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Sink-O de Mayo

May 5, 2017

My plumbing is a big mess.  The professionals were here on Wednesday and will be back on Monday to break open the basement floor.

Naturally, this is a good excuse to have some beers.  Beers are always a good excuse to have tacos.  Not that anyone ever needs an excuse for tacos.

And here we are on the 5th of May.  The force was with us yesterday and the dark side is back already.  So I grabbed some Dark Tower beer and got to work with what I had.

I already had Brussel sprouts and I saw this recipe while perusing for ideas, so I ordered a few items for delivery from a fancy grocer.  They were out of limes, queso fresco and queso blanco.  That’s a high level fail.

I persevered thanks to that 9.2% ABV beer.

I riffed a bit off the recipe – adding red bell pepper and leek; using Serrano peppers instead of poblano and adding ancho pepper powder.

The hardest part of this was cutting Brussel sprouts in half and chopping onion.

It all worked.  Queso fresco would have been nice, but I got over it.  Probably.  The sauce really is damn good.  So is the beer.

Now I have a sink full of dishes to clean and I don’t want to risk running a bunch of water until the professionals come back.

These tacos were worth it.

We are gathered here today…

Saucey sauce.

Save me, angry cowboy.

Sprouts, red bell pepper and garlic.  I can still smell that garlic.

Work it.  Sweat.

Warm and ready.

Here we have tacos.  Thank somebody.  (Me, mostly)

Kale, kale, the gang’s all here

November 9, 2016

In case you weren’t paying attention, my canine buddy lost her cancer battle at the end of July.  This resulted in an instant demolition of my daily structure.

In the days immediate following, I allowed myself to wallow.  The result was losing touch with my workouts and my writing.  It might seem antithetical, but my newfound free time was the worst thing that could happen to my productivity.

That’s how I’m wired.  Action begets action.  Inaction…you get the picture.

So, the Friday before Halloween, I brought home a coach who promptly sorted my shit.  I’m now completely exhausted and much more productive.  Just in time for Nanowrimo and the holiday eating season.

Spirit, a three-year-old rescue Husky has run me ragged and diligently helped me dog-proof the house again.  Did you know there was still a packet of fish food on a bottom shelf?  I didn’t either.  It’s not there anymore.

My new schedule and resulting tiredness has me temporarily reshuffling my cooking.  I need quick and easy and no extra grocery trips.  So I put off my crazy ice-cream ideas and the pretzel making experiments.

Nothing is easier than sautéing some kale.  Kale sautéed with red onion, apple and red wine vinegar.  Topped with a veggie sausage.

Also super easy – a baked Portobello cap with parsley, tomato, fresh parmesan and an egg.  Plus some salsa.

Easy baked chicken thighs in a marinade of garlic, orange juice, balsamic, and soy sauce.  Used for a sammich – on toasted oat bread, with fresh baby spinach, avocado and a good mustard.

This stuff takes nearly no effort and hardly any time (other than the marinating time for the thighs).  Even Spirit can pause her shenanigans long enough to let me prepare this food.  Almost.

Mush(room) ado about nothing

September 15, 2016

Having to, unplanned, get a new refrigerator is a weirdly refreshing experience.  Like getting a first apartment with your first real fridge.  An empty canvas.

I have a habit of periodically rearranging how I use the shelves and drawers for no reason anyway.  As my usage habits change, I rearrange accordingly for max efficiency.  That’s what I tell myself anyway.  In reality, it is probably the result of manic boredom.

Either way, I’m still stocking back up and it’s reined my cooking in.  Back to a more simplistic style.  As my weekly produce arrives, I use it up on the spot.

And so we have…some simply stuffed portobello mushroom caps.

Baked in the oven at high temp (450 F or so) for about 20 minutes.  Then stuffed and put back in the oven until it looked ready (5-7 minutes more).

The stuffing is a mix of flash-sautéed minced garlic, cilantro, green onion, grated parmesan, fresh basil and bread crumbs.

The Assemblage.  The garlic was late and missed the class picture.


Mixing up the stuffing.  I sautéed the garlic first to mellow it out.  Drizzled in a little olive oil just to bind it up.  I also layered a few thin tomato slices in the mushroom caps before piling on the stuffing.  Because I can.


Looking good out of the oven.  Crisped up lightly on top.


I thew down some really ripe tomatoes and topped them with the remaining green onion, salt and pepper, and the bits of stuffing that were beautifully crisped and nearly stuck to the bottom of the baking dish.


Going for the gold

August 22, 2016

The Olympics have come and gone.

There were some interesting stories.  The Swedish women’s soccer team was fun to watch. Ryan Lochte is still a moron.

For all the hand-wringing about what would happen in Rio, it ended up being a fairly typical version of the Olympics.

