Diary of a slacker

Yesterday I had planned to make bread. Naturally, one of the power taps at the NOC blew out, taking with it 20-odd servers, and then the switch blew its backplane when the tap was replaced, necessitating a swap of that, and then of course there was the cleanup, answering tickets from people and posting updates to our forums. Remarkable the way the timing works, isn’t it?

After returning from the NOC, I finally got my shower and then did a bit more work, fully intending to head to Publix to pick up a couple of things I needed for breadmaking. Instead, my stomach was rumbling, so I was casting about for something to eat. Problem: I didn’t really want anything that was readily available, and everything else was frozen. I whined about this to a friend, and then got so tired that I just leaned back and took a short nap. I think I am probably not getting enough sleep at night, but with the exception of the treatment months, that certainly is not a new problem. It’d probably help to have someone to curl up with, as I tend to sleep better that way, but there isn’t anyone at the moment (and feeding tubes are definitely not sexy, so that’s unlikely to change for awhile). I know I’m not eating enough, as my last weigh-in (Thursday) was disturbing. I’ve reluctantly – very, very reluctantly – decided that I’ll have to start using the tube again fairly regularly, something I don’t want to do and that I’m kicking myself about. This probably led to my next issue:

Anyhow, a too-brief nap and I was up again, once more thinking about food and feeling in general like a little company to listen to other peoples’ stories as I am wont to do, so I headed out for the evening. First to Biscotti’s for my old standby (soup) and then to the Brick to listen to a little music and have some coffee. One of my sisters and her boyfriend came up and joined me for awhile, and I had some quite good clam chowder and then split a creme brulee with my sister after making sure she had something to eat (parmesan crusted chicken, which she likes quite a bit). The boyfriend wasn’t very hungry and just snacked off her plate. Some more coffee, chatting with strangers, and then chatting with some people from Biscotti’s, who stopped in as they were making their way down the block to Monte’s, and it was not a bad evening at all for me. I’m still a bit bummed about the whole health thing, but I suppose that will pass.

Naturally, though, that means other things that I told myself I was going to do – like make some bread – did not get done, so that will be my early morning task so the bread will be ready by the evening meal. And I still haven’t decided what to make for dinner tonight. Perhaps some boneless pork loin chops with balsamic-caramelized shallots? The only problem with this is that I cannot recall how much the chops were, so doing a per-serving breakdown would be impossible. I’ll probably have to come up with something else to kick off The Challenge.

Every day can’t be a complete home run. I console myself with the fact that the day wasn’t a complete waste. Just most of one.

Planning the game

Today is bread day.

I’ve been turning ideas over in my head for dinner Sunday evening, which should bring four to five people to the table, with a sixth joining in after working late. I had picked Sunday as the start of The Challenge, so coming up with something tasty, nutritious, but not budget busting is in order. To help myself think more clearly, I’ve had some ice cream for breakfast. One thing that occurred to me while I was melting the ice cream a bit in order to get it down was that I hsould make some bread.

“Hey!” I said to myself. “You should make some bread, since you mentioned the pricing on your site.”

So, if I can find my loaf pans, I’ll be making some honey wheat bread, and perhaps some cinnamon bread as well. The nice thing about making bread is that there are preiods where you do nothing. The dough has to rise, after all. I love bread, although I can’t really eat any at the moment. The aroma of rising dough and then baking bread perfuming the house is delectable and comforting, and that smell is one for which I have a great deal of fondness.

Since Costco does not sell whole wheat flour at all, whether in 25 pound bags or 50, nor yeast, a trip to Publix is in order. We’ll just see how much cash one has to lay out for ingredients to make a couple loaves of bread, shall we?

More to come.

Thoughts on The Challenge

Before I get into those thoughts, something amusing from earlier this evening. I took my sisters to dinner before they went shopping (dresses for a wedding, or something). During the course of dinner, one conversation went something like this as they were talking about the MTV Movie Awards – or was it music? In any case…

Sister 2: You know, the guy with the voice.
Sister 1: Like James…James Earl Grey?
Me: Splorf.
Sister 2: (Gales of laughter)
Sister 1: Jones! James Earl Jones!
Sister 2: James Earl Grey Morning Blend. (More laughter)

It was probably something you had to be there for in order to appreciate the true hilarity of mixing James Earl Jones and a tea.

But on to the more serious issue: food.

Continue reading Thoughts on The Challenge

A better cookie

This batch definitely turned out better than the last. Parchment paper this time rather than the silpat.

Alas, I am unable to eat them, as the sharper edges can be quite painful on a tender tongue. Those that have eaten them confirm my visual estimation as this batch being superior to the last.

The perfect egg

I’m not sure about anyone else, but when I have a real breakfast, eggs are always on the menu. They can be accompanied by other things – bacon, grits, pancackes, ham, and so on – but for some reason, to me the egg will always be the centerpiece.

The other night, I was poking around for something to eat and decided that breakfast for dinner would be jsut the ticket. I’ll confess that when I eat out, I always order eggs over easy. When I eat in, it’s scrambled, with or without fillers.

But not that night. I decided it was high time to do at home what I’d had others do for me.

