I’m thankful for so many things these days. It’s not been the best year ever, but it has been full of growth (even if that’s painful).
I’m thankful for Steve and the cats and the life we’ve built for ourselves.
I’m thankful for friends and family.
I’m thankful many of my friends are on the far side of struggles with medical issues, money and jobs.
I’m thankful for the people the universe dumped into my path and forced me to trip over in order to get out of a rut.
I’m thankful that I am able to live in the Bay Area. It is a bit of the world that just suits me and that makes me happy. From the city density to the open spaces, the bay to the coast, the feeling that this is home.
We had a quiet day today. A fairly simple dinner for us: roast chicken, roasted veggies and green beans. I made an apple, persimmon and mincemeat pie (based off this recipe, but I had fewer apples than I thought so I bulked it out with persimmons). Haven’t tried it, yet, but we’ll have that later with some custard.
The freezer is full. The freezer is so full we can barely close it. I really wanted to make chili this weekend, but getting volume out of the freezer was more important than getting more food into it. And you can’t make chili in small batches.
Chicken stock it is. I did it “properly” this time. Often I’ll just throw stuff in the stock pot and let it go. Yesterday was a bit more organized.
I often buy whole chickens and cut off the bits we want (legs, breasts, wings, whatever) and then freeze the rest. I had two carcasses in the freezer so I grabbed them and dumped them in the stock pot with just enough water to cover. I added one large carrot, broken into pieces, 2 stalks of celery, a handful of garlic cloves, and some onion. I seasoned with pepper corns, bay leaves, parsley and fresh thyme. I don’t salt my stock until I actually use it.
I brought it to a boil, then skimmed off the foam. Then I turned it down, put an steamer basket upside down on top to keep the chicken submerged and simmered it for 5 – 6 hours with the top off. 2 hours before I was going to turn it off, I covered the pot and continued simmering. I turned it off and let it cool to room temperature overnight.
This is where the food safety people should jump in and point out that you should never do this. You should cool your stock as soon as possible to fridge temperature. It is in the danger zone and could be full of harmful bacteria. They’re right. Don’t do this my way, follow good food safety standards. I am taking a risk here with the stock by leaving it to cool at room temperature.
Today, I’ll defat and strain all the solids out of the stock. I’ll use some of it to make chicken and dumplings. It was my favorite dish from grandma. Bad me, I never got her recipe. So I’m going to try and create something that won’t nearly be as good.
Filed under Cooking, Food
Comfort food again.
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, broken into florets and steamed.
- 1 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder, bloomed in water
- 1 1/4 cup of 2% milk
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup of heavy cream
- 2 cups (ish) of grated cheese. I used cheddar and smoked mozzarella yesterday
- bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Make a roux with the butter and flour. I’ve been practicing letting my roux go a little past what I consider blonde lately. Then I whisked in the milk and cream. Yeah, it was decadent, but I’ve been craving comfort food. When the white sauce came to a boil (which I should have caught, but I was steaming cauliflower and not watching closely) I added salt, pepper and the bloomed mustard powder. The I took the sauce off the heat and added the mozzarella and the cheddar and about 2 tbsp of the grated parmesan.
When the cauliflower was steamed, I mixed it with the cheese sauce, then topped it with bread crumbs, grated parmesan and a few pats of butter.
I baked it for about 20 minutes at 350 with the convection fan on.
It was pretty good. The overall dish was under seasoned. The sauce itself was yummy, but the cauliflower was unseasoned (oops, but see the bit about nearly letting the cream sauce boil over) so the overall dish needed a lot more salt. That was pretty easily fixed at the table, but still it definitely needed more seasoning.
Filed under Cooking, Food
Tonight’s psuedo-vegetarian meal: sweet potato hash with bacon and apple.
Yes, I know, it has bacon, but it really is primarily vegetables and we even used less bacon than the recipe calls for. Besides, expert vegetarians tell me bacon is a vegetable.
As a side dish I did some apple cider braised cabbage.
The hash is fine as a main dish, but I would recommend something with a bit of bite, texture and acid on the side. It would also be a great side dish for a pork roast.
Awesome thing to do with ham steak instead of (or in addition to) the bacon.
Bets on whether or not this going to bypass cauliflower is cat poison as my most hated blog post ever because I said bacon is a vegetable?
Filed under Cooking, Food
Science isn’t truth. Science is a method for determining facts. Science is about asking questions and doing the best we can to find the right answers. It’s about understanding our biases as scientists and thinking “OK, now, this may be the answer I wanted / was expecting / will get me funding. Is it really true? What ELSE could be causing this? How can I look at this from a different angle? If I do, what should I expect to be the answer if I’m right?”
It’s about how to look at and think about questions in a way that gives you a way to ask the next questions. It lets you model things in a way that allows you to predict the answer to the next question. If the prediction is wrong, then so is your understanding and you need to take a step back and look at the previous question.
I don’t often write about politics here, but posted this over on FB a little while ago. Yeah, I feel strongly enough about this to post it here.