Table tennis is fun to watch.  The US men’s basketball team sleepwalked themselves to a gold medal.  Fencing is weird.  The equestrian course was brutal.

In the spirit of the thing, I decided to do some Brazilian-style cooking on Saturday night.

I can state with conviction that a Brazilian fish stew is a tasty and relatively easy dish to make.  There was a bunch of chopping and it took some time (primarily marinating), but the complexity is in the flavors, not the cooking technique.

I used this recipe as a starting point, altering spices to my liking and using catfish (it was available and it is sturdy enough to withstand the cooking in tact) and scallops (added last minute so as not to overcook).

I drank an Argentinian wine while cooking.  Don’t tell Brazil.

Fritter my timbers

July 28, 2016

My never-ending quest to use all the zucchini in the world continued with some zucchini fritters.

Really easy to make and pretty tasty.

Very few ingredients.  I used this recipe, but added roasted garlic.


Stuff for things.


Didn’t even bleed.


This is where the sizzle happens.


I want me gold!


Topped with sour cream and hot sauce, because hot sauce is life.




Put a smile on your face ten miles wide

June 1, 2016

Yeah, um, cherry pie.

I went off this recipe, more or less.  Added some blueberries and didn’t use all that sweetener.

Pretty easy to make.  I only used the sweetener for the cherry-blueberry chia jam.  If I do it again, I wouldn’t even bother with that.  Left the crust and topping without the added sweeteners.

I really liked the crust.  I used sticky coconut shavings to help it bind and give it whatever sweetness it needed beyond the listed ingredients.  Would probably make an OK cookie with a little adjustment.


That’s the jam.


This part would have been the pits, but I just did it with my hands and I felt powerful and majestic and juicy.


This is starting to feel like something good.  Swingin’ in the kitchen.


This part was easier than I expected.  I don’t know what I was fretting about.  Dryness, I suppose.  Nobody likes a dry slice of pie. I’ve seen what happened to good King Joffrey.


Crust is ready to go.  Just need to fill ‘er up.


Done and done.


Managed to hold form for a slice.


Backside view.  You knew it was coming.


I’m hoping the general lack of sugar will mean I can still fit into my hair band pants.  Sweet cherry pie, yeah.


Butternut Squash Ice Cream

March 14, 2016

Next in the never-ending installments of “what do I do with all this squash,” comes Butternut Squash Ice Cream.

Don’t give up on me.  You can make ice cream out of anything.  Of all the things people have made ice cream with, butternut squash isn’t even high on the WTF list.

It’s a sweet squash anyway.  Besides, once you add a boatload of sugar and cream, everything tastes fine.

I used this basic recipe from, so you know it’s legit.

Paired it with some butterscotch sauce, pistachios and chopped dates.  Worth waiting two days.


Varsity Team Picture


Infusing.  Cinnamon sticks love baths.


Roasted squash.  From shapely gourd to golden god in less than an hour.


Sugar and yolks are ready to party.


Whisking.  So much whisking.  But finally ready.  Ready to sit and chill.  No Netflix was involved.


Butterscotch.  It’s going to happen.  Quickly.  Pay attention.


I know that looks like a bunch of butter, but it is called butterscotch.


OK, that’s…yeah, bad beach day.  Have faith.


After whisking all my problems away, it’s creamy sugar lava.


You got to cool it now.  Ooooooh, watch out!  Add vanilla and salt to taste.


Through the power vested in me by The Interzone Time Council, it is the next day.  Time to churn and burn (if you’re into that).


This is much easier with a machine.


There you have it.  Butternut squash ice cream, butterscotch sauce, pistachios and dates.

It’s chili out there

February 4, 2016

This winter has not been the snowpocalypse that last year was.  Frankly, I prefer all that snow if this winter is my only other option.

Sleet and mud is just not as exciting.  Not to mention the extra half hour it takes to clean the dog after we get inside.  She glories in mud pits and her paws hoard dirt like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold dust.


Is this really the start of February in Chicago?  My paper boats are still in storage!


That famous rodent claims there will be an early spring.  We barely had any winter.  I wake up praying for cold these days.  It makes the swamp in the park easier to deal with.

Rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties!

What better time to savor some chili.  I used up all my space-hogging squash for a squash and black bean chili.  Three types of squash (butternut, delicata, acorn), one groundhog sized yellow onion, red bell pepper, black beans, tomato, garlic, bay leaf and spices.  I went with smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander, and ground up dried chile de árbol.

Chili is catch as catch can.  That’s the joy and wonder of it.  Stuff a pot full of good things and let it simmer for a while.  Add some toppings and serve.  I topped with some greek yogurt, chive and toasted wheat tortilla strips.

Really good stuff.  Spicy with a hint of sweet.  Even better the next day, as happens with this kind of kitchen magick.


Team Chili, assemble!


Chop, chop.  This stuff won’t make itself.


