Mmm. Steak Sandwich and Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Steak, spinach, onion, tomato, and avacado sandwich, with bowl of tomato soup.
This steak, spinach, onion, tomato, and avacado spread sandwich with fresh tomato soup made a tasty dinner.

I got the idea for the sandwich from an article on and I decided to track down a tomato soup recipe to make something of my abundant backyard tomato plant. No kidding, it was the best tomato soup I’ve ever had in my life.


The Thanksgiving Duck

Lila and Eva wishing you peace on Thanksgiving, 2009.
Lila and Eva wishing you peace on Thanksgiving, 2009.

As mentioned last post, I tried a duck for Thanksgiving. Lila summed it up with “It’s okay Dad, but it’s not appealing.”

I could not fit the bird into the crock pot, so my Plan A was foiled. Instead I roasted it in the oven. I applied poultry seasoning and tucked onion and apple chunks inside before putting it into the oven.

What about the fat? The infamous problem with duck is the layer of fat under the skin of the duck. I poked holes in the skin so the fat would drain out during roasting. This certainly helped and the skin was actually very nice, golden and crispy. There were still some unappealing sections of fat, although they were easy to separate from the meat.

I’ve never had duck before, and the taste and texture was unexpected. It wasn’t bad, and the overall dinner was great.


A recipe for disaster?

Against the advice of Adam, I am going to attempt to cook a small turkey in my crock pot for Thanksgiving.

It’s just me, Lila, and Eva, so we don’t need a big bird.

If I can’t get it to fit in the crock pot I reserve the right to abort to Plan B, which is to put the bird in the regular old oven. But that isn’t as interesting.

On a side note, I’ll bet the frozen chickens feel like rejects this time of year. Poor little birds.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Update, 10:47 PM

The smallest turkey at the store was 10 pounds! That’s four more pounds than I dare to try to fit into the crock pot. So, while I nearly decided to find the biggest crock pot ever, I decided instead to get a 5 pound duck.

Oh yes, the game’s afoot now. Plus, the bill was less that than of a 10 pound turkey. 😉

User experience, web, technology

I was a Whole Foods first-timer

Asparagus! Credit to Esteban Cavrico on
Asparagus! Credit to Esteban Cavrico on

I am not a foodie. Okay, now that that is out of the way: Whole Foods is amazing.

One evening at last week’s IUE2009 conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my colleague Jackie and I breezed through the local Whole Foods store. From a user experience perspective, my Whole Foods experience was really great. But, let me digest it a bit further.

As author of “Neuro Web Design” Susan Weinschenk explained, our “old brain” triggers on 3 questions: can I eat it, can I have sex with it, and can it harm me.

Upon entering Whole Foods, we were first met with luscious fresh fruits and vegetables. They appeared and smelled a factor better than the normal produce at the grocer in my village. I walked in with the intetion to buy one item: baking powder that uses potato starch instead of corn starch, so when I realized I was gazing lustily at the asparagus, I swallowed my mouthful of saliva and steeled myself with the rational part of my brain. Discipline! I would not succumb. Still, it was delightful to walk around and see the beautiful cuts of meat, the great selections at the deli, the desserts, the wine, the cheeses.

We had circled the store and were approaching the checkout and realized that we hadn’t seen the baking section.

So consider: We were in an unfamiliar store and had not located the item I was seeking. I was not irritated by this. The general happiness of walking through this great store put me in a very tolerant mood. I actually looked forward to seeing what other great things we’d see on the way to finding the baking powder, and I had high expectation that they would, in fact, have the baking powder. They did have it. I bought two cans of it, at a premium price. And, I ended up buying some turbinado sugar that was in the same aisle, since I was nearly out of demerrara sugar that I use for baking (and in coffee and on oatmeal…).

Designers! If you haven’t yet, read “Emotional Design” by Don Norman. Oh, and Weinschenk’s book too.


Slamming dough

You know that cliche, heart-warming thought about home-made bakery being made with love?

