Friday, December 31, 2010

A The Squirrel Can Cook Classic – Baked Sesame Chicken & Fried Rice

(Today's The Squirrel Can Cook is a classic repeat recipe from May 2009. It also happens to be what I'm fixing for dinner tonight. Happy New Year, everyone!)

Where last week’s recipe was all about the Hot & Spicy, this week we’ve got Subtle & Savory in store. This is my take on a recipe that Mom has made for years. She fixes it with white wine, were I use chicken broth, and I added the sesame oil, for that subtle Asian flavor.

Note: All photographs (Here you go, Fred!) show a half-recipe that I fixed for Mrs. Squirrel and me last Saturday. I guess, if I’m going to include pictures, that Friday’s recipe will usually reflect the prior Saturday’s dinner. This means that you may get the occasional frozen pizza recipe!

Our ingredients today are:

4 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
2 cups of rice (regular white rice – don’t use “minute” type rice --- ever! For anything! Blech!)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

First we have to fry our rice. Heat your stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the 4 cups of rice. Mix thoroughly so that all rice is coated with oil, add another tablespoon of oil, if needed. Then stir slowly until the rice is a nice toasty brown color (close to the color of a brown paper shopping bag.)

In a large covered baking dish, mix the chicken broth, sesame oil, soy sauce. Now, the fun part! Spoon the fried rice into the chicken broth mixture… ah, nice hiss and a cloud of steam! Add the sesame seeds, and give it a stir. Then arrange the chicken breast on top of the rice. Everything will be mostly submerged under the chicken broth, with sesame seeds floating on top.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the cover and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is nicely browned.

Serve with the veggie of your choice, and enjoy.

The Squirrel shall not live by nuts alone!

post signature

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 12/30/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

This story is quite shocking and all too sad. No one knows what drove him to take this action. He must have been a tortured soul... tormented by things nobody around him could see. Was there no one to ask him, "Are you all right?" So, next time you see a squirrel, offer him a nut. Tell him he's got something to live for. Show him that you care.

Okay, this is embarrassing. It seems that, since 1922, the Utah state flag has broken the law. No, really. It seems that the design is laid out in state law, but that a 1922 hand-sewn flag got it wrong. All flags since then have copied the incorrect flag. Well, State Representative Julie Fisher has vowed to put it right! Fight on, Rep. Fisher! Heaven forbid that you actually take on something tough...

We've all laughed at some of the warning labels and legal disclaimers we find on certain products. Things like, "Do not drive with sunshield in place." (On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard) Or, "Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish." (On a bottle of shampoo for dogs) Or, "May irritate eyes." (On a can of self-defense pepper spray) Or, "Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice." (On a box of rat poison (Really wondering who paid for that study... and why?)) Now, just when you think they've covered everything, it looks like we'll have to go back and put "Do not try this at home" on certain 1980's video games...

Have you ever had those haunting thoughts that you've forgotten something important? Or woken up in a panic, sure that you were supposed to be somewhere? Have you ever actually overslept and missed an important meeting or event? Pastor Stefan Widman has. In fact, he missed Christmas services at his church. Really. This is really the stuff of pastoral nightmares...

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

post signature

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 12/24/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

In the "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" file, we find this headline: Men rescue trapped deer, get fined. One of the brightest things about humanity is the risks that people are willing to take for others, even for animals. I would never require public safety officials to put themselves at risk to save an animal, but when private individuals freely choose to put themselves at risk, I don't think they should be punished for it. Liberty must include the freedom to take risks, or it is not liberty at all.

Weather delays last weekend caused many passengers to become stranded in airports across Europe. German transportation officials chose to send in the clowns to help folks pass the time. I have two observations: First, while clowns are creepy, I applaud the Germans for taking steps to keep folks entertained. It has a practical side, since, by keeping folks busy, they probably cut down on incidents brought on by people's frustrations with the travel delays. Second, I don't think it would work here, as American airports have too many clowns working in them already...

Most of the time, one-car accidents don't make the national news. But, when you crash your car in the front yard of a former president, you're going to make the news. The driver claims that his accelerator became stuck. As far as I've been able to discover, there is no truth to the rumors that there was a Gore/Liberman2000 sticker on the bumper of the 1970's Cougar, but witnesses claim that "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac was blaring from the car's sound system...

