Monthly Archives: February 2009

Valentine Dinner….and Firearms!

When I think about it, I haven’t really “cooked” a proper meal for more than just myself since last summer, so a Valentine Dinner at home was just the thing last weekend.  I’ve had maybe one “good” Valentine’s day in my adult life… most of the time I’ve either been single, recently broken up or living through the final death rattle of a relationship.  So this was a great year……breakfast with the parents, a trip to a huge gun show, and finally a relaxed trip to the grocery store followed by an even more relaxed few hours preparing the meal.

I’m more than a little OCD when it comes to cooking…..I’m kind of psycho when it comes to the planning stages.  Once I’ve got a dinner on the calendar, I start by going through most of my cookbook library to get ideas, and this time I was lucky enough to have a partner in crime.  We spent a couple of days going through my books and back issues of Bon Appetit, and came up with the following dishes for at-home Valentine comfort food goodness…..

Spinach Salad w/Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

 spinachsalad

This is a wonderful steakhouse standard and easy to make.  When a major component of a salad dressing is bacon grease, how bad can it be?  The thing is…..you only want to make enough so that you can eat all of it at once.  Once it cools and the bacon grease sets up there really isn’t a good way to warm it up without ruining the fresh spinach.

Caramelized Onion Toast

onionbread

Here’s a winner and it’s one of those things that is even better the next day.  We found this recipe in Tyler Florence’s Ultimate cookbook, and I highly recommend both the book and this recipe.  It’s basically just a baguette covered with a mixture of caramelized onions, thyme, chopped anchovy fillets sliced kalamata olives and parmesan cheese.  I thought I used too much anchovy, but the flavor mellowed out a lot by the next day and even my family loved it when I took the leftovers to family bingo the next day. 

Mashed Potato Casserole

potatocasserole

Another winner…..it’s basically like eating a twice baked potato without the skin.  Pretty simple dish too….just russet potatoes, bacon, green onions, butter, heavy cream and smoked gouda.  I think pretty much any cheese would work in this dish, I really didn’t get that much of the smoked gouda flavor from it, so no sense in spending the money on a specialty cheese next time.  Another dish that is even better the next day.

Beef Filet w/Morel Sauce

steaks

Under the thick blanket of creamy morel mushroom sauce are two prime beef filets that were pan seared and finished in the oven.  Since surgery I’ve gotten more and more into good steaks at home…..the whole protein helps satiety and since I can only eat a few ounces at a time it’s way more economical than it used to be.  It’s a very simple and quick dish to make….all that’s in the sauce is rehydrated morels, butter, heavy cream, tarragon and green onions.  I usually prefer ribeyes, but with all of the fat they wouldn’t do well with this sauce….the filet is the perfect match.

Bananas Foster

bananasfoster

Well, this is what was left in the pan after we’d already eaten dessert…..I forgot to get a nice picture, but you can trust me when I say this is one hell of a great Valentine dessert.  Super easy to make, and extra fun because you get to set it on fire.  We picked up some of the new Shatto farms vanilla ice cream to go with it, and it tastes exactly like homemade.  This was very tasty, but too rich for me.  Between the butter, brown sugar and the ice cream, I did get some of the shaky sweats for a little while….but it was worth it.

So our first Valentine’s Day together was a smashing success….a great dinner followed by watching Mostly Martha. Plus, my girlfriend survived my OCD behavior while we were cooking and was very supportive.  It’s pretty cool to think about how this time last year I was doing my Sopranos dinner, and how that basically was the beginning of my current relationship…..and now we had the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day cooking in that same kitchen.  It’s so cute I could just die.

Speaking of cute and dying……sure, I hate sports, am a damn liberal, watch shows like Project Runway, love to cook and sample fine wines, wear expensive shoes, but you know what else I’m all about?  GUNS GODDAMMIT!   So say hello to the newest addition to my family….

The Springfield XD Sub-Compact 9mm

springfieldxd

I don’t know if my love of firearms has come up before on this blog, and I’m not what you’d consider a “gun nut”, but I do love some shootin’.  I’ve planned for a long time to take my concealed carry class here in Missouri, but wanted to wait until Kansas allowed it so I’d still be able to carry when I crossed the river.  They finally passed the law last year, and I had my class on Saturday.  Now all I have to do is run by the Platte County Sheriff’s office this week and submit my fingerprints so that they can send them off to the FBI for a thorough background check, and shortly after that I’ll get my certificate to take to the DMV so I can get my CCW designation added to my driver’s license.  I’m not the type of guy who walks around hoping for trouble, and I don’t have doomsday scenarios in mind like so many of the anti-Obama folks who were at the gun show last weekend.  There have been a couple of times in my life when I’ve been at home while someone was trying to break in through the front door….fortunately for me and MUCH more fortunately for them, either a neighbor or passing car scared them off both times.  Those moments are nothing like the movies…even with a gun you’re scared out of your mind.  I do love guns, but I have a very fearful respect for them, and I don’t take the massive responsibility of ownership or concealed carry lightly. 

