Monday, April 28, 2008

Dillon Beach

I work... all the time. I work out, every day. I spend a great deal of time with friends. I go to meetings. I am in service. And in the midst of everything, I lose myself. Today I took some time to be with myself, and do a little exploring around the coast. This is what I came up with on my way out to Dillon Beach.

It has been a while...

Since I last cooked a meal at home. But last Sunday, I did, and it was excellent, as always.

A very simple meal, but delicious in every way. And in some ways, it is probably good for you too, vegetarians and vegans be damned. The corn is a local California white corn, cooked on the BBQ while still in the husk (chop the top and bottom, peel off a couple of the outer layers) for about 10 minutes. Then simply sheer off with a paring knife, add butter, and voila, smoky corn, no salt required. (Or butter for that matter, but it looked nice for the photo.) The out-of-focus brown stuff in front is actually quinoa, which required a cup of chicken stock (organic, low-salt variety), fresh chopped garlic and 15 minutes to cook. Very easy and very very tasty. The focus of the dinner, a rib steak, which is a steak cut of a prime rib, bone-in, was seasoned in fresh ground sea salt from the Atlantic, combined with Hawaiian sea salt from the Pacific, fresh ground white pepper, red pepper flakes and ginger. Always always cook these bad boys on high heat for less than a couple minutes per side, depending upon thickness. (This one was a little thin for my taste. All steaks should be at least 1.5" prior to cooking, preferably 2".) To top it off, your standard sauteed mushroom with green onions. Thin slices of cimini mushrooms, cleaned with a paper towel (no water), cooked on medium-high heat in walnut oil (great medium-high heat oil), then after a couple minutes, add a slice or two of butter and brown the mushrooms. Once browned, add wine, white or red depending upon your taste (red wine adds a better body to the sauce if you want something heavier), then chopped garlic and tonight, fresh thyme (which is typically reserved for a white wine sauce) and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken as the wine cooks off. For the last minute or so, add some chopped green onions, salt and pepper to taste, and you're done! A few fresh green onions on top adds some color, but doesn't do much for flavor unless you're a raw onion eater kinda person. (I am.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It was a warm summer day...

Mike and I embarked on a little project last weekend: a map of the world. Not quite life-size, not quite to scale, but it was an impressive piece. Mind you, Mike and I had never done anything quite like this before, and I think the result warrants a pat on the back.

See that level on the futon? And the painter's tape? Tools of the trade my friend. They work miracles.

National Geographic in all its glory.

The ever beautiful Julie.

My niece is inside of there!

And of course, dinner. I am much too tired to describe, but perhaps Mike will fill you in.

For those of you who are unaware, there is an interesting part of this blog that allows you to comment on my posts. I know that no one wants to be the first, but someone has to do it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not Every Meal is Perfect

Especially when you try something new. But, we live and we learn, and when something doesn't turn out how I expect it, I try to repeat it, only next time, I will consult a cook book for a new idea. However, I did try Bolivian Red Quinoa, a rice-like whole grain cultivated in the Andes Mountains. The taste was a little nutty, but not overly so. I certainly enjoyed it's flavor much more than brown rice, and the texture was nice and soft, without any chewiness. Boil two cups water (or in my case, one cup chicken stock, one cup water) to one cup of Quinoa. Throw in some chopped garlic and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

As a topping for the pork chop, I cooked a sliced portobello mushroom in a little bit of olive oil (okay, a lot of olive oil) as mushrooms love to soak up oil, then added some sliced bell peppers (which I tend to put in everything) and cooked on medium-high heat until nearly done, then I added balsamic vinegar and chopped garlic, and a minute or two later, a quarter cup of Shiraz and salt/pepper. (Always, always use fresh ground sea salt. Always always. And pepper. In this case, cracked white pepper, which I prefer for pork dishes.)

The asparagus is drizzled in olive oil, lemon juice and salt/pepper, and baked at 400 degrees for five minutes on a cookie sheet. The pork chop takes the longest to prepare as it is first seasoned with salt/pepper, then dusted with white flour and cooked on high heat in a saucepan with a bit of olive oil for 3-4 minutes per side, until it begins to brown. Then remove the pork chops and place them in a baking dish with a little bit of chicken stock and water to keep the pork from drying out. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes until done.

The bell pepper did not work at all. The skin was a little bitter (not washed properly) and even if it wasn't, I don't know that the flavor worked that well. The mushrooms however, which soaked up the balsamic vinegar and the wine, were fabulous, and a nice compliment to the pork. The flour helped lock in the salt and pepper on the pork, and while overcooked by a few minutes, it was still relatively tender, and absolutely tasty. The Quinoa was a nice touch, although I would like to dress it up a little more. It was a nice alternative to wild rice, which I normally would have used with this dish. Enjoy.

