The View From Here

musings by John The Irishman

Archive for February 2007

The Shark Tank, Part Deux

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If you look under my blogroll to the right you’ll see that I have added a new site – it’s called The Shark Tank.  For those of you unfamiliar with The Tank, be forewarned – it’s not for the faint of heart or the easily offended.  It’s mostly for those that were displaced during “The Great Astronomicon Debacle of 2007″” .

 The Tank evolved (devolved ?) at The Astronomicon, which is also on my “Roll of Fame”.  The height of it’s renown & glory – at least what I experienced – was during the NCAACF Bowl Games of this past season.  Words cannot describe the climate in The Tank – you truly had to be a part of it.  I posted on the subject a couple times, but if you weren’t there you just have no idea.  Astro finally had too much, and went on hiatus.

Jump forward about a month & a half and what do we have ?  The Shark Tank having it’s own site – how cool is that ?  DFM from “Life in the Great Midwest” started the blog a few days ago – nice job, Dan !  Now all the “ex-pats” can reside peaceably in our shark infested little domain.  And what could be more perfect than Australia – CRIKIES !!!

 So, mates, if you’re in the neighborhood – especially during the college football season – please do drop in.  I guarantee that none who dare open their keyboard will leave unscathed, so dive in if you dare.  On the flip side, you may just want to become a regular.  Either way, enter at your own risk – you were warned.  Oh, and don’t forget the vegemite…

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Written by johntheirishman

Tuesday, 27 February, 2007 @ 20:23 at 20:23

Posted in Shark Tank

“Breaking News : Anna Nicole Smith, Dead”

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I will apeeliagize in advance if I offend – not my intent here.  As people from Moose Jaw to The Falkands to Bimini to Bhutan know, sadly, Anna Nicole is dead.  Why does EVERYONE and their brother know this ?  Because every major news outlet worldwide has latched on to the story and are giving top billing, that’s why !

 If one were to turn on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC – heck, probably even the McNeil-Lehrer Report & SCOLA – you would think another Pope died !  You cannot blame the news outlets, however, you can only blame the public – or at least the star-struck society that we live in.  And not just here – from Bollywood to Beijing – the WORLD is mesmerized with celebrities.

 Obviously this should not be a new revelation to any of you.  Obsession with “poptarts”, leading men, the wealthy, et al, goes back centuries, and I’m sure longer.  Even Ben Franklin was a hit it France and the rest of Europe !  What drives people to not value themselves, yet find value in “paparazzi-fodder” is well beyond my level of comprehension.  I think it is basically poor self-esteem and a lack of self-worth.

Let’s face it – Anna Nicole’s life was a train wreck.  She posed for Playboy, married a 150-year-old billionaire, openly abused drugs – all in the public eye !  Please keep in mind that I’m not judging her, just trying to figure out her appeal to the masses.  I delayed writing this post but couldn’t help myself when CNN flashed a yellow news alert banner and a “Breaking News” lead story that the hearing regarding her remains was in session – too much !

I am sorry that she is dead, that she lost her son, and that her baby will grow up without her mother.  I am also sorry that people care about this story more than the dead person down the street, all the parents who have lost children, and all the babies without parents.  I’m not sorry that this bothers me so because it solidifies what I thought when her reality show was on TV a few years ago – I can’t WAIT for this “15 minutes” to be over…

Written by johntheirishman

Thursday, 22 February, 2007 @ 20:14 at 20:14

Posted in blah-blah-blah...

Daddy’s Little Helper

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When I was first teaching myself how to make bread, I burned up our ancient hand mixer right off the bat.  Thinking it was due to age, I went out and bought a brand new hand mixer and destroyed it on day one – not a good sign.  Disappointed, I wasn’t sure what my next move would be.

 The big problem was solved when I realized I needed to change only one word to solve my dilemma.  I needed a stand mixer, not a hand mixer.  Hand mixers are great for making whipped creams, Banana Bread and the like – but I needed a “man’s” mixer, something with “stones”.  Stand mixers are the type that have the flip top head and detachable mixing bowl.  Once I got the right equipment I was in business !

