Monday, November 05, 2007

Time to move my blog

I have spent a month or so, playing with new stuff and I am ready to start keeping my blog up to date at a brand new website. www.jefferyclark.net. Its not perfect, and I still need to work out some kinks, but I have been learning how to manage a web site, how to add my own stuff and overtime, I will add new and different stuff as I get more geeky with the technology.

So check out www.jefferyclark.net. You will notice I am moving my recipes to that location as well, so I will be able to add many more.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Parent Day

We did our parental duty and visited our son, who is a freshman at St. Mary's College last Saturday. A quick flight to Oakland and a ride on BART to Walnut Creek where Will met us. We spent most of the day in Walnut Creek, having coffee, lunch and shopping for wardrobe items that he realized that he needed after spending 6 weeks at school. After lunch, we headed to campus and helped him unpack the new items in his dorm room. Male dorm rooms have not changed since I lived in one, but it iss always nice to see such quality reading in a dorm room, although I will question his taste in DVDs.

After a quick visit with his roommate's family and a quick tour of the campus, Will took us back to the airport for our short flight home to the OC. We left with the knowledge that Will has adapted well to college life and seems to be enjoying himself and learning at the same time. Too bad college life can't last 40 years, as it is a fun time.

In December, we will make our parental inspection of Nicky, but that one is a lot harder. A 14 hour flight to Wellington. But we get to ride jet boats, hike glaciers and ride on trains.

I think I am going to like making parental inspections.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Do you know the way to?

It started as a little trip to pick up my fall shipment from Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles. It ended up as an adventure cruising the back roads of San Luis Obispo county sampling some wine and some excellent food. The weekend got a little more extravagant when dining at our favorite restaurant, Citrus City Grille, the owner over heard our plans and arranged what he thought was a stay at EOS Winery. When I confirmed with the winery, they let us know the only place to stay at their winery was on the cellar floor. We quickly arranged a stay at a friends condo in San Luis Obispo.

We left Orange at 5am, ate at a truck stop in Lebec so we could arrive at EOS on the west side of town, for our arranged 10:30am tour. The tour ended up as a conversation with the assistant wine maker as my buddy, a microbiologist, talked yeast with the wine maker. After we learned more about yeast than any of us needed to know, we went down and sampled all of their really nice, food friendly, very drinkable wines. We walked away with many of their desert wines and bottles of their better whites and reds. Other stops in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo included the following:
  • Cass Winery: Wines were so so, but the rural setting along with the sit down tasting on the patio along with a very nice cafe made the whole experience wonderful. We enjoyed a very nice cheese plate ($17) while we sipped our wines. I felt guilty not buying any of their wines as the whole experience was worth more than the cost of a bottle.
  • Eagle Castle: A castle looking building built as a huge tourist and bus trap. The most fun we had their was watching a mini bus tour guide who reached the breaking point while dealing with an unruly, drunk tour group.
  • Tablas Creek: We enjoyed a private tasting of my fall shipment and along with the wine, they served various types of food (tomato salad, green salad, sliced smoked ham and beef stew) that complemented each of the wines served. All wine tastings should be done this way.
  • Claibourne & Churchill: They are in Edna Valley, and although they were out of many of their wines, the ones we tasted were very good. They are releasing their new wines next week and I think I might have to get some.
  • Kynsi Winery: A very small family run winery housed in an old dairy. It was fun to see sisters argue over the phone. I am willing to go back just to see if things change. Wines were good but nondescript.
In the middle, we had dinner at Villa Creek, a very nice restaurant in Paso Robles. We had just come from Tablas Creek, so we weren't that hungry and our wine senses were numbed, so we limited ourselves to split entrees and some gelato. Well worth a trip back there.

So, six wineries in two days. California has 4,800 wineries. I am looking forward to many more adventures.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where everyone is going

My daughter lives here now. Our adopted "son" is already there and owns a house. His wife and their two dogs left our house last night to go here. Annette Will and I are heading there before Christmas, so I thought I would play a commercial for the location.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Whole Foods still a grocery store?

