Sauerbraten

A dinner centered on a Sauerbraten makes one think about a grandma toiling away in the kitchen from the early morning hours until evening. Remember those days? When cooking was done in pots and delectable delights cooked slowly for hours. If you’re going to make a Sauerbraten, then get ready for an entrée that takes three days to prepare. Of course, your patience and palette will be richly rewarded.

Sauerbraten for a 3 – 3 ½ pound rump roast.

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2 Onions

1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

½ Tablespoon Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

12 Whole Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

12 Juniper Berries*

3 – 4 ounces of crushed ginger snaps** (Final ingredient for sauce. NOT part of the marinade)

*I couldn’t get any juniper berries this time around. I’ve made Sauerbraten with and without them. Skipping the berries will not destroy the Sauerbraten and make it inedible. You’ll be fine.

**Find dark gourmet ginger snaps, those blonde ones won’t cut it.

Step 1: Dice the onions, combine all of the marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Step2: Get a frying pan (preferably cast iron) fired up. Rub the rump roast down with 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. Next, sear the roast for two to three minutes on every surface. Remember, color equals flavor.

Step 3: When the meat and the marinade have cooled, put both into a glass bowl and cover. Avoid aluminum foil or bowls. The acid in the vinegar will react with aluminum and other metals, because the combination of the two is a battery.

Marinate the Sauerbraten for three days. If the marinade covers the meat then just leave it alone. If not, then turn the roast every day or every twelve hours.

Step 4: Place the meat and marinade into a covered vessel. I use enameled cast iron by Le Creuset. It is perfect for this type of cooking. Cook at 325° for 4 hours.

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A Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Step 5: Remove Sauerbraten roast. Place it on a cooling rack. Use a wire mesh strainer and filter all of the liquid into a sauce pan. Add 3 oz. of crushed Ginger snaps. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, then continue adding ½ oz. increments. 

Step 6: Eat! Mangia! I really enjoy a sweet white zinfandel to offset the sour part of Sauerbraten. However, there’s nothing wrong with a high quality “brewskie” either.

I served this Sauerbraten up with spaetzl (German pasta) boiled, then sautéed in butter and cream, Rotkohl (sweet n’ sour red cabbage), and Kartoffelklöesse (Potato Dumplings).

If you make this Sauerbraten recipe or are planning an honest attempt, I’d love to hear from you.

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Does anyone ever scoff at the idea of a Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake? Well, I’ve never met a person who resisted such a mouthwatering temptation. In fact, I do not think any other food can top these flat bundles of joy when it comes down to a comfort food contest. Let’s face it, if Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup and softened butter are on the menu, you do not need anything else, except for a properly brewed cup of coffee to wash them down.

*Please note that I generally abhor manufactured food. Also, I am not working in an industrial kitchen with all sorts of expensive specialized equipment. Even my photo equipment could use a few upgrades. Therefore, you can easily replicate any of my recipes in order to cook from scratch.

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Ingredients

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Buttermilk + 1 Cup of Milk

4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Frozen or Fresh Blueberries (I use 4 blueberries per pancake) * Do not place in batter.

*** Yield 10 Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes *** I used a standard ladle to deliver the batter.

Notice: the first 5 items are dry and the rest are wet.

Combine your wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and then add the wet mixture to the dry. Yeppers, it’s just that easy. And think about the money you’re saving and the health benefits. When you cook in this fashion, you know what’s in your food.

Things to remember: 1) beat the eggs before combining, 2) shake your buttermilk, 3) do not over mix. I know many pancake aficionados out there swear by blending the batter with a fork. However, I find that forks do not scrape in flour that lingers in a bowl. It’s just easier and more efficient to fold with a spatula. Just remember not over mix. Simply fold until the flour disappears. Lumps and clumps are good things in a pancake batter. 4) If you’re using frozen blueberries. Place some in a sealable plastic bag and soak in warm water. Then start working on the batter. The blueberries will be thawed by the time you’re ready to use them.

Get your favorite pan or griddle ready and preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease your pan with some butter wiped on with a paper towel. Put some batter in the pan and let them cook on one side. Drop some blueberries on top before flipping.

Place cooked Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes on a plate and keep in the oven while you finish off the rest. Not only are these jewels a tasty experience, but also a very satisfying cooking experience.

Are you going to try out this recipe? How did they turn out for you?

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

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Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of adding a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are two sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

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History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?

Baby Francesco’s Nursery

Before, there was ugly medium shag carpet, and old dingy dark brown trim, which matched the window sills, doors and jambs.

The first thing was to rip up the carpet, padding and remove the staples; all 10,000 of them (not really that many, it just felt that way). Then I used some wood putty to repair any damage on the sill, door and closet jambs. The sill looked like a big dog teethed on it years ago.

Next I removed the old dark stained trim, and disposed of it. Don’t ever want to see that again.

