Great Courses, Great Sentences, 01 of 24

After years of getting free catalogs and seeing all types of ads in a startingly broad array of magazines, I finally broke down and ordered a course from The Great Courses.

The first course I tried was Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft by Professor Brooks Landon.

And it is really really REALLY good. I really recommend it.

Over the last few months, I’ve listened to it twice, and now I’m going through it a third time.  Continue reading

Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Put first seven ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Mix in chopped nuts by hand, pur into greased baking pan, and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

These brownies are very moist and don’t taste like beans.

Slightly modified from “Peg’s Black Bean Brownies” from the 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Santa Maria Pinquito beans from Rancho Gordo

Santa Maria Pinquito is a small to medium-small pink bean from Rancho Gordo. I just cooked them up in plain water with a bay leaf, and even as plainly cooked as that they are great. They stay firm and hold their shape well, with a nice flavor.

I mixed some with some sauteed vegetables, and they were great in that. I plan to order some more next time I order from Rancho Gordo, and I am hoping to try them in thick soups and casseroles. If I use them in soups, I’ll be sure to try adding the pot liquor as well, as that cooked up very tastily.

Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Lucero

Picual extra virgin olive oil is #2 of 9 on their scale of green to ripe, if you haven’t noticed, yes I am slowly working my way through Lucero Olive Oil‘s various single variety extra virgin olive oils in the green to ripe order.

Picual has turned out to be a really great oil to put on salads, and on sauted vegetables in general.

Picual does not have the peppery bite that Coratina does, but it also is not as bitter. However, Picual’s bitterness is much more noticeable if it’s used as a dipping oil for bread.

 

Sad to see Christopher Kimball depart Cook’s Illustrated

My parents and I have subscribed to both Cook’s Country and Cook’s Illustrated for several years now. The recipes are fantastic. And so are (or were) the editorials from Christopher Kimball, which were more about life in general than just cooking.

We got the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated and I noticed that the editorial was from “the editors”, not Christopher Kimball. A scan of the publisher’s information also showed that Kimball’s name was no longer mentioned, whereas before he was the “Editor and Founder”.

Today I looked him up in Wikipedia and found out that he left the magazine and television programs in November of last year over a contract dispute. How sad.

The magazines are still fantastic, and if you like cooking I would highly recommend getting a subscription to both.

But I will definitely miss Kimball’s editorials.

 

Moro beans from Rancho Gordo

Moro beans from Rancho Gordo. A very mild bean, small or medium small. Makes a dark pot liquor. Rancho Gordo’s website describes it as being like a cross between a pinto bean and black bean, and I would agree with that.

Dark exterior, but flesh inside stays light even after cooking. Has a bit of taste, but not real strong. I think it would go very well in chili or stew recipes that have a few dark bitter ingredients, like stews with Irish stouts in them, or a chili with a little bit of cocoa powder.

Coratina Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Lucero

Coratina extra virgin olive oil from Lucero Oil: Quite bitter, with a surprising peppery bite at the end. It’s a bit strong to put on bread or beans or iceberg salads, but it is really good as a finisher to stronger tasting meaty soups, or salads with some bitter greens and some type of sweet or tart complementary ingredient in the dressing.

Overall, I liked it. I didn’t love it enough that I’ll always make sure to have some on hand, but I liked it enough I’ll probably order it at least once or twice a year.

Alubia Blanca beans from Rancho Gordo

Alubia Blanca beans: cooked up very mild and creamy. They cooked up very fast too. A small white bean, I hope to try to them in a mild soup like a chicken vegetable soup.

General note: I recently was told about RanchoGordo.com by a friend who buys beans there. They had a deal to get free shipping if you bought a certain minimum dollar amount of goods, so I have ordered a whole bunch of different types of beans. I’ll probably be reviewing them here as I cook them up.

Tonic water, regular: Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water

Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water. Saw this in the local grocery store.

Been drinking about one 6.8 fluid ounce bottle every other day the last week or so. It’s bitter, but I like it.

