Monday, January 30, 2012

Food for When You've Run out of Gas - Weekend Adventures

It was a long weekend of good company, tools, 1911's, antique shops, music and board games. I arrived near Chicagoland with books, homemade bread and fudge in hand.

HOTR White Chocolate Fudge. Mix 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk and 2 packages (six squares each) of white baking chocolate. Cook at 50% power in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. Remove and stir until chocolate is melted. Add in 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1 Tablespoon orange zest, a cup of toasted and sliced almonds (dusted with a tiny bit of dark cocoa powder before toasting in the oven), 3 dashes of Vietnamese cinnamon and a drop of Mexican vanilla. Spread on foil in 8 x 8 pan (with foil overlapping edges). Chill 2 hours, remove foil, then remove fudge and slice. Yes, I brought enough to share as well as some dark chocolate and chili fudge that Midwest Chick made (her blog has the recipe a few posts back). And some more books to add to what's already out.

What's that bookmark? Ahh, worthless Communist currency. Yes, that IS fitting.

Now that I've got a few things unloaded, it's time to go explore. The firearms for Non LEO's got left behind, (the muggers, thugs and rapists, of course, are carrying) but thankfully we were exploring a great little area and people were out and about enjoying the sunshine and we enjoyed the day unbothered by anything other than the cold.

First some antique shops and lunch at an Irish Pub.

The fish and chips, enjoyed before a warm fire, were as good as any I've had in Dublin.

Then, after a drive to take some photos, back to the house to warm up and play some music and games of luck and skill. Let the games begin!

Running a fleet of Mexican Trains does tend to build the appetite. Pretty soon, lunch had worn off and everyone was running out of gas and ready for supper.

Let's see what is in the fridge to make a meal. What to make? It's cold, it's trying to spit snow, so a hot supper does sound good. There's not a lot of Aurelio's Pizza left from yesterday. Hmm. There's a half a pound of burger, some hot peppers and spices, a few canned goods, bread, cheese eggs. Oh this will be easy! We don't need no stinkin' cookbook!

Chicago Chili with Cheddar Toasts (click to enlarge photos.)

This was sort of created as I went along. It was a very thick, hearty chili, with a bit of heat and a lot of flavor. Normally, I add a square of unsweetened dark chocolate to my chili, but as we didn't have any, in went a square of Midwest Chick's cayenne fudge (dark chocolate with a touch of ancho and cinnamon). Perfect. With the chili, squares of gooey, crunchy cheddar toasts and some cold beer.

Perfect for a snowy Illinois day with friends.

Law abiding citizens may not be allowed to carry, but the chili packs some heat!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

One of the blog gang is in the hospital for repair. UPDATE!

Blogger, and a friend to many, Stephen is in the hospital with a bad infection. I just heard the news from a couple of mutual blog buddies. Those of you who can, say a little prayer for him and his family. He's good people.

UPDATE: Both Matt at Troublesome Times and Duke at Down Range have been keeping everyone posted, having talked with and/or visited Stephen. He is still quaranteed but he got to the hospital just in time, literally hours from death from a raging infection from a simple puncture wound. He's on serious pain meds but relayed he really appreciates the notes and thoughts and prayers. Visit his blog and drop him a note, I know he'll appreciate it. Also keep his wife and grandaughter in your prayers. This has been hard on them both. - B.


Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Better With Bacon - an afternoon with friends.

The morning was busy, doc appointment, ortho surgeon follow up, followed by the yearly. . . knock, knock. . . mammogram! (I'm not a glutten for punishment, but all the visits were in the same medical facility which is a fair drive north for me).

When I was done with all that, I was ready for company, so the truck was loaded up and off I went to meet Midwest Chick and Mr. B. for a bit.

We each arrived bearing presents, as we'd originally planned on exchanging gifts at Og's home holiday gathering. But when the knee went all jihad on me, I was unable to finish my shopping.

So today, we arrived, a few weeks late, but bearing brightly wrapped gifts (OK, one of the ones I did was just a silver tin used to hold either cosmetics or BB's, with a bow, but it was SHINY).

The conversation had enough laughs to make me forget the pressing issues of the morning - homemade fudge wars (I made white chocolate with dried cranberry, toasted almonds, orange zest and the barest hint of Cinnamon and Midwest Chick made dark chocolate with ancho and chipotle chili), Barkley, the newest paracord bracelets we made (you know you can get a clasp that has a tiny little handcuff key built into it) and how much we missed weekends hanging out. Midwest Chick showed her new fancy phone. The ringtone when I call them? Captain Mal saying: "Ain't we just. . ." Big Damn heroes - HA! Then it was time for gifts!

