Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend Update

Saturday I went over to Tom's house for a BBQ. I wasn't sure how many folk would be there, so I got to the Beaverton Farmer's Market early and stocked up on ingredients for salsa. As I proposed before, I made four batches: food-processor with cilantro, food-processor without, hand-prepped with cilantro, and hand-prepped without. And a comment to Valeska (Tom, you can forward this, as I don't expect Valeska will see this otherwise): the food-processor recipe and the hand-prep recipe differ in a few ways. They are not identical, but other than texture, I guess I can see how they'd be difficult to differentiate.

The tomatoes themselves were the stars. I walked the whole market sniffing and squeezing, looking for the best tomato for my salsa. In the end, I settled on two varieties at the same stall. I asked the farmer what he thought of each, and he recommended one (Celebration? I can't remember all these cute breed names). I asked if it was too sweet, and he just cut a chunk off one and handed it to me! And boy, howdy, was it ever rich. So I hied myself home, and began the work of cutting, dicing and mincing, using my new favorite, the santoku.

I need to pause here and say that I realize I may be more enthusiastic about the salsa I make than any given friend who eats it. Part of the fun for me is in the assembly. It just tastes better to me when I make it myself from fresh ingredients. I'm afraid I may have bored folks with my 'waxing rhapsodic' on the virtues of these salsa recipes. By the end of the night, the four small tubs of salsa were at most half depleted, and Tom was suggesting I take them home. But I wanted to follow my original plan and just leave them with Tom. I doubt he'll finish it off, even with help from Alan and James and crew...

Anyway, Bo and Lisa, James, Alan, Dan, Valeska (and later Chris) and Tom's card playing friend (sorry Tom, can't remember his name) were there for the festivities, and everybody brought something to eat. So it was a real spread. I ate a burger, but mostly nibbled on and off throughout the evening. Alan's hummus was very tasty. Not to slight any of the other food, I'm just a hummus nut.

After the eats, I spent quite a lot of time downstairs with Alan watching him demo Dead Rising and Ninety-Nine Nights on Tom's Xbox 360. You'll recall that I said that if anything could get me to buy a 360, it'd be Dead Rising. Well, nothing I saw changed my mind. DR is a fun game (with a sick sense of humor), though I expect the key combos will escape me. Alan has a way of making that sort of gameplay seem easy, when it's really not.

I even spent a little time chatting with Adam, who was comfortably ensconced up North, playing Texas Hold'em on Xbox Live when Alan logged on. I don't know if someone with a Silver account (the free version of Xbox Live) can audio-chat with friends, but it's a nice feature.

Around 11pm I decided that I'd better get on home, since I have been trying to assemble a presentation on Design Patterns for work. So anyway, thanks for inviting me, Tom. I hope we can get together again soon!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jean's New Mix CD Purchases

  1. Love Shack - The B-52's

  2. Dance This Mess Around - The B-52's

  3. Word Up - Cameo

  4. Keep Your Hands To Yourself - The Georgia Satellites

  5. Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go-Go's

  6. Mr. Big Stuff (Remix) - Heavy D & the Boyz

  7. Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight

  8. What'd I Say, Pt. 1 - Ray Charles

  9. Straight Up - Paula Abdul

  10. In the Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett

  11. Walk This Way - Run-DMC

  12. Shake It Up - The Cars

  13. Girls Just Want To Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper

  14. Cut the Cake - Average White Band


Jean thinks I should mention all the songs on her mix CD, including the ones I already owned, so here is the remainder:

  1. (We're A) Bad Trip - Camper Van Beethoven

  2. Down and Out - Camper Van Beethoven

  3. (Don't You Go To) Goleta - Camper Van Beethoven

  4. Galang (Radio Edit) - M.I.A.

  5. Me Myself I - Joan Armatrading

Monday, August 21, 2006

More Songs About Buildings and Food

No pictures this time, sorry.

Renee thought up a menu this weekend, and we picked up the ingredients for it so she could cook and serve her own personal dinner tonight. Fortuitously enough, one of the staples was ground pork, so we just got more when getting my maxed-out meatloaf fixings. Jean already had it cooking on the stovetop when I got home from work.