So, after frying up some bacon, I put a couple pats of butter into a hot pan and cracked open an egg. The beauty of butter and nonstick is that no spatula is needed: let the egg cook a bit, give the pan a shake to make sure the egg is not sticking, then shake the egg toward the far end of the pan. When you’re ready to take the plunge, flip the egg using the pan by dipping down the far end a bit and then shoving the pan away from you while flicking up the end. Gently, of course. It isn’t necessary to throw the egg a foot into the air. Just get it out of the pan far enough to catch it on its opposite side when it lands. As it lands, lower the pan so it doesn’t just splat back down. After all, it isn’t one of the old space capsules with a parachute. It’s a fragile yellow orb that should be intact at the end. After letting it cook for as long as necessary – only about 10 seconds, in my case – do the same thing and flip it back over. Voila, the perfectly done egg over easy.

There’s nothing quite like that first cut into the soft yolk.

There’s also this sort of breakfast: bacon, freshly made biscuits with (of course) freshly made gravy, some honey, and grits and eggs (no pics of that).

Behold my butt

I know, it’s been a few days. What can I say? Work intrudes on my cooking hobby. I just read an interesting article, the link to which was sent to me by a friend who also – sometimes with some snark attached – pointed out that the author was spot on in various respects with regard to my own pursuits. Bitch. I say that with love, of course. She also sent me this, asked if I were ghostwriting now. Har har har. Funny gal.

But back to my magnificent butt. Just how often do you get to use that line while completely sober?

I’ve done a turkey, I’ve done lots of ribs, and quite naturally at some point I had to make pulled pork. My small circle of regular readers will recall my search for pork butt last week. I drove about 100 miles that day in all my travels. But Friday, I returned to CostCo and picked up some supplies.

Nice pile o’ meat there, eh? From left to right: pork butt (contains two butts, total just over 15 pounds), one pack of ribs (two slabs), a double pack of maple bacon, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and another pack of ribs (also containing two slabs). That was all the meat, but not all of the stuff, which also included more dispoable steam trays, an industrial pack of foil, and these goodies.

If one of my sisters ever brings me more shrimp, the Old Bay will get some use. Until then, though, this is a story of pork.

I brined the butt overnight in a simple mixture of salt, water, and molasses. The next morning, I drained them, patted them dry, and them gave them a rub (the recipe for which I actually wrote down). The butts rested for about an hour or so after being rubbed.

They were then ready to go on the smoker. It started to rain about three hours in, and maintaining temperature became quite the adventure.

At about the seven hour mark, we had this.

They were coming along nicely, and I pulled them just after ten hours on the smoker.

I couldn’t resist picking at the edge of one of the butts before even getting the twine off after giving them a rest for about 30 minutes.

Beautiful, tender, juicy, smoky meat. Better than most smoked butt I’ve had in many places, if I do say so myself. A closeup of a morsel of meat.

A few chunks pulled to check the smoke ring.


Time to start pulling. A good portion of crispy bits and even a little burnt end, done on purpose since we have several people who just lvoe burnt ends.

Finally, both butts were pulled. I started with just over 15 pounds of pretty well trimmed butt. The ending weight was about 13 pounds. Thirteen pounds of wonderful porky goodness.

Of course, you can’t have barbeque without some sides.

And since I’m tiring out my jaws and killing my fillings by eating, I had a little myself. I managed to finish it, except for the crispy bits that made it into my pile of pork. The mouth and teeth just aren’t up for it. Yet.

We still have plenty. I’m going to have to pack some away in the vacuum packs and stuff them in the freezer so the pork o’ plenty will be available whenever someone gets a hankering for it.

Feeding day

In all my adult life, I cannot recall ever stepping foot into a butcher shop (a real butcher shop, that is). There may have been moments when I was a kidlet that I had the opportunity to visit one, but my memory is pretty darn good, and I don’t recall any from that time, either.

But, during the Big Bash, one of my aunts recommended that I stop into a local butcher shop and check out what the guy had to offer. So I did. The answer: after noon, not a lot that was of interest. I spied some frozen filets mignon that looked as if they’d been there since the beginning of time, quite a bit of bacon, and a huge 17-pound pork butt package (two butts in the package, as is common with boneless butts). One of the more amusing factoids I’ve always carried around in my head is that regarding the term “pork butt”. It is not, as the name might suggest to the unwary, really the ass end of the pig. Rather, it is the upper shoulder of the animal (the picnic is the lower shoulder). Quite a lot of people may know it as a Boston butt instead.

In any case, a nice butt – of the porcine variety, in today’s journeys – was my goal. While the package I saw at the first butcher was hefty and looked nice, I decided to bypass that one and continue my search.

Continue reading Feeding day

Some days

Some days I really despise people. In general. In particular, those of the asshat variety. I used to work with a woman whose favorite phrase was, “Oh, that’s nice” said in a sarcastic way, to every little issue that arose, as if it was right there on par with the D-Day invasion being called off because of fog and rough waters rather than being an issue that could be easily solved if someone just used whatever brain cells were available to them. Ever since then, I’ve hated that damn phrase, and really can’t bring myself to care too much for people who act like every little thing is the end of the world or who have to exaggerate issues instead of just dealing with them like normal human beings – or using a little common sense. People who imply that events are other than as they are – usually by omitting pertinent information – rank right up there on that list, too.

That is all.