cheese pizza and I had to make room in the freezer by tossing out some old stuff I shouldn't have been saving in the first place... and drinking my tea stash. From there I moved on to cleaning out the refrigerator and found a full carton of eggs hidden behind the fresh carton I just bought. I don't even remember having bought them. I don't shy away from expired foods, but eggs that are a month past their "Best Before" date are probably a gamble I shouldn't be taking, so down the garbage disposal they went.
Last night I had one of those free cheese pizzas for dinner. It was the last thing I wanted to eat, but I didn't have room for my next freebie so I thought I should whittle down my pile. My attitude ended up being "Sure I don't want it, but does it even really matter?"
And it's at that point I realize I've been saying that to myself a LOT recently...
"Does it even really matter?"
Because, seriously, does any of that really matter? No. Not really. Dishes left in the sink. Cleaning that needs to be done. Projects that are lingering. Things I need to stay on top of. It just doesn't matter. Life is just a self-isolating blur of tedium sameness, and I'm mired in it like quicksand.
About the only thing that matters are my cats. Where I'm happy to just let things go in my life, I refuse to let anything go in theirs. I still steam clean their feeding station. I still wash their food dishes and water fountain. I still clean their beds. I still collect their toys. I still play with them. I still drop everything when they want attention. I still do everything I can to make sure they're cared for.
Just like after my mom died, I probably owe it to Jake and Jenny that I find the willpower to keep going day after day. Mostly because they are about the only thing I've going for me right now. But partly because I don't want to keel over and die and have them eat me.
Though with all these exotic teas I've been drinking lately, I'll bet I'm delicious.
It's Black Friday. The one day of the year I allow myself to buy stuff I want instead of stuff I need. I put away $100 a month all year long in order to afford things like better quality clothes... tools for my wood-shop... electronics. You know... stuff.
This year I had to spend $380 of my Black Friday savings on a ridiculously expensive WiFi router when my old one died. Then I had to spend $470 on crazy stuff like food and HOA dues. So... $350 left. The plan was to put it on a new Milwaukee Tool table saw. But it’s conveniently "sold out" absolutely everywhere so stores can exclude it from their sales. I’m sure it will mysteriously be back in stock come Monday. That’s the way 2020 goes, it would seem. I’d buy some new clothes, but what for? I’m not going anywhere. So who cares? I guess now I have a $350 head start for 2021. Just think of all the superfluous crap I can buy next Black Friday!
I did treat myself to a bowl of Apple Jacks though, so I guess my Black Friday wasn't a total loss?
Apple Jacks. The apple cereal that tastes absolutely nothing like apples... but I love it anyway. I just can't eat them every day. Because sugar. Loads of sugar.
When I was a kid, however, I had a bowl of sugar-infused cereal every single morning before heading off to school. As I started working and traveling heavily in my twenties, I eventually phased breakfast out of my diet. It was either too inconvenient or too expensive to consider. The only time I ate breakfast when traveling was when it was included in my room rate, because that meant I could save money by skipping lunch. Occasionally I slip back into a cereal renaissance where I'll eat it for a while, but I always end up moving away from it again. Because sugar. Loads of sugar.
When my mom was living with me, getting her to eat anything was tough. The only way I could get her to eat was to take her to a restaurant because the environment set her in a headspace where she knew she was supposed to eat. Most days I was taking her out to breakfast, going to work, coming home to check on her and grab a bite, then taking her out to dinner when I got home. It was an expensive way to live. And a monotonous way to live. Since she couldn't hold anything in memory for more than five minutes, she would forget the restaurants we just ate at and want to eat there again. Many times this ended up being Denny's, for which I was grateful, because they had a big menu with a lot of selections. Mom could eat eggs and toast for breakfast and dinner every day because she had no memory of it. I, however, could not, and would need to mix things up a bit. The chef at our local Denny's probably did not like seeing me walk in because I was trying to get creative with their dishes to make something vegetarian and interesting that I could eat. I tried to tip well though, so maybe it was okay? I have to say though, it was nice that my mom and I were recognized by name all that time.
Not that I didn't want to order banana caramel cream crunch pancakes with extra whipped cream every chance I got. But, alas, sugar. Loads of sugar...
Mmmmm... dessert for breakfast!
I don't eat breakfast very often now-a-days. So when I do, don't I deserve banana caramel cream crunch pancakes with extra whipped cream? Or at least a bowl of Apple Jacks?
Last year some friends bought me an Instant Pot when they came to stay with me. This year they followed it up with a new cooking device... even though the pandemic lockdown made it so they couldn't visit.
It arrived yesterday and I've already been playing with it... the Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer!
TL;DR... It's my favorite thing in my kitchen. It's essentially a little oven which can get very, very hot very, very quickly and fry foods without oil...
Except I don't want oil-free foods. I just want to be able to fry up some French fries without having to deal with the mess and expense of dragging my deep-fat-fryer out of storage. Fortunately, all you have to do is toss the fries in a bowl with some oil until they are well-coated and you're off to the races.
The air frying hood for my Instant Pot always worked well, but it was a pain to cook fries in it because you had to arrange them on a single layer so they cook evenly and get crispy all the way around. It's also a pain because you just can't fry that much stuff in it. The Vortex Plus completely solves this issue by including a rotisserie basket. You can load it up with fries and it will spin them around so they get evenly fried. It's very, very cool and works amazingly well. My fries were perfectly crisp and tasted fantastic. Practically as good as a deef-fat-fryer! Except a lot less mess and much easier to clean up.
