Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Way to Hear Your Music

There's a very cool utility I found today that takes MIDI files and tuns them into mp3 or wav or wma files automatically - and they actually sound good. is the place, and midi2wav is the program that does the magic.

It's not terribly expensive, and it works well and easily.

Check it out if you have any use for this kind of application. Highly recommended.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Music You Need to Hear

As Tracy Dahl said on This Is My Music, we typically regret that we got our Christmas music out too late, not too early, and that we put it away too early, not too late.

That made me realise that there are probably folks who've never heard this, most fabulous version of the Carol of the Bells, by The Bird And The Bee, and as there's something I can do to fix that sad state of affairs, I'm doing it.

Here's a link to the Amazon $0.99 offer on the mp3 of the song.
Even if you don't buy it, go preview the track - it's stupendous. Their Twelve Days of Christmas is equally fine, but I didn't find it there for sale for some reason.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion - UPDATED! AGAIN!!!

It seems a near certainty that you all have been waiting (and it is to be hoped that none were waiting with breath held) to hear when - at last! - my next novel would be published.

I am pleased to inform all and sundry that the wait is over.
A Rune With a View is now available from the CreateSpace store, and will be available at Amazon in short order as well.
(OK, here is the link, now that it has happened, but you should be able to search there and find it easily - it is Amazon, after all.)

Clearly nearly everyone on nearly everyone else's Christmas list should be jumping for joy, or shivering in antici ... pation.

Grab a copy - it's good for you!

Amazon is now also ready for your shopping pleasure!

For those out there awaiting the Kindle version, I have good news: it is available and simply waiting for your order to be delivered directly to your reading device. Please, feel free to purchase and enjoy - and why not share that experience with all your Kindling friends? They'll no doubt thank you for it.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

RIP Alex Karras

Detroit Lions fans have lost a great one.

He may not be in the Hall of Fame (thanks, Pete Rozelle), but we all know he was one of the all-time greats.
Even if you only remember him for saying that the Lions had lined up against field goals on that part of the field before - just not facing that direction, you know he was a great interview.

Acting? Mongo. Need I say more? I think not.

Alex, you'll be missed.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Where to Eat in Detroit


Yes, our anniversary dinner at Michael Symon's Roast in the Westin Book Cadillac hotel was as spectacular as we had hoped.

The atmosphere was great - energetic but not noisy / rowdy.

The service was excellent - attentive and friendly but not hovering.

The food was spectacular - we agreed that it was almost certainly the best food we've ever had in a restaurant.
The appetizers we had were excellent: fried Brussels Sprouts - what can one say? They were simply delicious, and the pecans really did add some flavour and texture. The beef cheek pierogie had the only slight disappointment of the night - the dough was more a puff pastry than a pasta, but the filling, the sauce, and the mushrooms were great.

The sauces were amazing - the flavours had clearly been allowed to develop and work together so that there was never a single note that stood out, but each of the ingredients built layers upon one another.

The entrées were wonderful - The lemon chicken had such lemon flavour without being tart and acidic; the chicken actually had its own flavour. The lamb ragu was a bowl of perfectly cooked fresh pasta with stunningly tender lamb in a sauce where every ingredient worked together beautifully (in fact, the shaved cheese on top was nearly superfluous - it was good there, certainly not detracting nor distracting, but I would have enjoyed it just as much without the cheese, and that's very unusual for me).

All in all, a beautiful anniversary night out (being with Heidi always makes for a better time), and a place we'll recommend (and already have) and to which we'll return.

Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Oh, Canada?!

What has happened to the Canada we've known for so long?

Driving the 402, 401, 403, and QEW was - I'm sad to report - little different from driving on I-94 or I-696.
Merging didn't happen with the expected politeness. Drivers (with Ontario plates!) passed on the right at speeds well in excess of 120 (in the 100 km/h zones).

At least our experiences in Niagara Falls and Hamilton (apart from the final score) were excellent as always. Walking is different from driving, I suppose. Perhaps it's true, as we read on an overpass, that the 100 km/h limit constitutes abuse. As large and spread out as that country is, that anonymous graffitist may have a point.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 19 August 2012

Grapes are on sale.
That makes me think that I should get a pork roast and do a rotisserie Rôti de Porc Véronique. And so I shall, or rather, so I did.

