Vernon

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

One of Oregon's food exports is the cranberry, accounting for about 5% of the nationwide harvest. This year, we bought some local cranberries to make into cranberry sauce. My first time ever. Historically, it was Dad's job (which he relished a lot) to make the cranberry sauce. His was usually ground up with oranges, sugar and nuts. I always tried some, but never LOVED it. But when I saw Nick post a Roasted Cranberry Sauce recipe, I had to try it. Since I don't have any Triple Sec around, I modified it a bit, but it turned out great. I made it last night so it could mellow in the fridge overnight before the big day. And I daresay, this is the best cranberry sauce I have ever had. Sorry, Dad.

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Candied Pecans (Adapted from Macheesmo, where it was pretty heavily adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe)
Makes about 3 Cups, easy to double or triple though.

Cranberries:

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or 1/4 t. dried)
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh sage, minced (or 1/8 t. sage powder)

Sauce:

  • 1/8 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 Cup orange juice
  • 1/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup currants (you could sub raisins, but chop them roughly so they aren’t so big)
  • Pinch of salt

Pecans:

  • 1 Cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 Cup sugar

Instructions:

  1. Mix cranberries, oil, 1 C. sugar, and herbs together in a bowl. Roast at 425°F for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
  2. While cranberries are roasting, mix sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove cranberries from oven and add to the sauce pan. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. While simmering the sauce, mix the pecan ingredients and spread on a baking sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes at 425°F.
  5. Remove nuts from the oven and stir as they cool. Place cooled pecans in an airtight container.
  6. Chill sauce overnight in fridge. Serve heated or chilled, topped with pecans.

The Perfect Spammer

Going through the daily blogroll this morning, I came upon a comic that could not be more true. A while back I posted on Combating Spambots. Since I implemented that anti-spam scheme, I have not seen a single piece of spam come through. It is beautiful. XKCD has posted an alternative method, which really would work if you had an active community around your website. The perfect spammer could get through, but I think I would be okay with that.

Spicy Mediterranean Chili

Recently I participated in a chili contest and this is the recipe that I came up with. I was feeling like making something different than your standard run-of-the-mill chili, so I went with a Mediterranean theme. I was hoping to win the hottest chili award, but I did not. But talking with the two others chefs at the contest who had the other two spiciest chilies, I think it was agreed on that mine was the spiciest. I think that some people just tried two chilies, and voted for the spiciest of those two or something. The one that won was not even remotely spicy. I think it was rigged. Anyway, I digress. I had it all made up and ready to go, but it was lacking a little depth in flavor, so I added a handful of Guittard dark chocolate. That did the trick. It turned it from a rosy red to a nice brown and gave it that je ne sais quoi I was hoping for. Chocolate and chilies are best of friends, right? My chili recipe from last year was not good enough to repeat, but this one most definitely is. If this isn't hot enough for you (on a scale of one to habenero, I give it a four), you can always add a habenero or even just some hot chili sauce.

Spicy Mediterranean Chili

Original recipe by Vernon Mauery

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 4 jalepeno peppers
  • 3 cherry bomb peppers
  • 3 sweet banana peppers
  • 2 large (or 3 medium) red bell peppers
  • 4 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 C. prepared garbanzo beans (~3/4 C. dry)
  • 2 C. prepared black beans (~3/4 C. dry)
  • 1.5 oz. dark chocolate (or bakers chocolate)
  • 1 lb. bone-in lamb shank
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • salt
  • water
  • olive oil

Directions

T-8 hours:
Rub salt on lamb shank and place in crockpot

T-4 hours:
Wash tomatoes and skin them. The easiest way to do this is to blanch them or roast them until the skins come off nicely. Dice them and add them to the crockpot.

Wash peppers and then roast them. The bigger peppers will take longer. Make sure that most of the pepper is charred or the skins will not come off easily. As they come off the grill (or broiler), place them in a covered container to continue to steam themselves. With protective gloves on, skin and core the peppers. You can keep or discard the seeds as desired. Dice the all the peppers except the bell peppers and add them to the crockpot.

Add about one cup of water to the grated carrots in a saute pan. Cover and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remove lid, add bell peppers and continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated. Pour mixture into a food processor and puree. Add puree to crockpot.

Add diced onion to the saute pan with about 1 T. olive oil. Saute for 4 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add mixture to crockpot.

Add the prepared garbanzo beans, with their water to the crockpot. Discard the water from the black beans and rinse them before adding to the crockpot.

Add cumin, mustard. Add salt as needed (depending on the saltiness of the beans and how much salt was on the meat.)

T-1 hour:
Pull the meat out and coarsly shred it with two forks. Put meat and bone back into the crockpot.

Add chocolate and stir until melted and dispersed throughout. Adjust spices as desired.

