Ah, Om Nom, ah… Om Nom Nom.

It’s cold. Today, as I sit in my home office, an unfinsihed room with no heat where I threw some desks and an internet connection, it is 55°F. I’m wearing jeans, t-shirt, sweatshirt, thick cotton socks, slippers, and a fleece bathrobe. I am comfortable, save for my fingers, which I could cover with gloves, but that would make typing too difficult.

My continuous trips to the kitchen for cups of coffee keep me moving, and the coffee does a good job of warming, if I don’t let it sit too long (i.e. 4 mintues).

I received an email from a good friend of mine this morning that turned my thoughts to food, as my thoughts are frequently apt to do anyway. With his permission, I’ll share said email with you:

Man, days like this I only want stew or chowder. It’s fall so typically I really only want crock pot food…a thick beef or chicken stew with a biscuit…yeah…

When I eat chowder I like to pretend that I’m a grizzled old fisherman down in the hold of a boat during a cold rain.

When I eat stew it’s more of being in a remote mountain cabin next to a fireplace in a blustery snow.

In the chilly morning mental haze of my mind, my first reaction was “No.”

But then, as the neurons began to warm up the folds of my brain that hadn’t yet thawed out, I realized that yes! Yes there are, and that was really a fun question.

I almost wish I could start this part of the post with “When I was a kid, I used to” but it would only be half honest. Perhaps it started as a kid, but truth be told, I still do it.

My imagination isn’t quite as detail orientented as my friend from the email above. I never really filled in the background, or thought about the environment around me. I was more focused on the food I guess. I know, shocker, right?

Broccoli is one of the least liked veggies for kids. I, however, loved it. I used to (and now that I have kids, frequently do again, pretend that they were little tiny trees, and I was a huge dinosaur, eating the trees.

Another food imagination that only worked if I was gigantic is crunchy cheetos. I was devouring a bag of them one day, when I realized that they were shaped like a very small tree branch, which could be wielded as a club by a very small caveman.

These G.I. Joe sized (and apparently invisible) cavemen would grab a cheesy orange club and… well, fly up to my face, I guess, and swing with all their might. To their dismay, I, the giant or dragon or something, would chomp their weapon to the handle. Like a villian throwing an empty gun at superman after just unloading their clip (which amusingly if you recall, he’d duck the gun, after just standing in a spray of bullets…) the cavemen would throw the useless nub of their club at my face, which, of course, I’d eat.

Undeterred, the cavemen would return to the armory (bag) and re-arm to come back for more. Cheeto-cavemen weren’t bright enough to realize that doing the same thing over and over would produce the same results.

And so now, it’s your turn. I ask you: Any foods you eat that invoke your imagination?

Thanksgiving Comes First!

Very appreciated, Nordstrom! 

This blog post was inspired by my good friend Jim. If you appreciate the sentiment in the picture to the left here, I highly recommend you go and read his post that I linked. I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

I decided to join in on this because it’s something that I feel is important. Not necessarily because of any enjoyment I get out of Thanksgiving as opposed to Christmas or Halloween really, but mostly because I hate the fact that holidays that aren’t mostly about merchants making money are being devalued.

My personal favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the smells, I love the food, I love having family together. Granted, I love all these things about Christmas as well, but it’s different. During Christmas I’m always wondering if I spent enough money on the gifts that I gave out, or if one person is going to be upset that their gifts didn’t cost as much as someone else’s or did I exhibit enough excitement over the gifts that I got. Did the givers believe that I really liked / appreciated the gift they gave me? I hate how much emphasis is put on the spending of money. I also hate it when someone spends a bunch of money on me, knowing that I don’t have as much to spend on them, and they say “Oh, stop!”. Sure, it makes them feel good to give, but it makes me feel like a freaking loser. Thanks, merry Christmas, you ass.

The only requirement for Thanksgiving is that you stop, and you give thanks for the things you have. It’s very aggravating to me that because you’re not expected to drop a king’s ransom on junk for people, vendors try to fast forward over it.

This isn’t the only holiday I feel is squashed because it’s not a big money maker. Columbus day, for example. There are no Columbus day decorations or flags, or anything like that. I can’t even remember the last time I got the day off in honor of Columbus day. Martin Luther King day, is another one.

If this is something you agree with, please post a “Thanksgiving Comes first” post at your blog!

Having Fun With Gmail Addresses

I’m one of those guys who will stumble across a newsletter and sign up for it thinking it looks fun. Currently I get mail from several places, including, but not limited to:

  • Tigerdirect – cause I love to see how cheaply they can sell refirbished computer equipment that I STILL can’t afford anyway.
  • History.com “this day in history” – Apparently this day in 1985, “Take on me” by Ah-Hah hit the top of the charts in the US. 
  • Accuweather.com alerts – Evidentally it’s raining in south eastern MA. 
  • Amazon.com – No activation fees when you buy sprint phones with service… 
  • Dictionary.com’s word of the day – Harrowing. Extremely disturbing or distressing; grievous. I like learning these high-dollar words, even though in 20 minutes I’ll forget them and never use them. It’s handy for playing scrabble though.

