Monday, February 27, 2006

The Wire Thingy

Dear Internet,

Rejoice. For I have had enough foresight to be both in a blogging mood AND had the camera wire thingy available.

First, here is the complete Braun MultiPractic immersion blender, with beaker, chopper thingy and wall thingy.

All you have to do is outscore everyone in the Great Joke Quiz 2006. I'll post the quiz on March 1st. (I'm debating giving lurkers a bit of extra credit as an incentive)

Secondly, the biscotti went swimmingly. They got all wrapped up pretty-like in cellophane (the stuff that looks like cling wrap, but neither clings nor is so pliable) and tied with raffia. Before you think I am some sort of manly Martha Stewart, I must confess to totally ripping off the idea from NTS's favorite bakery. They sold out quickly, and we had a lot of fun munching on the end bits and the ones that broke apart.

We start out with the good stuff.

NOS's job is to sift the dry ingredients.

Then we cream the butter (and sugars) and mix the wet ingredients. I felt kindly disposed, so I let NOS work the selector on Ye Olde Kitchen Aid.I also let NOS take a picture of the loaves baking. As you can tell, it was a full moon.The finished product, cooling on one of the racks.

Since it was a rainy weekend and I was also grounded (i.e., keeping watch over my grounded offspring) I spent it on a serious Food Network jag. Duly inspired I actually invented something.

Here's what I did: I took out some fresh pasta dough (from the last time I made a bi-i-ig batch) out of the freezer. I also took out leftover grilled mushrooms and leftover roast chicken. I put the mushrooms though the food processor, and then mixed them with an egg (for binding) and salt, pepper and nutmeg. I set a big ol' pot of salted water to boil.

Then I put the leftover chicken (de-boned, DUH) though the food processor as well. I sauteed two slices of prosciutto (Most people like di Parma, but I prefer San Daniele, from the north of Italy, you do whatever), and took them out. In the same pan, I melted a good 2 tablespoons of butter. While the butter was melting and browning, I rolled out the pasta into three lo-o-o-ong sheets. Using a demitasse spoon, I spooned li'l globs of mushroom at regular intervals on the pasta. I wet the pasta with a brush (i.e., drawing a "graph paper" pattern) folded the pasta over and cut out ravioli (I think this sort of shape is technically called pansotti) with a thing that looks like a miniature pizza cutter with a zig-zag edge.

With the butter all melted and its foam subsided, I sauteed 3 medium cloves of garlic over medium low heat, added 6 fresh sage leaves and when it was all nice and fragrant, I tossed in the chicken bits. I deglazed with a bit of white wine and chicken stock (I save stock in an ice cube tray...this was 1 cube's worth) letting the sauce get to a thin syrup.

Toss in the pasta which cooks in far less time than it takes me to type it out. Drain, toss with sauce in the skillet and crumble the prosciutto. Grate fresh asiago and ta-da!

There you have it.


Posted by Joke at 7:42 AM 5 comments

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bad Daddy

There is an advantage to having the SAHP be the Dad.

Exhibit A:

NOS comes home from school, in a chipper mood since it is, after all, the start of the weekend. So far so good. We go over the plans we have for tonight (visiting friends who live 20 minutes away and whom we see far less than Poppy & Co. who live 87 states away) and what tomorrow's wake-up time is for delivering the biscotti to the bake sale booth at the Farmers Market.

Then I spot The Green Folder. TGF is the folder the school sends every week, with announcements, things the parents are to sign, field trip permission slips, etc. It also includes any academic items of which the parents need be aware. In NOS's case, it was the latter which caught my attention. NOS is, by and large, an excellent student. Last year he was the only boy in his grade on the Honor Roll. This year he has been doing fine, mostly A's and the odd B or two. But now he had flunked 3 quizzes/assignments in a week. Not flunked them out of a failure of knowledge, oh nononono...but because he was goofing off and not paying attention.

He was immediately "grounded" for the week. (That means no birthday parties and no TV and no sports, etc.) His reaction was instantaneous and HIGHLY lachrymose. His cute little face was contorted with abject grief (I was half expecting a rending of garments and him yelling, in a bad accent, "I haff no dad!") and his voice cracked with a pleading tone. This approach, by the way, has proven quite effective with ::cough, cough:: other adults in the household in the past.

But I was (and remain) highly impassive to his racking sobs. Grounded he remains.

That is all.

-J., wearing his GigaBeat MP3 player.

Posted by Joke at 4:20 PM 9 comments

Marinara Rebuttal

I love Badger to bits, I really do.

But sweet (even sweet-ish) marinara makes my left eye twitch uncontrollably like Chief Inspector Dreyfus' did when Clouseau did something.

I like my marinara relentlessly savory. The challenge is to tame the acidity of the tomatoes without adding ::shudder:: sugar. The solution? Use ASEPTIC (i.e. boxed) tomatoes, and the most widely available ones--the best ones, too--are from Pomi.

The canning process gives them a "tinny" flavor that reads pretty much as acid, to my palate.

Here's what I do:

1 box of Pomi chopped tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, sliced as thin as your patience allows
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 tablespoons EVOO

In a small saucepan over medium heat, sprinkle the dried oregano (rub it between your hands, to crush slightly) and wait 30 seconds. Add oil. When oil shimmers add garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant..then add the tomatoes. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use the Pomi strained tomatoes.



Posted by Joke at 1:21 PM 4 comments

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How To Use Up Your Copious Free Time

Volunteer to provide goodies for the bake sale.