So I’ve been researching sub-compact pistols for the past month or so, trying to decide on which one to buy.  I went back and forth on a few different brands and models, and a couple of different calibers.  After shooting a couple hundred rounds down at my local firing range, I settled on the Springfield XD Sub-Compact in 9mm.  I’ve got a lot of experience shooting large caliber handguns like .45’s, .357’s and .44 magnums, but in addition to the ammunition being much cheaper, the 9mm is easier to control.  I know a lot of guys who insist that the 9mm doesn’t have enough knockdown power for personal protection, but unless you’re using a round specifically designed to not exit the body on the other side, the knockdown force is going to be limited in any caliber.  One thing that sold me on the XD vs. other pistols from companies like Glock and Kahr is the additional safety features.  Many compact autoloaders from the aforementioned companies don’t come standard with added safeties, the Glock has a trigger safety and that’s it, and I think the Kahr’s only safety is “keep your finger off the trigger”.  Granted, a gun is only as safe as its owner, but the grip and trigger safeties on the XD just give me added peace of mind.  Unless you depress the safety at the back of the grip AND the one built into the trigger, the gun will not fire.  You can throw it against a wall, use it to hammer nails (neither are recommended practices), and it will not fire even with a round in the chamber.  I know a lot of people carry their weapon “hot”….meaning, they keep a round in the chamber when carrying.  Maybe someday I’ll live to regret the extra half second it takes to rack one into the chamber, but I don’t like keeping a live round in the chamber….just my personal preference and added peace of mind.  After adding a magazine extension so that my little finger has a place to rest, the XD ended up being really comfortable to hold and shoot for such a small gun.  It comes with one standard 10rd clip that will be most comfortable in a concealable holster, as well as a high-capacity clip that holds 16 rounds.  I used it to qualify during my class over the weekend, and I look forward to many, many hours of target practice…..if, God forbid, I ever had to use it on something other than paper, I want to be able to thread a needle with the damn thing.  For anyone in the KC area who is thinking about taking a class, my instructor was great and I’d love to recommend him to you.  For a guy who was in Vietnam, spent a few decades as a cop and worked in the custom shop at Winchester, he’s very down to earth, funny and not at all what you picture when thinking of a firearms instructor.  He gave everyone in the class a huge dose of reality when it comes to the responsibilities of gun ownership, and I greatly appreciated it.

Anyway, sorry I’ve been such a slacker with the updates lately.  Before I post this I do want to recommend what is arguably the finest television show ever created……Eastbound & Down on HBO.  I’m a sucker for gratuitous profanity and the genius humor of Danny McBride (of Foot Fist Way and Pineapple Express fame).  If you have HBO, you need to watch this show.  And if you don’t have HBO….subscribe immediately.

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Apocalyptic Literature…..and Bingo!

So I guess that funerals where I have to mingle with the old church crowd aren’t the only things that get me into one of my religious tangents.  Apparently, insomnia kicks it into high gear as well.  At least it did last night as I lie there awake at 4am pondering the universe like the lovable oaf Hazel in Cannery Row, as he stared up at heaven from under that tree regretting his fortune of soon becoming President of the United States……

But here it is in a nutshell……what is it about our nature as human beings to over-simplify the complicated inexplicable stuff and render the simplest things impossible to explain?

Basically, what I’m talking about is the tendency church folk have to take something that theologians can’t truly explain and boil it down into something a retarded third grader can glean from such masterworks as “The Left Behind” series.  Seriously, all of my hatred towards that complete garbage aside…..Revelation just isn’t that easy to sum up, yet it’s the subject that always packed them to the rafters on Sundays when they knew ol’ Pastor Jed Clampett was going to dissect the finer points of how badly you would be tortured by the antichrist’s minions if you were stupid enough to miss the (pre-tribulation….of course) rapture.  Granted, it makes for good drama, and it’s been sixteen years since bible college for me so I’m beyond rusty……but nobody can really even say who authored the book of revelation, and more importantly, nobody can really make a definitive case for why IT made it into the canon while fifty other identical books (whose authors were unknown as well) were rejected at one of the many political conventions in the first couple of centuries A.D. where all of this crap was hammered out.  With such classic moments as a few Jewish leaders getting Song of Solomon included when they went….”oh yeah, it’s an allegory…it’s not just a love story….seriously….and if you throw it in we’ll go easy on you when the book of James comes up or something”.  Throw in the fact that much of what is spoken of in the book may have already happened in the first or second century A.D. in part of Palestine (“mark of the beast”, no buying or selling without it, etc.), and it further complicates a finite explanation of what it’s really saying.  For anyone who has suffered through Apocalyptic lit courses, you know what I’m talking about…..it sucks.  The only way to make it fun is to throw big pageants like the one here in Kansas City called “Tribulation Christmas” that chronicles of the lives of people left behind at Christmas, complete with some guy playing the antichrist and uniformed stormtroopers carrying firearms loaded with blanks that will scare just about anyone down to the altar call after Jesus comes out and throws Satan into the pit. 

