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Friday, August 4, 2023

Piggy Fries

The last time we were in the Fort Myer’s area, we ate more than once at Wahoo Willie’s Tiki Bar and Grill in Fort Myer’s Beach. One of the things I enjoyed on their menu was their Loaded Fries, a plate of fries covered with barbequed pork, barbeque sauce, shredded cheese and green onions. Basically a Southern version of poutine. It was delicious, but Fort Myer’s is a long way to go to satisfy a craving, so I came up with my own homemade version. It can be served as a meal, or as a group appetizer.

While I’m giving quantities below, you can adjust proportions and add or subtract ingredients to suit yourself.

650 grams straight-cut fries*

255 grams barbequed pulled pork+

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

barbeque sauce

Grate the cheese. Cook the fries according to the package directions. While they are cooking, heat up and shred the pulled pork.

Once the fries are cooked, either place them on a large platter (if you cook them on a large pizza pan, you can use that) or on 2 individual microwavable or ovenproof plates. Drizzle with barbeque sauce. Cover with pulled pork and drizzle with more barbeque sauce. Top with shredded cheese. Pop into the microwave or oven for a few seconds to melt the cheese.

Serves 2

* I used McCain Superfries Extra Crispy Straight Cut because I thought they’d be less likely to get soggy, but given the price (almost $7) for what was only two servings (I used the whole bag), I’d probably go with the store brand next time.

+I used Baton Rouge Fully Cooked BBQ Pulled Pork which came with its own barbeque sauce. I probably would use that again as the quantity was right and it was tasty.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Pineapple Date Bars


Another old recipe for you. I found this in Season’s Best Dishes by Mary Lee Taylor. Seems to have been one of those recipe books compiled to push a particular product, in this case Pet milk. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but it seems to have been similar to Carnation.

I was expecting a hard bar from this, but it came out more like a thin, fruit- and nut-studded sponge cake. I doubled the recipe because I don’t own an 8 x 12 inch shallow pan. By doubling, I was able to use an 11 x 17 cookie sheet. I also substituted regular milk for the evaporated as it didn’t seem worth opening a tin for such a small quantity. And I didn’t put in the nuts, as I had none on hand. It still came out.

1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
1 ½ cups chopped and pitted dates
2 cups chopped nuts
1 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease an 11 x 17 inch cookie sheet.

Mix, then let stand, pineapple, dates and nuts.

Sift together flour and baking powder.

In large bowl, beat egg yolks until very light. Gradually beat in sugar. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add flour, mixing until smooth.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in fruit mixture and egg whites to contents of large bowl.

Spread into greased cookie sheet. Bake until firm, about 35 minutes.

When cool, cut in 1 x 4 inch bars.

I haven’t tried it, but if you wanted a thicker cake, you could bake it in a 9 x 13 pan. Baking time would have to be adjusted upwards.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Microwavable Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls


We used to enjoy the breakfast bowls you could find in the grocery store freezer section. They generally contained egg and potato and some sort of meat and just needed to be popped in the microwave. But they’ve gotten harder to find and more expensive, and sometimes the meat is—well, let’s just say it’s more like TVP than actual sausage. So I started looking for ways to make my own.

I was inspired by the egg and sausage breakfast rolls on Lord Byron’s Kitchen. In fact, there are several excellent recipes on his site. But I had to tweak this and that to make it more to our taste and this ham version is one of the results. And cooking it in the microwave cuts down on the prep time.

While you can certainly use store-bought rolls (6 small submarine style or Kaisers would work well), I generally use this recipe for crusty French bread rolls and make it into 8 round rolls in a 9 x 13 pan. The torn-out interiors can then be used for making bread pudding.

6 or 8 crusty rolls
156 gram (5.5 ounces) tin of flaked ham
4 eggs
¼ cup milk
grated cheese for topping

Take off the top crust of each roll and hollow them out, leaving a good half inch of bread around the outside. I find it easiest to do this with a pair of kitchen scissors. Cut around the outer edge first, then cut underneath if the crust won’t just pull off. Use the scissors again to cut into the roll before tearing out the interior. Be careful. You don’t want holes where the egg mixture will run out. If you do make one, try patching with bread squished together.

Fill the bottom half of the rolls with the ham, pushing it into the corners.

Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the ham. Don’t overfill. Allow to sit a few minutes, then add more egg mixture if necessary.

Place 2 or 3 at a time on a microwavable plate and cover. In my microwave, 3 take 5 minutes on high to cook the egg, and 2 take 4 minutes.

Remove from microwave and cover with grated cheese.

