Thursday, May 28, 2009

Enough is enough already...

I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. But I'm not just going to rant about it, I have a solution, and it's an ACME Thunderer whistle!

Are you getting phone calls from scam artists trying to sell you vehicle warranty extensions? Or how about new low rate credit cards? It doesn't matter if you're on the supposed "no-call" lists, it's all a scam and these sharks don't play by the rules. They even go to great lengths to hide their true identity and from where the calls are originating. Has your Caller I.D. displayed a number such as 0-000-000-0000 or 1-999-999-9999, or FLORIDA?

Their first deception is hiding the origin of the call.

Next they say (a pre-recorded message) "we have been trying to reach you." LIAR!

Third, they say "your vehicle warranty is about to expire!" LIAR!

They know nothing of your vehicle warranty, if you have one, or if you even have a vehicle!

Lastly, the message will end with a bit of promise, "this is the last courtesy call we will make to you!" LIAR!

They will call you again and again and again until you either sign up or disconnect your phone.

The one accurate part of the message is, "press 9 (or whatever number they have chosen) to speak to a representative now before your warranty expires!"

That is the chink in their armor and here is the solution.

Get yourself a nice quality whistle (I prefer ACME Thunderer's)

or any obnoxious noise making device and place it by the phone. Next time you get a call and your caller I.D. displays something you know to be bogus, don't ignore it, answer it!

Press the number specified and when the scum-bag operator (they know what they are doing) answers to hopefully sell you something you don't need and up their chances of making quota this month, you give them a lung-full of ACME Thunderer right into their cheap Plaintronix, headset!

A few people doing this would be a rare annoyance. But if EVERYBODY did it... we could put them out of business! (and have a little guilty fun doing it).

I got this idea from Mrs. SpecialEd. In her college days she was subject for a time to a regular prank/obscene caller. She was also a lifeguard who knew a thing or two about whistles. When the obscene caller called, she gave him what-for with her trusty ACME Thunderer and lo and behold, after a couple times, the calls stopped! (I still can't get that ringing out of my ears! :) )

Friday, March 13, 2009

The perfect bowl of Red!

Does such a thing even exist? Or is it the mythological Holy Grail of chili heads everywhere?

We've had some 60 degree days this week and even though it's 39 degrees as I type, there are some trees starting to bud. So Spring is coming and Winter is on it's way out... (not soon enough! I may have been known,in the past, as Eddy the Yeti for my love of snow and winter but wheelchairs and snow do not mix!)

So even with Spring upon us and Summer's humidity and cooling bills roaring down the tracks in our direction, I am still clutching tightly to my cast-iron Dutch oven and wooden spoon (chili stick) in pursuit of that perfect bowl of Red.

The more I try the more I have come to realize that simple is best and less is more. As an old friend who is a food critic and editor for our local rag (It's Gannett owned) recently put it:

There's a certain beautiful purity in its authentic treatment.
Well Eric is a journalist who gets paid to talk purdy. Me, I'm just a hack blogger who likes to eat but we are both saying the same thing. Minimalism. Original, Texas chili was little more than meat and chilies. I've had Lamb and Black Bean Chili, Cincinnati Chili, Chili made with smoked brisket and even Vegetarian Chili! (talk about an oxymoron). Don't get me wrong, they can all be done very well but I wanted to get back to the roots of chili. Meat; venison or beef and cubed not ground! Ground beef is good, it's much easier and much quicker to prepare but some chuck cut into 1/2 inch cubes and simmered for two hours is so worth the effort. Chili Powder; lots of chili powder. Good chili powder, not the McCormmics from ACME but good quality stuff like Gebhardts or Pendery's from Texas or else stop at one of the ubiquitous local Mexican markets and buy yourself some dried Ancho, etc., and grind it up at home in your coffee grinder.

Then... just keep it simple! I prefer cubed meat to ground but cubed meat takes more preparation and longer to cook, so as opposed to almost no prep time and 20 minutes simmering, cubed meat will require dicing the meat and two hours or more of simmering. It can take a little time to cut 3-4 lbs of chuck into 1/2 inch cubes. It's worth it!