NOS's school is afforded use of the "community booth" at the Farmers Market for one Saturday. (Every school gets it for one Saturday, the dates determined by chance) So I volunteered to make my world-famous Mocha - Chocolate Chip Biscotti (which is why I have been out of the loop and will remain so for a little while) is the recipe:

1 cup UNBLEACHED all purpose flour (I like King Arthur, but Pillsbury is good also)
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I like Droste)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, (room temp.)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso, cooled
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and butter a large baking sheet. In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and espresso and beat until combined. Stir in flour mixture until a stiff dough is formed. Stir in chips.

On baking sheet with floured hands form dough into 2 (9-inch) long logs and bake in middle of oven until slightly firm to the touch, about 12-13 minutes. Cool biscotti on baking sheet on a rack for 15 minutes. In a cutting board with a serrated knife cut logs diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Arrange biscotti, a cut side down, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10-15 minutes, depending how crunchy you like them. (The ones you intend to dip ought be crunchier so your espresso or Vin Santo doesn't get crumbs...the ones you eat straight should merely be crunchy, not jawbreak-y)

Cool biscotti on rack. Biscotti may be made 1 week ahead and kept in airtight containers, or 1 month ahead and frozen.


Posted by Joke at 2:00 PM 4 comments

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Contest Update.

O frabjous day! Callooh! and, naturally, callay.

Guess what? No, really. Guess.

I found the beaker thingy.

I also found...guess what?

The wall hanger thingy, so you can keep the stick blender against the wall with the blender-y part secure in its beaker (I think...maybe the beaker thingy rests atop the chopper thingy). So, except for the box, which apparently hath gone off to sea like Cap'n Ahab, the whole kit is intact.


P.S. I'm about half done with the test. So that nobody has any unfair advantage, ALL THE ANSWERS are found in the archives of THIS blog.

Posted by Joke at 8:36 AM 4 comments

Decanter Solution

Here's what I did.

I got out my scribe (2nd from the bottom) and "etched" a TEENY little roman numeral at the base. Then I made a cheat sheet as follows:

I - A Single Malt Scotch (SMS)
II - A Calvados
III - A Bourbon
IV - Another SMS
V - A "Single Mark Rum"
VI - An Armagnac
VII - A Sherry brandy
VIII - A Cognac
IX - Amaretto
X - Another Bourbon
XI - A dark rum

While I was at it, I decided to finally make limoncello with the lemon peels which I have had steeping in vodka since forever.

Basically here is the recipe:

10 whole lemon peels (the yellow part only!)
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
1/2 cup water
3 cups lemon juice (strained!)
2 1/4 cups superfine (or 2 1/2 regular sugar, but you'll have more of a job dissolving it) sugar

1- Put the peels in a large mason-type jar and steep the lemon peels in the vodka for at least four days (room temperature). Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, say, 15 minutes. Cool completely. (It's okay if the sugar is not 100% dissolved.)

2- Pour the lemon juice into sugar syrup (If it's not cooled completely, it will give the limoncello a "cooked" taste which is no bloody good at all.) and stir to dissolve completely (I cheat and use a blender) Strain out peels from vodka and mix with sweetened juice. Pour into nice self-stoppered bottles (I use the 750ml Lorina "sparkling lemonade" ones). Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.


Posted by Joke at 8:01 AM 2 comments

Monday, February 20, 2006

The decanter problem.

Dear Internet,

I have a question for the assembled.

Over the course of my adult life, I have amassed--if "amassed" is the word I want--a whole bunch* of decanters. Some are tall and slender, others are short and squat, I have ornate-ish Irish cut-crystal ones and sleek Italian deco ones. Poppy has a slew of cocktail shakers, and I have decanters; such is life in a pluralist society.


I thought I ought consolidate these with the contents of many of my half-filled bottles of spirituous liquors. So far, so good.

The thing of it is that most of these spirituous liquors are of that vaguely amber-ish, honey-ish color. It would be too much to ask of me to remember which decanter holds the sherry brandy and which holds the Calvados and which holds the aged rum, especially when I am hosting some sort of gathering and playing bartender. I can only imagine the grimace on Poppy's face if I mistakenly offered her a Perfect Manhattan (straight up) made with one of those impronounceable single-malt Scotches or an Almendrado tequila.

Therefore, I turn to you. I need some sort of attractive type of label/tag thingy for each decanter. Not the ones that say "Scotch" or "Brandy" because I'd be decanting about 3-4 of each and that'd only leave me back at Square Two. I want something casual-but-elegant.

Have at it.

-J., grateful-in-advance.

* 13

Posted by Joke at 2:32 PM 7 comments

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dear Internet,

Below are my two favorite outfits from the Fall 2006 Ralph Lauren show.

Mind you, they are FAR from perfect, especially in terms of the artifice/affectedness of fit and proportion (seems like there is a knee-jerk reactionary mood against the equally loathsome over-slouchiness of past years. (Click on the pictures for an expanded view)

But there are some elements I rather like. (For more on this, go to my other blog) I find the riding jacket version at right to be...interesting and innovative in a benign way, save for the choice of a notch lapel, which I simply cannot abide. The Spinal Tap-snug cut of the trousers with stovepipe legs will become a sad aberration and forgotten footnote in a year or two. Avoid.