We can get platinum plated, better than we’re getting now health insurance on the California exchanges for 700 a month less than we’re paying as a small business.
This is freaking AWESOME.
The fact that people can actually get decent health insurance on the private market is great for this country. When we started our business we could just barely afford health insurance at $500 dollars a month. Over ten years that ballooned up to almost $2000 a month. And this was without us having kids or any serious pre-existing conditions. This last year our health insurance cost us almost as much as our mortgage, and we have a house in the Bay Area.
The massive cost of health insurance was a major drag on our business. We couldn’t competitively hire people without providing insurance. That was an extra $12000 a year per employee that we had to budget for. That made hiring just too expensive to contemplate. But now, we can hire. We may be able to provide full insurance coverage (the small business exchanges aren’t up yet). But even if we can’t employees can get decent insurance on the exchanges and we can subsidize or pay for that.
I’ve seen other people commenting that they now can leave their jobs and start businesses because their families won’t be stuck without insurance.
This is a great day for the US, for jobs and for progress.
Now, if we could just get the house to USE THE VOTES THEY HAVE to pass a clean spending resolution, the US might have a chance to move forward.
We pulled out the smoker a few weeks ago to make some pork shoulder (which was tasty, but we need to work out some better temperature control). I also smoked some fingerling potatoes. We weren’t sure what we were going to do with them but figured we could make potato salad or something.
After tasting the potatoes, I decided they’d be a great ingredient for chowder.
4 to 5 oz hot smoked salmon
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 carrot, peeled and diced fine
1/4 cup diced celery
5 – 8 cloves diced garlic
4 strips bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups smoked potato pieces (I had sliced fingerlings, cubes would be fine)
1/4 cup Lillet
2 cups fish stock (I cheated and used Knor fish bullion cubes)
Cook the bacon, rendering out the fat. When the bacon bits are crispy, pull them aside and hide them so you don’t eat them while cooking the soup (or is that just me?).
Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the fat in the pan. Sweat until they’re softened and translucent. Deglaze pan with Lillet. Add stock and potatoes to the pan. Bring to a simmer and let the flavors meld for 20 – 30 minutes.
Flake the salmon and add it to the pot. Simmer very gently for 10 – 15 minutes.
Add cream to taste, top with whatever bacon bits are left and serve with garlic toast.
I was quite astonished how tasty this soup was. I kinda made it up just from what we had in the house. But it was flavorful and filling and well balanced. Good smokey taste, and a great fish taste. It was my first go with this set of ingredients and I don’t think I’d change much, quite honestly.
Maybe next time I’ll remember to take pictures of my cooking. I’ve been bad about that lately.
Filed under Cooking, Food
Dinner tonight was salad, smoked salmon and some bread. Along the way I decided to use up some of our slightly ropey tomatoes. They weren’t bad, or anything, they’ve just been sitting out and were starting to get a little dried out.
This is about the easiest thing I’ve ever made with what we have sitting around the house.
Handful (or two) of cherry tomatoes tossed in the food processor. Add some balsamic vinegar (1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons), a couple cloves of garlic, a few leaves of basil and a glug of olive oil. Pulse 10 – 12 times until everything is chopped.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh bread.
Very, very tasty. We have about 1/2 cup or so left over that I’m probably going to use in whatever I make tomorrow with the pound of ground beef in the fridge. The ground beef will either be pasta sauce or chili. I’m leaning towards pasta, but it’s a bit up in the air right now.
Filed under Cooking, Food
Mid September we took a few days to visit Yosemite. 2 days we “camped” at Housekeeping camp and 2 days we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel with Steve’s mum and Mike. Had an awesome time, took a billion photos. I’m slowly processing and uploading the photos to Flickr.
On our way there we drove through some of the worst destruction from the Rim Fire.
Burned out ridges, and denuded hills as far as the eye could see. There were rangers at the overlook where we stopped who pointed out that the area we could see was only about 1/5 of the fire area.
As we kept driving, we entered Yosemite and drove through an area that had burned some years before.
It was interesting to see how the area would recover, eventually. Fire is so destructive and so scary, but is so necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
Sooo…. Aetna wants us to lock in with them as our Small Business health insurance provider before October first. Our insurance agent called me this morning, then sent me email telling me it was urgent that I sign a document before Oct 1. This document basically commits us to being Aetna customers through 12/31/2014, but gives them the option of “refactoring our rates.”
I did a little research.
It seems that the Small Business Exchange pricing goes live in CA on October 1. AMAZING coincidence, don’t you think? That Aetna is pressuring us to commit to them through 2015 before we’ve seen the exchange rates.
This tells me the exchange rates are going to be better than what we’re paying now, for probably better service. And, well, if they’re not, we can just jump over to the individual market. That will save us over $1000 a month if we switch to a “silver” plan. The “silver” plan being better coverage and lower co-pays than we’re getting now.
I bet Aetna wants me to commit for another year.
I don’t think so.