When the wood putty dried I sanded the dark stain away. First I used a rough pad, and then decreased the coarseness of the pads for successive sanding sessions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The doors arrived sooner than expected. They’re pre-hung and slipped into the rough opening without a hitch. Although, I purchased new brushed nickel hinges to match the handle, because I really hate electroplate brass on doors.

For the next step I primed the entire room and closet interior. These walls hadn’t been painted in years. It took two full coats and in some spots three to get an even appearance.

Now I was ready to paint. I drew the birch trees on the wall with a light pencil and painted around those edges.

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For St. Francis and his animal companions I took a different approach. I had a roll of brown paper, so I drew the figure and animals on that. When I was satisfied, I cut out the components and affixed them to the wall. I traced around them with pencil and blocked in their edges. I basically turned it into a large coloring book.

 

Next I applied the toast color to three walls and added details to the trees and colored in St. Francis.

With the painting done the next item of business was the Pergo. These boards were a little wider than other laminates and went in with a lot of tweaking and tender loving care. The most difficult part was the trap door. The builder didn’t cut a straight opening.

Gee thanks Mr. Builder, now I have to work around someone else’s shoddy work.

The T-mold provided the edge for the trap door and door entrance.

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For the trim, I used 1×4 MDF board. It cuts, sands, and takes joint compound easily. The best part about using MDF is no jado cuts for inside corners. As you can see, I used a 1/2’” overhang for the top of the window and doors, providing a modern but “western” look.

 

After caulking and compounding, I painted the trim. The last step was the electric switches, outlets, and switch plates. A dimmer switch will work wonders in a nursery.

The last step was the closet doors and blinds. Bi-fold just seemed the best way to go for better access, and the white blinds appealed to my “less is more” philosophy.

 

This Baby Boy Needs A Name

The anticipation of a new #baby brings many new trials and tribulations. Our latest conundrum is choosing a name. My wife and I have been over this issue many times. At one point, I proposed an idea. “How about putting a bunch of names up on the blog and see what others think?” To my surprise, she laughed and agreed.

In my family, we always name children after grandparents. My dad was Francis and my father-in-law was George. We’ve been kicking around different combinations, but I must admit feeling exhausted from the process.

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Of course, there is always the Catholic tradition of selecting a name from a Saint’s feast day. If he’s born on St. Patrick’s Day then he gets to share his name with the Saint, and that Saint becomes his guardian.

Time is running out. There’s only about 7 – 8 weeks left before (baby boy name) emerges into this world.

 

Cast your vote from among these variations and a few others

 

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R.I.P. Greg Lake

Way back in the 1970’s, I put my first album by Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) on a turntable and was summarily hooked. It wasn’t long before my collection grew, as did my taste for bands with unusually long songs considered unfit for top 40’s radio. Only late night FM DJ’s would occasionally risk playing such material.

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Photo by Jean Luc and used under CC License

The amazing Bass and Guitar playing by Greg Lake will be missed. Of course along with musicianship came his ability to write timeless classics. Gone are the days when I used to play passages over and over from an album, trying desperately to copy those notes on my guitar.

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s self-titled first album was a brazen and loud announcement to the world that rock music had evolved into a higher realm. I remember teaching a music appreciation class back when I was still with the NYC Department of Education. Naturally the textbook assigned mostly dealt with classical, folk, and jazz music. However, the last chapter did make mention of notables from rock. Of course, Emerson Lake & Palmer warranted a few paragraphs.

There are many ELP songs and full albums on You Tube. If you’re not familiar with their music, have a listen and try to understand the depth of our collective loss. Remember ELP was one of those classic rock progressive bands that didn’t just make songs; they made albums. And those albums explored particular musical themes and subject matter.

Thank you, Greg Lake for all of your creative energy, which not only entertained, but also amazed. You were more than a musician, composer, and lyricist. You were a pioneer who transported your fans into other realms.

DO GO – LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!  Tell me about your fond memories of Greg Lake.

P.S. I know all about Greg’s time and legacy with King Crimson as well. But for me, he’ll always be the “L” in ELP.

Click the Pic below and go to Ernesto San Giacomo’s AMAZON author page.

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Did Your NaNoWriMo Dreams Come True This Year?

This year’s #NaNoWriMo was both a success and a miserable failure.

I caught a particularly nasty flu, one like I’ve never experienced before. This illness literally put me down for 12 days. Although I tried to write, it affected my attention span. Only about 250 words got pumped out during that time. However, I did manage about 6K, and that was enough.

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Courtesy of NaNoWrimo.com

Usually the NaNoWriMo event calls for completing a novel and hitting the golden 50K word count. Well I was out to finish a draft that was started a year earlier. The Frozen War is the title of the second book of my forthcoming fantasy series The Tales of Tyrennia.

My writing procedure is quite different from other authors. Typically an author writes an exhaustive first draft, and then refines by cutting large amounts. I simply do not operate that way. My goal is to get the story down on paper. Sometimes that means it is hardly a novel at the end. I tend to shy away from calling it a first draft, rather, I prefer to call it Version 0.5.

