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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Portuguese Shrimp in Green Sauce

  • 13 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup parsley without any thick stems
  • 2 lbs shrimp
  • 4 small whole dried chilies
  • 13 cup vino verde
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Combine garlic and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the scallions and parsley and pulse until the mixture is minced. Toss with the shrimp, salt, pepper and chiles.
  3. Put the shrimp in a large enough roasting pan that will hold them comfortably. Add the liquid and place the pan in the oven. Roast, stirring once, until the mixture is bubbly and hot and the shrimp are pink, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately with rice or with a crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This is the author of the Cloud Atlas, so brace yourself.  If you loved that book, you are in for a treat here, because few authors write with the vision and scope of David Mitchell.  If non-linear books with a futuristic focus and a touch of magic are not your cup of tea, this is not the book for you.

The story begins normally, with Holly Sykes, a love-struck teenager gushing over her first boyfriend in 1984 England. After a vicious fight with her mother, Holly runs away from home and reveals that she has a history of hearing voices and seeing what may be ghosts.  That is the reader's first hint that things are going to get weird, unless of course you have looked forward and seen that the book projects well into the future.

When Holly hears that her younger brother has disappeared, she announces her intention to return home. Suddenly, the action, era, and writing style shift abruptly to 1990s Cambridge. Hugo Lamb, our new narrator, is a university sophomore, who sweet-talks his way into bars, scams, and young women’s beds. Mitchell can impersonate just about any voice, but his mimicry of Hugo and his heady, horny Oxbridge classmates is exquisite.

The book bobs and weaves around the future, acknowledging climate change, income disparity, and a host of other controversial truths, but in it's closing vignette on the coast of Ireland it's aching and lightly brushed with the supernatural.  It is also almost enough to make one forget the metaphysical gibberish. It is a humble bow for a novel that otherwise displays just about every human quality except for humility. The Bone Clocks is altogether too much, but there is so much here that is so good, even transportingly great.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)

The complicated life that Alan Turing led.  If this film is to be believed he was socially autistic and brilliant.  He is depicted as someone who accurately assessed his own strengths and those of others.  When he found someone smarter than him, he pursued the relationship relentlessly because he recognized just how rare that was.  In his quest to break the Enigma code, he was an unlikely hero, he enlisted the aid of another outsider, and he used the skills of those who were more valued by the military than by him to accomplish what was thought to be impossible.  He sadly lived outside the time where he would shine.  He was brought down by his sexuality, something that a child born today would not face.  What a difference a generation makes.

The ever talented Benedict Cumberbatch does a brilliant job of depicting this brilliant man who is just now getting his place in the sun as someone who brought computers one step closer to where they are today.  A very enjoyable, if sometimes painful, film.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Euclid Hall, Denver, CO

This restaurant sells excellent gastropub food that is not to be missed if you are in Burlington and are free for lunch or dinner.  My only warning is to try to get reservations in advance of your visit, because it fills up fast.  The other option is to go later in the evening for an evening snack.  We walked by the pub at about 10 o'clock one night and there was an active scene outdoors.

Here is what we had.  We started with the roasted cauliflower salad.  I am a big fan of cauliflower, and I love to roast it so I was hoping to have something that I could make at home.  It was served on a be of poblano and jalapeno marmalade that was fantastic and would probably require making it to replicate, but well worth it, with a bit of soft mild goat cheese chunks.  We had the poutine with duck meat, which was very good, and we were able to do a 1/2 order, which the server told us about but is not on the menu.  We did not try the beef marrow but have heard tell it is a special dish.  They make their own sausage and we did a sampler of that and it was fantastic.  While we were there, a number of sandwiches on the menu went by our table and looked quite delicious.  This is a restaurant well worth seeking out.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Portuguese Tomato Rice

 This is a delicious accompaniment to a Portuguese meal.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes cored and cut into large one inch chunks (save any juice from cutting)
  • 1½ cups broth
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt bacon fat in the oil over medium high.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juice, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add stock, bring to a boil and add rice, salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and after it comes to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer and cook 20 minutes covered.
  6. Remove from heat and fluff with fork before serving.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get On Up (2014)

An entertaining and instructive biopic of the trendsetting singer James Brown.  I was lucky enough to see him in 1981, which was the end of his long and influential career.  There are two things that are unfortunate about it.  The most damning is that the opening scene is focused on at point in his career when he was smoking PCP and acting erratically.  That sets a poor tone for an otherwise reasonable film about an iconic figure in music.  The other is that while it leaves out a lot, it focuses a bit too much on his difficult childhood and leaves out important things, all the while being too long.  A miniseries might have been a better choice.

