Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts, impressions, and observations from the day of the Kardashian wedding...

This past Saturday, reality TV star Tim Kardashian married New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries in a private ceremony just outside of Los Angeles, California.  The wedding was said to have run up a bill of just over 28 million dollars.  Apparently, Jim wore three different dresses during the celebration, all hand-stitched by Vera's Wang.

Obviously, this was an event of monumental proportions.  To celebrate it's significance, I blogged all day long.  Here are some of my thoughts, impressions, and observations from the big day.

8:37 am:  My wife and I woke up to the beautiful, Saturday morning sunshine streaming in through  the bedroom windows.  Our white and gray cat Mookie had jumped onto the bed.  He was whining and meowing, letting us know that he was hungry.  We got out of bed, turned off the window and room fans, and made our way downstairs.

My wife fed the cats while I opened up the family room blinds.  As I opened up several downstairs windows, the crisp morning air rushed into our home, smacking me in the face.  The sounds of the chickadees and cardinals darting playfully about the bird feeder invigorated our souls.

9:02 am:  Time to brew the coffee.  While water from the tap was dripping through the Brita filter, I dumped four scoops of Kenya Kirinyaga AA Kiunyu into the grinder and pressed 'On'.  The snarling and growling of our 12-year old grinder shattered the peaceful tranquility of the morning.

Once the roar of the grinder had sputtered and ceased, I dumped the grounds into a paper filter, set it carefully inside the filter casing, and poured 48 oz of water into the reservoir.  Then, I turned the 'on/off' switch to 'On'.

9:09 am:  As the coffee was brewing, I measured 2 cups of water into a medium-sized pot and turned on the front-right burner on our range to 'HIGH'.  Within five minutes, the water was boiling furiously.  I dumped a half cup of steel-cut oats into the hot water, covered the pot, and removed it from the heat.  When cooking steel-cut oats, it's best to soak them in hot water for about half an hour, before cooking them to completion.

Two of our 87 coffee mugs from Maine...
At this point, the coffee had just about finished dripping through the grounds into the pot.  The glorious smell of the fresh Kenyan brew had taken over the kitchen.

9:20 am:  The coffee was ready.  I screwed the lid onto the stainless steel carafe, shook it around a bit, and then poured coffee into two diner mugs that we had acquired during our travels in Maine.

I waited impatiently, while my wife doctored up her brew with cream and sugar, and then I took my turn.  I took a sip...

Mmmmmmmmmm...  DELICIOUS!!!

The brew was dancing around my palate like a lively billy goat on crack.  Both satisfied, we headed to the couch in the family room.

9:31 am:  We sat down on the couch with our coffee, put our feet up on the coffee table, and turned on the TV to one of the morning shows.  The hosts of the show were discussing the Kardashian wedding, which would be taking place later that day.  I turned to my wife and suggested that we watch 'Die Hard', instead.  She agreed.  I switched the source on the TV remote to 'Composite Input', turned on the DVD player and the big speakers, and popped the 'Die Hard' DVD into the player.

"We have to tell Karl that his oatmeal is ready."
9:50 am:  Just as Hans Gruber mentioned to Fritz that "We have to tell Karl his brother is dead", my wife inquired about the oatmeal.

Oh yeah, I thought to myself.  The oatmeal.

We paused the movie and adjourned to the kitchen.  I turned on the front burner and began stirring, while my wife poured her second cup of coffee.  Soon thereafter, I poured my own second cup and took sips between stirs of the oatmeal.

Within ten minutes, the oatmeal had thickened to a satisfying consistency.  I turned off the burner and divided our breakfast between two bowls.  I topped my oatmeal with raw almonds, blueberries from my dad's garden, and maple syrup.  My wife topped hers with brown sugar and walnuts.  Bowls and spoons in hand, we returned to the couch and resumed 'Die Hard'.

10:33 am:  Having both finished our oatmeal, it was time to get ready to go to our local farmer's market.  My wife went to the kitchen to clean up the few dishes from breakfast, and I went upstairs for my morning bowel movement.

No, Dr. Kimball...
For much of the week, my bowel movements had been fairly routine, as my diet had consisted of mostly fruits, vegetables, and grains...  lots of fiber.  Unfortunately, we had both had a whopping large slice of ice cream cake for our nephew's birthday during the previous evening, and I was just now paying the price.

