Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 6: Turkey Shepherd Pie

Uses: Leftover frozen/canned seed veggies (corn or peas or the like), that one crust from the package of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts that you didn't need for the pumpkin pie but it came in a two pack so you need something to do with it, leftover gravy, leftover mashed potatoes.

Need: Deep Dish Pie Plate

Roll out pie crust into pie plate.  Prick with a fork, or blind bake according to package instructions.

In a pan, combine leftover turkey (great for the little turkey fragments), and leftover vegetables - think peas, corn, carrots, or onions - something that has lost it's shape and just shouldn't be reheated as-is.  Mix with about a quarter cup of leftover gravy.  Add filling to pie crust.  Top with leftover mashed potatoes - heat until hot.  If you'd like, brush the mashed potatoes with a beaten egg or some melted butter to make it look pretty, brown up, and form a slight crust.

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 5: Turkey Pot Pie

Uses: Leftover Roasted Vegetable chunks, that one crust from the package of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts that you didn't need for the pumpkin pie but it came in a two pack so you need something to do with it, leftover gravy.

You need: 7-8 inch oval baker

Take the pie crust, divide into 2/3 and 1/3.  Roll out the larger portion to make a bottom crust in the baker.  Prick with a fork or blind bake for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup of leftover turkey, the leftover roasted veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, etc) and 1/4 cup of gravy.  When you remove the crust from the oven, add filling, and top with the remaining pie crust, which you have rolled out as a top crust.  Follow the instructions on the crust box for a two crust pie - it's done when the crust is brown.

Winter comes

It's been a beautiful week.  The temperature has fallen below freezing.  Winter is here.

Last Saturday, I spent the morning in the tail end of a 6 inch snowstorm on the shore of Lake Michigan walking a 5K in Lincoln Park.  The temps stayed in the low 20s, with the snow falling so softly they almost appeared to be falling upwards.  By dinner, the pine trees had the perfect amount of snow on each bough, and the white twinkle lights had not yet melted the snow.  It was magical.  It was one of those Christmas tableaux that you try to create with ceramic houses and cotton balls.

I miss living in Chicago.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 4: Turkey Gyros

A take on the classic turkey sandwich.

We had made a hummus platter for the family thanksgiving gathering, so we had leftover pita.  Here's my idea on using this with turkey:

1) Warm pita bread and 2 oz of turkey meat in the oven, about 4-5 minutes
2) Mix a tablespoon of PLAIN yogurt to a pinch each of dried mint and oregano.  Coat the inside of the pita with this
3) Add turkey meat to the pita, along with a couple leaves of lettuce and a slice of onion if you have it.

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 3: Barbecue Turkey Pizza

Uses: about a cup of dark meat, plus leftover onions, and leftover pepper tops and bottoms while making bell pepper strips for appetizer plate.

Also need: pizza crust dough (homemade, store-bought, or premade... just follow instructions on the recipe or package), 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, and two large handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese.

1) Dice turkey meat, onions, peppers, etc... if you had leftover mushrooms (green bean casserole?) or olives (antipasto tray?) or any other pizza-y veggie, throw them in.  Ideally, you want 1 cup of turkey, and 1 - 2 cups of veggies.
2) Prepare dough according to instructions.  Thin crust is ideal for this.
3) Spread barbecue over dough (basting / marinade brush is perfect for this)
4) Evenly spread turkey and veggies over pizza.
5) Add cheese.  Don't add too much cheese.  Don't skimp, either.
6) Place into oven until cheese is melted and crust is crispy.

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 2: Turkey Salad

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 2: Turkey Salad
Time: perfect for Black Friday Shopping breaks.  Make it right after dinner when stripping the carcass.

After the Thanksgiving Feast, when you want to slip into a food coma and watch the Lions lose, you still have one task at hand: Put away the leftovers.  Salmonella sucks, so you really just have 2 hours after dinner to put the food away, including stripping the carcass of all of the meat.  While the breast and thighs were probably removed and sliced during dinner, you will have a large quantity of meat in nice large chunks. Pull those off, place in containers, then allocate to the fridge and the freezer as necessary.

