Sticky Buns: easier and stickier than ever

Sticky Buns: easier and stickier than ever

Sticky buns are a spectacular way to start any morning, and it really isn’t hard to make them if you start with 90  minutes or so free the night before. The result is hot, delicious  baked buns  in the morning that everyone will love. We usually start making the dough about 9 pm, and put the rolls together around 10:15 pm.

There are three parts to sticky buns: the glaze, the filling and the dough. Some recipes suggest a brioche dough, which is delicious, but quite a bit more work. Our dough is a simple yeast dinner roll dough that you let rise for an hour and then form into buns that rise over night. The overall buns are so rich that the kind of dough doesn’t actually matter much.

To make the dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 package regular yeast (avoid the rapid rise variety)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour (about)
  1. Add the 1/2 tsp sugar to the water and stir in the yeast. Allow the solution to stand until the yeast begins to bubble and foam a bit (maybe 4-5 minutes)
  2. Meanwhile, mix the milk, shortening and sugar, and heat in a microwave for one minute.(The shortening does not have to melt.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the flour to the work bowl of a food processor and pour in the warmed milk. Process until blended.
  4. Add the egg and mix in.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and mix in.
  6. Add flour until you have a soft dough.
  7. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, make the glaze and the filling.

To make the glaze

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and honey to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the glaze into two buttered square 9” pans, or one oblong pan, and sprinkle the pecans over top.

To make the filling

filling i n bowl

  • 4 Tb butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Melt the butter  for 30-40 sec in a microwave, and mix in the sugar and pecans

Assembling the buns

  1. When the dough has risen, punch it down in a floured board, and divide in half.
  2. Roll out each half to a 6 x 18” rectangle and sprinkle with half the filling.
  3. Roll up the dough lengthwise into a roll and cut each roll into 9 slices
  4. Place the slices in the two pans, cover with aluminum foil, and  let rise over night in a  cool place, such as a basement.
  1. In the morning, heat the oven to 375 º F and bake the buns for about 15 minutes, until the glaze is bubbling.

baked

Loosen the rolls from the sides of the pan with a small spatula, and then place a plate over each pan and invert it quickly. This is best done over the sink as some glaze will probably dribble out. The rolls should drop onto the plate.

Scrape any remaining glaze onto the rolls and allow them to cool a bit before serving,

one bun

Makes 18 buns.

Note: The overall flavor of the glaze is influenced by the honey, so be sure to choose a milder flavored honey.

 

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How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

How to scramble 2 dozen eggs

You don’t have to scramble eggs a little batch at a time if you have  a large pan. We used a 13-inch All Clad pan to cook ours. The accompanying video shows it in detail.

Start at very low heat, and slowly the stir the eggs. You can go up to low heat if you want, but to make nice, creamy eggs, you want to cook them slowly.

Start with just the eggs, no salt and no milk. You’ll add the butter right away. We used a stick, or 4 oz of unsalted butter in this recipe. Slowly stir the butter into the eggs so it melts. Keep stirring until the eggs begin to thicken. At the end add a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and 3-4 Tb of crème fraiche or sour cream.

Decorate the plates or serving platter with some chopped parsley or chives.

 

Enjoy your breakfast!

 

“Flyin’ West” opens at Westport Playhouse

“Flyin’ West” opens at Westport Playhouse

Above: Keona Welch, Michael Chenevert, Brenda Pressley, Brittany Bradford, and Nikiya Mathis in “Flyin’ West,” by Pearl Cleage, Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Pearl Cleage’s 1994 drama Flyin’ West opened Saturday night at the Westport Country Playhouse, directed by Seret Scott. The play deals with a period in the latter 19th century when freed slaves struck out to create new homes in the West under the Homestead Act. Entire black towns were formed that welcomed new freed slaves for many years.  Of these, only Nicodemus, Kansas remains as an historical site.

The story centers around four strong black women who settled in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas in 1898. The matriarch, Miss Leah, is wonderfully played by Brenda Pressley, and her two interchangeable daughters Fannie Dove and Sophie Washington, well played  by Brittany Bradford and Nikiya Mathis. The director has them costumed and made up in a similar fashion, although one lives in Miss Leah’s house, the other apparently lives nearby. And honestly, it is difficult to remember which of the daughters is which. They both speak in exactly the same dialect, pitch and speed.

1_WCP_Flyin' West_Bradford_O'Blenis_byCRosegg_130

The love interest, Wil Parish is charmingly played by Edward O’Blenis.

In fact, while the men are easily understood from the balcony, the women’s rapid dialect exchanges are sometimes difficult to understand.
Brittany Bradford and Edward O’Blenis
Photo by Carol Rosegg

All of the action takes place in Miss Leah’s house, which in Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s conception, is a huge, vaulted ceiling home with at least two implied bedrooms just behind, and dominated by an enormous 2-story stone fireplace. Considering that most freed slaves came to Nicodemus with very little, it appears that Miss Leah has done very well for herself.

