We’ll Never Understand

So far, I’ve seen statements from at least 3 politicians, who have no problem expressing strong opinions about people outside their religion and race; who never let their own ignorance keep them from pronouncing judgement on others, say today that we’ll “never understand the motivations” of the monster who killed 9 people last night in Charleston.

Why reserve your whip-smart judgement now? Why be so “sensitive” and offer your “prayers”? Could it be because your ignorant ramblings maybe inspired this guy?

Media figures and politicians demonize entire races and religions all the time, saying, like Glenn Beck did, that people are “willing to lay down their lives” for whatever batshit crazy cause they’re spouting off about. And then, when some crazed lunatic actually DOES WHAT THEY SO SLYLY SUGGEST, they clasp their hands and say they’re praying for the victims and say we’ll never understand what drove them to do such a horrible thing.

We know. They were inspired by parents, by the talk radio hosts they listen to, by the politicians that pander to any loony zealot who will vote for them (or give them money), by the mentally unhinged bastards who say we’re at war with everybody.

So, maybe instead of just praying for the victims, we should stop being such assholes and preach the religion we say we follow? Preach peace. Preach understanding. Preach forgiveness and humility. Teach your kids not to be racist. Teach your kids to love their neighbors (no matter who they are).

These tragedies are avoidable, and praying for the victims is the least you can do. Condemn violence. Condemn racism. Condemn those who make targets out of innocent people. And if you are one of those people, stop it already. You’re the problem. Be a part of the solution.

What You Won’t See on CNN…

“Here’s what you won’t see on CNN” is my new least favorite phrase. I definitely won’t see it on CNN because I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news networks. Their primary job isn’t to inform me, provide clarity of nuanced issues or situations, or to enlighten mankind about the problems we collectively face.

Their entire purpose is to make money. To do that, they need eyeballs. To get eyeballs, they have to turn every situation into an event. And every “event” has to have good guys and bad guys and has to have an “angle”. And that angle has to be clear enough so even the most mouth-breathing of viewers can understand it in less than 30 seconds between commercials and know who to root for.
The problem is that nothing that happens is black and white and there are rarely easily identifiable bad guys, just people acting in their own best interest (or what they think is their best interest).

All of the coverage, all of the commentary, all of the fancy graphics, all of the “breaking news”, it’s all there to get your adrenaline pumping and to keep your eye glued to the screen and so you’ll stick around through the commercials.
So, don’t fall for it. Don’t watch the news. Read the news. Read commentary on the news. Read real journalists who do real research and provide perspective and expose nuance.

Stop helping them treat tragedy as entertainment. Stop participating the outrage cycle. Understand that every source of information has a point of view. It doesn’t make them wrong or right, but it affects how they view and report on things. Don’t trust all first person accounts. Be cautious about joining a movement until you understand the motivations of those involved.

There are better things we can be doing with our time than speaking like pundits on the TV or radio. We could be helping.
I’m not sure how to help with a lot of the things going on in the world (and in my city) right now, but I can at least not add fuel to an already out of control fire.

Vegetable Stock in the Crock Pot

A simple title, but this is a really simple recipe. I decided after a tough week and after seeing someone mention it on Instagram, that I really needed 15 bean soup. Instead of just using water, I decided to try making homemade vegetable stock. I had some veggies and I have a crock pot. How hard could it be?

Not hard at all. I have a mammoth 6 quart crock pot, so you might need to reduce the amounts of things if you have a smaller one.

This is a mishmash of a bunch of different recipes I found online with most of the ingredients doubled and a couple added. This stuff comes out really savory and a lot richer (not subtle at all) than other vegetable stocks I’ve tried before – and way better than anything I’ve ever had out of can.

Ingredients

  • 2 small tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 smallish sweet onions, quartered
  • 1 bunch of celery, cleaned and w/ the butt chopped off. Leave the leaves!
  • A bunch of carrots, chopped up.
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of salt
  • 1 tablespoon-ish of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 squirt of Sriracha
  • 2-4 peppercorns (I put in 3x that many and it’s really peppery – it’s good, but a little goes a long way).

Directions

  1. Put everything in the crock pot
  2. Fill your crock pot up with water, almost to the top but not quite.
  3. Cook on low for 6-7 hours
  4. Strain out all the bits – mine came out a little cloudy, probably because of the tomato. If you care about that, then you might want to strain it through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
  5. Let cool for 30 minutes
  6. Put it in the fridge
  7. Make something awesome with it later, or just drink it and get superpowers.

It ended up producing a little over a liter of stock – I think using fewer vegetables would have been just as effective and produced more stock.

I’m making 15 Bean Soup with mine, but you could use it for pretty much anything, or just drink it right up. We had more than would fit in the container for the fridge, so Jen and I both had a mug and it was great!

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas, Now Make Fancy Butter!

A picture of two fancy butters in ramekins.
Garlic herb butter on the left, Honey-Sriracha on the right.