They can be eaten as soon as the cheese melts, or you can let them cool and freeze them for later. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator and zap in the microwave to remelt cheese before serving.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Calorie-Free Citrus Iced Tea


This does have to be made ahead so the tea has time to cool down before serving, but the prep time is basically however long it takes the kettle to boil. If you’re worried about the use of artificial sweeteners, use one can of frozen orange drink or lemonade instead and as much boiling water as it takes to fill the pitcher. Of course, there will be calories with that variant.

4 tea bags (I’ve only tried it with orange pekoe)
8 cups boiling water
4 squirts lemonade-flavoured liquid water enhancer
2 squirts orange-flavoured liquid water enhancer

Place tea bags in bottom of two-quart pitcher. Fill up with boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes, then remove tea bags (a slotted serving spoon works well for this). I usually let it cool down on the counter before putting it in the fridge. Serve cold over ice.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Iced Mocha Coffee in Bulk


I like to have a pitcher of this on hand in the summertime. I generally use decaf coffee so I can enjoy it in the late afternoon without worrying about trouble sleeping at night.

4 tablespoons instant espresso
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
7 cups boiling water
1 cup coffee cream (10%)

In a 2-quart pitcher, combine espresso, sugar and cocoa. Whisk together with 2 cups of boiling water. Add the coffee cream and the rest of the boiling water, stirring as you go. Let cool and refrigerate. Serve over ice, stirring first as the cocoa tends to settle out.

Makes 8 cups/2 quarts

While I’ve used instant coffee to make this, of course you can make it with regular coffee instead of the powder and boiling water. Just make it up a bit on the strong side.

You get a richer flavour if you use 5 tablespoons of espresso, sugar and cocoa, but you’ll end up with a lot of sludge in the bottom of the pitcher no matter how much you stir it.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Alexandria Project by Kate Tompkins - Part One


One of mine. A light look at time travel from the perspective of undergrads in Classics.

* * * * *

“The Kessler twins have it sewn up,” said Brent. “Since their mother started talking about endowing two faculty positions, they’ve been getting straight A’s. The grad students are doing their course work for them.”

Brent, Georgia and I sat in our room in residence, drinking beer and moping. We needed an outstanding fourth-year project to get into grad school. Technically, we weren’t supposed to start work until the following September, but even the worst procrastinators in our class were already thinking about it.

Georgia stared into her beer. “That still leaves eight openings. If only we could find something really spectacular.”

“If only they hadn’t burned the Library of Alexandria,” I said. This is a standard classicist beef. The city of Alexandria had had a huge collection of scrolls on every conceivable subject, lost in 48 BC when Julius Caesar set fire to Ptolemy XIV’s fleet. If it had survived, we’d know a lot more than we do about the ancient Mediterranean. And if I’d been born rich, I wouldn’t be worrying about my fourth-year project—I’d be cruising the Greek islands on my yacht.

 “The Library of Alexandria,” Brent repeated. “My cousin Nate is a grad student in engineering. He’s working with Dr. Deeble on the time machine project.”

“That's been running 50 years,” said Georgia. “At least.”

“Yeah,” I said. “The only thing they’ve learned is how to waste time.”

“Nate agrees. He thinks Dr. Deeble’s theory is off-base. He’s been working on his own and he’s come up with a portable time machine.”

We stared. “Portable?” said Georgia. “How come no one’s heard about this?”

“He wants to keep it under wraps until he’s sure it works. He’s used a prototype on plants and lab rats. Now he needs test subjects who can bring back proof.”

“And how does this help us?” I said.

“We speak several dead languages. We’re familiar with ancient history. We’re the perfect test subjects.”

“Are you crazy? Why would we want to volunteer?”

“You said it yourself, Nikos. The Library of Alexandria,” said Brent. “If we could get there just before it burned...”

“...and take some of the books,” put in Georgia, “our future would be guaranteed and no one in the past would even know they were missing.”

“Exactly,” said Brent. “And Nate would get the fame he deserves.”

“And if it doesn’t work? If we get killed or stranded somewhere in the past?”

“Then we don’t have to pay back our student loans,” said Georgia.

* * * * *

We met Nate in the basement of the undergrad library. I’d discovered the place in my first year. It was quiet, so I could study or sleep between classes. And there was something about books on paper—holding one in my hands and wondering about all the other people who had ever read it.

Brent had been working on Nate, stressing our linguistic skills and general knowledge. I hoped we wouldn’t have to use them. I could speak Greek and Latin, but my modern pronunciation would finger me as a foreigner. Georgia was quick to point out there were lots of foreigners in Alexandria, which made it an ideal spot for time travel. Then Nate threw the first snag at us.

“This Alexandria place is in Egypt or something, right? We’ll have to go to Egypt to use the machine.”

“You can’t just punch in a destination?” Georgia asked.

