Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Surefire Cake Recipe

Son-in-law, John the Armenian, after a holiday being fully immersed in our family's food crazed persona, passed on this recipe to us as one that fully embraces the essence of we are as a family (reference picture of his wife, Motherrocker, in previous post).

Holiday Cake

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of unsalted butter
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle of vodka
2 cups of dried fruit
Sample the vodka to check quality.

Take a large bowl, check the vodka again. To be sure it is of the highest
quality, pour one level cup and drink.


Turn on the electric mixer.

Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one teaspoon of sugar.

Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the vodka is still okay.
Try another cup........just in case.

Turn off the mixerer.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl.

Chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick fruit off floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druid gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it loose with a

Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something.

Check the vodka.

Now shift the lemming juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window.

Finish the vodka.

Fall into bed.

Monday, December 29, 2008


On our last day together, I asked a big favor of my two son-in-laws - that they take care of the kids and give me their wives for a day so I could have a Dad and Daughter cooking day. Cooking with my girls is one of my greatest pleasures and something, with them grown, out on their own, with families, is something that very rarely happens.

Our big project was making our own ravioli from scratch. Here is our pictorial

Motherrocker Prepares for Battle
All ventures work better with a bit of lubrication

Team Pulisha Preps
Pu and daughter C at work on mushrooms

Preparing Lots of Garlic

Sauteeing Leeks and Garlic for the Cheese Filling

C - Expert at Preparing Mushrooms for Filling

...And getting her just rewards

Brussel Sprouts that will be cooked with Pancetta

Pu doing damage to a big chunk of pancetta

That happy smile is because C knows what the end result of rendering duck skin is

Making the Ravioli

MR starts the dough
Extruding the dough and figuring what to do next
(Did I mention that we've never done this before?)
Pu and MR in heavy duty consultation on just how the heck one fills and closes these things anyway

Post consultation - Mass production begins

Crimping the ends
(Notice that apron? It was made for me by MR - When she was in Middle School!)

My Duck Braised with Olives - A Spanish Dish that is our Main Course

That Grin?
C after chowing down on the fried duck skin cracklings

The de-I Christmas Pictorial (Virtually All Food Related)

A whirlwind of activity with all of our children and their children plus AinA's English boyfriend from Amsterdam. No where near a representative sample of the festivities but at least a smattering

Ssst, ssst, ssst - Crunch, crunch, crunch
The sounds that International Woman of Mystery AinA is back in the house
(I will let her explain in her blog exactly what is going on in this picture)

Mrs. de-I and The Red Menace (also known as granddaughter J) getting ready to make scads of sugar cookies for decorating.

Mrs. de-I's Cinnamon Buns

Mrs. de-I's rendition of a Motherrocker favorite recipe - 18 hour bread

Christamas Eve Buffet

With the Chicago contingent flying in on Christamas Eve and all the bad weather around the country, we opted for food we could just put out and have people eat as they so desired.

Here is our spread of Spanish cured ham and salamis. On the top of the counter is the homemade pate I made that turned out great.

The Cheese Selection and Smoked Turkey

Christmas Day

Queen of Dough
Motherrocker is drafted to make the pizza dough

MR practicing for the next Olympics competing in the Dough Put

Pizza pre-baking

Pizza post-baking

AinA and Mrs de-I hand painted these balls as name place holders

No pictures of Pulisha and Tim de Buffalo but many thanks for their allowing everyone to come to their house for the four days since we are under construction.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More Christmas Reflections

After a wonderful day of being with my entire family and mostly just watching them enjoy the day with such calmness and pleasure - a blessing as I alluded to in my last post that in earlier times would have been almost not believable - I went on line today to check my favorite blogs.

One blessing for me from the organ donor connection has been meeting a few very special people who are also blogging. One of them, Terri, put this post on her blog yesterday. I highly recommend it to you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Gratitude Special

A number of the bloggers that I follow have been in one form or another been immersed in the practice giving thanks (gratitude) for what they have. In my opinion this is a very high act for any of us to be doing. I started incorporating giving thanks as a part of my spiritual practices in the months just before the organ donation operation. I now make this a part of my daily activities.

While I often do it after I meditate or while walking early in the morning, the most common time is when I step into the shower in the morning.