The roast (a rolled loin roast) first got my usual seasoning mix of beau monde, white pepper, and nutmeg, then it was loaded on the spit into the rotisserie.
Some vermouth bianco was put in the dripping pan, to mix with the juices coming from the roasting meat.
I also took a lemon, halved it, and put the juice all over the roast - cutting one half of the juiced carcass into quarters and placing them in the pan with the vermouth, and the other half getting impaled on the spit to release whatever it had left onto the top of the pork.

Oh, that's right, I hadn't mentioned that it's a vertical rotisserie, had I? Sorry about that.

At any rate, it was now time for the grapes. They were nice red seedless grapes, and after tossing a bunch in that drip pan, I also surrounded the top of the pork with more grapes.
Then it was simply plug it in and let it go for the recommended time (written on the side of the machine!) with the occasional stoppage for a bit of basting.

The lemon and pork and grapes and vermouth melded together into a wonderful sauce that wasn't actually necessary for flavour or moistness, but was welcome for both nonetheless.

"Was it good?" you ask.
A triumph, quite frankly. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 19 July 2012

Liver and Onions.
Sometimes there's just nothing better than the classics - especially when they get a slight update as in this instance.

We had four nice little slices of calf's liver that really wanted to be cooked.
Heidi had made a nice mixed frites bowl of russet and sweet potato fries, and we had some great left-over broccoli salad, so the flavours were going to work beautifully.

You know how liver can get a bit gummy when you fry it? That's because you're using flour on the outside - even if it's been seasoned, it's still flour, you know.
So, instead I used some seasoned corn meal - just a nice coating of corn meal mixed with Old Bay.
First the bacon was heated up in the pan (lardons, don't you know) and then the onions joined the fun.
When all was cooked, but not crisped, it was removed, the amount of oil adjusted, and the liver went in. After the first side got a nice sear and crust, they were flipped and the bacon and onions dumped on top to let their flavours flow into everything else.

That's all there is (and was) to it. A delicious meal, only slightly updated from the classic.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 11 July 2012

I never would have thought to do this, so credit goes to Heidi for this very successful experiment.

Ever use those smoker bags?
You know, heavy foil bags with wood chips in the interstices that can go in the oven or on your grill to smoke foods.
If you haven't, you should. They work a treat, and the food at least can be spectacular.

Sure, we've done salmon in there (delicious); chicken and pork chops too.
But steak?

We had a pretty massive bone-in ribeye in the fridge, and we had some hickory smoker bags waiting to be used, so ... why not?
Well, I had never heard of a smoked steak before, so I was a bit hesitant at first, but what the heck, right?

Just a bit of salt on each side of the steak (after patting it a bit drier than usual), and in it went.
These things start at 500F for the first 10 to 15 minutes with the oven door cracked as in broiling.
That does two things:
  • It keeps the bottom element going (with the bag on the lowest rack position) so the chips really start smoking.
  • It lets all that great smoke aroma waft out into the kitchen and enhances whatever level of hunger is extant.
Once that first bit has been done, it's down to 375F with the door shut for the balance of the cooking.
The steak took about 20 minutes total, and we had some roasted asparagus and a nice pesto pasta salad to go with.

Oh, I forgot to mention: it was spectacular! The meat was as tender as we've ever had, the flavour was wonderful, and the texture (beyond the tenderness) was a revelation. Frankly, I had no idea that cooked meat could taste or feel like that, and now that I do, I'll certainly be cooking steaks this way again.

Try it, you'll like it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 26 June 2012

It started with a disappointment, as many great meals seem to do. The eggplant was past its prime.
(OK, the eggplant had probably been past its prime for almost a week, but let's not pick nits, eh?)
So, what to cook with the pork chops instead of the roasted eggplant and tomatoes that had been planned? Well, how about that rutabaga and purple cabbage sitting there in the vegetable drawer? Well, why not?

Next up, peeling the rutabaga (don't you love that wax?) and cubing it. With the oven preheated to 425F, a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper were added, and in it went.
About 10 minutes in, the small head of red cabbage was shredded (coarsely) and popped into the skillet for a quick sauté in some canola oil. The cabbage was added to the rutabaga and popped back into the oven.
After another 8 minutes, the skillet was reheated and re-oiled to receive the chops. They had been given a treatment of a bit of beau monde, some salt, and some cumin. A quick sear on each side (the blood was just starting to leak from the marrow) was all it took before they joined the veggies and some button mushrooms in the roasting pan. They got about a cup of chicken stock and a very loose tenting of aluminum foil and finished in the oven for another 6 minutes.

