Saturday, December 29, 2007

More than a sandwich

Who would have thought that I would close out 2007 saying this: The best thing I made in my kitchen was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

I certainly wouldn’t have thought so a few days ago. Before I returned from Christmas in Tyler, I probably would have considered either a particularly uniform and golden batch of waffles or perhaps one of my soupy concoctions the highlight of my culinary pursuits. All of these great meals, sides and dishes went out the window when Isaac came to my door Thursday evening.

I was in my kitchen, just doing the dishes and listening to the UT/Arizona State game on the radio, when I heard a faint knock at my back door. It was barely audible, competing with the clatter of dishes beneath a running faucet and the play-by-play announcer on the radio. Still, I heard it and without hesitation I unlocked and opened the door. Isaac, mid-20s and mid-200s, was on the other side. His exhausted face and prematurely gray sideburns spoke for his hard life. His prison tattoos did, too. He asked if I was Jared or if I knew Jared, someone he met at Church Under the Bridge who told him he lived at Terrace Gardens. I told him I didn’t know Jared. That could have been it. I could have closed the door. I could have gone back to my dishes and the game. I didn’t.

After walking outside with him and talking a bit, trying to think where Jared might live, he asked if I could get him something to eat. Hesitant for a second, I said no problem. I scratched my head for awhile. I didn’t have much that could be made quickly. Oddly enough (for me), I did have bread on hand. We returned to my kitchen and I made him a humble PB&J sandwich. Honestly, I initially planned to make it to-go — bread, then peanut butter, then jelly, then a Ziploc bag and then good night . Instead, I pulled out a plate, Isaac pulled out a chair and we talked.

We talked for probably 10 minutes. We talked about God, religion and Waco. We discussed Church Under the Bridge, Mission Waco and my appetite for World Cup Cafe. As Isaac ate and drank water — rehydrating and refueling for his trek to 18th Street — I told him about my struggles with addictions and depression, my connecting with God in the past two years and trying to find meaning and purpose. He returned in kind with tales of being homeless or living paycheck-to-paycheck and barely eating. He told me he hasn’t lost hope or his dignity. He works. Hard. Every day. He waits outside of labor ready every day, hoping that someone will drive up with a job for him to do, a job that will pay just enough to take care of his estranged children, to pay for his half of an apartment or maybe enough left over to save for a car one of these days.

I told him it’s good to hear he’s a Christian who keeps faith in the Lord and reads his Bible regularly. I’m not gonna lie. That’s more than I can claim . And I’m the one who’s blessed. I’m the one with a comfortable, affordable home, stocked pantry and fridge, decent career, car and a room filled with bikes and basses. What’s my excuse?

Thirty minutes and a 10-cent sandwich later, Isaac pushed his chair back and thanked me. I felt bad because I could have done more. I debated driving him to his destination. I wondered why I didn’t make him a bigger meal. I felt guilty. So I gave him my usual handout — a $5 gift card to McDonald’s. It was my last one. I used to keep a few on me and in my car and would give them out regularly in Rockford. I thought it was enough then. But talking with Isaac reminded me that a conversation, interacting with another person — however random, just a complete stranger — trumps a gift card or a sandwich. He smiled, thanked me again and told me that some day we’ll have lunch at World Cup Cafe. His treat. I told him I’d like that. Thank you, Isaac.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

WTB: One WABAC machine

Oh brother, what I wouldn't do for a time machine (cloaked in a Delorean, helmed by Mr. Peabody and Sherman or otherwise) to transport me to the precise moment on Dec. 6 when a simmering pot o' gold was ready for consumption. Santa? Doc? Lassie? Gunga Din? Anyone?

Oh well. I'll just have to pine for this warm, filling Corn Chowder (say it with me: chowww-dah). Sure, I could go the easy route and just make it again, except I'm not feelin' quite right for kitchen work. The truth is I'm a bit on the mend from a really quick sick that I initially blamed on lechuga, but now I'm screamin' it was some sickly, sorry-ass air I inhaled. If only I had a time machine. Quiet you ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cookie cutters that don't cut it

I've got a friend and a sis who may know some Swiss, but I'm fluent in easy-to-make Swiss cookies.

This batch of Mailaenderli (my-lend'rrlee) was well received at the office. I'm guessing it's the buttery-eggy goodness. There's not much to the recipe (simpler is better). What follows is my adapted recipe. For real, these are too easy to not make them. ... Be careful on your choice of cutters though. Don't even eff with anything resembling a candy cane unless you like headaches.