Then, you have those little bits on the board from ripping and cutting, and those other microscopic pieces that remained stuck to the bones.  What do you do with those?  If you do not plan on making broth, here's my recipe for Turkey Salad... like chicken salad or tuna salad, but probably more fattening:

1) Figure out the amount of turkey bits that you have.  Gather them into a pile.  Meanwhile, find some leftover onions and celery, and mince them into tiny, tiny pieces.  The inside stalks of celery are perfect for this.  You want to keep everything in proportion... 2 parts turkey for every 1 part veggies.  So, if you had 1 cup of turkey bits, you want 1/2 a cup combined of onions and celery... and probably heavier on the celery than the onions.

2) Combine.  Mince.  Mince again.  Flatten this out on the cutting board into a single layer.

3) Dust the top of this concoction with curry powder.  Adjust according to taste, keeping in mind that you want to err on the side of adding more curry.

4) On the side, combine equal parts of mayonnaise and leftover gravy.  This should be the gravy made from the drippings using flour and butter.  So, this is glob of eggs, turkey fat, and butter.  If you are a heart patient, do not eat this.  The rest of the public just shouldn't eat this.

5) The key... mix in JUST ENOUGH of your gravy-mayo so that everything sticks together, and not a drop more.

Yes, it sounds gross, but it is rather tasty.  I have not done any tests on it, but a 1/4 cup serving probably has about 628% of your daily allowance of saturated fat.  It's good if you want to heat this in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes.  You could probably add a slice of Swiss cheese to this, but I'd check my health insurance coverage before attempting.  If you added too much of the gravy-mayo, then the cheese is just not going to taste good, either.

Leftover Turkey Idea No. 1: Eat Them.

Turkey is awesome.  It seriously should not just be eaten around the holidays.  A couple weeks ago, I made a honey mustard turkey tenderloin on a bed of dressed turnip greens, and it was a moment of heaven.  Sadly, many people find the task of making an 18 pound chunk of meat too taxing and demanding, so they try it once a year - fail at it - and eat out the rest of the year.

It really isn't too hard - low oven, baste with butter every half hour, stuffing is awesome despite what the USDA says, and rely on a meat thermometer instead of instinct to tell you when it is done.  I find that my grandmother's stuffing recipe (no, you are not going to see it here) stuffed in both the body and neck cavities helps the meat stay moist, and a bit of butter on the breast under the skin helps too.  When the center of the stuffing hits 165, it is done.  Start checking every 15 minutes, about 30 minutes before the USDA guidelines say so.  I totally flaked on this detail this year, and waited until the minimum time.  At that point, the thermometer read 175, and the outer portion of white meat was starting to dry out.  However, the rest of the bird was absolutely perfect.  What wasn't good was the family thanksgiving turkey, which had been cooked within an inch of it's life, then placed in a shallow dish and shoved into a dry oven to keep it warm... thereby sucking out any remaining moisture.  If that was the turkey I had eaten growing up, I'd never make a turkey - because I'd assume that turkey is dry, flavorless, and unchewable.  Mine is much better, due to butter, basting, and worrying about the moisture content of the stuffing:

Mmm... turkey... a little foil protects the wing tips, but they can also be tucked under the bird to prevent burning.
Turkey, as a meat, is exceptionally cheap and pretty abundant... for two months a year.  Even if cooking a 12 to 28 pound bird does not scare you, what do do with an extra 20 pounds of meat that has to be eaten in the next three days can be enough to make you think that this isn't a wise use of resources.

So what do do with the leftovers?  Here are my ideas:

Number 1 - Eat Them.

Just eat them.  Put some turkey on a plate, ladle some gravy on top (or a splash of chicken broth), grab a spoonful of the extra sides, and microwave.  It was awesome when you first had it, why wouldn't it continue to be awesome?  Enjoy!