In my previous post Where am I going to shop?, I lamented about the closing of the local Whole Foods that was replaced with a much large Whole Foods that is farther away. But being a good foodie, I was willing to give it a try. Over the last week and half I visited three times: Sunday of Labor Day weekend, a week night after work, and last Saturday as part of my weekly shopping. Before I talk about inside the store, let me first rile about its location. Its about as far away from a freeway as you can get in Orange County. Traffic around the shopping center where its located was bad on Sunday and the weekday (it was impossible right after work). Parking was terrible, and with more stores going in, including a Best Buy next door, will only get worse. So those three things put the store at a huge disadvantage. But lets go inside.
  • The produce section was larger and quality appeared the same with some more variety (they had more types of peppers)
  • The fish market expanded and now has a selection of whole fish
  • Whole Foods meat and poultry always seem good but expensive. This week, they were reasonably priced, so they get a nod as long as prices stay lower.
  • Alex, my favorite produce guy is still there, but he leaves for school next week
  • Didn't see a lot of regular paper goods and cleansers
  • They had a whole lot of places to buy prepared foods including Italian, Mexican, Brazilian, Japanese, ice cream, bakery goods, smoked meats, grilled foods, etc.
With all the prepared food stations, it feels and acts much more like a lunch time cafeteria that also has a small grocery store inside. So will I go back? Probably. The quality of the produce keeps me coming back and with the expanded fish section and hopefully lower meat prices, that will be enough for me to spend a larger portion of my Saturday shopping. What will keep me from going there is if the new Sprouts or Mothers stores that are proposed to move into Tustin offer what I am looking for in a grocery store and skip the cafeteria look and feel.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Surviving the Heat

Its been hot here. Brutally hot. Normally, if you are within 15 miles of the coast here in Orange County you can get some warm days, but the nights cool off, so sleeping is bearable. But a few weeks out of the year that big ocean 12 miles away does us no good and our house gets hot. Last week was one of those weeks, but we survived and are now enjoying the cool afternoon ocean breezes. One of these years we will spend the money to add air conditioning to our humble abode. Needless to say, all cooking, cleaning and physical activity was put on hold during the heat wave.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where am I going to shop?

The local Whole Foods store closed this week and opened a new larger store in an outdoor mall in a location that is slightly farther away and much more inconvenient. With this move, and with the kids now gone from the house it has made me evaluate my shopping needs. For the past year or so, I would travel down to Whole Foods and buy produce, fish, some good tortilla chips, cheese, some Kashi cereal I couldn't find elsewhere, and some other odd and ends, then travel across the street to Alberstons to buy meat and chicken, paper goods and cleaning supplies. Our milk is delivered to our house, and I would occasionally shop at Claro's for great deli meats and Italian cooking supplies. With Whole Foods at the center of my Saturday shopping moved farther away what am I going to do?

What I liked about Whole Foods was their consistent high quality of produce, whether it was farmed organically or using standard practices. Other produce markets nearby lacked the consistency of quality. I didn't really care about organic. What I cared about was the freshness of the product (did it last long enough at my house) and does it taste good. Usually a store brand tomato, whether organic or not, has little flavor. Now give me an heirloom or locally grown tomato and yum.

So here is what I want in a grocery store.
  • A good selection of fresh, flavorful produce (I will measure variety by how many chile peppers types do they carry)
  • A good fish market (regular grocery stores fall flat in this area)
  • Reasonably priced meat market (Costco would match this criteria, Whole Foods does not)
  • It would be nice to have regular old tissue and paper towels in the same market
  • I rarely buy prepared foods from any market, so the less of this the better.
I will check out the new Whole Foods this weekend, and report back next week. Who knows, maybe I will be blown away and buy prepared meals for my wife and I for the entire week and give up cooking. After all there are only two of us at home....

On second thought, cooking is my hobby and that would take away the enjoyment of cooking for my wife and friends.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Helping the kids fly the coop

This has been a hectic week for the Clark household. On Thursday, we move our son out of our house and into the dorms at St. Mary's college, and then on the following Monday, our daughter leaves for New Zealand to work as a swim instructor, or any other work she can find over the next 10 or more months. So prior to becoming empty nesters, there is a buzz of activity, including going away parties, shopping for those last minute items, and cleaning out stuff that has accumulated for a dozen years or more. Adding to the chaos is a house guest and two extra dogs who are staying until mid September. Even though the house is a clutter, their is not enough time to do everything, we all have opinions on the correct way to do even the most trivial task, my wife and I would not have it any other way.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Waiting for that cool autumn air

I hate cooking in summertime. Summertime calls for cool foods like fruit, cucumbers, melons, mayo and grilled proteins like chicken, burgers and salmon. It also means that slow cooking like roasting or braising is out of the question as it heats up the house, when the house is already to warm. Even if you could cook a meal without any restrictions, the heat also changes your diet. Having melt in your mouth braised short ribs just isn't appetizing in August, but it is to die for in November.

My culinary talents lie more in fall and winter cooking. Root vegetables, dark greens, braising, hearty soups, slow cooking sauces, and fresh homemade pasta. Spring and summer force me to experiment with foods to keep the food light and refreshing. For example, I like fruit as a snack, but making a meal out of plums or peaches just doesn't make me reach for a cookbook. Fall and winter foods are rich, multi-layered and filling yet still healthy. The best thing I can think of for summer is spicy foods, mainly tacos and salsa.