In college, my creative writing courses were in screen-writing. Perhaps that is the reason why I produce copious amounts of dialog without any exposition, description, or body language. For those of you who write, it should be easy to see how 10-15 pages of dialog can turn into 35 pages later.

NaNoWriMo 2016 is over and so is draft 0.5 of The Frozen War, which roughly stands at 104 pages and about 22K words. However, it will be shelved for a while as I complete the editing of book oneThe Tales of Tyrennia: An Easterly Sojourn.

Did your NaNoWriMo dreams come true this year?

How does my Writing procedure differ from yours?

Click the Pic Below and go Straight to AMAZON

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Trump: “Because You’d be in Jail.”

I keep seeing many postings on Facebook and Twitter concerning this retort by Donald Trump during the 2nd Presidential Debate. The on-line “chatter” concerns the scary premise that if elected to the Presidency, the evil Donald Trump will exact justice against political opponents by tossing them en masse into jail like a third world dictator.

Anyone espousing such a ridiculous interpretation is either a fork-tongued devil or a blithering idiot.

As of today, as I write these words, we already have a third world, corrupt Justice System. The FBI, DOJ, and IRS are supposed to be free and independent of politics. However, after seven years of the Obama administration, they have become corrupt servants of the Washington insider ruling elite class. Donald Trump didn’t create this situation, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did.

Anyone who saw the FBI news conference by James Comey knows that the DOJ should have indicted Hillary Clinton. The evidence then was overwhelming and subsequent leaks have dramatically revealed more of the underhanded and foul deeds of the U.S. State Department during Clinton’s tenure.

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Donald Trump By Gage Skidmore used under CC License

A few days before the news conference, Bill Clinton had a clandestine meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch. We’ll never know what was said during that time. However, it is plainly obvious that some type of deal was struck.

Now you know the backstory. Let’s return to the original quote: “Because you’d be in jail.” Notice that in the context of the debate, he is talking just to Hillary, a plainly guilty person. What he’s really saying is, “If I were President, your guilty ass would be in jail. Because a Justice system under my administration wouldn’t let the guilty go free simply because they have friends in high places.” Most right-thinking Americans would agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.

However, some are using social media to loosely interpret the quote as “When I’m President, I’m going to toss you in jail whether you’re guilty or not, simply because I don’t like you.” Of course, the only two reasons for spreading such a misleading interpretation are 1) The poster is a blithering idiot who doesn’t understand the complexities and subtleties of the English language. 2) The poster understands the true meaning but takes the opportunity to twist words around intentionally like a fork-tongued devil.

Sorry, I know I don’t usually rant over these political nonsense games. However, obfuscating the obvious really gets under my skin.Therefore, the next time you see someone playing this game, send them over here for an education.

The Power of a Single Word

As a Conservative/Libertarian, I usually aggravate many people because my desire for level-playing-fields. Now here’s one concerning an issue that I can no longer ignore. I must insist upon voicing my proverbial two-cents.

I see the word “Mafia” thrown around a lot. My basic question is why must the Italian word be used? Of course the true expression is “Organized Crime.” It existed within the borders of the U.S. long before Italian immigration, and around the world.

However, in the hyper-sensitive-garbled-disjointed-asinine-workings of the Politically Correct Mind, they refuse to see their hypocrisy and ridiculousness, when they say things like…Chinese Mafia, Russian Mafia, Jewish Mafia, Mexican Mafia…and so on. Yes, I’ve seen and heard them use such terms many times. They also don’t care about such expressions as “spaghetti western,” but that is the subject for another post. I have touched on this subject in a previous post entitled Why I’m Not A Liberal.

I just saw a Facebook Post concerning the “Book Review Mafia.” I throw my hands up and look to the heavens in disbelief.

In the spirit of fairness and equity

I’m going to create a verbal level-playing-field. I will use the Arabic words (as best as I can transliterate) Irhabi (Terrorist), Irhabin (Terrorists), and Irhab (Terrorism) from now on. Of course the politically correct and tolerant Liberals will have a collective case of apoplexy and start screaming terrible rants in my direction. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.

Of course I will even use the Arabic to describe those Irhabin organizations from parts of the world that have nothing to do with Islamic or Arabic society or culture. Do I sound ridiculous? Well, referring to the IRA as an Irish Irhab Organization is no more nonsensical than saying “Chinese Mafia.”

Naturally, a level-playing-field and fairness are the last things the PC police want or care about. I voiced my objection many times as to their lack of sensitivity only to be rebuffed. The PC police simply do not care. Therefore, I no longer care about how many PC automatons turn plaid in anger, stomp their feet, and throw hissy fit tantrums.

You know you’ve done it too

I know some of the most decent, caring, and well-intentioned people have committed the errors that I’ve stated above. Don’t worry; I don’t think less of you. I’ve just become too accustomed to it over the years. However, if this post makes one person stop and think, then my job has been well done.

Have you ever casually thrown the word “Mafia” around?