Safe Harbor for my Cadbury Mini Eggs

Yesterday in a moment of weakness, I bought a bag of these evil chocolate orbs.  I was able to resist the 18 oz bag in favor of a 10 oz bag; but really, they should sell them in pre-packaged 100 calorie portions.. Who am I kidding?  I would just eat the whole bag, 100 pre-packaged calorie at a time.

It is all my sister-in-law, Katie’s fault.  I was visiting her and my brother about a month ago and prior to going to see them I had been working very diligently on a specific ‘sugar and flour are evil’ diet.  In spite of that diligence, my success to that point had been limited (I had not gained any additional weight) but I was steadfastly adhering to the plan finding alternative ways to satisfy my very small sweet tooth.  Those who know me can attest; I can resist most sweets, chocolate included.  My weakness is on the savory side. I can eat an entire bag of salt and vinegar potato chips and if I have a craving it is usually something in that family.  This diet has depraved me of that too, and so I think I was especially vulnerable.  Katie is the opposite, she always has a variety of chocolate stashed all over their house.  One night, I noticed an open bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs tucked next to Katie’s laptop on the couch.  I picked up the bag and asked my brother if I should put it away so that their new puppy didn’t get into it.  He said that Katie and the dog had gone to bed and she would absolutely retrieve it before she left for work in the morning.  I read the nutritional panel to see how many I might be able to eat without upsetting the delicate balance between gaining, and not gaining, any weight on my weight loss diet.  I calculated I could eat 9 and still be ‘OK’.  I don’t recall eating the 9 eggs.  Maybe I dreamed it; 5 more wouldn’t hurt.  This would have continued until the bag was completely empty except that my guilt for stealing Katie’s chocolate and pride in being able to resist was a teensy bit  stronger that day than my temporary addiction to the hard candy coated chocolates.  I went to bed.  Far away from the bag.  But only after  grabbing one more little handful for the road.

Here I am, back at home, one month later, and I have only gained 3 pounds on my sugar and flour free wight loss  diet.  The diet book says you shouldn’t plan to stay on this restricted part for very long because you will grow tired of the restrictions.  It has been 3 months.  2 1/2 months longer than they suggest; also because it my not be good for you to loose weight so fast, for that long.  Um, yea.  I decide that maybe I am one of those people who really does need to add exercise to ‘diet’ in order to lose weight, so, Monday I took a walk.  I walked up to the coffee shop and bought a scone and a cookie.  If I spread them out over several days, I rationalized, it will be fine.  They were both almost gone before I got home.  Tuesday; new day.  Walked for an hour but the return route took me back by the coffee shop.  Darn, I have just enough money for a cookie and a scone.  I hurry home because I need to run an errand and forget about the cookie and scone…. Because….All the way to the store I am thinking about Cadbury Mini Eggs.  They must be on is almost Easter.  I find the 18 oz bag and walk away in disgust.  No way do I want that much chocolate in my house.  I almost get out of the store and I see a smaller bag by the checkout.  Damn!

I only ate 12 on the way home, counting them and still thinking of a way to stay on my ‘Oh-So-Successful’ diet.  Once home,  I ate another 15 while I was fixing dinner..oh hell, I really wasn’t even counting by that time.  After dinner, I hid them from myself.  It actually has worked a couple of times in the past with other things, but I underestimated the pull of the complex pleasure of sucking on the hard candy coating until the chocolate begins to soften and then you have to just smash it all in your mouth.  Myself found the bag again two more times before I went to bed.  I really tried to resist.  I even ate two sugar free jello cups to distract myself.  Because those are sooooo satisfying…

This morning when I got up, I new what I had to do.  There was still half a a bag of those damn eggs left.  I couldn’t keep them.  I had to get them out of the house or I would crush the rest of the bag before nightfall.  I couldn’t just throw them away; I didn’t trust myself  not to try to retrieve them.  Fortunately, my sense of dignity is stronger than my addiction.    I had to find a safe place to leave them where I knew they would be cared for and loved.  I tied the bag with a bow and wrote a note to my neighbor Elaina and explained that I could no longer keep the eggs.  I asked her to enjoy them and care for them as she would her own.  My note stopped short of explaining the sucking and melting part; she is from Russia and surely savoring chocolate is international, but obviously a very personal thing.  She will figure it out.   I left the note and the bag on the steps to her apartment and I know before nightfall my Cadbury Mini Eggs will have a new home.

Maybe this was a good thing.  I can renew my vows with my diet and maybe this lapse has somehow reset my metabolism and my resolve.  I will take a walk this afternoon in the opposite direction of the coffee house and work off some of those chocolate egg calories.  After I eat that scone fried up with a little butter.  Butter is a free food on this diet.  I know it will work, if I just stick to it.