Basic chili:
  • oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1-3 onions

  • 3 lbs cubed chuck

  • 2 tablespoons cumin

  • 5 tablespoons chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 tablespoons paprika

  • cayenne pepper to taste

  • 1 6oz can tomato paste

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

  1. Poor a little oil in a heated skillet or Dutch oven. Saute the garlic and onion until soft.

  2. Add the beef and brown on all sides.

  3. Add the spices and tomato paste, stirring well.

  4. Add the water and bring to a strong simmer for 15 minutes.

  5. Reduce the heat and simmer about 2 hours until the beef is tender.
It should be "good 'n thick." If not either use some flour or masa harina to thicken it up. Masa harina is corn meal that can be found in most markets now. If you can't find any mas harina, crumble up a handful of tortilla chips until really fine and stir that into your chili pot.

That is a basic pot of chili. To go from there you can substitute a number of items for the water, such as beef broth, tomato juice, V-8, beer, etc. You can also mix your chili powders (try some chipotele chili powder for a smokey, earthy flavor.) If you must you can add diced some green and or red peppers but before you do that try some chipotele peppers or chipotele in adobo sauce.
Also you can add tomatoes in almost any form if you like. But remember, authentic chili should get its color from the chiles not from tomato and paprika.


Ok, here's my take on beans. I don't mind beans and have been eating them in chili for years but for many people beans are a deal breaker. Beans should be prepared on the side and added by choice. Besides, beans don't always hold up so well in the pot.

One last hint:

Chili gets better in the pot after it has sat in the fridge overnight. The leftovers are almost always better than the first serving. (a tip for anyone entering a chili contest, cook it a day or two in advance!)
For futher reading:
The Ultimate Chili Book by Christopher B. O'Hara
A Bowl of Red by Frank X. Tolbert
The Great Chili Book by Bill Bridges

Friday, January 2, 2009

"I don't know nuthin 'bout no restrospect, but lookin' back..."

Thank you to heavy weight boxer Larry "the Easton Assassin" Holmes for the immortal words that make up today's title!

Here we are again, another year gone by another one started. Looking back at last year's New Year's post, I did ok. I made a point to reconnect and stay connected to a few friends that had drifted away. I didn't do as well as I hoped but I made progress.

The Saturn is still in the garage neither sold nor donated, just taking up space and grating on Mrs. SpecialEd's last nerves. At least I turned in the registration and we are not paying insurance on it.

The house is still a disaster, we've made progress in some areas and lost ground in others. It's tough just keeping the tide at bay.

The GrillDome although not used as much recently has still hung in there and not let me down. I did some pulled pork a few weeks back for a nephew in need and also smoked some salmon on Christmas Eve for a couple of lucky SpEd Siblings as surprise Christmas gifts.

And speaking of cooking Christmas gifts, something has happened and Mrs. SpecialEd and I totally blew the fudge this year. We made about five batches and only one of them really turned out right. The others hardened in the pan, on the spoon halfway from the pan to the cooling dish, anywhere but the right spot. We followed our usual recipe from the past, used a thermometer, did everything we were supposed to do but no luck this year. We had to resort to Costco and some fudgie wudgie brand fudge for our special friend who was counting on us. (you know who you are!) But it's ok, fudgie wudgie is awesome stuff!

I got my HAM license and have been on the air on the local 2 meter and 440 mhz bands. Still saving for that HF rig but I began studying the Morse code in earnest when I got a tutoring program on CD from the ARRL for Christmas then downloaded a free program from the web called G4FON to compliment my practice.

As with any year there have been ups and downs and pluses and minuses, this year taking a backseat to no other. BUT (and here is the gist of this message for the three of us that actually read this blog) in spite of the roller coaster ride ups and downs of another year and as bad as the economy is, blah blah blah... we are still plugging away and moving forward. We have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, good health, (humans and doggies), the house is heated and praise whatever Gods may be, the x-box, cable tv and Internet still works! Matter of fact the SpecialEd Boys declared this "the best Christmas, ever!"

Happy New Year everyone!