Sunday, January 31, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Oh how the mighty have fallen. I, who for years have ranted against hiking in the winter because of the cold and especially the dangers of the slippery ice and snow have been brought low, worn down by the persistent Gaius Derf.

It started last weekend when I discovered that it really was very pretty and that I had cloths that would really keep me warm. The final nail in the coffin came this weekend when Wife bought me a pair of Yak-Trax, a device for maintaining traction that the Derf swears by.

So off we went up the La Luz trail on Saturday right after a a snow fall on Friday.

Gaius Derf sure looks happy. Not sure if it is the wonderful day or the victory of the recalcitrant de-I

Making my way sure-footedly in the snow. The Yak-Trax are amazing!
Notice my toasty coat too.

Yak-Trax in use

It was 38 degrees, calm and blue skied but there was a heavy fog over the Rio Grande River

What the hey!
Stripping on the trail!

"What are you lookin' at buddy"
"You pervert"

Snow capped Sandia Peak

2.5 miles up
Snow about 10 inches deep
Not a slip practically on the whole hike

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One of Those Weeks

I'm doing a 4.5 day road trip in California this week where every night I'm in a different hotel and spending lots of time in autos driving around. My body definitely does not like this. :(

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Respectful Snow

I have been amazed most of my life at how disrespectful snow is. Snow does give two hoots about where it falls and what it does to your life...except in Albuquerque. We have very respectful snow. It understands that we have lives and while we may want to enjoy some white beauty, the benefits of a snow pack to replenish our water supply, or enjoy some winter sports; we don't want to shovel our driveways, slip and slide on the road, get our shoes wet, or miss work.

Thus most of the time it snows here (which is a respectful minimum), it pretty much sticks to the mountain and is melted off within 12-18 hours here in town. We had one of these storms which started on Friday and ended Saturday. By today Sunday, all the roads were clear, but I got to do a little hiking in freshly fallen snow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eight Hours

The amount of time necessary to download and delete the 14,000+ emails you have on your server since March of 2009 when said server decides that these are all 'unread' and must be sent to you before you can get today's email.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Power of Claw

One of the secrets to good grandfathering is finding games that will keep the fiendishly focused energy unlimited grandchildren occupied for moments on end while simultaneously conserving as much of your own energy as possible. The ideal game is one that allows you to play while staying seated in one place.

Haunted tree is good one where the kids go into the enchanted forest and then are caught by the tree (they always make sure they get themselves caught) and then have to do all sorts of things (like get icky wine from their mother who told them not to go into the enchanted forest) to bribe the tree.

But best all time game ever which started with my kids and now is transferred on to the grandkids is Claw. Claw is a sentient five legged creature made from one's hand. Kids will play with Claw (their own Claw...each kid gets a Claw with its own name) forever with out your ever having to move from your seat - sweet. Even C at 11 isn't too old to want to play Claw. And J and A - well a good part of playing with Claw is getting tickled and they could that for hours too.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Florida

Wife and I are taking a short-trip to Pass-a-Grille Florida better known by the two cities close to it Tampa and St. Petersburg. We're visiting daughter Pulisha and her clan. Unfortunately Venerable Pu has a major project at work (she's a spy), has been working major hours (like 12 hours + a day) and had to work this Saturday as well. So we're not getting to see much with her. This is leaving Tim de Buffalo trapped to the house with the three children and he looks a bit mentally deranged as a result.

We did get to catch up with Pu at the winter market (big outdoor farmers market and food stalls) in St. Petersburg yesterday during her lunch break. That was pretty cool and we got a bunch of stuff for dinner including a filet of this totally monstrous snow grouper. We also got great fruit including some awesome pineapple. Wife whipped up a pineapple upsidedown cake with granddaughter A while granddaughter C (who is now 11) helped me with dinner...and she really did help. She is capable with knife now so she can do prep work and she's not afraid of the stove so she can watch the sauteed veggies. I showed her how to make a basic white sauce and how to turn that into a cheese sauce which we used for a potato dish. Tim grilled steaks. We were finally able to enjoy everyone's company together. The younger children curled up in front of that famous children movie Jurassic Park(!!!!! - Tim's idea) while the rest of us had dinner.

Hopefully Pu will not have to go to work today as I am heading back on Monday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bloggable Content Coming Soon - I hope

Been working like a maniac lately. Lot's of prospects and leads - little in the way of closings. Some excellent new client projects though. Real high level stuff with great people.

But I'm taking a long weekend with Wife to visit Pulisha, Tim de Buffalo and the three avatars of chaos...I mean the grandkids. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone. I've missed not having them around since they moved to Florida.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shortcut to a Great Sauce

The rule in good cooking is that the foundation to a great sauce is great stock. Unfortunately for most of us home cooks making great stock is just not that practical. A great stock takes hours and hours to make - in fact they urge you to be slowly cooking your contents for a day! We're urged then to store the product in the freezer for when we want it. All good stuff but not very practical for most of us who are working hard and don't have tons of time on are hands.

The following is a shortcut I've developed based upon techniques I've observed on Iron Chef where they have to develop a lot of flavor in a short amount of time. The total time this takes is around an hour. The pictures below represent my throwing this together as part of a meal a made for an out of town business guest.