Midwest Chick knows I like two things very much. Lemon and bacon. Yellow is my favorite color and I love the taste of, and scent of lemon. Seriously, I'd take lemon meringue pie over chocolate any day. So imagine my delight when I opened up the box to find several small wrapped packages, several of which were lemon scented, body butter, lip balms, soap, lemon sugar perfume.

But what is that in the corner? Bacon Toothpicks that Mr. B. found, and Bacon perfume?? Yes!

Scent by the gods. I sprayed it on. It didn't smell like I was dipped in bacon grease, it was a very elegant and subtle floral/spice/citrus scent, with the most decided undertone of BACON! Even after the "dry down", where you can tell the quality of the oils in a perfume, it smelled not just like BACON, but like a warm, spicy woman who just fried up a pound of bacon.

I couldn't help but sniff my wrist. So did everyone sitting within two tables. This stuff smelled incredible. There were two bottles, Bacon Classic with a floral/spicy undertone ( I detected cedar wood, citrus, pepper perhaps and bergamot) and Bacon Gold which had notes of citrus, nutmeg and pepper in it. And Bacon Salty Goodness.

I imagined what would happen when I left the restaurant and stopped at the truck stop across the street for gas. Truckers would follow me home. A blue haired lady's chihuahua dog would attach itself to my leg and not let go. It wouldn't stop there. Barkley would eat my sweater. EJ would miss his next flight overseas. Mayhem would ensue. Sniff Sniff. Dang.

The bottles were medium sized, but slender, perfect for a purse. Forget pepper spray for muggers. I have anti-jihad spray for extremists!!

I was ready for anything, including the trek out.

So, if you pass a tall redhead in a huge black four by four pick up, headed for the State Line and huffing her wrist like an addict?

That would be me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dressing Well on the Road

As you all know, I spend a lot of time traveling. I take as little as I can get away with, plus gear for varying temperatures as I don't always finish my trip where I started. The wardrobe is easy as I'm either in something that looks like Joe Friday wear, or resembles bio hazard gear.

Both easy to wash and wear (or simply incinerate).

At least I smell good.

Still, I'm sometimes looking around my hotel room for things to make myself more presentable in case I'm going out on the town while on an overnight in a city where I have friends.

This for example. At a very fancy hotel (I got a cheap rate) there was an additional sink and dressing area in the master bedroom with something hanging on the wall. . . what is this?

I have to tell you, after my shower, I used it for 15 minutes and it didn't dry my hair worth a %@*#.

So, while I look around for the 3 ounce bottles of cosmetics that scattered like BB's on the floor as I pack for a few more days out, I'll leave you with some real travel dressing advice from my favorite engineer.

After work is done tomorrow, I have four days off, so some posts will come up, slightly wrinkled but legible.

Cheers - B.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Tam

Tam - For all the adventures, cat hair, Barkley care, books, bikes and boomsticks.

For IPA hoisted with cheers and tears. For the Mongolian Hordes, for Gargoyles, for the poor hippies that probably won't ever try Farmer's Market Roast Pig in Broad Ripple.

For never asking if we've run out of ways to cook bacon.

Happy Birthday my friend

Friday, January 20, 2012

COME TO THE BARK SIDE - Bacon Maple and Whiskey Scones

Bark Bark Bark!
The day dawned clear and really cold and I'd overslept past when I normally get up and let Barkley out. My day off, I still needed to get up and hop over to the Physical Therapist's.

Barkley really wanted a walk, but I can't for some weeks yet, so he went out on the zip line to take care of business, then grudgingly came in for breakfast. He seems to understand I'm not moving normally. But even though he's getting extra pats and treats, he still needs his exercise. Fortunately, his Aunt Tam has always taken care of him any time I asked her to and coworkers and my friend EJ have walked him a number of times.

Bark Bark. Stop and give me the "don't you feel guilty the way you mistreat me I'd call the SPCA if I had opposable thumbs" stare.

When I got home, I called some of my team who work the early early shift to ask if anyone could walk Barkley after work. Everyone has been great at work, moving things around where I can get to them easily, getting my coffee and stuff from the printer and offering to help with house and dog. Sure! a couple of them said, passing by my place on the way home. The more the merrier. I put a pot of coffee on and set out to frying some bacon and preheating the oven.

Nothing quite says "thanks guys" like warm from the oven Bacon Maple Whiskey Scones .