What I wouldn't recommend: Putting all of the dishes in the oven for "everyone to grab a plateful".  If you learn anything from the paranoids over at the USDA, it's that you keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold.  It also keeps the textures from breaking down from repeated reheatings.  Load up a plate, nuke for a minute, check the temperature, repeat until hot.

On Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving.  To me, it is the quintessential American holiday.  Secular in design, but can incorporate spiritual elements if you'd like, the point is to gather with family or friends, overindulge in the bounty of the harvest, and get a Thursday off work.  Add the prospect of four solid back-to-back days of college and professional football, and I really cannot find a downside to this holiday.  You are supposed to take a moment to appreciate all the good things in your life, which few people do as often as they should - bonus!

My attempt at the traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving is also the end of Fall, my favorite season.  I don't know if it is climate change of just freakish weather, but summer seemed to have stuck around until Mid-October, and our first frost did not happen until November.  Even without this, the moment that Halloween is over, the Christmas/Winter season starts.  When you know that you have a hard 4 months of winter coming, it really is rather mean to try to force 5 months.  November is the last hurrah - the last chance to spend days outside, the end of the college football season and the ability to drink beer in parking lots without fear of criminal prosecution, the end of local fresh produce.  It's also the month with the smell of burning leaves in the air.  Where the house smells like roasted squash and nutmeg.

Thanksgiving is the celebration of fall.  A giant roasted bird that needs the oven turned on for 4 hours (which you are NOT going to suffer through in July), the sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and root vegetables which can be taken out of their cold storage bins and roasted.  That final crop of green beans - planted after the Mexican Bean Beetle has died and harvested right at the last frost.  At today's farmers' market, the last outdoor market of the year, it was obvious that the growing season was over.  Until April, possibly May, we will have to content ourselves with the frozen food, canned food prepared at the height of the growing season, and those waxy texture-less imports from Chile.  Boo.

Thank you, Fall.  I don't always appreciate you until you are over, but I will miss you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Local Thugs vs. Hitler

I found myself watching Bob Roberts for the first time last night.  I can't believe how moved I was - how familiar the worst of Bob Roberts' tactics were.  He manipulates the audience while mocking his opponent (They.  Them.), and accusing them outright of doing the things he was doing behind everyone's backs.  It's a brilliant movie.  It's a terrifying movie.

Surprising to me was the work of Gore Vidal as Roberts' opponent.  His moments speaking to the camera show an uncanny, astute, and shrewd knowledge of the American political system.  Speaking in reference to the coming Gulf War, he ends a mini-soliloquy on the "Enemy of the Month Club" with the observation, "These figures are thrown out to the media and made into great monsters...We blow up these local thugs into these huge Hitler-like figures and pretend it's World War II all over again."

Last week, Roger Ailes of Fox News attempted to elevate his corporate rivalry with National Public Radio to the same plane in an interview with The Daily Beast.  Somehow, I doubt that squabbles over media share and journalism standards could ever be in the same ballpark as orchestrated genocide and plans for world domination.  Placed in the prism of the Bob Roberts genius - pots calling the kettles black while everyone else sees them as silver - there's a certain offensive manipulation at play.  Take this: "They are the left wing of Nazism.  These guys don't want any other point of view."  The twisted logic behind this statement *should* scare you.  He is attacking another news organization with a sense of religious self-righteousness, accusing them of the critique his own organization is most accused of.  No... his organization is on a sacred quest to liberate the continent from the oppressors - to storm the beaches of Normandy - to stand up against a menace that threatens our liberty and existence.

Or, you know, not - because to make that type of comparison means that one has little to no idea about the actual events that occurred between 1938 and 1945, or he truly believes these things to be comparable - in which case he is unfit to lead a Boy Scout Troop, let alone a major corporation.

And nothing will happen to him because of it.  He just rallied his base.  And now, those who enjoy the occasional Sylvia Poggioli report from Rome are left to defend NPR as NOT being the Fourth Reich.  If you spend that much time defending yourself, it must be true, right?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last Hoorah

It's the second-to-last weekend in November, and it was perfect hiking weather in the lower Midwest.  No rain, orange leaves covering the forest floor, and absolutely no one out in the woods... except the deer hunters.  A tad startling to have the silence shattered by the sound of gunshots echoing off the rock faces.

