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.