Mailaenderli or Christmas Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
juice of one small lemon
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used about 3 or so cups)

Cream the butter. Gradually beat in the sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat in the lemon juice and the 2 whole eggs. Blend thoroughly. Stir in the flour, beginning with 2 1/2 cups. Knead the dough with the hands until it is smooth and clears the fingers. If it is too sticky, add more flour (and you will need more). Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill for 4 hours or overnight. Roll out the dough on waxed paper to the thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut the dough with small fancy cookie cutters in shapes such as stars, hearts and crescents. Place them on a buttered and floured cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Brush with the beaten egg yolk. Bake in a preheated moderate oven (350 degrees) for about 15 minutes or until golden.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A minitour of megashopping madness in North Texas

Inspired by a comment from a former coworker and mega-knowledgable musichead Collin Quick, here’s a rundown of three places where you can max the hell out of yer credit cards in Dallas County. I say Dallas County because, quite frankly, eff all that shite in Collin County. You’re a cool guy Collin, but Collin County (Plano, Allen, McKinney, Murphy, etc.) is bullshit you can miss.

TOWN EAST: If you like tall aqua-netted hair that's perched atop pretentious heads, or if ya got a teenage hooligan cousin, Town East in Mesquite can't be beat. Technically not in the mall but it’s smack dab outside, getyer boots and hats at Sheplers. Then you can hop on LBJ (IH 635), drive to the Resistol Arena for the Mesquite Championship Rodeo (shoot the shit with Don Gay, chew some chaw and kick some shit with yer fancy boots) and then stop a spell at Trail Dust Steakhouse to get yer grub on (wear a bolo tie to eff with the staff).

THE GALLERIA: I can't even sniff the air of this royal retail palace 'cause my nostrils are of a far too low caste. However, if I managed to get a job in the building, I'd probably be a skating instructor. My goal wouldn’ be helping young sparkies land skating tricks. Oh, no, no, no, no. I’d be far too busy trying to land an SUV-steerin, Dolce-wearing sugar momma. Just my type. Right.

NORTHPARK: It’s huge but wears it well. It’s not like the Mall of America in Minnesoter. No, sir. Texas is about being big, but the well-to-do set doesn’t like to brag about such things. Still, this spot is intimidating in other ways, namely the SMU co-eds, generally successful people and their University Parks offspring are smart, in shape, attractive, rich and are good, reasonable people. But I digress. The food options here are amazing. Even the standard food court is about as classy as those places can be. The mall’s color and shape coding is so smart, but most first-timers still get lost.

Tones of home

I spent half a day in Dallas on Thursday. It was a cool, ghosts of Christmas past tour. I didn't make it out to G-Town, cruise Centerville, Saturn, Broadway or Northwest Highway for covert places to smoke cigarettes (2008 will be year six as a non-smoker) or pick up all the lovely ladies at Town East Mall. No, I passed on all that fun but managed to hit up some old stomping grounds in Dallas (Greenville Ave., mostly) and saw some old college friends from the Timado days.

Flat People's eponymous CD — available for purchase at CD World and Good Records — was the soundtrack of the day. The band's show at Granada was great, and it was good seeing old Timado friends Graham, Warren and Bobby G. doing their thing on stage. I was very impressed with the venue and the group's cohesive sound live and onstage — which wasn't surprising at all. They're all ridiculously talented and are just great guys. Even Ryan Hardy (also Timado — Laser Eye) made it to the gig. It was good chatting with him and the rest of the guys after the show and catching up since the last time we were all together about three years ago.

A quick trip yesterday, and now some quick cooking today. I'm making Swiss Butter Cookies, Mailaenderli (my-lend'rrlee). I'll post the results later after I awake from a Swiss Butter Cookie/DFW Tex-Mex/Gatesville Grub coma.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Baked, waaaaay baked, not fried

There's no good damn reason why more restaurants don't serve sweet potato fries. It's surprising, but after one try I think I prefer them.

Apparently the stars, planets, wheels and text were aligned for making these and coming to this fry revelation. I saw a recipe in the Statesman, on PPK, and The Maui Grille in Surprise, Ariz., serves some that apparently all should try (I can only vouch for the onion rings and spinach salad— very nice).

Give these fries a shot. But, please refrain from dipping 'em in mayo, ranch dressing or a Wendy's Frosty — y'all are a bunch of Southern sick-os!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jethro Lull

I’m back! Did ya miss me? Don’t answer that.

OK, so Arizona was great. Good weather, food and family. It was a quick trip, but good none-the-less.

As for culinary delights, I really haven’t made much recently. But I did stockpile some schtuff I made awhile back — perfect for this dip in kitchen creativity.

My friend Wendy had some folks over to christen her new place,. And since she’s a ginger freak (sidenote: I finally saw "This Is England" — awesome, but a crap ending), I cranked out the ginger cookies. Not bad.