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#Charcutepaloza Brisket Love

The March Charcutepalooza challenge was brining and I was hoping to try something a little different.  My friend the chef, who came through with the pork belly last month, said he might surprise me with some lambs tongue to experiment with but I ended up traveling to see family in Ohio and Illinois for over a week in the beginning of March and found myself running up against the deadline with no charcuterie prepared to blog about. Continue reading

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My Gran

This weekend my brother and I traveled to Ohio to see my ailing Gran.   My brother and I were lucky to know our maternal and paternal grandmothers and also had a couple great grandmothers on my mother side.   We have always called my moms mother, Grandma Betty, and as we grew older, Gran.  She is 96 now and has had a wonderful life full of family, children, grand children and great grand children (thank you, cousins).  She is a really sweet woman and I will always also remember her as an undeclared pioneer of woman’s lib and a female entrepreneur.

Early in her life she lost a significant part of her hearing and was fortunate to have access to the latest hearing aid technology of the day (I’m sure that’s not what they called it back then).  The earliest version I remember had wires that she carefully tucked in behind her ears and under her ‘hairdo’, and was attached to a small transistor radio like thing that she tucked into her dress.  Always dressed to impress, there was always a little competition between her and her sister for the ‘glamor girl’ title of the week.  In the late 30’s she got married, started her family and in the early 50’s became an independent sales rep for Sonotone.  She traveled (alone!) to conventions and to be trained on the latest hearing aid products and back then, I am thinking that was pretty progressive.  To meet her, you would never guess she was in sales or as independent as she was in business. She has always been very demur and sweet and would truly blush if someone was telling an off color joke or just pretend like she didn’t hear it.   More than a sales woman, she was truly an advocate for the hearing impaired and taught us from the time we were very little about the bones of the ear, the hammer, anvil and stirrup, (not the official names but for little kids, good for visualization) and explained how everything worked. 

From my earliest memory, she had a home office and took her profession very seriously.  She always kept up to date on her training and knowledge as well as the advances in the field and was happy to discuss it if you asked.  I recall a high school friend mentioning to me at one of our class reunions that my grandmother had fitted her with her first hearing aids when she was much younger.  I was surprised, first, because I had never noticed she wore them, but second, that my grand mother never mentioned meeting her.  When I spoke to my grand mother about it she explained that she felt it was a very private matter and never felt comfortable discussing who her clients were with anyone. She still had some regular clients as she progressed in to her 90’s and still had local doctors referring clients to her.  She was reluctant to retire because she didn’t feel like she had anyone reliable (not many hearing techs that make house calls anymore) to turn her clients over to so she just kept doing it until 3-4 years ago when it just became physically impossible for her.

It was hard to see her this weekend.  She is having a hard time communicating and it is frustrating for her.  My brother and sister went over a couple weeks ago and my brother smuggled his dog in to the nursing home and took these pictures.  She was not doing as well this weekend so I am glad they captured some fun moments then.  No matter what, she is always happy and quick to welcome you and enjoys hamming it up for a little laugh.  I am glad I got to see her again and it made me remember what a sweet, strong woman she is.  She has been a wonderful role model and inspiration and I am proud to be her grand daughter.

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#Charcutepalooza – Pancetta update

I was able to get some advice on my ‘bulging pancetta’ from Bob delGrosso at Hendricks Farms and Dairy and he said of my dangling bulge- “cut it off, fry it and eat it”.




So I did.

This is day 7 of my planned 2 week drying process.  Things look good so far.  And from the little bit I sampled it tastes good so far too.

I have almost finished (eating) my bacon.  I am finding so many things to add it to when I m cooking.  the only thing I haven’t done with it is dip it in chocolate.  Yet.  I told my neighbor I would bring him some for shoveling all the snow but he may have to wait for the next batch.  I am pretty happy with my first attempt but I have some ideas for improvement for the second time around.  My savory Montreal bacon was really salty but my Maple bacon is perfect.  I think I need to spend more time rinsing before I cook it and the bay leaf  flavor was stronger than I liked.  No matter; great stash to have on a cold winter day in Milwaukee.

The March challenge is ‘Brine’.  That one will be easy for me.  I have been playing with brines for several years so it will be fun to come up with some fun examples for the challenge.

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Fresh Bacon and Pancetta-Charcutepalooza

This time of year I usually really enjoy getting into cooking.  What else are you going to do when it is 10 degrees outside in Wisconsin?  Unfortunately, like everyone else, my budget this winter is in a recession and I’m having trouble getting excited about being creative with chicken.  One of my guilty pleasures is reading food blogs and as you can see from my blogroll, I have several favorites and am always on the hunt for new ones, looking for ideas.