It has a slight lemon hint to it, like the bitter pith of a lemon. Very slightly sweetened, only about 66 calories per bottle.

It’s nice to drink in the evenings when I want a little bit of bitter and mouth-puckering to wake me back up, but I’m not in the mood for tea.

Recipe: King Ranch Casserole

I made this for harvest two years ago, and it was well liked. I’ve spent the last couple years trying to make sure I didn’t lose the cookbook it came out of.

This is a fairly modified version of the “Modernizing King Ranch Casserole” recipe that appeared in the Hometown Favorites newsstand booklet published by America’s Test Kitchen in June of 2014.

Before you start making this recipe, you may want to have a larger dish and some extra canned tomatoes and cheese and half-and-half on hand. I know I added in more chicken and a lot more chiles and peppers than the original recipe called for, but I can’t remember how much more of the sauce components were needed.

King Ranch Casserole, one version

  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups onions, chopped fine
  • 2 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine
  • 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine or medium-fine
  • 4 Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine or medium fine
  • 2 pasilla peppers, stemmed, seeds and ribs removed, chopped fine or medium fine
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half [next time I’ll use the heavy cream the original recipe called for]
  • 8 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved, and cutting into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp dried celery
  • 1 pound Colby Jack cheese, shredded

Adjust oven racks to middle positions. Heat oven to 450 F. Arrange tortillas on 2 baking sheets and lightly spray both sides of tortillas with oil spray. Bake until slightly crispy and browned, about 12 min. Let cool, break into bite-size pieces.

Heat butter in Dutch oven or heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, jalapenos and cumin seeds. Cook until lightly browned. Add tomatoes and all other chopped chiles and peppers. Cook until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in flour, let cook about 1 minute. And broth and half-and-half, bring to simmer and cook until thickened.

Stir in chicken and cook until no longer pink.

Take pan off heat, stir in cheese and dried parsley, stir until cheese is melted. Add salt and pepper is desired.

Scatter half of tortilla pieces in 9×13 inch pan, set on rimmed baking sheet. Spoon half of filling evenly over tortilla pieces. Scatter remaining tortilla pieces over filling, then top with remaining filling.

Cover dish with foil, bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove foil, and if desired, sprinkle with about 6 ounces crushed Fritos corn chips.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Keeps well and will be thicker the next day.

 

Sometimes a long time is needed to think . . . also, a quote from Christopher Kimball about loneliness

I haven’t posted to C Good’s Things since last July, almost 8 months ago. For those of you still subscribing, thank you for your patience.

Over the last six years I’ve had a number of encounters with people who talk a lot, say a lot, and pick and choose what they meant and when they meant it and what was a joke and what wasn’t.

They don’t mean what they say, they don’t say what they mean, the shout their discontents from the rooftops and the good things in their lives they acknowledge only when muttering in corners. Continue reading

Some tea links, July 7-13, and yes I know I’m posting this late

Time got away from me the last couple of weeks and I fell behind on these posts. I’ll be trying to catch up over the course of this week.

From The Daily Tea:

From Tea For Me Please:

 

Some tea links, July 6 2014

Some interesting links about tea from the past week:

From The Daily Tea:

From Tea For Me Please:

Recipe: Butterscotch Buns

This is a slightly adapted version of Butterscotch Breakfast Buns on The Daily Tea.

I . . . am not really good with yeast breads. That said, the bread in this recipe turned out pretty good.

I wish there was more instructions on how to do the butterscotch sauce — I like to use Demerara sugar instead of just white sugar, so the original recipe’s instructions to use white sugar and cook the sugar in a pan with water until it was golden brown did not work well. Also, if I wanted to get really wild and crazy I might actually add some scotch to the butterscotch sauce too.

If I make it again, I’ll probably add in a ton of nuts, and maybe some cheese in the batter too. That sounds crazy, but the original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of salt and I cut that down to 1 teaspoon, I wouldn’t mind adding in some more protein and substance to the recipe instead of just adding more salt.

