Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cooking

A lot of cooking has taken place the last couple of weekends at the de-I home.

Two weekends ago we decided to do another test of the Yoder Smoker.  I was focused on trying to do some real slow cooked barbecue.  A work friend has family farming interests in Kansas where they raise beef.  He provided a brisket and also wanted to smoke some meat loaf.  I wanted to try produce pulled pork which required pork shoulder. With all that food, I called on my long list of eating friends to be guinea pigs for the experiment.

The brisket and shoulder starting


The results were disappointing.  Everything tasted good but the brisket cooked very fast and was to final temperature way too fast and so was tough.  On the other hand the pork shoulder never did get to temperature so we had nice roast pork but not barbecue.  I think the brisket was very thin and required a much lower heat and that I didn't take out th pork shoulder from the fridge soon enough so the center was too cold.  I also think the Yoder runs hot and that I need to adjust my temperatures lower.

On the other hand I made three barbecue sauces from scratch - a basic, a Carolina mustard, and a South American chimichuri.


They turned out real good and were easy to make.  To be honest I don't see why I'd ever buy barbecue sauce again.

Then last weekend I had a long-time good client who had heard about my cooking but never had experienced it over for dinner.  This was one of my classic dinners of multiple courses with wines.

To avoid guests eating too much before the main event we limited the starter to home made cheddar Parmesan crackers with Prosecco.


Wife had also made some homemade bread


The first course was a salad of roasted red and green bell peppers, roasted fennel, and cold chicken that had been brined then marinated with bay leaf and juniper berries then slow poached.  It was sauced with  house made aioli and basil oil with basil from the new garden.  I served this with a 2007 white burgundy.


The second course was a baked polenta with a  mushroom ragout of two kinds of fresh and two kinds of dried mushrooms flavored with fresh sage and rosemary.  I topped the polenta slices with Italian Fontina cheese and a Parmesan herb topping.  It was served with a 2006 Brunello de Montalcino


The main course was a pan seared rib eye steak with a pan sauced based on a veal bone stock (at long last I've found a source of veal bones for classic French stock.  What a difference!).  I had Julia's creamed spinach and sugar snap peas and caramelized shallots. The wine was a 1993 Grand Cru St. Emillion.

(sorry only pictures of the peas available)

Dessert was Wife's homemade chocolate truffles, homemade shortbread cookies and a 1996 port.

The Wines


Monday, September 29, 2014

Victory By Other Means - A de-I/Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel Adventure

You know how adversaries sometimes end up in these weird codependent relationships?  I'm actually starting to worry that the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel may be ill.  Or maybe there's some power struggle going on in the lower suburbs of Mount Olympus where MUPGT lives with the other semi-demi-gods.  Because she definitely seems off her game, at least as far as our competition is concerned.

I was scheduled to go to Chicago for one of my regular business trips this morning, meetings on Tuesday and coming back Wednesday.  Well I'm sure that you saw the news about the individual attack on the FAA control facility in the Chicago area last Thursday which totally gummed up traffic going in and out of Chicago.  I didn't know how it was going to affect me but on Sunday night my flights (Albuquerque to Denver, Denver to Chicago) were still OK. 

This morning before I left the house at 5:45 I checked the status again and saw that the Denver to Chicago leg was going to be late an hour because of crew issues.  No big deal.  Got to the airport, went through security, and had by traditional pre-morning flight breakfast burrito.  Sat down to check email and have breakfast.  Buzz goes the phone.  A text from United.  My flight to Chicago was cancelled for mechanical reasons.  A quick call to the airline confirms that there are no seats available unless I wanted to take an evening flight and get into O'Hare at 1:30 in the morning.  That would mean not getting to Joe's house until around 3 AM and getting to sleep at around 4 AM.  I've done that once before and it is a ball buster.  And that was assuming that there wasn't some problem arising later with the flights. 

So I opted to bail.  United was refunding fares because of the big problems.  I arranged with Joe and the clients to conference call or Skype to the meetings and headed home.  I was pulling up to my garage by 7:30.  On a whim I called Gaius Derf and asked if he was hiking this morning.  Sure enough he wasn't going to get to the trail head until 8:30 AM.  Well, had nothing else to do so I quickly changed and had a lovely hike.  I did work in the afternoon.

Maybe the hoofed, horned tormentor of travelers was completely sated by wiping out a nation's worth of travel over the weekend?  But how hard could it have been for her to delay the flight cancellation until I was already on my plane to Denver?  Somehow it just doesn't seem like her to put out such a halfhearted effort.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Skyp-a-thon

When you have your offspring flung all over the globe, you really appreciate how technology like Skype and Google Meet-up have enhanced your life.  Now for virtually no money you can have face-to-face conversations almost anywhere. 

Sunday has become our day to connect.  We work our way through the time zones picking up #3 in Europe first, then heading to the East Coast to talk with our granddaughter 2.1 who is a boarding school in Pennsylvania, then on to the West Coast where we connect with the #1 clan, and finally back to the East Coast for the #2's who we talk with after they're done with watching football.  This will change once the #2's head out to Hong Kong in January. 

2.1 is a new addition to our routine.  Her going to boarding school was rough on her folks but it seems to really be benefiting her.  And we haven't had this kind of communication with her for years so we think it is pretty cool

All this Skyping can take up half our day on Sunday but it is wonderful half day each weekend.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Into the Clouds

On Friday, we got a small touch of the cold front that swept through the Midwest even brings snow to Boulder Colorado.  I was hiking on my own up one of the trails that I stay away from in the summer heat.  I thought that the front was going to come through later in the afternoon but when I arrived it was there.  You can tell these fronts here because the weather pours over the mountain.