They are flaky and tender with a hint of genuine Canadian maple syrup and nutmeg and studded with chunks of Northern Indiana Amish bacon, then drizzled with a sweet maple whiskey glaze. The recipe doubles easily, and I'd suggest it if baking for more than 2 or 3. Several were consumed warm around the kitchen counter while Barkley tried to climb everyone's head. I saved one, and the rest were wrapped in foil and put in containers for all to take home after Barkley got a quick walk and the trash was taken out. Thanks!!

Come to the Bark Side. We have bacon.

Love - Brigid

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA on a Rope - Blatant Product Placements

Knees by Curad Camp Camo. Knee surgery with just three bandaids. Pretty cool.

I'm back to work full time, and let's just say it's been pretty wearing, even if assigned to desk duty. After whacking my leg really good in the kitchen the other night, it was quite swollen and I went to put the ice pack on it, the knee brace by itself not really doing anything more than putting creases in my leg. The ice pack was warm. Let's see what else in the freezer. Ahh, there's something I can use.

Then I sat down to watch NCIS.

There I am happily watching away and I feel something slowly trickling down from my knee to my ankle. This is not a good feeling. The stitches had been out a few days, one of the wounds still not completely healed after the tech dug out a stubborn stitch or two. I was aghast to see a thin stream of dark, viscous red trickling down from knee to ankle.


But wait, nothing hurts, well no more than normal, and it smells, not like copper. . . but FRUIT?

Apparently the bag of frozen berries that I had wedged under the knee brace had thawed and sprung a leak.

The world safe (if a bit fruitier), I cleaned up the mess and went back to the show.

McGee is talking - "The DSA Uses RSA Secure-ID. It's a hardware technology that generates a token every minute." Intoned in a voice like he was announcing the winner of American Idol I laughed (as would anyone with even a bit of knowledge of crypto) at the obvious product placement.

Advertising is everywhere, on TV shows, on blogs. I don't accept paid advertising or comments from strangers with a link that goes to a business I'm unfamiliar with. But I will tell people which products I like in my kitchen or shop, without expectation of anything. But that is my choice. Others rely on advertising for income, and new customers.

It's part of life, just like technology. Both help us work more informed, work smarter. I work virtual a day or so a week, often on the road. It's nice having the technology to get connected, even if in parts of my life I like things old fashioned, well built, proven over time, dependable.

But back to work means up early, virtual or not. Breakfast the last couple of weeks has been an English Muffin or cold cereal. Snap Crackle Pop reminded me too much of my knee and the Special Weigh Diet Granola I bought after seeing it advertised, looked like what remained after someone bitch slapped someone with a Nature Valley Granoa Bar (I always have a bunch of the oat ones my flight bag. I know what they look like when they get squished). What? no nuts, no fruit, no big clusters of honey goodness? That's not granola! I decided to make something different. So for lack of any erudite post tonight, as I was expecting the SOPA blog blackout going 24 hours, a recipe for everyone.

Corn Casserole with Butter and Maple Syrup.

I gave this recipe to friend Laura B. once and she made it (along with some other fine dishes) for some visiting lawmen and it was a hit.

The original recipe calls for a box of Jiffy Muffin mix. If you've got one on hand go ahead and use it. I really like Jiffy. It's handy, it's tasty, it's certainly cheap and their baking mix, for taste and price, is better than Bisquick. But cornbread is about as simple to make as anything, so if you buy in bulk you can do it better and cheaper (without artificial or possibly hydrogenated ingredients).

This recipe makes the equivalent of one box of Jiffy, to which you would add the egg and milk if you were going to make muffins. But we're not going to have muffins with our Mausers today.

"Jiffy" Style Baking Mix:

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 Tablespoons sugar (if using this for a casserole I reduce sugar to 1 heaping Tablespoon).
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil.

Mix ingredients until free of lumps, use promptly.

You can use it to make regular "Jiffy" muffins OR you can add this:

For the casserole:
1 (14 ounce) can creamed corn
1 (14 ounce) can whole kernel corn (most of the liquid drained)
8 ounces sour cream (not non fat, you're not making this for your health)
2 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon sugar(approximate for topping)

In large bowl, combine first four ingredients well.
Stir in dry corn muffin mix.
Pour into slightly oiled 9x13-inch pan or a cast iron skillet (my preference).
Drizzle melted butter over top and sprinkle with sugar (I used a mix of maple sugar, vanilla sugar and table sugar)
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes (my oven was 55 minutes).

Serve with pure maple syrup and my all time favorite blatant product placement - BACON! (seeing as how I killed the berries).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Popcorn and TV Night - What would YOU watch?