Like many biopics,  this one hits the highs and lows of Brown's life and career.  He was a man who wrote civil rights anthems and suffered through a Jim Crow South, yet who considered former segregationist Strom Thurmond a grandfather figure. Exploring complexities like that aren’t always doable in a short time and the movie falls short of perfection, to be sure, but is entertaining and educating none-the-less. The criticism that it prefers a safer, more sanitized James Brown is accurate, although his physical abuse of his wife is portrayed. What is left out is how samples of Brown’s music formed the cornerstone of hip-hop from old school to gangsta rap. The movie isn’t really interested in exploring how important Brown’s music was to any of the numerous styles it influenced, but rather focusing on the man, what formed him, and how he turned out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

I read about this book in the context of reading another more recently published book, and while I am not sure why I wanted to read another book about a teenager who disappears, I did. Evie and Lizzie are 13 year old girls who are best friends.  When Evie disappears, Lizzie is the only one who has any clue as to what might have happened to her.  She remembers a car that acted oddly, she disclosed some cigarette butts that Evie had found in her backyard, and she quickly becomes the focus of the investigation.  But she is not entirely honest about What she knows.  And in the end, it turns out that she is not the only one who has secrets. Every character in the story has big secrets, all of which come to light at the end of the book, and they are big big secrets indeed.  Well written.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Piri Piri Sauce

This is the national sauce of Portugal, adapted from George Mendes' new cookbook, My Portugal.

Mendes writes, “I love the heat and fragrance of hot Portuguese piri piri chilies, but they’re hard to find here. The closest approximation is dried or fresh Thai bird’s eye chilies. You can experiment with different chilies, but make sure you choose hot ones.”
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 3/4 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, notches torn every 1/2 inch
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup dried red piri piri peppers or bird’s eye chilies
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 fresh red piri piri pepper or bird’s eye chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons Bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pimento
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden and tender, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the dried chilies to the pan with enough oil to cover them. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer gently until the dried chilies are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and fresh chile and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the Bourbon and pimento, and bring to a boil. Boil hard, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and remove from the heat.
4. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree to the desired consistency. I prefer my piri piri smooth, but you can also make it more rustic and chunky if you like. Season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Makes 3/4 cup.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Night at the Museum:Secret of the Tomb (2014)

This is a very silly movie.  The best that I can say about it is that it really is just as good as the first two.  There is something to be said for consistency.  The basic premise is that due to some magical properties in an Egyptian artifact, all the Natural History Museum exhibits come to life at night and then return to their inanimate forms come sun up.  Ben Stiller is the museum's night watchman who gets to interact with all these wonderful figures from the past (Steve Coogan plays a Roman soldier, Owen Wilson a cowboy, and Robin Williams is Teddy Roosevelt). 

This particular adventure involves them addressing a curse, which entails a road trip to London, and new exhibits there coming to life.  It does sound quite juvenile, and on many levels it is, but for a light movie without much in the way of sex and violence, it is surprisingly enjoyable.  Best viewed with youngsters who will enjoy some of the less mature humor that pervades the film.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Don't Forget to Thank Your Spouse

Yes, it is Father's Day, and it is time to think about all that parenting stuff.

One of the potential pitfalls in a long term relationship is that one might on occasion loose track of how much one’s spouse does.  There are two big pieces of this realization.  The first is to acknowledge exactly how important being part of a team is to my personal happiness.  The second is to thank your team members.  It is far and away my spouse who provides that kind of support in my life, but also includes things that my children do for me as well.   

