Saturday, November 24, 2007


I made Thanksgiving for myself for the very first time ever this week, and it actually turned out well. I planned out my slow cooker turkey breast, which always comes out juicy and delicious, and spent about a week flipping through my cookbooks (or “food porn”, as I sometimes think of them) for side dishes. The original menu I planned called for mashed potatoes, balsamic glazed carrots, and blue cheese puffs, but a few days before I cut out the potatoes since it was just me eating.

I forgot to plan a dessert, but I had some Little Debbie cakes that I buy for my lunches, so the evening wasn’t a total loss.

As I said, the turkey is really easy, even though it looks kind of sketchy when you’re mixing the ingredients:

slow cooker turkey

Throw the turkey breast in the slow cooker and then pour a mixture of orange juice, cranberry sauce, and onion soup mix over the top. It’s the onion soup mix that makes it smell vile, but once it cooks down the smell is gone. The recipe says to cook it for six to eight hours, but I always let it go for at least eight, because then the turkey is so done and tender it kind of shreds itself on the plate.

With the turkey set to “ignore” for the next eight hours, I turned my attention to the blue cheese puffs, which need a lot of prep time but, unlike the carrots, do not need to be served warm. It’s a basic puff pastry, and after they cool you add a filling of blue cheese, mayonnaise, and chives, but that means they need time to bake and cool, so I started early.

Mixing the flour, butter, and water over heat until it formed a ball worked out well:

blue cheese puff dough

So did adding the eggs and cheese:

add cheese

It wasn’t until after baking that disaster struck. Just like the last time I made these, I took one pan out about three minutes too early, and the puffs deflated, leaving me with flat blue cheese rolls.

blue cheese puffs

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the pan on the right is perfect. The pan on the left, not so much. I ended up spooning the filling on top of them and mentally berating myself until I felt like dirt. It was similar to real Thanksgiving, except then someone else does the berating for me, and there’s usually more drinking.

Despite the failure of the blue cheese puffs, the carrots turned out to be the biggest annoyance, because I had to peel and slice them by hand. At first I was annoyed because I didn’t have a slicer, but really I think the problem is that I don’t have good knives. A long time ago I had one of those wooden blocks with knives in it, but now I’m down to three knives in my utensil drawer. If I get a gift card for Christmas to anywhere with a kitchen department, I guess I know what I’m buying.

Back to the carrots, though, I had to simmer them in oil and water with garlic until the liquid cooked almost all the way off and the carrots were tender, and this was surprisingly easy:

carrots, simmering

Once they cooked down a little I added the balsamic vinegar, and plated up a little of everything for my “Top Chef” camera plate shot:

camera plate

Happy Thanksgiving to me!

Monday, November 19, 2007

botched cooking

Those premade crescent rolls that come in a tube are pretty much my best friend. Leftover hot dogs? Put cheese on them, wrap them in a crescent roll, and bake away. Gourmet olives and tiny pieces of cheese left over from wine and cheese night? Make stuffed turnovers out of them with crescent rolls. Feel like mini calzones? Cheese, pepperoni, crescent rolls. I always have a tube of crescent roll in my fridge, and it hasn’t led me wrong until last night.

Killing time in my last hour before “The Amazing Race”, I realized I hadn’t eaten yet and was feeling really lazy, and remembered that there was a tube of crescent rolls in the fridge. I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do with them, though, until a sudden idea dawned. What if I put some jelly on them and made little sweet rolls? Like tarts? That could be delicious, right?

In theory, yes.


Jelly doesn’t hold up well in the oven.

I was greatly amused to see that the pan is a study in most to least melty. For those who are curious, cranberry preserves barely moved. Next down, strawberry jam melted a little. Orange marmalade melted a lot. Grape jam turned into a purple lake. It was all still delicious, but very sticky.

The pan has been soaking overnight because I don’t even want to try touching it.


I guess I’ve learned that everything doesn’t go with crescent rolls.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Three F's

I kept meaning to update this week and kept not getting to it, so I decided to do a weekend roundup instead. Think of these as mini-updates, I guess.

1) I Drank It For Science

Last week I was at the grocery store and noticed that now that Halloween has come and gone, we’ve ventured into the Christmas retail season. When I was little this never used to happen until after Thanksgiving, but now the trees and garland and lights go up in the stores on November first, and that means they have eggnog at Food City. I was getting milk anyway, so I glanced at the eggnog section and stopped in my tracks when I saw this:

pumpkin pie spice eggnog

Pumpkin is a strange food. Pumpkin pie, by itself, is delicious, more so with whipped cream on it. Pumpkin seeds are also delicious. Pumpkin anything else, though, tends toward the sketchy. There’s a reason why they don’t have pumpkin candy or pumpkin pudding or pumpkin soda (Jones Soda Company doesn’t count, since they only make it this season). It’s because, for every delicious pumpkin filled vegetarian ravioli, there is also a Starbucks Pumpkin Latte that tastes like a regular cup of coffee with a can of pumpkin pie filling poured in to make it extra-vile.