You know it's a good hike when you find yourself saying, "Let me sit down on my ass so I don't fall on it" when trying to scurry down a slippery embankment.

Expensive Compared to What? Part II

Yesterday, I bought 2 dozen eggs from my chicken guy, but not my standard free-range chicken (I have a 12 pound turkey thawing for the next week.  Maybe 2), and I had to ask where the hens go when it gets cold out.  Truthfully, I said where the chickens went, and he responded that they were dead and in the freezer.  The hens, on the other hand still live in their portable hen houses, but when they venture out, they huddle together and graze in little chicken mobs, keeping warm while eating bugs.  He then showed me the pictures.  You can meet them here.  I love the transparency of the operation.  Their website gives you driving directions if you want to cruise past the farm, and even detail how their animals are slaughtered in their newsletter.  When we do buy our bird, we pay $3.35 per pound for a whole chicken... whoa.  Crazy expensive.

I'd like to posit that it is not.  For my husband and I, one 4 pound bird ($13.40) is the basis of 3 meals.  I will agree... it is twice the price of a conventional bird in the grocery store.  However, when we are in the grocery store, we don't always buy the whole bird... we tend to gravitate to the bags of boneless - skinless chicken breasts that have taken over the fresh and frozen sections of the store.  Where do these mystical, magical legless chicken breasts come from?

My main problem with those who claim that eating organic is too expensive are the same people who will also claim that fast food is so cheap.  (Okay, not all... but on a Venn Diagram, there would be a significant overlap of the two populations.)  Assuming that 30% of the chicken is lost to bones and fat and skin, the effective rate per pound of my pampered free-range chicken is $4.79.    Over at the drive-thru, the 10 piece Chicken McNugget is 5.75 oz of chicken that sells for around $4.00.  $4 for a little over a third of a pound of chicken means that the effective price per pound of the McNugget is $11.14 per pound.  Doesn't look so cheap from that perspective.  Especially since I get free chicken broth from the whole chicken.  The only cost is my time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Prince William, Duke of Something That's Still In The Kingdom

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in William's engagement, primarily because of how normal they seem:  College sweethearts, dating for 7 years, living together, getting married at about the average age for a first marriage - old enough to know what you're doing.  Plus, they seem to really like each other.  It's adorable.

However, it seems as though some media outlets have gone batshit insane when it comes to Royal Wedding Coverage.  Case in point: Researching whether your suggestions would not cause a diplomatic rift with another country.  The Sydney Morning Herald produced an article on the potential titles for Kate which has been referenced in a number of other articles. 

It suggests a number of dukedoms that William may be granted:
Kendal - a lovely town in Cumbria near the Lake District.
Clarence - a previous Duke of Clarence was husband to *Queen* Jane Grey, which is awesome.
Cambridge -quaint university town in East Anglia
Sussex - County home to Brighton and many Jane Austen novels
Avondale - Hamlet outside of Glasgow on your way to Edinburgh
Strathearn - County on the other side of the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh
Teviotdale - yet another picturesque Scottish landscape with hills and a river and rocky greenery
Connaught - approximately one third of the Republic of Ireland.

If the Queen is seriously considering the Duke of Connaught title, why not the Duke of Burma?  Viceroy of India?  Lord Protector of Canada?  The Canada one at least recognizes the Crown as the Head of State, so that's probably a better fit than pretending that the Prince has any say in the internal affairs of a sovereign country who fought a pretty violent civil war against the English Monarchy.  Just sayin...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PBS Wants You To Be Scared

I'm not sure what they are doing over at Frontline, but three recent episodes are making me afraid of the police:

October 19 - "Death By Fire"  A man is executed in Texas for arson that killed his three children for a fire that experts believe was an accidental electrical fire.

November 9 - "The Confessions"  Two, four, six, eight, I don't know one hundred thirty-seven men are convicted in a conspiracy to gang rape and murder one woman... yet the man whose DNA matched the crime scene admits that he did it alone.

