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  • Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?)

    [C] Five foot two, [E7] eyes of blue, but [A7] oh what those five feet could do!

    Has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my [C] gal? [G7]

    [C] Turned up nose, [E7] turned down hose, [A7] flapper, yes sir, one of those!

    Has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my [C] gal? [G7]

    Now [E7] if you run into a five-foot-two all [A7] covered in fur;

    [D7] diamond rings, and all those things, [G7] bet your life it isn’t her.

    [C] But could she love, [E7] could she coo, [A7] could she, could she cootchie-coo!

    Has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my [C] gal?

    Has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my,

    has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my,

    has [D7] anybody [G7] seen my [C] gal?

    Posted on July 30th, 2011jackStrum Me
  • Apple Cider Donuts

    I made some apple cider donuts while out on the cape at Dave’s this year. They were pretty delicious. I worked from a few different recipes I found online. These are cake-style donuts rather than yeast, which is fine with me.

    Makes something like 15-20 donuts and holes. Helena color-corrected the christ out of this photo; the donuts in fact turn out much less orange and more brown than this.

    Ingredients

    • 2 c apple cider
    • 3 1/2 c flour, plus addition for rolling/cutting
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • 4 tbs butter
    • 1 c granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 c buttermilk
    • A lot of vegetable oil for frying
    • Several tbs extra apple cider and ~2 c confectioners sugar for the icing

    Process

    Reduce the 2 c apple cider in a saucepan to aproximately 1/4 c over medium heat (turning eventually to low). Other recipes use regular or slightly reduced cider; I decided to go stronger and I think it served me well. Let it cool off while you do the rest.

    Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Separately cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the reduced apple cider and buttermilk, then the eggs, then finally the dry ingredients, mixing just until well incorporated.

    Line a baking sheet with wax paper and sprinkle it with flour. Spread the dough evenly out onto the sheet in a layer not less than 1/2 inch thick. I think mine was a little thin in places and that those donuts didn’t turn out quite as well. Chill it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.

    Take it out of the freezer and cut out donuts and holes, about 3 inches for donuts and not more than an inch for holes. I used a drinking glass and a cap piece from a drink shaker.

    Chill the cut donuts more while you heat up a bunch of oil in a pan. I don’t think you have to use a big pan here — no reason to rush through frying the donuts and you’ll save oil by going smaller diameter — except insofar as you need to be able to flip and pull your donuts from the oil, so you have to be able to get under them well. The oil in the pan needs to be ~2 inches deep to allow the donuts to fluff up well, so start at least that deep and if in the process of cooking it gets shallow you’ll need to add more and wait for it to heat up. Heat the oil to roughly 350F, which should be between medium and medium-high on most stoves. You don’t want badly smoking oil here, but it should pop if you flick water droplets at it.

    Put the donuts and holes in carefully, and turn them after 30-60 seconds when they’re browned on the bottom. Pull them after another 30-60. Start with your holes so you can experiment and get the oil temp right. The secret to good frying is good drip time. If they sit in their own oil and get cold they’ll get soggy; optimally you’d have them in a fry basket over the heat so the oil drips and evaporates well, but more likely you’ll need to use a colander and some paper towels underneath and put cooled ones on other paper towels before putting new dripping ones on top.

    The glaze is easy; mix confectioners sugar into a few tablespoons of cider until you get a good consistency. I obviously went thick and dipped only the tops (I actually double-dipped them once the glaze had hardened a bit); you could also go thinner and/or dip the whole things in.

    Posted on September 1st, 2010jackCook Me
  • Helena’s Clock

    Helena’s wall needed still more decoration so we made her a clock.

    She ordered the motor and hands online. We cut abstract clippings that resembled numbers (however vaguely) from a recent High Fructose (HF, along with Juxtapoz, is where I get most of the crazy illustration I use making wallets). She got little frames to put them in, and just cut a random shape out for the middle to cover the ugly clock motor. The clock turned out really awesome (kind of a crappy picture ’cause of artificial light). It was much more her nice work than mine.