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with pita bread, chopped green olives, and feta cheese.

Nouveau Baked Beans

When you think of baked beans, you usually mentally insert Boston at the front. These are not Boston Baked Beans. More like Chickpea Popcorn or something. They make a great, tasty, healthful snack.

Nouveau Baked Beans

  • 2 C. cooked garbanzo beans (~ 3/4 C. dry beans, prepared)
  • olive oil
  • seasonings

Coat the beans in olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet at 425°F for 15-17 minutes or until starting to brown. Take care, the beans hiss, spit, pop and jump while baking. You may want to stir them part way through. Remove beans from oven and toss with seasonings. Try salt and pepper, curry powder, cumin, or any other flavor you like. Eat as an appetizer or add to a salad. Mmmm.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans
Roasted Garbanzo Beans

The Caring Carnivore

Last night, Lauren and I watched Food, Inc. because it was the next thing in the queue. I had put it on the list quite some time ago, but had forgotten about it until it showed up in our mailbox. I know that half the point of the movie is to shock, shame, coerce, cajole, or otherwise convince you to save the planet and shun The Man. In this case, The Man is a few corporate agriculture giants that deliver the vast majority of the 'food' everyone in America eats. We are talking of companies like ConAgra, Monsanto, Tyson, etc.

Nathan's Big Boy Bed

The big boy bed
The big boy bed
assembled
assembled

For the past six months or so, Nathan has been sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor, sharing a room with Nicole. We moved them in together so Annie could have a room to herself while she is still a crying machine. When Nathan switched rooms, we moved him out of his daybed (crib) and onto a real, big-boy mattress. He was so excited. We looked and looked for a bed that we liked, but could not find one.

Artisan Breads Every Day and Sourdough Pizza

Over this past year, I have been testing recipes for Peter Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day. The goal of this book was to find a way to get the full flavor that delayed fermentation offers, but to make the preparation time shorter. Or something. I don't know, because with the delayed fermentation plan, you mix the dough and then bake the next day. Not a lot of involvement in the middle.

Shooting the Masses

Recently I read an article about flu shots that was recommended by a friend. It is a bit of a long read, but very interesting. You see, I think I am contributing to the healthy-users bias. I lead a fairly healthy life: I don't drink or smoke; I am not overweight; I eat lots of vegetables and a fairly balanced diet in general; I am in a monogamous relationship; I have an enjoyable family life. I probably do eat too many cookies and I could certainly exercise more, but I am mostly healthy. I am vaccinated against the big contagious killers like mumps, measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, etc. And because I have an aversion to nausea, I get my seasonal flu shot each year. I am not worried that I will die from influenza. I just hate barfing. I see no harm in getting a flu shot. The influenza virus seems to mutate every year and there are so many strains we can't even count them, but I like knowing that every year, I am gaining immunity to three more strains. Four if the CDC guessed wrong and I get the flu anyway.

Praise for Heirloom Crops

Saving seeds
Saving seeds

In 2008 and 2009, we purchased seeds from Seed Savers and have been saving them. Last year, we saved some pea seeds (Green Arrow), some tomato seeds (Bloody Butcher) and some sweet pepper seeds (Tequila Sunrise). This year, we expanded the varieties and also saved some green bean seeds (Empress), and more tomato seeds (Siberian and Stupice). The King of the North sweet pepper seeds were not quite fully developed, but there are still some left in the package from this year's planting. The mini sunflower seeds were some volunteers in our garden, likely planted by our neighbor's trained squirrels. The sunflowers may or may not germinate next year, but I think the rest of the seeds will.

This year's growing season in Portland was longer than last year and much more productive. We ended up at the end of the season with a tub of tomatoes and peppers. We had several meals with fresh picked green beans. Since it was good for everything else, the peas were not happy. They died out a little too fast in the warm weather. I think it was the week of 100+°F that did them in. But we saved plenty of seed for next year. I think the King of the North peppers would have done better, but they were hit hard by a slug infestation early on. The slugs ate half the leaves on the plants, forcing them to spend energy on growing new leaves instead of peppers. But we did get some small ones by the end of the season. I think this year may have me giving up on leaf crops for a while. After two years of failure on the lettuce front, we tried swiss chard this year. It grew, but never got very big, so we didn't pick any. By the time we did pick it, it was very tough and a little bitter. Next year, I think we will focus more on the beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers. Oh. And the basil. That failed miserably too. I finally gave in and picked up some starts from the farmer's market.

Next year, I think we will start the tomatoes and peppers outside in a makeshift greenhouse so they can get more sunlight and yet not freeze at night. I learned that peppers need warm nights to grow and tomatoes need some chilly nights in order to not get too 'leggy' like ours did this year, growing in our house. We will see. I had quite a green thumb as a child, but I also had parents that knew their way around a garden to make sure I didn't kill things. On my own, the garden is much trickier. :)

Luddites spreading F.U.D.

