Sacred Music Friday: Simple Gifts

Sounding Light chamber choir at First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska. Tom Trenney, conductor.

Improbable Destinies

Improbable Destinies coverImprobable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution
Jonathan B. Losos
Riverhead Books (August 8, 2017),  382 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $13.32

It was kind of a synchronistic event that I came across this book. I was driving home from Toastmasters on a Thursday shortly after 1:00 pm listening to my regional NPR station. Normally another program was on at that hour, but for some reason they were broadcasting a segment of All Things Considered. Host Robert Siegel mentioned the name Stephen Jay Gould, of whom he said he was a fan. He then introduced Jonathan Losos, who grew up reading Gould and became a student of his.

I remember Stephen Jay Gould from the 1970’s and 1980’s when I avidly read his column in Natural History magazine as well as his books. Gould was an evolutionary biologist whom we lost way too soon in 2002. He had what were at the time some rather revolutionary theories about evolution. He was one of the first to propose the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds, now a widely accepted theory. He was also a proponent of “punctuated equilibrium” which stated that species generally remained stable, except for bursts of rapid change.

In the present book Losos describes his own current work and that of colleagues. Much of evolutionary theory has gone beyond Gould. One popular theory is “convergent evolution” which states “related species are more likely to convergently evolve the same traits when faced with similar selective pressures.” Take the body types of sharks and dolphins for example. The other theory presented here is that evolution can be rapid when environmental circumstances dictate.

At times the deluge of examples became a bit tedious, but in general this was fascinating reading. As Losos tells us near the end of the book, “At the end of the day, we know that evolution is not random or haphazard.”

a very easy chili recipe

I recently made a surprisingly easy chili supper.

chiliI started with a half pound of 93% ground beef which I browned with chili con carne seasoning. I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of kidney beans along with half a tube of tomato paste. I then threw in cumin, coriander, minced onion, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper. I let it simmer for a good long while.

All of the spices were, of course, from Penzeys.

I served the chili with corn chips. It made for a very tasty weeknight meal.

a new toaster oven

We use our toaster oven almost daily. It was disconcerting, then, when we tried to toast our bread at breakfast and it would not turn on. Not always but sometimes. It was also of concern that the cord got hot. My brother, who is a firefighter, told us that was a fire hazard and that we should get a new toaster oven now and not wait for the after-Christmas sales. We were going to anyway, but that just reinforced our plan.

We went to Bed Bath & Beyond and found a model we liked. We brought it home only to discover that the timer on the toast setting did not work. It didn’t count down the time. It just sat there and burned the toast. We used it for a couple of days and realized that it wasn’t operator error; the timing mechanism was defective. I took it back to BB&B and got a refund.

I began searching on Amazon and found a model that looked really good. It was a Hamilton Beach six slice toaster oven with a convection setting. I ordered it and when it arrived we immediately put it to the test. We have toasted bread, made garlic bread, made open-faced sandwiches, and baked a frozen pizza with the convection setting. It’s much better than the microwave for warming up leftover deli pizza. We’re pleased.

One of the nice things about it is the way the lid opens up, so that we don’t have to reach inside to get our food. We didn’t particularly want to replace our toaster oven, but since we had to we think that we’ve made a very good choice.

toaster oven photos

Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Skillet

Philly Cheesesteak Pasta SkilletI have created a category in my recipe database for comfort food, and this Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Skillet dish definitely fits in that category. And it qualifies for my one skillet category to boot.

I pretty much followed this recipe, although I substituted minced onion for the fresh onion and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth as is my wont. As you are likely aware by now, recipes such as this often don’t have sufficient seasoning for me and for Terry, so I seasoned the ground beef with Penzeys Southwest Seasoning.

A simple, tasty, comfort food supper.

Sacred Music Friday: Agnus Dei

Samuel Barber, Agnus Dei, Vlaams Radio Koor, Marcus Creed, conductor

a simple solution 

Terry and I frequently have tacos for dinner. They may be made with leftover pot roast or I may buy marinated flap meat specifically for the meal. Technically I suppose they’re really fajitas as we assemble them ourselves at the table with the various toppings. In any case, they always involve corn tortillas.

As you know I am a regular follower of Food Network and public television cooking programs. The received wisdom has long been to put the tortillas on the gas burner to soften them up for soft tacos or fajitas. Did I listen? No. I would wrap them in damp paper towels and put them in the microwave.

tortillaFinally, I decided to pay attention. I grilled the meat on the gas grill outside and warmed the tortillas on the grill as well.  A couple of weeks later when it was cooler I turned leftover pot roast into tacos, I mean fajitas, and warmed the tortillas on the gas burner. So simple. Very easy. I coulda had a V8!

First, when you use the microwave the tortillas are too hot to touch for a couple of minutes. Second, since you are essentially steaming them, they are a tad soggy. And that means that the bottom tortilla in the stack is really soggy and virtually unusable. None of that when heating them over the burner.

So simple. So obvious. And no idea why it took me so long.