I have a strange fascination with a certain traffic control device that I have seen popping up more and more around the Twin Cities.  The Roundabout!

My family looks at me strangely everytime we see one.  I get kind of excited, especially if we have to make a left turn through the roundabout–you get to use three-fourths of it!  (I suppose it doesn’t help that I see it coming up and shout “Rrrrounnnndabouuut!”)  They appeal to my sense of “quirky” and affinity for things that aren’t quite run-of-the-mill.

Quick lesson: What exactly is a roundabout?  A roundabout is an intersection where instead of the roads and accompanying traffic directly crossing each other they travel one direction around a center island.

They can be a little confusing the first time you see one and the signs don’t always help.  It can look kind of like dance step instructions for a deformed spider, especially if it’s two or three lane streets crossing each other.  But a lot of it is really common sense and basic rules:

  1. Traffic already in the roundabout has the right-of-way.  Approaching traffic must yield.
  2. As you approach, pick the lane appropriate to your future direction just as if the roads directly crossed each other.  For example, with a two lane approach, use the right lane if you want to “turn” right and the left lane if you want to go “straight” or “turn” left.  A three-lane would be left turn in the left lane, straight in the middle lane and right turn in the right lane.
  3. Once in the roundabout keep moving.

While they may not be the best option in some spots, they have been shown to be able to handle more traffic with fewer crashes than a lot of other intersection formats.  And I think they’re kind of fun.

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My wife had picked up some guava juice a while ago for a little beverage variety (guava juice, some fresh squeezed lime and sparkling water–yum).  Well, it was getting close to its expiration date so I figured it was time to use it or lose it, so I pulled out my copy of The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, did a little flipping through and came up with this.

  • 8T Butter (divided 2T, 4T, and 2T)
  • 1 ¼ lb chicken breast
  • 1T Minced garlic
  • 1 yellow onion ½ inch dice
  • 1c Heavy cream
  • 2c Guava juice
  • 2T diced jalapenos
  • ½ T Curry powder
  • 2T flour

Melt 2T butter in skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken and cook until outside turns a little brown.  Add garlic and cook until aroma kicks out.  Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan (don’t worry if it’s not cooked through yet).  Melt another 4T butter in the pan.  Saute the onion until it starts to brown.  Add cream, guava juice, jalapenos and curry powder.  Let simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Melt the remaining 2T butter and mix it with the flour to make a roux.  Stir into the cream sauce and let simmer until it start to thicken.   Add the chicken back in and let simmer about 10-15 minutes to finish thickening the sauce and finish cooking the chicken.  Serve over your favorite cooked rice.


I am a kitchen tool junkie.   I have more kitchen tools than I know what to do with.  Some guys go into Home Depot and dream about getting the big power tools (OK, I actually do that, too).  I go in to my local kitchen store (Cooks of Crocus Hill) and wish and dream.  There is very little in the store that I wouldn’t welcome in to my kitchen with open arms.

Of course I have the huge collection of wooden spoons, rubber scrapers and other miscellaneous tools filling three containers on the counter.  The block of knives is over on another counter (I got this set around 15 years ago and it’s still going strong).  I have five sets of measuring cups and six sets of measuring spoons that fill an entire drawer, and I still never seem to have the size I need clean.  I have a second drawer dedicated to wire whips.  I have two other drawers packed with miscellaneous small tools.  Eight cutting boards which are almost constantly dirty.  I am currently shopping for my third cookware set to supplement my seven cast iron pans and one really nice sauce pan.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I have a mess of machines, too.

I have five different Coffee makers (one is a French press so I guess it’s not really a machine).  My Kitchen Aid stand mixer which is now almost 20 years old–and they still make the same model.  The KitchenAid blender that is almost as old.  Then the whole collection of single/limited purpose gadgets: waffle iron, pizelle maker (yes, a gadget just to make these cookies), a panini maker, two popcorn poppers, a bread machine that I haven’t used in over 7 years, spritz press, mechanical pastry bag, rice cooker, and ice cream maker.  I can do a four course dinner entirely of fondue without washing anything (yes, that means I have four fondue pots).

One common tool I do not own and really don’t plan on getting is a food processor.  I have other tools that can do anything the food processor can do.  And whatever time I can save in the actual chopping of food seems to disappear in the set up, break down, and cleaning of the machine.  But who knows?  I’ll probably go ahead and get one anyway.  I just have to figure out where to put it.