November 16 - "Law and Disorder"  Two men trying to find medical attention for a gunshot victim in New Orleans about a week after Katrina are beaten.  Gunshot victim is burned in a van, possibly after being allowed to bleed to death, maybe after.  Gunshot came from a policeman.

All of this makes me wonder what is going on with the criminal justice system in our country.  In an age in which technology and scientific evidence should be helping police departments capture the correct suspect, protect the innocent, and remove reasonable doubt in cases of good hunches, it seems that DNA evidence and scientific explanations are being dismissed when it is convenient in favor of the quick nab and the sexy motive.  I don't want to make sweeping conclusions based on three datapoints, but I can see a couple trends that may influence these things.

First, your Prosecutor is an elected official.  It's very sexy and soundbite-y to say that you have an 86% conviction rate.  It's nuanced and wimpy to say that you are a watchdog of the people to make sure that the police department is doing their job in the context of the criminal justice system.  Also, even if you do feel that your job is to challenge the police department to bring you every shred of evidence and research every lead, you do work with them more often that the Defense attorneys, so you don't want to question their authority too much or too often.  You need the police to hand you a case that you can win.  Which leads to the next problem, which to borrow a phrase from Season 3 of The Wire, "juking the stats":  making your stats look as awesome as possible whether or not it may be true.  Why settle for one murder conviction, when you can land 7?  Ruling a fire as accidental equals no crime when an arson conviction adds three felonies to your tally.  Shooting a looter and beating up his friends means that you are tough on crime, so long as you burn the evidence that points otherwise.

Then, there is no watchdog.  Supposedly, the defense attorney in these cases is there to make sure that due process was followed.  That does not work at all when the victim was shot and killed (as happened in Katrina), or when the defendant just does not have the money.  The financial burden is often on the shoulders of the person accused - should he be guilty, he is responsible for the legal bill - should he be not-guilty, he is responsible for the legal bill.  Unable to pay for an attorney, he is put to the mercy of a public defender, who is probably overworked and often not a specialist in the field that is needed.  Add to that the public defender's limited capacity to hire experts in electrical fires or whether it was possible for a murder defendant to drive 500 miles in 4 hours to commit a murder, and the financial hurdles to mount this type of defense are not within the budget of the average municipality, not to mention all but the wealthiest individuals.

Assuming that it is believed that a cop may be dirty, who is supposed to investigate?  The fellow cops?  The county prosecutor?  Why would they do this?  The incentives line-up so that they will keep their mouths shut unless Frontline shows up to do a documentary.  The cops know that they will incur an extra workload - the prosecutor knows this could throw doubt on any case that the cop worked.  There goes the 86% conviction rate needed for re-election.  Who is going to blow the whistle?  Where IS the whistle?

Which comes around to the next trend - the race to the bottom when it comes to taxes and funding of social services.  The annual salary of a New Orleans police officer is $43,070 per year, (okay, according to the website, it's $43,0700.)  That's below the national median household income level by $6K.  So why would a smart and talented high school student realistically choose this as a career?  Long hours, high stress, mediocre pay.  Oh, and people shoot at you.  Sadly, New Orleans is one of the better cities for salary schedules.  The annual salary of a police officer in Corsicana, Texas, is $31,344 per year according to their recent job posting - the same police department that failed to determine whether a fire was arson or accident.  Oh, and you'll need a degree in criminal justice that will cost you $20,000 for two years (maybe $40,000 for 4), when for the same amount of money, you can get yourself a degree for a job where you can feasibly repay your student loans before you die.  Likewise, a newly minted lawyer with $300,000 in student loans is going to firmly look at a $60K assistant district attorney job as the option of last resort.  Plus, to offer those salaries even at that level with declining tax revenues, there's probably fewer cops per capita, fewer new police cars, and larger caseloads on the average cop.  Getting a case together quickly to pass to the prosecutor... or a quick conviction to pass to the prison system is not about laziness, but survival.