I start because I'm reminded of the incredible miracle of running water, clean water, warm water whenever I want it and being thankful for living in a time and place where this is a regular part of my life and how incredibly lucky I am to have this. Then I will go on mentally down a checklist sort of as follows.

I am grateful and give thanks for:

  • Having a warm, dry secure place to live in
  • Warm cloths, a car, nice furniture, a great house
  • Living in a country where I don't have to worry about someone coming and destroying what I have
  • Living in a time and a place and a country where my everyday lifestyle would be considered luxury in most of history and even in most of the world now
  • Having not only enough to eat but haven been given the ability and means to enjoy the pleasuer of eating and drinking
  • Being able to live in a place of spectacular beauty
  • Having a wonderful relationship with my wife and children when at many times in my life it seemed that would never happen
  • Being given the numerous challenges in life that somehow or another I have managed to get beyond and that have made me a significantly better person
  • Becoming awakened spiritually and having that become the center of my life
  • Being given the opportunity to donate my kidney to my sister with all the trials and triumphs that that entailed and what it taught me about myself
  • Having been able to reconnect with my siblings and my father
  • Work that I truly love and where I feel I am doing good
  • Work where I can also excel and serve both my ego and my monetary ambitions
  • Partners who are great people and a pleasure to be with and who share the same values I do
  • Experiences that are allowing me to make the best of the current environment

And so on. I try to really feel the feeling of gratitude as I do this and keep that feeling with me throughout the day.

On this Christmas when I have my girls, their men and their children all here, I hope you are having a wonderful holiday and that your life will be filled with gratitude.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Ready for the Big One

No not a California earthquake - Christmas, duh.

Since we are a mixed background family, Wife from the earliest days of our relationship made it be known that Christmas was going to be a part of our life. Of course our girls fully embraced this and now every year if it is at all possible we try to get together. I say this because we as a family usually are spread all over the place. Just three years ago we had daughters in Japan, the Netherlands and Chicago respectively. Now with middle daughter, Pulisha, living just a half a mile from us, it puts more pressure on the out-0f-towners to make the schlepp to New Mexico, bwahahahahaha.

Eldest daughter and matriarch in training, Motherrocker, in her blog makes snide references that the main focus of our getting together will be eating lots of food and drinking lots of alcohol. What let me set the record straight - that is absolutely true.

A novel event this year is that youngest daughter, Alexis in Amsterdam, (yes all three of my girls blog) has brought with her across the pond mysterious Boy Friend. This is a big deal. She's never brought anyone home before. She actually got her a couple of days before BF and you could tell she was on pins and needles. Come'on it's not like I ever subjected Son in laws Tim de Buffalo or John the Armenian to any type of abuse - right girls?

Anyway, I have been on my best behavior, a model of restraint and tact.

I called three people this morning on business and all three were gone until next week. Taking this as a cue I went to my boss who is a complete a--hole and asked for the day off. He reluctantly agreed. So I decided to use my day getting cooking done.

We have pizza on Christmas Day. No you skeptics not Dominos, home made pizza with the dough and the sauce made from scratch and the toppings all prepared by us as well. This year I'm upping the 'from scratch' quotient because I'm using tomtoes from Wife's garden that I processed in October.

So today's tasks included making the sauce, sauteeing mushrooms, onions, spinach, and italian sausage for the toppings. Wife was whipping up a couple of her confections. Both AinA and BF chipped in with help which reduced the load.

Another cooking project that I actually finished already was making a French Terrine as well. This involves making a forcemeat (think meat loaf filling) with various meats and pork fat, flavoring it, testing it (by cooking a bit), then letting it sit for a couple of days. You also marinate and let sit your bits that go in it, in this case pieces of duck breast, When ready to cook, one lines a loaf pan or terrine crock with bacon or thin sliced pork fat, spoon the mixture in, then cover with more bacon and seal with aluminum foil. The whole is cooked in a water bath for a couple of hours. When it's finished cooking, you put weights on it (cans of beans in my case with a piece of cardboard to even out the weight) and let it sit in the refridgerator for a couple of days.