Recipe Testing

01Mar10

I am currently testing out a recipe for a magazine I subscribe to.  (It is unfortunately NOT a paid gig.  Maybe someday down the road.)  It is not easy.  Don’t get me wrong–the recipe itself is easy enough.  What I am struggling with is the process of actually FOLLOWING a recipe.  I’ve touched on this before but I firmly believe that recipes are not carved in stone.  You won’t ruin things if you don’t follow the recipe to the exact detail.  You especially have to realize that when there are recipes with vague measurements out there–after all, I like onion a lot so what is a small onion to me is huge to my son who dislikes them with a passion.  But testing a recipe is a different animal entirely.  You are supposed to follow the instructions exactly as given.

I am usually good at following instructions.  Just not when it comes to cooking.  As I am going through this recipe, I keep saying to myself  things like “Really?  Only that much?” and “Oh, I would love to put ____ in.”  But I have to reign in those impulses because the request is to test THIS recipe.  They want to know how easy it was to follow, what I think of the flavors.  Did the recipe meet their stated goal.  If this recipe turns out I already have a half dozen changes in mind for the next time.

I run into a similar problem when creating my own recipes.  The first time I devise something new I am often pulling random items out of the cupboards and refrigerator and measuring with the Glug Sprinkle Shake That Looks Good system.  After I finish cooking and we eat, I learn that I had a great success and then worry hits me: can I ever recreate this again?  Can I even come close?  A few times I have had absolutely no clue what I did and those meals will just be lost to the ages.  Often I at least can remember the ingredients, but can only guess at the amounts.  Sometimes I can tell how the recipe got off track in the middle somewhere and have to figure out how to fix it for next time.  I have tried writing things down as I do them, but often run into the choice of keeping track of my activities or letting food burn.  I probably will have to figure out a way to record what I am doing and narrate it.


Why is it as a society we seem to be suffering from a massive case of the need for instant gratification?

Obama has been in office for a year and people are upset that he hasn’t closed Guantanamo, gotten us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, fixed the economy, provided universal health care, secured world peace and given everyone a pony.  President Kennedy in 1961 said he was directing scientists to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade and everyone thought it was impossible.  The health care bill that was supposed to happen within a year was going to be taking way too long.

People walk into a restaurant and get told the wait is 15 minutes, then turn around and leave because they don’t want to wait that long.  They completely ignore that by the time they get to another restaurant and get a table they would have been seated and placed their order at the first one.

At stop lights we keep an eye on the light for the cross traffic and when it turns yellow we start to creep forward.  When the light does turn we stomp on the gas in order to quickly get to…the next stop light.  Stop signs we can’t even come to complete stops, we just roll right on through.

We have instant oatmeal that takes 30 seconds in the microwave when regular oatmeal takes only a couple minutes.  We buy boxed mixes to save 10 minutes in making a cake.  Waffles that take 20 minutes to make from scratch are made (poorly) to come out of the toaster in 5.  Pancakes can now come out of a can.

Stocks used to be purchased so that you would own a piece of a company you thought would be successful and thereby share in the profits (in the form of dividends) over the course of many years.  Now “increasing shareholder value” has become a mantra in corporate boardrooms everywhere.  “Increasing shareholder value” seems to translate more directly into “increasing stock prices” and not necessarily “increasing profits”.  We want to see our stock increase in value every single day.  We equate the Dow being up today as the economy doing well and if it’s down tomorrow we’re looking at a possible recession.

E-mail, instant messaging, and cell-phones are partially results of this need for instant gratification.  We need to be able to get in touch with people NOW.  It shouldn’t have to wait until we see them at home/the office/lunch on Saturday.

It seems like we used to be happy with progress towards goals, but now are satisfied with nothing less than immediate and complete success.  We used to be OK with baby steps, but now it simply isn’t enough.


I suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome.  Not the traditional “tech” version where you get sucked in by the latest and greatest in gadgets and technology.  I actually have really good control over that one.  I’ll see these new gadgets and think “Kind of neat, but is it really useful?  I don’t need it.”  I’m talking about being distracted from the task at hand in everyday life.