He got that look on his face that engineers get when explaining something blindingly obvious to us lesser mortals. “It’s not the TARDIS—though that would be seriously cool.”

We stared blankly at him.

He sighed. “It just travels through time, not space. And while the receiver—the part you’ll carry with you—is portable, the transmitter isn’t. It’s got a range of five kilometres—get farther away and I can’t pick you up.”

The Alexandria Project by Kate Tompkins - Part Two


Ironically, it was the Kessler twins who paid our way. For their fourth year project, they had decided to do a travelogue on Alexander the Great (they were a little shaky on the concept of “original research”). They were spending their winter break skiing in Colorado, so when Georgia volunteered to take pictures for them in Egypt, if they’d help with the expenses, they were delighted. Which was how we managed to rent a top-of-the-line (according to Nate) SUV and stay in a decent hotel near the harbour.

The first day we spent figuring out where things were. Landmarks can change a lot in two thousand plus years. We located the old harbour, and chose an isolated spot to try the experiment. We planned to travel back long enough to confirm we were there, and determine our position in relation to the lighthouse of Pharos. Then we could check over our maps and information before returning to break into the Library.

The streets were deserted, which was good, because I felt ridiculous wearing flowing Greek drapery. Not to mention chilly. Once the sun had gone down, so had the temperature. Oh, I know what you’re thinking? Why dress like a Greek in an Egyptian city? But the Ptolemies were Greeks, and it would be far easier to pass for Greek than Egyptian, a language none of us spoke.

Nate handed Georgia the receiver, made to look like a griffin-headed walking staff, and the three of us gripped it firmly. “There's a small camera built into the head,” he said. “Aim it at anything interesting. Ready?”

Gulp. We nodded. He pushed a few buttons on his console. The eyes of the griffin gleamed an eerie yellow. I focused on them and waited. A sudden lurching, and the earth dropped out beneath me. Blackness. Only the solid feel of the staff in my hands kept me grounded.

The tumbling sensation slowed, and I became aware once more of the yellow eyes of the griffin, and Georgia and Brent to either side of me. Taking a deep breath, I looked around. We were in a narrow alley lined with the blank white walls of houses. The road ran up a slight slope, a larger building at the top with a row of statues along the roof line. Georgia pulled a drawing pencil from her pocket and marked a large “X” on the wall beside her so we could find the spot again.

I turned downhill. Atop a multi-tiered tower, a huge ball of orange light shimmered and flickered. Smaller specks of yellow and orange reflected in the water far below. The famed Lighthouse of Pharos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Legend said it could be seen for kilometres. I believed it now. And without electricity, let alone modern bio-energetics.

Long minutes passed before we stopped staring and focussed on the task at hand. Yes, this was Alexandria, but when? The lighthouse had been used for centuries; if we were going to pilfer from the Library, we needed to be in 48 BC., before the fire. We hurried down the street towards the harbour.

We came out near the docks. Farther along to our right I saw several large buildings, well-lit by torches, and bustling with activity. Guards armed with spears stood at the foot of each dock. Others were marching up and down in front of the buildings. Hard to believe this would all be under water in 2042.

“Those buildings are probably the palace,” I said. “The Library should be on the palace grounds. There’s supposed to be a garden and a zoo nearby, so we’ll have to look for an area with trees and plants.”

“How are we going to get past the guards?” asked Georgia.

I shook my head. “No idea, but we’d better think of something before tomorrow.”

Across the harbour the lighthouse towered above everything else. Several ships rode at anchor, backlit by the glow. I pulled out a pair of night glasses for a closer look. Definitely not Roman galleys, and definitely war ships. This must be Ptolemy XIV’s fleet. “Our timing’s good,” I said. “The fleet is here to keep Caesar and Cleopatra under siege in the palace.”

“Did you say Cleopatra?” Brent’s voice squeaked. “The Cleopatra?”

I’d forgotten he was a mediaeval specialist and not up on the Greeks and Romans. “The Cleopatra,” I said, skin prickling. “She and her brother Ptolemy were rivals for the throne.” I gazed at the palace. Somewhere in that complex of buildings were the first Roman emperor, in fact, if not in name, and the legendary queen of Egypt.

“Our two hours are nearly up. We’d better get back,” said Georgia. We retraced our steps and gathered around the staff, depressing the small knob at the base of the griffin's head. The eyes flashed green for several seconds, before switching to a steady yellow glow. The falling sensation hit the bottom of my stomach like a glass of sour milk.

We filled Nate in on what we’d seen on the drive back to the hotel, and Brent handed over the staff.

“If there’s enough detail on that thing,” Nate said, “I can put you inside the palace grounds.”

Detail? The three of us looked at each other. No one had thought to point it at anything. Good thing we hadn’t had to actually turn it on.