I heartily approve, though, of pocket watches with chains (but then again, I would) and the white waistcoat with black tie at right strikes me as complete genius, as does the gradual reemergence of a proper wing collar after many years in hiding following many years of the sartorial abuse thereof. Notice the self-tied bow ties. At these shows these are often tied sloppily on purpose, to highlight the self-tiedness aspect. In real life, you'd tie them as neatly as possible, secure in the knowledge it'll always have an ingratiating amount of imperfection/individualism. To willfully tie them sloppily is to be trying too hard. Oh, and the tie at left is a bit too big and, unless I am mistaken, too velvety.

Now you know.


Posted by Joke at 2:09 PM 1 comments

The end is nigh.

This is such a horrifying array of evil omens, I can't even begin to comment.

(Click on the pictures for an expanded view)

And people wonder why I got married as late as I did.


Posted by Joke at 12:19 AM 9 comments

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Stranger in a strange land.

The position of househusband (even a part-time one) is an interesting one. In this subsection of Paradise, being a SAHM is a fairly common* thing, but SAHDs are mighty thin on the ground. Mind you, the reason why I'm a SAHD--for those of you** new to this blog-- has more to do with coincidence between my slow months at the office and my wife's busy season. So it works out well, but it's hardly much of a Grand Statement on my part.

Anyway, for whatever reason, this puts me in society with the SAHM contingent for a good 3 months. And it it's interesting. And here's why:

After a while, the fact you're the only one in a meeting of room moms who has a Y chromosome sort of disappears. It's a cross between being invisible and being one-of-the-gang. It still takes a while to get used to, especially when conversation veers into TMI-land. I appreciate that moms are women and, therefore, the likeliest demographic to suffer from medical issues generally best categorized as Women Problems. I appreciate these Women Problems require specialized medical attention. They do not, however, require my having to be regaled with same in such detail. I have far too much good grace to cover my ears and run screaming like my hair was afire, but it's a close-run thing. Having said that, I have empathy and now am a firm proponent that the equipment used by said Women Problem Doctors ought be kept at ~98.6F (or 37C, for the maladjusted) at all times.

Now, as someone who finds women to be CEASELESSLY fascinating, I am of the opinion that there's a whole of women-versus-their-mothers dynamic going on, of which I had never been truly aware until recently. Story: I'm at an after-school thing for NTS, off to the side and pretty much minding my own business. Someone's mom, whom I recognize by sight and with whom I have chatted amiably--if superficially--a few times, shows up with her mother. They say "hi" and go about chatting among themselves. Granny goes to find a water fountain and, once this aged relative is out of earshot, Someone's Mom lets loose with an exasperated tale of woe about how her mother drives her mental.

Me, being the sort of amiable guy I am, nod and "uh-huh" and roll my eyes supportively. To be honest, nothing she said her mom said/did was all that bad to my mind, but whatever. I'm in the Mom Guild and I must play my role. Still, I don't know that if, say, my dad were to comment about my hair or how much better I'd look if I were wearing blue, it'd drive me to such a vexed*** state. Maybe these women have more and more easily pushable buttons. [shrug]

It does explain, howe'er, why it took so long to find someone to marry me. Moms universally loved me and, I think, the girls I dated picked up on that and proceeded to move 180 deg. away from me, as close to supersonic speed as could be managed in heels. The fact my MiL considered me an aberrant weirdo (this has since mellowed to "mild eccentric") probably drove TFBIM towards Holy Matrimony faster than anything I may have ever done. In thinking about it, I should probably be way mo' grateful-like to my MiL and stop putting pumpkins in the window when she shows up.

Now, the thing that DOES drive me bonkers when I am axle deep among the moms is when one of them will turn to me and says "X would look so much prettier if she didn't wear snoods/chinos/crinolines don't you think?" with X being, like, right there. I dunno what they taught these women in Mom School, but don't put me on the spot like that, man. It's extra difficult when X is a woman of ::cough, cough:: limited aesthetic**** charms, to say nothing of those who are actually attractive. For those of you in blogland who were not aware of it, it is an awkward position to be in for Mr. Married Faithful Dad to be asked to comment on how attractive Mrs. Married Hottie Mom is. So cut that out, I got vows ovah heah.

Speaking of awkward, being The One Dad, seemingly in invisible mode, is gotta be like being Polish when people are telling Polish jokes. Only weirder, because it's hard to look obviously Polish unless you're carrying a bushel of pierogies and wearing a name tag which sports a surname desperately shot of vowels. But there I am, obviously a guy, obviously a dad/husband and husband/men jokes start flying. Worst of all, they are not funny. Unfunny jokes are a desperate plea for help.

In my sphere of influence, there are three basic kinds of mom into whom I run on a frquent basis. I realize these are a) generalizations and b) there are MORE generalizations out there than these, this is just the basic sets of people into whom I run on a regular basis.

The Power Mom. This specimen is always put together well with a modest amount of well-applied makeup. She drives a midsize luxury car (i.e., the medium Jaguar, the medium Lexus), never wears jeans and rarely chinos. Occasionally she will show up in workout gear, having actually worked out. She has a decent-sized purse and is usually carrying food and/or travel magazines. She has a PDA or Filofax upon her person. She has a freakish memory for birthdays and names and faces. She is always on her cell phone.

The Whaddaya Want From Me? Mom. She's all over the board. Some days she looks GREAT and so much. She is somehow stuck driving not only her kids, but her kids' friends. She is invariably in jeans (ma-a-a-a-aybe chinos) and clogs, wears hip glasses, has a tote bag of a purse, and for some reason makes everyone around her aware of her gynecological state. She has no idea what my name is, and drives a minivan littered with billions of fossilized remnants of fast food drive-through windows. She is tribal and hangs out with similar moms and her status in that tribe is derived by how harried she and/or how absent her husband is. She always carries a book she'd rather be reading while she waits, but other members of the tribe engage her in conversation.