A man in Nova Scotia has determined that radiation coming from the proposed nearby high-speed internet tower will mutate his organic garlic crops. Wow. I guess he heard that they were using microwave technology and decided to shut them down. Microwaves are the most deadly kind of radiation, right? 'Cause we use them in our kitchens to cook things. Oooh! I had better instill the proper amount of F.U.D. in all my neighbors so this tower will get shut down before it starts.

Being an engineer, I like to look at things skeptically. There are numbers and calculations to support everything. Do the numbers work out? Do the equations make sense? Is this man a fool? This is one of the beauties of learning more about amateur radio; I got to learn a lot more about electro-magnetic radiation than I ever did before. More specifically, what are the limits of what might hurt people. Now there are still debates going on about whether or not cell phones cause brain cancer and the like, but once again, it all comes down to simple physics. This is the same question as Lenny's garlic: will the radiation cause a "change [in] the DNA of the garlic because it shakes up the molecules" or not?

Pictures of Anne

Napping on Dadimg_2002I remembered to bring the camera home with me this evening. The big kids and I spent the afternoon at the hospital with Lauren and Anne. Little Anne slept most of the time that we were there. I think she must have napped in my arms for nearly three hours. That is fine with me. In my opinion, cuddling is all babies are good for. They grow out of it so fast; Nathan was my previous cuddle bug and is getting to be a little too big and bony to be a cuddle bug.

Speaking of Nicole and Nathan, when we arrived at the hospital, Anne had a present for each of them: a cape, for the Super Siblings; a magnifying glass, for seeing all her little parts; and a pinwheel because they are fun. The two caped heroes are pretty darn cute. I am sure they will be great helpers with their new baby sister.

The rest of the pictures we have taken so far can be found in the Tiny Anne album.

Say hi to Anne

Anne Muriel was born today at 5:39 P.M., weighing in at 8 lbs. 4 oz. and measuring 21 inches long. Labor and delivery went smoothly, despite being an induction. Well, it was mostly smooth from my point of view. I think it was somewhat less stressful than Nicole or Nathan's birth, but the whole labor/delivery thing freaks me out. The worst part was when the anesthesiologist was giving the epidural. That part took a while and was somewhat painful for Lauren. He wasn't nearly so good as Max, the attending anesthesiologist for Nicole's birth, who will forever live on in our minds as the laboring woman's best friend.

I would post pictures, but I forgot to bring the camera home with me from the hospital. I had to come home and rescue our dear neighbor from the crazy monkeys that are my kids. Who, by the way, are the cutest little things ever. When Nathan heard that Anne was born, his eyes lit up and he said, "Now I'm a big brother!" She's in good hands.

Lego Adventure

Nathan got a little Lego set for his birthday and it has turned into a daily favorite. Honestly, I think Nicole loves it even a little more than Nathan does. Mostly she builds the trucks and machines that are in the little 'manual' of ideas that came with it. She is getting to be darn good at following those instructions. Nathan loves for Nicole to build him things. Or me. Or Lauren. He can 'fix' broken things but still isn't quite up to creating new things.

Yesterday before we headed to church, we had a little bit of time to play with the Legos. After building a big super dumper truck that used all the wheels and both treads, I let Nicole and Nathan build things while I started building something out of what they didn't want. Very quickly, it turned into a Segway. Cool. Then I built a dude to ride it. I am pretty proud of them, so we had a little photo shoot.

Duck!

We live not too far from a pond that ducks live in during the summer months. There are usually from 10-60 ducks there at any given time between April and October. In the spring and early summer we love to go down there and see the itty-bitty fuzzy ducklings. They don't usually get to come too close to the walking path because of the protective mothers, but as they get older, they get bolder. When we remember, we bring some bread heels or other grain product so we can feed them.

Not too long ago I burned four loaves of bread. Yes, Captain Bread makes mistakes too. We were upstairs watching a movie and I didn't hear the timer go off. Now when we do that, I set the timer on my phone so I will be sure to hear it. Anyway, they were overcooked by five or ten minutes and were a little bit too dark to be pleasant. The crumb was still soft and didn't taste burnt, so I took to cutting the crusts off each time we ate some. We ended up with about a loaf-sized pile of burnt crusts. I saved them so we could take them to feed the ducks. We went twice with our burnt offerings and the duck ate them up like candy.

A new home for Charlie and friends

10-gallon tank

10-gallon tank

I have been pining after a larger fish tank ever since we got Nicole a fish tank for her birthday. I have enjoyed having the fish in the house more than I would have ever expected. I have never really been a pet person, but I think I have found the kind of pet that I can get along with. They don't take much time, they are fun to watch, and I get a great amount of satisfaction out of making sure I don't kill them. Even though it happens now and then. But I am getting better at this fish thing. I used my birthday as an excuse to buy a bigger tank and a stand.

