Monday, December 28, 2009

Male Jerk of the Year

The 2009 Male Jerk of the Year award goes to Richard Heene, aka the father of balloon boy. His wife wins a supporting role nod.

Richard concocted the scheme in an effort to score a reality show. Now he faces a different reality—jail.

According to a Huffington Post write-up, the prosecutor “portrayed the Heenes as increasingly desperate as their pitches for a reality TV show kept getting turned down by the networks…”

The runner-up is Tiger Woods.

Richard Heene nips Tiger by two strokes because he abused a child—his own—using him as a pawn both for the charade and the charade that followed under the glare of the national media. As such, he is even more unfit as a father than Tiger, whose children are as yet too young to have a clue about what he was doing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tis the Nutty Season

Well, yes, that kind, too.

For now I was referring to cooking with nuts, even if it means never allowing that sometimes sane aunt, cousin, or nephew into your kitchen. That’s where I keep the knives.

I keep all manner of nuts at the ready: almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts. I rarely use cashews for cooking, finding them sinful (salted, especially) by themselves, but difficult to find a mate for on

Like the healthy improbables, red wine and dark chocolate, much as been written lately about the health benefits of nuts, in moderation, of course. Nuts contain monounsaturated fats, which help lower low-density LDL (bad) cholesterol and may raise high-density HDL (good) cholesterol. Major studies have found that eating nuts significantly reduces the risk of coronary disease. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other goodies such as omega-3 in walnuts, and calcium and vitamin E in almonds. They are good sources of protein and fiber.

Just remember—key word—moderation. If using for cooking, never buy them smothered with salt.

Here are some ways I will be using nuts for the next week:

—Almond Shortbreads

—Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, Sugar, Sugar & Spice Pecans, Pecans, Pecans

—Caramelized Walnuts

—Homemade Pesto with either Pine Nuts or Walnuts

—Pecan-crusted Red Snapper

—Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi-Mahi

—Roasted Haricot Verts with Toasted Hazelnuts

—Jack Daniels Chocolate Pecan Pie

It is that other “bad” stuff that does the damage. Even in moderation, weight gain over the holidays is rarely moderate. I just throw in the towel—after doing the dishes, of course.

A domestic engineer guy’s duties double over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tis the Season

Tis the season for braising, crock pot creations, and soups from scratch.

Since I live in Southern California I don’t pay much attention to seasonal cooking. I’m happy to braise a beef stew in July as in January.

Still, with a nip in the air and some nog in a glass, tis the season.

I recently rifled my recipes searching for several favorites, and set aside the following:

—Zinfandel Braised Beef Short Ribs

—Hearty Beef Stew, an Emeril concoction with a few modifications

—Potted Roast, my own blend of several recipes, and a part of my book

—Potato and Leek Soup, a personal favorite

—Butternut Squash Soup

—Corn Chowder, though corn is not in season—no matter in SoCal

—Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

—Rosemary White Bean Soup.

In the previous post, one of Michael Pollen’s consumption caveats is to avoid products that make health claims. To that point, allow me to list the ingredients of Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken. Excuse me while I find my magnifying glass. Okay, here we go: chicken stock, modified food starch, cooked chicken meat, water, maltodextrin, cream (milk), wheat flour, vegetable oil, contains less than 1 % of: soy protein concentrate, lower sodium natural seasalt, cornstarch, beta carotene for color, potassium chloride, flavoring, salt, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, chicken fat, autolyzed yeast extract, soy protein isolate, sodium phosphates, spice, chicken flavor (contains chicken stock, chicken powder, chicken fat), spice extract.

How’s that for getting those taste buds salivating?—especially autolyzed yeast extract, chicken powder, and maltodextrin.

In contrast, here are the ingredients of a soup I made two days ago: ½ stick of butter, 2 medium leeks, 3 stalks celery, 2 large carrots, 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, 1 jalapeno, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, coarse sea salt, 1 medium butternut squash, 4 cups homemade chicken stock, or water, ½ cup heavy cream, white pepper, and toasted chopped pecans. It was amazing.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Food Caveats

Michael Pollan, author of the best seller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a new book out entitled In Defense of Food. At the end of it he lists tips and/or admonitions about food.

  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.
  3. Avoid products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose syrup.
  4. Avoid food products that make health claims.
  5. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
  6. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
  7. Shake the hand that feeds you.
  8. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  9. You are what you eat eats too.
  10. If you have the space, buy a freezer.
  11. Eat like an omnivore.
  12. Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
  13. Eat wild foods when you can.
  14. Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
  15. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
  16. Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
  17. Have a glass of wine with dinner.
  18. Pay more, eat less.
  19. Eat meals.
  20. Do all of your eating at a table.
  21. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  22. Try not to eat alone.
  23. Consult your gut.
  24. Eat slowly.
  25. Cook, and if you can, plant a garden.

I offer these without snark, or humor, because most of the time I am quite serious about food.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Annual Power Surge

Living in a relatively high-end cul de sac brings with it responsibilities, especially during the holidaze season, when it’s time for the annual power surge.

It isn’t enough that we keep our property coifed and houses sufficiently presentable so that the association’s architectural committee doesn’t begin sending threatening letters.

Duding the place up for the holidaze has always been on the guy side of the to-do ledger so there is no BS in Domestic Engineering course to take, other than a memory one. This domestic engineer guy can never remember from one year to the next how he strung up the front-of-the-house lights, adding more stress to the stringing.

This year I was without my helper, our golden retriever, Dutch. We had to put him down in early November.

Three of our four closest neighbors (even the non-Christian Chinese family) defy tradition and hang strings of white icicles from their front roofs. Thank goodness for the Thai Buddhist family two doors down. Otherwise we’d be surrounded by four faux wintery symbols.

I’ll stick with old-fashioned multi-colored bulb lights—the ones that pop into a million pieces if jarred the slightest. They also create a power surge that causes a blood pressure surge when I open the January City of Anaheim electrical bill.

The other surprise is opening the credit card statements and seeing how much PJ overshot our Christmas gift budget. This will be the fourth year in a row we have vowed ourselves a minimalist Christmas.

But then I will remind myself that she is the family ATM, so I am restricted to minimalist mutterings.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wiener of the Year

A Blog about guys, domestic engineers or otherwise, wouldn’t be about guys if football didn’t show up now and then.

The BCS pairings came out yesterday. Once again they proved their paranoid, mercurial, Dark Ages mentality. Another year of BCS BS.

For the unaware, the BCS has a contractual arrangement with six college conferences: Big Ten, ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-10. Each conference winner automatically gets one of the ten berths, leaving the potential for four at-large berths. Traditionally the Rose Bowl matches the winners of the Pac-10 and the Big Ten, unless one of those teams is in the championship game. SEC teams usually end up in the Sugar Bowl.

As much as they would like to, the BCS cannot control the ranking systems that feed the final rankings. They cannot control teams from the “lesser” conferences and who and how they play on the field.

Each year 1-2 of those “lesser” teams go undefeated. This year there were two: Boise State and Texas Christian University. In order to avoid embarrassments from two previous years (Boise State “upset” Oklahoma a few years ago, and last year Utah “upset” Alabama), this year they made sure none of their pampered teams were at risk by matching Boise State (BCS ranking, 6th) and TCU (BCS ranking, 4th) in the Fiesta Bowl.

Florida, Iowa, and Cincinnati are all breathing a sigh of relief. Wimps.

The Big Ten, traditionally performing poorly in previous post-season bowls, once again has two teams in the ten BCS slots, both with two losses, thus guaranteeing the conference two major paychecks.

The BCS takes the top slot in the 2009 Wiener of the Year competition.