Renee practically jumped on me: "Dad! Would you like to help me make my dinner tonight?"

"Just let me put away my gear, and I'd love to help out." I swear she was bouncing up and down like a maniac.

So here's the menu:

Stuffed Tomatoes

  1. Hollow out two tomatoes. Her original plan was to use the tomato innards as part of the stuffing, but once she saw the seeds embedded in the gelatinous guts, she discarded that plan.

  2. Fill about two thirds full with pre-cooked ground pork.

  3. Add diced onions

  4. Add a small amount of garlic

  5. Mix ingredients

  6. Place tomato 'lids' onto stuffed tomatoes and put tomatoes onto a greased cookie sheet.

  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven (350) for fifteen minutes.

While that was cooking she had me help her assemble, on three separate plates:


  1. Lay down a layer of grocery-store tortilla chips.

  2. Distribute a light layer of ground pork.

  3. Drizzle home-made salsa (made by Dad over the weekend) on top.

  4. More of those diced onions...

  5. Hand sliced olives are added next (Renee did this with a small knife, but it was sharp, so I was nervous--turned out okay)

  6. Finally, add slices of cheese on top, microwave each plate until the cheese is melted.

Renee set the table while I cleaned up the counters and loaded the dishwasher. Jean and I were each given stuffed tomatoes (that was the grown-ups only portion of the meal, apparently), and we all got her pork nachos. Honestly, it was very tasty, if very rich.

Renee asked leading questions which amounted to "how much do you love it?" We gave appropriate praise, and she just beamed. I expect her to come up with other recipes in the future.

I had a great time working in the kitchen with her.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Maxed-out Meatloaf

I came across this recipe in a book I've been reading from the library: The Fifth Taste: Cooking With Umami by David and Anna Kasabian. Today was the day to try it, with some substitutions and omissions. Anyway, you can see it in the banner, and a series of photos on Flickr. Apologies for the presentation. It tastes much better than it looks!

Serves 6 to 8 for Dinner

  • 2 tablespoons (plus 1) of extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium onions, diced medium (I used red onions, as I had them handy after making salsa)

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (fresh from the farmer's market yesterday)

  • 5 ounces of cremini or other mushrooms (I skipped this as I don't like mushrooms)

  • 1 medium red bell pepper

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I substituted ground pork, as Jean doesn't let Renee eat mad cow)

  • 1 ripe red tomato, diced small and then crushed (I added a roma tomato for more flavor, and removed seeds before adding to recipe)

  • 1 cup corn

  • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used store-bought whole wheat, diced it, toasted it in the oven, then used the food processor to crumble it)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons white truffle oil (sorry, local grocery store doesn't carry this...)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • olive oil for brushing

  • 1/2 pound sliced hickory-smoked bacon

I know, this is starting to sound downright evil, isn't it?

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. Heat EVOO in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent (4 minutes). Add garlic (and mushrooms if you dare) and saute until the mixture is carmelized (6 minutes). Set aside to cool.

  3. Core and cut the red bell pepper into quarters. Coat with EVOO and broil until barely cooked through. Cool, chop roughly and save.

  4. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add ground beef (pork), cooked veggies, tomato, corn, bread crumbs, soy sauce, truffle oil if you have it, salt and pepper. Gently mix in, but don't overdo it.

  5. Spray a pan with olive oil. Put the mix on the pan, shaped twice as wide as it is tall. Drape bacon (!) diagonally across the whole thing, completely covering it. Stake the suckers in place with toothpicks.

  6. Place in the middle of the oven, turn the heat down to 375. Bake for one hour, or until internal temperature is 155 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, it's ridiculously rich, and Jean was worried about overwhelming her digestive system, but it is really good! I had two slices, I'm sorry to say. So anyway, I had to transcribe it so I could make it again some day. Difficulty: medium.

There's one other recipe that I hope to try from this book before I have to return it, but it'll have to be just for me, since Jean doesn't generally go for soups (except that black bean soup, yum!)...

Next time: Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Candied Pecans

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Speaking of Food...

I went to the Beaverton Farmer's Market this morning and picked up fresh ingredients for the 'manual prep' version of salsa. I made it this afternoon and it turned out great. I'm looking forward to making both recipes to take to Tom's next weekend!


