Friday, July 06, 2007


Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
There is plenty of down-time for everyone around here this summer. Particularly the kids. They've been reasonably good about not complaining of boredom. Although that might be because uttering the word "bored" can result in being assigned a task.

Yesterday I fell in love with some property. There is a house on it, but what I really loved was the location. Deep in the heart of Indian Land, nestled in the woods, the owner enjoys wildlife and peace and quiet. It's about 5 miles further away from Charlotte than we are.

It has awakened in me the desire to have a home in the woods. With maybe just an acre of land all around me. If I could find an acre or two in the woods that we could afford, I'd buy that and build an energy-efficient home on it.

But it would have be here in Indian Land. I just don't want to leave here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Morning After

The entire neighborhood smells like stale sulphur this morning.

We had fireworks going on in all directions last night, from about 8 until after 11. It continues to amaze me how people will literally blow their money.


But...those of us cheapskates got to enjoy a pretty good show.


I spent the evening with my camera on a tripod. Since the remote control I ordered has not arrived, I had to depress the shutter by hand. I spent quite a bit of time researching how to take the photos. Essentially, I set the camera to "Manual," set the shutter speed at 'bulb,' the aperture at 7.1, and depressed the shutter whenever the explosion started. Then I let go of the shutter as the firework died out. It's not an exact science. The hardest part was focus. I kept reading that the manual focus should be set at 'infinity,' but there is no infinity symbol on my lens. So I dialed it all the way out and then tried to back off a bit until it looked like most of the fireworks would be in focus.

I'm not wildly happy about these photos, but I figure they aren't bad for a novice. What I should do is go to a display this is organized and has cool fireworks that end up being flowers, etc. Regular people seem to tend to just buy ones that make a lot of noise and don't necessarily go up in a pattern. I suppose the others are more expensive.

Anyway, I never heard sirens last night, so apparently there weren't any terrible injuries.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This the kind of recipe you'll love & hate. Because most of my readers are the kind of folks that like precise recipes. But I'm telling cream is very forgiving.

I had these fresh bing cherries about to mold. Cherries just don't last long, and I'm the main consumer in our house. So one afternoon I pitted about 2 cups of them, tossed them in a pan with a little sugar (maybe 1/2 cup?), and sauteed them until the cherries had broken down and I had a syrup, but they hadn't cooked so long that they had jelled.

I put that in the fridge.

Today I took that out, poured it in my bowl, and added:

1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Dash salt
1 cup half-n-half
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Stirred it all until the sugar was dissolved. And suddenly decided to see if Mensa Boy had left any chocolate chips. Yup, about 1/4 cup. Tossed those in.

I put it in my handy-dandy countertop ice cream maker and got this! Simply stunning!

Now here are some notes for you:

1. When you simmer the cherries or blueberries or whatever berries you are using (yes...that should have been note #1...use any kind of berries), start with a little sugar, like maybe 1/2 cup to 2 cups berries. Taste it to see if it's sweet enough.

2. You still need to add sugar to the dairy products of the ice cream recipe. I didn't do that with the blueberry ice cream last week and it just wasn't that good. The berries were sweet, to be sure, but the ice cream was just not.

3. I used the ice cream recipe for my maker, and just reduced the whole milk by 1/2 cup to accomodate the extra room needed for the cherries. But I'm thinking I actually added maybe 1 1/2 cup worth of cherries and it? There was plenty of extra room in the maker for the extra 1 cup of stuff. In fact, that doesn't take into account the chocolate chips, either.

4. I used whole milk, half-n-half and whipping cream. But you can step down the fat content by switching whole milk for 1%, half-n-half for whole milk, and whipping cream for evaporated skim milk. TRUST ME...I do that all the time and NO ONE EVER KNOWS. I just didn't this time because I had half-n-half and whipping cream left from something else I made earlier. (don't remember. don't ask.) You can definitely trust me on this if you know me, because if you know me, you know I DESPISE low-fat and reduced-fat stuff. I like full-fat stuff. Just eat less.

I'm going to make the blueberry ice cream again and add sugar to the dairy. That was the true trick.

Oh. And. Kirsch would be nice.

Yeah. He Took Care of Him, Alright

Some days, actually a lot of days lately, it's just hard to be a Republican.

Monday was one of those days. That was the day President Bush commuted Lewis Libby's sentence.

In 2003 Bush said this,

"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

Was it guilt on Bush's part? I mean...he cites Libby's service and says the former White House aide suffered enough. He's got a bad rep now. No street cred. And the sentence imposted was "too excessive."

