Sunday, May 28, 2017

Massive Day of Cooking

To fill the need for Southeast Asian food, you need the curry pastes that are the backbone of the flavors one remembers. Thai curry pastes are fairly easy to find. But the commercial ones we've tried have way too much chile heat for our tastes. And finding curry pastes from Cambodia, Malaysia or Indonesia? Forget about it.

So I have taken to making my own pastes and freezing them. Fortunately (as I think I have posted previously) we are blessed with a great Asian supermarket here in Albuquerque and I can get just about everything I need in terms of raw ingredients. I have had to alter some of the recipes to make them work with some of the things we have here.

Integral to this process is an extreme amount of pounding with a mortar and pestle. I had done a lot or research and almost everywhere I looked it said you could not get the same flavors and consistency trying to do things in a food processor. However, I do chop up all of the various components in the food processor prior to going through the pounding process.

The Cast of Characters
Clockwise from the lower left are turmeric root, galangal root, kefir lime leaves, ginger root, lemongrass, garlic (already chopped), shallots (already chopped), and cilantro stems
These provide the basic components for the curry pastes. Not all of them have all these ingredients and their are other additions for the various pastes

I have found that the key to getting the right consistency is to go from drier to wetter and to add one ingredient at a time. So first in goes that salt and any other dried spices. The the drier roots like the galangal. Then maybe the kefir lime leaf. Then the turmeric, the lemongrass and finally the ginger, garlic and shallots in their turn.

Getting chiles to integrate has proven difficult so I use my already processed NM green chile, harissa and sambal to provide the heat component

Sample of a completed paste - the Malaysian paste in this case
Then putting them in small containers - Cambodian Amok paste in this case

In addition to the curry pastes, I also was smoking - a rack of ribs and two chickens to replenish our freezer.
Most of this work (the rub for the ribs, brining the chickens, cleaning and setting up the smoker) were done the day before. All that needs to be done is turn on the smoker and put the meat in when its hot.
If I must say so myself I am really getting the knack of producing good ribs 😏
Tomorrow I will breakdown the chickens, make some stock from the bones, turn the skin into smoked cracklings, which in turn will give me a little smoked chicken fat.

Hope you are eating well too and REMEMBER all those who have sacrificed for our country!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book - Revelation

Before we left for the Asia Mega Tour, I made a decision that I would seek out an editor to read one of the book manuscripts I had written. I had certain suspicions about what I had done but I really wanted some kind of outside confirmation or denial.

Shortly after we got back, I had the editor's report. Most of the things she brought up  were not really surprises and were either in the forefront or back of my consciousness.  But she had made a final comment that she thought there was a book inside all I had written but it would take a  lot of time and money to unlock it and she was further willing to undertake that project.

My first reaction was that this was going to be a lot of work. I didn’t start writing because I wanted a job. I have a career. I could make a quick decision; no I did not want to make writing work. I write to satisfy an internal need.

What came next, however, was really transformational. During a hike/contemplation I realized that I have throughout my life been dissatisfied with the fiction that I have read or seen (movies/TV). No matter how good it was, there was always something done to a character or a plot that I didn’t like or made me unhappy. But when I write everything happens exactly the way I want it to. It really doesn’t make a difference if the writing is good, lousy, or mediocre. I know the story I’m trying to tell and it will be exactly the way I want it to be.

I truly write to give myself entertainment/story telling I can get from no one else – story telling that is literally perfect as far as how I want characters and stories to evolve and end. I am the audience and I write for me. That’s all that counts. It makes no difference if anyone reads what I write. In fact, in a lot of ways it is more freeing and comforting if nobody does.

This realization has been incredibly freeing and has given me great peace of mind.

Friday, May 26, 2017


I have a passion for making use of leftovers. Although I live in a palatial house where we consume way more energy than any two people really need to, I some how have this fanaticism that I should not waste food. This manifests itself a number of means of using leftovers.

The first is soup. Soup was the original means of leftover recycling. Over many years I have refined the technique for creating flavor bases for soup until now the results have become extremely consistent...and good!

The second is fried rice. I got started on fried rice kick last year after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about how a chef made fried rice (the secret is cooking each ingredient separately and season each as you go). As I cook a lot of Asian flavored foods and usually have rice leftover and Wife loves leftover fried rice for lunch, it became another major user of leftovers.

Introduce now hash. I had mad a pot roast as one of many dishes for our friend Agent W for after her surgery and over did the potatoes. I decided to try the same process I used with the fried rice of cooking components separately (I had some Napa cabbage and onion left over). I took some pulled pork from last summer out of the freezer. The potatoes were already fully cooked. I mixed everything together in a bowl and then let them sit for 30 minutes to combine flavors.

Getting the hash to brown properly took a bit of experimentation. I tried a long, low cooking with now turning but that wasn't working so I just cranked the heat up. Now I got good browning. The hash didn't stay together but it didn't matter because the brown, crusty parts were substantial and delicious.

