New LEAF

Meghan got a new job here in town a while back.  More to the point, it’s two miles away.

I realized after a while that her car wasn’t really getting a chance to get up to operating temperature very often, even in the middle of summer.  She makes several trips throughout the day to various buildings around town, but they’re rarely more than a couple of miles per hop.

This is the worst-case scenario for a gasoline-powered car.  Her mileage suffered considerably: she was barely getting 20 mpg.  I knew that the car would shortly show signs of fast aging — this is part of the “severe driving” section of the manual.

After hemming and hawing a bit, we decided that the best way to protect our asset would be to go electric.  (I can’t say “protect our investment” because, lets face it, cars are not investments.)  Meghan is the best-case scenario for an electric: lots of starts and stops (which lets regenerative braking recapture lots of energy) and no range anxiety since she’s never far from home.

We did our research, tried out a few cars, and finally found a good match.

Introducing Meghan’s new-to-her 2016 Nissan LEAF SL

Meghan's New LEAF

Meghan in her new Nissan LEAF.

Another shot of the front:

Front of LEAF

Highlight of the Week

Aside

My personal highlight of this week:

Just finished a 20 mile bike ride with Meghan.  We’re sitting in a McDonalds in Danvers.  At the table next to us, we’re listening to a 99 year old guy (gonna be an even 100 next month!) come over and start chatting up a group of 80-something women.

Classic Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, certified D.O.P. if possible
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large fresh basil sprig, or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste

Steps

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them with your hands
    1. Afterwards, fill the can about 1/4 to 3/4 way with water; slosh around to capture the tomato juices and bits, and set aside for a moment.
    2. Use more water if you want a lot of sauce, or are finishing meatballs, or want it to simmer for a long time.  Use less water if you don’t have much time
  2. Slice the garlic cloves as fine as you can
  3. Put the pan on medium heat and add the olive oil
  4. When the olive oil starts to shimmer, toss in the garlic and let it sizzle
  5. BEFORE the garlic starts to brown, pour in the tomatoes, followed by the water from the can, and sprinkle on the oregano and pepper flakes.  If you’re using fresh basil, lay it on top.
  6. Turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.  It will get a nice orange-y color to the top.  You can reduce it until there’s no visible water, but no more than that – remove it from the heat if you reach that point!

Notes

  • This recipe is great because it’s tasty and doesn’t take a lot of extra work, but it does take time.  Expect prep plus cooking to be an hour.
  • You really want to use a heavy stainless pan, 12″ or larger.
  • Our local grocery store carries canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, and they are certified D.O.P., but they already have basil added (so we don’t actually put additional basil in).
  • I’ve tried using canned crushed tomatoes but it messes with the texture and flavor.  Crushing them yourself is easy yet so satisfying.
  • Our best experience was making meatballs at the same time, and finishing them off in the sauce.  The sauce picked up some extra flavors that made it sublime.

Source: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015987-classic-marinara-sauce

Sausage and Vegetable Roast

This is a kind of suggestion-type recipe, throw in your favorite vegetables and ignore the ones you don’t like (or don’t want to do today).

Ingredients

  • Two medium-sized red potatoes
  • 1 head of broccoli (or cauliflower)
  • 2 bell peppers (use two different colors, for the look)
  • 1/2 pound green beans (a couple of handfuls)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 3/4 pound of sausage
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Steps

  1. Heat up an oven to 400° F
  2. Cut up the potatoes into small (less than 1 inch) pieces. If they’re too big they won’t cook fast enough
  3. Cut up the broccoli, peppers, and asparagus into comfortably-bite-size pieces, and snap the stems off the beans
  4. Slice the sausage into “coins”
  5. Toss veggies, sausage, cheese, and spices into a large bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat everything (a few tablespoons)
  6. Spread out onto a couple of pans
    1. Everything should be a single layer; doubling up will lead to a mix of burnt and raw bits
  7. Bake for 15 minutes
  8. Flip the veggies and reverse the pans top to bottom
  9. Bake for another 10-15 minutes

Serve with brown rice!

Variations

Swap in a cup of any of the following:

  • butternut squash
  • zucchini
  • sliced carrots
  • a sweet potato
  • turnip
  • radishes
  • sliced jalapeños
  • cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • red onions
  • mushrooms

Cup-Eggs, Keto style

Terrible photo including my nasty muffin tin. But they are very yummy.

We can take the long personal story as read, yeah? Straight into the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 or 3 glugs* of heavy cream
  • diced peppers (two colors, at least, for the pretty)
  • Mexi-cheese

What is a glug, you ask?Tip over the jug, and stop pouring when it has made the glug noise the stated number of times. Yes, it is a technical term!