 The thing is that when everything works well, I take that for granted. Without my spouse, I would have no children!  The thing that I love the most is that there are great meals on my table many days every week that are made by family and friends.  I go out to eat, now more than at any point in my life, but for the most part, the most reliably good meals that I have are meals that I have in homes.  I am an above average home cook myself, and I can certainly fend for myself on that front.  However, I love being cooked for.  It is a pleasure to sit at a table and enjoy food that those close to me have prepared.  The one thing I often fail to do is express that gratitude.  So I am doing it now.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Portuguese Marinated Grilled Pork Loin

We had this at an all Portuguese dinner, and it was the hit of the party, served with piri piri sauce.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons dry white vinho verde
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf, thinly sliced at an angle
½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
½ teaspoon pimentón (smoked sweet paprika)
3/4 lb. of  pork loin
Kosher salt, to taste

In a large dish, whisk together the oil, vinho verde, thyme, bay leaf, chile flakes and pimentón. Cut the pork into 1½ -inch-thick steaks at a 45-degree angle. Cutting the meat on the bias helps keep it tender. Add the meat to the marinade and turn well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, prepare a grill by heating a mixture of all-natural briquettes and hardwood lump charcoal to medium-high heat. Take the pork out of the marinade, picking off the herbs, and transfer the marinade to a small saucepan. Bring the marinade to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. The mixture will look broken. Remove from the heat.

Season the pork generously with salt and drizzle with oil. Grill until charred, flip, and char the other side, about 5 minutes. Flip again, brush on some of the cooked marinade, and cook for 2-3 minutes more, then repeat with the other side. Grill until the pork is still a little pink in the center, 10 to 12 minutes total. Spoon any remaining cooked marinade over the pork and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Top Five (2014)

Chris Rock actually rocks in this introspective movie about a comedian who kicks booze and drugs and then wonders if he is still funny.  Instead of trying to find out, he converts himself from a comedian to a serious actor, which pisses just about everyone off.

The movie is largely an interview being conducted by a New York Times free lance reporter Chelsea Brown (well played by Rosario Dawson).  He has a movie about the Haitian Revolution (which, while being the only successful slave revolution in modern times, is definitely not a funny story.  Not then, not now) and he is talking to everyone to get it promoted.  No, it is not very good, so that is an uphill battle, so despite the fact that she is doing a personal piece on him, he lets her follow him around.  It emerges that she misses him as a stand up comic, and as a recovering drug addict herself, she wants him to face what addiction has robbed hi of and fight back.  The movie is successful at showing the fallout of addiction as well as some laugh out loud moments amidst the serious subject matter.  I very much enjoyed it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Star Kitchen, Denver, CO

I adore dim sum and this place is fantastic.  My spouse had the great idea of eating dim sum for our last meal together on a recent trip to Denver.  I investigated the options (and there are several good ones) and chose this place for a Sunday morning meal.  The restaurant opened at 10:00 am and we arrived just before opening time to find that there were about 30 people in line ahead of us.  As we waited for the doors to open another couple of dozen people arrives, so many that once the doors were opened the restaurant was already completely full.  So a word of caution, it might behoove you to arrive on or ahead of time if a morning meal is of importance.
The dining room, I fear, always looks like this.  It is large and full of people.  It is a traditional dim sum restaurant, with carts running through the rooms with wonderful options.  The one thing I regret is that we did not have enough people at our table.  There were so many things that looked delicious, but could only eat so much.  I had forgotten just how much I love this food!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chickpeas with Bacon

  • 3 slices bacon
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked with stock, 2 cloves, 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 8 cups Baby Spinach, any tough stems discarded (optional)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 Cook chickpeas until they are tender. 
  1. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces and cook in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until browned; leave bacon in skillet and spoon off all but 1 tablespoon fat.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, chickpeas, and red pepper flakes; saute over high heat, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown (3-4 minutes).
  3. Stir in spinach and garlic and saute', stirring, until spinach is wilted.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2014)

If you did not like the first movie, you should definitely skip this one.  If you loved the first movie, brace yourself, because the second one is no where near as good.  Which is disappointing at best, because all the great cast members, with the exception of Tom Wilkinson, are back, and the ever competent Richard Gere has been added. 