I have many projects that I have started and not finished.   I get distracted and start something new and it just seems too hard to go back and finish something.   I have 3 fiction books, three non-fiction books, three different business ideas, a musical comedy adaptation, and two blogs I sporadically update.  My kitchen cupboards are pulled apart to redo, half of them in my basement workroom.  Said workroom is a disaster making the cupboard project difficult and cleaning the workroom would be much easier if I had the workroom to help organize it.  I could use the garage as an extra workroom save for two problems: 1) I don’t have a man cave (like my neighbor is building *jealous*) and 2) the garage is a mess (dare I admit that we’ve lived here for over 6 years and I could count on one hand the number of times we’ve used the garage for say, parking a car?).  My kitchen can’t actually stay clean for more than a half hour at a time, although it probably doesn’t help that the minute we actually get it clean I get the urge to make something involving around 6 or 7 pans and bowls.

I’ve heard of Executive Functioning Disorder and wonder if I might have it, or if I might be ADHD or any of a number of other things.  But since I actually am a reasonably well-functioning member of society–I have a job, pay my taxes, vote when I’m interested in the candidates and/or issues, don’t commit horrible crimes–there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to find out for sure.  If I have any of the possible conditions/afflictions/disorders the choices after being officially diagnosed seem limited: get put on drugs to “manage” the situation (not appealing since there are risks and side-effect potentials and as I said I function reasonably well as it is), or use various “self-help” tools to manage the situation which I can do on my own without a prescription.  Only problem with the self-help route is the fact that I can be distracted from using said tools.

More evidence of being easily distracted from things: I originally started this post December 10.  Final posting date: January 21.  And for your U.S.R.D.A. of irony one of those books I have started: Its title is “Shiny Object Syndrome”.


Back in October (the 8th to be exact) was the first National Pirogi Day. My son loves them and so I decided I wanted to make them instead of suffering with a premade frozen version. So we emailed my Aunt and Uncle for a possible recipe. I remember that when I was younger, any big family gathering that was held at their house included Pirogies made by my Uncle. (Both my Aunt and Uncle were really good cooks, but the Pirogies were always his thing.)

He got back to me with a cooking lesson on Pirogies: “Latvian Pirogies are made with a softer yeast bread dough that is filled with cooked bacon crumbles and baked like bread rolls in the oven.  This is a different dough and a different cooking process than Pirogies from other parts of Europe than might involve an unleavened dough and boiling as part of the preparation process.  They are very different from the store bought ones. The bread is not intended to be particularly chewy (like an Italian or French bread) but it is not a sweet, crumbly pastry dough either.  The egg is the ingredient that will reduce the chewiness properties (but will also tend to make the dough a bit stickier than a straight, conventional bread dough). The filling that my grandmother used was just finely diced, cooked bacon.  She would dice it and flash fry it in a hot pan until the bacon white clarifies and begins to shed fat.  The bacon needs to be cooked, but you want it ‘juicy’, not dry, when it goes into the circles.”

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons of dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound bacon, chopped and cooked

Mix all the ingredients except the bacon together and adjust the consistency as you mix it to get a relatively non-sticky, firm bread dough by either adding small amounts of water or flour. Mix/knead until smooth and somewhat elastic and not too sticky then let rise (an hour – maybe 90 minutes). After rising knock down the dough and roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness.  If it is too elastic at this point, and tends to pull back too much to roll out easily, let it sit for 10 minutes and then roll it.

When it is rolled out, cut out 3” circles from the dough sheet with a mason jar or water glass or whatever.  Put a tablespoon or so of filling in the center of each circle and then pinch the edges to seal them and then fold/roll them into football shapes. When you put the filling in you want to make sure not to get bacon or bacon grease on the edges you are going to pinch together since that will keep the bread from sealing itself and the bacon juices will leak out while you are cooking.  You get the football shape by taking the pinched together half circle that contains the filling and sort of folding in the “points” and putting the Pirogi on the baking sheet with the pinching seam down – the top of the Pirogi is the smooth part that was the original fold line. Let rise for about 30 minutes on their baking sheet brush with egg whites and water if you want a shiny surface. Bake at 400 until they look done.

When I got done assembling these for National Pirogi Day I turned on the oven and discovered it was broken! Our big plans for the evening were shot. The assembled Pirogies went into the freezer for a couple weeks until the oven was repaired. When I pulled them out, I just let them thaw and put them in the oven. They came out just fine. I plan to try this again soon when I can bake them fresh.

I made some with bacon and some with mashed potatoes (my son is a potato freak). I also put sautéed onions in about half of each. Next time we’ll probably use some Cheddar cheese in them and I might even try some “dessert” style with cinnamon apples.