    Posted on August 18th, 2010jackMake me
  • Helena’s Sun Mural

    Helena’s new room is big, bright, and yellow. To take up some of the wall space, we decided to paint a pretty sun. I designed it in Illustrator and used a cardboard curve for the rays and a string anchored in the corner for the concentric circles all the way out. The colors were pretty splotchy to start so we had to use at least 3 or 4 coats everywhere to get it pretty looking.

    The original design

    Doing some painting

    And… finished

    Posted on July 14th, 2010jackMake me
  • Pan-Fried Crab Cakes, Traditional-Style

    I cooked at seafood restaurants for three years in high school, and I made a damned fine crab cake. But when I went to make them recently, I realized I no longer knew our old recipe, so I had to try to rebuild it from the ground up. Based on rough memory and some experimentation, I worked up this recipe that I and everyone who had them thought was pretty damned good. These are simple — just enough to make them solid, and none of the extra crap you find in a lot of recipes on the net — which means you can actually taste the crab, and it’s delicious. Buy good, fresh crab, please!

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb fresh crab meat
    • 1/4 c finely grated parmesan (I used the finest grain on my grater, then crumbled more by hand)
    • 1/4 c plain bread crumbs or finely crumbled ritz crackers
    • a big pinch of fresh, finely chopped parsely
    • juice of 1/2 lemon (I used nick’s actual juicer, so for squeezers-by-hand it might be a little more)
    • 1 large egg and the yolk of one more egg, beaten
    • splash worcestershire
    • old bay seasoning to taste, about 1 tbsp
    • something pretty to garnish with, like a bed of greens or finely sliced scallion rings
    Process

    If you have unshredded crab meat (that is, in chunks like it was just pulled out of a crab) skip the white on BOTH eggs (e.g. use two yolks) , or it may be runnier than you’d like. Mix everything together. It should be fluffy but compact well when you squeeze it. There’s some hand work here I think is important but which I can’t describe very well: basically, make a big ball, squeeze it firmly with two hands, turn it a bit in your hands, squeeze more, and repeat. Gradually compact it down from a ball to a cake. Don’t make a thin patty; you’ll be better off if your cake is only about twice as large in diameter as it is tall, but also relatively flat on the top and bottom so it fries well.

    Put enough vegetable oil in a pan to create a good solid layer on the bottom, but not a deep pool, and heat it up to medium-high. Fry the cakes just until crispy and brown on the bottom, then carefully flip and repeat. If these were done in a frialator you’d want to give them good drip time over the heat, letting them sit in the basket for at least solid minute before plating them (this is the key to good deep frying of anything, otherwise they taste greasy and get soft rather than staying crispy). We don’t really have that option at home without rigging up a complicated system of some sort (cooling rack?), so at the very least least pat them firmly but carefully with paper towels.

    Posted on June 13th, 2010jackCook Me
  • Paisley Cheesecakes

    Last year my dad’s side of the family decided that rather than the typical overfed smorgasboard of a christmas dinner, we’d each prepare a really nice course as part of a delicious multicourse meal. I’m in charge of desert. Last year, it was souffles. This year, I decided to make paisley-shaped cheesecakes with fruit reductions. They worked out pretty well.

    The most time consuming part is the molds. I got disposable aluminum pans (the stiffest kind you can find is impoortant — thinner ones will bend during cooking), cut off the sides, rolled them flat with a rolling pin (most come with various indentations), cut them into 11” X 2″ strips, stapled the ends together, and shaped them like paisley patterns.

    The cheesecakes themselves are relatively easy. I used the incredibly well reviewed recipe from Allrecipes.com, Chantal’s New York Cheesecake, but modified to use goat cheese in lieu of cream cheese. The recipe is below. You just need to grease and then pack the molds carefully with a good crust (since unlike a typical springform pan they obviously lack a bottom), bake that for 10 minutes, let it cool, then pour the mix in to spec, then let the cheesecakes cool and refrigerate them until firmly chilled.