I decided to go all out – a top of the line brand and certainly more than I wanted to spend.  Enter the “KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer” – ta da !  I got this bad boy of the kitchen retail, and with the use of a  couple coupons I was out the door for under $300.  You can certainly get a stand mixer for less – considerably less – but I rarely bestow luxuries upon myself, so why not.  I went with the Black & Chrome to honor my family heritage.  My grandparents owned a bar, restaurant and bowling alley (all in one building), and Grampa made the BEST milkshakes with a similar unit he kept behind the bar.

As I began to use the mixer more and more I realized how versatile it is : breads, mashed potatoes, my wife’s cookie doughs – you name it !  The Artisan even has a total of ten speeds – I personally have never gone past six – lots of torque too.  The head also has a type of “PTO” (power take off) drive to which you can attach a meat grinder, veggie slicer and other “implements” to.  After all these years, I have have never second-guessed the purchase.

 I have some very functional pieces of equipment in my arsenal that I’ll discuss at a later date, so I don’t want to ramble any further about my ally in the kitchen – but it is truly a kitchen “aid”…

Written by johntheirishman

Monday, 19 February, 2007 @ 20:55 at 20:55

Posted in Eats

Who Doesn’t Like A Good Pizza ?

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And what’s better than building your own ?  While it ain’t building an empire, it’s a worthy accomplishment !  By request, my recipe is posted below.  I think it’s best to use a baking stone, but a greased pizza pan works just fine.  Please note that some of the measurements for the sauce are close guesses – when I make stuff I just “kinda know” how much as I go along.  I also have a focaccia bread crust that adds even more flavor, but another time for that.  Enjoy !

For the Dough :

1 1/2

cups

Bread Flour

2

tbsp

Yeast

5

oz

Water, warm

1

tsp

Salt

1

tbsp

Sugar

1

tbsp

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix everything but the flour with the warm water and stir. Mixture will turn

“creamy” as the yeast activates. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook,

add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix at low speed – 2 if you have a

KitchenAid – for 8 minutes. If you don’t have a proper mixer you’ll need to

do it all by hand. Mix until the dough forms a ball with a nice beige hue.

If the dough seems dry add water, and if it’s too sticky add more flour.

Form dough into a ball and let rise on the stone for 1 hour. Punch it down

after the hour is up and roll out on the stone, molding the edge to form the

crust. If your stone isn’t “cured” yet you’ll need to spray it with Pam.

Sauce :

14

oz

Diced tomatoes (canned is easiest)

3

ea

Anchovies (optional)

2

ea

Garlic cloves, minced

1

tsp

Basil, dried

1

tsp

Oregano, dried

1

tsp

Salt

1

tbsp

Sugar

1

tsp

Garlic Powder

2

tsp

Onion Powder

2

tbsp

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small/medium sauce pan add the oil and anchovies. As the

anchovies begin to sizzle and melt, add the garlic. When the garlic

just begins to turn light brown add the canned tomatoes. I like to

“work” the tomatoes with a potato masher as they cook – that’s just

how I roll. Add the balance of the ingredients to the mix and work

or cook down for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool and use a food

processor of blender to puree the mixture. Don’t forget to stir

periodically throughout the cooking process.

Pizza :

Preheat to 425 for 10 to 15 minutes. I like to make the sauce while

the dough is rising, then roll the crust out when I’m ready to assemble.

Spread the sauce on the rolled dough and add a layer of Mozarella or

whatever cheese you prefer. On top of that whatever else you like.

We’ve used pepperoni, ham, prosciutto, peppers, mushrooms, onion,

pineapple, bacon – make it your own ! I think it usually takes about 20

to 25 minutes. You’ll know because the crust will start to turn brown

and the toppings will look, well, “done”.

Written by johntheirishman

Saturday, 17 February, 2007 @ 10:14 at 10:14

Posted in Eats

Food, Glorious Food !

with 9 comments

What else can I say – most of you know my passion for food.  Cooking is one of my most favorite things to do, and hey – everybody’s gotta eat !  It’s not often that you can enjoy your “hobby” on a daily basis and include others also.  I also enjoy growing herbs and veggies – I think I’ve normally got over a dozen herbs growing outside when it’s warm.  This is hopefully just the start of posting about food. 