With this is mind, I was skeptical of the pumpkin pie spice eggnog. I mentioned it to a few friends, and the general consensus was best expressed by my friend MegaBigEye, who said, “Probably disgusting. With the off chance of being delicious.” Confused and curious, I finally bought it this week because I decided that I just had to know.

And it was delicious.

2) Fire?

I feel bad for the people at my apartment complex office sometimes, because our emergencies always seem to come in pairs or trios.

Last year, for example, lightning hit my building right before Easter. The power went out, and stayed out for several days because the lightning bolt fried the meters at the end of the building. They put us up for a week in a nice business traveler’s motel with suites and DVD players and kitchens in the rooms, and one night I was laying in bed in my suite, waiting to have power in my apartment again, and saw, “Meth lab found in local apartment complex” on the evening news. As I watched, I thought, “That complex has balconies that look just like mine.”

That’s because it was my complex. Fortunately the meth lab was at the other end, and, oddly enough, meth labs are pretty much normal neighbors in Tennessee. I was worried that it meant I’d moved to a really shady apartment complex, but my coworkers assured me that, no, it happens to everybody.

Anyway, this week we had a huge water main break. I don’t know if it flooded anyone’s apartment, but it wrecked the landscaping by the exercise room, and they had to shut off the water for a few hours on Thursday and Friday to work on it. Wednesday night, though, the same day it broke, we had terrible thunderstorms, and they set off the fire alarms in the building next to mine:

fire engine

Thankfully there wasn’t a real fire, and I didn’t miss “Top Model”.

Or, you know, lose all my belongings in a cloud of flame and smoke.

3) The Last Home Game

Today was our last home game, so it was my last weekend working at the gates. I usually get to mine a half hour or so before we’re supposed to open, but today I was running a little late and didn’t get there until five minutes before, which meant the parade had already started and I had to push through the crowd to get to the stadium.

last home game

Next year I’ll be on time more.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

UT stomps Arkansas

Yesterday turned out to be a really nice day for football.

volunteer village

It was cold, but I guess if you love your team it's never too cold for something like this:

vol fans

It should surprise no one to know that I will never love the team enough to paint my body white.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Homecoming, a week late

Homecoming rock

Last weekend was Homecoming. There was a parade on Friday and a big game on Saturday, and since it was a home game I was working at the stadium doing the ticket thing. Those of us working at Gate 23 decided over e-mail to have our own little tailgating event up at the gate, so we each brought something in. My contribution was sausage balls:

sausage balls

I never had a sausage ball until I moved here, but they are apparently a delicious Southern tradition, and I’ve become a fan. They are made with bulk sausage, a lot of pepper, some Bisquick, and cheddar cheese. You roll them up, bake them, and eat them at room temperature. I made 72 of them, and 68 actually made it into the container to go to the game.

Anyway, here’s a few more shots of Homecoming before I go work this weekend’s game.

the band goes by

cooking with smokey

steamboat float again

stadium banners

banner, with cheerleader

Also, at the parade I was close enough to Pat Summitt, the Lady Vols basketball coach, to climb in the back of the car with her:

pat summitt

I didn’t, of course, but once I talked to her in line at lunch and it was awesome!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

photos and statuary

Yesterday I took a picture inside the old courthouse because I liked the way the ceiling and the lights looked.

courthouse interior

I really like the way the light coming through the windows continues directly down the line of the windows themselves. I liked it even more when I converted it to black and white:

black and white courthouse interior

I’m mostly just a point and click type of photographer, but every once in a while doing that happens to catch something that looks pretty good.

I’m kind of curious about that covered window in the ceiling, though. Was that a skylight?

Other curious things I saw yesterday on my trip downtown included this statue:


The plaque says it’s a “lady of justice”, but since it’s not blindfolded it can’t be Justice herself, so who is it? I’m not an expert in Greco-Roman mythology, but I took a course in it in junior high and I’ve read years of Wonder Woman comics, and I don’t remember Justice having any ladies in waiting. I’ve heard the figure of speech “handmaiden of Justice”, though, so I guess she might be one of them?

Friday, November 2, 2007


Say, did you know that when you move to Tennessee you only have thirty days to change your driver’s license over from your native state to your new one? Neither did I, until I was handing my New York license to the policeman who was taking my witness statement about office theft this morning.

“How long have you lived in Tennessee?”

“A… uh… while?”

The officer gently advised me to go get a Tennessee license as soon as possible, so I called the office at the courthouse to find out what else to bring as Debbie laughed in the background.

“Hello, yes, I recently moved to Tennessee, and have some questions about changing my license over.”

Debbie claims that the use of the word “recently” is a lie, but I pointed out that it’s a matter of scale. I’ve recently moved here in comparison to the rest of my life, the same way the Cretaceous period is recent, geologically speaking. On a wide enough scale, any number is small, and a year and a half of living here can be recent enough.