While part of the first act is chit-chat among Leah, her two daughters and Wil, the story kicks off when her third daughter Minnie Dove Charles (played with great poise by Keona Welch) arrives from London with her new husband Frank Charles, a sometime poet (played as a terrific villain by  Michael Chenevert).  Frank is dressed to the nines in an elegant 3-piece suit and seems to be quite light-skinned. You quickly realize that he has been “passing for white” for some time even though his naïve wife doesn’t seem to pick up this. What she does pick up on is several bruises, for it seems that Frank is, in addition to a mediocre poet, a wife-beater.

The central part of the story is that Frank believes that white “speculators” are willing to pay thousands of dollars for Leah’s property and in which his wife holds a part interest and he tries to force her to sell her share.  The second act resolves this incredibly by descending to the Arsenic and Old Lace story line, but without Teddy in the basement.  Oh, and while Sophie carries a rifle in Act I, it is never fired, violating the Checkhov gun rule.

While “Flyin’ West” is an entertaining enough evening, it isn’t a particularly strong or credible play. Cleage’s dialog lacks any poetry or elegance of language. The one exception is one of Leah’s second act speeches, which is briefly compelling. And from what I have been able to find out, the real Nicodemus was never a target for speculators, since the railroad was never in town as the play indicated, but some six miles away on the other side of the Solomon River.

Flyin’ West runs through June 16 at the Westport Country Playhouse, with performances on Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays at 2 and 8, Thursday and Friday at 8, Saturday at 3 and 8 and Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets are available on line or by calling 203-227-1477. The show is in two acts, with one 15 minute intermission. The first act is about 75 minutes, and the second about 45 minutes, ending around 10:15.

Soft-boiled eggs and egg cups

Soft-boiled eggs and egg cups

You probably have made soft-boiled eggs for breakfast once in a while. Here is a simpler and more reliable way to get perfect eggs, along with some serving suggestions.

We have found that you can cook a number of eggs at once in a vegetable steamer basket, instead of soft-boiled eggs? Yep, wait and see.

To cook the eggs, let them sit out of your refrigerator for 5 minutes or so, so they aren’t ice cold. Then, put a vegetable steamer basket in a saucepan and fill the pan with water so the water level is just below the basket. Bring the water to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. This only takes a minute or so, because there isn’t much water in the pan.

steamer white eggsUsing a slotted spoon or other long handled spoon, quickly lower the eggs into the basket, and cover the pan.  Let them cook for 6 ½ minutes. Then run cold water into the pan, drain and run in cold water again to stop the eggs from over cooking. Don’t worry, they’ll still be plenty warm.

Now is where international opinions diverge. If you are American, you probably put the soft-boiled eggs in a bowl with some toast, cut them open and dig out the eggs with a spoon, and eat them right away.

Egg cups

If you are British or Australian, or have immediate ancestors who are, you probably serve your  soft boiled eggs in egg cups.  The outrage Brits and Oz people feel about vulgar American soft-boiled eggs can be absorbed here, here and here.  Their point seems to be “Do you just let the eggs roll around on your plate?” and “Where does the drippy yolk end up?”

In the British approach, you put the just cooked egg in an egg cup, cut off the top, and serve the cup on a plate with strips of toast (called “soldiers”) or toast points. No crusts here, of course. We found a few egg cups around.

Our neighbor brought us one made for Fanny Farmer in the 1940s, that originally came with a chocolate egg in it. We also found a nice porcelain one that will hold a conventional hen’s egg, or in the larger part of the base, a duck’s egg.  In fact, if you turn the egg cup over, there is small cup in the base that might hold a quail’s egg.  We also found that there are a number of egg cups on Amazon including 4 plastic ones for about $10.

Egg cups go back as far as 3 CE, where they were found in the ruins of Pompeii, but were distinctly for the ruling classes, until the advent of the railroads, when both British and American shops along railroad lines sold souvenir egg cups at each stop. There were also sterling silver egg cups, intended to be baby gifts, but weren’t too practical as the sulfur in the egg tarnished the silver.

There is also a cute video from Martha Stewart showing a huge variety of egg cups. Apparently they are seriously collectable.

topperSo, how do you open this egg? Experienced egg cup users just flick the top of the egg with a butter knife and cut it open. You can also get an “egg topper,” that will score the top of the egg when you pull on the handle and let go. It may or may not take the top off, but once it is scored, you can lift it off easily. So here they are, with eggs in the cups. And we’ll have to admit, they do look elegant.

 

 

Peeling the eggs

Now, one of the points of the egg cup is to hold the shell still, so you can eat the egg conveniently. But, what about peeling the just-cooked egg and serving it in a bowl with soldiers or toast points? If you cook the eggs in a steamer as we did, you will find that you can easily peel them under cold running water, and still have  a warm egg to eat with your toast.

two shelled in bowl

But, the ultimate solution could be to put those warm, peeled eggs back into the egg cups and eat them that way, dipping toast into the warm yolk. We tried that, and they were delicious!

shelled in egg cups

Thai rice soup with pork balls

Thai rice soup with pork balls

This relatively simple recipe can be done in less than an hour, and makes a rich, filling meal. There are several steps that you can do ahead and none are all that complicated. The original inspirational recipe came from Milk Street, (and is the first one we wanted to actually make). That recipe suggests garnishing the soup with fried shallots. Don’t even try this: it will small up your house for days, and are very hard to keep from burning. You can buy them packaged at Asian markets or online.