Also, using pu-erh tea in the dough is an interesting twist. I think I could taste it a little bit in the raw dough, but I couldn’t pick it out in the finished product, even knowing it was there. I think next time I’ll try a pretty strong and somewhat astringent black tea in the dough instead.

Butterscotch Buns

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of Pu Erh tea, lukewarm
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 oz of honey, about two tablespoons
  • 1 oz of olive oil, about two tablespoons
  • 1 oz of dried milk powder, about 1/3 cup
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 cup of demerara/turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick of butter, in chunks

Mix flour, oats, salt and milk powder.

Mix the lukewarm tea and yeast, let sit for 10 minutes.

Mix the tea/yeast mixture, olive oil, honey and lemon zest into the flour mixture. Knead until it is fairly smooth (this will be a somewhat sticky dough).

Set aside, covered, let rise for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 F.

Put the sugar and water in an ovenproof skillet. Heat without stirring for 10-15 minutes until it has reduced in volume a little bit and has darkened from the original color. How much you reduce it is up to you — a lot of it will be absorbed by the bread. But whatever isn’t absorbed could boil over, depending on how big your skillet is. So it’s your choice as to how big of a mess you want to clean out of your oven afterward.

Roll the dough out into a log, cut into 12 pieces.

Once the sugar and water is cooked down a little bit, whisk in the butter until melted and mixture is smooth. Take off of heat, place the cut pieces of dough into the pan.

Bake in the oven at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Take out and enjoy!

Some interesting tea links of the past week, June 29 2014

A nice article from Jas-eTea’s Fine Tea Focus newsletter about Doke tea garden and Doke Black Fusion Tea.

From The Daily Tea:

 

 

 

 

Sunday, June 22 2014: some interesting tea recipes and links

All posted this last week from The Daily Tea:

  • Recipe for Butterscotch Breakfast Buns, made with pu-erh tea (!!), looks very interesting. I don’t have any milk powder here, I’ll have to look up what that does in a recipe and see if I can make it without the milk powder.
  • Recipe for Blueberry Green Tea Smoothie, I was originally going to skip this one as I’ve seen zillions of smoothie recipes — but this one is the first I’ve seen to use ground almonds and flax seed.
  • Five tips for differentiating between good and poor matcha — don’t drink matcha myself, but always good to know what the signs are of good quality vs. poorer quality. Most interesting thing in this article was finding out that good matcha is grown in the shade which forces the plant to produce more chlorophyll.
  • A very moving tribute to John Harney, who founded Harney and Sons Master Tea Blenders.
  • The story of how Zhena Muzyka founded Zhena’s, a line of teas. She’s also recently written a book on tea, there are more details in the article.

    “There’s nothing new under the sun with tea, it’s thousands of years old. For any tea connoisseur or tea purveyor it’s really the magic of blending something in a unique way and having it satisfy the palates of certain audiences. That’s what I always focused on, what would I love to drink, what would be inspiring, what would be different. I thought about what would make someone inhale a favorite scent, and feel like life was getting a mite easier. Whatever I did, I always focused on making sure it was uplifting.”

 

 

Quote, June 16 2014 – If you make it artistic, then everyone’s much more comfortable (was that what you were trying to achieve?)

to mystify into “poetic” inconsequence and remoteness the past that is represented by Detroit, and along with it the conclusions we might draw as a result. Those otherwise troubling conclusions, and the actions that might follow from them — actions undertaken in the name of shared responsibility — are now translated into matters of taste and technique.

“The Forgetting Machine: Notes Towards a History of Detroit”, Jerry Herron, The Design Observer Group, dated January 9 2012, last accessed June 16 2014.

Or to put it another way, if you make it into “art” instead of fact, then people can ooh and aah over it, and never have to ask themselves “Could this ever happen to me?” or “What would I do if it did?”

The entire article is a bit long, but well worth reading. Herron moves from discussing various museum shows and coffee table books showing Detroit’s ruin to discussing what Detroit once was.

