Stars.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 8 December 2009 9:00 am

stars_001

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Chili Winter Evening.

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Coolness,Links | Monday 7 December 2009 11:37 am

I’ve been wanting to find a good, tried and true chili recipe for a while… a full-bore, proper chili that didn’t use chili powder or canned chili sauce.  The kind of recipe that’s handed down from person to person, not found on the web.

I finally got one.

A coworker friend of mine had been boasting about his chili, and how his wife had this dynamite chili sauce that was made from scratch, and well, that sounded about right to me.  The problem was that they hadn’t written anything down, they just made it “by feel”.  When I asked for the recipe, he used it as a good excuse to make a batch of chili and take down notes.  Those notes ended up in my inbox on Saturday.  I cobbled together a more formal recipe from what he sent and promptly went shopping.

Armed with this recipe I set to putting it all together, starting with the chili sauce.  The sauce is simple, and flavorful, consisting of sauteed onions, dried peppers and broth simmered for the better part of an hour, then blended to within an inch of its life then strained.  It’s thick, dark and powerful stuff… precisely as it should be.  This is the key to a good chili — this is the make or break part.

The second part, the actual chili, is straightforward as well.  Cubed stew meat, after being browned off, is combined with sauteed onions and garlic, seasonings and some water or broth, then allowed to simmer until tender.  The rest of the ingredients are added, as is the chili sauce.  Adjust the seasonings and heat to suit your tastes, then cut the heat to low and abandon all hopes of eating it for at least 5 or 6 hours.  Allow the whole melange to simmer slowly and thicken up, further tenderizing the meat and letting all those flavors co-mingle and mature.

Your patience will be rewarded.

Eleven people demolished 6½ quarts of chili, 2 loaves of fresh bread, and a pot of rice in record time.  It was worth every minute of bloating that came afterward.

The recipe can be found HERE.

I know there are some heat-hounds reading this, and I tell you now that this is a “½ alarm” chili that is suited for the widest range of pepper tolerances, so you’ll want to spice it up to suit your own tastes.  I strongly suggest doing it during the chili sauce phase.  You can either leave all the pepper seeds in to boost it a bit, or substitute hotter chilies in the “Optional Additional Peppers” section (habaneros or scotch bonnets perhaps?).  I used fresh jalapeños, half of them with the seeds intact to get the mild heat I like.  The ancho and cascabel chilies are necessary to get the right basic flavor and texture, so leave those be.  Finding the right balance of other peppers is your problem, not mine.

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Two Horrible Things That Go Great Together!

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Wednesday 25 November 2009 2:00 pm

It’s well known that I’m a coffee snob.  We’ve covered this already, and it’s one of my most endearing features (why does everyone tell me that in such a strange tone of voice?).  I very purposefully nursed and encouraged this snobbery from the very beginning, from my “awakening” moment with coffee — thank you GonzO for your enlightenment and wisdom… it’s all your fault.

I came to enjoy coffee late in life, very specifically because I was born in a town that luxuriates in combining perfectly good coffee with funk-ass chicory — a throwback first to it’s French heritage, and secondly to World War II when coffee was scarce and chicory was used to bulk it out or replace it altogether.  Chicory lends a bitter, eye-squinting taste to coffee, masking or completely obliterating many of the essential and desirable flavors standard coffee offers.  As such, coffee and I never saw eye to eye.

The most popular and well known variety of coffee and chicory in NOLA is CDM, aka Café du Monde, and comes in an iconic golden yellow can that can be found in every grocery store in the South, not to mention in NOLA itself.  It’s the blend of coffee and chicory made famous by Café du Monde’s café au lait that is served alongside yummy orders of powder sugar heaped beignets.

Once I grew to appreciate actual coffee — not the bastard hybrid that almost ruined me for life — I also discovered that I couldn’t abide cold coffee, and more specifically iced coffee.  There was something about how the flavor changed, and the way your taste buds were dulled by the cold that made the taste unpalatable to me… for lack of a better explanation, it “cheapens” the flavor.

After moving to Austin, GonzO — my coffee mentor — decided to blow my mind again by introducing me to my own personal contradiction addiction.

Cà phê sữa đá (aka, Café su da).

It’s a Vietnamese style coffee that is brewed using CDM (specifically in the South due to its availability and similarity to the coffee used in Vietnam) in a specially designed metal drip coffee filter (cà phê phin) that drips into a glass containing sweetened condensed milk, stirred then served over ice.

Iced.  CDM.

I know! Dude… I know, I know, I know.  I have a hard time explaining it other than to say that the sweetness of the condensed milk and the bitterness of the coffee work some kind of voodoo when combined with each other over ice to make a blissful little bit of heaven in a glass.  It’s a bold flavored cup of coffee that will make our eyes pop open with an audible snap and keep you moving for hours.  Combine a glass of that with a huge bowl of phở (a Vietnamese beef and noodle soup), and you have the perfect start to a late, lazy weekend day, or the perfect cure for a hangover (whichever it happens to be, and that’s not to say they are mutually exclusive).