I seldom watch TV at home. Sometimes when traveling for work, I arrive back at the hotel, peruse the room service menu, and too tired to post anything of worth, consider TV. But not for long. If I watch, I do like the History Channel, NCIS, Red Green, Firefly, Top Gear and some old shows and movies, especially westerns and old classics. I get the most basic and cheapest of cable service and only because with Internet I got a deal. But with time off, and being unable to leave the house for a fair stretch of it, I got reacquainted with the TV (finding some shows almost entertaining with enough post surgery hydrocodone)

I discovered several things.

There is NO subject off limits in commercials. (Seriously, I don't want to know about the amazing merits of "Panty Shields with Wings!". Wings? Good Lord, they act like we won WWII with those things. Also, "have a nice period" Shouldn't that be changed to "vehicular manslaughter is wrong")?

If you are dead due to Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (caused by breathing the microscopic dust of ground up yard gnomes used in older insulation) you are NOT able to call the attorney listed at the end of the commercial.

No matter what time it is and how basic your cable, on one channel will be Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

I also rediscovered why I don't watch much television.

One late nights selection:

Talk show with guest - liberal Hollywood airheaded "actress"
Zombie Strippers (wait, wasn't that just on the previous channel?)
Cindy Crawfords Skin Secrets!
Rock of Love
Murder She Wrote (look, every time Jessica Fletcher shows up at a dinner party someone gets murdered, and yet she keeps getting invited, hellooooo)
Great Horse Cleaning Tips ( Maybe that was "house cleaning", at least I hope so.)
Depression and Anxiety Help (you invited Jessica Fletcher over for beer and Brats didn't you?)
Pimp my mailbox (or some such home decorating show)
Infomercials (I've got to get one now, I've nothing to wear if Caligula comes on later)

Petty Officer Junction - (the silly other NCIS show)
BBC's "Fastest Animals on Earth (sorry folks it's still a fully grown Holstein dropped from a C-130 at 150.626 ft/sec assuming a 0.7 drag coefficient)
And of course, Home Shopping Channel:
Buy Jewelry Now!
Jewelry and You!
Jewelry to accessorize with your wearable towel!

What were/are your favorite shows? If the Internet was down tomorrow for something what would you watch? Or would you watch at all?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Wookie wraps up the weekend - Blog Meet

You're taking me, aren't you? - Barkley

It was a great weekend with friends, both far and near, gathering. Saturday was my first day out of the house in three weeks, other than short hops for physical therapy, a couple car pools in to the office and a stop at a store on the way back from the Doctor's in another little town. I couldn't drive, can't do any sort of travel for a while, but boy, did it feel good to get out for a day.

Lunch Saturday was meeting up with friends at one of the best Thai restaurants in the big city, a little strip mall gem you might miss, and you don't want too. When I make my monthly trek to the city and Trader Joe's I always stop there for lunch., the drunken noodles being the best in town.

The meals start with a Spring Roll and a bowl of Gang Jead Woon Sen which I am going to go buy a gallon of the next time I have a cold (they do take out at

The dinner entrees are served family style and are often big enough to serve two, so our selections of Pud Priew Waan (a hot and sweet and sour stir fry with lots of fresh vegetables and chicken) and Pud Kra Prow (beef with several types of fresh pepers, onion and fresh Thai basil - yumm!) with rice, were more than enough to go around. It's a family business, with subtle but very attentive service, spotlessly clean surroundings and colorful decor (but I smiled at the TV towards the back, for the guys to watch football in the middle of a Thai restaurant - Go Colts!)

I always wonder why when you have a table of people of Scandahoovian, German or Celt descent, with ice blue or light green eyes, and you order Thai Hot, they ALWAYS say "are you sure??"

Yes, I'm sure.

After that, a wave goodbye and EJ and I headed West to drive through the country so I could take some photos. He had to explain to me that I needed to be careful regarding my shouted road warnings, as having driven much on business in the UK, when his seat mate yelled "SHEEP!!!" it meant immediate road hazard, not oh, let's slow down so I can take a picture of the little bastards.

Roger. :-)

Duly trained, we stopped and took photos of a couple of barns (which were guarded by legions of burrs), a cow or two and just to be polite, homemade ice cream from the cows home, at the Traderspoint Creamery (another excellent spot for lunch in the IND area). Caramel and Blackberry were the choices today. I'm glad we only ordered "one scoop" or we'd not be able to finish them.

As we sat in their beautifully restored restaurant in a barn I had the most overwhelming urge for cheese. Most odd.

