Monday, April 30, 2012

Posts Called Because of Electronics Problems

Everything is going at the same time.  My computer is spiraling downhill and is doing all kinds of funky things.  And my phone is too.  I have a bunch of stuff from hiking this weekend to write about but I'm afraid the machine is just too balky at the moment.  And all the pictures I took on the phone came out funky as well.

Both are well over three years old.  My experience with laptops is that 3 years is about as much as you can expect to get out of them and this is pushing 3 and half.  So I'm just going to have to breakdown and spend the money.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Working The Transition

Over the last 12 years or so I've been very, very focused on growing my business for a lot of reasons.  But the most important was a recognition 12 years ago that I really had not give my career my absolute best and that not giving it my best was not consistent with my base values. 

So I gave up things like soccer coaching where I knew I'd done as much as I was ever going to do so I could commit totally to my work.  And I have to say, it has come much further than I would have ever imagined.  But starting with the kidney donation experience and moving on through the economic downturn and then my fall illness and the stuff with my Dad, the realities of my own aging and reduced energy have screamed to be recognized and acknowledged.

So about a year and half ago, I started a process of building how I was going to transition into what I will call retirement though what I have in mind is not what I would call the traditional view of retirement.  This was pretty interesting because working with business owners on their exit, succession, retirement, and transition issues is what I do for a living.  In essence I was making myself my client. 

In this process, I've found that I have and express all the issues that my clients have and that drive me up a wall.  It is even more annoying when I am aware that I have these issues but they still raise their ugly head.  But for the most part I've managed to do a pretty good job.  I'm finding that I don't have to work as hard, that I have most of my weekend to myself (not work), that I have more time during the week to do things like exercise so I don't have to get up as early and lose sleep.  And I'm making as much money and working almost exclusively on things that I enjoy and I'm good at.

The demon ego is still their.  The biggest frustration is knowing that I could grow my business much, much more...IF I had 10 or 15 year to work it and get a return on investment rather than the 5 that will take me to 70.  But for the most part, I have made peace with that.

In other news, I'm hiking to the top of Sandia Mountain tomorrow with Wild Bill and Gaius Derf - the first big hike of the season.  Yay!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wife Birthday Celegration

We celebrated Wife's birthday on Saturday and naturally food and drink were in order.  But before we go into the details of exquisite food preparation, a couple of side notes.

You may ask, what's going on here?  This would be the careful separation of imported (by Daughter #3) Dutch, dark chocolate, peanut M&Ms.  Wife insisted that we had to have exactly the same color demographic for each of our stashes.  Actually I'm the only one who stashes.  That's because if I don't hide my chocolate, Wife will scarf it up!

And then there is the state of the garden

It's hard to believe that we planted this just four weeks ago!  Now we're using the various greens at least 2 to 4 times a week!

On the the birthday - Wife asked if I would make a low calorie meal topped off with a high calorie dessert.

I still wanted to do multiple courses because, well that's what I do.  Agent W and Gaius Derf came over to help celebrate.  The two pre-dessert courses were modifications of recipes that I make regularly as part of our low calorie regime.  I just gussied them up a little.

I had some lovely dried sausage the #3 had also brought over for me (I saw her in Chicago this week where she was over from Amsterdam on business).

First Course - Squash Soup

I've put in this basic recipe before.  This time instead of everything from scratch, I was making use of some leftover baked acorn squash.

 Using green pepper and onions as aromatics

I slow roasted them for about 40 minutes at 325 degrees

Slow cook covered the roasted veggies with the leftover squash in butter and flavorings in this case lavender from the garden and nutmeg

Add some broth and cook for 10 minutes

Puree with immersion blender and strain

Add some cream (not low cal!) and garnish with herbs

Swiss Chard and Mustard Green Fritatta (or Tortilla)

The Spanish and Italians both make this egg dish (Fritatta for Italian and Tortilla for Spanish) just about exactly the same way.

First I saute a little salami type sausage to get some flavor without a whole lot of meat calories

I take out and set aside the meat
Then add onion and garlic and saute lightly
Then add my main veggies - in this case the chard, mustard leaves, and mushrooms and season - in this case salt, pepper, and pimenton (smoked paprika)


 In the meantime, beat your eggs.  When really watching the calories, I don't use many eggs.  We had six for the four of us.  Mix the vegetable mixture in the eggs and return to the pan.
Then when they are starting to set, put a plate on top, hold it down, and flip the pan over so the whole thing is on the plate.  

Here Agent W got a good action shot of the fritatta being returned to the pan to cook on the other side.

When it is done, put it on a swerving plate and slice into individual portions.

A little grated cheese for extra flavor and presentation

Serve in lovely al fresco dining environment :)


What the whole evening is all about.

First make a pate a choux.   This will have to be a separate post some day.  Basically it is making the puff shells that you see in cream puffs and eclairs.  

When the dough is ready you pipe them onto parchment paper

They are cooked at a higher temperature for 15 minutes (400) and then a lower one (350) for around 30 to 40 minutes until well browned.