Bush acknowledges that Libby done wrong. The dude lied to investigators. He wasn't even the one that leaked the Mrs. Plame's identity. But he lied and lied and lied.

To protect who? Our dear leader? (shaded reference to another famous guy intended)

Bugging Around

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I'm still photographing bugs in my neighbor's garden. Sure, I have bugs myself. But I don't have a garden.

I started photographing them last week, mostly just to get in some practice with macro photography, bokeh, depth of field, etc. But now this week a Nikon D40 group I subscribe to is running a competition for bug photos. So I'll be doing more in the coming week. It's fun to have something to look for to photograph. Most of the group members are way out of my league, but it seems like some of them are not, so I feel like I'm kind of in the middle of the pack.

Today will be a low-key 4th. It always is for us here. We used to go hang at my parent's house and then go to to fireworks. But we only went to fireworks to make my mom happy. The rest of us hate the noise and commotion. Probably tonight we'll just sit on the sidewalk outside my house and watch the ones the neighbors shoot off on the other side of our subdivision.

Until then, we'll probably rent some of the "Rocky" movies. We were talking about them the other day and realizing that Taylor has never seen them.

My friend Jenny did a great story on Nate in the Fort Mill Times. As of a few minutes ago, today's edition was not online. But if you check periodically, it'll pop up fairly soon, I reckon.

Go to Fort Mill Times and look for "IL Senior Takes 'Leadership 101'"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Busy Bee

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
It was a busy day yesterday. I didn't make any money, but I sure got a handle on how to get some in the coming weeks. I received a fairly large assignment of work from my beloved Cleveland Company. So much, in fact, that I told them I'd have to do the batch of CDs they need in shifts.

I also came out of the day with something like 6 stories to write. Some will be very short "new business" stories for the paper, one will be another food story (YAY!) and the other is a story I'm pitching for a quarterly magazine our paper publishes.

And I found some time to play with my camera in neighbor Mary's garden, capturing bees busy at this bush of hers. I'm sorry I can't identify it. I really suck at plant identification.

I also went hogwild downloading NPR podcasts to my mp3 player last night. NPR has many, many podcasts available, so I downloaded the last editions of "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!" and "Whad'ya Know?" as well as a "Hidden Kitchens" story and a "Kitchen Window" one.

I may have to add a daily walk to my schedule just to get a chance to listen to these!

While I was tinkering with my player, I discovered several flash games on there. I started to play some of them and found that I just don't have the part of the brain that tells me HOW to move the little characters around on the screen. Nate was watching me try to play this airplane game and really could not understand how I could fail to see that the plane drops down when it goes one direction and then flies up when it faces another. He tried to coach me, but pretty much gave me up as a lost cause. I do think I might try to figure out "Free Cell," though. I always have my player in my purse, so I can do that when I'm stuck somewhere waiting for something.

That's all I know right now. Today Nate and I will go to the Rotary meeting, then he goes to school to move more boxes. I'll head to a chiro appointment, and then try to make some calls for interview appointments. This afternoon I'll take him to Ryan's to spend a couple of days and then I'll make the rounds of the farm and grocery store.

Make a good day today! Life is GOOD!

Monday, July 02, 2007

A New Favorite Salad

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Last night I made this salad from a recipe in the July 2007 issue of "Fine Cooking" magazine. And every member of the family declared it "worth repeating." Here is the recipe adapted by me (because I had leftover chicken so didn't need to cook chicken breast, I didn't have fresh ginger or sesame seeds, was short 1/3 cup of sliced almonds, and I forgot to put in the scallions!)

Chinese Chicken Salad


Leftover roast chicken (about 2 cups...shredded)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 square wonton wrappers
Cooking spray
1/3 C sliced almonds
Snow peas, trimmed and and cut on the diagonal into thirds (1/2 c)
1/2 small head napa cabbage, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch wide strips (3-3 1/2 c)
1/2 small head romaine cut crosswise into 1/2-insh-wide strips (1 1/2-2 c)

1/4 c rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs Asian chile sauce*
1 very large clove of garlic, crushed and then finely chopped
1 tsp ground ginger**
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c peanut oil

Turn the oven on 375 degrees. Cut the wonton wrappers into 1/2-inch strips and lay them out on a single layer on a cookie sheet that you've covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Squinch the wonton wrapper strips a bit with your fingers to give them a wavy shape. Spray lightly with cooking spray and salt them sparingly.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.

Blanch the snow peas for about 20 seconds in boiling water. Shock them in ice water.

Cut and wash the lettuce and cabbage. Spin dry. Toss in the snowpeas.