I need to get back to the stove for more soup. Something with potatoes and black beans is calling me right about now. We shall see. We shall see.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pedaling a slower gear

I'm on the roads and trails less these days (read: not at all). I have no interest in wind slapping my cheeks red, donning full-length tights, stocking up on ChapStick and staring at gray skies. No, I don't have fond memories of seasonal affective disorder.

My bikes hang idle, one with a flat, another needing a chain adjustment and the third just wants some TLC. All are minor repairs and basic bike maintenance, but I'm on a lazy streak right now. Even commuting is too much effort. Thank God I'm still hauling it to the gym a few days a week and runnin' around the river on off days. Anything to keep me off the bike trainer.

It truly is a month of fits and spurts. I have to take advantage of momentum. More often nowadays, I'm content with coasting. Winter is like that for most folks, right??? The other day I went great guns baking and cooking, making three consecutive things (a Manic Monday on a Tuesday) — two of which you'll get right now.

'Ere's another stab at the Blueberry Blondies. I made these for a coworker in exchange for the best homemade salsa I've had in awhile. I definitely came out the winner. The crusty covering is still not quite right, but I know what I now know the remedy.

Also straight from the oven a week ago, something I ended up calling Pumpkin Chocolate Cakies. The problem with subbing flax seed for egg is the texture. A lot of cookies don't have a cookie chew. This is the case with these cookies, but I think they're none-the-less delicious. Recipe requests aplenty, and it really does make about 4 dozen, so have a army at your disposal (a hungry one at that, possibly fragile).

So, yeah, it's a slower gear for the rest of the year. I apologize for what will no doubt be fewer posts until January.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Long December

December is always a little chaotic. Every year is different for everyone, but this year is entirely different for me. It always depends on where I am living, what I’m doing and the same applies for everyone who matters in my world. A lot has happened, and we’re all going to make the best of it.

This year my holiday season started with Thanksgiving in Tyler. Then it’s a quick trip to Phoenix next week, a spin up to Dallas the following week and then back out to Tyler. I wish I could fit Austin, San Angelo and Rockford into the mix, but that’s pushing it. Besides, I have no interest in shoveling snow (sorry, y’all).

Still, I am committed to visiting everyone I haven’t seen this year in 2008. I guess it’s a little early to make a resolution — something I rarely do anyway, and only if there’s something I’m quitting.

Next year will also include another intercontinental tour with my sister. We’re going to spend the better part of two weeks in the UK to see places our 92-year-old Grandmother has only dreamed about seeing. We’ll return with memories, words and pictures for her — the next best thing to her actually going.

What else? I dunno. It’s kind of exciting. I’d like to think love and a home aren’t too far in my future. We shall see. I will keep on moving forward and see where I land.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My casserole's way more punk than yours

Buying a cook book is a struggle for me. Much like music and pornography, the Internet is filthy with free recipes. Also like porn and music, some recipes are tasteful and others will leave you with visible sores and lesions. You just have to learn which Web sites and cooks you can trust and love unconditionally (warts and all).

Still, it’s nice having a colorful book on my table instead of a sterile print out. Normally I just borrow books from the library. Now would be a good time to apologize to any Wacoans who have wanted to borrow “Vegan with a Vengeance” for the past month. I'm almost done using it. I promise.

Anyway, I picked up a couple of new cook books last week. They were hanging out in the store’s so-cheap-you-can’t-refuse aisle. I quickly picked 'em up, pored over 'em and got to cookin’.

First up: bean and pasta casserole. The name certainly doesn’t inspire. But anytime I see the word casserole I can't help but think of a Guttermouth's song "Casserole of Life" from "Teri Yakimoto." Sample lyric of ingredients: "Hot tubs, cross bows, setting forest fires Styrofoam, TV, Slashing all your tires ...". Classic.

Also, the total cooking and prep time (3 hours!) doesn’t scream “make me now.” Fortunately, I’m a fan of bland and watching paint dry. This entree did take a long time to cook, and it could have benefited from additional spices. At the very least, I will increase the oregano for this dish next time. And I'll probably listen to "Teri Yakimoto" eight times through to pass the time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gourd Damn! It was 80 degrees!

The temperature yesterday hung around the high 70s and creeped up to 80. Folks had to crank up the AC. That's effed up, winter is effed up, but winter vegetables like squash are fabulous.

I pureed the hell out of this Butternut Squash Soup. This burnt-orangish bowl filler is a sweet-tasting and toasty tribute to another UT loss to A&M and subsequent underwhelming invite to the Holiday Bowl.

What really makes this soup awesome is adding a nice tart, green apple. It works so well with the sweet winter squash.

What doesn’t work in this recipe is onion. I am banishing this bastard veggie from my kitchen this month. Fewer tears. Better breath. Works for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chili sin carne

When I lived in Loves Park, Ill., I used to joke that I was a recovering Texan. This didn't make me a Yankee or a sell out, nor did my triumphant return (em-bell-ishhhhh...) make me some sort of carpetbagger. What it makes me is someone who readily admits he was more than a scosche homesick, and, using the addict terminology, made it to the sixth step of 12 and happily relapsed to his Texaholic ways for good.

