Friday, November 18, 2011

It’s been a rough week . . .

 . . . and it all started with this.
You know those first few seconds after you wake up and your thoughts are as vivid as your dreams? Those few semi unconscious moments when your brain is relaxed and your thoughts and memories are as real as the bed beneath you.  Last week, I woke up thinking about my cousin Ernie.  I opened my eyes and the first image I had was of him the day he killed himself.  Unlike other dreams, I was unable to shake him from my thoughts.  I could see the scratches on his neck and picture him trying to dig his fingers under the cord he used to hang himself.  WTF? For those few seconds I could feel his regret, his realization that asphyxiation is a painful and drawn out way to go.  I wonder what his lasts thoughts really were.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Basic tomato sauce, yum!

At my fiancée’s request, I made some “Italian pasta sauce”.  Since I’m a big fan of Chef John, I searched his blog for a basic tomato sauce . . . and as always, the man delivered.  I compared his recipe to the other two I have tried before, and of course, it’s like comparing dry apple pie to orange zest infused cobbler.  What, to lame of an analogy?

Unfortunately, I was NOT able to get my hands on neither the main ingredient (San Marzano tomatoes) nor the secret ingredient (anchovy paste).  I drove all over town looking for the tomatoes and paste, and nothing.  Giant, Safeway, Trader Joes, you all suck!

Fortunately, however, the sauce tasted great despite my substitution and omission.  I used regular canned tomatoes as the main ingredient instead of canned marzanos.  And since I was already replacing the star of the show, I figured it was ok to not even bother with the anchovy paste.  Also, I used 5 leaves of fresh basil from my garden even though the recipe did not call for any. I have so much basil in the garden, I’ll put it in anything.  One more thing, since I prefer my sauce chunky, I didn’t mash it to a paste as recommended.

So I used:
  • 2 cans (28-oz each) whole peeled tomatoes (the regular cheap-brand)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried celery (I didn’t have the fresh celery it called for)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • water as needed
The sauce was damn good, despite my use of “generic” tomatoes and no secret ingredient.  But because I’m dying to taste anchovy paste, I am driving 20 miles today to my nearest Wegmans to get it and try the recipe one more time.  I’m glad I made it this way first because now I have something to compare it to. 

Here is the video for making this sauce.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My first roasted chicken

After thinking about it for a few weeks, I finally decided to try the roasted chicken recipe from Julia Child’s, Cooking With Master Chefs.  This being my first roasted chicken ever, I was a bit intimidated.  I’m not sure why, but I was. 
Whenever I try a new recipe, I follow it to the letter.  But since I don’t like Thyme, I substituted it with fresh basil and parsley from my garden. Since basil and parsley are more subtle than thyme, I added 3 short celery sticks as aromatics to the bed of onions.  Oh, and I couldn’t find a 5 lb roaster, so I used an 8 lb bird. 
I was amazed by how delicious this recipe turned out.  The skin was cripsy and the breast meat was so tender and fragrant.  Yes, you could actually smell the sweet aroma from the lemon rind.  I see now why lots of recipes call for lemon zest.  Another thing that surprised me was how NOT salty it was despite sprinkling it with a generous amount of kosher salt.  I’m guessing some salt washed off with the steam, some got observed in to meat, and the rest stayed on the skin. A very good balance I say.    
In retrospect, I don’t see why it took me so long to roast my first chicken.  It was so easy.  In fact, I went out and bought a large metal mixing bowl for the next time I make it.  As for next time, I think I will go with the 5 lb roaster, cus 8 lbs is a lot of bird.  We have so much left over, I’ve had it for lunch 2 days in a row and I’m making tacos tonight.  A few people suggested I rub butter on it next time. But this recipe tastes so light and healthy, I don’t want that buttery taste. I use butter in plenty of other dishes, this one will have to stay as is.
Once I transcribe the recipe to paper, I’ll come back to this post and add it as an image. In the mean time, here is a link to the recipe I followed

Friday, July 22, 2011

A little TLC in the garden has paid off

It’s been a good few months in the garden.  Despite this massive heat wave (a.k.a. heat dome), everything is growing nicely.  Even my last three problems seem to be going away.