Needless to say, I'm thrilled. It does exactly what I want it to do.
Overall, I'm very happy with this little oven. I'm fairly confident that it will be my primary method of cooking from here on out. Whatever can fit in it there is going to cook in there... and I may never use my deep-fat-fryer again. I was hugely disappointed with the previous air fryer I bought (so much so that I gave it away) but the Vortex Plus with the rotisserie basket addresses all the problems I had with air frying. Had I known this unit was this good I would have bought one myself ages ago. As it is, the fact that it was a gift makes it all the better!
The Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer retails around $120, but I'm seeing it on sale everywhere for less (a Google Search shows that it was $90 on Black Friday). There's a model above mine which has a better display for $20 more, though I don't know that it's an essential feature.
I've got a bit of a TikTok addiction going on, and finally had to admit to myself that I have a problem so I can limit the time I've been wasting on it. Now I give myself 15 minutes when I get up and 15 minutes before bed... though sometimes I pick it up while I'm waiting for a file to upload or clothes to dry or stuff like that.
It feels very much like wasted time that I could be using for something else... except not really.
Because my favorite thing to do with TikTok is look for recipes. I have grabbed a shocking number of meal ideas off the app and have made many dishes I've found there. Last night I made these Herb and Parmesan Crusted Potatoes, and they were magnificent...
I mean seriously delicious. So good that after I finished an entire carb-loaded plate full of them, all I wanted to do was run to the grocery store so I could buy more potatoes. Fortunately, I was too busy being a lazy potato to go get more potatoes because that cannot be a good way to lose my remaining lockdown weight.
My second favorite thing to do with TikTok is follow a bunch of woodworkers and home renovators to get tips on the projects I like to do. Since TikTok videos are so short... 15 seconds each (with up to four strung together for a total maximum of 60 seconds)... you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time investment. Unlike YouTube videos where people can pad them with stupid crap you don't need to know... or waste your time selling products and other irrelevant nonsense... TikTok has none of that. 99% of the time, it's just the information you're wanting. 15 minutes on TikTok can easily equal an hour on YouTube or recipe sites where the author posts stupid shit for pages about how this was the recipe their grandmother found while on a wine tasting tour in Tuscany and she gave it to you on her death bed but there was a page missing so you had to spend a week looking through all of her paperwork until you found it but the information was in Italian so you had to write to your Uncle Giuseppe to get it translated and he's doing so great with his two kids all grown up and married and it breaks your heart because your own kids are growing up so darn fast and you know that you're only getting a few more summers at The Cape until they are married with children of their own and then you'll be a grandmother and you hope that they call you "Nana Kate" but you aren't named Kate at all your name is Jenna and that's a totally different story for a different recipe because, boy you're going to want to cook this right away so I'll just get right to the ingredients and instructions but, before I do, I just have to tell you about the time I went clamming on the beach and got so sunburned...
Cannot tell you how many times I've wanted to throw my laptop against the wall while scrolling through recipes because ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY thinks that their life IS JUST THAT INTERESTING.
Unlike me, of course, who has such an interesting life that I put it on the internet daily.
But in a blog where that kind of nonsense belongs!
Christmas is coming, but there's magic happening tonight... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Hallmarked! And... tonight was the last new Hallmark Christmas movie of 2020. I've watched and reviewed them all, as usual, of course. Now I just need to wade through a bunch of the other movies from Lifetime, Netflix, and such, and I'm done for another year. Surprisingly, I think this was the best year in a while. Even so, I'm done. I've been Hallmarked out. Until next year.
• RickVertising! If I was a company, I'd have Rick & Morty do all my advertisements...
Serious bang for your buck.
• Adopt! Speaking of ads... why is it that I can watch all the so-called "emotional" movies and not get emotional, but a commercial like this has me struggling to keep it together?
Just weird, I guess.
• Tater! Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has tried Martha Stewart's baked potatoes. Take LARGE YUKON GOLD potatoes... NOT russets... DO NOT poke holes in them. DO NOT oil or butter. Put a wire rack on the middle rack of your oven (so potatoes don't fall through) then bake at 325º for 90 MINUTES. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN TO CHECK. Just have faith. — After cooking, smash them on a counter, pry apart, then add your favorite topping (I went with salt, pepper, butter, sour cream, and chives). — Remarkable. So creamy it's more like dessert than a potato. And that paper-crispy skin is like candy. Truly the best baked potatoes I've ever had. I won't be making them any other way ever again.
• Jangle! I am not into musicals, or fantasy, or kid films... so I've been putting off Jingle Jangle on Netflix. That being said, the production values and costume design? Holy. Shit. This may very well be the most beautiful film I've ever seen. I will be very disappointed if no rewards are won. Even the smallest details are fully realized... and EVERYWHERE...
Worth watching (on Netflix) just for the visuals.
• Cop Doctors! One of the most demented (and hilarious) shows to ever air on television was Children's Hospital on Adult Swim (you can watch on Hulu, I believe). I just found out today that Netflix had a spin-off series with a lot of the same cast that aired back in January...
I binged the entire season and loved it. Boy I hope we get another season.
• Swap! I look forward to this every year. It never disappoints. I just wish they did even more of it...
Poor Colin. Though I won't feel too sad. He does get to go home to Scarlett Johansson.
And that's a wrap. See you after Christmas!