I start with a canned broth - beef in this case - so I've got some pre-existing flavor base to start from. Then I'm going to need elements from each of the five flavor groups. In this case we have:

Sweet - Carrot, onion, garlic
Bitter - Celery, parsely
Sour - Wine
Salt - Salt Pork and salt
Umami - Salt pork and cured salami

One of the keys is to use a lot of each ingredient because you want to get a lot of flavor into the broth. I also cut everything pretty small since there wasn't going to be a lot of time for flavor extraction.

I've started with all the veggies but the parsley and the two meat products. I cooked them in some oil at a low heat so they don't brown but start getting soft (sweating).

Then I add my broth, wine, parsley, salt and pepper. In this case I used two cups each of broth and wine because I wanted a winey/sour Germanic type sauce. You can change your proportions of the various flavors to alter the outcome. For example you could use a lower proportion of wine to broth for a less wine based flavor.

I then cooked it at a medium heat for about 40 minutes to get a good reduction.

Then strain out the solids, put the sauce back in the pan and reduce over a higher heat.

I could have reduced this down to a pretty concentrated sauce but I wanted a good volume so I chose to thicken it instead with a slurry of corn starch and water.

Here's the finished product on a boneless pork chop with homemade spaetzle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Airfare Success!

Daughter 3 - AinA is getting married in France in September. My major contribution is to get all of the siblings and husbands there.

I successfully got 4 tickets of which 3 were free using frequent flyer miles. Only glitch was having to route John the Armenian Deal Hound via Johannesburg South Africa to get his free ticket.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why Am I Even Surprised Any More

I should really totally expect this after all these years, but I'm still shocked at how inconsiderate other people are when they are faced with doing something unpleasant.

I was supposed to have someone come in for some training yesterday. It was scheduled over three days so I had pretty much not put anything else in my calendar. The week before I call to confirm. I make two phone calls to the persons cell phone and get no answer. Then over the weekend I send out an email with no response. I leave more messages on cell phone and home phone on Monday. No response.

Finally yesterday two hours before the person was scheduled to arrive I get this lame email telling me that he got a good project that was paying him a bunch and got caught up working on it and missed his plane. What! You're telling me there weren't inklings of this over the last few days? Is my time, schedule, life of no value? Evidently.

I wish I could say this is unusual but my experience is people will totally abuse your time before they'll pick up a phone and tell you no about something.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Immersion Blender Tomato Sauce

Home made tomato sauce makes a huge difference in Italian style cooking - pizza, pasta, meat dishes. And while I love making my own sauce, the time involved has always been a bit off putting. Mainly it was the effort of cutting all of the ingredients into small enough pieces so that the sauce was not overly chunky. Using the food processor to cut the vegetables only delivered a gritty consistency. But recently I have perfected a method using the immersion blender as the time saving hero. If you don't have one of these, they are not expensive (less than $30) and are incredibly versatile

The Ingredients:
  • One large onion
  • Two carrots
  • Two celery
  • One small or 1/2 large green bell pepper
  • Five to eight large garlic cloves
  • A handful of fresh Italian parsley
  • Three large cans of tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano region Italian tomatoes but they are quite a bit more expensive. Progresso brand is good too)
  • One small can tomato paste
  • Two serrano chiles
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Red Wine

Cut the onion, carrot, celery, and green pepper into larger pieces and sweat them in a substantial amount of olive oil over medium low heat covered for for 20 minutes. Add the garlic, also cut in large pieces at the 10 minute mark.

Don't skimp on the olive oil. I use around 3/4 of a cup. You're making a lot of sauce and this is an important flavor component.

Veggies at the start of sweating

Veggies at the end of 20 minutes

Roughly cut your parsley and chiles. Take the seeds out of the chiles.

Add your tomatoes, tomato paste, chiles, parsley, oregano, basil, and thyme

Oops - don't forget the red wine - around a half a cup (the flavor compounds in various ingredients are soluble in either fat, water, or alcohol so having a little of each in a dish helps bring out the fullness of your flavors).

Cook the sauce for two hours at a medium low heat with the cover ajar so it is bubbling softly but not boiling rapidly.

Now the fun part!

Get your immersion blender. (Man Battle Stations!)

And let it do its magic (Damn the Torpedos! Full Speed Ahead!)

The Result?

A smooth wonderfully flavored sauce.

I stored just the right amoung for one pizza (One cup) in Ziplock bags in the freezer along with frozen balls of dough so we can quickly whip up a pizza if we want to.

Give it a try. It's not hard and worth the effort.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Photos - The New Piece

Wife and I have just gotten a new piece of furniture for our kitchen. This is a hand crafted piece from our friend Cabinet Lady and it's awesome

It is not only beautiful but incredibly functional.

The white line on the bottom is actually the marble top of a roll out work station for baking (notice the wheels on the underneath). Pretty cool huh! I'm expecting plenty of fresh baked bread from Wife after this.

This is also the first official photos taken and transferred successfully from new phone.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Soooo Close - - - But No Cigar

Being re-enabled with cell phone synching capability and with a big night of cooking on New Year's Eve, I was raring to go. 18 pictures taken. When I check try to download them today I find that I took 1 picture and 17 micro videos (4 sec or less). Really pissed because I made THE lasagna of my life. Boo hoo hoo.