The components of this soup are:

  • Jasmine rice
  • Pork balls
  • Soup broth
  • Soft boiled eggs

Jasmine Rice

riceJasmine rice is a delicately scented short grain rice, that you should make first and allow to cool on a plate or baking sheet. You will add it to the soup when the rice is cold, so it doesn’t break up to much when you stir it in. Cook about 1 cup of rice with the package’s amount of water. In our Instant Pot rice cooker, we added 1.25 cups of water and cooked it for only 10 minutes. Open the pot and spread it out to cool.

Soft boiled eggs

eggs coolingSet out 3 eggs. Place a vegetable steamer in a 2 quart sauce pan and fill with water until just below the steamer bottom. Bring the water to a boil, and quickly lower the eggs into the steamer using a slotted spoon. Cover and cook 6.5 minutes. Run cold water into the pan to stop the cooking, empty and add more cold water. Pick up each egg and run cold water on it until no longer warm to the touch. Crack each egg and peel under running water. Set aside the peeled eggs.

Pork balls

  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 1 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili-garlic sauce
  • White pepper to taste

pork ballsMix the pork and sauces in a small bowl and make around 10 balls using a small cookie scoop. Put them on a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes or so.

Soup broth

  • 3 Tb lard (or olive oil, or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 large shallots halved and thinly sliced.
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, bruised to release the flavor, or use lemon zest instead.
  • 2 Tb grated ginger root
  • 5 quarts chicken broth (we used some homemade mixed with canned)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley of you are not a cilantro fan)
  • 3 Tb lime juice plus lime wedges
  • 2 Tb fish sauce
  • 1 Tb chili garlic sauce

saute

  1. In a large pot (3 quarts or more) heat the lard and add the shallots and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes
  2. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the lemon grass and ginger and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add the broth and cook at medium heat for about 15 minutes
  5. Remove and discard the lemon grass.
  6. Add the pork meatballs, and cook through, about 4 minutes
  7. Stir in the rice, and cook until heated through.
  8. Off heat, stir in the fish sauce and chili garlic sauce, the cilantro or parsley and the lime juice.

Ladle in bowls and decorate with the halved soft boiled eggs (cut them right in the bowls), lime wedges, and the optional fried shallots. Packaged onion rings are a good substitute, too!

Serve at once to your admiring guests.

No, cell phones do not cause cancer!

No, cell phones do not cause cancer!

Let’s start with a homely example. If a friend comes to you claiming to have a wonderful new pudding recipe, made only from grass clippings, your first response would be “how would that work?” You know that grass is really fibrous and doesn’t have a lot of flavor.

So, if another wacky friend comes to you claiming that cell phones cause cancer, you could ask the same question: “how would that work?” Because you know that the microwaves used in cell phones are so low in energy that they cannot disrupt any chemical bonds.  Prominent physicist and educator Bob Park dealt with this in 2001, in the journal article “Cell phones and cancer: how should science respond?

As Park points out, all known cancer causing agents work by breaking chemical bonds, producing mutant strands of DNA. The energy of such elector magnetic radiation runs from low energy microwaves through the visible spectrum, up to ultraviolet and eventually to X-rays, with the energy is determined by the wavelength, with the shorter wavelengths being more energetic. Only at the ultraviolet wavelengths and beyond do the photns that make up such radiation have enough energy to break bonds. Microwaves, infrared, and visible radiation just can’t do it, and thus, cannot cause cancer.

Knowing that one simple fact makes it easy to question alarmist articles like the one in last week’s issue of The Nation, on a conspiracy theory on how Big Wireless made us think cell phones are safe.  The report, by Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie details a conspiracy to shut up cell phone critics, which even if true does not establish the cell phones are dangerous. It is simply another example of The Nation reporting outside its political specialty, but ignoring established science.

But why believe Park and me? The American Cancer Society has a high readable report:  Cellular Phones that comes to the same conclusion.

But what about if you are in a room full of cell phones and make hundreds of calls a day? Is that any more dangerous? What about Michael Cohen’s 16 cell phones? To answer, consider the following thought experiment, which, I think, came originally from Bob Park.

Suppose that Napoleon stands at the Strait of Dover with his soldiers and orders them to throw rocks towards England. No one can throw a rock 21 miles, so nothing much happens. So, thinking he just needs more force, Napoleon brings in several more divisions of soldiers and has them all throw rocks towards England.

What happens? A lot of rocks fall into the water, but none get to England, because none of the soldiers is strong enough to throw a rock 21 miles. The same applies to all those cell phones. None can break a bond so even the whole group can’t cause cancer.

Hertsgaard and Dowie cite a well-designed 2016 experiment by the National Toxicology Program in which rats are raised in specially designed crates where they were irradiated with 2 different levels of cell phone radiation (or none for the control group)  for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for 9 hours a day, from birth to 2 years. Some rats got CDMA modulated radiation and some got GSM modulation. The original 2016 report was described in Scientific American, and it raised some concerns.

