Archive for Potatoes

Potatoes, Come Forth by H. Jonas Rhynedahl

Posted in Books, Hobbies, Hobby, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2016 by urbannight

Book Cover PotatoesThis was actually intended to keep track of my notes on this book as I was reading it.  But I think I will share it anyway.

I was hesitant to purchase this book but it did sound like it could be amusing. So I got it. Thus far my feelings for this book is ‘meh’. A noble woman who is summoned from her bathtub and transported, totally naked, half way across a continent shouldn’t be that calm and collected. Even in a world where everyone has a few, various, completely random, magical spells. She also comes off a bit to pragmatic when she puts on the filthy, shirt from someone who had been lugging a wheelbarrow of 200 lbs of potatoes around all day, having spent a portion of that day in a railroad engine car helping the engineer out. I just don’t find anything about this character, Sarah, believable.

I’m now halfway into the book and it is absurd.  The problem is, it doesn’t feel like it is absurd on purpose.  But it doesn’t feel like it was on purpose.  Yes, it feels like the author is trying to be funny and amusing but not that he was deliberately trying to write Fantasy Humor.  It ends up seeming absurd in a bad way rather than absurd in an amusing way.

I finished the book on Saturday.  The ending pulled the questionable quality of the book out of the water.  It ended better than expected.  Other than the fact the author didn’t do a very good job of showing the main character’s becoming emotionally entangled so that they end up getting married at the end.  It was rather abrupt and sudden.  Sarah seemed to have very platonic feelings until she crawls into bed with him.  He was clearly attracted to her and had twinges of jealousy but then suddenly he is in love with her.  It was abrupt and awkward.

Other than some of the characteristics mentioned above, I did find myself wanting to know what would happen next.  At the start it had that feeling of a first book, but by the end I no longer had that feeling.  The book didn’t have the editing errors I normally see when a person’s first book is only published in an electronic format.  The writing was actually pretty strong and in the end, I think the only real complaint is the author having trouble showing a growing relationship and it didn’t pull off deliberate Fantasy Humor very well.

It did end well enough that I ordered the next book the very next morning.

 

Turkey Day at Work

Posted in Food, Holiday, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by urbannight

Today we have our turkey day at work.  The higher-ups get a Thanksgiving lunch catered in to us.  Despite bringing my camera to work, I totally forgot about it until I finished my meal.  Such sadness.  But I found some pictures that might do it justice.

The stuffing it the best part of the meal from these particular caterers. A drizzle of gravy, a dash of pepper, and you are done. No need to add salt to this dish. I always go back for seconds even though I shouldn’t. I will tell you why later.

I grew up being a potatoes girl.  As an adult, I’ve learned the joys of stuffing.  When I make my own, I start with stove top turkey stuffing.  I take the neck and giblets and cook them.  I add garlic, onion, celery seed to this pot.  It comes out like I put a proper garni bundle in with them without the fuss.  Then I dice them up, pull the meat off the neck, and use it in the stuffing.  I use a bit of the turkey juices to mix with the broth for the stuffing, toss in the meat, and add more sage, pepper, and cayenne to the mix.  Other wise, I just make according to the package.  Now, if I was able to skim off enough stuff from the pot of water in which I cooked the organs, I’ll use that water. It has to look like a good stock.   If it looks too ‘dirty’ then I’ll just use a chicken broth.  More often lately, I just use the chicken broth.

They make very good potatoes. I would say that, for the most part, you can’t ruin mashed potatoes. But the restaurants in Omaha manage to do just that. They leave nasty lumps in them to ‘prove’ they are real potatoes. I’m from Idaho, where the rule of thumb is that lumps in the potatoes are a sign of a lazy cook. Growing up, my job was the mashed potatoes. I used a hand masher and we didn’t add butter to the mix. We added two capfuls of milk to 5 potatoes. That was it.

I went back for seconds on the potatoes too.  Although, the way I’m feeling, I should have just had the seconds on the stuffing.

The corn was mixed with parsley. It was good corn. Touch of salt and pepper perfected it. But it wasn’t stand out corn. Just good average corn.

Add that to the dinner rolls, which were 5 different kinds of classy dinner rolls, the meal was 4 starches and one meat.  It could have used some sides that were less of a pure starch than these.  Corn at least had that clear hull over the kernel that is pure fiber.  Although the meat of the kernel has enough sugar starch that, like the potatoes, you really ought to count it as a bread serving rather than a veggie serving when balancing a meal.