So, what's the answer?  Raise property taxes to provide benefits and services that would be attractive to the best and brightest?  Create a criminal justice system in which statistics are divorced from job retention?  Have the role of State's Attorney be an appointed position instead of an elected one?  Have the Police Department or District Attorney's office pay the defense attorney's bill if the case goes to trial and results in an acquittal?  Something totally awesome which I haven't considered?  I don't know - you tell me... and if you can make at least three references to The Wire and Clay Davis, I'd be happy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Design for the Dump

Story of Stuff has a video about designing consumer goods with a limited lifespans, say 18 months.  It's adorable, and includes a stick-figure John Cusack a la Say Anything in the background.

Two take-aways:
1) I feel better about my 7-year-old cell phone.  It may not take photos or let me text, but I can still make phone calls with it.
2) Even if it would still cost $50 to have him look at it, if I lived in Baltimore and had a broken toaster, I'm still going to Prop Joe's Repair Shop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Expensive Compared to What?

Last week, researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released their Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score, which highlights than any research worth doing should be able to be distilled into a cutesy acronym, like FACTS.  They also found that 84% of parents took their children to a fast food restaurant at least once a week.  That's self-reported, so one can assume that the percentage may be higher, or that the actual number of visits per week was more.  The full report can be found here if you want to wade through 208 pages of statistical analysis.  Which is quite fascinating, and if you have the time, you may find some interesting findings in there that were not highlighted in their press release.  I encourage all to keep learning.  It keeps you young.  Unlike the 84% of American Families who are visiting the drive-thru once a week.

One of the most pervasive arguments in favor of the drive-thru is that it is both fast and cheap.  Until I see a 208 page report to back up this claim, I will not believe this.  Assuming one is not travelling between cities on the interstate, think about the time involved: one wrangles the kids into the minivan, drives 10 minutes to the McDonald's, spends 5 minutes ordering, 15 minutes eating, 5 minutes trying to get the kids to leave the PlayPlace, re-wrangling the kids into the minivan, then driving 10 minutes home.  You need to budget 45-60 minutes for the entire process.  Even assuming one parent can just run through the drive-thru and leave the other at home, this is a good 20-30 minute process.  You can cook dinner in less than 30 minutes, and if you throw something in the oven, or boil a pot of pasta, much of this time does not have to be devoted to pursuing dinner.

The other consideration is the price.  2 adult meals @ $6, and 2 Happy Meals @ $3 means that the happy family of 4 is spending $18 on dinner at McDonald's.  While not expensive, that's also not cheap.  Even buying the "expensive" organic food at the grocery store, you can easily feed a family of 4 a basic everyday dinner for less than this (no, one doesn't eat Lobster on Wednesday unless it's your birthday or you live in Maine).

I'm not sure when it became established that Fast Food was fast and cheap, but I will speculate.  Perhaps when women entered the workforce but were still expected to maintain the house, time issues were truly a factor as women really did have two full-time jobs.  Like I said, I don't know.  But hopefully, as the line between gender roles blurs, and all family members can be expected to make out grocery lists, go shopping, and cook, then maybe we'll stop kidding ourselves and admit it: McDonald's is easier.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ask & Tell, Who Cares?

As it is Veterans' Day, I feel compelled to comment on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  I especially feel entitled to discuss Don't Ask, Don't Tell as a straight woman who has never served in the military, or ever held a job that involves weaponry of any kind (except a sharp wit).  I probably could let it go, except that General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, won't.

The Department of Defense sent out a survey last summer to 400,000 services men and women, and another 150,000 of their family members, asking them about the policy.  Turns out that the majority of Army, Navy, and Air Force surveys returned agreed that the policy could be retired.  The lone branch holding out: The Marine Corps.  Then again, I'm basing this on leaked information, not the full report that will be released in the next few months.