The final revised 2018 result, after adjusting for litter effects, was that there was no positive association between cell phones and brain neoplasms for female rats, male mice, or female mice. They found an association for male rate and only for CDMA modulation. Further, the irradiated male rates lived longer than the controls. In other words, this appeared to be a random effect of no significance. All of this is explained in detail in an article on Science Based Medicine.

While earlier 2016 preliminary analyses seemed to indicate an actual effect, it disappeared when the statistics were adjusted for litter effects (animals from the same litter would be expected to have similar responses).

So, physics is still true, and alarmism has lost out again. Your cell phones are safe.

I watched Fox News for a week

I watched Fox News for a week

I don’t usually watch Fox News, because I understand it has a seriously conservative slant which doesn’t match my own, but I wanted to know why it is so popular. So I undertook to watch Fox News for a week, all by DVR so I could quickly skip the commercials. I watched at least 2 hours of “Fox and Friends,” all of Tucker Carlson and Hannity Monday through Friday. I also sampled several episodes of Shepherd Smith’s 3 pm newscasts, which appeared to be straight down the middle unbiased, although it covered similar stories. Overall, I took 28 pages of notes on these shows, and this article attempts to organize and boil down my impressions.

That week (April 16-20) had a lot of news, with the release of James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, Barbara Bush’s passing and the disclosure that Trump’s personal attorney (and fixer), Michael Cohen was also lawyer to Sean Hannity. And, on Thursday evening, Comey’s memos were released.

Fox and Friends

FoxFriends-AP-img“Fox and Friends” began Monday with country music and Carrie Underwood, because the Country Music Awards had been the night before. In fact, nearly every hour starts with a snippet of pop music, helpfully identified in a box in the upper left corner.

Fox and Friends is early morning television from 6:00 am to 9:00 am and there is some repetition between the hours so you get most of the content by watching around two hours. The show is hosted by Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade. Meteorologist Janice Dean appears about once an hour to summarize the US weather, and a summary of the day’s news is handled by Jillian Mele.  As is typical of Fox News, the women are all identically blonde.

Doocy’s on air persona has evolved from avuncular host to a more serious analyst and he now wears glasses to show how serious he is. He and Kilmeade analyze the news they want to talk about more or less equally, while Earhardt takes on a distinctly second banana role.

The show is relaxed and informal, with most of it delivered from a curved white couch. I wondered how often they have to clean that pure white furniture. Do they have several copies?

On Monday’s show, they predictably started by commenting on George Stephanopolis’s interview of James Comey which had aired the previous evening, taking particular note of Comey’s comments that his wife and daughters loved Hillary (Clinton) and had taken part in the women’s march the day after the inauguration. This particular factoid was then repeated 6 or 7 times in this and other Fox News shows that week.

This segued (il)logically into Hillary, who, they said “had sent her Emails to Huma Abedin, who sent them on to her “pedophile husband “(Anthony Weiner). This appeared to be the zinger of the week, because I kept hearing it all week.

Cycling back to Comey, commentator Dan Bongino  (identified as an NRATV contributor) noted that Comey was now a pretty small man and had shrunk in his estimation. This height metaphor was repeated several more times during the week. It didn’t grow on me. Taking up Comey’s remark that Trump behaved like a mob boss, Bongino inflated it to suggest Comey meant that Trump was involved in kidnappings and murders, rather than that he surrounded himself with family members and that he demanded fierce loyalty. Strangely, he neglected to mention that Comey suggested that Trump is running a “criminal enterprise” out of the White House.

Chick-fil-A

The first hour closed by attacking a semi-humorous piece in the New Yorker on Chick-fil-A, noting that their overt religiosity is somewhat “creepy.” The article also praised their food and noted how popular the New York branches were. At their corporate headquarters, the religiosity includes a statue of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. There is no evidence of this religiosity in their stores, although you can find it on their web site.

In addition, deceased owner Dan Cathy was well-known as a homophobe, and even after backing away from this in their company literature, their foundation continued to give to anti-LGBTQ causes.  The article also noted that The Fox hosts attacked the hypocrisy of the “latte-sipping crowd” for undermining Judeo-Christian values.  “Liberals are out of touch!” “They are not in touch with mainstream America.”  Of course, they made no mention of Chick-fil-A’s homophobic background.  They also claimed this was an insult “to our founding fathers,” not recognizing that they were moral men, but not particularly religious.

Appearing on Tucker Carlson that night, Mark Stejn rehashed this story but continually referred to buying a “homophobic chicken sandwich.”

And that was just the first hour! The second hour repeated much of this material, with different voices criticizing Comey and praising Trump, and introduced the new theme of criticizing Sanctuary Cities, which was to be repeated every day that week.

Tucker Carlson

Tucker-CarlsonTucker Carlson brings his boyish looks and persona to the 8pm (Eastern) hour. While the topics he covers are much the same, his style softens them a bit. However, he started right in on Comey, saying he never should have been head of the FBI, somehow connecting that to Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich.