All this has been done. I won't know if it is a success or a bust until Christmas Eve until we cut it open with the rest of our Super-Sized French Picnic Lunch Extravaganza.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let's all Find Out How We Stack Up Against the Velociraptor

My fellow organ donor Cristy posted this game about how long you would last if you were chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor. Sounds odd but try it any way.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


As this was my last trip to Chicago for the year and we were ending the year on a very good note with some very nice new business, I decided to take my two partners, Lakeview Coffee and Ricardo out to dinner. It has been a year with lots of personal challenges. All of us have had medical issues and family issues of one sort or another mixed in with our business challenges. In spite of it all it has ended up being a pretty good year.

We went to one of my favorites, Custom House, a part of the Spring Restaurant Group. Both Custom House and Spring have been among my favorites because in my opinion they marry innovation with tradition. Custom House specializes in meat. Being winter, I was in the mood for something with plenty of braised meat options that would go with a good red wine.

For our first course Ricardo and I split an order of sweet breads braised with bacon (neither sweet nor bread by the way) and some duck proscutto with fresh mozzarella cheese and a confit of onion.while Lakeview went with a winter squash soup. The sweet breads were excellent. Neither Lakeview nor Ricardo had tried them before and both passed positively on them. The soup was very good as well but the duck proscutto was in a class by itself.

Duck Proscutto and Sweet Breads

Winter Squash Soup
For our main courses, I went with braised veal cheeks. These were awesome - so tender and rich. Ricardo had braised short ribs - another excellent dish but an entirely different flavoring, more tart, and of course the mature beef has a more full texture. Lakeview had grilled duck breast with a pomegranate sauce that was not too sweet at all. We also ordred three side dishes; a gratin of potatoes and sheep milk cheese, a puree of yukon gold potatoes with cream and chives, and brussel sprouts sauteed with bacon. The gratin was kick butt. I thought the puree ok but not over the top. And the brussel sprouts were to die for - and this is from some one that is not crazy about them!

Our two potato dishes

My Veal Cheeks - I love the way they serve the braised items in little cast iron pans

That's Ricardo's Short Rib Plate across the table - BTW along with that was a 'cream puff w/ a savory cheese cream filling - neat

Lakeview's Duck with the Brussel Sprouts

Our wine was a very nice 2000 Margaux from Bordeaux, that I found at a pretty reasonable price. We ended up splitting a dessert (some sort of ice cream float thing?) that I don't remember too well with a couple of glasses of Sauterenes.

A great way to celebrate the end of our year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AinA I Sacrifice for You

Last time my dearest youngest daughter flew back from Amsterdam to Albuquerque for Christmas, the Rocky Mountain area got clobbered with snow. In fact she was trapped in the Denver airport for days.

I have chosen to be the sacrificial lamb. I am in Chicago for my weekly trip to my office there and in spite of all predictions to the contrary we've had six inches of snow today with it still snowing as of 10 PM. My partner Ricardo, has been trying to tell me all day - "Isn't beautiful?" And all I can say is I didn't move to the desert southwest because I thought snow is beautiful. Thankfully, I don't fly out until Thursday so hopefully O'Hare will be back to normal by then.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Score from Yesterday's Post

MotherRocker - You're a grumpy old poopy head

Alexis in Amsterdam - I hate whiny Americans and have bailed the country

Lakeview Coffee - You've made lots of good points but I really can't figure out what you're talking about.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Are We Going to Rise to the Challenge?

Over the last few months I have perusing a much broader selection of blogs and the comments thereof. I don't want to sound pedantic or holier than thou, but in a lot of cases I am simply amazed at some of the comments related to the current circumstances that we (the country, the populace, the economy, the individuals) find ourselves in.

It is not that people are upset, scared, concerned about what is going to happen to themselves and their families. That is perfectly natural. What is upsetting me are the cries that all of this is "unfair", and that this "shouldn't be happening". "Shouldn't be happening?" "Unfair?"

How did we get to a position where people assume that living in the lap of luxury by any historical or current international standard is a given? When people read about Zimbabwe or Somalia or Afghanistan or any of the number of other places that comprise the majority of the human race do they think they reading fiction. Do they stop for even a second to understand that they have been living in an incredible rare period of time when they are literally wallowing in luxury? This is mandated to us? We're supposed to expect that without having done anything to earn it it should just keep coming?

