Monday, March 26, 2012

Back in the Mile High City

I arrived back in Denver this evening after a much quicker flight than I had anticipated. We landed 45 minutes early because of favorable wind helping us along the way. Since the wedding and the birth of Jacqueline, it's always so much harder to leave than it was when I was a bachelor. Jackie had a little bit of car sickness along the way, so that made for an interesting trip along the BQE.

It really makes me admire my friends that have spent long stretches of time away from home from their loved ones, it's tough just doing three days sometimes, 6 months or a year would be so incredibly grueling, I with they could all come home tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to seeing the construction progress that's been made since I was last here in the summer, I'll be sure to post some pictures when I can.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Jackie loves to imitate mom and dad, ( I said imitate, not irritate right? she likes to do that too!), last night she snuck up in my chair, got nice and cozy and was trying to figure out what this fancy doodad was all about. With all these wonderful gadgets and technology today, it will be a wonder if the kids can grow up with a more traditional childhood. I'm glad Jackie enjoys simple things like blocks and balls more than the high tech stuff so far, her favorite toy is this wooden ball tower from Melissa & Doug. So I hope she continues to enjoy playing with the books and simpler toys, and learn to use her imagination.

Time to order some new toys from Amazon

I accused Alison of setting up this doll next to the block bucket, but Alison denied it, which means that Jackie did it, which I thought was cute.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Corning of the Beef Part II

Success... that's what I would call my first experiment with meat curing. An absolute success. To be sure I was leery about this whole thing, when we have convenience so ingrained in our minds, and how things ought to come in a pre-packaged cry-o-vac format, it makes this sort of homemade product feel almost dangerous or unbelievable. It is difficult to find a good butcher, or baker, (or candlestick maker), we rely on the deli counter, grocery store bought cakes and pastries, and what ever scraps the "butchers" at the grocery store put out for sale.

We see articles about things like pink slime, and while perfectly safe to eat, it's outrageous that scraps that would have been dog food, are now being mixed in as cheap filler material and marketed as quality ground beef, (which raises an interesting question, as to what we are now feeding our dogs if the scrap is now too good for them?)

Anyway sorry for pontificating, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm learning that a lot of these older culinary skills that my grandparents or great grandparents might have used, are have been lost for the sake of convenience. But the reality is, these things are actually quite simple, not all that time consuming, and infinitely superior to a lot of the things we might find on the grocery shelves. What's shocking to me as I mentioned in the previous post is that I'm finding the raw ingredients can be so much more expensive, than the processed stuff, so my question is what is it in the food chain that adds value, and at the same time reduces cost? Why does a corned beef brisket sell for $2.00 a pound, when the raw brisket ( a crappy cut of meat to begin with) sells for $5. Why can I get "ground chuck" or whatever they are passing off as ground beef on sale for $1.99 a lb, and the cut of beef it originated from is $3.99... to me this seems counter intuitive, but the answer is most likely you are buying garbage like pink slime.

I'm very much looking forward to our CSA adventure that starts in July, and hope to invest in a smoker soon. Using my kitchen-aid sausage maker, I plan on preparing a few batches of kielbasa and andouille, and if I don't poison anyone, I can already guarantee it will be several orders of magnitude better than the junk that Hillshire Farms passes of on the public. Convenience food can be great, it's plentiful, and certainly it has liberated us from a number of mundane daily tasks, but there is a price that has been paid. We have lost valuable survival skills, we eat a lot of junk food even when it's not actual "junk food", and I think it has reduced family interactivity. Instead of working together to craft our own meals, we pop open a can of chef boyardee, toss it in the microwave and interact with what ever happens to be on television instead of each other.

So off the soapbox and back to the success of St. Patrick's day. The corned beef was in the brine for 10 days.

We got out it out of the bag, and the spice smell was overpowering. The only pot that I had that was big enough was the pressure canner I got for christmas, so we went ahead and used that. I boiled the brisket for about 3.5 hours, we had a traditional boiled dinner with cabbage, carrots, and potatoes added in during the last stages of cooking.

Looks like zombie meat!

Set to boil

Jackie enjoying her St. Patrick's Day Ravioli

Why are these pictures sideways?

It was perfectly colored, perfectly tender, came apart with the fork, and the best one died! As a bonus, it also tasted great, some of the best corned beef I've had, and I think we can do even better next time. Once we get the smoker, we can use the same technique for pastrami.

As a bonus, I just picked up an order of Girl Scout cookies at work, and I was looking for something to use them for to help celebrate the holiday. A quick google search presented a solution of a thin mint cream pie and crust!

I simplified the original recipe to some extent, Alison not being a huge chocolate fan, we wanted to go for a lighter filling. Now that I've railed against overusing processed food, I can admit to using My-T-Fine vanilla pudding pie filling, spiked lovingly with artificial green food coloring to give it that festive look of a leprechaun that got hit by a steam roller. The whipped cream was homemade, and I used some peppermint extract to complement the thin mint crust.

It came out pretty well, but the crust was sticking to the pie plate. I'd try this again, but we'll need to figure out how to avoid this, perhaps with a silicone lined pie pan or something.

Jackie also had some fun playing with her buddies.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Jackie wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Corning of the Beef

This year for St. Patrick's day we have decided to embark on a mission to produce our own homemade tasty corned beef. Because we've had good success in the past with Alton Brown recipe's we decided to give his version a whirl, because it generally tends to be pretty fool proof.

The recipe is here.

I made a few changes since I neglected to order juniper berries, and that's not something that typically is carried at the grocery store spice aisle, not even at Wegman's. Side note on spices... order all spices from Penzy's, I think it's generally of better quality, and much much cheaper than the rip off of the grocery store spice aisle, generally dominated by McCormick. They have some retails stores, but none in our immediate area.

In addition to omitting the juniper berries, we added some additional generic pickling spice mix, and substituted Instacure #1 in place of the salt peter. I was hoping to get a better cut of brisket than the cryovac bag that was at Wegman's but the local butcher shop was around $8.00 a lb, and the cuts at Costco were too small. I was able to get a six lb first cut piece from Wegman's for around $4.50 a lb. Which really got me thinking about the quality of the packaged corned beef we all generally buy at the store. That stuff is already processed, and costs 2 - 2.50 less a lb than just the fresh unprepared meat. What low grade product are we getting?

I'll give an update on how this worked out after the holiday. I'm hoping not to poison my friends and family with nitrates and botulism.

6 plus lbs of awesome

you can get the instacure #1 (or prague powder) from Amazon, Cabela's, or if you want to mortgage your house, it's available at Williams-Sonoma

All the spices, brown sugar, and salts.

Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

10 days in the fridge, check daily to make sure the meat is covered with brine


When Jackie goes up to play at Grandma and Grandpa's house, she gets to play with 35 year old Fischer Price Little People sets, (don't tell DYFS!). I had noticed the changes that were made in the little people sets that my older brother played with, that Joe and I played with, and what Elizabeth probably played with, and now in order to conform with modern hysteria/safety standards the one's that are made for the current generation.

Behold the evolution of Canis lupus familiaris in the land of little people.

Dog's in little people land are ruled by giant dog overlords

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tight Rope Walk

I got linked over to this blog post the other day, it sort of delves into the conflict on social issues that a more progressive devout Catholic might have issues with in their political allegiances. It really hit home for me, because as a libertarian, conservative, right wing kook, I have similar issues on the "social justice" side of things,  even though I hate that term, as well as things like the death penalty. I learned of Cardinal Bernardins seamless garment ethic in High School and it has always stuck with me.

Anyway this link is after the jump.