Carlson criticized Comey for saying that Trump never criticized (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, calling it “McCarthyism.” The “Comey’s wife and children” mantra re-appeared here as well, with commentator Mark Stejn  referring to “his wife shrieking in the streets with a bunch of big shots.”

By this time the news had broken that Judge Kimba Wood had insisted that Michael Cohen reveal his third client, who turned out to be Sean Hannity. Carlson claimed that “no judge had the right to violate Hannity’s privacy,” illustrating that he is no lawyer. Somehow neither Carlson, Hannity or anyone else reported at any time this week that news that Hannity also used two other Trump-connected lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Victoria Toensing.

Sean Hannity

hannitySean Hannity is clearly Fox’s leading rabble rouser, delivering his entire show at high volume and in high dudgeon. He does this very well, and is rather entertaining, although, as Ted Koppel noted, not entirely factual.

He begins each show with a tightly scripted  “opening monolog” which attacks the issue of the day, which on this Monday was the media itself.

  • The “liberal media” are a tangled, incestuous web.
  • Wall-to-wall frauds, partisan hacks with liberal talking points.
  • The media wants to tear the president down with their radical left-wing ideology.
  • The media illustrates a massive double standard.
  • The media is “the sewer.”
  • The media don’t care about facts: they have a liberal agenda.

Of course, these phrases, carefully crafted by his staff, and delivered foaming at the mouth, might be entertaining, but he presents not a word supporting his views, but assumes his followers will just agree with him.

Hannity goes on to make connections he thinks will discredit people.

  • Did Stephanopouls disclose he worked on the Clinton campaign? (Is there anyone who doesn’t know this?)
  • Stephanopoulus donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation. (And?)

The micturation tape

In an attempt to discredit CNN, Hannity’s staff put together a montage of CNN reporters saying “pee-pee tape” 77 times in a week. He also reported that CNN had repeated “s—hole countries” 48 times in one day.  Of course, Mr. Trump had expected this vulgarity would resonate with his base.

Hannity’s lawyers

Hannity postponed his response to the revelation that Michael Cohen was his lawyer throughout the broadcast, and then ran a montage of some 46 mentions of “Sean Hannity” on various newscasts. This used up about half of the 3 minutes remaining at the end of the show, after which Hannity ran the same disclaimer he had issued several hours earlier. He made no mention of the other two Trump-connected lawyers. But, if he consulted Cohen about real estate issues as he said, wasn’t that using him as a lawyer?

Attorney Alan Dershowitz interjected that he should have revealed this connection sooner. Hannity attempted to change the subject to the criminality of Hillary’s “missing” Emails, but Dershowitz wasn’t having it.

And no one of Fox has mentioned the story that Hannity talks to the President several times a day and is effectively his shadow chief of staff.

Summary of First Day

After just one day of watching the tedious propagandizing of Fox’s most popular programs, it is pretty obvious that they are delivering a lot of news commentary, but very little actual news unless it supports their conservative, pro-Trump agenda.  But wait, we have 4 more days!

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Fox in the yard

Fox and Friends on Tuesday April 17

In attacking Mueller today, they noted that more people watched the Roseanne premier and the Stormy Daniels interview than watched Comey. They suggest that no one will want to buy the book since both liberals and conservative hate him. Actually, it sold over 600,000 in the first week, and remains a #1 Amazon seller.

Since this was Tax Day, they ran a panel discussion on how the newly passed tax laws would be advantageous to people. The first speaker ran a welding company who said he could deduct capital expenses the same year rather than over several years. This is absolutely correct.

The second speaker was a bishop from the New Life Harvest Church. He said that his daughter attended an Historically Black College (HBCU) and that Trump had provided more support to HBCUs, which the left wanted to deny. Well, while they have met with the President each year, no new funds have been provided according to Inside Higher Ed, although year round Pell Grants have returned.

Then they interviewed non-entity Chuck DeVore who said he left California because of its “left-liberal policies.” Actually, he left California for Texas in 2010 when he lost an election.

Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier

Congressman Ron DeSantis appeared, claiming that Hillary disguised payments to Fusion GPS by paying the Perkins Coie law firm to hire them. Actually, Perkins Coie hired Fusion GPS on its own to carry out opposition research. Neither the Clinton campaign nor the DNC were aware of this.  This sort of punctures the continuing mantra of the “Clinton bought and paid for unverified Steele dossier.”  Significant parts of the Steele dossier have been proven to be true, and none has been found to be false. Thus the slogan: “unverified, uncorroborated Russian lies” seems to be unverified hyperbole.

Immigration and Sanctuary Cities

A repeating xenophobic theme all week was that sanctuary cities are bad and that immigrants are dangerous.

A Tuesday Fox and Friends section of San Diego County (California) is rebelling over the state’s sanctuary state laws and will be holding a referendum. The hosts continue to bring up the idea that immigrants in sanctuary cities (where the local police may choose not to cooperate with ICE) are high in crime. This is a fallacy, disproved by extensive quantitative research. In general immigrant populations commit fewer crimes than the general population. They also showed a clip of Governor Jerry Brown replying to a Fox reporter on this issue, calling it “Fox nonsense.”