Early in January, I was looking for something creative to do with pork I acquired during a Butchering Class last summer at Balzano. I stumbled upon these two bloggers who were getting worked up about ‘making meat’ using Brian Polcyn and Michael Ruhlmans book Charcuterie.  I bought this book a couple of years ago and have even given it as a gift on a few occasions, but haven’t done much with it myself.  I’ve followed Ruhlman’s blog for a few years and have a few of his other books. He is an Ohioan, like myself, and he writes with a perspective that I enjoy, however, Charcuterie has been too intimidating, so far, for me to attempt on my own.

As I was watching the Meat Making Bloggers, Yummy Mummy, and Mrs. Wheelbarrow, from a far, the excitement quickly developed in to a real contest with monthly challenges and support from the author Ruhlman, sponsors like D’Artagnan, and Food 52 even a grand prize. I mentioned the contest to a few meat loving friends, hoping I could live vicariously through their meat making because lately, the meat in my budget was not worth preserving.  Then a chef friend of mine surprised me with 20 lbs of pork belly so that I could jump in to the challenge myself.  So much for watching from a far.

The first Charcutepalooza challenge issued in January was preserving duck breast by making duck prosciutto.  Fortunately, because it evolved so quickly, they are allowing latecomers like myself, to catch up with our duck later, and I will share it when it unfolds.  Right now, I have to figure out what to do with all this pork belly.  February’s challenge was a dry cure and included an Apprentice Challenge and a Charcuterie Challenge.  The Apprentice Challenge was making fresh bacon.  One of the critical ingredients in this dry cure process (but not all, as you will see with the Duck Prosciutto) is salt with nitrate (Pink Salt).  It is not something you find in the grocery store and there are several sources on-line but since my pork was not sourced locally (who can be particular about a gift?), and because I was in a hurry, I wanted to try to find a local source for the ingredients I used in the curing process.  I consulted a Milwaukee food blogger I also found early in January, PorkDrunk, because I noticed he had also made some fresh bacon from the Charcuterie book sometime last year.  Unfortunately, although I learned about a good local meat source and saw some great Pork Stuff on his site, like most everyone else, he gets his Pink salt online from a sausage and meat curing specialty house.  Ever determined, I checked TheSpice House located in the Milwaukee Public Market and on 3rd Street in Milwaukee they had everything I needed and more.  In addition to the Pink Salt and every kind of spice you could imagine they also have some of their own blends.  There were a couple that I’ve used in the past that I thought might be good for bacon. Since I have so much pork belly I decided to make two different kinds of bacon (and maybe trying to overcompensate for being late to the party. It is a contest after all).  I wanted to have a sweet one and a savory one, so I used a maple spice blend and added little brown sugar to it along with the basic pink salt cure.  The savory one I cured with a blend called Quebec Beef Spice (my pork is from Canada so that made sense) and the blend is white and black pepper, sugar, garlic and coriander and although I don’t know how those spices relate to Quebec, I thought that would make some good fresh bacon.  I added some additional peppercorn and coriander and toasted it to warm up the oils before I crushed and added to the blend. Continue reading

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Long see..

Late last year I recall giving some advice to someone who wanted to start a blog and I said “if you are going to do it you have to be committed.  You can’t just blog a little and then stop…”  Obviously, I am better at giving advice than taking it.  I will skip the excuses and just jump right back in to it.  A lot has changed in the last year, I catch you up on all that later, but here I am again, mid-winter, trying to find things to keep me from hanging myself from the shower rod.  Sailing season is still a few months out, football is over for a while (I’m a Cleavland Browns fan, so it could be debated that it has been over for a really long while), and things are just plain slow around here.  I must admit the tropical front we are experiencing this week in Milwaukee is helping a little.

I looked back to see what I did last year on Valentines day and found myself drawing a blank.  Looks like this year might be a blank as well.  It is Monday after all.  But it is 40 degrees out side…Its a heat wave!  Maybe I will have some good news to report tomorrow.

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Twitter, Facebook and other ..stuff

Hmmmmmm.  Women over 55 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.   Wonder 6002268046334_4_a5914adbhow 25 yr old founder Mark Zuckerberg feels about that.  Especially after he turned down a reported 1 Billion dollar offer from Yahoo to sell, just last year.  Well,  Mark, don’t despair.  According to Inside Facebook 56.9% of all Facebook users are women and that number is growing more than 150% per month.  It’s OK if you are not in to Cougars, Mark,  the stats indicate there is also a  size-able pool of  women close to your own age on the site.  In reality, that statistic (the ratio, not the growth) also closely represents the over all ratio of women to men world wide, so that just means Facebook is keeping up.  Good job, Mr. Zuckerberg.  And when you get down to it, I bet that the female over 55 group has more disposable income (or did until recently) than the female 20-30 group.  Maybe Mark is even smarter than we thought. Continue reading

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