This is where the meal falls apart. The turkey is just bad turkey. Every year. I couldn’t find a picture of turkey that looked as blah and bland as the turkey they serve.

They use those turkey breasts, of course.  They don’t cook enough whole turkeys for an office our size.  It’s much easier for caterers to use the packaged breasts.  But it tastes like they are using the chopped, processed stuff.  It definitely tastes like the kind that is injected with saline to plump it up and make it look good.  And even with the gravy, salt, and pepper, it still manages to taste awful.  I don’t know why I take a slice every time.  I guess I keep hoping that it will taste better this year.

The gravy is a very indifferent gravy.  Nothing special, very pale, very bland.  No seasoning at all.  It tastes okay on the potatoes with a bit of salt and pepper.  It tastes great on the stuffing with a bit of pepper.  It manages enhance the stuffing without masking any of the wonderful flavor of the stuffing.  It does NOTHING for the turkey, as I mentioned.

Now, as to why I make sure I get seconds . . . .

They seem to use two different caterers for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And one of them does not leave the leftovers.  They take it away with them.  Where it goes, I don’t know.  Maybe a food kitchen.  The thing is, the company pays for it all.  All the other catered events leave the food and we set up a second buffet the next day.  The entire office usually gets two meals out of what all the caterers send us for one meal.  No wonder Americans are so fat if everyone thinks that this is what people eat in one meal (rather than two).   SO, with stuffing THAT FANTASTIC, (so fantastic, I even like the celery in it and I hate cooked celery), I do make a point of getting seconds on the stuffing.

I worked out last night, I’ll go work out tonight.  I’ll try to burn off the second helping off stuffing.

So you think you can’t cook…..

Posted in Food, Gaming, Life, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by urbannight

Here is another fast and easy recipe for those who think they are kitchen challenged or those who just don’t feel like cooking from scratch. Like when you decided to play Star Wars The Old Republic for May Fourth and you end up playing for three days straight.

1 pound

Start with a lb of ground beef. Brown up in a large sauce pan. Season with black pepper or cayenne (if you are like me) or both (something I also do). If you use beef with a high fat content (70/30), make sure to drain it. If you use beef that is too lean you sacrifice some of the flavor. Even thought I use seasoning I can still tell flavorless beef from flavorful beef. I use 80/20 most of the time because 85/15 has gotten really hard to find. I used to use it all the time.

Black Beans

Lets talk about black beans. These are my favorite. Even thought I’ve not gotten the knack of cooking with them from scratch. Canned black beans will save a ton of time and are great for fast, easy dishes.

Take one can and drain well. If you add water to the can, shake well, and drain again, repeating for a total of 5 times to get the water to run clear. Or put in a colander with small holes and rinse out the black stuff it is packaged in. They will cook up clearer (won’t turn your dish black) and it gets rid of a lot of the sodium it is packed in. Don’t worry, I will be putting sodium back in elsewhere. I use the rinse and repeat method to cut down on dirty dishes. I’ve been known to dirty a lot of dishes when cooking so I like to cut back on that when I can. Toss in on top of cooked beef.

Normally, I have a horribly low opinion of canned potatoes. Sliced and whole ones cook up horribly. I don’t have that problem with diced canned potatoes. Use one can and rinse but don’t worry about doing it 5 times. Just a couple of times to clear out the sodium. Toss on top of the beef and beans.

Now I add three cups of water and two beef bullion cubes. These are high in sodium which is why I try to get rid of it from the cans. I know there are other forms of bullion that are not so high in salt but I don’t know the amounts to get the results I want as I do for the cubes. Let simmer a while to heat beans and potatoes all the way through and to mingle the flavor of the cooked beef with the bullion with the beans.

Northwoods Fire

You can season this simply with black pepper. It will taste a bit like beef stew. Or you can use chili powder to have a chili like flavor. In that case, you may want to add a can or two of tomato sauce instead of water. I kept it soup like and used Northwoods Fire from Penszeys to season.

I would show you the end result but I ate it while I was typing this.   I just can’t keep it in the pan long enough to photograph.  It is too yummy.  There is more at home tucked up in containers for other lunches.  Yummy lunch.  I can’t wait until lunch tomorrow to eat the other bowl.    If you make proper servings with a salad and veggie side, you get 5 servings out of it.  I tend to put more in my containers and only get three servings.  It’s easier to do lunches that way and have a veggie heavy dinner.