Now I have to admit, this summer has been pleasant in Southern California. No really hot days so far. But my eye is on the calendar and the 10 day forecast, waiting for that first cool blast of fall to hit hot Southern California. You know that day has arrived when your sitting at home in the evening and while watching tv, you have to get up to close the window because its too cold. That night you will find me reading cook books in search of the next great fall fare.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hotel Clark


The house has been a hotel this summer (not as packed as last summer where international water polo players invaded for the summer). Before and after our family cruise, a lovely family from New Zealand made our home their home away from home while they attended weddings of family members in Southern California and England. Will still lives here but is busy getting ready to head off to college. Nicky lives in San Diego, but is busy getting ready to move to New Zealand. With their pending moves, they seem to be in and out of the house more than normal. August will bring Ivana to our house for a month prior to joining her husband in New Zealand. I also offered our guest room to a co-worker who is visiting for a week in August from Oregon.

Although the house is busy, Annette and I would hot have it any other way. We find time to cherish the quiet moments like a simple panini and a glass of wine for dinner. But its the energy and vitality that thrills us when the guest room is full. With the kids leaving in late August and Ivana leaving in September, we are now taking reservations for October. Family and friends can make their reservations online or, get this, can even call us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Best of the Best

Sorry for the delay, but a family vacation got in the way. These are the Go-Go parks. You should make every attempt to attend a game at all of these stadiums. They run the gambit from the oldest to some of the newest stadiums, but they all have one thing in common. They each enhance the fan experience, making visiting a game even that much more exciting. So here are my top 5 parks:

The Top 5

  1. Wrigley Field, Chicago - Where else is a Wednesday afternoon game against the Rockies feel like game 7 of a post season series? Good seats help here, but there is so much energy both inside and outside the stadium, I dare you not to enjoy yourself. The fans go to have fun and fun is had by all. Check out my 10 second clip of the last play of the game. video
  2. Fenway, Boston - Go early and soak up Yawkey Way. The build up outside the stadium is like a great warm up act at a concert. It gets the blood pumping and you are so excited when you enter the stadium, it makes the first pitch exciting.
  3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh - Absolutely the best stadium. Too bad the team has been bad for many years. The back drop of the city at sunset is stunning and surreal. They have great food, not a bad seat in the park, fun stuff around the stadium, what's not too like?
  4. AT&T Park, San Francisco - The view of the bay from the upper decks is wonderful. The place smells of garlic and although the upper decks are pretty high, the whole complex is small and includes free views from the right field fence. The park itself has enough quirks but they don't come across as gimics. A short porch in right is complemented with a deep right field gap. Angles make things interesting yet left field seems so symmetrical. It also helps that the Giants are my favorite team.
  5. Petco, San Diego - Both Petco and Comerica in Detroit dared to be different. The Tigers embedded the Tiger logos throughout the stadium making it unique. The Padres took on the California Beach and recreated it in the stadium by using sand colors rather than red brick and green steel. Their park in the park is great and they paid homage to older stadiums by incorporating existing buildings into the park. Even cascading plants in the concourse areas give you that Californian feel.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Take me out to the ball game

Now that we dispensed with the no-go and so-so parks, its time to talk about the 11 parks that you should take the time to visit and catch a game. Parks 6-11 are as follows:
  • Jacobs Field, Cleveland - A good looking downtown park in a city that has adopted its rock and roll heritage. The food was so-so, but being downtown gives it a fun atmosphere.
  • Camden Yards, Baltimore - The original new stadium built to be old. Newer stadiums have improved on the design, but they should get credit for being first. Boog's BBQ and the warehouse make it worthwhile.
  • Safeco, Seattle - The best of the retractable roof stadiums. Being next to the football stadium, they have created a little Yawkey Way in front of the stadium. Trains run nearby and blow their whistle during the game adding to the experience.
  • Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia - Another new park that got it right. Big concourses to walk and still watch the game. They have wide concourses on all of the levels. There were so many places to walk and gain different views of the game, you could walk all game. They do have cheese steaks at the park.
  • Busch Stadium, St. Louis - The new Busch is like many of the other new parks; clean, wide concourses, red brick, iron structure, but the structure is nothing special. But take in a game and you will notice what makes the difference, the fans. They draw from a wide swath of the Midwest and at game time its like a swarm of red bees headed toward the hive. When a fly ball is hit to center field for an out the scoreboard reads just 8. Everyone seems to nod and agree and writes the result in their score book. These are fans.
  • Comerica Park, Detroit - I really like this park. Its different. They have embraced the Tigers with Tiger statues, Tiger claw marks in the stadium walls, Tiger history throughout the stadium. This makes the stadium standout from many of the new stadiums. The food is outstanding, they have a great scoreboard, what else could you want? Some fun outside the stadium for one. The area is run down and falling apart. Put this park in any other city and its definitely in my top 5.
Next post, My Top 5

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So So Parks

These are the parks classified as So-So. If you are in town, then I would catch a game at one of these parks, but I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to make a special trip to the stadium.