The following day Fox and Friends showed an interview with a woman who claimed that her son, Jamiel Shaw,  was “murdered by an illegal immigrant.” She also said that “all you left wing nuts don’t care about our children.”  Tragic though this was, her grief is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the shooting occurred in 2008, ten years before this interview, when immigration laws were rather different.

Mark Stejn sat in for Tucker Carlson for the first half of his Thursday broadcast, and after repeating the debunked stories about dangerous immigrant crime, he went farther and brought in a story about crime in Sweden after they accepted 170,000 migrants. The story was reported by controversial British columnist Katie Hopkins. But despite the report by Hopkins, this simply isn’t true. She also noted that Swedes are “exceptionally good looking,” and you can’t just put a blonde wig on Mohammed and make him a Swede. This is one of the most appallingly racist reports I have ever heard, even on Fox.

Hannity Wednesday

Ed Henry reported on the forthcoming meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Il, suggesting that if they achieve denuclearization, they might share the Nobel Peace Prize. This would be wonderful if it occurred, but there are significant reports that Kim isn’t entirely serious about this.

In Hannity’s nightly harangue, he said that Trump was shooting down “liberal rumors” about his planning to fire Mueller. Unfortunately, Fox News itself reported on Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller last year.  So, while Hannity referred to “crackpot media lying,” that just is not the case. He repeated this on Thursday and Friday, too. In addition, former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie repeated this same fiction the next day on Fox and Friends, that “the left continues the mantra that he will fire Mueller or Rosenstein.”

Hannity made a big deal out of the news story that 11 GOP senators sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding actions by Comey, Andre McCabe, Loretta Lynch, Hillary Clinton,  acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. But, for some reason, Hannity only referred to the US Code numbers: 1505, 1515B, 641, 793, 1924A and so forth. He was less than specific because when you read the letter sent by Ron DeSantis and others, the actual suggested infractions are nothing new, and some date back years. Most are not very significant. Such referrals are infrequently acted upon when submitted by Congress, according to CNN, Politico and The Hill.

Tucker Carlson:

Carlson was featured in a report on college admissions.  He tackled legacy admissions (which are less relevant at most schools, since they are usually over-qualified for that school) and affirmative action being perverted. According to Carlson, the legitimate needs of underserved U.S. minorities are being replaced by wealthy dark-skinned foreign students. He then talked about this with U.S, Civil Rights Commissioner Catherine Lhamon, who said that careful studies have shown that his claims are simply untrue. Shot down by your own expert!

The show ended with a clever piece on Goat Yoga, which I thought was a hoax, because it was so silly. But it’s not. See for yourself!

Andrew McCabe

24dc-Mccabe-master768If you aren’t sure what former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe did that was so horrendous, you won’t find it out on Fox, either. All three programs accused McCabe of criminality, but were pretty vague about it. McCabe appears to have released information that as Deputy Director, he was authorized to release, but was “less than forthcoming” with investigators about having done so. Accordingly, the Justice Department  Inspector General referred its findings to the DC Federal Prosecutor. However, since the bar for referrals is very low, it is far from certain that McCabe will actually be prosecuted.

Hannity claimed that McCabe is in “serious legal trouble,”  that Comey started  the investigation and might be a witness against McCabe. Comey has concurred that he might be a witness, but we do not know how likely a prosecution will be.

The Comey memos

On Thursday evening Congress leaked redacted copies of Comey’s memos to the press and reporters on all stations were hastily trying to figure out what exactly they meant. They described 7 conversations Comey had with President Trump, not an interview with Trump and revealed very little that we didn’t already know from Comey’s book.

Hannity, however, called the release “a crushing blow to the radical left” and a “setback for the conspiratorial media,” because they showed “no collusion, no obstruction.”  Of course they didn’t show anything of the sort, because they didn’t discuss these topics.

Hannity quotes Comey from his memos “ I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves,” which he then uses to point out that Comey did indeed leak one of his memos to a friend so it would be published. Hannity claims that this was a breach of security as the memo was classified, and Comey claims that he carefully wrote it so it would not violate security regulations, and this Feb 14th memo was never marked classified.

And, in fact, as head of the FBI, Comey had wide latitude to share information outside the FBI to obtain advice, and thus sharing such a document is not theft  or conversion.

The Clinton Emails

Nearly all of Fox’s hosts and contributors harped on Hillary Clinton’s Emails during this week, because “she obviously broke the law.” But, according to Politifact, two Clinton staff members selected the work-related Emails and deleted the rest.

“The FBI found no evidence that the emails were deleted deliberately to avoid the subpoena or other requests. Clinton’s team requested for the emails to be deleted months before the subpoena came. They also argued that all the emails that would be relevant to the subpoena had already been turned over to the State Department.”

Friday Hannity Slogans

Few of these are true or even make much sense. His writers were having a field day.