If you are a religious or spiritual person, I'd ask you this. Do you think God put you on this Earth for the purpose of having everything you want without worrying about it? Do you know the story of any saint or holy person that has ever achieved those higher states without suffering and sacrifice?

If you are a secular person, surely you believe in evolution, in the survival of the fittest. What happens to species that become over specialized, that can adapt to changing, harder, challenging circumstances? Oh that's right, they become extinct.

So what are we as a people going to do now that we are being faced with challenges - serious challenges - challenges that are going to demand sacrifice, fortitude, perseverance, will power, and a tolerance of pain and suffering. Are we going to huddle in groups a cry and whine because we are being challenged, because all the luxury we once had is going away?

Or are we going to understand that the only real growth, the only real reason for being alive is to respond to the challenges of life no matter how hard, no matter how long?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


As I mentioned over Thanksgiving that I had to get a new computer to keep the ole consulting business humming. I was pretty proud of myself in getting everything moved over without any outside help.

But I should have known that there would be collateral damage because this is the computer world where nothing is really plug and play. First I had an issue with a storage device that I had bought just weeks before the new computer from the Apple store. Seems that the new Mac's firewire connection is a different shape. Why they should change it, I don't know. That means I have to use a USB connection. But there is some issue with power because when I use the USB connection the device keeps going on and off. That's frustrating but not I can deal with it.

I also found that they have changed the connection apparatus for hooking up an outside monitor or connecting to a projector and the one from the previous MacBook Pro will no longer work. So I'm going to have to lay out money for that.

Then there was a problem with the Syncing software for my phone. It required that I reregister the software and I can't find the old product code. So I bought the upgrade and installed that. Great. Except the new upgrade doesn't work with MS Office for Mac 2004. They didn't tell me that on the site selling the upgrade. As it turns out the Entourage program (Outlook for Mac) that I have has been on the fritz and I need to do the upgrade anyway. I just didn't appreciate the two hours I lost this afternoon trying to get this all figured out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Bar Set for Travel Blunders

With all the travel that I do, at least once every six months I do something stupid that ends up costing me money. In the past this has included buying non-refundable tickets for jobs that were not quite firmed up that ended up being canceled, making non-refundable reservations for the wrong date, making non-refundable reservations for flights leaving at PM when I thought I was doing AM.

I have now raised the bar to a whole new level that has me wondering what can possibly outdo it.

Yesterday I was scheduled to give a talk to a group of asset managers on the topic of business succession - a good opportunity for me to troll for clients and referrals to clients. Got up in the morning to the airport, fly to Phoenix. I'm there in plenty of time. I go to the USAir Club and do some work. Grab a bite to eat and then head to grab a cab to go to my meeting. I give the name of the hotel and convention center where the meeting is to the cab driver. He looks at me strangely and say, "I don't know of anything named that in Phoenix - Las Vegas yes but not Phoenix."

I suddenly have a sinking feeling. I call my contact. "Ya were at the Mandalay Bay in LAS VEGAS." My talk is schedule a hour and a half from now. After thinking I would have to totally cancel, my contact calls me up and let's me know that there are almost hourly flights from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I'm worried about getting back to Albuquerque that night. I get on line and sure enough I can catch a flight in an hour and catch another flight home from Las Vegas that evening. I book the flight. Go to the kiosk and pick up my boarding pass and I'm at my place to give my talk just an hour and half late. My contact had moved the schedule around to accommodate me.

Other than eating a bit of crow for the 'planning' professional screwing up the planning and being out of pocket many hundreds of dollars to book the extra flights, the presentation went quite well.

Now what can I think of to top this?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Charting Your Course Through Troubled Waters - Part 5

Time for a bit of the metaphysical - the spiritual.

I usually stay away from this in the vast majority of my public discourse. I think I only have touched on it once in my blog right after my kidney donation operation. But during the times we are in now when I see so many going through so much pain and fear, especially those close to me, I am reminded of my own journey.

I've written about my history in dealing with crisis and talked about the emotional and tangible steps one can take to try and take charge of one's destiny. But on a deeper level it is important ot understand that things come into our life for a purpose. Through out much of my life I have learned that the things that were so painful, so difficult to deal with, were the things that ultimately, allowed me to become happy, peaceful, even successful.

So what do we do that thing that comes to our life is not pleasant? How do we react? What do we do with it?

