Tuesday, May 27

Martha's Prop Room

...is run like a library! Fascinating, and I'm sure it's a system that is necessary. Read more on the Martha Stewart blog.

Photo from MS blog.

Monday, May 26

Tonight's Menu - Results

Where to start on our dinner tonight? The beans were delicious and really not very complicated.

Bourbon BBQ Beans
from Weber
I halved the recipe, which would yield 4 generous servings

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup diced red onions or other onion
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 dijon mustard
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3-4 dashes Tabasco
2 cans (28oz each) baked beans
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
(I actually forgot the salt and pepper...we didn't even notice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 10 minutes. Blot off with paper towel or drain half the grease. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. While cooking, rinse and drain the baked beans. Set aside. To the onions and bacon, add ketchup through tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the baked beans and bake for 45-50 minutes covered. Uncover for several minutes afterward.

The Best Potato Salad
adapted from Mom and Cooks Illustrated

This is the best I've had so far. Regular baking potatoes crumble too easily. Try to use red potatoes as they are sturdier. I used regular baking potatoes today before reading the Cooks Illustrated recommendation.

2 lbs red potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
4 hard boiled eggs
1/3 cup green onions
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp + 2 tsp (5 tsp) dill pickle juice (correction from previous listing of 3tsp)

Cover potatoes with water in a pan on the stove. Cover with lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes, until tender. Drain and lay out on dish towel to cool slightly. When the potatoes are still warm but not hot, gently cube them and fold in the vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes to cool further and allow the vinegar to absorb. When cool, gently fold in eggs and onions. Add mayonnaise and dill juice and fold to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Chill 1 hr and serve.

The burgers? Tasty, though lest you think the dinner was perfect, the burgers shrunk up quite a bit. They were 5oz each and I think 7 oz is better. Noted.

The pudding? Ryan and I shared one earlier today and it is rich with real chocolate. Delicious. No changes were made to the recipe except forgetting to add the vanilla. But they were darn good and we liked them better without.

Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for a great example of food photography and for the pudding recipe.

Leave a comment if you would like the recipes in a nice Word document (picture included).

Tonight's Menu

For Memorial Day, we're having the following for dinner:

Hamburgers, topped with bourbon caramelized onions
Bourbon BBQ Baked Beans, a Weber Grilling recipe
Potato Salad, a mix of a family recipe & ATK Best Recipe
Chocolate Pudding for dessert

I added Sweet Thai Chili sauce and green onions to the hamburger meat. I also made a lime cilantro mayo for the buns. The onions are a recipe from Max & Erma's that my mom replicated at home years ago. The beans and pudding are new recipes for me.

It's easy to caramelize onions. Sweet onions, such as Vidalia, are best. The key is to let them sit and cook, in a stainless steel pan. Don't over stir because the bits that build up on the bottom of the pan are key for flavor and cut down the time required for caramelization. When you stir, scrape the pan and get the gooey bits off. See the progression:

I'm hungry! Time to turn the grill on. What's on your plate for today?

Pickle Poll

Pickles. Do you like them? My husband has been merrily snacking on Claussen dill pickles, though I easily pass them over. I like sweet pickles, but dill? No thanks. What kind of pickles, if any, do you like?

Sunday, May 25


Ryan and I had a great visit with my Pap & Grandma, my mom's parents, on Friday and yesterday, who live about two hours from here. Our conversations consisted of talking about their old farms, who is related to who, showing wedding pictures, all with loud voices and enunciated words since my Grandma is nearly deaf. She is great with reading lips though and I was glad we were able to communicate so much. We spent about an hour in the computer room at their retired living center, and I showed them online pictures of their great grandson, Cohen, trips to Oregon, our wedding, honeymoon and more. My grandma particularly loves seeing the pictures and misses out on a lot since she can't talk on the phone.

Our breakfast turned out great, and we all really liked the egg dish. I ended up having more bread than the recipe called for and as a result had to add more eggs. I should have baked it longer and at a higher temperature, because I went to serve it and the eggs were still runny! I put it back in the oven, covered, and raised the temperature 25 degrees, and it turned out great. The use of sourdough bread gave the dish a nice tang. Alas, I didn't take a picture of that dish or the Butterscotch Breakfast rolls but I did take some of my grandma. She's not one to look at or pose for the camera. I didn't think to pat her hair down though...

