Friday, February 17, 2012

Halloween 2: Feburary 10 (approximately)

Because you just can't get enough of a good thing. And some other holidays are just too scary.

The missus and I threw a Halloween 2 party for our and mostly my friends. It was our and mostly my idea, because Valentine's Day is silly, a scam, offensive, fraudulent, and way too pink for a man as butch as I am. So we picked a Friday night because I have to work Saturday nights, invited all the people we thought would come and then some we hoped might. Although we forgot about her cousins- darn. And I made it a pot luck so we and mostly I would not have to cook everything. The day before we whipped up a half order (75 cookies) of gingerbread hippos, dinosaurs, and elephants with my cute cutter shapes, then decorated them with sprinkles and Teresa's fine from-scratch frosting. They were cute. Then we put together a spooky haunted house gingerbread kit I bought on clearance in November and tucked away for a rainy day because you never know when a Halloween might attack you suddenly- just look how many sequels there are by that very name.

For our dinner contribution, I made my famous Chinese slow pork which normally goes on tostadas or fresh-fried tortillas from scratch, but was just a stand alone. Chinese aromatic spices, brown sugar and green diced chiles. It was as usual a big hit and provided left-overs. Goes great in a salad, an omelette, or over pasta or rice. Teresa boiled a box of "Mother In Law's Tongue" pasta I bought at a World Market store- $6.98 a pound- but fun. It was so pricey that I had saved it for 3 years. The best by date was a 2010. Whoops. But it was still fresh. It is dried after all. And a popular hit. Pictured above.

We had 10 total come, and no one else dressed up, but I made them wish they had with my magnificent full-body spandex that only complete confidence can carry off. I told them before changing that I was going to shame them into wishing they were more fun and had worn costumes, despite being so heavily outnumbered. And I did it. Just like I had at work for the 2 day costume contest when I went as hairy, angry, loner with a heart of gold and a high sense of honor, and much baggage of all sorts who has bad dreams, X-Man Wolverine on Day 1 and then a hooded Ninja on day 2 with kitana and the line of my underwear very visible from the tightness of the body suit. And few others dressed up. But I did get a new fake work girlfriend out of it. This one is married with 4 children and has a perfect attitude. She asked me why my friends weren't around much anymore so I said, "well I wasn't going to tell you, and they haven't said anything to me, but they all think we're having an affair and want to be left alone." So she worried for about 5 seconds and then got annoyed for 5 more, then said, "we should egg this on! It'll be fun." With me going on a 2 week vacation we both knew people would really start to talk and wonder so we started inventing stories, and were even finishing one another's sentences: tell everyone I made a pass at you after talking you into carpooling one day...and then I slapped you...yeah!...and you slashed my tires...what a jerk I am!...I know! So you were fired...bummer!...No I'll be the desperate one. I begged you to run away with I used all my vacation time to get away from you and hope it all was better when I came back...that's believable!

Ah good times. She's much better at coping with social attention than my under-aged fake work girlfriend was.

Teresa was a Bandito, though she failed to look menacing with her toy water pistol, tiny guitar that has only one string short enough to pluck and tune (it snapped by the way when she tried to play a one note song), and bright smile. But she pulled off the Guy Fawkes mustache pretty darn sexily, if I dare admit.

Everyone did bring food, good for them. Even if it was mostly all from Walmart. The Twilight Cupcakes were at least in the spirit of the slightly appalled but triumphantly exuberant nature of Halloween 2, which stands boldly in the face of its enemies and such and such. Traditional Halloween 2 decorations can also include a tiny holiday pine tree, preferably fake, and decorated with your favorite ornaments. We put out a big pile of chocolate wrapped in Halloween foil I still had, and still have, and one girl brought a good clam dip and some no bake cookies. Then we watched Looney Tunes mocking Cupids and romance, pitting ducks and bunnies against inferior witches and vampires, and talked pleasantly for 3 hours with a Charlie Chaplin film playing, there when anyone wanted it and in those few moments of awkward silence. The film seemed to confuse most, who did not get that it took place in 1929 so the millionaire was ruined and saved every couple of hours and would change moods accordingly, the flower girl crush was blind and apparently approximately deaf and without any sense of smell, until the final scene, when the whole party stopped and everyone was horrified. Now that is an "anti-Valentine's Halloween 2 movie ending!" I said triumphantly to a few boos and some applause. The other option was "A Brief Encounter" which ends with 2 scenes of the two leads crying after not having an affair because they are already married to good people and have children waiting for them at home. But a silent movie is just more perfectly suited to parties.

Sadly Married Marie from work could not come, as she had to work, along with a lot of my other friends. But a new tradition was started maybe, and it was still better than Valentine's Day.


A Few Belated Dishes

Various recent successes.

I whipped up a quick and delicious salsa with grape tomatoes- which I love, though about 1 in 10 is a bomb when you bite it- sour and gross. So: grape tomatoes left whole, diced jalapenos and chunks of orange bell pepper. Onion powder, a handful of fresh cranberries, cilantro, tomato paste, olive oil, brown sugar. Chunky or thin as you like. Its different, colorful, a mix of flavors, and familiar enough.