Here is the problem.  The thing that made the first movie charming is already a given in this movie, and the narrative fails to move forward at a reasonable pace.  The hesitancy of Judi Dench and Bill Nighy's characters to even talk to each other about their relationship just seems juvenile at best and contrived at worst.  It is possible that these seasoned stars thought it would be fun to return to these characters in this setting once more. But the result feels strained and slapped together, crammed as it is with silly mistaken identities and misunderstandings, adolescent jealousies and slapstick jokes. It is occasionally charming but not often enough for the movie to be enjoyable.  And I watched it on a transatlantic flight, when I am at my most forgiving.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Little Man Ice Cream, Denver, CO

You cannot miss this ice cream stand in the Highland neighborhood in Denver.  The enormous milk jug can be seen from miles around, and while the neighborhood is replete with funky establishments, this one still stands out.

They do ice cream and sorbets, and nothing else--well, not exactly true.  They have ice cream sundaes and ice cream sandwiched (large cookies with their ice cream in between).  The ice cream is small batch made and includes quite a few unusual flavors.  We ate here after a somewhat disappointing meal next door, and when we walked by later the next day it took all our self control (and the fact that we were quite full from our spectacular dinner) not to stop again.  They have a wide range of quantity and size options to meet everyone's desires and it is well worth a stop if you are in Denver.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Coconut Saffron Cauliflower and Broccoli

This wonderful vegetable recipe is from the cookbook My Portugal.

1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
2½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons saffron threads
Kosher salt as needed
1 pound cauliflower florets
1 pound broccoli florets
Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
1 small white onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh bay leaves
3 tablespoons tamarind paste
2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
Crushed red chile flakes for serving
Fresh lime juice for serving
Fresh cilantro leaves for serving

In a small skillet, heat the coriander, cumin and saffron over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until toasted and fragrant. Cool completely, then grind in a spice grinder until coarsely ground.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain well. Repeat the blanching and shocking with the broccoli.
Heat an 8-quart saucepot over medium heat. Add oil to very generously coat the bottom, then add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Season with salt and sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tamarind paste and toasted spices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk and 1 cup water. Season with salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 35 minutes.
Stir in the cauliflower, broccoli, and jalapeño. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower and broccoli are just tender, about 5 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves. Season with salt, chile flakes, and lime juice. Top with cilantro and serve hot.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

This is pretty bad ass for a Colin Firth movie, which is about the super secret British secret agency that even MI-6 doesn't know about.  I would say that this is an uneven action movie but that ultimately I recommend it.  One reviewer called it caught between Austin Powers and James Bond and with the fact that the director, Matthew Vaughn, did the Kickass movies, you get a sense of what you are in for.

Firth is everything you want in an international man of mystery. His suave British agent Harry Hart, code-named Galahad, plays by the rules of a company, headed by Arthur (a kingly Michael Caine), that names its agents after knights of the round table.  Since Lancelot (Jack Davenport) died saving Galahad's ass 17 years ago, Galahad resolves to return the favor by recruiting Lance’s now grown son, Gary "Eggsy"into the secret service. The thing is Eggsy is a street kid who seems destined for prison instead of the elegant environs of Kingsman, a swank tailoring shop on Saville Row that fronts for the Secret Service.

That is the back story.  The action involves an evil plot for world domination that must be thwarted. An enjoyable diversionary movie.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush and The Scarlet Letter

The Huffington Post ran an article about how Jeb Bush recommended the public shaming of women who had children out of wedlock way back in 1995. Bush's ideas about public shaming extended beyond unwed parents. He said American schools and the welfare system could use a healthy dose of shame as well. He felt that the juvenile criminal justice system also "seems to be lacking in humiliation." In 2001 he declined to veto a  bill that required single mothers who did not know the identity of the father to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper before they could legally put their babies up for adoption.  I am not sure what led to them dredging up this policy, but there are two things that strike me about it.

