I’ve written about how much I like having my broad selection of spices for cooking. We really love our built-in spice rack. It holds forty jars of spices, and we have our overflow as well (thanks in part to the samples we get from the good folks at Penzeys with nearly every order we place). What I’ve noticed, though, is that for the most part I use only a small portion of spicerackthose spices. On a regular basis I use perhaps twenty percent of what we have.

I once asked the Yahoo! vegetarian group (which I no longer actively follow) if others had a similar experience. As I recall, the list owner, who is really a lovely person but who can be impatient at times, answered with a response only slightly more polite than, “Of course not, you dumb ass!”

But there was another member whose experience was similar to mine. She wrote that she believed keeping a more photo (6)complete spice collection will encourage her to try new recipes with new flavors. I like that approach, though I haven’t been good about following it. I expect that to be different this year, however. As I wrote, my goal is for more variety in my cooking. And I am off to a good start on that. I just need to keep it going.

So here’s to having a broad spice selection.

making it work

Fast Dragon, our local Chinese fast food place, was closed for several days. When they reopened the hot table was cold and empty, and the made-to-order specials (Thai Basil Chicken, Curry Chicken) that Terry and I enjoyed so much were gone. Instead, up on the board were two kinds of offerings, bowls and plates, with pretty much the same choices: chicken, BBQ beef, and ribs. The bowls list also had a veggie offering.

I suppose they weren’t making it and revamped things in an attempt to make the place economically viable. Perhaps they even hired a consultant.

I don’t know if it will work. They were fairly busy when I was in there, pretty much everyone a regular, and most everyone somewhat surprised and baffled. Some of us were also disappointed. I tried the beef-chicken combo and I was not impressed. There was not a lot of flavor, overall the dish was dry, and the salad was warm from being in the same Styrofoam container as the meat and rice.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this. We had a local vegetarian restaurant that was pretty good. They never advertised themselves as vegetarian, which I didn’t get. I did enjoy their sandwiches, however. One time I went in there and they had updated the menu. All of the sandwiches were gone. The owner said however she modeled it in her number crunching she couldn’t make things come out in the black with sandwiches. They sold the place shortly thereafter, and it became a successful deli-style café.

I hope that the folks at Fast Dragon fare better. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help them, though, with their menu as it exists currently.

symbols of childhood

I’ve noticed that my childhood memories are often triggered in the grocery store.

When I went shopping to make Trisha Yearwood’s Chicken Baked in Cornflake Crumbs I needed to pick up buttermilk and, obviously, corn flakes. In the dairy section the store had house brand buttermilk and Knudsen. Now, Knudsen, there’s a name from my childhood. We had our local dairies, and milkmen who delivered directly to our homes (a topic for another blog entry), but when you went to the store the milk brand was very often Knudsen. The company is but a shadow of its former self, but they’re still around selling select products like buttermilk and cottage cheese. The Knudsen buttermilk was a bit more expensive, but I had to pick up it up for the sake of the memories.

Then there’s Kellogg’s, such a big part of my generation’s childhood breakfasts. On the cereal aisle, there was again house brand corn flakes and then Kellogg’s. The Kellogg’s was more expensive, but it was a smaller box. That made sense since we don’t normally eat corn flakes, so there was no point in buying a larger box.

After all, when creating a comfort food dish like cornflake and buttermilk chicken there’s every reason to buy brands that are symbols of childhood.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

to stay or go?

I am troubled by some of the struggles within the Episcopal Church. Those struggles are made manifest in the secession of the Diocese of South Carolina from the national church, something that is not permitted by the legal structure of the Anglican Communion and the The Episcopal Church in the United States.

I look at those struggles and ask myself whether I really want to be part of a church embroiled in such legal battles. It takes me about two seconds to answer, “Yes I do. Absolutely.”

Why did the diocese secede? In large part over opposition to practices in which I believe: same-sex blessings and gay bishops, for example. I have written about how pleased I was with many of the decisions made by last year’s General Convention. The church is doing a great job in matters of inclusiveness and social justice.

