Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good Riddance

That's it!  I give up!  I am removing my MSN Instant Messenger account from Trillian because all I get is spam messages.  "My cam still isn't working, message me so I can send you a cam invite."  Um, no.  All day.  And if I leave myself logged in overnight, then I must have 10-15 spam messages when I get in.

I should know better, I guess.  Many, many moons ago, when I signed up for hotmail way back in the day, it was soon so overwhelmed with spam it was practically unusable.  I think I'll stick with AIM and Gtalk.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Where is the Leadership?

I just came across an article in Bloomberg mentioning that President Bush spoke publicly twice today, saying that it will take awhile to restore confidence in the markets.

Just this morning I was telling Bobby that I thought Bush really should address the public, but not just to say that this would take awhile.  

The government can't just take care of this crisis alone, it will require a great many people and companies reinvesting and working hard.  Yes, the government working on a macro scale to work the credit markets back open will be a huge help, but the economy is not just an emotionless machine that will chug right back into motion.  It is made up of millions of people and all of their thoughts and emotions that affect millions of decisions every day.

In times of crisis, people look to their leaders.  Whether you like or dislike Bush doesn't matter, he is still the president, and what he says can affect people.  If instead of saying "Don't worry, we'll take care of it, just give us some time," what if Bush had come out with a call to action?  Tell the American people what we can take to help put us on the path to economic recovery, and end the downward spiral the panic has created.  If it were one of the candidates rather than Bush, wouldn't a show of actual leadership be more impressive than the politicing we've seen lately?

The American people, when faced with a common goal and directed by a strong leader, can work together pretty well.  Stop the divisive name-calling and blame-laying, figure out what steps can be taken by whom to combat this problem, and tell those people what they need to do.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Weather Changes

The weather is strange today.  There is a clear blue sky peaking out around gray clouds.  Driving to work this morning, the sun was still low and gave the sky a little bit a purple hue as well.  It looks as though it could clear into a beautiful warm day like yesterday, ... or it could rain as it is predicted to do tomorrow.  It feels cool and crisp out.

I love the time when the seasons change.  At the end of winter, I'm always ready for the sun to come out so I can eat meals on my back patio, go to beaches and parks, and wear skirts and sandals.  Now after a nice warm summer, I'm ready for cooler days and rainy days.  Days when I can make lots of soups and wear my boots and scarves; days when it will be pouring down rain and I'll be cozied up under a blanket watching movies or reading a book.

Lately I've been craving root vegetables, stews, and warm breads.  The most recent issue of Gourmet Magazine had a recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Bread that I've been dying to make, so Wednesday night I made it.  Pumpkin anything makes me think of fall, so it seemed the perfect way to welcome it.  

Erica and I used all the sugar in the house that night, making corn bread, madelines, and pumpkin bread.  I left out the walnuts (just because I didn't want to have to go to the store), and because I'm trying to eat more whole grains I added some wheat germ.  I've been eating it with cream cheese in the mornings, and Bobby and Erica can't stop eating it, but I do wish it were a little moister.  Perhaps next time I'll substitute butter or shortening for the oil, or throw in some apple sauce.

Makes 1 loaf
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Gourmet Magazine October 2008

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 cup (9 ounces) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Potato Leek Soup

I tried it.  Bobby and Erica were in Norco today with Emma, so I was cooking for just me.  Sometimes I'm apprehensive about experimenting too much when I know it's dinner for more than just me because if it turns out terrible, we are either hungry or I have to pull something else together.

I'd divided my chicken stock into 2 cup portions and put it into the freezer, and I didn't want to thaw out more than one portion or make too much soup, so I translated the proportions used in Bittman's Minimalist post to suit my needs.

I warmed up the stock so that it was warm but not hot.  In the blender went 2/3 cup of Leek Confit, 2/3 cup of leftover Braised Potato Coins, and the 2 cups of stock.  I blended that to a puree, and put it back in the pan to warm it up.  Season with salt and I was done.  I didn't even put any dairy in it, although I have some leftover and could add it next time.  Had I a large enough sieve, and were I not hungry when I made the soup, I probably would have strained it a bit, but it was pretty tasty as it was.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yes! I Did It Right

As you may recall, I was a touch concerned that I'd done something wrong when making my first chicken stock because it gelled up when refrigerated.  Turns out that's good.  This is from a Minimalist post I was linked to today (even though it is over three years old):

"...vegetables contain no gelatin, the stuff that makes good chicken stock gel when chilled."

I was also linked to this Minimalist post today (it's even older!).  I wonder if the leftover Braised Potato Coins and Leek Confit in my fridge blended with my chicken stock would make a nice soup...