Roast the almond slices in the oven or a small skillet until they get that roasted smell and start to turn a light tan color.

Assemble all the dressing ingredients. Pour about 1/4 cup of the dressing over the shredded chicken and toss well. Throw the chicken and almonds into the lettuce mixture and gently toss with the hands, adding more of the dressing until everything is the way you like it.

Plate the salad, garnish each plate with the wonton strips and then get out of the way!

*I had this chili-garlic sauce, the recipe called for "sweet Asian chile sauce)
**2 tsp minced fresh ginger would have been better

Sunday, July 01, 2007

And So It Continues

You've heard "the beat goes on?" Here at our house, the breakdowns go on.

Most, but not all of the issues have been resolved. The oven guy came and replaced the igniter. Swore to us that this would be the last time. Bolstered his promise by telling us that previous repairs were done with an old part that has since been re-manufactured. Apparently re-manufactured in 2003, but the "other technicians" continued ordering the old part.


The refrigerator repair guy came and did some work on our freezer again. Installed a new new new modification (so called because he did a new modification 2 years ago, a new new modification last year, and now another one the other day), and showed us how to clean out the ice accumulation behind the back panel of the freezer, the clanking against by the fan being the cause of the airplane take-off sounds.

And he left dripping water and warm food in his wake as he neglected to turn both the refrigerator and freezer parts of the fridge back to cool. We discovered it 6 hours later when I opened the freezer and had water dump out onto my foot.

And I have a new cell phone. Razr like before, but newer. And I finally added more minutes to our account when I received the third bill in a row with TONS of overage charges.

The computers have been behaving. And it's been only 3 days since the last power outage. And 5 since the last cable outage.

So all is going well.


Yup. There's always an "except..."

BIG GREEN. Bad starter motor. Tow truck, night on the lift, repairs done. $350. Without our prior approval.

Mensa Boy is ... disturbed. On the warpath, even. Which will be a surprise for those of you who only think of him as this (the one on the left), or this (thank you Greg Schneider).

He was promised, when he followed her over there, that any repairs to Big Green would be done only after he was contacted.

Today he was called and told she was ready.

We probably would have held off a day and gotten an estimate from our favorite auto repair, J.P's Auto Repair, if we'd been told it would be $350. They are just down the road from the place we sent the car, and we do all our stuff with them. The only reason we didn't this weekend is because J.P's is closed on the weekends.

And then when we went to pick her up, it started to look suspiciously like she had been given a hand-me-down part. Yes, remanufactured. We do not put used clothes on our kids, or used parts in our cars. Remanufactured or not. We are just snobs that way.

The fella that did the repair said the 'RFMD' designation on the invoice was a mistake, that he did indeed put in a new part, but when we got home Mensa Boy did some googling around on the Napa Auto site, found the part number from the invoice on there and the price was SIGNIFICANTLY lower than we paid, and in fact matched a part number for an RFMD part.

So. I'll go to J.P's in the morning and get Derek's opinion, and an estimate as to what it would have cost if we'd had them do it. And Mensa Boy will do some talking to the manager of this other place. And if we do not get some sort of remuneration if the explanation is unsatisfactory, (we could be wrongly suspicious) then I'm afraid you, dear reader, will be seeing another 30-day advertisement against this repair company on this blog. Remember the Benchcraft furniture incident?

On the other hand...we had an EXCELLENT meal this evening, the guys are all gone for the next two hours, and I ordered a new lens for my camera that should come in a couple of days. I'm excited!

Broke, though.

----sweet 50mm f/1.8 lens---->>

Product Review: Lifestream Waffles

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
My new favorite breakfast. I found these first at Earth Fare, our fun grocery store. I went there on a quest for waffles made of hemp. Yup, hemp. I read about them in Prevention magazine and Mensa Boy and Taylor wanted to try them.

Since then I have found these at my regular grocery store. Interestingly, they never have the hemp ones at the regular store, but they do have these Fig+Flax ones and I haven't tried these Pomegran Plus ones yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

They are all wonderfully flavorful. And not too sweet. I schmear them with all-natural peanut butter and then have milk or orange juice. That pretty much rounds out a big breakfast for me...around 530-550 calories. Lots and lots of fiber.

I know I'm luckier than most because when I count calories, I'm counting to be sure I get enough, not that I'm getting too much. Because I'm a jittery devil.

So I'm not sure if I'd recommend this to folks who are trying decrease their caloric least maybe leave the peanut butter off? I do have to say that they are so flavorful, I could easily see eating them plain, with nothing at all on them. Or maybe a sliced up fresh peach or some blueberries or something like that.

They are stupendous!