Serving time was very fragrant (aromatic?), and each of the components was simply delicious. The rutabaga was just tender and had almost a golden beet flavour. The cabbage was just perfectly cooked down - still a bit of tooth to it, but tender and tasty. The chops were cooked just through - one could imagine pink, but not see it - and as juicy as one would ever want.

All in all, a great success!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 09 June 2012

It's been a while since I've written about a good chicken meal, and this one was too good to skip. Granted, I've waited well over a week, but I can still remember it well, so it must be worth a post.

Manhattan Grilled Chicken Breasts.

Sounds interesting, no? Well, it's much more than that - it's delicious. Oh, and it has nothing to do with clam chowder or a style of cooking from the East Coast (as far as I know).

It's called Manhattan chicken because the marinade for the boneless, skinless breasts is simply a Manhattan cocktail with a bit of oil added in.
That's right - into a plastic bag I added a nice dose of Southern Comfort and some sweet vermouth (aha!) along with a dash of garlic juice and a bit of olive oil.
The chicken marinated in the marinade for almost an hour while the fire got ready in the Weber kettle in the back yard (it's charcoal only chez nous, mes amis). The fairly huge breasts cooked nicely over the fire, picking up some of that smoke flavour to go with the Manhattan that had soaked in, leaving a wonderfully juicy piece of meat.
I sliced them into about 1/4 inch slices, and added them to some pasta along with the juice that had accumulated on the platter. A dollop or so of quark made it creamy with a nice tang, and then a batch of spinach was stirred in with a few mushrooms to make a nice single-serving-dish meal.

Tasty, simple, elegant, and easy.
Try it, and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Cook Corn on the Cob

This is another in a very occasional series of "how to" posts relating to food.

There are many good ways to cook corn on the cob (for those to whom corn is a fairly generic term, please understand that I speak here of maize), including grilling the ears directly on a grill (whether a grill pan or a barbecue grill) and roasting the water-soaked ears over a fire or in an oven.
Still, one tends to come back to the tried and true methods that resonate from one's youth.

Of course, there's no reason not to update and improve those methods, and that is precisely what I've done here.
Husking corn is one of those activities that just mean "Summer" to those of us fortunate enough to have grown up with access to fresh ears of corn. I still find that I'd rather take off the husk and silk from the raw corn than from a cooked ear. So ...

Start with husked and silk-free ears of corn.
Bring a fairly large amount of salted water to the boil.
Here's the secret:
To the boiling, salted water, add some sugar and some powdered chipotle pepper, then add the ears.
Boil for a few minutes, then simply cover the pot with the heat turned off while waiting for whatever else you're cooking to finish. The corn will finish cooking without the burner, and will stay hot in the water for quite a long time.

Given that I don't know how big a pot you're using, I can't give you exact measures here, but here's about what I think I did:
It was around 5 quarts of water with about 1/4 C of sugar and about 1 t of the chipotle powder.

We just had the corn last night, and it was spectacular.

Try it, and enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 15 May 2012

Why does tilapia get so little respect? I find it to be among the most versatile of fish options. It works well fried, broiled, baked, poached ... and the flavour profiles it can handle are nearly limitless as well.

Let me give you but the latest example.
My normal crust for frying is a simple mix of cornmeal and whatever spices seem right at the time, often just a nice amount of Old Bay. This time I had noticed that the jar of pistachios was nearly empty, so I grabbed what was left and chopped them with a knife, probably ending up with a scant tablespoon or so.
I mixed that with the cornmeal and Old Bay, pressed the wet fish into it, and gave it a nice fry in some hot canola oil. It was delicious. There was absolutely no need for any sauce - the fish had plenty of flavour itself, and the crust held in the juices, so it was moist and flaky.

What went with? A beautiful salad of mixed greens (some of the nice spicy varieties along with the romaine-type lettuces) and another dish that turned out extremely well.

It turns out that, much as Hooterville had the perfect soil for growing rutabagas, College Grove has perfect soil for growing sweet potatoes (they may be yams - I'm not totally clear on the distinction, frankly), and so my sister grew far more than her family could consume.