  • Gorka: Clinton committed many felonies; Trump none.
  • DNC sues Trump campaign because the bankrupt and $6M in debt.
  • DeGenova: Comey memos are a suicide note.
  • Comey is destroying the FBI.
  • The deep state under siege.
  • Massive plot to exonerate Hillary.
  • Dershowitz: Need to look at whole mess: Bipartisan commission.
  • Comey: took memos home. Theft of government property.

Friday: Tucker Carlson

Brian Kilmeade interviewed wingnut Dennis Prager, who is profoundly homophobic and also believes that the United States is a Christian Nation. He has recently written the Rational Bible: Exodus, which attempts to explain that book of the Bible. He is there to complain that the New York Times has excluded his book from its best-seller list. Prager claims he ranks high on other lists, but the Times claims very few of the retailers that report to them reported sales of Prager’s book.

Conclusions

Watching Fox News for a week was exhausting, because all of the hosts are so angry and intense. They don’t present the welcoming vibe of other news channels.

Fox News is far less a news channel than an opinion channel, and it is fundamentally an alternate universe of right wing unverifiable opinions. When Roger Ailes founded Fox News, he told one of his reporters that it was a network for older white guys like him, mostly in red states.  It has evolved since then, of course, with slicker production values, and an emphasis on supporting President Trump regardless of where his opinions of the day fall on the right-left spectrum. Watching it can be entertaining in small quantities, but as you listen to the steady stream of seriously inaccurate assertions, you get more and more astonished that people take them seriously. In fact, as former Fox guest reporter Charles Blow notes, its simplistic views have become the President’s daily briefing book. And, according to PunditFact,  of the statements they fact-checked, only 10% were rated true, while a full 60% were rated false, mostly false, or “pants on fire” false.

And, part of their style is to attempt to discredit everyone else’s views, asserting that Fox is the only one you can believe. These are characteristics found in cults, and by claiming to be the only source you can trust, Fox has contributed to the divisiveness of political dialog. While some of their short headline features are completely accurate, almost any report that involves political issues is seriously slanted, and frankly, full of substantial untruths. You need to fact check these claims regularly to be well-informed. To summarize: everyone else is a left wing liberal and can’t be trusted. And despite having lost the election Hillary Clinton is demonized daily as if she’d won.

But the story on Goat Yoga was completely true.

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How to hard boil eggs

How to hard boil eggs

Hard boiled (actually hard-cooked) sometimes baffle people who want eggs that are easy to peel. There is so much misinformation out there that making good eggs becomes a huge worry. It’s not.

  • It doesn’t matter whether the eggs are fresh or old.
  • You don’t need to prick the end of the shell.
  • You don’t have to chill them much to make them peel. Just run them under cold water until they aren’t hot any more.

The key trick to making easy-peel eggs is that you start them in or above hot water. We tried all three in this longer article last year. They all work great.

Vegetable steamer

eggs in steamer

For us, the simplest way is to put a vegetable steamer in a pan, and add water till it is just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a slow boil, and quickly lower the eggs onto the steamer using a slotted spoon.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Then run cold water into the pan, drain it and run cold water in again. Then, refrigerate them until you want to dye them, devil them or eat them.

Instant Pot

eggs in IPYou can make one or two dozen hard cooked eggs at once if you have an Instant Pot or other counter top pressure cooker. Just place a cup of water in the pot, and put your eggs on top of the trivet above the water.  Seal the pot and pressure-cook for 8 minutes.  Do not allow any cool-down time after the 8 minutes as the eggs will continue to cook. Release the pressure immediately, lift out the inner pot and run cold water into it. Rinse and run cold water on them again. They are then ready as above.

Boiling water

You can do this same trick in a pan of slowly boiling water. Bring the water to a boil and then quickly lower the eggs into the water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool as above.

3 cut open

This photo shows eggs cooked in the vegetable steamer, in a pan and in the Instant Pot 

How to fail

boil failYou can fail and get unpeelable eggs by starting them in cold water whether in a pan or on a trivet. You will also find them slightly harder to peel if you overcook them beyond 10 minutes. The yolks will become quite hard, and the eggs will be less flexible when you try to peel them.

Remember: start with boiling water!

That’s it!  Enjoy your holidays!

Knot Norm’s: Best lobster roll in the state

Knot Norm’s: Best lobster roll in the state

If you want one of the best lobster rolls in New England (and probably the very best) you need to eat at Knot Norm’s: a new restaurant cum caterer along the harbor in South Norwalk. While the façade may be unprepossessing, the food is superb and Chef Jay LeBlanc really knows what he’s up to. The restaurant is at 10 1st Street, just around the corner from Seabreeze Ave. If you’ve gone to Harbor Lights, this is just around the corner.

The menu at Knot Norm’s is straightforward, but everything on it is excellent. In addition to the above-mentioned lobster roll, they have fried oysters, fried chicken, steak and cheese, brisket, BLT and pork belly rolls. Other entrees include roasted oysters,  fish tacos, fried chicken wings and beet and apple salad.

They also have a large number of bottled craft beers and a number of wines. On tap were Allagash White and Allagash Hoppy Table.