The older Stadiums with some history:
  • Yankee Stadium, New York - After the remodel of the stadium in the 70's, there is nothing special about the stadium. What is has going for it is history and very knowledgeable and loyal fans.
  • Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles - A simple stadium that has gotten old. One big reason to go is grilled Dodger Dogs. With so much going on in LA, their fans are bandwagon fans, and even if they are going good, the fans are just not that enthusiastic.
  • Kaufman Stadium, Kansas City - A Dodger Stadium clone with a nicer outfield with fountains and grass.
The following parks are stadiums with retractable roofs. All are nice, but they don't add much to the baseball experience. Of the three, I would give Minute Maid a nod as the best of the three.
  • Minute Maid Park, Houston - Has some uniqueness that gives it an edge.
  • Chase Field, Phoenix - A mall with a baseball stadium. Fits the Phoenix market, but not spectacular.
  • Miller Park, Milwaukee - You must get the Bratwurst with the works and special sauce
The following parks are nice, but have little or no personality
  • US Cellular Field, Chicago - A new stadium with one big draw, the fans. The fans make it a fun experience.
  • Coors Field, Denver - Nice downtown ballpark, just too damn big
  • Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati - A new ballpark that tried to pay homage to many facets of Cincinnati baseball history and ended up with a stadium without focus. Looks like the stadium was designed was based on a series of compromises.
  • Fulton County Stadium, Atlanta - Largest video board I have ever seen.
  • Angel Stadium, Anaheim - A nice stadium that they ruined when the Rams moved in. When the Rams moved out, they tried to fix it. Its better, but without major changes, it will be hard to crack the Go-Go list. Fans have improved after the 2002 World Series, very loud and loyal.
  • Ball Park at Arlington - It suffers the same problem as the park in Cincinnati, no focus. They tried to be cute by added an office building but it just doesn't work.
Of all the So-So parks, US cellular is probably my favorite. The fans make it worth the experience. Loud, obnoxious and loyal. Those are good fans.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Now that I have visited every major league park that is currently being used, there is a strong desire to rank my favorites. To help me in my ranking, I decided to group the stadiums into three categories; Go-Go, So-So and No-Go. Go-Go stadiums give the fan a unique baseball experience and everyone that enjoys baseball should go out of their way to attend a game at these ball parks. Ball parks that fall into the So-So category are nice stadiums and if you are in the area and have the time, catch a game. Most of the time you will have a good time. The stadiums that qualify for No-Go should be avoided unless you are an avid baseball fan. It is hard at these ball parks to really have a great baseball experience unless your lucky enough to watch a great game.

So to start the analysis, here are the No-Go Parks:

  • Tropocana Field, Tampa Bay
  • Rogers Centre, Toronto
  • Shea Stadium, New York
  • McAfee Colosseum, Oakland
  • Metrodome, Minneapolis
  • Dolphin Stadium, Miami
  • RFK Stadium, Washington DC
None of these stadiums add anything unique to the baseball experience and in some cases they distract from watching the game. All of these stadiums are general purpose (except for Dolphin which was designed for watching football). Even food at these parks is bland and general purpose. For example, at the Metrodome, one person ordered deep fried cheese curds. Anything deep fried should taste great, but these were down right nasty. If you do attend a game at one of these parks, make sure you have good seats and good friends as the conversations at the game maybe the most memorable part of your visit.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Seamhead 2007

I just returned from my annual baseball roadtrip where my brother and I, along with some friends and other family members, visit several ballparks in a week. This year's trip included stops in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago's Wrigley Field, Detriot, Toledo (minor league game), Cleveland and Pittsburg. This trip marks the culmination for my brother and I of visiting all 30 major league parks that are currently being used. In future posts, I will offer my rankings of favorite stadiums, but I will clue you in that it is hard to beat a soldout day game at Wrigley Field where the Cubs win with storm clouds gather overhead. It is very hard to have a better pure baseball experience than that.