I decided to keep going because this particular hike is very challenging and I needed the work out.  Fortunately there was very little moisture in those clouds and neither the wind nor the temperature were too bad.  I did get some neat videos though.

video


video

Friday, September 12, 2014

Smoking For Yuppies

No I don't mean I'm going for weekly trips to Colorado to relive my misspent young adult years.

I'm talking about the fine art of BBQ.  Of smoking food low and slow until it gets tender and wonderful.

I'm talking about how the aging yuppie does this without actually having to learn how to make a fire or tend the smoker or figure out how keep the temperature just right for the hours and hours it takes to make BBQ.

I'm talking about THE YODER



This my friends is the Yoder, wood pellet fired, electronically controlled, smoker/griller!

It BBQs.  It roasts.  It grills.  It can go from holding a 200-220 degree temperature for hours and hours to a raging 600 degrees for searing meat (or I hope) for making pizza!

This is so yuppified it almost boggles the imagination.  You buy it direct from the manufacturer.  They ship it.  It arrives fully assembled.  Literally all that is necessary is to put hook on the metal racks.  Then when it comes to operate it, you fill the hopper on the left with wood pellets, you plug it in, you put a few pellets in the fire pan prior to starting.  You flip the power switch on.  You set the temperature.  You hit the START button.  You wait until it reaches temperature and you put on your meat.   That's it.

For my first forays I made whole chicken that I split in two and roasted at 350 degrees and then some spare ribs with a Memphis style dry rub that I BBQed for 6 hours at 220 degrees.  They both turned out great.  There was a real good wood fired smell to the chicken and a real smoke ring on the ribs.

Biggest problem now is getting mouths to feed as it is not very practical for small batches.

Handy display showing that the temperature is going up


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Return Of The Dragon

I alluded a couple of posts back about a business blow up that was taking a lot of time.

BACKGROUND

Without going into a lot of detail, it involved a partnership I put together initially to promote business networking for professionals.  We thought it would make our own networking much more productive.  However it grew far more than we ever thought it would have but it was far from making any money.   But one of our partners had some kind of delusions of grandeur and moved us to attempt to grow the business.  This cost me a lot of time and money.

As I went through my personal transition, I decided I wanted out of managing and investing into this.  This provoked a response that was far beyond anything I would have thought.  The partner secretly working with our major sponsor, an accounting firm, tried to do a hostile takeover.  It was actually much messier than even that sounds.  In the end the remaining partner and I, with a helluva a lot of work and stress, have maintained the original business and though their are still skirmishes being fought, I think we are stabilized and ready to continue on.

WHAT IT MEANS

On the spiritual path, things are not always what they seem.  The Ego, which I had thought I'd dealt with and was ready to put behind me, is a wily foe and not willing to give up easy.  In Greek mythology, heroes constantly fought dragons and after defeating them would plant the teeth of the dead dragon.  These teeth would sprout warriors that the hero then had to fight and defeat as well.  (Note: If you know the teeth are going to sprout warriors, why do you plant them?  Wouldn't the first hero in his sagas or ballads say something like "don't you go planting those dragon teeth fool!").

Well I view this whole event as being like the dragon teeth.  I may have thought I'd overcome the dragon, Ego, but I had not accounted for just how much it wants to keep me attached to this illusion.  This whole thing really involves so little in the way of money (in fact it's almost laughable the amount effort and risk to reputation the other side has put into trying to wipe us out considering how little money is involved) and regardless of what way it went would have virtually no effect on my personal future.  So clearly it is more about the lessons to be learned.  In my case it is not letting myself be dragged into attachment again and understanding that there is a duty (dharma) role to be played.

BEING CINCINNATUS

One of the things that came to the fore early on in the crisis was my being told that if I retired and just let the thing go, the organization would not be able to continue because I was the source of much of its special training and mentoring.  My third partner had been left holding the bag, in part because of my action but also because of the attacks by the other side.  I knew I needed to help him but I did not want to 'go back into business' again.  My long-term path is in another role. 

I remembered the story of Cincinnatus, a person who became a civic legend in the old Roman Republic, for having lost power, being brought back with absolute dictatorial authority to save the Republic from a foe, and his giving that power up the minute the foe had been defeated.  That's who I will need to be. I will do what I need to to get the organization so it is going forward.  Then I will go back to MY real path.

WIFE THE TIGRESS

Wife's active support has been a wonderful thing.  For most of my time in New Mexico with the business, she has pretty much not involved herself emotionally.  She might think I was doing something stupid or giving trust where it would not be returned but felt the business was my affair and not hers. 

This has been something entirely different.  From the first she felt that something very wrong had been done and that it was totally my duty to address it.  She understood that this was going to take away from our planned retirement readjusting of schedule and gave me positive support for it.  She has been actively involved with thinking things through.  She's been a tigress, a side I've not seen before.  I'm very grateful

BEYOND THE CRISIS

There are still some acts to be played out but for the most part the worse seems to be behind us and the organization is stabilized.  In fact it is more than stabilized.  The crisis has brought out a whole group of leaders who are willing to put effort into the organization to make sure it goes on.  In a crazy way, the whole crisis has made the job of my stepping away, that much more likely and easier.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's Been A Good Monsoon

The monsoon season seems to be winding down.  But it has been really good.  This is the first year since around 1998 I think that we are on track to get our average annual rainfall.

One result is a big time flowering in the desert
I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago during one of my morning walks





And more sunsets