A very sweet soul, Becky, who is another living organ donor with her own foundation, put a poen from a Sufi saint and poet, Rumi on her blog last week. The words are so apropos to this that I copied them for you.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Birthday Dinner

Here is the blow by blow of my birthday dinner yesterday.

As reported yesterday, Wife went out and got the good semi-boneless leg of lamb (I love leg of lamb) and some great cheeses (I am a real Francophile from having studied there). I used a very simple Julia Child recipe with a mustard, soy coating.

Below are the ingredients I used for coating the leg of lamb - dijon mustard, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil

The coating and Wife's beautiful leg - I MEAN HER LEG OF LAMB

Leg ready for the oven

Tasty leg coming out of the oven

Awesome cheeses purchased by wife

Finished product with garlic steamed broccoli and 2ooo Bordeaux (mmmmm)

No birthday cake for this boy - birthday cheese (I told Wife we should have put a candle in it)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Counting My Blessings

A number of the blogs I read have been talking about issues related to losing jobs either in their own family or with people that are close to them. This is going to be very bad unfortunately and it is really just starting. I'm incredibly thankful to be doing OK and am incredibly motivated as well to make sure it stays that way.

I haven't posted any pictures lately of the renovation! How could I be so thoughtless?

Walls and ceilings are up. Windows are in and they are putting scaffolding up that will be in place until the last stuccoing. They're doing more electrical and plumbing. Unfortunately they won't have broken through until after Christmas.

This is really - big

Today is my birthday. Geez that means I have to change my profile on the blog. Got a bunch of birthday cards from business contacts using Plaxo. Not sure I really like this as it seems a bit artificial. Wife and I tend not to do much on our birthdays. I was late getting back from LA yesterday and early up today and was half way out the door when I rememberd, "Oh ya it's my birthday." Then didn't give it much thought.

Wife when I got back mid-morning is full into work, looks at her computer calendar and sheepishly gets up, gives me a kiss and says happy birthday. Then I said "Oh, I've got to get something out of the freezer for dinner." But she's feeling just a tad guilty so she asks if I want to go out (Friday night - no thank you) or if I want her to pick up a chicken from the grocery store. Puhlease - we're talking the Pewter Chef here - grocery store chicken is for exhausted I don't want to cook nights. So then she upped the ante to Popeye's Fried Chicken. Now I know shes getting serious because it is my favorite fast food chicken. But I said no because you can't pair it up with a good wine and I want to dig into my collection for a bottle worthy of my birthday. So I told her that I really want a leg of lamb and yes I know I will be the one cooking it and by the way I want some good cheese and bread too. So that's what it looks like it's going to be.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Euro-Meal Special

Thanksgiving for most of those that I cook for is first and foremost a traditional meal. This means there is not a whole lot of room for creative cookery. Well I didn't tromp all the way up to Salt Lake City to just make the same old, same old for Gaius Derf and Agent W. The meal that I made for them on Friday was actually going to a brunch on Thursday but we rescheduled it when we realized that we would have had way too much for the day.

The Menu

Brussels Sprout Salad
Open Face Prosciutto and Cheese Sandwiches with Pineapple Salad
Ramekins of Creamed Spinach with Baked Eggs

The salad - Shredded Brussels sprouts dressed with toasted walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, and pecarino romano cheese.

The sandwiches - I fried the prosciutto until it was crisp (think of it as super bacon), toasted one side of the bread in the oil from the prosciutto, topped it with gruyere cheese and put under the broiler. The pineapple with some raisins had been marinating overnight in a little rum and honey.

The ramekins - I made a killer creamed spinach from scratch from a Julia Child recipe, put it in the ramekins, put an egg in each one, covered with parmesean cheese and baked.

Cheese - camambert and a kick but gorganzola dulce (young smooth - sooo good)

Pictures (thanks to Agent W):

Gaius Derf and Wife watching me cut Brussels Sprouts into fine shreds - a thankless task
Just what the heck are they so smiley about anyway?

My open face sandwiches prior to toasting

The still giddy looking Derf and Wife with salads
What do they know that I don't?

Finished sandwiches with pineapple salad

My ramekins just out of the oven

Whatever Gaius Derf and Wife were into evidently I got some too!