We did come close in Cleveland when we saw a player, starting in his first game, hit a walk off winning home run for Cleveland. For a more intimate baseball experience, take in a minor league game. The park in Toledo was a small version of PNC park in Pittsburg. Snuggled downtown in clean fun town, its a good way to spend an evening.
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Friday, June 15, 2007

Two down and none to go

We attended our son's high school graduation yesterday, leaving my wife and I with no kids in the house (well soon no kids in the house) and two in college. The graduation ceremony for high school has changed in the thirty years since I got my diploma.
  • Class sizes are bigger (His, 469, mine 250)
  • Fewer speeches by the kids
  • More speeches by the elected school board members
  • More dos and dont's for the kids during the ceremony (with teachers sitting in each section)
  • A formal portrait with the school board member giving you the diploma (Why?)
At least the class got to enjoy an all night party put on by the parents at the school. It seems to me, this is the best tradition for any graduation as it keeps the kids safe on the one night that it is guaranteed even smart kids will do something stupid.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hitting to all fields

I would thought I would spend one post to catch up on a lot of past subjects, so here it goes
  • I ran 9 miles the last two Sunday's with better times each Sunday. Yesterday I finished in 82 minutes, which is much faster than I planned. I am getting better at pacing myself, so I think I will do more short runs outside rather than on a treadmill. Looks like I will be getting up early to get a few miles in several mornings a week.
  • I have been real good about varying breakfasts each day. A new favorite is a small bagel, smoked salmon and a splash of cream cheese. I am not eating much cereal these days, as I find it too sweet. Another good morning treat is Canadian bacon, tomato, and cheese on an English muffin.
  • I picked up a Bobby Flay cookbook a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I was bored with my standard fair. I didn't know what to expect from the book, except he has a lot of great pictures of food. The book itself is a poor cookbook. It lists lots of recipes with a variety of sauces scattered all through the cookbook, but very little instruction on which sauce with which dish, or how they should be assembled. I ended up making a few of the main dishes and a handful of his mother sauces. I took a whack at putting them together and I must say WOW! The flavors are bold and because the sauces are very colorful, the food looks wonderful. I will report more on his recipes after I experiment with my family this weekend.
  • I was doing some research on ticketing systems for work, and I came to realize tickets to Padre games on the secondary market are much cheaper that similar tickets to Angel games. Good thing I am a Giant fan, but it makes going to Angel games with good tickets very hard to do without getting your own season tickets.
  • I need to find a better way to publish recipes. The Google pages are not set up real well for repetitive style pages.
  • I have been doing some web 2.0 research as well. So many social network sites, so many web identities. I think we all need to create a single web identity that has two faces (one personal and one work) and if you come across a social network you like, you just submit your personal or work web identity. Probably exists, but I haven't found it yet.
  • Ok, I am a Giant fan, and Barry Bonds is probably a jerk to all but his closest friends (I am sure he is not the only other great player to be called a jerk, Ty Cobb comes to mind), but why do I have to listen to all this scorn about Bonds breaking the home run record. One, Bonds has never been a jerk to me, so I can't hold that against him. Two, It is probably safe to assume, Bonds is not the only player (betting more pitchers than hitters) to take performing enhancing drugs, whether it be steriods, HGH, amphetamines, cocaine, or enhance their skills with contacts, lasik eye, knee, shoulder and elbow surgery and many other medical miracles. Baseball encouraged performing enhancing drugs by ignoring the issue for a dozen or more years. Baseball owes the fans more of an apology than Bonds, Giambi or any other accused player. We should admire these players for what they accomplished on the field. Over time the whole steroid issue, will be just one more argument for writers at Hardball Times to add in their statistical analysis to compare players from different eras.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Run for Fun

In my effort to trim my weight without going on a isolating restricted diet, I decided to expand my regular workout to include more aerobic exercises. So I moved from a somewhat regular weight training workout to a workouts that included running two to three times a week on a treadmill at the gym. I was running about 10 miles a week. My wife, who walks regularly, encouraged me to go out one Sunday and run, so I went for a 4 mile run in fresh air and really really enjoyed it. So I set a goal for myself to increase my mileage from 10 miles to 20 miles a week. Thanks to Smart Coach on Runners World, and being able to map out runs at MapMyRun.com, I will be running 20 miles this week after this Sunday's 9 mile run. I am 9 weeks into a 12 week program that is supposed to increase my speed and thanks to reduced mileage weeks, reduce injuries. There have been only a couple of the training runs that I have not been able to complete. A cramp in my calf kept me from finishing an 8 mile run a few weeks ago, and early one of my speed runs was just too much. After my 12 week program, I think I will just add a new 12 week program to slowly increase my speed to the point where I am running 9 minute miles for my long Sunday runs (my current pace is about 9:40). That may not happen until this time next year, but seems like a reasonable goal. And, no I am not training for a marathon. The last thing my body needs is the abuse of a marathon. 12-13 miles is about as long as I want to run.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why baseball causes arguments

I have always been a baseball fan, dreaming of playing center field for the Giants, but lacking speed, size and hand eye coordination, I learned to love the game and its history. Many summers were spent playing baseball on a near by cul-de-sac then playing hundreds of games of Sports Illustrated All Time baseball late into the night. This was a dice baseball game with 16 teams of all time greats with players stats encrypted behind charts that revealed results with each throw of the the three die. Along comes Bill James' Baseball Abstract, and I spent time analyzing the statistics of every player by disecting every player's chart and applying the probability statistics to the dice and determine every player's OBA, slugging and run created value. By the time I got to college, where we would form leagues and play to celebrate the opening of the baseball season, the more games I played the more I won as I used my statistical probability against my opponents emotionally selected teams.