The section on the department store Hudson’s was really fascinating:

Joseph Lowthian Hudson was an immigrant from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who became Detroit’s premier upscale retailer in the early 20th century. Hudson’s flagship department store, located at the center of Detroit, on Woodward Avenue, was among the largest in the country — 28 stories, plus four basements, comprising 2.2 million square feet of interior floor space. Completed in stages between 1924 and 1929 under the architectural supervision of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, the store had 5,000 windows, 700 dressing rooms and 50 passenger elevators, each with its own white-gloved attendant. At its height in the 1950s, Hudson’s employed a staff of 12,000. Only Macy’s in New York City was bigger.

. . .

Hudson’s, at its height in the mid-1950s, served 100,000 customers per day; the store boasted its own telephone exchange, with the third largest switchboard in the United States, exceeded in size only by the Pentagon and the Bell System.

Wow.

A thank you to Charles Hugh Smith, whose weekly Musings report contained the link to this story.

Sunday, June 15, 2014: Some tea links from the past week

As a note, I am going to try to start writing once a week about good tea links I have found. There have been a number of times I’ve started projects on this blog to write regular updates about this-or-that topic, most of them I haven’t stuck with.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with this one.


 

Some articles that caught my eye on The Daily Tea:*

From the Fine Tea Focus blog from Jas eTea LLC,

JAS eTea also has an electronic newsletter, the Fine Tea Focus Newsletter. There were two issues this week, both interesting:

  • The issue sent out this morning (June 15) discussed labeling on Pu-Erh cakes and what the various numbers, Chinese characters and English names mean. The same information appears on their Fine Tea Focus blog on June 6.
  • The issue sent out June 12 discussed Darjeeling teas, which are originally from China but are grown in northern India. Usually thought of as a black tea, Darjeeling is also available in white, green and oolong varieties, although there is some difference of opinion whether Darjeeling oolong is a true oolong.

 

* Although I do have a subscription to The Daily Tea, I try not to post links to articles that require a subscription to read. Also, they currently have a contest going to win tea and a subscription, but it requires liking their page on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook much anymore, so the contest really doesn’t interest me that much.

Quote of the day, June 9 2014: If you’re in it, you’re in it to win it.

Choosing high goals is not necessarily a bad thing, even if you fail. As GK Chesterton put it, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. But to choose extraordinary goals without putting extraordinary resources into the quest to achieve them is a sign of foolishness and arrogance, not idealism.

– Walter Russell Mead, “Groping for a Reset”, The American Interest, June 4 2014 (site last visited June 9 2014)

“If you’re in it, you’re in it to win it; if not, you’re out of it” is a rule I came up with for myself about 15 years ago when it comes to contests of will.

Mead has a much nicer and more erudite way of putting it.

I read another quote from GK Chesterton recently, “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism.”

Again, a very true statement.

Tea Magazine has now changed to website The Daily Tea

The Daily Tea

I’m a bit sad about the change, I liked Tea Magazine. And I like print better than staring at a computer monitor.

But it was their choice, not mine, and I’m very glad they’ve just moved venues and not closed up shop completely.

You can browse for free, there’s also a paid subscription digital newsletter you can sign up for. Depending on the subscription option you choose, you can also get a book edition from them once a year.

Quote, May 17 2014: A life well lived

a life well lived does not mean assuring financial success, it means having Soul in the Game. It means living with integrity, taking risks and exposing yourself not just to downside for yourself, but for others.

-Taylor Pearson, “My Favorite Heuristic for Evaluating Relationships: The Antifragile Person”, Taylor Pearson, April 27 2014 (site last visited May 17 2014)

This is a quote from a longer blog post that is really good and really worth reading. A short version of it is: 1) financial success shouldn’t be your only goal, and 2) you’ll get a lot farther in life if you’re willing to be around people who will politely tell you when they disagree with you, and who will listen and be willing to think about what you say when you politely disagree with them.

A thanks to Charles Hugh Smith for the link, I got it from his oftwominds musings list (which is something I would absolutely recommend as a short weekly newsletter to sign up for).