That said, don't cha go thinking that it's a major love fest down South. No, sir. There are some things I could do without. For instance, I love Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas, Shiner Bock and Dallas (but not all Dallasites). On the flipside, I can't stand Southern fried okra, Lone Star and Houston (but I do like most Houstonians). These acknowledgments don't make me any more or less of a Texan. However, one simple disagreement divides more than the others: chili.

It's pretty simple — to bean or not to bean. True natives say, "Hell no. More meat." I think that's just narrowminded and not keeping with the cowboy tradition ("Blazing Saddles," anyone?) Beans are essential. You don't have to go overboard, but some kidney, navy or black beans (or even chickpeas) make a world of difference.

So, what's in my perfect bowl of chili? Well, I don't have any aspirations of going to the Terlingua chili cook-off (I'm told they shoot vegetarians first, ask question later), so I go nuts with beans. This 'un appeared recently in DMN, and I knew I'd love it, mainly 'cause chickpeas — or the infinitely more fun to say Garbanzo beans — have become a staple for me. The addition of red peppers is pricy genius, but worth it.

The suggested cous cous makes a great platform for this dish, but it's not essential. You can crumble crackers and top with mont-jack for repeat servings (as I did for a couple of reheats). Or, as the pic shows, you can just ladle the good stuff into a bowl and go back from whence you came, eating and smilin' all content with your fancy-pants liberal bean-eatin' self.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'Can you spare a slice?'

Not me. Look high and low for a loaf in my fridge and you'll find nary a crumb. Don't get me wrong — I love bread. Me and sliced grains are good ol' amigos. We're just not in a committed, demanding, can't-live-without-ya, "what-are you-thinking-about" relationship. That'd be annoying. Just ask peanut butter and grape jelly.

Keeping the peace in my breadbox in lieu of the prison staple is a big stack of corn tortillas (30-count for a handful of pesos!). I've already waxed nostalgic about Donnie As and hinted at nuevo Donnie As. Well, here's a tortilla lover's desayuno D-lite — sloppy, groggy, make-some-coffee breakfast tacos.

What's peculiar about this quick b-fast are the eggs. I used to despise eggs ("comes from a chicken not a bunny, dummy"). Now I tolerate them just enough to appreciate the benefits of their amicable pairing with potatoes, salsa, queso, spinach and whatever else is sitting neglected in Tupperware. What ya get ain't pretty, but it hardly matters when you've yet to wash the sleep out your eyes. Real-good, real-hot salsa will take care of that in no time.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanks and stuff

I have so much to post after a long Thanksgiving break. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed actually celebrating Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving (a rarity for nightside desk editors). Of course, I woulda really liked having Saturday and Sunday off, too, but I digress.

So ... I made a ton of food — some holiday specific, others not so much. More than anything I am incredibly inspired to make more soup. The weather is cold for these parts (temps that Rockfordians consider shorts weather) and my big pot is getting a soup-chili-stew workout. ... But, you’ll have to wait for those, cause I got some turkey to talk about ...

Yes, your veggie friend purchased, cooked, sliced, served and consumed turkey. No, I’m not going back to an omnivore lifestyle. I just wanted to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And who knows, next year might be a tofurkey year. We’ll see.

Besides the bird, I made standard mashed potatoes but made 'em better with a touch of nutmeg (subtle, but a difference maker), green beans with toasted almond slivers and for dessert, pumpkin pie (store-bought 'cause I could!).

You may ask, “But where are the pictures?” ... And I will answer, “Didn’t bother.” ... I thought about taking shots of the Turkey-Day meal or leftover sandwiches but I passed. I gotta give you something, though, so here are some pics of some good stuff I made before I traveled to Tyler:

These Gingerbread Belgians are further proof that your kitchen is empty unless you have a waffle iron. These tasty holiday hotties are better than Magnolia Cafe’s pancakes (waffles : pancakes :: paper : rock). I’m tellin’ you, folks, I just might need to leave journalism and open a Waffle House.

I also went to town with a cinnamon raisin recipe. First in the oven was the bread. This loaf boosted my breadmaking ego after the not-quite-a-disaster, not-quite-a-success banana loaf. Nope, this bread was moist throughout and was even better as muffins. I will tinker with the recipe for future breads and muffins (next up: Poppyseed and Lemon)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

'Inka, inka, bottle of ink'

There have been some interesting stories recently about marathon runners. The world-class champion who trained through pregnancy and won a race shortly after giving birth is an extreme story. People who bitch and moan because they can’t wear iPods at official marathons is a ridiculous story. I’m not pregnant but I can relate to the iPod squad.