The land near my grandparents house is lush and green right now. It's a rural farm area and to get to their place, we travel over a "mountain" which has a pretty nice view. What do you think of the first picture? I was playing around with it in Photoshop. It's tricky to get a good picture of a light sky and dark foreground, especially when you have your husband quickly pull over to the side of the road and take a picture into the sun instead of the sun being behind you. Do you look at it and first think that it's too processed? Your thoughts, please.

Oh, my grandma LOVES Ryan. She's nearly deaf though so she calls him any of the following names: Rain, Randy (I have a cousin Randy), Rine, and sometimes Ryan. She's a dear and sent us home with some homemade applesauce.

And to top off the country, down home theme, a tire:

Some sort of Hash

I had no plan for lunch today after church (back at home) and Ryan kept reminding me that I had hash browns in the freezer. Over the last few weeks, I'd say "I'm saving them for something", and Ryan just kind of looks at them hungrily, wishing I'd do something with them. Today though, thanks to his reminder that I hadn't used them, I gave in. I sauted some breakfast sausage, red onions and some of the potatoes. I added some salt, pepper, ancho chile powder and cumin, about 1/4 tsp each, plus about 1 TB of butter. I covered it and occasionally stirred/turned the mixture, and once the potatoes and sausage were cooked, I added 4 eggs. I wanted to feel like a ranch woman so I used my cast iron skillet instead of my ninny non-stick skillet. No, you are not a ninny if you use one.

Here's how it turned out. It was complete by topping it with the following: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, tomatoes, green onions and cilantro. We added some splashes of Cholula sauce, and it was complete. It was a flavorful mixture of breakfast, country and southwest.

Friday, May 23

Indulgent Brunch

I'm probably going to regret this calorie-wise, but I can't wait to eat breakfast tomorrow! For what reason? Well, I'll be making the following two recipes at my grandparent's place this weekend. They live about two hours away in a retirement apartment in rural PA, and Ryan and I are going to visit them tonight and tomorrow, and this will be our brunch in the morning:

First, a family favorite: Butterscotch Breakfast Rolls. Some of you may have had these or know them by another name. A close recipe is here. Though my mom used to use rolls and make them in a bundt pan, she now uses Rhode's frozen cinnamon rolls (in the bag, discarding the icing) in a regular 9x13. My mom started that a few years ago and since she's, well, a fabulous cook, I've adopted it as well. That makes me fabulous, right? There is no additional cinnamon in the recipe I use, and they sit overnight in the oven to thaw and raise. Something to note in finishing them well is to let them sit for a few minutes after you turn them out onto a plate or tray but before removing the dish in which they were baked. This will allow the syrupy, sticky, buttery topping to settle on the rolls and not on the baking pan. We grew up having them every year for Christmas breakfast and only occasionally have it other times in the year. And oh, I only put nuts on half since I don't care for nuts in baked goods. I think I still get teased for that sometimes! My family loves me.

Second, I'm making a half recipe of Sleepin' In Omelette, posted by Pioneer Woman. I'm making half since I don't want to use 10 of the 12 eggs I just bought, and the four of us do not need a huge dish of the stuff. Some of us will be tempted to eat more of it than our consciences want us to eat (me? nahhhhh). Instead of onion rolls , I may use some nearly stale sourdough bread that I have in the freezer.

Check out the rest of Pioneer Woman's blog for some delicious (non-light) recipes and good photography. She got sucked into ranch life by being swept off her feet by a cattle rancher and now lives on a ranch with 4 children and a lot of cowboys and has some pretty fun photos of ranch life. Talk about a run on sentence!

Wednesday, May 21

I love spending my time this way

An hour of my evening tonight was spent doing a task that was 100% preventable.

What is this little bugger doing in soapy water, you ask? Thanks to my adeptness at drinking coffee at the computer, these guys got a good bath. Especially since I turn my coffee into wonderful, creamy, sugary goodness. Mmm.

