Necessary Costs of Fruit Sauce Insurance

Back to work…sorta…in the kitchen today instead of the office. My plan was to resume work on collating the notes and then to continue editing Tumbledown Patrol and Puddles and Whiskers. However, fruits in the kitchen called. Not called, in that fashion of “Hey, make something cool out of us,” but in that “Oh shit, we are about to go bad, please do something with us.”

So fruits going bad took precedence overwriting and editing. I hoped this would only be for a short amount of time, but…starting with fruits that did not make the cut: a mango and several peaches. Try as I might to cut the bad out, the bad was the fruit. Sad chef. Over a dozen small farmers plums, named farmers plums by me because I bought them from a farmer who was happy to learn that his really small plums had another use, making a plum sauce (he was genuinely surprised that I would purchased these tiny plums and even more surprised to learn I had no intention of eating them).

My Quick Sauce Quick Recipe*: Macerate plums with sugar (2 cups), a generous squeeze of honey, a capful of cider vinegar. Squeeze plums through a colander. Put sauce back on stove and reduce by 1/3, tasting along the way…add additional sugar or honey to round out flavor.

Plum sauce is good on rice and egg rolls. I am sure it is good on other things, but those are the two uses around here. Next up on the sauce parade an orange sauce and finally a lemon-lime sauce. Both made the same was as they plum sauce only at the end I added a slurry of cornstarch and water, let cook to boil for one minute stirring entire time, to thicken them up.

By the time the sauces were finished it was time to begin dinner prep. I went from sauces, to cutting up potatoes, onions, and garlic. Barb has an idea to make individual foil packets of each to go on the grill with the drumsticks. Drumsticks which may get a homemade BBQ sauce or some of the orange sauce (after I add a drop or two of sesame seed oil for some heat) or a quick homemade faux teriyaki of soy and sugar. Who knows? I won’t until I start cooking.

Free of the kitchen, time to get the kids from school, but before that a quick stop at our insurance agent. Why? Because our bill arrived and I crapped my pants at the increase. As I told the agent, “For this bump, I should’ve hit a deer of something last billing period just to have something to justify this bump.” Why the bump? No reason, just one of those things, “You know how it is?” Yes I do. If a company can charge more for a service that is necessary, but not wholly useable such as insurance-I must have it, but I only need it when something has gone wrong-they will. Until that point, the company takes my money but does not give me anything in return (for example: if I do not cause the insurance company to have to do anything for me for that billing period, should they not give me some of my money back?), so in that theme, why not charge me more even though I have moved to a safer place and have not (knock on wood) had any accidents. Yep, I know how it is…necessary costs. I only wish I had stayed in the kitchen. On the plus side, I have time to write because I don’t have all of these sauces to make. 🙂

* Full length recipe has more accurate measurements, heats and times. Ask if you would like it. 🙂


Fried Rice Food Babies

12463758_10153747397321280_1318847730_nI have been a fried rice making machine over the past month. I enjoy making fried rice, but making good fried rice is a skill that has taken me a while to master. As people have been requesting this latest fried rice incarnation, a lot, I thought I would share it with you while I work on the next batch of 500 Words.

First and most important step: After you have cooked your Chinese rice by whatever means you desire, allow the rice to cool before storing in a covered container in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours, but no more than 72 hours. Why no more than 72 hours? Our refrigerator for whatever reason turns the rice into little plastic pellets of grossness.

Ingredients: Other than rice (duh), fried rice only has a few required ingredients: garlic, ginger, and a dash of soy. Really that is the required ingredients for me. Everything else is fun and flavor.

Making Of: Into a flat pan, non-stick is preferable (at least to me), pour enough oil (I use peanut oil) to cover the pan with a small depth (roughly 1/4 cup).

Heat the oil. As a step-saving and extremely flavorful variation, you can use the same amount of fried garlic oil (homemade of course-mince 2 or 3 heads of garlic, drop into pan with a cup of oil, cook until garlic turns light brown, remove from heat, and let sit until room temperature before storing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month).