The Cool Mom. For some reason this is a mom who had her kids either VERY early or VERY late. She has an iPod/MP3 on and kinda loud. Her hair is in a ponytail, she wears sneakers and shorts and crazy wristwatches. Minimal, if any makeup, and sunglasses are a fixture. She often greets her kids with a "Guess what I have?" She drives a station wagon or possibly a midsized SUV. She quite often has a large Starbucks cup in her hand. She actually addresses me as "Dude." A lot of these moms are lefthanded and have only a wallet.

To be honest, it's kinda fun being a Stealth Dad. That's not to say I don't derive a certain frisson from showing off or receiving modest adulation. I do. Still, it keeps me making truffles or biscotti for the bake sales.


P.S. A memo to NOS's friend R's mom: "Your mom is right about the low-rise jeans."

* At NOS's school, I'd guesstimate 25%-30% of the moms are FT SAHMs
** Especially you, our new Kiwi friend
*** That's not to say my dad doesn't vex me--he does, often--but only that he does so by saying crazy things or making less than zero sense.
**** Although, in my experience it is far more common for women to marry beneath their station, aesthetically speaking. Sometimes WAY beneath, if you see what I'm saying.

Posted by Joke at 4:12 AM 8 comments

Friday, February 17, 2006

Not the Friday Photo Meme Thing

First, I was told it wasn't a meme...and now, not on Friday owing to phenomenon I have never understood over a show I have never been remotely interested in watching.


This is a closeup of my New All Time Favorite cufflinks, from Thos. Pink. I first saw them one time when I was shopping with the lovely and gracious and clearly not deformed Poppy in Boston a couple of years back but they were out of stock and the guy wouldn't sell me the display ones, the bastid. Anyway, I loved the fact they are teeny-tiny sterling silver ingots, with teeny-tiny hallmarking...just like Big Ol' Ingots have. I also love they are not swivel-backed--PTOOIE!--cheapo cufflinks. So, upon my return to Boston last December, I peeked in and since they finally had them in stock, I simply had to avail myself.

Until I bought these, I hadn't a single set of non-gold cufflinks, especially important when I wanted to synchronize with my late grandfather's sterling pocketwatch.

Now you know.


Posted by Joke at 5:53 PM 3 comments

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A contest!

As the regular readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of free markets. No, not markets where everything is free--although that'd be cool, especially if I got there before everyone went broke--but Ye Olde Adam Smith/Wealth of Nations type of thing.

As a function of that, I believe the single best way to get people to do anything is sheer incentive. Sometimes that incentive is negative ("If you get sent to the principal's office, you're grounded.") and sometimes it's positive ("If you get an 'A' in your next test, I'll buy you something from the bookstore.")

Well, I want to improve my lurker:commenter ratio. So I will hereby issue positive incentive.

A contest then, and everyone--even regulars here--can participate.

The prize: A Braun MR30 Multipractic Stick Blender WITH the mini-chop attachment thingy (not pictured but it's this one), I'll even throw in shipping anywhere in the USA/Canada, possibly elsewhere in the world if it's not outrageous. (Winner is responsible for all duties, customs, taxes, etc.) It was a duplicate wedding gift that I never used. I have no idea where the beaker thingy went, and the box hasn't been seen in a decade, but it works flawlessly. I'll even start posting recipes in which this immersion blender is the star.

The contest: A quiz based on the ramblings in this blog.

The rules: A quiz will be posted here in the next couple of days. Answer the questions on YOUR blog (Not on the comments section of the post! You will be ridiculed and taunted.) but add a comment on the post where the quiz appears (so I know you are participating). Contest will run, say, 10 days.

Start brushing up!


Posted by Joke at 1:23 PM 7 comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So I have that going for me.

Dear Internet,

As reported previously, yesterday was St. Valentine's Day and I went on to some length describing NOS's, because, frankly, that was pretty much the most exciting part. Still, in the interests of full disclosure, I'll let the rest of you in on what happened among the married people who live in my house.

TFBIM (a/k/a TCPAIM*) being in the throes of tax season, I'll just say her presence was something felt (by me) on a more ethereal plane. It's weird to "have someone" on St. Valentine's Day except they are not there. It's like having something on back order...sure, yeah, you paid for it...but it's still not here. Weird.

Giftwise, I made out OK. I got the Tiffany Swiss Army Knife in sterling silvah, to put at the other end of my pocket watch chain and a small gift box of assorted Ghirardelli chocolates. An email alerted me to their presence.

I had wanted to get TFBIM the Easton Press-like Harry Potter books, but, alas, that was not to be. Instead, she had been complaining that she didn't have what she called "in-between" jewelry, something that could play up (for clients) or down; something that wasn't white (or yellow) gold but not the sort of sterling silver usually seen on Woodstock attendees on walkers.

I managed to find a very nice sterling mesh set** (very discreet, whimsical in it's meshy-ness) but girly in a casual way, and I also had a dozen roses in assorted shades of pink and red. The nice thing about having someone who works brutal hours during St. Valentine's Day is that you can actually get her roses at regular rose prices, instead of the jacked-up-for-the-moment prices. Those among you who have purchased Christmas trees at 6pm on Dec. 24 will know what I am talking about.