The first is that it is yet another perfect example of misogyny.  Bush's rhetoric included condemnation of men walking away from their responsibilities as parents, but it did not include shaming them publically.  While women bear children, they do not do so in the absence of a man's contribution to the biological process.  The disproportionate blame Bush places on women is a window into how he really feels about them.  Take note of that when you enter the voting booth.

The second is the referral to a book.  The Huffington Post noted: "Bush points to Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, in which the main character is forced to wear a large red "A" to punish her for having an extramarital affair that produced a child, as an early model for his worldview. "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is a reminder that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots,” Bush wrote."  Okay, that is technically true but it completely misses the mark on what the book is about.  This this just makes him look ignorant at worst or like he didn't read the book at best.  The take home message, as any high school student who read this in English can tell you, is that the public shaming of Hester went terribly wrong. The book is a cautionary tale against the value of shaming, not a support of it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Portugese Clam and Sausage Stew

We started an all Portuguese food meal with this wonderful soup.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. Spanish chorizo, or other pork sausage
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. Asian fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 cup potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups greens (we used kohlrabi greens, but spinach or kale would be a good choice) 
  • 4 cups stock
  • 24 small hard-shell clams, scrubbed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In a wide sauté pan or fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and crumble in the sausage meat (discard the casings). Stir the sausage until it breaks up and starts to brown, then add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the sausage is browned and the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, potatoes and greens, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, 4 cups stock, and the fish sauce. Let come to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the sauce thickens and potatoes soften, about 20-25 minutes.

Add the clams and shake the pan to coat the clams with the sauce; increase the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes (discard any that do not open). Stir in the parsley and serve.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Wedding Ringer (2014)

This is a silly movie which I watched on a transatlantic flight, but there are a few pearls to be found within and amongst the comedy.  The basic story is that a nerdy guy is about to get married to a pretty girl from an upper class family.  The father of the bride thinks the bride could do better, the bride is sick of dating and thinks she will be supported in the style to which she has become accustomed, and the guy thinks that he is punching above his weight to get the girl. 

The problem is that the nerdy guy has essentially no male friends.  His wife to be has a maid of honor and six bridesmaids and she expects him to match that when he can't even come up with a bona fide best man.  So the wedding planner refers him to a guy who is a rented best man.  I think this is a problem more common than you might think, and the movie doesn't demonize the guy without friends as a loser.  The other piece of the movie that I liked was that the hired best man was way better than any I have ever seen.  He not only gave a moving (if completely false) speech, he correctly identified the place the day has in one's life (in my somewhat cynical view) as well as the importance of being sure that you are marrying the right person.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Should the POTUS Be Able to Manage Personal Finances?

 The New York Times ran an article today about Marco Rubio's personal finances.  He grew up poor, incurred a lot of debt, and when he made a large sum of money on a book deal, he did what the majority of lottery winners do.  He spent it all.  He has remarkably little accumulated debt, a number of houses, one of which he came close to defaulting on, and a taste for boats and nice cars.  Nothing that makes him stand out to the average American, many of whom may even admire him for his taste for the good life after growing up poor. 

Should the POTUS be held to a higher standard?  I am not one to talk.  While I did buy the cheapest smallest car I could find with four wheel drive and I am mansion averse, I am not what anyone would call a genius with money.  I am not running for public office though.

So, unfortunately, I turn to fiction for the best examples of what reporting and the president would ideally be like.  Jed Bartlet, who was more popular than the sitting presidents during the running of The West Wing, was a Nobel Prize winning economist.  That is a man who can manage finances and who understands the global consequences of monetary decisions he had to make.  Then the reporting on what the fiscal policies of the government would have to be ramped up as well.  Let's face it, the days of progressive journalism exposing the corruption of politics was a thing of Teddy Roosevelt's time.  No one has bitten off that chunk of financial influence and tried to expose the influence and corruption that ensues.  There are few Sloan Sabbith's out there to explain it to us all in terms that we can even begin to understand.  Too bad television offers more compelling personalities than real life does.  It will be a long political season.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Using a Can to Make a Burger