Longhorn, an Uninspired Lunch Experience

Posted in Food, Life, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by urbannight

After going to a movie, my roommate wanted to go to lunch.  He decided Longhorn sounded good.  We saw it being built and now it was open.  As a point of interest, it was formerly the site of a Lonestar steakhouse.  They were really good, had amazing rye bread and the best black bean soup ever.  They discontinued the black bean soup and I stopped going there.  I have never gotten the hang of black bean soup so I went there for that rather than the awesome bread or great steaks. Longhorn demolished the old steakhouse and built up a new building.

The tables were lovely, the decor was good (ironically, it was filled with the Texas lonestar emblem).  The bread was a honey wheat.  It was a small round loaf that was served sliced almost all the way through.  The only problem was that is was not soft.  It was more like toast.  I don’t like toast to begin with and I’m not overly fond of wheat in general.  So I skipped it.  The roommate tried it and did NOT have another slice.

Considering the pricing, I didn’t expect such an uninspired salad.  I don’t like tomatoes, so I asked for none.  I guess that mean no croutons either.  Because I didn’t get any and my roommate did.  Or was it because I asked for my dressing on the side and they thought that because I didn’t eat the bread and I didn’t want the dressing on it that I must not want croutons as well?  I like a hint of dressing flavor.  I happen to like salad greens and don’t want my salad drowning in dressing.  I dip my tines into the dressing and then into the salad.

If I had known the cucumber would be minced up all over the salad I would have said no cucumbers as well.  Especially since they were not peeled.  Now I know the peel is totally edible.  I just don’t like it.  Also, cukes have a stronger flavor and it doesn’t actually go very well with my dressing of choice.  The salad itself was boring iceberg with shredded carrot and purple cabbage.  More and more places are mixing iceberg with darker salad greens as the average patron is more nutrition aware than in the past.  At these prices, they could have splurged for some better lettuce.  The only thing positive about the salad was the freshness and crispness of the iceberg lettuce.  Once I ate the salad the bowl was almost half full of the diced cucumbers I didn’t eat.

The main course came now.  It looked good, if a bit lonely, on the over-sized plate. A 6 oz steak with a side of potatoes didn’t fill more than half the plate.  They should use smaller plates for good presentation on smaller steaks.  The steak was cooked perfectly.  Medium Rare is my choice for steak.  I’ve been known to order rare as well, if I anticipate leftovers.  That way the reheated portion is not overcooked.  The steak was tender and juicy.  What it lacked was any flavor at all.  I did the one thing I never usually have to do at a steak restaurant.  I had to put salt and pepper on the steak.

My roommate, who was eating his sides first, finally started in on his steak and said that yes, something was wrong with the steak.  Because it was perfect to him.  He grew up with a mother who didn’t really season anything.  Egg salad is egg and miracle whip, no seasoning.  He was used to very very bland food as normal.  Most steakhouses have their own seasoning.  If they didn’t, every steakhouse that could cook a GOOD steak would taste exactly alike and they need something to make their steaks stand out from the others.  We think that the kitchen forgot to season the steaks.

The side of mashed potatoes was very very good.  Of course, when I added salt and pepper to the steak, I got the potatoes too.  I hadn’t tried them before I seasoned everything.  At that point, I didn’t think it would hurt them.

When we left, my roommate also indicated he didn’t think he would go there again either.  I sure hope he was joking when he said the water’s cost three dollars.  I know he wasn’t joking about not liking the fact that there was rarely anyone at the host stand at the front entrance.  He only noticed it on the way out, I had a good view of it the entire time we were there and no one was ever watching it.  As a result, people were coming in and having to wait around until wait staff saw them.  Even though it wasn’t busy so there should have been no reason for them having to wait at all.

Do Not Call it ‘Cajun’ and the Mayor’s Tax

Posted in Economics, Economy, Food, Life, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2010 by urbannight

This morning I went to try out Wheatfields.  A new eatery just a block away from home.  ‘New’ meaning it’s been there a year but I refused to eat there.  It used to be a wonderful European pastry shop with some soups and sandwiches.  You really went there for the desserts.  The building was sold and the owners forced them out because they wanted to charge a higher rent on the place.  So they brought in a regional chain.