Anyway, I wish I had enough time to commiserate with the lovely and gracious Poppy who was undergoing a similar situation with her absent mate. Poppy and I have long maintained we have ~92.something% of similarity in our tastes and outlook and situation. She also humors me by scrupulously failing to omit the "St." from St. Valentine's Day. So, like, mad props for her.

Still, it was cool being the only room mom without Fallopian tubes at this tea reception thing. At least TFBIM was able to come home to a buncha roses and a Tiffany box and yummy leftovers (Chicken paillards a la dijonnaise, pommes Anna and spinach sauteed in bacon) and some chocolate truffles I made.

For the record, making chocolate truffles is STUPID easy. Here...I'm bored, so I'll share:

18 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (or just chopped fine, if you can't get chips) I like Ghirardelli semisweet chips, myself. (Divided into 10 & 8 oz)
3 tablespoons sweet (i.e., unsalted) butter
1/2 cup heavy cream (if at all possible NOT ultra-pasteurized!!)
1/4 cup bourbon/dark rum/brandy/liqueur/espresso
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Droste) and/or crushed nuts (Paging Dr. Freud!) and/or toasted coconut shreds (the kind you can find for rimming Piña Colada glasses is best) and/or powdered sugar (the kind you make yourself in the blender--without corn starch--is best) for coating truffles (this is what the other 8 oz of chocolate are for)

1- Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Zap in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time if needed...all you want to get to is "soft" no more. Set aside.

2- Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the butter/chocolate mixture; let it rest a couple of minutes. Using a silicone (rubber if that's all you have) spatula, fold gently, all chocolate is melted and the cream/chocolate mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently fold in the liquid (I'm partial to espresso or a rich bourbon like Knob Creek). Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

3- Use a melon baller or one of those TEENY ice-cream scoops to scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4- Place the cocoa powder, nuts, powdered sugar and/or toasted coconut each in its own shallow bowl, assembly-line style if you are using more than one) and set aside. You can also place the other 8 oz of chocolate into a small bowl floating on top of a large bowl filled with hot tap water, so the chocolate melts and stays "melty". Depending on your tap water temperature, you may need to add a bit of cold or hot water. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90F to 92F (33C, I think); do not allow the chocolate to go above that because if you do, the coating will not have a nice bite to it. Once you have reached an ideal temperature, maintain it.

For a weekday operation, I stick to only one coating (plain cocoa or powdered sugar, depending on my mood and inventory) so don't panic or feel overwhelmed or obligated to use multiple coatings.

5- Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands (use disposable latex gloves or whatev.) if the melon balling process left them insufficiently round for your liking. If so re-refrigerate for another 30 min. For my taste, the melon balling will suffice 97 out of 100 times, so don't sweat it.

6- Carefully put each truffle in the bowl of whatever coating you want (use a dipping fork if you're doing that whole melted chocolate thing) and roll around to coat. The condensation on the truffle surface upon emerging from the fridge will make sure the coating adheres, and to make sure it does, leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing.

Allow to rest in a cool DRY place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best at room temperature.

So there,


*That CPA I Married

** Necklace, earrings & bangle

Posted by Joke at 8:24 AM 5 comments

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In which the dowry plummets... a dot-com stock when the CEO disappears to Argentina.

Today NOS returned from school, his goody bag fairly well supplied with chocolates and other Valentinian treats. NOS being my NOS, he sat at the dining room table and began to sort out the candies into separate piles, according to category. I glance over his shoulder and I see one that has a little St. Valentine's Day tag attached thereto. The tag had a hand-scrawled something which read:

I love you,

-[Blonde girl with the bangs]"

and another

"NOS, you are the cutest boy I love. -[Girl with the green eyes and the glasses.]" and a couple more in a similar vein. I asked, quite casually, NOS about this and he rolled his eyes.

NOS: They say they like me...but they won't leave me alone!!
Me: What about [Freckly girl with the chestnut ponytail], the one you said you kinda liked?"
NOS: She sorta leaves me alone, and she gave out Bubble Yum.
Me: I she still nice?
NOS: Yeah, she gave me Bubble Yum and she left me alone. I think I can still like her.

So I have that going for me.


Posted by Joke at 3:38 PM 3 comments

Well, duh.

You Are a Double Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: overwhelming and bitter

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Posted by Joke at 12:02 AM 4 comments

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hazy Shade of Winter

Dear Internet,

Those of you who live in the tundra* help me out here...when it is substantially colder than your children are accustomed, is it harder to rouse them outa bed to get dressed, have breakfast, etc.?

Or is it just my kids?


* That is, north of Orlando, FL

Posted by Joke at 8:06 AM 6 comments

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The dead of winter

It's bloody cold outside (57F--that's 14C to the maladjusted). Fortunately I had a chance to head to the farmer's market yesterday, to supply the household with fresh, organic vittles. I also had enough good sense to harvest the tomatoes (most of which were duly ripe) as the temperatures are s'posed to plummet into the mid40F range. Yikes.

At any rate, one of the things I bought yesterday from a local artisanal baker was a lovely challah, and then a small slab of organic smoked bacon, as well as some arugula and a TON of Valencia oranges. Yes, I recognize the irony of treyf juxtaposed with challah. I had designs on brunch.