As I went on to design business software, many of those with similar reverence for baseball, statistics and history went on to make careers out of analyzing baseball statistics with many now holding jobs for teams helping GMs with which players to keep, let go, or sign (I should have gotten that mathematics degree). There are now many web sites promoting their analysis, but one of the best is Hardball Times. They take some of the simplest questions and apply their statistical background to prove or disprove their hypothesis. But as I review their analysis (or as much as I understand), I find myself happy when there conclusion agrees with my belief and upset when it doesn't. Instead of changing my mind on a topic, I find myself trying to shoot holes through their entire analysis. If I bring up even one of their conclusions with other baseball fans, the discussion turns to alot of I told you sos or disdain for the conclusion and emotional responses are generated on both sides of the argument. But that is the beauty of baseball as small insignificant analysis can result in passionate debates. In case you want to stimulate a baseball conversation in your community, I have added the Hardball Times to my side bar.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eddible Time Machine

My brother called these pickled beets a time machine. The taste sent him back 40 years to the tastes of our house growing up. This recipe is based on Alton Brown's recipe in his show Beet It.

Keep me motivated

As part of my research for work, I was reviewing web sites that utilize Web 2.0 technology to find ways that will allow our sites to sell more tickets. I have been playing with many of these sites for about a month. One site lets me track my ongoing fitness level. If you want to track my progress and be a motivator, go to my training page at My Traineo.

At this site you can see me weight, workouts and other fitness characteristics and you can be a motivator.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Breakfast Five Ways

I accomplished my goal of five different breakfasts; one for each workday this week. Here is the breakdown.

  • Monday - Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal, blueberries and non fat milk. A light breakfast because I had a lunch meeting that day. Being cereal, it was quick and easy.
  • Tuesday - Whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter and bananas with a glass of non fat milk. Very filling. I didn't eat until after my noon run.
  • Wednesday - Steel cut Oatmeal with blueberries and maple syrup. The longest to cook, but sure was tasty. I usually have this on Saturday mornings. I ended up reading the newspaper as I cooked the oatmeal.
  • Thursday - Breakfast sandwich with a toasted whole wheat English muffin, Canadian bacon, a fried egg and salsa. Easier than I thought and filling.
  • Friday - Two croissants and jelly. Very Italian style breakfast. Very tasty, but I am sure not that healthy, but once a week can't hurt right?
My favorites were probably the oatmeal and the breakfast sandwich. I was going to make pancakes on Friday, but I ran out of eggs. I probably need to find a couple more quick breakfasts so I can rotate more variety. I am looking for more savory options. Any suggestions?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Recipe Update

I am going to move my recipes to my new website My Cookbook. That way I won't clog the blog with long recipes, and all the recipes will be found in a single location. It will also get me more space to let me comment on food in general. I will first be adding the recipes that are already on the blog. As I add new recipes, I will let you know here first.

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper

A while back I lamented about my too sweet American breakfast and I was going to search for a less sweet alternative. Ultimately, I switched my bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch to a bowl of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal with non fat milk and some blueberries for my fruit. The new cereal is less sweet, full of fiber and whole grains, so I was content. But something happened over the last several weeks when I started to increase my weekly running miles. During my lunch time workout, I was starving, even though I ate my new whole grain cereal and having a mid morning snack (a banana). I realized I probably needed more protein in my morning meal.

The other thing that hit me was we generally desire meal variety at lunch and dinner, but for breakfast many of us are creatures of habit and eat the same thing most mornings. We even get upset when the box of cereal that we each morning is empty forcing us to find something else or just skip breakfast. To get more morning protein, I needed to break my breakfast habits, so that means variety.

I remembered an old German proverb;

"Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."