There are a few others, but I think you get the idea here. There are times when I’m just too busy or disinterested and wont read them at all. Actually, 9 times out of 10, I’ll just mark them read and move on.

Occassionally, like this morning, I’ll see one that I don’t remember signing up for, and “UNSUBSCRIBE” will be very apparent on the email in my preview pane, so I’ll go for it. I clicked the link this morning and it took me to a webpage where I could enter my email address and have it removed from their mailing list. So I did. However, it told me that my email address didn’t match any in their database.

I sat scratching my head a moment, because my email address is matthewconlon at gmail.com, and they had a preview of it above the box that looked like: m*************@gmail.com… I knew it had to be that address, as none of my other gmail accounts start with M.

I flipped back over to my inbox, and realized that the email was sent to matthew.conlon, not matthewconlon. And yet, it still arrived to me. I did some internet sluthing, and apparently there’s a bug in Gmail’s system that just doesn’t recognize dots in email addresses. So technically, I could send an email to m..a..t..thew.con……..lon at gmail.com and it would still get to me.

Further reading revealed that you can also create aliases on the fly by adding a + to your address. Anything following the + is omitted by the system. So ma………..tthew.conlon+themanthe…myth.thelegend at gmail.com would also get to me.

As with any new information, my mind immediate begins to try to figure out what kind of mischief or practical jokes I could use this for. Unfortunately, like myself this morning, no one looks at the email address to which a message was sent if it arrived in their inbox… Other than signing friends up for newsletters like catfancy or pledging donations as them or something like that to “email+payback.for.locking.the.car.windows.after.eating.mexican at gmail.com”, I couldn’t really think of anything.

So I started wondering what practical use I could get out of this. Given my tendency to sign up for newsletters, it’s actually pretty useful. Say I wanted to sign up for a newsletter from walmart (just for an example). I could sign up as matthewconlon+walmart at gmail.com. Then if some day I don’t want it anymore, and I’ve clicked unsubscribe but I still get the damned newsletter (cause that does happen) I can just set a filter to delete anything that comes in to that address.

Another benefit is if I start getting spam to that address, I know who sold my contact information. …not that I really know what to do with that information other than send a scathing letter to management telling them that I’m onto them, but would they really care? I’d probably just get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase over $600 or something like that, IF anything at all.

So, do you subscribe to newsletters? Any ones you’d recommend? Can you think of anything better to use this gmail feature for?

Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew ( From Good Housekeeping’s “Soups & Stews”)

This recipe was so amazing, I took the time to type it up. HIGHLY recommend making this, if you like the ingredients.

Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours 15 minutes
Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and each cut in half
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 package (1/2 ounce) dried mushrooms
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thirds
2 Pounds beef for stew, cut into 1.5” pieces
½ Can (8 oz) chicken broth (1 cup)
¾ Teaspoon salt
¾ Cup dry red wine
1 Large onion (12 oz), finely chopped
¼ Teaspoon dried thyme
1 Bay leaf

In 5-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add fresh mushrooms and cook until tender and lightly browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes; transfer to a small bowl. You will not add these until the stew is almost done. Cover and set them aside.

Meanwhile; in a small bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over dried mushrooms; set aside.

In large bowl, toss beef with salt. In same dutch oven, heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of beef and cook only until browned, 10 to 12 minutes, using slotted spoon to transfer beef to bowl as it’s browned. Repeat with remaining beef. Reserve drippings.

With slotted spoon, remove mushrooms from soaking liquid. Rinse to remove any grit, then coarsely chop. Strain liquid through sieve lined with paper towels. Set aside mushrooms and liquid.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Add onion and 2 tablespoons water to drippings in Dutch oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Return beef to Dutch oven. Add dried mushrooms and their liquid, carrots, broth, red wine, thyme, and bay leaf; heat to boiling over high heat. Cover and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Each serving: about 370 calories, 36g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 18g total fat (6g saturated), 87mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium.

This recipe is from Good Housekeeping’s “Soups & Stews” cookbook. I added a couple of notes above, and below are my notes from my first time making this dish. I personally found this dish amazing, although I didn’t stick completely to the recipe, as remarked below.

I was unable to find dried mushrooms. I ignored these steps completely.

I forgot to get tomato paste. I had just made a spaghetti sauce, and added what little sauce was left over, but realistically it was less than a tablespoon and probably not even noticeable.

I do not have a Dutch oven that I can put in the oven, due to plastic handle. I cooked everything in a large frying pan, and transferred to a 4qt bake ware dish.