With our moving back to more potatoes and rice in our diet (more on that later), I see hash in the future as another of the leftover using team.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not Ready Yet - The Asia Mega Tour II Analysis

Work has been busy (a blessing), and there have been things to do around the house. But I finally, finally finished last weekend going through every post I made during our trip. All I have to do now is review the notes I took and reach some kind of conclusions. Hopefully that will happen this weekend though I have a number of projects on tap for this the three day weekend including making SE Asian curry pastes (a BIG project requiring much pounding of mortar and pestle) and cranking up the smoker for chicken and ribs.

I will tell you this, it has been a real revelation to go back over all the posts from the trip. I can see why everyone thinks we two (Wife and I) are somewhat crazed. I mean I lived the whole thing but when I read my posts my reactions was 'Ye Gad that's exhausting'. Yet when we are doing it sure we feel tired but we actually felt like we were restraining ourselves.

So I have a ton of notes after going through all the posts and now I need to review them. I am really looking forward to studying them and seeing the patterns and the reveals.

Friday, May 19, 2017

You Know You're Old When...

This morning was hiking morning. Hike twice a week, 5 miles as part of my overall conditioning program.

We're having unseasonably cold weather. It is 6:45. I walk outside. I am ready to go. I have my boots on and am dressed. Just need to eat something and be on my way. The wind is blowing. It is 44 degrees.

Ah the vision of my younger self arises. Hiking in all kinds of wind and cold. Master of the elements. Macho. Tough. Driven.

I return to the house and take a hot shower instead.

And in the process of showering discover that I forgot to take out my hearing aids. Fortunately no permanent damage came to them.

This is the reality.

Monday, May 15, 2017


It was nine years ago and one day that I was  sitting in a hospital operating room waiting to go under the knife to donate a kidney to my sister. I was at the same time incredibly calm and fearful though probably nowhere as fearful as Wife was.

Later that day, I woke up (sort of) in the recovery room and realized I was still alive.

Yet later that day I realized that I had TOTALLY underestimated what this procedure was going to do to me and was in the most excruciating physical pain I have ever endured until then and since.

Nine years later my left kidney (the one I donated) is working like a champ...A Champ I tell you. If I had just realized how good my component parts were (compared to the mediocre whole), I would have thought of some way to monetize me!

Seriously, thank you Lord/Lady for looking over me, allowing me to provide this blessing, and to have survived and prospered.

If you'd like to read about the great journey of organ donation, my dissertation starts here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still Feeling The Buzz

I am still working on the massive 'analysis of the past trip' project. Last weekend I spend a good part of it going over the blog posts of the trip. I barely got half way done. My first impression - 'Ye gads how much did we do!'  It was more exhausting reading about it and imagining doing it than actually doing it. Anyway, that project will be picked up again this weekend.

What is of more interest at the moment is my observations of my internal state. It took literally only a day to recover from the trip due to our system. And ever since then I have been on this 'high'. Sort of like the endorphin high from exercise. There was something about this last trip that despite all the energy we expended and how much we did, left us both invigorated and excited.

If you will remember from our prior trip to Frantaly, we had the opposite reaction - we had felt tired and beat up with lots of adjustments we felt necessary to our travel life. So why the big difference? I'm not sure. As I continue with the massive navel gazing (Daughter #3's contribution to family imagery) project, I'm sure I will come up with some kind of analysis.

But in the meantime, the energy from the trip has carried over to my 'at home' persona which is basically about about work and writing. I will deal with the writing project with another post. But as far as work is concerned, I have been just a humming dynamo. I have certain metrics of how many meetings I need to have to develop business. I am already at twice the number I set as my goal for the month of May! I have lots of proposals out. All kinds of good client stuff being done. And I'm not working any more than I have set as my limit for my semi-retired state.

Almost everyone I meet with who knows me comments on the fact that I seem to be buzzing with energy. And it's true. It is all very mysterious to me. You all know I have a deeply spiritual bent so i can only say thanks for God's grace because I truly don't understand exactly why things are happening the way they are.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Down To A Science

I promised you the traditional postmortem but I've been so busy here that I haven't had the chance. That is one measure at how successful and seamless the transition has been from our travel mode to our life at home mode.  This was the sixth big trip we've taken (trips of more than a month out of the country) since 2014 as part of the post-full time work, transitioned state. Almost everything about this trip went smoother than had been the case in years past. This was especially true about coming home.

Our system of doing the coming back in two days rather than try and get back in one, continues to make a big difference in how rapidly we overcome jet lag. Unlike past trips, I had no emotional angst about going back to work. In fact we got back on a Thursday and by the following Tuesday, my work schedule was completely booked.

We worked on the garden today. Our timing was pretty good and we missed the snow storm that was here last weekend so we're getting things in as early as is reasonable. The peach tree was viciously de-fruited to avoid the mass over production in prior years.

Daughter #3 has asked that I do a deeper dive into the postmortem so I am going to spend the afternoon rereading my posts from the trip in order to create a definitive trip review.