Then, with a jug of their french style Yogurt for the fridge and some cheese to take home, we were off to Marsh grocers to pick up stuff to cook for supper. I had to use the electric cart, too sore from the photo walking to go far. I have to say, after having been to three business establishments and using their carts as I recovered, I would rate them as follows:

WalMart - Best on speed. Quite decent on maneuverability. They have enough forward motion you can do a donut in produce. The greeters were also very helpful in getting it unhooked from the charger and no one called the cops after that incident with the Billy Bass and the crutch.

Marsh Grocery on 86th: Second fastest on speed, but the store is NOT laid out to be friendly to anyone using one with tight displays everywhere (look out it's GATORADE!)

Target in Plainfield - for starters, when there are two greeters in a very unbusy store and there is a lady 20 feet away with a cane and a knee brace the size and shape of Chili on her leg, and it's obvious the electric cart she is trying to use is not starting, quit talking about snow boarding and ask if you can help before she hobbles painfully away. That being said, Secretariat AFTER he died is faster than a Target mobile cart.

Then it was home to store some ammo supplies and a couple of Zombie targets and get dinner started. (which was posted earlier today for those interested in Range Recipes)


Sunday dawned clear and cold, breakfast was half a crumpet with a new jar of Lingonberry jam (thank you North family!) after the feast of yesterday and Barkley was taken out for a long, much awaited walk while I did my flamingo impression in the shower. Not being up to the gun show, I got a ride to the Blog Meet, an impromptu one after the gun show activities were winding down. Roberta has obviously heard about my activities on the store electric carts

It was a good turn out for being on short notice.

From left at 8 o'clock and around clockwise - Mr. Engineering Johnson, my empty seat as I was taking the photos, Roberta X, Old Grouch, The Jack, Shermlock Shomes , Tam K., Don's wife and Don - official lurker #2 and a welcome visitor at our last blog meet.

Conversation was as lively and varied as the group. Guns and gaming, food and fairs, wookies and weaponry. Why if Tam can't win a giant stuffed llama at the fair, the shooting game is obviously rigged and why it's never a good idea to run up a large white bra up the mast on a U.S. military ship when the Captain is awake somewhere.

Food was plentiful and varied. As usual the Scotch Eggs disappeared fast. I think the Wookie ate them.

Tam, the Wookie's companion, pleads the Fifth.

As always there was brewpub favorites like their IPA and Lawnmower Pale Ale, a selection of pub food, including fish and chips . .

. . . and hot pretzels, and a daily special, one of which was Turkey Manhattan (for non Hoosiers, that's an open faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes under (or more authentically, between, the plated slices of bread) all covered with homemade gravy.

Three of the group had driven in quite a ways, so soon it was time to say goodbye. We departed, full, smiling, and looking forward to another one. Thanks everyone, as always it was a lot of fun.

Saturday Night Special - Herb Encrusted Pork Roast with Cherry Bourbon Balsamic

More weekend adventures coming up later, as there's company at the Range and more knee friendly outings planned with friends.

Last night was a simple dinner at the Range with my favorite engineer. We started with two pounds of rolled pork loin.

It was seared on all sides straight on a cast iron skillet with just a smidge of olive oil (using less oil for the sear gives better color). Then it was lightly rubbed with more olive oil (Koroneiki EVOO from Greece, from my favorite oil, vinegar and spice store, Artisano's in Indianapolis) and dusted on all sides with dried rosemary and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

To the bat oven!

After it was in the oven, a large sweet yellow onion was chopped in fairly large slices and placed in a large pan with more olive oil to caramelize on medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Prepared as side dishes were garlic mashed potatoes, hearts of romaine with Romano vinaigrette and rosemary infused Italian loaf served with oil and Tuscan herbs.

Then the onions were placed in with the roast and returned to the oven for the last 30 minutes of cooking. You are aiming for an internal temperature, deep in the roast, of 155 degrees F, for medium (it will continue to cook a few more degrees as it rests after removing from the oven.)

I can stand guard over this. Seriously, nothing will happen to this pig on MY watch!

After the meat had rested 15 minutes, it was cut in thick pieces. Both roast and onions were drizzled at serving with a generous helping of 12 year old Cherry Balsamic Bourbon Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar, also from Artisano's. A Christmas specialty, this stuff is amazing, 1998 Balsamic Vinegar from Modena Italy, infused with Black Cherries and finished in a 1996 American Oak Kentucky Bourbon Barrel. If you can't get your hands on some, try any high quality cherry Balsamic vinegar. (Note: Artesano's doesn't have an online ordering site but if you call them, the local family business will ship).

Click to enlarge the photo. Drool.