This eating pattern makes a lot of sense. The problem is who has the time to cook for a king in the morning. I need to have a variety of healthy protein filled breakfasts that can be made in minutes. Leftover homemade pizza, seems like a natural, as do some sort of breakfast egg sandwich and something with peanut butter, along with my standard cereal and my favorite oatmeal. I will try 5 different breakfasts next week and report if my breakfasts are fit for a king.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tim Allen was Right

After all those years laughing at Tim Allen's power tool jokes, I found out that he wasn't joking and probably is one of the smartest people on earth. OK, I am exaggerating, but I found the great benefit of power tools this weekend. I borrowed my brothers power miter saw and I bought a small air compressor with a nail gun attachment to see if I could put up some crown molding in our guest room. The power tools made the job very easy and I have to say the nail gun not only was easy but it made pounding nails fun! On Saturday when I brought home the compressor and nail gun, I spent an hour just driving nails into a piece of wood, chuckling with delight after each nail quickly and firmly entered the wood. Now my crown molding job was not perfect, but it looks good and even though I am far from a handyman around the house, I am ready to undertake similar projects in other rooms of the house.

I am beginning to think a nail gun would be a great wedding present......

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Salsa


Now that our friend Jim has moved to New Zealand, he has had a craving for good ol' salsa as many of the condiments down under don't have that spicy bite and the salsas they do sell are more like Taco Bell taco sauce. So, per Jim's request, her is an easy tomato and jalepeno salsa. This one is based on a Rick Bayless recipe.

Ingredients
1-1 1/2 lbs roma tomatoes
2-3 jalepeno salsas
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 medium onion, sliced
1 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro
salt
water

  1. Place tomatoes and chiles on a sheet pan and place under a broiler. Broil until skins are charred and tomatoes and chiles are soft and freely giving their juices. Rotate the tomatoes and chiles to cook all sides evenly.
  2. While the tomatoes and chiles are under the broiler, place the onion slices and garlic cloves in a cast iron skillet, or a griddle over medium heat. Cook until the onion is soft and the cloves are soft and the skins are brown or black. Peel the garlic.
  3. Place the chiles, onion, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until medium chop. Add the tomatoes and all the accumulated juices. Pulse until combined.
  4. Add cilantro, and pulse until chopped.
  5. Add water until the salsas the consistency that you like. It will thicken as it cools, so runny is good.
  6. Season with the vinegar and add salt to taste, usually about a teaspoon or more.
  7. Put in a bowl or jar and cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Best Sandwich I have had in a while

In my quest for more simple and healthy dinners, I ran across a recipe for a Ruben sandwich that replaces the pastrami with spinach. Combined with quality rye bread, good swiss cheese and some sauerkraut, this sandwich has so much flavor going on, that you don't miss the fatty but tasty pastrami. The original recipe in Eating Well, calls for low fat cheese, and less of it, but this is a Ruben without pastrami, so live a little. I would double, triple or quadruple the dressing and save some for later.

Spinach Ruben Sandwich

Russian dressing
1/8 Cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons chopped capers
1 teaspoon chopped pickle or relish

Sandwiches
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, thinly sliced or 3 shallots finely diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and stemmed
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground
4 slices rye bread
4 thin slices Swiss cheese
1/2 cup sauerkraut

1. To prepare Russian dressing: Whisk mayonnaise and ketchup in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in capers and pickle (or relish).
2. To prepare sandwiches: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion or shallots and mushrooms; cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until it has wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Transfer the mixture to a plate.
3. Coat the pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and return to medium heat. Add the bread; divide cheese equally among the slices. Divide sauerkraut between 2 slices and divide the spinach mixture between the other 2 slices; cook until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer sandwich halves to a cutting board. Divide the dressing between the spinach halves. Carefully place the sauerkraut halves on top. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Crab Chowder


This is a recipe I got from Eating Well Magazine. Its a great way to add some fish to your diet. The original recipe called for prepared potatoes, but its too easy to roast your own. I also added my own touches by adding some pepper flakes to give the broth just a touch of heat and adding some wine to help release the flavor of the tomatoes. If you make the Chipotle shrimp, save the shells and make a shrimp stock and use that stock in this recipe.
  • 3 Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup finely diced cored fennel bulb, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs Tomato paste
  • ¼ cup White wine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 2 cups chicken, vegetable or shrimp broth (use 2 cups homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 potatoe, diced medium
  • 1 lb pasteurized crabmeat, drained if necessary
  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Toss diced potatoes with 1 Tbl of olive oil, ½ tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper. Place the potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast in the oven until golden brown. Shake the sheet pan occasionally to ensure even browning. When done remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, fennel bulb, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Toss in the garlic, italian seasonings, red pepper flakes. Stir into the onion and fennel. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Clear a space on the bottom of the pan and toast the tomato paste for a minute and then stir into other vegetables.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, until wine is reduced to a glaze.
  6. Add tomatoes and stir into the vegetables. Cook until bubbly.
  7. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in potatoes, crab and fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Well-Stocked Pantry from Eating Well Magazine


I found this article about a well stocked pantry in Eating Well Magazine. It is, in my opinion, the closest list to the perfect pantry to be able to cook almost anything. My edited version is below. Anything in your pantry should last at least for 3 to six months (some will last even longer). Try to buy smaller sizes so you run out before six months. Your freezer is an important extension to your pantry. Not only should it contain frozen meal size portions of your home cooked foods, but many pantry items below can be portioned and frozen to extend their shelf life (bread is a great example.) I have omitted produce like garlic, onions, ginger, fresh chiles and potatoes. Just know that you need those and they should be replenished regularly. Check out your pantry and see how well you match.