I jog about 20 miles a week, so I’m certainly not a marathon-grade athlete, nor do I aspire to be. It’s just a nice break from cycling everyday. Sometimes I go without the iPod and sometimes I throw in the ear buds and go. Without the music I tend to think a lot more than with the music. No major decisions are made on these jogs. I might decide what to bake, what I’m going to do this weekend — stuff like that. Normal stuff. Mundane.

My brain works differently when the iPod is added to the equation. I can’t deny the motivation I get from the music. Case in point: Today’s soundtrack was a smattering of ’90s heroes. Jane’s Addiction (“motherf**kin' took the pain. “) and Rage Against the Machine (“anger is a gift”) songs kept me going and the time and my pace sped up ... and stupid stuff sped through my brain.

Here’s what I thought about today: Worst tattoos on a ’90s era rocker. Sure there are plenty to choose from: Lollapalooza artists, Lillith Fair types, East Bay hood rats, Southern rappers, etc.

I have plenty of arguments for these poorly tatted rockers — embarrassingly too many , actually. So I won’t give you my thoughts quite yet. Instead, I’d like to hear what y’all think. I encourage you to register your opinions in the comments section. I look forward to hearing your opinions. I’ll register my thoughts in a later post. Here are the top 3:

1. Tim Commerford (Rage and Audioslave bassist, aka Tim Bob, aka Tim C., Y. tim K. and tim.COM)

2. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana)

3. Johnny Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls)

Let the debate begin ...

Monday, November 19, 2007

A tribute to Baylor traditions

1. Cheap, fast food for the boys: If you’re in a fraternity you’re probably eating a Gut Pak at Vitek’s Bar-B-Q and picking up a Family Bowl from Fazoli’s.

2. Cheap fast food for the girls: If you’re in a sorority you know the number of steps from campus to McAlister’s for a Giant Spud.

3. Cheap fast food for the unemployed: If you’re in your final or penultimate year of your head football coaching contract (“Peace Out," Guy Morriss), you might want to save those nickels for some homemade alternatives. Read on ...

I made an interesting (read: fairly OKish for most, friggin’ righteous for me) garlicky tomato sauce last week and promptly poured it on everything (namely stuff that couldn’t walk off).

I initially wanted to add tofu but opted to pile in chopped carrots and black olives (my two favorite salad accessories if not foods period). It might sound, um, gross, but the sauce was great and I enjoyed it more on the potato than the penne.

Best of all, this stuff is fast ('cept for the potato), cheap, warm and filling. See, I got your back, GuyMo. Who loves ya, baby?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gourd-met grub

I got into a serious breakfast habit when I lived in Rockford, and all it took were some bone-chilling conditions.

I won’t lie: That first winter kicked my ass — a wimpy ass clad in multiple-multiple-multiple layers. On the worst days: thermal underwear, wool pants and socks, a couple of shirts/sweaters, thick-as-a-brick gloves, leather jacket, -40 degree boots, scarf and wool hat. I almost bought a balaclava, not to be confused with baklava. No, sir, it would not be inaccurate to say I looked a whole lot like Randy Parker— Ralphie’s overly bundled younger brother on “A Christmas Story.”

The second winter, while worse, was more tolerable. Sure, it was colder, the snow was deeper and my pleasant spirit was packed in boxes with shorts and an oscillating fan. But my blood was thicker. I invested in a space heater. I discovered the power of rolled oats. Hell, I played ice hockey on the frozen Sinnissippi Lagoon when it was a balmy 12 degrees. I firmly believe this would not have been possible without ... oatmeal! The breakfast of aged hippies, Wilford Brimley and less-famous fogies! It’s great. In fact, I still pour a few bowls a week. The trouble is, well, it’s just a bit boring, even when I add bananas, raisins, yogurt, brown sugar ... you get the picture. But thanks to my second favorite kitchen appliance — my waffle iron — oatmeal goes from bland to badass in no time.

My first batch — Oatmeal-Walnut-Raisin waffles — rocked. It had a great texture and crunch. It was a warm, filling and just all-around awesome breakfast.

That recipe is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the big brother of badass Belgian breakfasts ... Pumpkin Waffles.

Uh-huh, it’s another VWaV recipe. And every novice cook has raved about it on the PPK forum. I am happy to join the club. By comparison, as much as I love Magnolia Cafe’s Gingerbread Pancakes, these are even better (lighter, better after freezing and cheaper)! Served with coffee, syrup and NPR, I’ve got a new morning staple.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On bikes and biscotti

Yesterday was a fantastic day. I hopped on the ol’ road bike for the first time in about two weeks. Running, going to the gym, baking and my stupid hand have limited my wheel time to straight commuting to the Trib. It was nice to put on some real miles again. Of course, no outing would be complete without a flat. It happened late in the ride, close to my house and I was more prepared than a Boy Scout (tubes, patches, pump), so it wasn’t devastating.