When oil is hot, add garlic, stir when garlic is fragrant, add rice in small batches to cover the pan. Allow the rice to sit, frying, for at least 30 seconds before flipping over for another 30 seconds. The goal is to let each layer fry until crispy, preferably golden brown and not burn. However, you are not attempting to do this in one go as you still have ingredients to add…

After the second flip, add in a tablespoon of minced ginger (I used, because the supply of ginger around here is bad at best, Christopher Ranch Chopped Ginger). Flip to incorporate ginger.

From this point forward, you can let sit and flip rice until you get the color and crispy texture you like or you can continue to add ingredients in small batches, witness…

I chop two pieces of ham into small squares and add them to the rice at the same time as the ginger.

I take a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of frozen peas, wash them off, dry them (the extra water from the frozen peas will totally mess with the fried part of the fried rice), and add to rice after ham has cooked for a minute.

I take cocktail shrimp, chop to pieces, and add the shrimp at the same time as the peas.

Near the End: After you are satisfied your fried rice food baby is where you want it, add a splash or two of soy. Do not add more than 2 tablespoons. Flip/mix to incorporate.

One last fun bit, I take two eggs and mix them together, and right before the rice is done, I push a portion of the rice to the side in the pan and dump all of the egg into the pan. Immediately begin to mix the egg with the fried rice until all of the egg is cooked.

Your fried rice food baby is done, remove from heat and enjoy.



82 inches of Cordon Bleu

82 inchesThis is a photo of us taken by the very helpful Gamestop employee who spent the last hour or so sorting and checking in all of our Skylanders, Infinity, and Amiibo figures and bases. She wanted a photo for her bosses and we wanted a photo because, well damn look at the receipt and pile of plastic. The receipt is 82 inches long and we are less than 50 dollars away from an Xbox One. Mostly I want a permanent reminder to stop getting involved in games like this. They are fun at first, but all of them had less than 2 months of play for the entire family.

Why did we take all of that back (explaining why we had all of that is a much longer story and involves elements of our psychology that would best be left to a professional)? We are moving and I did not want to cart all of that around. The kids despite earning much of the money to purchase the figures and games stopped playing the games many months ago. In their words, “We’re done.” Well if they are done, Barb and I don’t play, and we do not want to cart it around why not see what Gamestop would give us. Thus, we come home lighter in unused toys.

Last night was an epic meal night and I did nothing other than offer some advice on how to. Our boy had an idea for dinner, chicken cordon bleu and potato chip nachos. In my head he had this idea as an apology for making me very nauseous while watching him playing Destiny. In his explanation, he loves chicken cordon bleu. Whatever.

Here is what happened:

Our boy with his scrawny arms used a meat mallet to pound two chicken breasts cut in half as flat as he could get them. Extremely humorous to watch. I sliced ham as thin as I could. Barb made a seasoned bread coating. After he rested from pounding the chicken, he took each piece and placed a ham slice and pile of Swiss cheese in the middle. Then he rolled them up. This made more of a chicken cordon bleu roll, but it worked. using toothpicks he sealed the roll. After that came an egg wash and dunk in coating. In the oven for an hour at 350 degrees.

For the potato nachos, Barb used the mandolin to slice the potatoes in the thick slices. She made a seasoning mix and he shake and baked the potatoes in the mix. Then into the oven until the potatoes were done. At that point cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon were added to heat until cheese melted. Serve with sour cream.

It was epic. He did a lot of the work himself and the work he did not do he was there to see how it got done. After all of that was done, but before serving, I showed him how to make a Swiss cheese sauce using a cup of shredded cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 tablespoon butter in a pan (over medium heat stir until melted and combined, serve immediately).

You’ll Have To Take My Word, It Was Great Food

I really need to develop the habit of taking photos of food before I eat it, but it tastes so good I can’t help myself. Honestly, you try to spend a day in the kitchen preparing food, cooking the food, serving the food, and then stop to take a good photo or two. I can’t do it and I applaud those who can, you either have some strong willpower or you eat throughout the day. Until I develop that habit or find a photographer who works for food and can show up at odd hours (I don’t cook on a schedule of any kind), you will have to take my word.