I rarely eat dairy anymore.  As such, my bowel movements have been passing without incident, for the most part.  In his article about constipation, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins, Dr. John McDougall writes the following:
  • "...the stool should be moderately soft and easy to pass without pain or strain.  The accumulation of feces between movements should not reach the point where severe bloating of the intestine and discomfort occur."
While I'd never really experienced 'severe bloating of the intestine', per se, during my meat and dairy-eating days, I do have to admit that my bowel movements weren't always soft, nor easy to pass.

Sometimes they were even 'hard' and 'difficult to pass'.

Now that I've all but given up dairy, I'm happy to report that my bowel movements are efficient, routine, and productive.  However, on the rare occasion that I...  'enjoy'...  some ice cream for a treat, the results can be disastrous.  So it was no surprise that my bowel movement that morning was fairly unpleasant.  I would even go so far as to describe it as 'the train wreck scene from "The Fugitive" in a bucket'.  After evacuation and recovery were complete, I washed my hands, splashed some water on my face, and put in my contact lenses. can't run and hide from lactose intolerance.

10:55 am:  My wife and I hopped into the car and headed across town to the local farmer's market.  We picked up some zucchini and yellow squash and 8 ears of corn for that evening's meal, along with some cherry tomatoes, donut peaches, red potatoes, garlic, green beans, and blueberries.

Our friends were coming for dinner later.  I'd be responsible for grilling the zucchini and corn, and my wife was making baked, stuffed scallops, along with a loaf of homemade artisan bread.  On the way back from the market, we stopped at Wegmans to pick up a few odds and ends.

12:45 pm:  I mowed the lawn.  It was only the second time since June that I'd mowed, since July had been so hot and dry.

3:06 pm:  After taking a break from the yard work to get a few glasses of water, I began trimming the unruly vegetation next to our driveway.  I hauled the scraps to our compost pile in the back yard, along with some weeds that my wife had pulled from the flower garden.

4:29 pm:  I decided to get a snack, since I really hadn't eaten any lunch.  I rooted around through the pantry and found some pita chips.  We still had half a container of roasted red pepper hummus, so I dipped the chips in the hummus.  If you haven't ever tried roasted red pepper hummus, you should.  It's really good.

4:45 pm:  Still snacking in the kitchen, my wife commented that I sort of stunk.  I took a quick whiff of one of my armpits.  She was right.  The smell of sweat mixed with residual runoff from the lavender-scented sunscreen that I'd applied earlier was fairly potent.  I told her that I'd go shower, but that first I wanted a hug.  She said, "No."

I went upstairs and showered.

5:37 pm:  Our friends Will and Jessica arrived.  They're in the process of building a new house and were very excited to show us the architect plans.  I poured glasses of wine for the ladies and cracked open two bottles of Shipyard Export Ales for Will and I.  We adjourned to the deck for awhile to discuss life and watch the orgy of birds at the feeder.

6:10 pm:  I turned on the grill to warm it up.

6:15 pm:  I put 8 ears of corn on the bottom rack of the grill, still in their husks.  They'd been soaking in a large stock pot for the past two hours.

6:20 pm:  I turned each ear of corn a quarter turn.

6:25 pm:  I turned each ear of corn a quarter turn.

6:28 pm:  I watched in awe as one of our resident male Baltimore Orioles flew in and began feeding at the oriole feeder that we'd installed earlier in the summer.  Perching sideways on the feeder hanger, he craned his neck downward and took a number of substantial pecks at the orange half that we'd left.  Then, he took several gulps of grape jelly, which my wife had spread in clumps around the rim of the feeder.  Finally, he cocked his head sideways towards me and let rip with a series of shrill, scolding chirps before taking off for the maple tree at the edge of our property.

6:30 pm:  I turned each ear of corn a quarter turn.

6:35 pm:  My wife brought out the zucchini, which had been marinating in Garlic Expressions dressing since noon.  I moved the corn to the top rack to keep it warm.  Then, I arranged the zucchini on the grill and closed the lid.

6:42 pm:  I turned the zucchini with large, man-sized tongs.  My wife put the scallops in the oven, in individual clam shell dishes.

6:51 pm:  Dinner was ready.  I brought the zucchini and corn inside.  My wife took the scallops out of the oven and sliced the homemade bread.  She placed each of the clam shell dishes on a plate.  We all took a plate and helped ourselves to an ear of corn, a few slices of bread, and some grilled zucchini.

Dinner was absolutely delicious!  The scallops were perfectly cooked in the breadcrumb and stuffing mixture.  The corn was tender and delicate.  And the zucchini was to die for.  Will even commented that he usually doesn't like zucchini, but this zucchini was fantastic.

Like I've said before, you can grill any vegetable you want, and it will be absolutely fantastic.