For me, anyway, brunch is a cold-weather affair. I can't see myself doing something so eggy, so bacon-y, when it's warm and sultry without. But today it seemed an ideal thing so, after Mass I thrust myself at the task. I placed 8 slices of bacon (uncured, maple wood smoked) atop a raised grid inside a small roasting pan along with 4 halved large tomatoes in a 350F oven, squeezed the juice out of about 6 oranges into a pitcher, made myself a bloody mary, preheated the griddle, cracked 4 eggs and 1/2 cup 2% milk with a healthy dash of vanilla extract and a teeny pinch of fine-ground sea salt into a collins-glass-but larger, cut half the challah into 3/4" slices on the diagonal, buttered the griddle, applied the Braun immersion blender to the egg thing, drank the bloody mary, soaked the bread slices in the egg thing, made a small pot of tea (Twining's Orange Pekoe), began grilling off the french toasts, made a cappuccino for TFBIM, pulled off the french toasts, pulled out the bacon and roast tomatoes, plated the aforementioned (except that NTS didn't get the roast tomatoes).

Life is good.

Now...what ought I fix for dinner?


Posted by Joke at 2:13 PM 11 comments

More benefits to humanity

It is, of course, a very poorly kept secret that being my pal is a gift that keeps on giving. As an example one of these pals emailed me that she was having a gentleman caller--the leading candidate for beau, no less--over for dinner on St. Valentine's Day and was at a loss as to what to provide, seeing as how he wished for something in a South Italian vein BUT had some sort of food issues that precluded a very tomato-y presence.

Naturally, I was able to help:

Dude...Chicken Marsala! Or Chicken Saltimbocca.

8 chicken scaloppine (about 3 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO (in this case, I prefer butter)
1 large shallot (or 1/4 sweet onion), finely chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 ounces cremini (or porcini or plain ol' button or some combination) mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sweet Marsala
3/4 cup chicken broth (low-salt aseptic organic, if'n you must buy it)
Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig (use thyme, if'n you wanna)

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Put 2 tablespoons of butter/oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add another tablespoon of butter or oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter/oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add another tablespoon of butter/oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and saute until SLIGHTLY caramelized, tender and the mushroom juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the chicken and juices to the skillet. Cook just until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Using tongs, transfer to plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve.

For saltimbocca, just wrap the chicken in prosciutto (with a bit of fresh sage) and omit the mushroom, and use dry Marsala.

A nice pasta would be a bit of capellini with sundried tomato pesto (MUCH less acidic than regular tomatoes, and, besides, you use less)...I just use half a small jar of SDTs in EVOO, pureed with a 3 cloves fresh garlic, and a bit of salt.

The default red wine for basic Italian stuff is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or Barbera d'Asti/d'Alba. Loads of fruit, pleasant acidity, minimal tannins and WAAAAAY food friendly. The white wine equivalent is Principessa de Gavi (my spelling may be off, sue me) or any other Gavi (Gavi dei Gavi, or Cortese de Gavi). Idiot proof stuff. Oh, and get biscotti or amaretti for your espresso or Vin Santo.

Break a leg!


P.S. If you use dried porcini, soak them into the chicken broth so as not to waste any of the flavor.

Posted by Joke at 8:17 AM 0 comments

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sick and tired.

I am sick and tired of brown and pink, brown and baby-blue, etc. It is not, nor has it ever been, attractive or flattering to anyone.

Stop it.

Thank you,


Posted by Joke at 10:12 PM 4 comments

And then afterwards...

Dear Internet,

For Christmas I received a GC thing to the Charles Tyrwhitt website. Having finally had enough time to wade through their site, and prompted by one of their ::cough, cough:: infrequent emails to the effect there was ::cough, cough:: an all-too-rare sale, off I went and effected purchases.

Well, the day before yesterday they arrived. One was a solid lilac (What? Shut UP!) 180s cotton shirt, and the other a navy check over white (think monochrome tattersall or graph paper, only the lines are navy and not light blue) Sea Island cotton shirt. Both had spread (not cutaway) collars and french (double, for my UK/ANZ pals) cuffs. Please ignore the cufflinks in the pictures.

The fit is actually quite nice and damned close to MTM (maybe I'm just lucky the mannequin over at CT and I share most of the same physiognomical anomalies), the workmanship superior (only a bit of rough stitching on one shirt) and the fabrics--as yet unlaundered, so stay tuned--really, really pleasing to the skin...they feel as if they had been stored in an air-conditioned room.

Now, the check was printed rather than woven (you could see that when you turned the shirt inside out) thus earning a slight demerit, and the sleeves on either shirt did NOT have gauntlet buttons...which was quite a jar to my sensibilities. However, the collar DID meet in the ideal /\ (as opposed to / \) way, and the french/double cuffs had two sets of "inside" buttonholes, to compensate for any asymmetry in one's arms' length. The cuffs were also pleasingly snug on the wrist, so one's forearm didn't feel like the clapper inside of a bell when moving one's arm a bit. Nice. Also, the cuffs were attached to the sleeve via a series of teeny pleats which is the best (albeit expensive) way to do this, instead of the more cost effective tapering of the sleeve.

I'm not sure I'd be willing to pony up full retail (What do I look like? The male equivalent of Poppy?) for shirts that have no gauntlet buttons and have unwoven checks, but for a sale price of $50 or so, CT shirts are a steal, even if you DO have to take them to the tailor to add gauntlet buttons. Now you know.

And NO, one cannot see either of my chest hairs nor can one see any Joke-nippleage through the fabric. Please do not make me prove this.


P.S. The plackets are the fold-and-stitch type, not the separate kind.