As mentioned in my Material World post I enjoy trying foods of other lands.  Primarily I am inspired by the Mediterranean region, and lately I’ve also been experimenting with Asian and Middle Eastern foods.  Cleveland is blessed with a large ethnic population and also with a lot of ethnic markets, so I have no trouble finding ingredients.

 When I’m not using someone else’s recipes, I of course, use my own.  I try to make my breads, pasta sauces and soups from scratch – basically everything we eat is from scratch.  I’ve even been known to take someone else’s Turkey carcass home to make soup – why let it go to waste ?

 I’ll stop for the time being, as I could go on for hours, even days.  If anyone wants to discuss what they like, please leave a comment.  Who knows, maybe I’ll branch out into a whole new vein of cuisine exploration ?  If so,  I will welcome it – as always – with open palate…

Written by johntheirishman

Wednesday, 14 February, 2007 @ 21:18 at 21:18

Posted in Eats

Material World

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There is a very interesting book I’ve delved into lately, written in the mid 90s.  It’s called “Material World”, and it’s by a man named Peter Menzel.  The premise of the book is an examination of roughly 30 or so different families from all parts of the world – basically those that have, “kind of” have and have not.

 Menzel – a photographer – chronicled the daily lives of his subjects regarding how they lived, what they did for a living, meals, habits, etc…  It was quite fascinating to see the scope of the differences in what was important to people, how much they had to live on, dwelling types, and the like.  Everything from tents and mud huts to regular houses such as we all probably have.  From a Mali family that had to survive on $1.44 per week’s worth of food, to a German family that spent over $400 weekly for their groceries.  Some spent over 75% of their income for food, others as low as 12%.  To some the most important thing to them was their family, to others a religious book or other favorite possession – one couple stated simply “nothing”.

 I thoroughly enjoy this type of reading because the diversity that our world contains is truly amazing.  Some cultures work for survival, and some are blessed with abundance.  For some of these, circumstances as simple as a longer rainy season, extended cold snap or the death of livestock can mark the difference between life and death for them and their families.  In one case, a subject in Russia was beaten to death & robbed less than a month after he was chronicled due to his crime-ridden surroundings, and the poverty within.

The newest book by this photographer and his wife is called “Hungry Planet”- similar concept as “Material World” – what the world eats for a week.  Since I love to cook, I often try to make other nation’s cuisine such as Spanish Paella, Vietnamese Pho (pronounced “fuh”) and Pad Thai to name a few.  I’m sure I will sample many more “peasant” dishes after a read through – that kind of culture study is always eye (and mouth) opening for me. 

I often wonder how I would fare if I could only spend $10, $20 or even only $50 weekly on food and beverages for my wife and I – three squares a day.  As I examine what we have, and the fact that if we want something we can just go get it, it’s hard to imagine not being able to just walk into the kitchen or closet and “there it is” – whatever “it” may be.  Food /Clothing /Shelter/ Faith / Hope / Love – we are truly blessed…

Written by johntheirishman

Sunday, 11 February, 2007 @ 19:47 at 19:47

Posted in World at Large

The Astronomicon

with 9 comments

For those of you who don’t know, The Astronomicon was the home of the now defunct Shark Tank.  I have been reading Astro’s musings, rants and Anime (though I’m not sure why) posts for a couple years – good stuff !  If you read my December 29, 2006 post it will give a very brief overview of the Tank.  Astro is very busy pursuing his Engineering degree (Masters ?) and has decided to put his site “on hold”.

I completely understand his reasons, and he certainly seems (lately) to have not been able to post as often as in the past – life is busy !  Astro knows where his focus should be, so if his site was a distraction he did the right thing.  All I can say is that, at some point, I hope he will grace us once again with his insightful and entertaining posts.  Thanks, Astro…

Written by johntheirishman

Wednesday, 7 February, 2007 @ 20:37 at 20:37

Posted in Internets