Well, for all you bakers out there, let’s get real: baking can be aggressive.

I just now put some cranberry and sour cream scones in the oven, and had a funny moment of reflection. As I was preparing the dough, I was having an angry dialogue with myself.

The dough may have suffered because of it. Knead—Shove—Roll—Slap-to-the-counter and repeat. Then, slamming my palm down on the ball to flatten it.

(You’re only supposed to lightly knead scone dough.)

Oh, there’s the timer. Let’s see how they fared.

Made with love—yeah, right.


Rieska recipe

Rieska, a type of Finnish bread made with buttermilk and oatmeal.
Rieska, a type of Finnish bread made with buttermilk and oatmeal.

Rieska recipe

I got this recipe from my mother. Rieska is a type of Finnish bread we had occasionally when I was growing up. I just baked the bread shown in the photo.


  • 3 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup maltex or oatmeal
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 2tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk (maybe little less)
  • 1/2 cup butter


  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. Cut in butter.
  3. Add buttermilk.
  4. Knead a little on floured board.
  5. Sprinkle flour and knead until doesn’t stick to fingers.
  6. Grease flat pan and press dough flat.
  7. Poke all over with a fork.
  8. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.


Omelette with cheese and slices of tomato.
Omelette with cheese, tomato, mushroom, green pepper.

Well, not the most attractive omelette I’ve done, but the camera was nearby.

  • 2 eggs beaten with a little heavy whipping cream (maybe 1 or 2 teaspoons…I just poured some in)
  • green pepper
  • mushrooms
  • green onion
  • 3 thin slices of roma tomato
  • monterey jack cheese
  • medium cheddar cheese
  • salt, pepper, basil

Praise God for food!

I ate well again today! Whoo hoo!

It was another salmon dinner, like a prior post. Except this time it was salmon, white rice, and a roma tomato, sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I thought the meal looked great on the plate. It was on a green dinner plate (thanks again Anne), with the red tomoto slices fanned out clockwise over half the outer diameter of the plate. I had cut the salmon fillet in two, and placed the pieces like a V, finishing the arc around the plate. In the middle, I piled a small mountain of white rice.

The strong red patterns in the tomato glistened, the salmon meat was pink and ridged with browned fringes and the oils of the fish had turned creamy white as they cooked.

If only I had had a camera, you could see it.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty. And then I ate it. It was tasty.

I once wrote an essay about food and spirituality. I had never finished it, but I think it is sitting on a file server at MSU where I’ve left it for the last seven or eight years.

Maybe I’ll thaw it out. Or catch one fresh.

Lila and Eva

Where does chicken come from?

We were just eating our dinner of mac and cheese and baked beans, and Lila saw the piece of pork in the beans.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Pork,” I said. “Do you know where pork comes from?”

So ensued a conversation of how ham and pork are meat from a pig and how hamburger is meat from a cow.

Lila, for the record, was not impressed. She quickly claimed, “I will not eat any more of those sandwhiches!” But then I reminded her about her favorite sandwhich, a hamburger with extra pickles. “Extra pickles….” She bemoaned her decision and I thought she was reconsidering.

I turned to Eva and asked, “What about chicken nuggets, where do they come from?”

She turned her head slowly to me, her eyebrows furrowed and nose wrinkled, making a face at me.

“McDonald’s,” she slowly answered.


Salmon dinner

I could live off frozen food, being a single guy. I’ve had weeks where dinners consist of a can of tuna and saltine crackers.

But, as the song says, You don’t have to live like a refugee.

So, today after church today I actually cooked a decent meal. I’m eating it now. It is very flavorful.

Salmon fillet, baked with some Italian seasoning (I don’t have a full set of spices)
White rice
Fresh broccoli, red peppers, and cucumbers (with ranch sauce for dipping)
Warm garlic and herb ciabatti bread, buttered
A lemon to squeeze over the salmon and rice
And cold water (tossed the lemon in it).

This is way better than tuna and crackers. Time for more bread.