I also tried a new recipe: Blueberry Blondies, a tweakin’ of VWaV’s Raspberry Chocolate Blondies. This recipe was a blast to make, but I definitely screwed up the top layer. However, I learned from it, coworkers still devoured ’em (great compliments, offers for swaps and ideas, too) and managed to not take a single picture (trust me, these blondies were some ugly ducklings).

But I gotta give ya some food porn, right? So here are some more biscotti I made. I veganized and fortified this Walnut and Raisin Biscotti recipe from Recipezaar, namely using flaxseed instead of eggs and substituting all-purpose flour for wheat. ... “Are they good?” ... “Damn good!” ... “Well, damn!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

As predicted here and reported by the DMN

Armstrong out as GM of Dallas Stars

12:33 PM CST on Tuesday, November 13, 2007
From Staff Reports

The Dallas Stars on Tuesday fired general manager Doug Armstrong.

"As an owner I have to be responsible for one person in hockey operations and that is the general manager of the team," said owner Tom Hicks, who made the announcement. "I thought that the team needed a change in direction. I know that change can be healthy and it was my determination that this move needed to be made. I want the Dallas Stars to return to being one of the elite teams in the league."

Armstrong was in his sixth season as GM. His contract was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2010-11 season.

"Doug has been a great member of this organization for 17 years and has been a big part of the success we have had here in Dallas, starting under Bob Gainey and winning seven division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, making two consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearances and winning the Stanley Cup in 1999," Hicks said.

Hicks said that the team will announce interim positions to run the Stars' hockey operations department in the near future.

Of course, the team and the coach are still garbage, but one step at a time, eh.

The Legend of Don Alberto

Now that I’ve expanded my kitchen skills, I can look back and laugh (and cringe) at some inadequate meals I used to prepare. I never went the Ramen route, but I had a roommate who ate nothing but those nast-E noodles, tuna and muscle-building supplement shakes (mmm, mmm, vomit). Follow me, if you will, in remembering a few truly atrocious college staples:

Totino's “Party” Pizza: Yep, the same five for $5 pies that were recalled a couple of weeks ago).

Big-ass plate of corn: As an entree, not a side, and never cream corn.

Macaroni and cheese: Of course! The good folks who formulated Easy Mac made the Jester Dorm years a little bit sweeter.

It’s safe to say I — like most male college students — was afraid of cooking. Cheap and easy was the way to go. The king recipe for me and a select few was Donnie A’s. For those who didn’t hang out at College Park — The Landings, Phase 1, Apt. 933 from 1999-00, here are the ingredients: flour tortillas (only Riverside Albertson’s “authentic” Don Alberto’s brand would do) and slices of American cheese (preferably Kraft). That’s it. Roll ’em up, throw ‘em in the microwave for 20 seconds and bon app├ętit,.

I really have a soft spot for this “meal.” It reminds me of some damn good times. In a hurry and with a few improvements and the benefit of my favorite kitchen appliance — my invaluable toaster oven — I recently resurrected Donnie A’s. I have made the ol’ A’s a few times in Waco but spruced ’em up a bit (better cheese, H-E-B's fresh corn tortillas, salsa, spinach, black beans, mushrooms, whatever leftovers I have that work), and I gotta tell ya, Donnie A’s are back, and they’re not half bad. The best part: I didn’t sacrifice the spirit of the Donnie A’s — it’s still easy, fast and cheap. Viva, Donnie A!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go, Joe! A real Vegetarian hero

Sunday was a nice slow, peaceful day. I ran a few miles, made some more biscotti (you’ll just have to wait) and whipped out a phenomenal dish from the Post Punk Kitchen — Snobby Joes.

It’s your basic Sloppy Joe recipe, but meat-free (lentils provide the protein). I think I would have preferred mixing the lentils with a bit of tofu or faux meat crumbles for texture’s sake. Still, these Joes are simple to make and have a taste that’s worthy of the “I’m better than you are” moniker.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Some words, some reasons | 11.11.07

1. INTEGRITY: There are things (people and businesses) that have recently proven they have it, have compromised it or flat out lack it. I’m equally proud, forgiving and disappointed.

2. EMBARRASSMENT: Epitomized by the Dallas Stars (Yeah, I’m talking hockey. Humor me. I’ll spare you from pro cycling rants). Up 4-0 against the L.A. Kings with eight minutes to go in the third period, Turco lets in six goals on seven shots and the team loses 6-5. Thank God I don’t own a TV. I would have busted it if I saw this game. Coach Tippett and GM Armstrong will be out on the street by the All-Star break. Of course, Dallasites don’t give a damn cause the 'Boys are back to winning games. But I care, and I say bring back the Waco Wizards!