    You’ll note that a few of the cheesecakes in these pictures are shorter than others. I had extra mix, so I also made a regular cheesecake in a springform pan, and then cut out paisley shapes using a mold like a cookie cutter. This works quite well and simplifies the process, although it winds up wasting a good deal of cheesecake.

    Ingredients (makes one standard cheesecake — multiply or divide for your molds)

    large disposable aluminum pans

    15 graham crackers, or graham cracker crumbs
    2 tablespoons butter, melted

    32 oz goat cheese (you can sub cream cheese for some or all of this to save $)
    1 1/2 cups white sugar
    3/4 cup milk
    4 eggs
    1 cup sour cream
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour

    Prep

    Cut the sides off your aluminum pans, then roll them perfectly flat with a rolling pin. You may be able to use the sides as well depending on your shapes and pans. Cut into strips (I used 11”X2”; I would go shorter next time; 2” is a tall cheesecake), then staple the ends together and shape like paisley, or whatever shape you want. Grease them well. Also grease a flat baking sheet. Pre-heat your oven to 350°. Crush graham crackers.

    Process

    Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press firmly into molds, compacting with a spoon and/or fingers. Make sure crusts are thick enough everywhere to keep mix from spilling out the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes; don’t let them burn. Let them stand to cool.

    In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.

    Pour filling into your molds, holding the edges down to prevent warping and make sure they don’t leak from the bottom (much — they probably will a little). Fill close but not right to the tops.

    Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If they start to brown or crack turn oven off immediately. Let them cool for a while and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to make sure they’re quite firm. With a butter knife, carefully separate edges from molds, and ease molds up carefully to remove.

    Decorate however you want; I made two different fruit reductions and used squeeze bottles to apply. Alternatively, you could make a jelly and pour it on top before removing the molds, or chocolate, or whatever.

    The reductions are quite simple; I made one using just frozen blueberries, mashed and strained, and one using Red Monster Naked Juice (mango also works well, but I’ve tried a few other flavors and I don’t think they’re as good for this); just simmer the juice until thick, let it cool, and load it into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate before applying. It keeps for months when refrigerated.

    Posted on December 28th, 2009jackCook Me
  • Sky Barons: WW1-Style Flying/Dogfighting for the iPhone

    These are some shots of the iPhone game I’m working on. The game is designed to use the iPhone’s accelerometer like a virtual flight stick–you pull back, the plane pitches up; you angle left, the plane rolls left. The premise is a ridiculous false history: instead of entering WW1, President Wilson calls for a massive international tournament of the air to decide the victor. The warring nations agree to abide by the treaty, each builds its own arena, and the best pilots in the world get sent to duke it out.

    Since I got my iPhone with the goal of building this game, a few other such apps have come out (XPlane, FAST), but I don’t find any of them very fun. For example, in FAST you just fly an F-22 in the open sky and launch heat seeking missiles in the right general direction. It’s a lovely gane, but it gets kind of old. Sky barons is designed to let you swoop dramatically between obstacles and do ridiculous-nosedives-with-last-second-pullups with ease, all with the goal of putting a few shells through your opponent’s fusilage. It’s got online p2p combat and crazy complex courses like Germany’s “gauntlet” with swinging mines and turret guns, or the US “Southwest Canyon”, a snaking canyon/tunnel complex filled to the brim with dangerous stalagmites.

    I’m finishing up the single player stuff and need to finish out a good set of debut levels and then build all the multiplayer capabilities before release.






    Posted on December 1st, 2009jackMake me
  • Fractalicious: Fresh Spinach Noodles & Romanesco

    I have seen pictures of romanesco online for years but have never actually found any in stores. That’s okay — it’s really just like cauliflower, if you disregard the appearance. But isn’t it one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen? Good thing nick has a camera worthy of shooting its amazing fractals. I found some at my supermarket the other day and wanted to make something pretty with it, so I got my friend sam’s recipe for fresh pasta and made some broad spinach noodles to go with it.