What is it about the culture of the Marine Corps that is so resistant to gay service members?  Shouldn't the chief criteria as to whether someone can serve in the military be whether or not they want to serve?  That they love their country?  That they can contribute to the defense of our country by all enemies, foreign and domestic?  That they possess special skills that are critical to America's mission?  Frankly, I think whether or not a person has graduated from high school and can run 50 yards without a heart attack is more important to the job than what that person does in their free time.  At the height of the Iraq Surge, it's not like recruiters were enforcing the weigh-in policies, and were waiving the high school diploma rule.

To me, that is what's wrong with the policy.  Why are you introducing sexuality to the workplace?  If somehow, men and women can work together without constantly having sex with each other, why do we assume that gay men can't control themselves?  With the changing scope of the military, where men and women serve on submarines with each other, where is the issue?  The policy is clear: This is a workplace, so control yourself.

So, why is the Marine Corps some type of dinosaur that can't work with the changing workplace.  And, with the advent of new technologies, why do we need a Marine Corps?  Do we really need a group of soldiers on ships to fight hand-to-hand combat on the high seas?  Or storm the beach?  As the Marine Corps is just a part of the Navy, can't they just be absorbed and let the more evolved, more nimble branches of the service continue to recruit the best and brightest of our youth and continue to defend the country?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Best Granola Ever

As the weather turns cold, then the baking begins.  It's no longer an oppressive thought to heat up the kitchen with the oven turned on for hours, and the smell of warm brown sugar wafting through the air is enough to distract one from noticing that the daylight is vanishing way too early these days.  One of the things I love to make from scratch is granola.  It's cliche, I know, but it is SO good, so easy, and so expensive in the store, where a small bag is $4-$5.  It does involve a number of ingredients, some large bowls, and a good two hours... but the end result is amazing and much cheaper than store-bought, and with the added bonus of being able to choose exactly the components that you want.

My initial granola baking experience was with Alton Brown's Granola Recipe.  If you are skeptical of random people on the internet giving you advice, then start with him.  (But, why are you reading this, then?)
This is a perfectly serviceable recipe, one which will get the job done.

However, there are some drawbacks.  First, what's with the 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp measurements?  How many dishes am I going to have to do?  And, one cup of raisins?  This will not do.  And, one cup of almonds when the nut packages are 1 1/4 cup in size.  Frankly, I can't always get to the grocery store that has the bulk aisle for baking supplies.  So, with a couple of modifications, I present the Best Granola Ever.  It is built on the concept that I don't like partially opened packages, don't like to do too many dishes, and you can never have too much fruit in granola.  I do agree with Mr. Brown... low heat, don't rush the baking time, and stir often.

Equal parts almonds & cashews, and about even quantities of oats and nuts:
3 cups rolled oats
6oz bag of slivered almonds
6oz bag of cashews

14oz bag of coconut (because 3/4 cup leaves a partially open bag... and I like coconut)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine the above in a giant bowl.

In another bowl, combine:
1/2 cup maple syrup (equal amount to the brown sugar)
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch salt

Pour this over the oats and nuts, and stir until everything looks well incorporated and even.  Spread this in a single layer in as many pans as you need (2 9x13 pans should work...).  Bake at 250 for 75 - 90 minutes.  Stir every 15 minutes.  It is done when everything is dry and nothing is burned.

To this, add:
1 1/2 cups of raisins (I like a combo of golden and regular raisins)
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of dried blueberries
Or, more... you know, if you like that kind of thing.

Yield: More than you think it will.  Find some airtight containers, and squirrel this away for a fall day when you want something sweet, crunchy, and yummy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The First Post

What this space is:

  • Somewhere for me to post my liberal political thoughts without annoying my entire Facebook friend base. By liberal, I mean the idea that there are some problems whose solution is beyond the reach of the common man, and it is the duty of government to address these problems.  
  • A place to chronicle my attempts at leading a more sustainable lifestyle and comment on American hyper-consumerist culture.
  • A platform for discussing what's going on in my kitchen.  Trying to be healthy, trying to buy locally, and trying to eat everything we bought from the farmer's market before it goes bad.
Why granola?  Because each ingredient by itself may not seem to connect to another, but taken together, it's baked maple-y goodness.