My eldest son made this new burger fad for us last weekend, and they were surprisingly good.  If you require a bun, they must be over-sized to manage the burger.  We made multiple fillings and no bun, so guests could try multiple versions.  They lack the seared exterior, but gain a smoked flavor that is a good trade-off in my book.  
  1. Bring grill temperature up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit with coals offset for indirect cooking.
  2. Make the fillings--we had cream cheese with poblano chilies for the pork burgers and chorizo and potatoes for the beef that were popular, but onions, peppers, and mushrooms are all popular fillings.
  3. Prepare the meat as you would season it for burgers.
  4. Make balls of meat, 8 ounces each. Make sure meat is cold.
  5. Press a soda can into center of each meatball forming a pocket around the can.
  6. Wrap bacon around each one. This helps it to stay together.
  7. Remove the beer from meatball carefully.
  8. Do this until all meatballs have been formed.
  9. Take stuffing/toppings and start placing inside meatball pockets.
  10. Top with a slice of cheese.
  11. Add a few dashes of hot sauce or bbq sauce if desired

  1. Place bacon burgers opposite hot coals for indirect cooking.
  2. Put lid on grill and cook for one hour. (Optional – turn and rotate after 30 minutes)
  3. After one hour check for desired doneness.
  4. Remove from grill.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Love, Rosie (2014)

This is a light romantic comedy that is best watched with a box of popcorn and a glass of wine.  This is the classic cautionary tale of overlooking your best friend from childhood as a potential mate.  Rosie and Alex have been friends forever, and they took a tentative step towards making it something more on Rosie's 18th birthday but it just doesn't work out.  Why?  Because they fail to talk frankly with each other, that is why.  While such behavior keeps mental health professionals in business, it is not anyway to lead one's life.  So they both go forward in life seeking out other partners for romantic endeavors, all the while maintaining their friendship.  But in the ensuing years, each manages to become involved with other people who are just as clearly wrong for them. These aren’t just ill-advised dalliances—they’re terrible choices.  So if you like a movie where the outcome is not clear from literally the opening credits, this is definitely not the movie for you.  If the journey to the inevitable ending is what you seek, this is good for an evening where one is avoiding anything resembling deep thought.  If you just want to pass the time with something that doesn't end badly, this is the movie for you.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Apsara's Restaurant, Providence, RI

This is a restaurant that I have been going to over the past 15 years, so you know right away that I love it.  Great Thai food, lovely atmosphere, reasonably priced food, and you can bring your own beverages.  That encapsulates my kind of place.  There are two things that I seek when I am traveling and eating out.  One is food that I don’t make.  I am very happy to pay someone to make food that I can’t make as well myself.  The other is seafood, because I live in a state that doesn’t touch the ocean. 

I was back once again to Apsara on my most recent trip to Providence with friends.  Highlights of our meal together that went beyond the camaraderie included many things.  The shrimp nime chow is fantastic—the rice noodles are perfect and the mix of herbs is delicious.  The lemon grass dishes are equally delicious.  The Thai chive dumplings are a wonderful place to start.  It’s a wonderful restaurant that is well worth a visit, and the tab for the evening will be a pleasant surprise.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Essense of a Name

I recently had a group of people that I lived with in a large cooperative house in college to my house.  More on that later.  I had been traveling like crazy and not really able to attend to cooking for all these wonderful people who agreed to come to Iowa (a place where none of them live nor anywhere near where we all lived together).  My spouse was on top of that aspect, planning a meal that he could make single-handedly, but he left the desserts to me, and I relied on my well stocked freezer.