It’s not perfect. No human institution is. But it’s a place where I am happy to be and of which I am honored to be a part.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

Sacred Music Friday: Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer

from William and Kate’s royal wedding

which Borg?

I realized that I haven’t published a strictly humorous blog entry for quite some time, so I thought I’d share this with you. It’s from Facebook, as I’m sure you can tell. If you’re familiar with the work of Marcus Borg and if you know Star Trek: The Next Generation this should give you a good laugh. If not I apologize, and please stop by again tomorrow for a far less nichey Sacred Music Friday.


follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

The Writer’s Diet

Mark Liberman over at the Language Log called my attention to The WritersDiet test. It takes a sample of your (or anyone’s) writing and analyses it, reporting whether the sample is lean, fit & trim, needs toning, flabby, or heart attack territory. The test rates, verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives and adverbs, and the “waste words” It, this, that, there.

Lieberman doesn’t put a lot of stock in the test. He points out that samples of the writing of E.B. White come back as “flabby,” as does the Declaration of Independence. He also notes that the creator of the test, Helen Sword, admits that some of her own writing tests out as flabby.

Still, I am always looking to improve my own writing, so I ran a number of my own blog entries through the test. I am happy to report that most of them came back as fit & trim, which is what I aspire to. However, lest I become too smug, I had a couple that returned a result of needs toning or flabby. One entry, I am embarrassed to say, got a score of heart attack territory.

Such tests are not foolproof or definitive. As the notes on the test itself say:

The WritersDiet Test is a blunt instrument, not a magic bullet. A stylish passage may score badly on the test, and a dull passage may score well. It is up to you to make intelligent use of the targeted feedback that the test provides.

Still, I think it’s a nice tool that I can add to my repertoire to help keep my writing sharp.


follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

small things

Sometimes it’s the small wins that give real satisfaction.

When I upgraded my old computer to Windows 7 and upgraded my printer software as well, it forgot how to automatically print double-sided. So I rolled back to the older version of the software. But when that computer unceremoniously died on me last August, my new one was still Windows 7, but 64-bit rather than 32, which most new PC’s are these days. So I installed the 64-bit printer software, and it once again forgot that it could print duplex.

Terry last week replaced her heavily used work printer/fax/scanner which was on its last legs with a new one that prints double-sided. That triggered the thought that I could probably get mine to behave properly by changing a couple of settings somewhere. I went online and looked for instructions, which I quickly found.

It was indeed just a couple of simple, though not necessarily easily found settings. In no time I had my printer once again printing duplex automatically.

It’s a small thing that gave me a disproportional sense of satisfaction.

That’s not so bad.

avoiding waste

My first January paycheck was slightly smaller than before, due to the expiration of the payroll tax break and higher health insurance premiums. So being prudent and avoiding waste have been more on my mind than usual. I’m happy to say we’ve had some successes in that area so far in the new year.

We don’t usually cook with beef, but we wanted to try the Trisha Yearwood pot roast we saw on Rachael Ray over the holidays. We tried it a week ago Sunday and it was marvelous. Of course we had leftovers. We put those to good use. One day I chopped some up to make taco meat and baked taco shells from tortillas left over from a previous dinner. Every bit as good as a new meal from scratch. Another day I cut up the meat and added it to the leftover chili verde that was in the freezer. I baked the last two tortillas in our tortilla shell molds. That came out very well too.

Another Trisha Yearwood recipe, Chicken Baked in Cornflake Crumbs, called for buttermilk, which we don’t usually use, so the remainder risked going to waste. But I used a bunch of it in the  bread I baked, which was marvelous, and Terry used the rest in one of our breakfast smoothies.

We had take-out Indian on Friday, one of our favorite treats. The leftovers made a great Sunday lunch. (Though I have to admit that our leftover Indian take-out rarely goes to waste.)

I can’t promise we’ll always be this responsible, but we’re off to a good start this year.

Sacred Music Friday: Gloria

The John Rutter version. Be aware that this comes in at 16:45, but I had to share it as it’s one of my favorite Rutter settings. (Then again, there’s not much Rutter that I don’t like.)