    The pic shows the noodles served with sauteed garlic, romanesco floretes,  thinly sliced red pepper, coarsely chopped black chanterelle mushrooms, halved artichoke hearts, salt, and pepper plus grated parmesan. Sam’s fresh pasta recipe below serves 4 and does not require (although it’s a real time saver) a pasta maker.

    Ingredients

    3 c flour

    2 large eggs

    pinch salt

    water

    anything else you want; here, 12oz spinach and a few tsp parsley

    Process

    Depending on what you’re adding to the pasta (if anything), prepare the additional ingredient as necessary. I heated my spinach in a pan plain until it wilted, then squeezed it out as best as I could. Sam suggested that good additions are beat juice or basil and onion. Personally, I’d like to try pumpkin. Regardless, try not to make it too wet lest you ruin the recipe.

    In a food processor, mix the flour with any extra ingredients and the pinch of salt. Add the eggs. You should basically wind up with a gritty flour. Now drip water in very slowly until it all starts to stick together. Don’t add too much. It helps if like Sam you have a jet-engine cuisinart or a kitchenaid standup; my cheap chinese processor was getting stuck so I had to do a small bit of kneading to finish it off.

    Press the dough into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least a half hour and preferably the better part of a day or overnight. Then, let it sit for a while to get back to room temperature or it’ll be really hard to roll.

    If you’ve got a pasta maker, go for it. Otherwise, roll the dough out as long and thin as you can get it. Mine was a bit stiff, so I wound up cutting it smaller before rolling completely thin (obviously if there’s less dough surface area, the pressure you apply on the rolling pin is proportionally greater in each spot). Use a rotary cutter of some sort if you’ve got one to cut it into whatever width noodles you want. I went with very broad noodles ’cause they’re sexy. Make sure to separate the noodles some rather than letting them clump together.

    I heavily salted and oiled my boiling water before adding the noodles and stirred them aggressively while cooking so they wouldn’t stick. Fortunately, I had no problems, so maybe you don’t need to be quite as aggressive. They came out incredibly well and were really very delicious. Although I tested them for done-ness and didn’t keep exact time, cooking time was less than five minutes like most fresh pastas you might buy at a store.

    Posted on December 1st, 2009jackCook Me
  • Roasted Pears with Ginger and Mango

    Last summer while at my friend Dave’s place on cape cod I invented the best dessert ever: pears marinated and roasted in mango juice, ginger, and brown sugar, and served over vanilla ice cream. They’re always a hit and relatively healthy compared to most desserts. This is really simple, and the best part is that it scales like crazy; you can easily plate beautiful dessert for 20 people if you want. I’ll portion this recipe for four.

    Ingredients

    four pears (I usually go for bartletts)
    1 bottle of mango Naked juice (you can use some other mango juices, but a lot are thin and watery and should probably be reduced first, which is a pain).
    1 large ginger root
    1/4 c brown sugar
    vanilla ice cream for four

    Process

    You can fit four pears into a regular 8×10 baking dish (or use whatever you want; I’m just telling you what fits). Halve the pears and carve out the seeds, but don’t fully core them (in fact, leave the stems on, they look great). Put them face down in your baking dish. peel and mince (or food-processorize) the ginger, and mix it, the naked juice, and the brown sugar together in a sauce pan over medium heat for roughly 10 minutes to get the flavors homogenized. Let cool for a few minutes, then pour onto the pears. Try to make sure the ginger is spread out well and that the juice gets to the bottom of the pears, which won’t happen if they are to flat to the bottom of your dish. Marinate for 4-8 hours. It doesn’t hurt to periodically spoon the juice around to make sure the pears are well covered.