They also have various daily additions, which on Tuesday included clam chowder, potato-leek soup and lobster bisque. We had to try the Chowder ($8): it was served with frizzled onions and chives on top as well as the usual oyster crackers. The soup was thick without being gluey, full of potatoes and plenty of clams and was absolutely delicious.

Platter

But to get to the main event: the Lobster Roll is simply amazing. The lobster is steamed and then the shells removed and the lobster poached in butter. The lobster is served on a traditional toasted New England hot dog roll, with that same lobster butter poured over it. You also get a large bowl of potato chips, lemon, coleslaw and pickles. And, according to the chef, you get an entire lobster on that roll, about 6 oz of delicious lobster. You’ll probably never have a better lobster roll. And it is only $23.

blintzes

And if that isn’t enough (and it was really filling) it turns out that the chef tries out new dessert ideas on Tuesdays, and I got to sample a delicious Cheese Blintz made by rolling out those same hot dog buns, sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar, spreading sweetened cheese on them, rolling them up and toasting them briefly. They were served with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. Utterly amazing!

Here is a restaurant you simply have to go try! The food is terrific and the service excellent. The restaurant is small: about 16 seats, but there will be more outside as the weather warms. Tables turn fairly rapidly, I would expect because the menu is fairly limited. Parking is on-street and you may have to hunt a bit if it is busy. The 15 minute parking sign is not enforced at night.

The waitress told me that next time I really had to try the Lobster Bisque: unlike most bisques, this one has pieces of lobster floating in it!

 

The Grille by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

The Grille by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

Chef Thomas Keller is a consultant to Seabourn Cruises, and has created unique high-end restaurants on each the of larger ships. Keller is best known, of course, for his well-regarded French Laundry in Yountville, CA and Per Se in Manhattan.

While “The Grille by Thomas Keller” does not aspire to the nine courses you find in his land-based restaurants, it is an extremely good restaurant, especially since the standard ship dining room serves excellent 4-course meals every night. The Grille is smaller, however, and you must make reservations in advance. In fact you can make them on-line as soon as you have booked your cruise, as the restaurant is very popular and getting reservations once you are on board is very difficult. Repeat visits are nearly impossible to obtain.

seating

Literature provided in each room includes a booklet on the purveyors Keller uses for his floating gourmet experience. Farms, orchards, seafood, chicken, smoked meats, veal, cheese, beef and olive oil are all spelled out. (There is also a booklet on Spa and Wellness by Andrew Weil which is utter bull-pucky and can be discarded.)

Dinner at the Grille is served from 6pm to 9pm nightly and consists of starters, plates, sides and sweets, each served impeccably by an experienced staff.

iced veggiesOur dinner began with a dish of fresh vegetable on ice.

There is an element of theater to presentations in the Grill, with a number of dishes prepared table side. At our table, an order of Caesar salad was nearly a 3 act production, but quite entertaining, and the resulting salad was indeed very good.

 

They also prepare Dover Sole Meuniere at table side, as we noted when the next table ordered it.

Our other starter was a “Double Consomme ‘Celestine’,” with Black Winter Truffles and Julienned Crepes. Like most soups in the Seabourn dining rooms, the waiters bring you a bowl with the dry, floating ingredients and then pour in the soup liquid.

 

This was a light but really rich and flavorful soup that we picked because our main course was quite rich. The definition of “Celestine” is “heavenly,” and it was that good.

 

One of our entrees was dubbed “Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Medallions with Herb Crust,” and the lamb as tender and juicy as any you could imagine. It was prepared table-side, to the extent that they poured sauce over the lamb. As noted, it was delicious.

Our other entrée was Lobster Thermidor,  which amounts to lobster out of the shell served with a creamy sauce made with cream, vegetable and mushroom stocks, and a few croutons.

thermidor

Here is a typical recipe. While we didn’t get much in the way of table-side theater, this was one of the best lobster dishes we have ever had.

We also shared a side vegetable dish of excellent, multicolored buttered carrots.

 

Finally, our dessert was a gorgeous and delicious Lemon Meringue Tart, and since my birthday was the previous week, it came with a candle.

Dinner at the Grille is a delightful experience with superb service. However, the menu changes little during the week (the lamb wasn’t on every night) so if you are able to return, you may have to plan from the same menu. They are, however, delivered daily to your room for that purpose.

Other Keller influences

Once each week, the main dining room has a special Chef’s Dinner. On that same day, the secondary restaurant, called the Colonnade has a single menu dinner by chef Keller, consisting last week of Waldorf Salad, Grilled “RR” Ribeye, Cypress Hill Humboldt Fog cheese with wild flower honey and country bread, and Chocolate Silk Pie.

The service is “Family Style” meaning that they bring one platter for the whole table. Since most people on a cruise are just couples, this isn’t very significant, but cute. This is modeled on Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Napa. The kitchen staff also shouts out the order numbers, which is even sillier when everyone is getting the same meal. While we loved the beef, cheese and dessert, the Waldorf salad was rather weird, with just a few ultra-thin slices of apple mixed with the lettuce, celery, nuts and currants.