No respectable Vietnamese restaurant would exclude cà phê sữa đá from their menu, and it has become one of the core criteria we use to judge a restaurant by here.  Vietnamese has become one of my staple nationalities when dining out — the restaurants are plentiful, inexpensive, and filling without being horrible for you.  The food is fresh and simple, and let’s face it, they have the miracle coffee.

One of the gifts from Sweets’ for my birthday was a pair of cà phê phin filters so I could make cà phê sữa đá at home.  I promptly went out an bought a can each of CDM and sweetened condensed milk.  The process goes like this:

Pour 3 TBS (50 GR) of sweetened condensed milk into a shallow tumbler.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Unscrew the screen from the inside of the filter, add 2 TBS of CDM coffee, and screw the filter back down, tightening moderately.  Place the filter on top of the tumbler.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Fill the filter ¼ full of boiling water and wait 20-30 seconds.  Unscrew the filter screen at least 2 full turns then fill it the rest of the way with the boiled water.  It should take approximately 5 minutes for the water to drip completely through the filter.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Thoroughly stir the coffee into the condensed milk while it is hot, taking care to scrape the sides and bottom of the tumbler clean.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Allow the coffee to enjoy one last moment of life as a hot drink as it contemplates the glass of ice next to it.

Ca Phe Sua Da

Pour the coffee over the ice, mix, and enjoy.  If this is a new drink to you, you may want to be sitting comfortably, keeping clear of anything that could be kicked when you take your first sip, or knocked over when you stand suddenly, shouting “my god, I can see tomorrow!”

Ca Phe Sua Da

And I can rationalize enjoying this under the umbrella of coffee snobbery as there is special equipment involved, and a whole little ritual to be adhered to.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Roman Black Marble Cake.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 24 November 2009 8:00 am

roman_003

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Two New Cakes.

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Links,Pictures | Tuesday 10 November 2009 8:00 am

Two new cakes to share.  Also, switching gears with how cake galleries are being hosted — rather than host the images twice (here, and on Curious Confections) — and waste a lot of space, I’m creating new galleries on Curious Confections and linking to there.  Curious Confections’ gallery is ultimately where the cakes need to be showcased.

El Día de los Muertos SkullRainbow Cherry Blossoms

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This Was Halloween… Halloween, Halloween!

Posted by DmentD | Cakes,Domestica,Friends,House,Links,Party,Pictures | Monday 9 November 2009 4:02 pm

Halloween 2009 has arrived, then expired. The decorations are once more banished to the attic, and the house has been cleaned — again! — from top to bottom… and oh, what a relief to have the house back in order again!

This year marked the return of the annual Halloween party to my home — the first time since the move to Austin — and I’m thrilled to have been able to host it again. Sweets finds it amusing that we have more containers of Halloween decorations in the attic than we do all the other holidays combined. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, maybe, only a quarter of those containers has stuff that can be put out for generally decorating for the Halloween season.  All the rest is geared toward hosting a kick-ass party. And we added to it this year.

Every space is different, and the house in Austin is no exception. Different lighting needs, different party layout, different decorating styles. We made an investment in some new lighting options for the yard and house, and making the foray into colored CFL bulbs that will last us for years to come (in addition to just having better color output that tinted incandescent bulbs). CFL bulbs also come in true UV blacklight format too, so we can now “light” smaller spaces with individual bulbs rather than big fixtures. I also had need to start replenishing my inventory of heavy-duty extension cords, as they all went glub-glub in NOLA. I believe we created some interesting lighting atmospheres in and around the house.

We resurrected some old party traditions: the bar was a “blacklight” room, and I built a themed entryway for the guests to come through, as well as having heir pictures taken in front of (having your picture taken when you first arrive is your “price of admission”, and also guarantees that we have at least one picture of everyone that is taken while they are “fresh” and in costume).

We laid out a good spread of food, and Sweets went all out on sweet treats and the cake, which was fashioned after the skulls of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It was a delicious butter cake with black raspberry filling.

We had a houseful of costumed revelers, with very few uncostumed (shame-filled) miscreants — whom we love very much, but obviously are numskulls for not bothering to put any effort out, even though they were invited to a party being held for the express purpose of being a goofball in a costume, and their gracious hosts went though a hell of a lot of effort to decorate the house, and to feed and water them lavishly. And no, carrying a plastic bat does not constitute a costume, you slacker (yesI’mlookingatyouGonzoyoubastard *grins*).

Ahem.

What else can be said… it was a party, and parties are what they are. Food, drink, good company, fun.