To make the profiteroles, you cut them open, put ice cream inside (super dark chocolate for Wifey), then cover.

Make a simple chocolate ganache - just some cream with butter boiled and put over chocolate (this is all about the quality of the chocolate), let sit for 5 minutes and the whisk until glossy and smooth.

Finish the profiteroles by garnishing and decorating with whipped cream (homemade), the ganache, and chocolate shavings.

Watch your birthday girl eat with delight :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

de-I - Wine Training for Servers

On Sunday, I wanted to take Derf and Agent W to a new pizza place that a client had taken me to and thought was pretty good. I went there originally for lunch but noted that it had an extensive wine list for a pizza place.

We got there fairly early and it wasn't too crowded (it would get so by the time we left) yet the staff seemed a bit flustered. I ordered a bottle of wine. The wine list was a bit weird because it had relatively few lower priced offerings (it's a pizza place remember) and a lot of choices that we higher, pricey, and down right expensive ($100+). After an inordinate amount of time they came and said they had to go in back to find it. Then after an inordinate more time, they said didn't have the bottle I ordered and suggested a replacement. By this time we just wanted a drink so I said yes.

Next transpired the absolutely worse example of wine service I have ever seen! The poor young man struggled to get the cork out. Broke the cork. Then failed to give me (or anyone) a taste. Grabs the bottle by the neck (good servers always hold from the bottom to have more control and leverage). Holds the glass to his eye (it was a BIG nice crystal glass) and proceeds to start filling it to the top! At this point, I literally am nearly yelling, telling to stop, only poor a quarter full (This is to allow the wine to move in the glass and get air). He proceeds to fill the other glasses asking me with each if that is enough or too much. And he doesn't know how to twist the bottle at the end so the wine is dribbling down the side.

I'm getting more upset. I'm paying good money for good wine. The service should be a given. Finally I'm so upset, I get up, take him to the side so we're not next to any other tables and ask him if he has every been given any wine service training. As I expect he hadn't been. I go into a tirade at how his employer has failed him and how I want to talk to the manager. I give the manager a tirade that if you're extracting $30 $40, $50 plus for wine you sure as hell ought to know and teach how to serve it. He gives me this mealy mouth answer.

The meal goes on and I tell our waiter Jeremy that I'm going to order another bottle and show him how it is done correctly. Bless his heart, he seemed to appreciate this so I went and did just that. (A note: the cork screw they gave him was a piece of shit and even I had trouble getting the cork out!). Of course by this time the place is packed and all the tables around us are having a good time as I'm going through all the steps of wine service with explanations of each to Jeremy.

I still can't quite figure out what owners are thinking having relatively inexpensive (though very good) pizza with very high priced wine. You can be sure I will be putting in reviews of this place all over the internet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bits and Pieces

I was out in Connecticut visiting Dad last weekend and didn't get back until Tuesday night late (more on that later). Then I had a very busy work schedule the rest of the week. A lot of ideas for posting were in my head but I never got around to them. But will try to catch up now.

Example of Genetic Influence

One of the things that Dad seems to enjoy when I visit is when I do some kind of cooking. As it is Passover season, he had a hankering for Matzo Brie, which is kind of like a French Toast thing made with Matzo, the unleavened bread you're supposed to eat during Passover. Of course, we can't just make it. We needed to do our research (call Jewish friends of his, check cookbooks, research on line). Based upon our research and his memory, we consolidated a variety of techniques. He got out of the wheel chair in order to do the critical water soaking step (Matzo is hard and has to be soaked - lightly! - in order absorb the egg/milk mixture). Not even impending death will keep us from our cooking. The result was deemed very good.

Slow de-I Sandia Outfitter Start

I fear that trash talk that has filtered on-line from disgruntled clients (i.e. those that survive), is having an effect on new business. I was supposed to take out two clients today. One called and said they had given themselves a stomach virus in order to cancel the reservation the Wife had made. The other evidently hit himself in the knee with a hammer to get out of the reservation that his business partner had made for him. And it was going to be perfect today. The day started out nice but then this big ole storm came in with gust up to 50 mph - ideal for 'losing' people on the trail. Oh well. We'll certainly find someone who doesn't check the Internet. In the meantime, I got out, up, and down just for my own enjoyment well before the storm hit.

First Harvesting from the Garden!

The early stuff from the garden is already to be used! We've got parsley and oregano (herbs Julia) that are perennials in abundance. We picked young tender kale and chard for our salad at lunch. Other greens are also ready. You just have to be careful on how many you pick as the plants are still young and don't have that many leaves.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Amateur Hour In First Class

I flew out on Saturday to visit Dad. As you know, I'm not the most tolerant of air travelers. Air travel is hard enough without having to deal with people who go through the whole process with either out a clue or with total disregard as to the effects of their actions.

So it was that with catching an ungodly early 6 AM flight, I had an upgrade to first class. I when I booked my first class seat (I got notice of the upgrade two days before the flight) that there was no one in first class (12 seats). I as usual was on near first to minimize my issues with others.