The new cucumber I planted last week is catching up to the rest of its neighbors.  Since it’s the end of the season, finding a new seedling was not easy.  But my persistence paid off and now I have 4 new cucumber plants to experiment with.

The roma tomatoes are turning red with no signs of blossom end rot.  I have been watering the plant more regularly, feeding it eggshells and tums for calcium, and moved it under the shade during the heat wave.  Now the only thing that can harm it is the warm nights.  But there is only so much I can do.  Now it’s up to the plant to show its resilience.

The thing I am most thrilled about is the red bell pepper plant.  It FINALLY gave fruit! It’s only a tiny green pepper right now, but it’s the most it’s had all season. After months of watching it simply drop its blossoms, I went online and did some research.  I did exactly what others suggested.  I reduced the amount of fertilizer, I trimmed excess leaves, and moved the pot to reduce the amount of hours spent in direct sunlight. In just two weeks my efforts paid off.  I feel I have earned my green thumb with this plant.

Anyway, as you can see from the pictures, it’s been a good season so far.  The squash plants are producing about 1 large fruit every 2 weeks; the other tomato plants have plenty of greens; the chard, kale, and lettuce are resisting the summer heat and not bolting; and the hot peppers are turning red.  It’s been a good harvest and learning experience.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The diseased, the good, and the infertile

I took a photo inventory of the garden this weekend.  So far, everything is growing as it should.  Well, everything except for 3 things. 
Every day I find one (just ONE) roma tomato with Blossom End Rot.  At first I didn’t think much of it since roma’s are prone to this disease.  But now, I am beginning  so suspect that the plant likes to torture me by not killing all the tomatoes at once.  It likes to give me hope for the rest of the tomatoes, and then it kills one every morning.
The second thing is that I killed my cucumber plant.  It was growing so nicely and fertile until I decided to transplant it.  Despite all the literature telling me that cukes are very prone to root shock, I still went ahead and repotted the little vine.  Every day since, one leaf after another died.  I even bought a trellis for it, but neither my gifts nor sweet-talking worked.  Rest in peace little cuke!

The third troublesome spot in the garden is my RED bell pepper plant.  It’s large, green and luscious . . .  but it won’t bear any fruit.  My GREEN bell pepper plant is doing fine though.  In fact, I’ve already harvested a large pepper from it.  Both the red and green have been housed in the same area, received the same amount of water, and suffered the same heat waves.  Every blog I have read states that it’s very likely the hot nights that is keeping it from fruiting.  So I am going to bring it indoors every night for a week and see what happens.        

Friday, July 8, 2011

Random thoughts about dog food

My dog has been refusing her food lately.  I’m not sure if it makes her sick or if she’s simply sick of it.  But this daily discussion of dog food with my fiancée stirred up the memory of when I ate dog food as a child. I was about 12 and my grandmother, who had a knack for starving us, handed me a can of cheap dog food and told me to go feed Piraña (a named I picked out myself).    I clearly remember being so hungry that I didn’t even bother fighting the urge to eat what was in the can.  I remember exactly what it tasted like too, beans and potted meat.  I only ate 2 spoonfuls though, just enough to kill the hunger.  I knew that if I ate the entire can, my dog would then go hungry.  
Now, 2 decades later, the sight of a can of dog food reminds me of my grandmother and my dog not eating a meal makes me worry that she’s going hungry. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day abuela Amalia