    Pre-heat your oven to 450 and roast the pears for roughly 40 minutes or until quite soft. More won’t hurt. Serve two scoops of ice cream in each bowl and put two pear halves on top, then drizzle the extra juice plus ginger on top of it all. Serve immediately.

    Posted on November 30th, 2009jackCook Me
  • How to Sear Scallops Perfectly (and easily)

    I learned a few important things when I worked in cheap tourist seafood restaurants in rural maine during high school. One of them was how to sear perfect scallops, which comes in handy because seared scallops are nearly my favorite food. It’s really easy; you just need to forget what you know about cooking meat and obey a few simple rules:

    1. Buy the biggest, freshest scallops you can. Okay, that’s no different from meat.
    2. Bring them to room temperature; if they are colder, they won’t cook through to the middle before burning on the outside.
    3. Be very, very careful with them. Rinse them, but rinse them carefully. If you don’t rinse them you run a small chance of your guests finding some sand or grit in their food.
    4. Pat them dry and let them sit between two towels to dry out well. Like with the temperature, if too much water has to evaporate they won’t cook well.
    5. Salt and pepper both sides liberally.
    6. Get a large pan as hot as it can possibly be on your stove. Thick or cast-iron pans will work better here, particularly if you’re on electric heat. Add a very small amount of olive oil and let it coat the pan lightly.
    7. Put the scallops in the pan evenly spaced out rather than crammed towards the middle (if you’ve let your pan get appropriately hot, the heat shouldn’t be especially concentrated at the middle anyway); they need their own sections of metal to get the surfaces as hot as possible.
    8. Leave them for between 2.5 (for very small scallops) and 4.5 (for extremely large scallops) minutes, then flip. Don’t flip them early; you can’t go back on these once you do; trust me, you won’t burn them if you just don’t touch them.
    9. The first side is not a science; it’s to see how quickly they’re cooking. The second side may require slightly more or (more commonly) slightly less, but you basically just need to look and see whether they look slightly more than half cooked or slightly less.
    10. Err on the side of pulling them early rather than late. Even with really large scallops, they’ll get chewy fast if you leave them on too long, and unless you’re an idiot you probably haven’t totally undercooked them.
    Also in this photo:
    • pomegranate reduction (get some pomegranate juice and reduce it on medium heat until it thickens substantially. invest in some squeeze bottles; they’re the best).
    • maple/bourbon butternut squash; seeded, peeled, salted, steamed for 15 minutes, then pan fried for another five with a mixture of (preferably good) maple syrup, bourbon, and a bit of molasses and nutmeg.
    • salad of baby spinach, thinly sliced red onion, sliced pear, gorgonzola, and cranberry with a simple lemon juice/olive oil/salt/pepper dressing (toss the baby spinach in the dressing then add the rest and toss lightly to keep everything else from getting too much dressing on it).
    Posted on November 29th, 2009jackCook Me
  • Dave’s Veggie Pot Pie Recipe

    Dave's Veggie Pot Pie Recipe (www.jackphelps.net)

    This is my friend Dave’s fantastic recipe for veggie pot pie, of which I made two for our annual “harvest dinner” party a few weeks ago.

    What makes this recipe so tasty is the phenomenal thyme/mushroom gravy, so I actually increased the proportions thereof and decreased the other filler ingredients. You should also feel free to not make the pies and simply use the gravy recipe for some other application; it’s well worth it.

    This recipe makes two pies. You should feel free to use store-bought crust if it’s simpler, although you’ll be missing out on a design opportunity (you don’t want to know what was on the crust of the other pie I made).

    Mushroom/Thyme Gravy (two pies)
    1/2 c olive oil
    5 medium onions, medium slices
    2 bunches fresh thyme
    7 c chopped mushrooms
    3/4 c flour
    1 1/2 c port (substitute sherry if necessary)
    6 c veggie or mushroom stock
    3/4 c soy sauce

    Saute onions in olive oil for roughly 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened; add thyme and mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well while continuing to saute, then add everything else and saute until reduced to a thick gravy.