It took a little while to put the keys back on.

My handsome husband was quite absorbed in the skill I displayed.

And...let's just say the "Quality Control" department didn't quite test all the keys to see that they did indeed type with out slushing around before grinning with satisfaction of a job well done. Blast that L and spacebar. Who needs them anyway? Same with N, K, J, comma. We don't need you!

And yes, I chronicled this in photos. For you.

Tuesday, May 20

Vaccines: Hepatitis B

Background to this post
Other posts labeled Vaccines

All infants are inoculated at birth and at one month against Hepatitis B. Looking at the risk groups for this disease, one typically has to engage in a sexual act to be placed at risk for Hep B, or share drug needles with infected persons. The vaccine is effective for 23 years. "HBV is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, hand holding, coughing, or sneezing" (source).

I wonder if this vaccine was instituted for all children to protect children of drug users? Does a baby need this inoculation, especially at birth? What does this vaccine (and the preservatives included, which can be toxic chemicals) do to such a little baby? Since this appears to be a disease contracted through lifestyle choices, should a parent shield their child from the consequences of sin? Ryan and I wouldn't vaccinate ourselves or our kids against AIDS, should a vaccine arise. Why? We have no intention of placing ourselves at risk, and if we do, we should face the consequences of it. We believe the same goes for a disease like Hepatitis B. It's not an airborne disease that can be contracted in everyday life.

Interestingly, on the CDC website is the following statement at the very bottom of the page about the disease:
...administering the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine soon after birth to all infants acts as a safety net, reducing the risk for perinatal infection when maternal HBsAg status is either unknown or incorrectly documented at delivery. Also, initiating the hepatitis B vaccine series at birth has been shown to increase a child's likelihood of completing the vaccine series on schedule.
It is interesting that the two main reasons it's given is 1) they might not know if the mother is infected, so they protect the baby and 2) parents are more likely to return for further vaccinations. A CDC memo from 1999 states that the vaccine must be given to babies with mothers who are positive for Hep B and for those where it is unknown. However, seeing this on the mandatory schedule, it appears that now, ti's given all across the board no matter if the hospital knows the mother is negative.

From the CDC:
When vaccines that do not contain thimerosal as a preservative are not available, these groups should be vaccinated with thimerosal preservative-containing vaccine. For infants born to HBsAg-negative mothers and who are not in high-risk groups, existing recommendations should be used for administering thimerosal preservative-containing hepatitis B vaccines if vaccine that does not contain thimerosal as a preservative is not available.
Summary: Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, is a toxin. When the toxin-free vaccines aren't available, instead of opting to not vaccinate, they opt to administer a mecury-laced vaccine to a newborn. More alarming: those NOT AT RISK for contracting Hepatitis B should still receive a mecruy-laced vaccination.

Refuse, Accept or Postpone: Unless I become infected with Hepatitis B or our life changes to such an extent that we would be at risk, our children will not receive this vaccine.

Saturday, May 17

Burger, Anyone?

Remember the Thai Burger I mentioned a few times? I found the contest website that lists the Thai Burger recipe plus the other grand prize recipes from recent years. If you're hankering for a burger with an explosion of flavor, my guess is you wouldn't go wrong trying any one of these. Summer is nearly here...make yourself burger that is a cut above the rest! These folks won $50,000 for their winning recipes. I did notice that many of the recipes involve a lot of ingredients, which you should expect. Some of them may be hard to find.

Build A Better Burger past winners

Two finalist recipes we hope to try are:
Pineapple Upside-Down Jerk Burgers
Grilled Pork Burgers Indochine

It helps that we watched the Food Network TV show which detailed the finalists' recipes from two different years. Man, were we were craving a burger!

photo from the contest website

Thursday, May 8

Vaccines: Catherine's Book Reviews

Background to this post
Other posts labeled Vaccines

I'm a slower reader (or just average, and Catherine is speedy :)) and got sidetracked recently in reading another book, so I wanted to refer you to Catherine's book review from this week which covered two vaccine books. I'm reading one of them and have the other on my list.