To see the rest of the pictures, I direct you over the the Halloween 2009 gallery. If you like, you can read Sweets’ telling of the Halloween tale.

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I Am… Halloween.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Links | Thursday 29 October 2009 3:05 pm

Sorry about the radio silence, but I’m building Halloween.  Let this rockin’ little dance number salve your grieving soul in my absence.

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Least I Could Do.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Links,Promotion,Spotlight | Thursday 15 October 2009 12:00 am

In an apparent continuation of pimping webcomics I enjoy, here’s another: Least I Could Do.

Chronicling the day-to-day life story of Rayne Summers, the primary theme of the strip is sexuality… especially the promiscuity of the primary character.  It’s snort-out-loud funny at times, and quite touching (figuratively and literally) at others.

While always written by Ryan Sohmer, the comic has been drawn by three artists through the years… the most current being Lar deSouza– and in my opinion he’s the best… the meld of visual and writing comedy just gelled when they teamed up.  The comic is updated seven days a week.  The duo of Ryan and Lar also publish a second webcomic — Looking for Group, a fantasy based strip that is updated twice weekly.

I suggest, if you’re interested in reading the back-archives to catch up, starting HERE.  That marks the beginning of Lar’s takeover of drawing the comic.

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Against The Dead.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Entertainment,Friends,Links,Promotion,Spotlight | Wednesday 14 October 2009 11:49 am

Martin Whitmore — my obnoxiously talented friend and illustrator — has been developing a d20 zombie apocalypse game for about a year now.  The official title is “Against the Dead”.  I know, I’m excited too. *glee*

Against the Dead - Cover Preview

He’s already amassed 70+ original illustrations for the book, and is looking to “flesh it out” with some more zombie-massacre (and flesh-eating) action shots.  In order to generate some capital to offset the costs of putting the book together, he’s offering — for a  nominal fee — to put a custom illustration of YOU in the book… as either a survivor or one of the unholy walking dead:

In both cases you can make requests as to the details of the drawing, which I will fill to the best of my ability with respect to what we still need in the book. Feel free to suggest weapons, equipment — whatever would make you happy. If I can make it suit the book, I will. Depending on how many people are interested, I may put multiple subjects into a single illustration – we do need some action shots of survivors killing zombies, and vice-versa!

$20 to be a zombie, $30 to be a survivor.  Your donation gets you into the pages of Against the Dead, as well as a signed print of your illustration.

Go HERE for more details, and to get your ugly mug into the book.

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Yet Another Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Thursday 1 October 2009 11:22 am

So, yeah, apparently I can’t stop talking about my garden.  Suck it up, this is my blog and I’ll talk about my dry elbow skin if I feel the desire to.

I’ve been moisturizing… so there.

Anyway, I had the presence of mind to bring out the camera this morning while the pumpkin blossoms were still open and looking beautiful.  They are the most shocking shade of yellow-gold contrasting against the greens and browns of the surrounding yard, and they are HUGE.

Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomsPumpkin Vines

Also, our seedlings are doing very well.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are growing like weeds.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are filling out nicely and growing more true leaves.  Another few weeks, and they’ll be ready to plant outside.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato SeedlingsBrussels Sprouts SeedlingsBroccoli Seedlings

My constant, obnoxious companion while I work in the yard is the neighbor’s dog — a pitbull mix — named “Noisy Bitch” (ok, more like I named her that, but it has stuck).  From the moment she hears me open the patio door she starts barking incessantly.  I’ve tried making friends with her, to no avail.  She will stop barking as long as I bribe her with homemade treats — which she will happily and gently take from me through the fence — only to have her start yapping again shortly thereafter.

She has had some training as I can, most of the time, get her to sit on command in exchange for treats.  When she does sit, or otherwise obey a command, it’s like I’m using some sort of mind control to forcibly make her obey… the look on her face speaks volumes, as if to say “I’m sitting, but I’m doing so against my will, and I’m getting no pleasure from this humiliation at all… now give me the goddamn treat.”

I have on occasion used negative reinforcement on her when she barks or lunges, such as a quick shot of water from a spray bottle while I said “no” in a stern alpha voice.  Oh, she REALLY doesn’t like that, but she backs off and barks, growls, snarls and looks for all the world like she’s gonna jump the fence and go for my throat.  It got to the point where all I needed to do was show her the bottle and she’d back away noisily.  Now, I’ve abandoned the bottle, and when she won’t obey a command or barks viciously at me, I toss the treats earmarked for her over to Killer (again, our nickname for her), the other neighbor dog that went from barking at us from a distance, to practically hopping the fence to have us pet her.

I don’t think I’ll ever gain her confidence and make peace, but we’ll see.  For now, here’s a picture of that loving, gentle creature known as Noisy Bitch.

Noisy BitchNoisy Bitch

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