Oils, & Vinegars
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
  • Canola oil for cooking and baking
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Toasted sesame oil, walnut oil
  • Vinegars: balsamic, red-wine, white-wine, rice-wine, apple cider
Flavorings
  • Kosher salt and coarse sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Anchovies
  • Dried herbs: bay leaves, dill, crumbled dried sage, dried thyme leaves, oregano, tarragon, Italian seasoning blend
  • Spices: whole allspice berries, caraway seeds, chili powder, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, curry powder, ground ginger, dry mustard, whole nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, saffron
  • Lemons, limes, oranges.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Pure maple syrup, grade B
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Asian flavorings: soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, chile-garlic sauce, curry paste
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, natural and/or Dutch-processed
  • Bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate chips
Canned Goods & Bottled Items
  • Canned tomatoes (lots of these, I like Muir Glen and I get diced, whole, crushed some that are fire roasted and some that are not.)
  • Tomato paste, in a tube
  • Chipotles in Adobo
  • Clam juice
  • Canned beans: cannellini beans, garbonzo beans, black beans, red kidney beans
  • Chunk light tuna and salmon
Grains & Legumes
  • Whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour
  • All-purpose flour
  • Assorted dried pastas, some whole wheat (in shapes you can't easily make at home)
  • Long grain (for simple rice) and short grain rice (for risottos)
  • Steel cut oats (I like the quick cooking version)
  • Dried lentils
  • Dried cannellini beans
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Plain dry breadcrumbs
  • Corn Starch
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
Nuts, Seeds & Fruits
  • Walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Coffee beans
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Tahini
  • Assorted dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, figs, raisins
Refrigerator Basics
  • Good-quality Parmesan cheese and/or Romano cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Cotija cheese, or queso anejo
  • Kalamata olives, green olives
  • Dijon mustard, big jar
  • Butter, unsalted. Store unopened sticks in the freezer.
  • Mayonnaise
  • Capers
  • Ketchup - Try Muir Glen Organic
  • Barbecue sauce - Try to find one without too much sugar
  • Dry white wine.
Freezer Basics
  • Frozen homemade chicken or fish/shrimp stock
  • Fruit-juice concentrates (orange, apple, pineapple)
  • Frozen vegetables: edamame soy beans, peas, spinach, corn
  • Italian sausage, pancetta and sliced prosciutto
  • Good quality breads (e.g. La Brea Bakery) cut into smaller portions
  • Whole boneless chicken breasts, frozen into family size portions
  • Frozen raw shrimp, shell on, 16-20 size
Perishables you should have
  • Non-fat milk
  • Whole milk for some sauces
  • Cream
  • plain yogurt and/or vanilla yogurt.
  • sour cream
  • Eggs
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs, any size, just by the freshest
  • Blue cheese
  • goat cheese
  • carrots
  • celery

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Things to do in 2007


I got on the scale this morning and was 171.5lbs, so I made it through the holiday season without gaining any weight. I set a goal last year to lose 20 pounds and I lost 25lbs so good for me. Thinking about want I wanted to set my goals for this year, I realized my goal last year wasn't to lose 20 pounds, but my goal was to change my eating and exercise habits that would cause me to lose the weight. So over time I gave up sugar in my coffee, sodas, and set goals to go to the gym 4 days a week. As my habits changed, I included more habit changing goals. Fast food became a rare event and not an every night occurrence.

So here are my habit changing goals for 2007.
  1. No TV in the morning before work. (Actually I got an early start on this one.)
  2. Do something for an hour after dinner besides watch TV (Could be anything, cooking, shopping, exercising, reading, anything but sitting and watching)
  3. Read six books this year. I am hoping I can make this a habit, as I currently don't read that much.
  4. Use our new home gym equipment twice a week (In addition to my current gym activities)
Here is what I hope to achieve by adhering to my habit changing goals.
  1. Drop my weight to the 165-170lbs range. I am not sure if this is possible, as I have been at 171-172lbs for about 5 months.
  2. I would like to be able to run a 10K. Joints will determine if this will be possible.
  3. Focus my TV watching on quality shows and educational purposes. I think I will be a better person if I never watch The Insider or Access Hollywood again. Sporting events count as a quality show.