    Pie Filling (two pies)
    3 medium potatoes
    2 medium onions, thinly chopped
    4 medium carrots, sliced to not-too-thick coins
    2 stalks celery, sliced
    1 1/2 c peas (frozen is fine and easiest)
    Olive oil
    salt
    Optional: more exotic mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, or bell peppers; you can also sub tofu in for some (not all) of the potatoes if you want a protein; just crumble it small.

    Peel, cube and then boil potatoes in salted water until mushy. Drain. Stir fry onions, carrots, peas and celery for a few minutes in olive oil to soften slightly. Add potatoes and mash everything together.

    Pie Crust (two crusts):
    1 tbs sugar
    4 cups flour
    2 cups shortening (butter flavored is preferable)
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 cup ice water
    1 egg
    1 tbs distilled white vinegar
    Grease two pie plates (glass typically cooks more evenly but metal is fine). In a large bowl, mix flour, shortening, sugar and salt; add vinegar, egg, water. Knead until homogeneous, then roll out and line the pie plates. Reserve the rest for tops and decorations.

    Pie Assembly:
    Each pie should have two layers each of filling and gravy (filling then gravy then filling then gravy). Then cover with crust and make sure to cut some slits in the top. A good cosmetic tip is simply to go around the edge with two fingertips on the inside and one on the outside between them to seal the top and make pretty waves (like this). Optimally, you’ll brush the pies lightly with egg white; then bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until nice and golden — they’re veggie so the timing is fairly flexible as long as you’ve softened the veggies beforehand.

    Posted on November 26th, 2009jackCook Me
  • Alice on my Wall

    I finally got around to painting Alice and the Cheshire Cat on my wall:

    It was really easy, it just took a few steps. Here’s how:

    Photoshop your image down to basic lines

    • Get a hip image, open it in Photoshop, and trim out all the junk until you’re down to just the part you want as the basis of your stencil (use the eraser or the select tool). I wound up cutting all the leaves out of mine to keep it clean.
    • Crank the contrast way up and adjust the brightness if you need (image > adjust > brightness/contrast)
    • Use a gaussian blur to reduce the detail (filter > blur > gaussian blur); you might have to play with how strong you want it; I think I had mine set at 5.6. For this step and the next the image size actually matters though, because they operate in absolute pixels rather than a relative scale.
    • Do a cutout to get the stencil look (filters > artistic > cutout); use 2 for the number of levels and play with the other two settings to get the level of detail you want. Because mine was so big, I used the lowest setting for ‘edge simplicity’ and the highest for ‘edge fidelity’.
    • If you need to run brightness/contrast again to get back to a simple black-and-white, do so. You might also want to invert the black and white of the image (image > adjust > invert) to make the next step easier, depending on your wall color.
    • If you need to do any touch-up (like my cheshire cat’s right eye, for example), you can either do it here or on the wall, depending on your free-hand skills.
    Project, trace, and paint the image
    • Project the image onto the wall. Be careful of the angle at which you project; if you don’t have enough room to project perfectly straight on (I mean really, some of us live in small nyc apartments) and your projector doesn’t have keystoning or ratio controls, you may want to adjust the image dimensions in photoshop first (edit > transform > perspective) to make sure that whatever angle you do project from doesn’t change the way the image looks on the wall. Note that mine wound up a little fat; I had to project from the diagonal corner of my room and I keystoned the image, but didn’t realize how much wider my projection was than my original.
    • Trace an outline of the image onto the wall. Just use a pencil, and just do your best to trace in line with where you’re actually going to want to paint so you don’t have pencil marks all over.
    • Paint! It doesn’t need to be perfect, and you can always make adjustments later. I don’t recommend using two highly contrasting colors unless you’re a really good painter; if you paint light-on-dark you may need two coats (what a pain!) and if you paint dark-on-light it will be hard to “erase” by painting the wall color over any screw-ups you make in the image.
    Posted on November 15th, 2009jackMake me