3. CONTRIBUTE: Got a word? What’s on your mind? Follow the format. Serious, ridiculous, amusing, sad, whatever. Comment to your heart’s content

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oi! Keep your fingers out of my soup!

Experts called for cooler temps this week in Waco, but that really hasn’t happened. We’re still hitting the 80s in November, which is ... well, great actually. No matter, it is my plan to indulge in a variety of warming, hearty soups right now, even if I have to turn on a fan.

First up: another VWAV (Vegan with a Vengeance) recipe — Potato and Asparagus. Garlic and onion beat the bland out of this humble soup. I threw in carrots for good measure and now I’ve got a fat pot of green-orange greatness filling my fridge.

So weather forecasters be damned! The bowls and ladle are out and I’ve got a big stack of crackers.

Friday, November 9, 2007


I have weened myself off my fair share of vices in the past five years, which, I suppose, is a good thing. Damn admirable, right? Sure! Thank you. But I still have some habits that will die hard or I will hold onto until Dec. 12, 2012. Chief among them is coffee. It’s a chicken-or-the-egg, damned-if-ya do ... catch 22 ... something or other situation: If I drink fewer cups I’ll sleep more ... I don’t sleep, so I gotta caffeinate to function. Whooo! What a fun treadmill!

Anyway, coffee’s wonderful. And coming up with complementary treats is even better. I leafed through some biscotti recipes but never got around to them ... until Wednesday night. I had the good fortune of getting to try my hand at Ginger and Almond varieties of biscotti while in Austin. And, better yet, I got to take some home with me. Thanks, Sash.

These puppies are pretty easy to make, so expect more variations in the future.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Good enough for me and the Polyphonic Spree

Wow, what an amazing Wednesday. I think only having one day off this weekend really made me appreciate yesterday even more than my usual “Saturday.”

Lemme just say you are missing out if you’re in Waco and you’re not eating at World Cup Cafe. I can’t sing the praises of this place enough. Again, the Lentil Burger will change your life. Actually, no, it won’t. But it is damn tasty.

Not content with eating in one city in one day, I hit I-35 for Austin on Wednesday. I had an amazing dinner at Enoteca on South Congress (SoCo is whiskey, folks.) The night’s selections follow: Fried Rissotto, Walnut Spinach Salad, Quattro Formaggi Pizza, Peroni, Cafe Mocha and finally Chocolate Mousse. It was all fantastic. And the biscotti lesson ... you’ll have to wait for that.

Finally, I got to Emo’s. The crowd was good, and so were the bands. I intentionally skipped The Redwalls (I didn’t miss much). Rooney was better than I expected, even if they’re just a “Blue-Album Weezer” soundalike. As usual, The Polyphonic Spree was nothing short of amazing. The highlight of the band’s shows usually is a cover of “In Bloom.” It was good (still, such an odd sing-a-long), but the cover of “Live and Let Die” was unbelievable. That song belongs to the Spree. Sorry, Paul and Axl.

I could go on and on, but I’m exhausted, and I gotta get to my soup ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pumpkin in Drublic

As far as months go, November usually is great. No complaints so far this year. The dip in the weather, the clothes you dig out from storage and, of course, the food — what a terrific time of year.

I just baked this delicious batch of Pumpkin Pie Brownies for a coworker’s sorta baby shower/celebration at the Trib today. I found the recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen blog and knew it would be a perfect early November Trib treat.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but it turned out great. I love Isa’s presentation (more of a pie look), but I mixed the layers together and called it a day.

I also learned a valuable lesson about baking and talking on the phone. Never, and I mean fornever, never (that means you, Andre 3000) tell the person on the other line that you’re making something that tastes awesome unless you can either share said delightful dish or provide a comparable bit of tastiness at a later date. Duly noted and lesson learned, Sash.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Saturday and Sunday

I had a great weekend. My dad was in town. Of course, I had to work, but it wasn't a problem, even with all the homecoming craziness going on in and around Baylor. We managed to eat at some of the better spots in the city (World Cup Cafe: try Kathy Wise's Lentil Burger; Food for Thought: Mucho Burrito!) and avoid crowds (except at The Olive Branch).
Sunday started with some killer Oatmeal-Raisin-Banana waffles I made the day before (even better a day after freezing then toasting them, just as "Vegan with a Vengeance" promised). Sunday ended with Church Under the Bridge (Photo by Matt Lester), which I hadn't attended in awhile, then it was off to work.

Sorry, I don't have any pics of the aforementioned waffles — they came and went quickly. But don't fret: my next cooking kick will start this week, and it will involve lots of pumpkin (brownies and waffles) and soup(s).