Mary's Bread

This post is dedicated to my dear sister, Mary. She has five adorable, but picky-eater kids. She buys a bread that her kids would describe as manna. They eat it by the loaf at her house. When our family was at my parents house over Thanksgiving, I learned of this and was enlisted by Mom to help find a recipe that Mary could make on her own rather than buy.

Mary's Bread
Being the whole grains nut that I am, I could not condone a pure enriched flour recipe (which is what said manna contains). The ingredient listing was along these lines: enriched wheat flour, water, sugar, salt, yeast, potato flour. We tried to make something like that, but our first take tasted more like cotton than manna. I am pretty sure a bit of salt would have done wonders for it, but I think some whole grains could have added some more flavor too. The next thing we tried was the homemade buttermilk rolls recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Potato Flour. But since that 24 oz. bag cost nearly $6, I thought we should try making it with mashed potatoes rather than potato flour. Sorry Bob. Anyway, the rolls tasted great. Lauren thought they tasted funny, but I thought they were fine. I am going to say any funny flavor was Mom's whole wheat or her powdered buttermilk.

Anyway, I used that recipe as a start for Mary's bread. It was oh so soft and very tasty. I figured this was as close to bread candy as you could get and still have whole grains in it. Anyway, I guess I have managed to sell my own brand well enough that my kids will eat anything that is labeled as "Daddy bread" and tell me it is delicious. This is the first step to making this bread. Talk it up. Let your kids know that Uncle Vernon slaved for days in a hot kitchen trying recipes to get the perfect one. You could even tell them that I baked a loaf to send you, but their cousins snarfed it up so fast that there was nothing left to send. Make them want the "Mommy bread". After you have them craving it, go ahead and bake it. There is no other smell like fresh baked bread. Even bread that tastes bad smells good in the oven. If it is something that your kids enjoy, you could have them help you bake it. This gives them a personal vested interest in the final product and should set a positive prejudice in their minds toward the bread. And if nothing else works, tell them it will make Uncle Vernon cry if they don't try it and like it.

Flu Season

Flu season is upon us. IBM sponsors a flu-shot drive every year, offering flu shots to all employees for free. They have some company come on site and you flash your badge, sign on the line and they shoot you. I got mine about four hours ago. My arm aches. I have a headache too. They said it was a "weakened virus." Weakened how? Did they take each virus and break both legs? Or soak them in acid like you might weaken an eggshell? Well, I tell you from first hand experience, a weak virus is still mean. Maybe it is like a wounded badger; more vicious than ever.

This is the fourth year in a row I have gotten a flu shot. Last year I caught the flu anyway. As miserable as it was, it did have a silver lining; I am ten pounds lighter this year than I was last. Come to think of it though, I am not sure I lost 10 pounds of fat.... I think I barfed up my spleen and maybe a few other organs.

I sit here at work, with my head in a cloud trying to force myself to work, but not doing so very successfully. Maybe I should have waited until 4 P.M. to get my shot.

Mmmm. Buh-licious bread!!

Pain a l'Ancienne

Pain a l'Ancienne

Finally a crust and crumb that I can brag about. This is a loaf that I started as part of a Toastmasters speech. The speech was about how to make the best pizza dough ever. Since for demonstration purposes, the pizza dough and the pain a l'ancienne dough are identical to start with, I figured nobody would notice. Really the only difference is that the pizza dough has slightly less water in it, which makes it less sticky to the point that you can handle it. The pain a l'ancienne dough is so sticky that you really don't want to touch it unless you are armed with copious amounts of flour.

I am so smrt

Free IQ Test
Free-IQTest.net - Free IQ Test

I saw this on a friend's blog and wondered where I fit in. I haven't taken an IQ test since I was in elementary school to get into the 'Gifted and Talented' program. I was a genius back then and I guess I still am. I always thought that the IQ tests were a lot of fun since they involved thinking puzzles and patterns, things I really enjoy.

First 5k in ten years

While our family was in Pacific City, OR, for three days last week, I decided not to take a vacation from my running. I figured that if I took Saturday off because I was at the beach, then I would probably take another day off for this or that reason and it would snowball and I would be back on the couch in no time. It has taken me seven weeks (six of running and one with two days off to rest the weary trotters) to get me this far and I didn't want to toss it out the window. I have run my first 5k without getting shin splints in the process. I am so happy. There are days that my legs are tired, but I wear supportive footwear and they feel much better. The biggest difference is that this time (as opposed to the 1 day ramp-up period in cross country) I took it slow to start with and let my body adjust to the change in abuse. Yes, running is abusive, but our bodies can learn to cope with the strain if given enough time. Only running three days a week also helps (rather than five).