Startin’ to look purty.


Long time no see, chili.  My, how you’ve changed.


I would eat it.


With some Dino’Smores.  Off Color Brewing has the coolest labels.

General Tso’s Christmas

December 24, 2015

Are you eating Chinese food for Christmas?

It’s a thing.  Don’t knock it.

I’m not blaming this tradition on Jewish people, but non-Christians gotta eat out too.  Even on Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Maybe those Chinese restauranteurs just saw the opportunity and grabbed it by the brass wok ring.  If no other joint was going to be open, you might as well fill that void.

Don’t worry, kids, Jewish Christmas at the Chinese food palace isn’t going to ruin your Santa moments.

Everyone is digging into it these days anyway.  GrubHub notes that Chinese food is 152% more popular on Christmas Day than the rest of the year.

In fact, three of the top five days of the year to order Chinese food are Christmas, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, followed by “smoking holiday” (4/20) and Labor Day.
By far the most popular item for Chinese food orders is General Tso’s Chicken. According to GrubHub — which features roughly 30,000 restaurants on its site across more than 800 cities in the U.S. — it’s actually the 4th most popular dish on the site, all year-round.

I don’t even eat that guy’s chicken, but even I know it’s not authentic.  That doesn’t really bother me.  It spawned a pretty good documentary about American love for Chinese food, called The Search for General Tso.

Adaptation happens.  It is not destroying the fabric of anything.  So, let’s keep the Tso in Christmas.  It’s crazy nonsense, but it’s food evolution – the best kind of crazy nonsense.

The real question is why I have so many chopsticks and why are there so many manufacturers?

I don’t need all these disposable chopsticks, I have my own stainless steel set.  I haven’t the heart to toss them.  Maybe I’ll make a tiny house with them one day.  Something the trees would be proud of.

In 1878, Japan produced the world’s first disposable chopsticks. Today in China, around 20 million trees are sacrificed to make disposable chopsticks, which is leading people throughout Asian chopstick countries to reconsider their use.

Those sticks come in different shapes and sizes.  They tell you the story of the chopstick and give you usage tips.  They wish you good fortune.  The various wrappers are a kind of cross cultural pop art.

As food became bite-sized, knives became more or less obsolete. Their decline—and chopsticks’ ascent—also came courtesy of Confucius. As a vegetarian, he believed that sharp utensils at the dinner table would remind eaters of the slaughterhouse. He also thought that knives’ sharp points evoked violence and warfare, killing the happy, contended mood that should reign during meals. Thanks in part to his teachings, chopstick use quickly became widespread throughout Asia.

Different cultures adopted different chopstick styles. Perhaps in a nod to Confucius, Chinese chopsticks featured a blunt rather than pointed end. In Japan, chopsticks were 8 inches long for men and 7 inches long for women.

The Riddle of Steel tells us flesh is stronger than steel, but my stainless chopsticks still rule the day.  They’re probably even bigger than 8 inches.  I didn’t measure.  En garde.


Whatever the hell you plan to feast on, much joy to you.  Hold on to that happy, contented mood.

The Dehydrator – not a really crappy superhero…yet

November 13, 2015

A while back, I was gifted a dehydrator.  It’s the kind of thing I always wanted to play with but was never going to buy.

I finally got around to running a few tests with it.

What do I always have too much of?  Kale.  What did I recently acquire too much of?  Pumpkin seeds.

The dehydrator is sort of big for a one trick pony, but it’s about as uncomplicated as a machine gets.  Plug in, set temp.  Wait.  Wait some more.  And a bit more.  Ah, hell, wake me up before  you go-go.

The kale is pretty basic.  Wash, dry, 2-3 teaspoons of oil per big bunch, I added salt and paprika, placed on the racks in single layers.  100 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours as a general starting point.

For the pumpkins seeds, I riffed off this recipe.  Don’t forget to soak those seeds first.  My version for 3 1/4 cups of seeds used 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3/8 teaspoon sea salt, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 4 or 5 tablespoons of plum cherry jam and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder.  Use whatever ya got, that’s what I did.

ProTip:  Do not crack a molar days after you’ve made pumpkin seeds because the dentist will tell you not to eat them while you still have the temporary crown.  I’m thinking maybe I should have gone with a platinum blingy mouth grill.

Enough about dentistry.  Let’s do this.

Ayup, that’s kale alright.

Dry that stuff, coat it, but don’t drown it.

Glistening moist and ready…for the dehydrator. Sheesh, pervs.

Stacks and stacks on stacks.

There is going to be some shrinkage. Make sure you start with big enough pieces.

Jack, we hardly knew ye. Thanks for the cranial donation.

Mixing a gooey mess. The best part of anything.

Spread ’em. Thin layers.

Now take your bowl of sweet and spicy and go watch a movie or something.

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