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  2. Mix all 12 eggs and the cream in a bowl using a whisk or a fork. It should get a little frothy, but not too bad.
  3. Pull out a muffin pan, and either spray the cups with cooking spray, or use cupcake papers (which is what I do because my muffin pans are ancient and rusty).
  4. Pour a roughly equal amount of egg/cream mixture into each cup.
  5. Drop some of the peppers into each cup.
  6. Drop a good-sized pinch of Mexi-cheese (or the shredded cheese of your choice) into each cup.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Understand – these are all guidelines. You don’t need to use peppers (asparagus is yummy), or Mexi-cheese. If you can’t handle dairy, coconut oil is a great substitute. Try things! Make mistakes! Enjoy!

Aye, lads…

Aye, lads, it’s chilly

But not as chilly as our boy Willie!

You see, he’s dead.

So goes an old family refrain. It comes out often during the winter, especially when someone remarks that “it’s a bit chilly.”

There’s a particular cadence, too:

Person 1: “Aye lads, it’s chilly.”
Person 2 (not in the least bit somber): “Not as chilly as our boy Willie.”
Everyone (in a cheerful chorus): “You see, he’s dead!

We’ve lost the genesis of it, but Megh thinks there was a second refrain as well. “Something about being colder than a witch’s tit,” she says, but can’t remember more.

Super Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

Source:

Genius Kitchen’s Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

Notes:

  • Use metal cookie sheets, not a baking stone. You’re going straight from the fridge to a nice hot oven. The stone will not survive the transfer.
  • Use plenty of flour on your cutting surface.
  • Cut the dough into pieces of about a third of the dough each, and only pull one of them out of the fridge at a time to roll out and cut.
  • You are going to use so much plastic wrap with this recipe.
  • Its totally worth it.
  • To get the different colors of frosting, I usually get the biggest thing of vanilla frosting I can, and food color bits of it in sandwich bags. Cut off the tip of one corner and hey-presto decorating bags!

Ingredients:

  • 6 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c softened butter
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 c unsulphated molasses

Directions:

  1. Sift together the first three ingredients in a side bowl (not the one you plan on mixing everything in, you will regret that if you try)
  2. In a mixer with a big bowl, cream butter and sugar
  3. Add spices & salt, then eggs, then molasses
  4. Slowly add flour mixture (not kidding about the speed – try to do it fast, and the whole thing explodes into a powdery mess)
  5. Combine everything at low speed
  6. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap, and chill for an hour
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  8. Put down parchment paper and flour it really well
  9. Roll to 1/8 inch thickness (WHO ACTUALLY DOES THAT? I usually do 1/4)
  10. Cut with cookie cutters, and place them on the cookie sheet
  11. Chill the sheet with the cookies on it for 15 min
  12. Go straight from the fridge to the oven
  13. Cook for 8-10 min
Cool completely before decorating.

Disney Memories

Way, way back, before there was an internet or any technology really, there were kids, and a postal service, and Disney, and life was good.  Not great because the world was still black and white, but it was still pretty good.

Young Meghan wanted the Disney to become one with the kids, so she used the nascent postal service, with their pony expresses, clipper ships, and smoke signals, to ask Disney to come to her school.  To their credit they did reply via the same route, but alas they lacked the technology to be in multiple places at once and declined her gracious invitation.

disney replies, they won't come

I uncovered this letter, framed, while we were cleaning our room.  (Yes, even adults who were once children must clean their room from time to time.)  Meghan refused to keep it, so I have scanned it for posterity and posted it to the internet for eternity.

BMG

meghan @ blue man group
The ushers passed out strips of paper as we entered, suggesting we “turn it headbands or scarfs, or whatever you like.” Meghan liked a hair bow.

I got a text from my sister-in-law on a Thursday: would you like a pair of tickets to see Blue Man Group this Sunday?  Something came up and we can’t use them.

Always quick on my feet, I got back to her over an hour later, asking her where (even though there’s only one place in the area).

Both girls declined repeated offers to go with me.  Apparently I smell bad or something, but opportunity only knocks once.  At least Meghan was willing to go, but only after I promised to keep to the speed limit this time.*

audience

The show was hilarious and high-energy.  It does appear to evolve over time, as it’s not the same show that we saw last time – except for the general tenor it was basically a new show to me.  If you too haven’t seen it in twenty years, go again.

*this is a short story: before Meghan and I were married we went to see Blue Man Group with Kennon and Katie.  While cruising down the Massachusetts Turnpike I was pulled over for “speeding and weaving.”  I disputed the ticket because I honestly don’t think I was speeding when the cop saw me (I now freely admit to having been speeding earlier) and the weaving charge was just plain stupid.  I was half successful.