So allow me to tell you, the General Tso’ Chicken and following General Tso’ Chicken Wings were great. I understand why pan frying chicken is both a pain and better than using a fryer. At least that is my epiphany. The pain part came from the splattering hot oil and from the clean up; the better part came from the chicken that tasted better than any I have fried in the fryer. That could be a placebo effect from having spent all day skinning, trimming, cutting, battering, frying, and finally eating the chicken. That could also be the realization that while I have to clean off the stove top and pan I do not have to clean the fryer. Ever clean a fryer? I have, not as much fun as using the fryer.

General Tso’ Chicken comes in many varieties, I have had spicy, tangy, sweet, sweet and spicy, and so on. Around here I make a sweet sauce for the family who is fearful of red sauces-fine the children are fearful of most red foods that I make and eat. For myself I like to have some heat. The sauce from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook is what I started with, but the family found the sauce to hot-I think they taste phantom heat in anything red.

Here is what I have done to modify the sauce into something sweeter for the family:

  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of ketchup instead of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or when I want tang apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon hoisin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil instead of 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (sriracha in a pinch) instead of 1 teaspoon
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar instead of 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

That makes a sweet General Tso’ sauce. To add heat I up the sesame oil, chili sauce, downplay the sugar, and add two chili peppers to cook with the sauce.




Swimming in Meals

Swim lessons are almost over for the summer and both children have been promoted to the next level, for next year…which if you read Button Pushing Day may be problematic as we may (most likely) will not be in this area. Ah well, at least they know how to swim and did well enough to get promoted. Living in Michigan with all of the lakes knowing how to swim is as important as how to drive and grocery shop effectively.

The kids fixed the mess that got them grounded and did so without as much fuss as we expected. By day 4 of no television or games they were more than ready to admit that they caused their problems and worked overtime to fix them. In the process of picking up the mess they found some “missing” toys and ended up packing away more than I had, which is bonus.

While they were cleaning, Barb and I were arranging the kitchen for the excess food and I was planning what to do with the food. First step, what to do with the last of the food on hand. A day and several dishes later I can say with confidence that good head of cabbage goes a long way. I bought a head of cabbage a week ago and have made six salads, slaws, and toppings for burgers, brauts, and hot dogs. Absolutely amazing to me.

I had chicken thawed to make, something, and while stocking the freezer found unlabed pork something. Based on the bag could have been pork chops poorly packed or pork butt, curious I let it thaw. The chicken had to get cooked and the pork I did not expect to thaw until the next day. I was wrong on the pork butt, yes pork butt or shoulder. Crap, now I have a lot more to work with.

Ketchup, honey, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, with a squirt of sriracha* makes a quick BBQ sauce. The plan was to make some BBQ chicken for sandwiches or tortilla roll-ups and I did make some of them, but there was a lot more BBQ sauce and a pork butt to deal with. Into the slow cooker went the pork butt on high with some salt, pepper, and chicken stock. The remaining chicken was turned into sweet corn and chicken soup. At the end of the night, we have cabbage and cucumber salad, a slaw, pickled cucumbers and radishes, sweet corn and chicken soup, and a large amount of BBQ pork.

Hopefully I can convince Barb to make some buns and bread to go with the pork. 🙂

* Quick BBQ sauce (adjust any of these ingredients to taste preference)

1 cup ketchup

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 squirt or around 1/4 tsp sriracha

Mix together in pot over medium heat, bring to a boil for one minute while stirring. Remove from heat and apply to food or store in airtight container for two weeks.


Bentoing: Honey and Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

From the moment I read the honey glazed carrot recipe in Just Bento Cookbook I have been trying to master it. To be clear, as written the carrots are good and if everything goes well tasty, but more often than not I end up with mushy carrots that taste good. Anyone with children will tell you that texture is just as important as flavor. I mention children, not because texture isn’t important to adults, but adults are more forgiving. Our kids, admittedly us as well, want carrots with some crunch or snap.

