Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's a good week

First, and most importantly, LawDog's book is out! He had a totally awesome launch, between Castalia's new release mailing list, his fans, the gunbloggers, Larry Correia's bookbomb, and an instapundit mention... out of over 5 million books in the kindle store, his hit #87 for a few hours!

Even more importantly, judging by reviews, the readers love it. Whether old fans or new, he's made a lot of people laugh (and cry, and spit out the drink they'd so unwisely taken just before reading that particular observation...) This is the best part of being an entertainer - the ability to connect with your readers, to pull them out of their everyday life and make them feel something else for a moment.

The rest of the Tiny Town, Texas Gun and Writing Club is even more ecstatic, because it's just so incredibly wonderful to see good things happen to people we like. All teasing about him resetting the bar aside, It was an excuse for a party last night. Granted, I cook dinner for LawDog's Lady and all the guys every week, but hey, I got a fancy tiramisu dessert from the deli, and sparkling cider so we could have a toast despite multiple people disliking the taste of champagne. (It was too sweet. We promptly went back to our regular drinks. But hey, the form was observed!)

Second, on a more personal note, I have now progressed on learning the correct form for the deadlift to the point that the trainer wants me to acquire weightlifting shoes. This is pretty awesome!

Yes, I'm still on the lightweight training bar with the 5-pound plastic plates that are merely meant to hold it at the right height... but now I get to buy a new piece of clothing! (I'm such a woman.)  It'll let me upgrade from rank n00b to level one newbie with one of my armor and equipment slots filled! (Okay, I'm such a female geek.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

nonverbal communication

We have a water fountain for the cats. Yes, they're spoiled - but also, it means I can just pour more water in, let the two cats duke it out, and clean it / change the charcoal filter once a month, instead of having bowls on the floor that need monitored daily for water volume and cleanliness.

Because it's a fountain, the motor noise changes when the water level drops past a certain point. This makes "when to refill" really easy.

Now, some people have cats that meow a lot. Some breeds are naturally talkative (meezers!), and others, it's been argued, figured out that the big dumb thumb-monkeys can't figure out body language and have to be meowed at like kittens. My cats, well, the maine coon kitten chirrups, but the older cat doesn't meow.

Kili just came and got me, by way of walking to where I was sitting, and putting a paw on my knee. When I put the book aside to provide a clear lap, she faced away from me, then stared over her shoulder. I sighed, put the book down, and followed the tail-high slow walk that stayed two steps ahead of me to the water fountain. She crouched and stared at it, but did not drink.

"It's full, Kili."

She stared at it, and did not drink. When I didn't get it, she looked up at me, then stared hard back at the water fountain.

"Cat, I have it on the schedule to clean it and replace the filter Saturday."

More staring at the water fountain, like it's a spider she hasn't decided how to kill.

I sigh, unplug it, and pick it up. Kili immediately dashes around the kitchen island, jumps up on the counter, and stares at the sink where  I'll wash it.

"I got the point, Kili."

Right, maybe there's a reason this cat doesn't meow. She's got her people pretty trained on the nonverbal communication.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Today, for the first time in my adult life, I did a deadlift. I actually did several of them, under the close direction of a Starting Strength coach. I also, for the first time in my life, did a bench press with a barbell. That was easier... no, it was simpler. Less body parts moving in concert with less timing. Easy evaporated around the third rep, and never came back.

I did not do a squat. The folks I'm paying very good money to be experts think I need to work on leg presses before I try to attempt a squat.

Very sadly, unlike scrawny 18-year-olds who can get away with drinking a gallon of milk and eating a loaf of bread a day, I am advised to up my protein and keep my carbs low for now. I was so looking forward to more bread...

Right now, though, I'm looking forward to a bath filled with epsom salts. I am going to be so sore tomorrow.

And then Friday I'm going to do it again.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Prepping, Bread, and Oil

We got back from Libertycon on July 3, and racked out. When we got 'round to unloading the car and cleaning the house, it was Independence Day, and all the stores were closed... and I had 6 hungry people to feed dinner, despite a rather empty fridge!

This is the kind of thing I prep for. The end of the world as we know it may or may not come once a lifetime, but extra mouths at dinner, not wanting to go to the store due to blizzard, volcanic ashfall, wildfire burning upwind, heavy rains, or just don't want to is a lot more common.The only downside to having no fresh veggies in the fridge was that I had to bake and cook, so I served a hot meal with no cool salad.