The second night I pulled out one of my favorite cakes, a lemon cake.  One of my wonderful guests, Spoon, suddenly asked if this was the cake that my blog is named after, and indeed it is.  How funny that I did not even think of that.  Part of it is because what I hoped to capture in the name and in the blog is the homemade aspect of my life.  I am not living off the grid by any means, nor off the land, but I do like to make things, and I like things that other people made.  I picked the lemon cake because it is tart and sweet at the same time, just like life.  It is the cake that my friend Ivy and I made for my eldest son's wedding cake.  It is a cake that can sustain a blog.  And a marriage.  I recently passed my 2,000th blog post, and only now do I reflect on the name.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Theory of Everything (2014)

In a bumper year for biopics of super nerds, this movie about the life of Stephen Hawking stands out.  Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking, a gifted student at Cambridge who falls in love with a wonderful girl, and then begins to have symptoms of ALS, a motor neuron disorder that has him in a wheelchair in a matter of years.

Redmayne does an excellent job of portraying the physical downhill slide that Hawking and his wife had to cope with.  The emotional side of the losses are harder to capture and less well demonstrated.  His first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) is sure that she loves him and she wants to take care of him and enable him to continue to be a great theoretical scientist, but on the other hand, she is a nursemaid to him and their ever burgeoning family.  She was not cut out for going it alone in the nursing role.  She gets some help and ends up being very smitten with her helper.  Meanwhile Hawking further deteriorates to the point where they get him a professional nurse, and the two of them make a pair.  I think that the emotional dynamics are shown but not really fleshed out, but then, that might be asking a bit much for a film.  The bottom line is that this is a well executed movie that is worth watching.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

El Arbol de Vida, Oaxaca

I was in Oaxaca in the days after Christmas this year and everywhere I went there were crèches and tress of life.  I love the tree of life as it is made in Mexico.  It is made of clay and often painted bright colors.  It exudes a zest for life, and the one pictured here, in the courtyard outside the restaurant Las Danzantes. They were made to teach the creation story.  It is a playful teaching device.

What I did not realize that this originated in Mexico.  The first potter to develop the more intricate candelabra and incense burners was Aurelio Flores, who began making them in the 1920's.

Besides their use at church the clay candelabra were also given to newlyweds to ensure them a good harvest referring not only to children but to their livelihood as a farming community. This custom has dwindled in the last years, which is a shame.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

This book is wonderful.  Ignore the reviews that talk about it's shortcomings and listen up.  If you loved the movie Nebraska you are going to enjoy this book.

Etta is a woman of 83 who rises early one morning on her farm in Canada’s prairie province Saskatchewan, packs a few useful items in a bag, slings a rifle over her shoulder, and sets out on foot to see the ocean. When her husband, Otto, comes downstairs, some time later, he finds Etta’s note – “I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there” – and a pile of recipe cards so that he’ll know how to feed himself while she is gone. Otto has never lived alone. Etta sometimes has trouble remembering who she is.  that is where James comes in.  He is her coyote guardian angel.

The book goes back and forth between the past and the present.  Otto is one of 15 children (he was number 7, and the children were more often accounted for at dinner by number than name), so suffice it to say that when Etta takes off it is the first time in his long life that he has been left alone.  Russell was dropped off at his childless aunt and uncles house mid-childhood and got swept up in Otto's family.  He became 7 1/2 because he fell after Otto and before his brother in the "birth order".  Russell needed to be adopted, just not by his biological family.  Etta meets both of them she comes as a very young student teacher.  The story is unexpected, a little whimsical, and a good read.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Big Hero 6 (2014)

There have been a number of years where I definitely disagreed with the choice for Best Animated movie, but it turns out that this year I agree with them.  I thought this looked, well, stupid when I saw the previews (and I am a lover of the animated films, so my bar is pretty low).  Fortunately for me the trailer did not do justice to the movie, because I loved the movie.

Hiro Hamada and his older brother Tadashi have been raised by their aunt.  They are both whiz kids, but where Tadashi has been the very good child, Hiro has opted out of school.  All of that changes when Tadashi is killed in a fire trying to rescue his idol.  Hiro becomes inconsolably sad, so much so that there seems to be no bring him out of it until Tadashi's robot, Baymax, makes it his mission to get Hiro back into the world of the living.  As is true of Disney, there is a bad guy, Hiro rally's Tadashi's friends into a band of Marvel heroes and they do battle, in a sort of slapstick way, with the bad guys and come out on top.  So it is a well worn formula that is still very enjoyable to watch.