I experimented with the recipe as written: removing more water, altering cooking times, and so on. Nothing generated consistent results. Back to the drawing board and today. Today, due to weather, has been a massive bentoing day. Before I sat down to write this I cleared off my cooking/prep/cooling space after 4 hours of bentoing and I have not started on the meats.

One of the primary cooking methods today has been blanching: boil something for a few minutes and then shock in cold water. There are several reasons why you might want to blanch something from retaining the color to prevent overcooking. I did not want mushy carrots. I wanted carrots with some snap. Blanching turned out to be the answer.

Honey and Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

The measurements are approximations, as I was working with the last handful (not an exact measurement :)) of baby carrots.

  • 10 to 15 baby carrots, quartered
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Quarter baby carrots. Turn stove top onto high heat. Once a pot of water reaches a boil, add the carrots. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, pour water and carrots into a colander. Run cold water over the carrots until cool to touch. Let carrots drain. While carrots are draining, in the same pot (or different), put honey and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir to combine honey and brown sugar. When mixture starts boiling, add carrots. Stir until all carrots are coated. Pour contents of pot into storage container and cool.

A few extra steps than the recipe in Just Bento Cookbook, but the results are…well the kids like them. The adults do too. Now I need to get back into the kitchen, I have tomatoes and onions to dice for New Bride Chicken Curry and steak to cook for…well it’s steak what other reason is there? 🙂

Cooking Kids…oops, Cooking With Kids

Before getting into cooking with the kids, take a gander (that means look at for those not as old as me :)) this:

Portfoliothat is my print portfolio on my table and off camera is a game of Adventure Time Card Wars, a game I later lost. Totally geeked! It looks like I wanted…well mostly. I found a typo on the back cover and the interior is black and white, but those are fixable, which is why color copies with the typo fixed are winging there way here. Crossing fingers those arrive in time too.

Today was a rainy day or at least it should have rained. The clouds hovered overhead all day, but barely a drop. Still with a rainy day in my head I set about writing and working for me. School work be damned! Plus I would play a game or with the kids and cook. All me things. I wrote out two of the last three chapters to the Training of Sara first story arc. I organized my notes for Stories From A Cyber Stroud game book. I put together the next to last version of Erotica of a Mad Man Volume 1, plus created the cover. And I cleaned up my file system.

Hungry and stinging from the loss of the Card Wars game I gathered the kids to make a quick and dirty potato soup. Word to the wise, do not say cook food and quick and dirty to children without being prepared to explain what quick and dirty means. More importantly there is no dirt involved in the dish. That took more time than expected. Kids organized we set out to make potato soup without a recipe, you know that is no big deal, but it impressed the hell out of the kids.

Our girl peeled carrots.

Our boy, who complained the most, but ended up doing the most picked through spinach, stirred, seasoned, and learned a lot about cooking.

I took care of the potatoes, onions, garlic, cutting the carrots, shallots, and everything else.

We had fun. Even when our girl knicked herself with the peeler, she took it like a warrior-blood be damned, peel the carrots first!

Here is the quick and dirty recipe:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small onions, 1 diced the other three sliced
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into half-moon shapes (Kids word)
  • 2 stalks of celery, halved and sliced thin
  • 8 to 10 mushrooms, stem removed, sliced thin
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 cups of chicken broth or stock
  • 1/3 cinnamon stick (our boy had to have this)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  1. In small pan with 1 tsp of butter over low heat, put garlic, diced onion, and shallot. Cook until browned 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Turn 7 qt. slowcooker to LOW or HIGH heat depending on how fast you want this to cook. Toss EVERYTHING, including food from step 1, into the slowcooker.

See quick and dirty.

I am leaning towards adding a half-cup of half-and-half along with half a stick of butter to give the soup a creamier texture. If this works out I will republish this in a more formalize manner. Cross your fingers…mine are busy typing this. 🙂