On this May 8th, I want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to my grandmother.  And also say that I wish she was still here with us.  Years ago, I would never have considered speaking nicely about her.  You see, my mom and aunts all dumped their children on her and was left with the task of raising 12 kids.  I know my cousins loved her; as for my brother, sister, and I, she was the most evil woman we’ll ever meet.  I’ll save the details for another blog, so for now I’ll just say that not a day went by without her beating us or abusing us.
Aside from all the abuse though, what I remember the most was her food.  Yes, she always fed my cousins better.  She would give “them” the chicken drum stick and give “us” the neck and feet.  Luckily for me, I grew to love chicken necks (and hearts).  But what I remember the most about her food is how everything was natural.  I wish she was still here so she could teach me how to make everything from scratch. 
On hot days, she would spin ice, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla for us.  What we ate depended on the season.  Summer time meant figs, oranges, lemons, and guavas.  And that mean fresh OJ, lemonade, guava paste and fig jelly. 
As a child, Halloween meant one thing, candy!  But looking back, it marked the beginning of autumn.  And with this season came empanadas.  If huela was here, I would watch her every move as she carved the pumpkin and cooked the insides.  Roasted seeds were a nice snack, but what I truly miss are the desserts she made with the “pumpkin guts”.  Think pumpkin or sweet potato filling in a sealed puff pastry taco. 
I didn’t know it then, but when my grandmother died, she took with her so many recipes of my Mexican Indian ancestors.  I hated it as a child, but right now I would give anything to rub my thumbs raw removing kernels from dried corn, milling them into a grainy powder, and making fresh tortillas with it.  I miss those days.
Grandma, raising so many of us must have been hard.  It has taken me years to forgive you, but as an adult, I truly appreciate everything you did for us.  And despite all the abuse, you left me so many great memories. 
I want to thank you for:
  • Raising chickens, pigs, geese, and all the other animals I can’t remember.
  • Feeding us fresh eggs, poultry, pork, honey, and all the other things you must have slaved over.
  • Growing lemons, figs, pomegranates, guavas, and all those other delicious fruits I love because of you.
  • Cooking practically everything from scratch, real scratch. 
You may have hated raising so many of us.  You may have favored some over others.  But if like me, you showed your love with your cooking, then I just want to say, I love you too huela!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

So Earth Day is here . . .

So Earth Day is here, and frankly, I don’t care.  I recycle, I grow a few veggies, I do my best to not eat processed food, I open windows instead of turning on the AC, I use florescent light bulbs . . . and I don’t really feel like doing much more.  I could get rid of my truck, buy new windows for my house, upgrade my washer and dryer, install an energy efficient AC unit.  But you know what, all that costs money.  And even if I could afford all those things, buying a new hybrid when my Xterra works perfectly fine would only be contributing to pollution.  Buying newly manufactured “more efficient” things to replace the old stuff that aint broken contributes to pollution.
However, I’m sure that when I have children, I will make a big deal about it.  I’ll teach them all about conserving this, recycling that, reducing waste, etc.   I feel like it’s a lost cause for me and others of my generation though.  The hippies before me were busy hugging trees.  The kids after me are busy planting trees.   And somewhere in the middle is where my generation (generation X) stands.  We teach our kids about nature conservation, but we drive them to soccer practice in SUVs.  We grew up in the time of Hummers, cheap flights, lead paint, aerosol, and disposable everything. 
It’s hard being that transitional generation.  We’re slackers; we want to save the earth, but kinda grew up not caring.  We grew up being consumers just like kids now a days, but without the counter messages of conservation.  I feel MY efforts will not be enough to save the planet.  I really feel it’s the millennials jobs to fix it. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Writer's block

The hardest part about having a blog is maintaining it.  I get so caught up on what to write about, that I get writer’s block.  Sometimes I forget that I started this blog to practice my writing.  Now, before I write something, I think to myself “no one is going to read this” or “no one cares what you think”.  The funny thing is, no one does read this.  I started this for myself, not to create a fan base.   Yet here I am wresting with this concept of readership. 
Doing social media for work blurs the lines between the personal and the professional.  Writing just for myself seems odd when I normally write for the viewing pleasure and criticism of 10,000 followers. 
So what’s the solution? Write about my writers block in the hopes of shedding this dichotomy. Oh yeah, a little bit of rambling sprinkled with a little bit venting also helps.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Maryland's direct wine shipping bill passes

If all goes well, I can finally join the wine of the month club from my favorite winery, Duplin Winery. According to their website, Duplin produces over 300,000 cases of wine annually AND is the largest Muscadine winery in the world . . . and I want in damn it!