Pareidolia strikes again. Not a grilled-cheese sandwich this time, but melted wax on a candle. Many shapes can be perceived in the random patterns caused by clouds in the sky, ripples on water, etc. People really need to be a lot less gullible, I think. (That applies to a lot more than just this issue...)

In the 1970's, the Soviets introduced the Zhiguli, a car that would come to typify the industrial backwardness of Soviet Russia for the next 20+ years. Known as the Lada in export markets, the Zhiguli was a knock-off of a 1970 Fiat design, but without the Fiat's... refinements (not that Fiat was known for fine automobiles in the 1970. Indeed, Mercedes and Lexus aren't looking over their shoulders today because of Fiat, either.) To give you some idea about people's attitude towards the Zhiguli, I recount to you these jokes that I heard in high school in the early 1980's: Q: Do you know what Zhiguli owners dream about? A: Getting a speeding ticket. || A man walks into an auto part store, and can't find what he's looking for, and goes up to the clerk, "Could I get a pair of wiper blades for my Zhiguli?" The clerk thinks a minute, then says, "Okay, it's a deal." || Q: What do you call a Zhiguli at the top of a hill? A: A miracle. Well, it seems like things have changed in the world of Russian automobiles! I think this car will set you back a bit more than a pair of wiper blades!

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

post signature

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 12/18/2010

A Saturday Nut Special

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

I can't tell you how many people sent me links to this story! (Rachael Starke was the first, that much I'm sure of, but hat tips all 'round!) Now, honestly, can anyone really blame the squirrel for his reaction? I mean, who likes to get barged in on while they are in the bathroom? How rude! (And then there's the fact that the cop needed backup to deal with a squirrel... I'm seeing new required courses at police academies in every state except Hawaii) (Hawaii has no squirrels, so it isn't an issue there... just FYI...)

It is Christmas time, and, around our land, the scenes of Christmas are everywhere: Children building snowmen in the yard; Christmas trees at city halls and county courthouses; and, on the streets of Santa Maria, California, cowboys lassoing reindeer... It seems that a reindeer (name withheld for privacy reasons) escaped from the Hopper Brothers' Christmas tree lot in the early morning hours of December 9th. Unlike certain police officers, the cowboy who responded didn't call for backup, he just roped that reindeer and tied her up to a lamp post. After saving the day, he rode off into the sunset. Bystanders were heard to say, "Who was that masked man?"

" was the huge, unblinking eyes that made a Washington state trooper suspicious..." Yes, it is true, using your kids doll in an attempt to use the carpool lane while driving by yourself is a bad idea, as an unidentified Seattle driver recently discovered. I ask you, what does this man's actions teach his children about obeying the laws? "The driver was cited for the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane violation." Well, at least he can show his kids what happens to people who break the law...

In the Advice to Weirdos category: be sure to check the cemetery for security cameras before getting naked. (Better yet, just please keep your clothes on...) Turns out the weirdo photographed naked by security cameras in a Mississippi grave yard was just trying to take pictures of spirits. I'm wondering, myself, about the type and quantity of spirits involved...

A few weeks ago, I decried the costs involved in the modern wedding. Now, from Illinois, comes the story of a woman who laid out $95,942 in wedding preparations. Her fiancée called off the wedding, and she wants her money back. So she's suing him for reimbursement of her expenses ($30,000 for a banquet center rental, $12,000 for flowers, $10,000 for the orchestra and nearly $5,400 for wedding dress, etc. (An orchestra? Really?)) The lawsuit paperwork delivered to the ex-groom also included a note which said, "Please be advised that I am not still willing to marry you." Dude, even if you lose, I think you might just be better off without this one... (Oh, and, yeah, she's a lawyer...)

I've done weddings in churches and in rented halls. I've been to weddings in parks and in private homes. Never heard of a wedding in a diner before, but I like it. I like it for many reasons: 1) the diner is the bride and grooms favorite hang-out, and they have spent a lot of time learning about each other there; 2) the wedding certainly cost a lot less than $95,942; and 3) everything goes well with bacon and eggs!

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

post signature

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Squirrel Still Needs Your Help!