We were invited to a big family Christmas Eve dinner and were supposed to bring an appetizer. We had an antipasto tray ready to go, but that wasn’t experimental enough, so we decided to make a “flight” of fancy butters to go along with the bread we knew would be there. They were a big hit, and really easy to make (it took longer to clean the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment than to make the butter). Here’s what we made:

Sweet Orange Butter – This is amazing. Sweet, very orange-rich, and would be amazing on biscuits, waffles or pancakes.

Garlic-Herb Butter

I think because we had lasagna, this one went the fastest.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 10-12 chive stalks
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions:
  1. Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from their stalks
  2. Pulse all the herbs in the food process until they’re finely diced but before they turn into pesto.
  3. Throw everything in the mixer
  4. Whisk on low for a minute
  5. Whisk on high for a minute or two until everything is mixed in
  6. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

Sriracha Honey Butter

This one was an experiment, mostly because I love adding Sriracha to things. It turned out really well. I’m not sure what the food science is behind mixing fat and Sriracha together that turns things into deliciousness, but I love it. This ended up with just a tiny bit of heat (kids were eating it and not crying, that’s how little heat there is), but with a great smokey pepper flavor that worked really well with the honey.

  • 1/2 pound of softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
Instructions:
  1. You don’t really need to measure things. I’m guessing as to how much I put in there, but it was basically those proportions – slightly more honey than Sriracha
  2. Throw it all the mixer
  3. Whisk on low for a minute
  4. Whisk on high until everything’s combined.
  5. Refrigerate to firm it back up.

We put them in creme brulee ramekins to serve (1/2 pound of butter ended up filling two ramekins, so you might want to halve the recipes for a smaller party).

I didn’t think making crazy butter would be so easy, or be so well-received. I’m going to have to try some more!

Kevin’s Favorite Albums of 2014

I can’t believe the last time I did this was in 2011, but it’s time to do it again! 2014 was a great year for music! Again! My 2014 Favorites has 256 songs on it. Last year’s has almost 350, but I think that’s more about me being more selective about what goes on it than the quality of the year.

I decided to break up the list into three sections, because I don’t think it’s fair to compare albums by bands I’ve loved for years with new stuff that jumped out enough to be considered. I’m getting older and though I’m trying really hard not to let my musical taste calcify, well, I think it’s inevitable. Also, the “throwbacks” fit a theme for me. They’re all committed to a sound from the past and pull it off expertly. All four albums will have you grinning from ear to ear just to hear great new songs in styles you thought were dead.

Repeat Offenders

Throwbacks

The New Kids

And there you have it… my favorite albums of 2014. Enjoy!

Leftovers Accomplished: Turkey Ramen

A finished bowl of turkey ramen

What do you do with your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving? My mom suggested making stock, so that’s what we did! And then I realized that we could turn that stock into ramen broth with just a few more ingredients and with the crock pot, we could do it with a lot less effort than it took to make Momofuku ramen broth (which my son and I took 12 hours to do one day – it was delicious, but a lot of work).

So, here’s my turkey ramen recipe, which turned out way better than I expected and was slurped up in minutes by my family.

  1. We took the turkey carcass, with some leftover meat on it, legs and wings (which no one in my family likes), tore it up and stuffed it disrespectfully into my 6 quart crock pot, then covered it with water. We’d smoked the turkey, so you may get different results if your turkey was roasted, but it’ll still be good.
  2. Crock pot it on low for 18 hours (really).
  3. Strain out the broth. I used a metal colander because I don’t have one of those fancy soup colander things. I just wanted to make sure I caught any bones and big chunks. The great thing about ramen broth is that you don’t have to be as diligent about skimming off fat as you would with a classical stock.
  4. After straining it out, I put the broth back in the crock pot with two packages of mushrooms (one shiitake, one baby bella), a chunk of jowl bacon and two ham hocks and let it go for another 18 hours. You could use bacon ends, a ham bone, just something porky to give it some extra punch. I also added some more water to get it back up to almost the top (I left about an inch between the broth and the top).
  5. With about four hours to go, I added 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce. It probably doesn’t matter too much when you add this.
  6. I didn’t have any ramen noodles, so I made pad thai noodles, which worked fine.
  7. Plating is pretty easy. In each bowl, I put:
    • 1 poached egg (I poached them in a sauce pan full of water and put the eggs in biscuit cutters to keep them together)
    • Chopped green onions
    • Grated carrots
    • Some chopped up leftover turkey
    • Finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.

That’s pretty much it! The broth came out full of strong flavors, which matched well with the light flavors in the bowl.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the 12 hour process. This worked really well and should be super flexible.

The only thing I might do differently is to actually make the tare instead of just dumping in soy sauce, since it’s easy to make and super versatile. If I were starting from scratch and had it handy, I might also start with the konbu broth and then pour that over whatever poultry I started with in the crock pot.

If you come up with interesting twists on it, let me know what you do!