We stayed on the back deck until about 8:15, when a few mosquitoes started to show up.

8:16 pm:  We went inside to the family room and spread out on the couch and easy chairs.  My wife went into the kitchen to get dessert, while we started watching 'Blazing Saddles'.

8:30 pm:  Dessert was ready.  My wife brought us all our individual servings of peaches layered with crumbled almond Italian cookies and home made whipped cream.  Again, it was absolutely delicious.

8:50 pm:  Will and Jessica had to take off to get their daughter from their babysitter.

9:01 pm:  I helped my wife clean up the dishes and load the dishwasher.  Then, we went back to the couch and popped 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' into the DVD player.

Don't %#cking mess with Lisbeth Salander!

The previous week, we'd watched the Swedish version of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo'.  My wife had tried to read the book earlier in the summer, but she was having a hard time getting into it, even 75 pages in.  I'd never read the book myself, but we both enjoyed the movie immensely.  'The Girl Who Played With Fire' wasn't as good, but we still liked it.

11:15 pm:  We watched the end of the local news, while flossing and brushing our teeth.  I went upstairs to take out my contact lenses.

11:36 pm:  We turned on this week's rerun of Saturday Night Live.

11:54 pm:  We went to bed.

As you can imagine, my thoughts, impressions, and observations from the day of Slim Kardashian's wedding were overwhelmingly positive.  The day was definitely an enjoyable one.

Good coffee in the morning, a productive trip to the farmer's market, beautiful sunshine, some invigorating yard work...  a Baltimore Oriole sighting at the feeder...  dinner and drinks on the deck with good friends...  a delicious dessert made with local peaches...  an enjoyable movie...

For a Saturday during mid-August, you can't do much better.

Hopefully, President and CEO Momma K. is proud of her little FameWhore.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Business Lunch...

Zucchini...  It's what's for dinner!

Do you have a gas grill at the office?

You don't?

Then you really need to request one from management.

Aside from providing the opportunity to cook up a lunch of wholesome, delicious veggies, a community grill gives your fellow employees a good reason NOT to go out and blow twelve dollars plus gas on a fatty, sodium-laced takeout lunch.

If you haven't jumped on the veggie train and still eat meat, that's great too.  But if that's the case, you might want to lay off the ground turkey burgers for awhile.

I was stumbling around the kitchen this past Friday morning while the coffee was brewing, looking for something to take for lunch.  Since I'd be riding my bike to work, I was seeking something lightweight and portable that would easily fit into my miniature backpack.  On days when I ride my bike, I often put leftovers from the previous evening into a small plastic container and toss it into the backpack.

However, the previous evening's dinner was nowhere to be found.

Oven-baked salmon with corn and avocado salsa...  Needless to say, there were no leftovers.

As I foraged through the pantry, I was far from inspired.  But I happened to open the crisper drawer on my second trip through the fridge.

     "A-HA!" I barked.  "Fresh zucchini from the farmer's market.  I can grill them at the office."

I hastily grabbed two medium-sized zucchini, cut off the ends, and sliced them lengthwise into strips.  I placed the strips into a large zipper bag with plans to marinate them for several hours.

Unfortunately, the most recent bottle of Garlic Expressions, the wonderful dressing that we'd discovered almost a month ago and had been using for our veggie marinades, was empty... sitting on the counter, waiting to be tossed into the recycle bin.

Not a problem, I thought to myself.  I can just pick up some marinade at the market down the street.

This stuff is fantastic!  Click HERE to visit their website.

Having a small market within walking distance from the office is another bonus.  On countless occasions, the market has saved my stomach on days when I've had the urge to sell my soul at a dirty takeout joint.

After showering and dressing, I tossed the bag of zucchini into my backpack, along with my belt and thermos of coffee, and headed out the door.

The ride to the office was quite enjoyable.  The temperature was cooler than on previous mornings that I had ridden my bike.  As sweat started trickling down my temples, the lively breeze against my forehead felt invigorating and helped to cool me off .

The route I ride can best be described as 'slightly rolling', with an overall gain of elevation on the way into the office.  The first two miles take me along residential streets and a main route, before I escape to the back roads.  The last two miles take me along one of the many biking and hiking trails in Rochester that have been converted from railroad beds.
I was treated to an unexpected bloody massacre during the final segment of my ride.

As I was pedaling along the trail, I noticed movement behind the tall weeds lining the edge of the field.  All of a sudden, I noticed two eyes gleaming at me from behind the vegetation.  I put on my brakes and skidded to a halt.