We lucked into a bag of those sweet potatoes on our last trip back from Florida, so it seemed time to use them up.
A quick wash, peel, and cubing, then into the oven they went with a bit of salt, pepper, and curry powder to roast with some chopped onions. It smelled great, and tasted every bit as good.

Definitely one to repeat!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Missing Sydney

Today should have been a day of celebration.
Sydney Williams should have been blowing out more candles on a cake, but he was taken from us, and from the work he was still Joyfully pursuing for his Lord.

We miss you, Sydney, as do the people of the Avenue Church in Newton Abbot, and countless others in Africa and elsewhere who have been touched by your generosity and love.

I'll meet you on the mountain, my friend.

Monday, April 23, 2012

RIP Chuck Colson

If you ever wanted to see a life that proved the possibility of repentance and renewal, his was definitely one.

From White House "plumber" to prison minister and tree angel, Colson was a witness to the transformative power of the Gospel.

He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 03 April 2012

Pork Chops. There aren't many words that go together better than those two.

Ah, but how to cook them, and what to serve up alongside?
First, a pot of rice cooked in a nice vegetable stock (sadly, it turned out a bit too salty).
Next, some nice steamed fresh broccoli.
Finally, cook the chops by searing them with a bit of beau monde and chipotle powder on each side, then topping them after turning with some artichoke hearts, olives, and just a bit of pomodoro vodka sauce.

It was quite delicious!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gaming Laptop?

Anyone know how good this one would be?

RIP Earl Scruggs

I never saw him play live, but without Earl, bluegrass music wouldn't be what it is. An amazing player, technically as well as musically, his fusion of many threads of banjo playing into what became known as Scruggs-style banjo led the way for many others to innovate from a higher plateau than they otherwise would have occupied.

What a band he's joining up there!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 25 February 2012

Ground lamb patties? Yep - they look like a nice big burger patty, but the taste is something quite different and delicious.

I had come across a package of pre-cubed acorn squash in the market, and I decided that I didn't mind letting someone else do the knife-work, at least this once, so I bought it, along with a couple of lamb patties - about a pound each of lamb and squash in all.

So, how to put them together? First off I gave those squash cubes a bit of a sear in some canola oil, just to colour them up nicely, and then removed them from the skillet.
Next, in went the lamb to brown up most of the way, at which point the squash rejoined the party in the pan. A cup or so of lamb stock was added to the mix, along with some curry powder, some chipotle powder, and a bit of summer savory.
While all those flavours worked together to everyone's benefit, I reheated the tub of yellow rice with green peas from a few nights before.

I must say, as easy as it was, it was awfully delicious. Much recommended.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Carnage du Jour - 06 February 2012

Ah, salmon once again. What a flavourful, yet versatile fish is our friend Salmo salar (the salmon)!

There was a nice piece of salmon fillet in the refrigerator, just calling our names, and it would have been impolite to ignore it, so - out it came.
I gave a nice dusting of Old Bay (!) and then a bit of corn meal to the flesh side and gave it a quick sear in the skillet. Then I flipped it skin side down and put the pan in the oven (400 or so, as I recall) with a nice pool of Vermouth Bianco as the liquid for a nice oven-poach.

It actually was joining some potato wedges that had been roasting for some time (with some salt, pepper and dill), so all would finish up at the same time.

Oh, but what to go with potatoes and salmon? How about some sautéed spinach? Great idea. A bit of onion sautéed up first, then in goes the spinach and some pine nuts, finishing off with a bit of alfredo sauce, just to make it nice and creamy.

Can you say delicious? I knew you could. Now I'd like to hear you play your bass.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Coinage du Jour - 20 January 2012


def. The act of putting one's foot in one's mouth as a result of basing an analysis on a cursory or first-impression basis.

sample - "I based my decision on having read the somewhat misleading headline of the article, now I have quite a case of prima fasciitis."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here are a couple possibly well-intentioned pieces of legislation (barely possibly - I'm giving some folks the benefit of a ton of doubt) that will do almost nothing to accomplish their stated goals, but will have some horrific unintended(?) consequences.

We joined with many other sites on the 18th to show how the post-SOPA web might look, but we're back to normal now.

Please contact your legislators to let them know they need to come up with something far better than just breaking the internet to stop piracy.