Cold Brew Coffee

2014-02-07 09.35.44-2

I love cold brewed coffee. It’s smoother than regular coffee, and depending on the beans you use, chocolatey too. It’s a great change of pace from a regular cup, and great in the summer. I’ve been playing with my recipe for a while and I figured I’d pop it up here so other people can try it out. First, equipment:

  • Takeya Tea Maker; – It’s a small pitcher with a built-in basket for tea. I just use coffee instead. It makes cleanup and filtering a lot easier.
  • Good Coffee – This is a must. If you don’t have a local roaster, I’d check out Tonx. But, you probably have a local roaster. Find them. Become friends with them. Get good coffee beans from them.
  • A grinder that can do a coarse grind. I have a cheap one that works fine. Or, if you’re feeling spendy, you could jump up a couple brackets and get a nice burr grinder. I have a small manual Hario thing I use when I’m serious about the grind, but the blade grinder works for me for now.

If you have the 1 quart pitcher, you should grind enough beans for a 12-cup pot of coffee and put your grinder on the coarsest setting.

Once you have the coffee, put it in the basket, fill the pitcher with filtered water and then close it up and stick it in the fridge. I like mine super rich, so I usually let it steep for a couple days before I take it out. The professionals leave it in for up to a week, but two days is usually enough for me.

I also shake it up a couple times a day to stir things up and mix the grounds up a little. It’s probably just a placebo thing, but I think it makes better coffee to agitate it a bit.

After you’ve let it steep in the fridge, it’s time to filter it. The basket’s going to catch most of the grounds, but you’ll have some sludge in there that’s good to filter out. I pour mine through my drip coffee machine filter and that takes out 95% of the sludge. I have friends who use a french press for their cold brew, which works really well because you get to skip the filtering step, but I don’t yet have a large enough french press to make that work.

There you have it, my recipe for cold brew. What’s your recipe?

Learn to Code By Cheating

My kids love Cookie Clicker. And, only because they can’t stop talking about it, I checked it out. My 14 year-old told me he’s figured out how to cheat at the game so bad that he basically ends up with “infinity cookies”.

Wait, let’s step back. The game is weird and silly and involves clicking a big cookie to get more cookies. You can buy upgrades like cursors that click cookies for you, grandmas who bake cookies for you, all the way up to time machines that go back in time and bring you cookies that before they’ve been eaten – and you purchase all of these with cookies that you, wait for it, click.

Back to the cheating. The game is all done in Javascript and all done in the browser, so it’s really fun to mess around with things and cheat – and learn some Javascript fundamentals while you’re at it (and even some jQuery). There’s even a page on the Cookie Clicker Wiki dedicated to cheating. You’ll notice that all of those cheats are Javascript functions. Here’s one I wrote that is a little longer than the one on the wiki, but makes me happy because it’s all object-notated and is called cookie_monster:

var cookie_monster = {
  gimme:function() { 
    Game.ClickCookie(); 
    setTimeout("cookie_monster.gimme()", 1); 
  }
};
cookie_monster.gimme();

That’s all broken out so you can see what it’s doing. Here it is if you want to just cut and paste it into the Javascript Console in Chrome (the browser made for cheating):

var cookie_monster = {gimme:function() { Game.ClickCookie(); setTimeout("cookie_monster.gimme()", 1); }}; cookie_monster.gimme()

Basically, the cookie_monster.gimme() method clicks the cookie and then sets a timer to run itself again in 1 millisecond. That ends up being a lot of cookies per second. It also unlocks a bunch of achievements, which is cool (but still cheating).

And here it is as a bookmarklet: Cookie Monster. Just drag that to your bookmarks bar, and click on it while you’re in Cookie Clicker and the cheat will magically start running. I love Javascript.

I’ve been talking to both of my kids now about Javascript and how we can more efficiently cheat at the game, which I think is awesome. If I can get them to think of programming as a game, then I’ve already won.

Making an Iced Latte With an Aeropress

I used to have access to a lovely espresso machine, which which we made many iced lattes. Now that I work from home, reproducing the silky luxury of those iced lattes has been a little difficult. Until now. I use an Aeropress for almost all of my coffee needs and have finally figured out how to make a solid iced latte:

  • Put the Aeropress plunger on the 3 line of the aeropress. You don’t want too much coffee or you’ll never get it cold. Plus, you want it to be strong.
  • 1 scoop of finely ground coffee (if you can’t do fine ground, that’s OK) in the aeropress
  • Pour almost boiling water over the grounds, stir, then set your timer for 4 minutes.
  • Fill your cocktail shaker with four ice cubes, sugar and milk or half and half to taste (I’d guess no more than 1/3 cup of liquid).
  • When the timer goes off, press the coffee into the cocktail shaker, shake the hell out of it and pour.
  • Enjoy.

It’s simple and makes a really good iced latte. And remember, the better your beans, the better your cup (I get all my coffee from Cup to Cup).

Happy coffee-ing!

Hi There

The longer I see that almost-year-old post sitting there on the homepage, the more daunting it gets to think of something worthy of kicking it out of the top spot.

I’ve been blogging a lot (ok, not a lot) on the Rails Machine blog, but work, the Creative Coast and other stuff seems to take up all the time I would otherwise spend writing.

In fact, I have to write a column for the paper that’s due on Monday, so I guess I should go do that instead of writing this drivel.