Appetizer: Greek psomi bread with dipping oil
Entre: Chicken chili on rice (Yay slow cooker and rice cooker!)
Side: Green beans with sauteed bacon, onion, and garlic
Dessert: Ice cream with sangiovese chocolate sauce

I was going to do a casserole, but the bread took long enough that I switched to beans, which can be microwaved and mixed with the sauteed part of the dish to be ready on time.

Psomi is really easy to make if you have a bread machine to do the kneading for you:

1 cup water (warm is best for dissolving the honey. No hotter than body temp, though.)
2 Tbsp honey (Killer Bees Honey. Amazing stuff!)
1.5 tsp quick yeast
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Use dough cycle. When it's finished, I cheated and formed the loaf into a mock braid directly on the silicon baking sheet, no extra floury surface needed, and slapping saran wrap over the top for the rise time. I also sacrificed crustiness on the loaf by oiling my hands to make it easy, which left the surface of the loaf lightly oiled, and then baking it at 325 for 30 minutes instead of 400 with sprayed water for extra steam for 15 minutes.

When it came out, I let it sit for two minutes, then dumped it onto an appetizer platter, with steam rising from where it broke in half while being shaken off the baking sheet. The mock-braid parts rose high and free, nicely browned and crispy, and were promptly broken off and eaten by happy hungry family.

Dipping oil:

1-2 tsp Tuscany Dipping Seasoning from Amarillo Grape & Olive
(Or use this recipe's spice mix, or make your own mix)
A few torn fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon capers
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (use the good stuff.)

In bowl, mix the spices and balsamic vinegar. Microwave for 10-15 seconds, set aside.
In pan, saute capers & garlic in olive oil until capers have bloomed. Toss in basil until just wilted, then pour/scrape everything into the bowl with the balsamic & spices. Serves 2; triple for a hungry crowd who's going to attack the fresh loaf.

(I cheated last night; I was out of capers, so I just added a little extra fresh basil from the garden to the spice mix before microwaving, and wilted it just fine like that. It was low-garlic, but no one complained, especially not with the good olive oil and 25-year balsamic.)

Despite being an emergency meal thrown together from stores, I got no complaints.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Texas Scotch Eggs

Scotch eggs are a delightful thing - not only can they be made to satisfy keto, but they're an excellent way of stretching expensive meat by wrapping it around a cheaper egg. The latest round I've made includes a handful of this and a handful of that from the garden, which makes it even more rewarding for me. Like meatloaf, you can change the ingredients every time and still get a good meal.

12 eggs for boiling
1 more egg for the meat mix
1 pound country sausage
1 pound hamburger
1 tbsp lemon zest (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp fennel
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried, to taste)
1 thai pepper, seeded and diced fine
1 handful sage leaves, diced (or 1-2 tsp dried, to taste)
1 tsp mesquite-smoked salt

First, hard-boil eggs. Easiest to put them in a pan with cold water, heat it to a rolling boil, then take off the burner, put a lid on it, and let sit for ten minutes.  Then drain hot water, add cold, and let sit so they cool to non-burning temperatures. Repeat as necessary.

Second, peel the eggs. Easiest if you get a paper plate lined with paper towels, and a teaspoon out of the silverware drawer. (Yes, the eating kind of teaspoon, not the measuring kind.) Roll the egg on the counter until the shell has cracked into several portions, then flip the spoon over so the curve of its bowl matches the curve of the egg, and work it underneath the shell. This will allow you to lift and peel away large amounts of sheel much easier than picking it it with your fingers. Rinse each egg to remove any tiny shell fragments, and let dry on the paper plate.The dryer your eggs are, the less slippery they'll be.

Third, preheat the oven to 350 F. Set out a baker's half-sheet or two cookie trays, lined with aluminum foil or silicone mats for easy cleanup.

Fourth, chop the herbs and toss into a large mixing bowl, crack the egg into the bowl, and then add the spices and the meat, and mix thoroughly. I don nitrile gloves and mix by hand, because then I can just move on to step 5... and no sausage under my fingernails.

Fifth, divide the mixed meat in half. (Just ram your fingers down the middle of the bowl to make equal halves.) Then divide again, so it's in quarters. Given you have 12 eggs to cover, this means each lump must cover three eggs. Scoop out roughly 1/3 of a lump, and form it into a ball in one hand. Then mash that ball flat with the other hand. pick up an egg, place it in the center, and wrap the meat around it. You may need to squish the sausage mix around some in order to get even and complete coverage. Put the meat-covered egg on the cooking tray.