Made a good "Rancher's Pie" today. Been craving "Shepard's Pie", which originally was done with mutton, but in America now is more common with pot roast or ground beef. I kept the same principle which is to layer mashed potatoes and shredded melted cheese atop a base of beef stew. Mine was slow cooked stew beef shreds and chunks cooked in red zinfindel wine, tomato paste, and a touch of olive oil and ground white pepper, touch of onion powder, little garlic, then cooked atop a bed of no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla's are excellent), mixed with green beans, kidney beans, corn, peas, fresh organic cauliflower (which has more flavor and is about the same price), then topped with my Patriot Potatoes (red, purple/blue, and yukon gold spuds with butter and a touch of chives and dill), and then shredded cheddar, baked to perfection at 375 for 35 minutes. Not life-changing, but a deluxe version of an old dish. So I named it Rancher's Pie, as a humble shephard would be outclassed. It could use some coffee bean grounds in the slow cooker with the zinfindel. Just a few. Really. And go with what you have and like on vegetables. In summer, I'd have had golden squash and zuccini in there.

My new favorite seasoning blend on fish is to use cajun butter and McCormick citrus rub. The rub has lemon and orange but needs a little more pep. So I use my trusty flavor injector (a syringe the size of a pistol which is always fun to play with and which I got precisely to make use of this butter marinade, which I bought in a quaint gas station that only had bathrooms open to paying customers a few vacations ago when my girl really really needed one. So I bought this for $8 and hated it- until mixing it with the fruity rub. I have used this blend on salmon and halibut, and someday soon, catfish. Three lucky people heartily approved. Teresa said it smelled good- for fish- which is the first word she's ever had to say about fish other than eeeeewwww, and she even ate a bite. Her opinion then was eewww, but with a lot less emphasis and eeees.

As for that dehydrator: I still enjoy it, though it is really a harvest tool. But with a two week vacation coming, I dried a celery stalk, a carrot disced, 6 potatoes of 4 colors (red, purple, yukon gold, and sweet) into natural unflavored chips, some kiwis, green beans, a bell pepper, and more of my already stated samples. The carrots and kiwi stay gummy, but are very flavorful. The kiwi is so sour it makes me wince and I cannot keep my eyes open- so this is another in the file of preserved trail mix foods that are sugared or dyed to make them more appetizing in stores. However, I love them anyway. Its like a sour candy slice. The potatoes dry very crunchy and with a touch of oil while hot and any seasonings, would be better than potato chips. Sweet potatoes dry more slowly, stay softer, are harder to slice thin anyway, but are my favorite. So delicious. Green beans and bell peppers shrivel to very crisp stalks and are almost unrecognizable with little volume. They are not preferred drying foods, though they do for travel, and the flavor is still there, mostly, though a little altered. I have not tested them for re-hydration yet. Potatoes should be blanced in a rolling boil before drying, for around 5 minutes to preserve color. I left their skins on. All of this will make for welcome variety on a trip of 12-14 days I am going on. Some weather means I will have to cut dirt road driving I intended out, thus I will not be doing a few hikes I was excited about, though I will be in Arizona and doing what I like and getting a nice little rest from work and the rut. I put together a wild trail mix of dried raspberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, craisins, coconut, papaya, pineapple chunks, banana chips, pecans, almonds, walnuts, kiwi, and seeds along with the typical 10 mile trail mix blend of mine. Also I have a fine product called "Just Tomatoes", a mix of freeze dried peas, corn, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers (bell in the mild and jalapeno in the hot: I mix the two varieties to create a mildly hot) which is great in soups or by the handful and a good way to get vitamins while hiking. I added celery, green bells to the red peppers, and also have mushrooms (white and brown), the green beans, and of course, more of the apple chips from the wind storm harvest which should last through June I think. Add them to 19 cent ramen noodles or $1.79 Ready Rice, with whatever else you like- freshly caught fish, or dried venison, or protein candy crappo bars labeled "Meal Replacement Energy" and that's good eating. I have no idea why anyone would pay $6.00 or more for a calorically similar dried meal that takes no less work and tastes no better once they knew how simple and cheap this was. Yes there is the cost of the $70 dehydrator to work off, but I should "turn a profit" (if a penny saved is a penny earned) if my dehydrator, the Nesco American Harvest, lasts more than one year. And that is not accounting my alternative meals at $6.00 per serving, which as an avid hiker, I have never paid. I'd rather starve for two days, and I used to just eat cereal and fresh fruit.

I have no reason to think my American Harvest will not last at least a year -except that after letting my friend and roomate know he could make "SOME" banana chips if he liked, the next day 21 pounds of bananas were on our floor. After a disturbing 7 day binge, 21 more pounds of bananas were on the floor with the promise: "I will make these ones last." 10 days later he asked me to dig out my dehydrator which I had hidden to make "a few more" banana chips before I was out of town. He then, after securing the machine, came in with "a few" bananas. I said it looked more like 50 pounds. He said it was actually only 42 pounds. If you are wondering, that is about 100 bananas. Which is close to 2,500 grams of sugar (though he still in the same sentence tells me fruit has no sugar because it is full of fructose and badmouths high FRUCTOSE corn syrup, and also says I should stop eating sugar and sweeten things naturally with honey- which is a liquid form of sugar.) As I will have to pay to replace the machine should it break, I told him I was putting it away. So he called his sister to borrow hers which has a 10 year warranty. Mine comes with a 1 year, and I have no reason to suspect the product of defect, but I also cannot anticipate that the motor will run forever. I am quite happy with it and still give it a glowing recommendation. I will try after this spring to only use it with local vegetables. I stored what I could this fall, and finally had to buy non-local potatoes the first week of February after my stash was exhausted. Kiwis of course are never in-season or local, but I only dried 3 of them. And we all have to eat something. If I had an acre I would only eat what I grew, but until then, if I want to eat 3-5 kiwis per year, I'll allow it.