Posted by Joke at 1:30 PM 8 comments

Sympathy cramps

Dear Internet,

Over the last week or so, a lot of my blog-pals from the distaff side of the species have been expressing themselves on the matter of That Time Of The Month, its effects, the coping mechanisms to bear on said effects, etc.

I, as someone whom God and nature decided to plumb otherwise, have never thought I had anything to compare with such an experience. But I was wrong. I have something that is, admittedly in a weak-tea way, kinda sorta similar. A distant relation.

I have what I will call This One Client (TOC). As you know, my very dear Internet, this is my slow season. Slow is not a synonym for work-free, I have to do a (very) modest amount of honest toil every day. One of the tasks falling under this rubric is to mail out a statement to my clients. This statement, if you were to see it (and I am not allowed to show you, so don't ask) would be ridiculously self-explanatory. It would list the projects undertaken by the client, who much the client spent initially, how much the client has to spend quarterly, and the likely payoffs if the client were to sell off the project at various stages. Everything has clear column and row headers, and even has those click-to-read Excel explanations/notes on important (and highlighted in twinkly yellow) numbers. Dead simple.

Only no.

TOC cannot make head or tail of this. Every month, for 5 days, I have to take time out to babysit TOC through the same statement (well, new numbers are added every month, duh) answer the same questions, etc. Every month I have to sit down and write damned near an essay's worth of explanations. (Yesterday, I took three hours--when I could have been shopping for shoes--to do this.) Today I am in danger of missing a most excellent sale at Nordstrom on tchotchkes I wanted for JokeFest'06...or at least missing the good stuff, because it all goes within 30 minutes of opening.

So, I may not feel your pain, exactly (so don't jump all over my $#! know who you are) but I feel your pain's 2nd cousin.

-J., looking for an analgesic

Posted by Joke at 8:00 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Househusband: Boredom and Inertia

Yesterday marked an all-time high for househusbandly tedium.

I was grounded for most of the day because the Inspector was going to show up at some nebulously defined point to "inspect" the house après the termite thing. Don't ask. So I sat. I went outside and surfed wirelessly from my hammock. Went inside. Yawned. Went outside and harvested a whole mess o' tomatoes. Saved some for salad, etc. and with the rest I made a tomato confit in the CrockPotTM (it's not a slow-cooker, it is a for-real Rival Crock Pot).

In case you're wondering:


1 doz. plum tomatoes
15 basil leaves
5 cloves garlic
Sea salt

Film the bottom of the cooking insert with EVOO, and cover most of the basil leaves. Core and seed the tomatoes (peeling is optional...I don't bother in this case). Place tomatoes in the cooking insert, cut-side down on the basil leaves. Add the oil (1/2" - 3/4"). Thinly shave garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes, along with the salt. Cook on "low" until tomatoes are soft, VERY shriveled and lightly caramelized. The whole thing should look like a tomato marmalade. Plop it in clean mason jars.

[The same process is good for Balsamic-caramelized onions, which is basically EVOO, salt and sweet onions (Maui, Walla-Walla, etc., just avoid the "supersweets" those are ONLY sweet) with a good splash of young (4-6 years...Whole Foods has a great one) Balsamic vinegar. This is GREAT for topping pizza, standing in for the tomato sauce, with a gorgonzola dolce being the cheese of choice.]

Finally Mr. Inspector Man gave us his OK and I schlepped to work out, fetch offspring, deal with offpring afterschool stuff, come home and make a dinner for us 3 (sort of croque monsieur sandwiches, with EVOO/garlic/rosemary Yukon Gold potato chips) and we ate "casual" (i.e., in front of the TV) since NOS wanted to watch a National Geographic documentary on some sort of prehistoric crocodile that measured 40' and whose bit had a snap of 18,000 pounds. In retrospect, the documentary was a bit too TOO for 7- and 8-year olds, but not terribly so.

Oh, snap...I forgot I had to return some stuff I ordered.

It's a thrill-a-minute here in the suburbs of Paradise, USA.


Posted by Joke at 9:30 AM 6 comments

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Fun facts about, well, me!

I started this blog fifteen months ago.

I have written 393 posts.

I have uploaded 272 pictures.

The photo of the car that sucked has been viewed 214 times.

The post on my "vacation" in Italy has been viewed 454 times, and it's only been up a few days. Wow.

The photo of the cheapo gift shop rain ponchos (OK, featuring the USS Constitution) have been viewed 876 (!) times.

I usually have about 277* (!) readers.
87% of them are from the USA.
5% are from the United Kingdom.
2% are from Ireland.
2% are from Canada.
1% are Australian.
3% are R.O.T.W.

Oh, and yes, a big welcome for our new friend from, it seems, Belize.

About 20 or so of you feel comfortable enough to comment on a somewhat regular basis. I am always pleasantly surprised by the number of people who read this religiously and still have the willpower to remain in full-on lurk mode.

Now you know.


* You guys snuck up on me, again. Hi. Welcome.

Posted by Joke at 9:09 AM 6 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006

I love this place.

You may wonder (in fact you DO wonder, aloud) why the Hell I live in a place that is pretty much on the intersection of Hurricane Alley and Tropical Varmint Boulevard, with the added cultural component of being like a UVA/UVB intensive sauna.

Today is why.

Alighting from my house (newly varmint-free, TYVM) I am face to face with a day where the temperature ranges from 65F to 72F (to my non USA readers, you're on your own conversion-wise. Sorry.) the humidity is down around 55%, there isn't a cloud in the sky and it's FEBRUARY. I have ripe tomatoes hanging off the vine in my backyard, and nearly-ripe oranges to follow. I think the limes and avocadoes are almost there as well.