Sixth, pop the meat-covered eggs into the oven for 25 minutes. 20 will probably do, but I like 25. Pull out very carefully, realizing you're going to have a puddle of grease in the bottom of your tray(s). Stick the tray on the stove burners to cool down.  If you want, you can make the mustard sauce to go with them.

Mustard Suace

1 egg
1 cup mayo
1 Tbsp ground mustard, or 1/4 cup prepared mustard
a couple of strips of sundried tomato (optional)

Mix everything but tomato in a saucepan, then bring to simmer, stirring frequently. As soon as bubbles start poking up (or the sauce dramatically thickens), you're done. Remove immediately from heat, and pour into a bowl to serve. Garnish with sundried tomato strips.

Work well served hot, or served cold.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why does getting better hurt so much?

At the rehab center's gym this morning, I was working away at the weight-machine and corestix portions when I observed a bunch of elderly folks toddling toward the yoga studio room. Good for them!

Then I went to do my free weights, and discovered that the ladies and gents had taken off with all one the one, two, three, and four-pound weights (except one lonely one-pound weight sitting abandoned at the bottom of the rack.)I gulped, and looked at my discharge instructions. Well, they do say "increase weight as condition improves." So I picked up the five-pound dumbells, and proceeded to try to do two my two sets of ten in every range of motion with them.

Oh, my stars and garters. Ow. That felt almost like I was back in the beginning of physical therapy. On the other hand, it wasn't actually injurious, and perhaps I had been taking it a little too easy...

I'm now lying on the couch, trying to decide if I'm a masochist or just really well trained by a succession of physical therapists. Because I know when I next go to the gym, I'm going to do that again.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bacon-wrapped stuffed dates

I had these, many years ago, as an appetizer for a chef's tasting menu. Since then, I've been looking for the best recipe to recreate 'em, and I"ve pretty much found it.

A few notes:

1. Pick a mild, soft blue cheese. Stay well away from anything crumbly, or "salad-ready". In fact, if you really can't abide blue cheese (though you may be surprised, when it's in this), then a Camembert, brie, or Gorgonzola will work as well.

2. Use medjool dates. No, really. They're juicier, taster, and... as they're larger, they're easier to work with. Easier is better. And get the ones with pits; they're jucier, and you're gonna be cutting them in half anyway.

3. Find the bulk-bin nuts section for your slivered almonds. You can get twice as much as you need for a half to a a third of the cost of buying 'em pre-packaged. And given that you're going to be using roughly a quarter of a cup... we're talking spending 75 cents here, not $3.50 for a fancy package

Blue-cheese  & almond stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates.

32 Medjool dates (just get a pound, and save the money, get the ones with pits in.)
1 small wedge soft blue cheese (Somewhere around a cup?)
1 pound thick bacon.
1/2 cup slivered almonds (You won't use it all, but you won't run out.)
Pepper grinder
Mesquite-smoked salt (optional)

Cut each date open lengthwise, and pull out the pit. The tray on which you're going to cook these is a great place to store the split-open dates - and if you have a silicone sheet, it makes cleanup so much easier!

When you've gotten all your dates de-pitted, wash all the sticky off your hands and the knife. Now, drop 2-3 pieces of slivered almond in each date (4 for the really big ones, 1 for the really small ones.) Cut the cheese into small chunks, and then stuff each date & close it back up. (Soft cheese makes it easy to adjust the amount needed to the size of the date, and stuff the rest in the next date down the line.) You're aiming to have no empty space, and no cheese oozing out.

Wash all the gooey off your hands and the knife, and put away the rest of the dates, blue cheese, and almonds. Come back, and place about the number of toothpicks you need on the cutting board, plus a couple extra. (You're about to have raw-meat hands, and don't want to contaminate the jar.) Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Open the bacon package, and cut the chunk of bacon into thirds. (The original recipe called for quarters, but that's just fussy, finicky, and more bacon is better.) Then, wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon, and secure with toothpick. Place on baking sheet when done.

When finished, wash the grease and raw meat off your hands, then grab your pepper grinder and add a dusting of pepper to the top of the bacon, followed by a light sprinkle of mesquite-smoked salt. (If you're grilling, skip the salt, keep the pepper.) Pop tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Put away the tiny bit of leftover bacon, clean the knife and area thoroughly. You're now ready to make the rest of dinner and there's only one cutting board and knife that need washing.

When the appetizers are done, give them 5 minutes of resting time so nobody burns their mouth. Or, you know, let the appetizer-snatcher beware. Can be served cold, but better piping hot.