From my seat on the bike, I craned my neck and peered over the weeds to get a better look.  I noticed that the creature had something in its mouth...  No, it was actually a beak.  A large red-tailed hawk was enjoying its breakfast.  The unfortunate main course was a badly-mangled squirrel with its innards hanging from its punctured mid-section in ghastly fashion.

     "Oooooooooh," I heard myself exclaim quietly, under my breath.

If you're a squirrel, you might
want to be somewhere else.
We remained still for another minute, watching each other in curiosity.  After a few moments, the hawk began retreating backwards into the field, still shaking its prey violently.  I watched in awe as it disappeared into the meadow before continuing on my way.

Several weeks ago, I had noticed a similar bird perched high above on the electric wires, which accompanied this particular section of the trail.

Perhaps this was the same hawk...  or maybe it was a competitor.

Having a front-row seat to nature's wonders is just another bonus of riding a bike to work.

A few minutes later, I cruised into our office parking lot and wheeled my bike in through the employee entrance.  I left my backpack at my desk, splashed some water on my forehead to cool off, and grabbed a quick drink from the kitchen before heading down the street to the market.

I selected a marinade that was heavy on the balsamic vinegar and molasses and light on the olive oil.  I also grabbed a box of quick oats for my breakfast, along with a packet of Uncle Ben's 90-second whole grain brown rice.  No, it's not as good as the fresh stuff, but it works in a pinch.

As I was heading towards the cash register, the display of fresh, local corn in the produce section caught my eye.

     Hmmmmmmm...  I can grill that, too.

The price of one bunch of corn was six for a dollar.  So I grabbed one.

Not one bunch...  one ear...  of corn.  I guess that's about...  thirty-three cents an ear.

Back at the office, I...

     "How much for a order o' ribs!?"

     "Uh, two-fifty."

     "TWO-FIFTY!  How many ribs do ah get with that!?"

     "Uhhhhh 'bout five."

"Ya got change for uh-HUNDRED!?!?!?"

     "FIVE!  ...  So ah guess that's about...  FIFTY CENTS A RIB, huh?"

     "Yyyyeah about."

     "Well let me get ONE!"

     "Right on...  One order."

     "One order o' ribs!"

     "No-no, no-no...  ONE RIB!"

     "One...  rib...  (?)"

     "I sho' am hungry!"

...I dumped about a cup of dressing into the zipper bag, shook it around a bit to evenly coat all of the zucchini, and put it in the fridge.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a meatless diet is that it somehow limits your mealtime options.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  Once we stopped buying and cooking with beef, pork, and poultry, we discovered all sorts of new and exciting ways to cook with and incorporate fruits, vegetables, and grains into our meals.

As with many other types of cooking, the gas grill becomes much more exciting when you add fresh produce.  When we were still eating meat, the only foods we typically grilled were hamburgers and hot dogs...  occasionally chicken...  maybe a steak now and then.

Waiting for the grill...
Now, we grill anything we want.

Vegetables are so easy.  If they're big and fat, just cut them into thin strips, marinate them in anything you want, and toss them on the grill.  If they're smaller and bite-sized, just marinate them, and toss them in a grill basket or skillet.

And certain vegetables stand in perfectly for traditional meats.

Portobello mushroom caps can be marinated and grilled in place of hamburgers.  Larger carrots can be boiled until slightly tender and marinated overnight, and then grilled like hot dogs the next day.

As for corn, just soak it in water for an hour and toss it on the grill, husk and all, for fifteen to twenty minutes, turning several times during cooking.

Speaking of corn, I began soaking it in a shallow dish at around 12:30.  At quarter of two, I fired up the grill and tossed on the corn, followed by the zucchini.  Twenty minutes later, I loaded up my crispy veggies onto a platter and brought them into our break room.  While my bag-o-rice was steaming in the microwave, I carefully husked the charred ear of corn and topped it with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

When the the bell on the microwave went DING!, I emptied out the bag onto a plate, covered it with the zucchini, and slapped the corn next to it.

I took a bite of corn...

Delicate...  tender...  absolutely delicious!

The zucchini wasn't bad.  While it was cooked perfectly, the balsamic dressing didn't have as much 'zing' as I would have preferred.  But it was still worth the effort.  Next time, I'll make sure that I use the Garlic Expressions.

Really, if you don't have a grill at the office, you need to put in a request with your boss (or your 8 bosses) as soon as possible.

Grilling at the office will make your lunch hour much more enjoyable.

Best of all, your wallet and stomach will thank you.

The balsamic dressing sorta spilled onto the corn,
but that's OK since I didn't have any butter.