The service was great.  My server was rather delicious looking himself.  Very pleasant and he went back to the kitchen to get me more seasoning for my soup.  I’ll get to the soup in a moment.

First, I’ll tell you about the half order of hot beef sandwich.  The potatoes were good with no lumps.  Since moving to Nebraska, getting mashed potatoes without lumps is a challenge.  They think that they much leave lumps to prove they used real potatoes.  I’m from Idaho.  Lumpy mashed potatoes is a sign of a lazy cook.  In grade school I could quickly use a hand masher and get smooth potatoes without using butter or a lot of cream.  I used about a table spoon or two of milk depending on the number of potatoes.  That’s it.  So the mash passed my standards.

The gravy was nothing to write home about.  But it was homemade beef gravy.  Not the super dark brown glop you often get on open faced hot beef sandwiches.  On one hand it was my father’s ordinary gravy.  On the other hand it was better than most everywhere else.  And I didn’t even need to add any pepper.

The beef was to die for.  It was an amazing roast that was shredded and put on the sandwich.  No slices folded together.  I thought it odd that it didn’t come with a steak knife.  Until I cut into it with my fork.  No knife needed for this sandwich.

I ordered a half order.  It was huge.  Half of the half order is now in my fridge for tomorrow.

They had two soups for today.  One was Tomato and Cheese.  I don’t like cheese soups in general and don’t like tomatoes.  I tried the other one.  Cajun Shrimp soup.  Let me count the flaws…..

1. The shrimp was salad shrimp.

2. Bland

3. Beyond bland into absolute lack of flavor.

The soup seemed to be a broth with a little bit of onion, some chopped carrots, and some cut tomato.  To this was added rice, salad shrimp, and some tomato paste.  There was supposedly some Cajun seasoning in there as well.  Cajun food is not normally bland.  Even if it isn’t spicy it normally doesn’t have a complete lack of any flavor at all.

I asked for some Cayenne pepper.  They didn’t have any but the kitchen sent me two little tubs of spice.  One had about 1T of cajun seasoning and the other had a chili power that was paprika based with some cayenne and some other chili in it.  I put half the cajun and a bit of the chili in it.  Better.  I then added all the rest of the cayenne and half of the chili.  MUCH better.

Rice, shrimp, and tomato paste does not make a dish Cajun.  Scaring the dish with the bottle of Cajun seasoning does not make is Cajun.  You have to actually USE the Cajun seasoning until it tastes like a Cajun dish before you can use the word Cajun to describe it.

Now you may wonder what a Mayor’s Tax has to do with this food rant.  If you are from anywhere near Omaha, NE you probably know where I’m going.  The new 2.5 % tax that gets added to your restaurant bill AFTER the state taxes.  So you also get taxed on the tax.  Different places have labled it differently on their sale’s slip.  I had to laugh when I saw that Wheatfield’s is labeling it the “Mayor’s Tax”.

People want to recall Mayor Suttle.  I understand the few people who are saying the economic and budgetary situation he inherited was not his fault. They are right.  But the people who want to recall him are not doing so because they think he created the situation.  They want to recall him because of his reaction to the situation.  The city council actually soften his ideas when they passed the budget.  The people of Omaha hated his ideas and plans once he got into office.  As much as people are screaming now, it would have been 2 – 3 times worse if the budget has passed as Mayor Suttle envisioned it rather than the way the council modified it and softened it.

The worse is, of course, the wheel tax.  People who live outside Omaha but work in Omaha now have to pay a wheel tax.  It will be collected via payroll deduction.  The issues is that these people are being taxed who have no way to vote on it.  No representation in Omaha.  There is a very large portion of couples who live outside the city and drive one vehicle to work.  But both will be charged the wheel tax on the one vehicle.  A person who happens to have two jobs in Omaha is going to get charged the wheel tax twice.  Once for each job even thought it is one vehicle.

People who live in Omaha already pay a wheel tax when they register their vehicle,  but only once per vehicle. Our wheel tax is going up as well and for less than the mayor wanted.  The city council lowered that amount as well.

The Mayor is very tax happy.  I understand they needed to raise taxes but he was going way out over the deep end about it.  The fact that Wheatfields now shows a ‘Mayor’s Tax’ on their sales slips seems funny and appropriate.