My seafood place called about an hour ago to say that around 2:30pm their shrimp boat was coming in, with a lot of U15 shrimp and, if I hustled, I could get them before they get frozen* and I told them to save me a coupla pounds.

I have a convertible which does not suck and I can put 93 octane gas in it.

I'll have to reread what the downsides of this place may be, because I am blanking on them.


P.S. I may go swimming--outside--later.

*95% of the shrimp you can buy is previously frozen, even in shrimp-intensive coastal cities, since their shelf-life is minimal otherwise. The only way you can make sure they have not is to get them with the head and shell.

Posted by Joke at 1:20 PM 5 comments

In Which I Remember It Preemptively

Blackbird posted on remembered vacations in her blog but before I get to that, riffing offa this notion I am posting on a vacation I am going to--knock wood--remember after Summer 2006. If the good Lord's willin' and the crick don't rise.

As you guys know, I am a rabid (for everything except menswear) Italophile. I also have eleventy gazillion FF miles on a certain airline which is stuck in Ch. 11 and, therefore, I'd like to use up those FF miles on the possibility that airline isn't around much longer. The best way to use up those miles in one fell swoop is to take a Big Deal Vacation. And what better vacation to take than Italy?Great cars, great roads, history, art, architecture and distant relatives who are dying to see my ragazzi*? Sure, I have way mo' relatives in Spain and Spain's history/art/architecture is almost as good as Italy's (and far less crowded) and tapas and pasta (ooh...see that? a wait, it's not a palindrome, it's the other one) are equally yummy...but, the thing of it is the roads are better and the cars are WAY better:

Granted, this one may not even be rentable and, if it was it'd only fit TFBIM and self and a coupla squashy duffel-ish bags. Still, a boy can dream, can't he? However, Italy (being that kind of place) is stuffed to the rafters with companies that rent classic (duh!) Italian sports cars including some that have four seats and an actual trunk where real humans may place real luggage.

Of course, such things may not be rentable with one's surfeit of FF miles, so we may have to--Maestro, violins, please--rent something ::cough, cough:: regular:

Yes, dear Internet, we may have to see the Italian landscape blurring past us, through the windows of a crummy ol' Alfa Romeo GT.

When it comes to Italy travel, there are two distinct sorts of people and they are not--some exceptions notwithstanding--incompatible. You have your Venice people and your Florence people. I'm a Florence person. You do whatever you want.

This is where we start.

Dig that dusk...magic hour indeed. The only way we'd get all four of us around Italy if we managed to rent an Alfa Romeo Nuvola. Which I doubt we would since, even in Italy, the people who run Hertz, Avis, etc. aren't completely mental. But, still, this is my dream so we'll go with that. After convincing Hertz/Avis/etc. to make a gigabuck car available for rental--and to take FF miles in lieu of actual money--we will be ready for a snack. Vin santo and amaretti. Espresso to keep us awake, after that.
And then we leave. ...and the other like minded tourists follow.

We hit the road. Even in Italy, you come across people who get the gas and brake pedals confused, or are Americans who have no idea what that third pedal WA-A-A-Y over on the left is for. So we pass them.
We see some cool architecture, well, we see as much as can be seen at 200kph with a wife and children screaming in terror. OK, maybe just the wife screaming in terror...the boys squealing with glee. Still it gets pretty loud.
All that screaming about the speed (pro and con) changes when we spot a sign in some small town's main drag.This place looks promising, no?We take one of each. All that driving makes us hungry. Something to do with adrenaline, I think. Apologizing to Willie Nelson, we're on the road again.
Passing the laggards at every opportunity.And we find ourselves here.Where we have rented a little farmhouse type thing (which you CAN do with FF miles, but you have to plan ahead and do a lot of that touch-tone two-step)People, naturally, are always drawn to this sort of scenery, including some of those people who didn't bother reading the car rental options clearly.But at least we let them stop across the road from us, and look at "out" topography before they limp off dejectedly.At some point we'll take the Italo-equivalent to the auto train and head to Milan, the St. Peter's of Alfa Romeo. An automotive pilgrimage, if you please. Obviously, I'm still in glassy-eyed-dreamer mode. Indulge me.

Hey! Wasn't that a "ristorante" back there?So we turn around.And we zoom back there.Obviously, this place is good, since everyone is heading there as well.And this is just the antipasti.Naturally, another day trip is warranted.The countryside is nice and verdant. Maybe we oughta picnic around here. Even in Italy, teenagers drive these crazy cars! (Imagine I am talking like Grandpa Simpson)
But this guy seems like a local, let's follow him....and then we hit rush hour, Italian-style.Let's see...we need some bread......some cheese......and some deli-type cold cuts......and, finally, a nice spot to chill and munch.Today, maybe we'll run into the village for some groceries. Let's go before the roads get crowded. Oops. Too late. Might as well fantasize the classic car rental place takes FF miles.We'll need to visit the greengrocer...What? We forgot the olive oil??Once more, into the breach.We get the greenest EVOO we can get.I can't believe I forgot to go to the butcher shop, also.Sorry, dear. I thought it was the other way.Yum. Totally worth making another trip.Let's get a few more things, just in case. The view from our kitchen. It makes me think that cooking under these conditions is the closest I'll ever get to unadulterated bliss while I'm on earth.

I can't wait to go, er, back!


* Oh, shut UP, you know who you are.

Posted by Joke at 12:59 PM 11 comments