And then watched as three couples came who I swear had never sat in First Class in their life. These are probably very low on the Frequent Flier totem pole where the idea of getting an upgrade is just theory. These people are futzing around. Trying figure out where to put their bags. Trying to get their bags in at all! Trying to change seats. And all this while the rest of the plane is waiting to board.

It's a good thing they don't allow us to carry firearms on planes anymore.

Friday, April 6, 2012

New Mexico Numbers

So when I posted about us getting rain, we subsequently had rain for all that night including some snow in the morning. We got a total of .85 inches which evidently took us from being behind for the year to date to actually ahead!

It was 42 degrees when I took my walk this morning.

It was 80 when I came home from meetings at 3:30 this afternoon

Thursday, April 5, 2012

There is A Kitchen Implement Fairy

As a serious home cook, you always think the fairy tale of the Kitchen Implement Fairy is just that a fairy tale...

...Until the day that totally unannounced at your door there is a package for the coolest every digital kitchen scale.

For almost a year and a half I've been cooking uber low calorie meals for Wife and I that has required the measuring of the majority of ingredients that I use. And over most of that period, I've been using this cheap ass, plastic, analog scale

Please note that this scale on the far right a little white tab. You used that to get the scale measure to 0 so you could calibrate it. Unfortunately with each measurement, it seemed that the calibration would change. Plus it just had simple hash marks for each ounce that were not that far apart, so getting accurate measurements was very difficult and required sometimes doing the weighing a few times - not what you want to do when you are tired at the end of the day and making dinner. And when I was breaking down meats for freezing into 3 oz portions, it was so hard to add and subtract to and see where it came out right.

Now look at the beauty below.

Fully digital. One nice clean surface for putting the food on. You can choose what measuring system you want. I have it set for pounds and ounces and it goes to the tenth of an ounce. My measurements now are precise I tell you, precise! Breaking down meat was a breeze with the accuracy and calibration issues solved.

Legend has it that the Kitchen Implement Fairy is partial to stinky cheese and red wine. You can be sure I'll be making my offerings.

Monday, April 2, 2012

= Good

The other side of this equation is RAIN!

When you live in the desert and are in the middle of a multi-year drought ALL moisture = GOOD!

(A totally different attitude I suspect from our readers in Amsterdam)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Still More Pewter Chef - Battle Ground Lamb

My friend Doug had purchased a large pack of grass fed lamb from a provider in South New Mexico from a Groupon deal. Of course, as his Wife Cindy pointed out, they had never even tried lamb before. And when he tried his first attempt with one of the five pounds of ground lamb, it was a disaster with no one being able to eat it.

Having mentioned this to me in despairing state, I told him to fear not, The Pewter Chef would find a way to convert his pounds of ground lamb into edible wonders.

My instructions were to bring a pound of the offending ground lamb along with equal amounts of ground pork and ground turkey.

The first step was to determine if the lamb was really off or if it was a question that Doug and Cindy just didn't know what lamb tasted like. We determined it was the later.

Then I made a blend of 1/3rd of each of the meats - lamb, pork, and turkey - and we tested those
Success. Yes, both Cindy (who was the most sensitive to the taste of lamb) and Doug found the meat acceptable. So it was on to various preparations.

The first was Kofte Kebabs, a Turkish round meat dish. It consisted of a ground pistachios, cumin, mint, pepper, oregano, harissa (hot pepper paste - see my August 2011 post) mixed with the ground meat, formed into oval shapes and cooked for 7 minutes at 450 degrees - very simple.

The next was a Chinese ground meat dish. Just take chopped garlic and ginger, a little sherry, some good soy sauce, some toasted sesame oil, and home purchased Chinese chile garlic sauce. Mix the flavorings and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes. Then saute in oil. Add a little stock and thicken with a corn starch slurry.

I also whipped up a saute of fresh corn (frozen from last summer) green and red bell pepper, onion, some rosemary from our garden, and some red chile powder.

Our finale from the Ground Lamb Challenge

Oh, I also marinated some strawberries in rum, honey, with fresh lavender (from our garden) and fresh mint which we put on ice cream.


It's Beautiful - But Won't Last

The weather has been glorious - New Mexico at its finest. Dry, clear, cool in the morning, warm during the day. And this means great hiking. After missing most of the winter hiking, I've been really getting out there and building my conditioning. This Saturday it was 8 miles on trail with some serious climbs. So I'm looking forward to getting in some of those longer hikes that I love.

Because I'm going to have to get them in soon. The beautiful weather is because once again we are short of precipitation, i.e. drought which means as the forest fire season starts (any week now) it will be only a matter of time until they shut down the forest for safety reasons until the monsoon starts.

Unedited Pure Blue New Mexico Sky

And I wouldn't be de-I without a bit of irreverence

When Gaius Derf pointed this view out my first thought was,
"Ah the Sandias, no Cialis needed"