I actually took vacation time (Flexible Time Off) to enable me to see Snakes On A Plane yesterday. All I will say is that the movie was exactly what I was expecting and did not disappoint me in the least. The only thing that could have improved it is if I had attended with my old movie crew from NOVA. We've gotten out of the habit of doing movies together, but this would have been the perfect serving of cheese.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Notebook

This morning I noticed a notebook laying on the floor. On the cover, in my hand, were the words "Computer Prog. I". It was on a stack of drawing materials that Renee has been using to draw 'manga' this summer. Inside the book, again in my hand, was our address in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where Jean and I lived when I got my undergraduate degree, decades ago.

All my old class notes had long since been removed, but the first batch of pages contained notes on photography that Jean had taken while teaching herself to be a better photographer. I don't know if this was while she was doing yearbook work as a teacher in Ohio, or during her stint as an editor for an in-house magazine in Portland, but it was in either case years ago.

So this single notebook has been used in the education of three family members, over the course of decades, and there are still blank pages. I'm tempted to tell Renee to leave a few pages blank in the back for her own child...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Practice, Practice

Baked chicken Saturday, no fancy additives, just lots of onions, a touch of garlic and a coarsely chopped jalapeno. I'm really liking those roasting bags. You can cook a bird for an hour and not worry about drying it out. It was quite tasty.

More to the point of the title of this post, I made one of my two salsa recipes today. The food processor variety. Maybe next weekend I'll do the recipe that is all hand prep. Then when I've gotten both of them down again, I'll make both at once and take them over to Tom's place. Make sure that you're there then, Adam!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fear of Flying American’s chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America’s safest roads — rural interstate highways — one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.

Steve Berliner Johnson

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The Era Continues (Probably)

I came home yesterday to find the package from (aftermarket parts and repair shop, not affiliated with ReplayTV). In the box: one ReplayTV formatted hard drive (rated 125 hours, 5400rpm); one 'stealth' fan. I had decided to try out a fan inside the box to see if that would extend the life of the hard drive. The guy at says he has the same model of box I do, and that he has the same model of hard drive I bought and has been using it, without ventilation, trouble free for several years. Apparently the 5400rpm drives run a good deal cooler than the 7200rpm drive I installed myself a few years ago. Still, I was experiencing some paranoia, what with programming freezing every minute or so, and I ordered a fan.

After dinner I took apart the Replay box and swapped out the hard drive. Installing the fan was easy, though it's clearly an aftermarket hack, since the model of ReplayTV I have, a Panasonic Showstopper, was never engineered with a fan in mind. The shop supplied an extender post that screws into the motherboard; the fan has a metal arm (melded into it's plastic frame) that screws into the extender. Then the fan has a splitter that vamps on the power supply leading to the hard drive.

First thing I discovered is that when the unit is plugged in, the power supply to the hard drive is always on. The motherboard sends signals to the drive over the data line to tell it when to spin up or power down. As a result, the fan is on all the time. A hack, as I said. More disturbing is that this Vantec 'stealth' fan made a huge amount of noise. I closed the door of the entertainment center for the first time that evening, and it was still annoyingly loud. "This could be a problem," I thought.

I resolved to let it run at least until the weekend, and open the box and fiddle with the post mount on Saturday if it didn't quiet down with operation. [I noticed it was much quieter, though still audible, this evening.]

Once I'd programmed in my standard shows, I set it to record something showing right then to test it out. After watching it replay for about fifteen minutes without any glitches or hangs, I decided it was passing the smoke test and went upstairs for the night.

This evening, Jean and I watched a show from beginning to end without hangs, and I watched one show by myself that had a single glitch. I'm not sure yet if this was due to the ReplayTV or embedded in the program stream. I deleted the program after watching it, so now that I think of replaying that stretch where the glitch occurred (a pause in the show that corrected itself), it's too late to check.

It's early days, but I'm provisionally convinced that the hard drive replacement was all that was needed. In a few days I may pull the fan out due to noise, and trust that the 5400rpm drive is cool enough to run for at least a few years. Cross those fingers!