I am so very grateful for the support I have received towards going to the Shepherds’ Conference in March of 2011! As of today, I have received donations totaling $608 towards my goal of $1000! Thank you so very much to all who have so generously contributed!

These donations are tax deductible donations to Superior Baptist Church's Pastor's Conference Fund, and there's still time to get yours in before 2010 ends.

If you would like to help, please send your check to:
Superior Baptist Church
Pastor’s Conference Fund
PO Box 850
Superior, MT 59872
Make sure that you write "Pastor's Conference Fund" in the memo line on the check, or you can click the PayPal link in the sidebar.

My Budget:
  • Conference – $300
  • Fuel down and back – $300
  • 5 nights hotel – $400
  • 9 days food ($20/day) –$180
  • Total est. cost = $1180.00

post signature

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Squirrel Can Cook - Ham & Bean Soup

It is winter. And, here in the woods, we’ve been enduring wintery weather for many weeks now. When the weather is cold and blustery, nothing hits the spot quite like a nice hot bowl of soup. My two favorite soups are vegetable beef and ham & bean. Sometime soon, we’ll make a batch of vegetable beef soup, but, today, we’re going to have some ham & bean soup.

(If you’re daring, you can ask Mrs. Squirrel about the time, when we were still dating, when I went to her place for an evening of television after I’d been enjoying several days of my Mom’s ham & bean soup. She married me anyway…)

Our ingredients are:
6 cups of dried beans (I used a mix of beans I had in my pantry; everything from kidney beans to pinto beans to navy beans.)
2 pounds of cooked ham, diced.
2 onions, chopped fine
1 cup of chopped celery
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of The Squirrel’s Low-sodium Cajun Spice Blend
3 14-oz cans of chicken broth
2 cups of water (well, with all the soaking and rinsing and such, you'll likely need lots more than 2 cups of water -- but 2 cups is what you'll need for the final soup preparation...)

First, measure out, wash, and soak your beans overnight. Place the washed beans in a large bowl and fill with cold water to a depth of 2 to 3 inches above the level of the beans. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. I like to soak beans for 8 to 10 hours.

After they’ve soaked, it is time to cook the beans. The beans really need to cook a good long time; 2 ½ to 3 hours total. Drain the beans and give them a good rinse, then place them in a large stock pot. Fill it with cold water until water covers the beans to a depth of 2 inches. Over medium-high heat, bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. When they’re just starting to boil, reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 1 ½ hours.

After 1 ½ hours, remove the beans from the heat, drain, rinse well with cold water, and return to the stock pot.

Sauté the onions, celery and garlic, and add to the beans, along with the diced ham. Then add the 3 cans of chicken broth and the two cups of water. Stir thoroughly, and heat over medium-high heat, just until it starts to boil. Reduce heat, stir, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir well every 15 minutes or so.

After an hour, serve and enjoy! Makes more than enough for the aforementioned 3-days worth of soup…

The Squirrel shall not live by bread NUTS alone!

post signature

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 12/9/2010

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

Everybody always wonders what to serve at the holiday family gatherings. Should we have turkey again this year? Or maybe a roast? Or something else? And our helpful grocers are always ready with a suggestion or two. Most of the time, the suggestions are very good, but, other times... Well... Let's just say that not all suggestions are created equal. Like suggesting a nice boneless, spiral cut ham as "Delicious for Chanukah." (h.t. Speli)

News from the front lines of the Great Rodent Uprising: It shouldn't come as any surprise that squirrels like trees. They're our homes, our playgrounds, our refuges. Sure, we'll put up with a bird house or two, and maybe a treehouse for the kids. And we don't mind the Christmas lights -- Really, we don't. We just don't want you to leave them up all year... at least not without suitable financial recompense. We're not grinches, or anything like that. We just require a little respect, is all. You disregard this warning, and you'll be sorry!

Okay, this is a bit creative: Most people don't care for snakes. (I don't mind snakes, but I certainly don't like snakes... If you like snakes, that's your business. I don't need to know.) Some drug dealers, it seems, are using peoples dislike of snakes as a form of protection. Recently, Italian police had to deal with a large snake who was guarding a stash of cocaine. The article said, "Officers had to feed the snake a whole chicken to prevent it from attacking." Sounds like a good deal for the snake. For the chicken? Not so much...