Anyway, it was a great weekend. and I'm looking forward to this week: Polyphonic Spree and Rooney on Wednesday in Austin. I also need to start planning Thanksgiving (I'll have three days to enjoy this year). I've got a lot to be thankful for ...

Thursday, November 1, 2007


These puppies — Chocolate Chocolate Chip w/ Walnuts — sure weren’t much to look at, but they went fast. I didn’t realize when I made ’em how similar they are to a classic cookie from Braums. Now I’m craving the original, which probably means a trip to Hillsboro in the near future (outlet land here I come).

Next time I prepare these cookies I’ll place the chocolate chips and the walnuts on the dough once the cookies are on the baking sheet (instead of mixing them into the batter). Or, I’ll try another recipe variation — cherries!

I only care about one pepper and it sure as hell ain't Dr

Stuffed peppers was one of my faves growing up, especially once I learned to appreciate the pepper as part of the meal, not just a container and when I learned to practice some restraint with the ketchup. In honor of this old-school comfort food, I even served it on “retro” plates (I’ve dined on the plates for about 20 years).

Now this was arguably a whole lot of effort for lunch (about 90 minutes all told), but the dish turned out great and I certainly have no aversion to leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, I have rekindled love affairs with a couple of old flames — Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I have spent about half of my weekend hitting up all the locations in town (just gobs of free time when I can’t cycle). I scored some nice utensils and mixing gear and managed to talk myself out of a waffle iron — three times (either too small or not Belgian). Yes, I was that picky when it came to $4.

I did find a great alternative purchase — some moccasin slippers for $6 ($24 discount on old stock @ Belks — a strange breed of Kohl’s/Mervyn’s that I just stumbled upon today). Good day, good weekend and “gooder” wrist.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


If you’ve been looking for the ugliest duck in the world, your search stops today, my friend. Waco is the proud home of Muscovy ducks. Damn they’re jacked up.

Actually, I thought they were hideous when I saw them from afar a few days ago (turkey features, mishmash coloring). But today I hung out up close with three ducks I’ve seen along the Brazos River, and they’re kinda cute in an affront to God sorta way. See these here duckies are mules (they hook up with others species and spawn some sterile offspring). So you can’t hate too much on ’em I s’ppose.

So yeah, me and the Muscovies are cool — definitely not like these arrogant, conventional MFers (“we’re pretty and can reproduce”). Pricks.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Ah yeah! It’s coldish outside, so the oven is a busier place in my house. I spent last weekend making a batch o’ cornbread. There’s no need for honey when you use maple syrup, but I can’t fault ya if you wanna indulge with the sweetness.

Coupled with a quick vegan chili recipe, I quickly polished off this meal last weekend ... too quick in fact — I didn’t even think to take pics of the chili. Morningstar Farms’ recipe couldn’t be simpler. As much as I’d love to let a pot of chili bubble all-damn day, I just don’t have the time for that. Anyway, the faux-meat crumbles are excellent. I plan on using them in a stuffed bell pepper experiment later this week, so look for that.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


5 a.m.: It's early in the morning in most people's world, especially on this conventional Saturday (for those not up on my schedule, my "Saturday" is Wednesday). I, however, couldn't be happier about rising at this hour because I actually slept in today. Last night/this morning was the first time in about four months that I slept totally undisturbed — no two hours here, wake up, another hour down, then another hour or two up, then another two or three hours down. Nope. Last night was amazing — something most people take for granted. Not me.

That pattern of awake-asleep-awake describes what I had come to consider a good day. I'm fortunate that I managed to keep my sanity and function fairly well during that spell of insomnia (without booze, pills or konkin' myself on my skull, mind you). I can only hope that my good fortune continues. God knows I'm hopeful — probably still tired, too — but definitely hopeful. I have to be. More than anything, I really hope this is the beginning of a new pattern.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


So I gave a new recipe for banana bread a whirl today. It didn't turn out so great. Vegan cooking is not an exact science, especially for me. So I ended up with bread that smelled incredible! I can hope the scent lingers in my home for another day. ... Ahem, but the crust was dry and hard and the meat was undercooked in places. I took special care to not overmix the ingredients, but I fear I did just that.

Oh well. Live and learn. At least it was a fat free recipe. Next time will be better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


It just doesn't make sense — the bag for vegetables that shoppers "use" for 30 minutes to shuttle apples from the produce section to their carts to the check out into another plastic bag(s) to their cars to their refrigerators.

It's the small things that have made us habitual, unquestioning beings. This is really a shame.

It's an "Automatic for the People" world. We do so much without thinking. Our convenience has an effect, and a little bit of inconvenience every day will do us all some good. I'm already making small choices and decisions that matter. It feels good to think and inconvenience myself a bit ... and I'm going to do more of it.