I Hate Coleslaw

So I decided to make it myself. I figure if I hate it, it's because someone isn't making it right. And after this little batch, I think I found the recipe, at least for this meal. Shredded green and purple cabbage, 3 parts green to 1 part purple (as purple is much more bitter than green, but the color is nice). Shredded carrots (fresh, not the pre-cut bag kind), thinly sliced red onion and celery. The sauce is equal parts sugar, white wine vinegar (I hear apple cider vinegar is good as well), vegetable oil and plain yogurt.

The BBQ Chicken sandwich is courtesy of Sean and his father, which involves shredding the chicken with two forks while it is raw (in this case one thigh and one breast) and then simmering the meat in a vat (or saucepan) of your favorite BBQ sauce (K.C. Masterpiece doesn't count). Pile on the chicken, the coleslaw and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and you have yourself a great sandwich, and an easy meal.

And if you find yourself at the meat counter ordering said chicken, such as two thighs and two breasts as I did, do not be surprised when the butcher responds, "Two thighs and two breasts? Sounds like you need a woman."

Not All Brownie Pans Are Made Alike

When ordering a brownie pan, there are quite clearly different sizes. I wish I had known that when I ordered my mine. If you have any small children that enjoy baking, I have the pan for you!

Two, Wait, Three of My Favorite People

But first, dinner. After all, this is where I receive much of my inspiration.

Asparagus, cooked a little less than I might have preferred, but tasty nonetheless. And a few mushrooms with fresh spinach, which I do not cook often enough (the spinach that is).

I do not have any recipes for you or instructions on how this was done. But it was prepared simply and quickly, given the amount of time these two will have on their hands over the next eighteen to twenty-five years. And, it was very good, as always. Even with the shitty canned crab meat.

Now that is adorable.

No, wait, that is adorable! These are two of the cutest, soon to be three of the cutest people I know.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I Have Been Adopted

After more than two dozen house calls in the past three years, the McNamee family decided it would be easier if they simply adopted me. I was invited over for Sunday dinner to be officially adopted, paperwork signed and hugs and kisses all around. No offense to my current clan, but there are very few of us Travers on the West Coast, and frankly, I miss a good home-cooked meal. In all fairness, I did ask all three of my current parents to move out here to no avail. You had your chance, and now Sandy and Mac (MacDaddy) have taken me in as one of their own. I had a wonderful time with the entire family. Thank you to Russell, Lisa, Ron, Sandy and MacDaddy for a great family Sunday dinner.

MacDaddy himself, playing with Star.

Star has been responsible for one service call to the McNamee's thus far. She is very cute, but a little skittish yet. But, she does enjoy posing for the camera.

Only the finest. The McNamee family China.

A fresh spinach salad with boiled prawns, sliced red onion and papaya. I am going to have to try to make this, because it was very very good.

A standard roast, very tender, and cooked a little past medium rare. As you can see from my plate, there were no less than five vegetables in addition to the salad. Roasted brussel sprouts (the only way to cook brussel sprouts, no bitterness at all), roasted red potatoes, steamed asparagus with hollandaise sauce, baked cauliflower and roasted carrots.

For desert, homemade vanilla ice cream covered in fresh fruit (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) with a white/brown sugar/butter sauce. This family knows how to take care of its own.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

This Is What I Do

I work, all the time. And when I am finished working, I try to share a few pictures for those of you wondering what it is I really do.

The following project is nearly a year in the making, and while not complicated, it required more time than I, or my customer, had anticipated. However, the finished result is nothing short of brilliant, and I have no one to blame but myself.

We have 17 speakers in six separate zones, including a main dining room/bar area, "living room," outdoor deck, two locker rooms and a golf pro shop. Each zone can be fed from one of three possible "streams" from a 250GB hard drive media server, allowing for up to three different CDs to be played back simultaneously. In addition, there are three satellite receivers that can feed all six zones independently of one another. Two of the satellite receivers are connected to a top-tier 52" 1080P LCD Television, one for the dining are and one for the pro shop. One more 65" 1080P LCD Television will be added to the "living room" area, formerly a private dining room. All of the source equipment, including the media server, the controller, the amplifier and the satellite receivers are located in an IT room, located in the basement of the facility. Audio is fed to the speakers via 14/2 speaker wire, while control is accomplished via Cat6 to six keypads, one of which is an LCD touchscreen installed in the lobby. Video is distributed via Cat6, converted to HDMI with an IP-to-Video box at either end of the signal path.

Main Dining Room with Hidden Speakers

Outdoor Deck Speakers

One More Outdoor Speaker and View Along the Deck

Pro Shop with Four Hidden Speakers and Men's Locker Room with Two Speakers