Today may be my lucky day! 

The Senate committee finally voted to pass the bill that will allow wineries in and outside of Maryland to ship wine directly to us Marylanders. Senate Bill 248 is now with Governor O’Malley ready for his signature.

Although the bill won’t go into law until July 1st, I’m goanna go ahead and get started on my shopping list!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why Light Skin Latino: Part II

A friend told me that Light Skin Latino sounds racist, as if I’m saying “I’m one of the good ones because I’m white-ish.” But that’s not what I mean at all.  The truth is, being light skinned was actually a hindrance for me growing up.

You see, as an immigrant growing up in South Texas, where almost EVERYBODY is Mexican, I found myself stuck between two very different segments of the Hispanic culture.  It’s a little more complicated than that, but this is what it boils down to: On one side of the spectrum was the poor dark skinned immigrants discriminating against me for “looking white” and on the other side were the affluent second-generation Latinos discriminating against me for being poor (very poor) and not speaking English.

As an adult, I now know that this type of self-racism exists in almost every transitional culture.  But it is what it is, and whether I like it or not (and whether I am over it or not), I am a product of growing up in it.

I see now that Light Skin Latino may be a bit incendiary.  So maybe I should have named this blog My life as an Americanized first-generation Latino. But I gotta admit, that doesn’t sound nearly as catchy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NEW new year’s resolution: STOP drinking bottled water

I was on Youtube last night when I came across this video. It talks about how bottled water pollutes the earth.  Not the water itself, but the entire process of manufacturing it.  At a little over 8 minutes long, this video seems like an eternity in the world of Youtube.  But I highly recommend watching it.

I don’t really drink bottled water; but I’ll be honest, it’s not because of any environmental concerns, but because I’m too cheap to pay so much for something I can get practically free at home.  I don’t even buy water filters anymore either.

Now, unless you live in South Texas where the drinking water comes from the greatly polluted Rio Grande River (by American maquiladoras built on the Mexican side of the river), I don’t see a “need” for drinking bottled water.    
I think the only places I’ll have problems with are facilities like the University of Central Florida football stadium that were built without a single drinking water fountain and patrons are not allowed to bring in their own water. 
But other than that, I’m committed. I’m going to STOP DRINKING BOTTLED WATER!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Started riding again

I went mountain biking last night. It felt so good to get on the bike again. I realized that I am not as out of shape as I thought. I mean, the first two miles were killing me. But that always happens to me, even when I go for a run.

I went to McKeldin park around 6:00 and hit just a couple of trails. Nothing major, I just wanted to see where I stand. So now that I’m feeling confident, I’m looking to start biking twice a week.

While looking at the trail maps today, I noticed something interesting. It looks like there are two trail heads that exit the park. I wonder if they connect at some point . . . forming some massive loop trail. Well, there is only one way to find out. And you know what, exploration is a great motivator for biking again!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Light Skin Latino?

So why did I decide to call this My life as a light skin Latino?  To be honest, I’m not really sure.  It’s a combination of things.  I think more than anything it’s a way of thumbing my nose at how sensitive Americans are about skin color.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean it’s ok to call Latinos “brownies” or to be throwing the “n” word around like beads on Mardi Gras.  What I mean is that if you truly are NOT racist, if this country is truly over its bigotry, then skin color should be simply that, skin color and not a derogatory term to describe each other.   We Latinos use our color to speak tenderly to each other, like “te quiero mucho mi negra” or “baila morena baila, que tu lo bailas como ninguna.”