So all I’m saying here is….the shit is oversimplified.  And in reality, if people are living the lives they claim to want to…..what does it really matter?  It’s good for scaring kids and doing some really lazy hit-and-run evangelism, but it doesn’t really do anything for church growth.  You’ll pack the house one day with an end-times sermon, but there is no net gain the next week when you’re preaching on Joshua-people or something. 

YET ON THE OTHER HAND……something as simple as the concept of grace is picked apart to the level where entire movements split off to create a new denomination.  What makes grace complicated?  Isn’t it all-encompassing?  I know that hackles raise when someone mentions “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”…..but what is the alternative, and why do people (badly) pick apart scripture in order to PROVE BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that someone can indeed LOSE their salvation?   And in all seriousness, what exactly are the rules?  How much sin or lack of works constitutes complete salvation-loss?  And what constitutes the one explanation of “well maybe they were never saved in the first place”?  What tangible degree of belief can you put on someone who says they are a believer? 

I talk to a lot of people about this, it has always been a favorite subject of mine, and ultimately it boils down to control.  Apparently, people will just go wild and become libertines if you tell them that there is no limit on grace.  Sharing the gospel message with them and telling them it’s a lifelong journey to continually improve yourself within those guidelines apparently is not enough.  And that attitude begat “the rules”, and the rules begat picking and choosing what part of the gospel you should believe, and that begat the finger pointing that comes from ANYONE who is convinced THEY truly live a righteous lifestyle, and that begat everyone forgetting that EVERYONE is a sinner.  And honestly, chances are really good we do it every day on some level.  And in my humble and unorthodox opinion, THAT is the real point of the gospel……it’s the ultimate Catch-22….everyone is a sinner who should strive to live a better lifestyle, and we really all do sin (some sins are just way less obvious than others…which takes us back to the finger pointing), and as soon as we claim we have no sin…..well guess what, you just sinned!

Sure, lack of sleep makes me ramble, but I really don’t understand why it has to be so complicated.  If someone believes, their struggles and their path is between them and God, you can’t really judge them.  And this was normally always the point in the conversation where someone would bring up Hitler or child molesters…….”if they say they’re saved, but they keep gassing Jews or molesterin’ kids….”.  And yes, that argument would trump me and turn my world upside down…..and then I’d go buy tickets for Tribulation Christmas and pretend I didn’t masturbate at least once a day.  Because it’s those hidden and private sins that spare all Jews and children utter horror that make us the better Christians.  And THAT’S WHY THERE HAVE TO BE RULES!  Very finite and definite RULES……..you have to be like Rob Reiner, but instead of cigarettes it’s the gospel…..you do it for the children.  That’s sarcasm, by the way.  Just in case anyone didn’t catch it.  I know I can be painfully subtle at times, and it’s very hard to discern what I think.  There it was again….the sarcasm.  There aren’t any damn rules guys, it just isn’t that complicated.  So no, I won’t be hosting the twentieth anniversary party for “This Present Darkness”……I know you felt like I was going that direction for a minute.

But that’s about it from me, just some thoughts late at night while enjoying Howard Stern hammer on Bababooey about his poor choice of home theatre layout.  The good news is that the C.H.U.D. gets into town tomorrow night, and we have week of fun and intrigue planned.  Bluestem Happy Hour, Lidia’s w/the parents, me convincing her of the brilliance of Flight of the Conchords, an honest to god full-blown Gun Show, Dave & Busters, Valentine’s Dinner at home, and most importantly…….family Bingo night.  I know I’ve mentioned Bingo at least once, but it truly is a glorious occasion when you have about twenty people hunkered around a table trying to win all manner of prizes…… cereal, shampoo, trash bags, razor blades, salad dressing…the list is infinite and diverse….and people take it deadly seriously.

So I’ll be back sometime next week.  Time for some serious housecleaning and preparation.  I can’t sit here all day explaining the universe to you mouthbreathers!

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