Rat curry is not normally on the menu in the dining hall at Rajshahi University in Bangladesh. (Nor will rat curry ever be featured in any The Squirrel Can Cook posts...) But a recent rat infestation coupled with a student's claim to have found a rat head in his chicken curry prompted demonstrations by hundreds of angry students demanding punishment for the chef. The chef, it seems, has been suspended, and is under investigation by the police. After all the cases of weird things that people have claimed to have found in their food that have turned out to be hoaxes, I'm wondering if this isn't some college prank gone awry. Does seem like they've got a rat problem, though. I wonder if they could borrow that python from those Italian drug dealers?

Well, here's a restaurant who's seasonal menu isn't a hoax. The Caffe Boa in Tempe, Arizona, is offering an all-reindeer menu for Christmas. Now, I've eaten a lot of antelope, deer and elk, growing up in Montana. I've even had some reindeer. Mighty tasty stuff, if you ask me. I think I'd get along just fine with the folks at the Caffe Boa. It seems that, last Easter season, they had an all-bunny menu. Yup, I like these folks!

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

post signature

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

69 Years Ago

69 years ago today, shortly before 8:00 a.m. local time, the Japanese attacked, and World War II began in earnest for the United States.

Sometime today, I'll watch Tora! Tora! Tora!. In my opinion, the best depiction of the attack on film.

National Geographic has a great page of Pearl Harbor stuff. (h.t. ThreeGirlDad)

post signature

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Squirrel's Nut Cache - 12/4/2010

A Saturday Nut Special!

The Nut Cache - a collection of recent things I found interesting, or amusing, or nutworthy.

I don't know how many stories like this I've documented since I began doing the Nut Cache, I'd have to go back and count. But, in less than 2 years, I think this is the fourth or fifth. Once again, a druggie has sent a text message to law enforcement trying to set up a drug deal. In this case, a 26-year-old Indiana man sent a text to a woman in the prosecutor's office... to predictable results. This seems to be a growing problem among drug dealers. Yup, that's why they call it dope...

This used to be a free country. Now, don't get me wrong! I'm very much against animal cruelty, but coloring your pet's fur isn't cruel! Oh, it may be in bad taste, but it isn't cruel. It certainly isn't worth a $225 fine. However, it seems that animal control officials in Florida disagree. Christine Hill died her dog's paws pink for Halloween, and the law found out! Bam! Citation time! (Call me an alarmist, but I see this as another warning sign of a coming police state in America.)

Since 1984, economists at PNC Wealth Management have calculated the cost of the gifts enumerated in The Twelve Days of Christmas. This year sees a rise of 9.2% over last year, to a grand total of $23,439.38. This is just about double the 1984 cost of $12,673.56. I don't see this as a real economic indicator so much as an obsession over a really stupid Christmas song...

Speaking of things that cost too much... I am astonished at the cost of weddings these days. Wedding dresses costing multiple thousands of dollars, huge catered meals, etc. A recent series of events threatened Melissa Conley's dream wedding just weeks before her walk down the aisle: her two wedding dresses where destroyed in a fire, the bride's maids dresses were lost, and the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner was scheduled closed. She scrambled and got everything put back together. The wedding is supposed to be today. (Really, I think the whole "perfect wedding" thing needs to be rethought, especially in these tough economic times. But, next year, thousands of young girls are going to watch Prince Harry's wedding on television, and a whole new set of "princess" expectations will be born...)

I'm not a pilot, but I am a long-time aircraft enthusiast, I'm friends with several pilots, and I've spent an hour or two on Microsoft Flight Simulator (and, most recently, Orbiter2010 Space Flight Simulator). I know that, in this post-9/11 world, two of the things you really need to pay attention to is 1) instructions from air traffic control and 2) restricted airspace in your area of operation. Recently, an unidentified student pilot, on a solo flight at the controls of a Cessna 172, learned he had failed to pay attention to both of those things when he looked out his window to see two F-16's on his wing. He was flying over Washington, DC (That's one of those places that you just don't fly over), and air traffic control was unable to raise the plane on the radio. After the fighters got his attention, the pilot landed the plane as instructed. The article didn't say if the FAA considered this a successful solo flight...

And the Nuttiness goes on and on...

post signature