Sunday, December 27, 2009

Corned Beef Hash

Corned beef hash

Our grocery shopping is done piecemeal balancing price and quality - canned goods at Aldi, fresh vegetables at Miles Market, and meat at Costco. If we need Japanese staples, we go to CAM.

Our previous excursions to Aldi, a discount grocery store, in the area were miserable - watching people pick through boxes of fresh vegetables intermingled with canned food.

We finally found a new store (North Olmsted) that still smells of fresh paint that we do not mind patronizing. The stores do not carry everything even a mom & pop store would carry, but what they do carry appear to be in good condition and competitively priced.

At Miles Market, we recently picked up 10 lb of russet potatoes for $1. When I strode by a display of corned beef ($2.29) at Aldi, a tsunami of warm fuzzies overcame me. We didn't eat corned beef hash often, since my mother usually made Japanese meals from scratch and wasn't really in to canned food, but when we did I loved it. I probably didn't consume as much Spam as your average local from Hawaii, but won't deny that I ate a healthy (or is it unhealthy?) amount.

The corned beef my mother bought was packed in a red and black can and originated from Argentina. The corned beef at Aldi is from Brazil and appeared a lot more processed than I remember.

Corned beef hash with ketchup and egg

It's nothing earth shattering, but here is my version of corned beef hash:
vegetable oil
5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
fresh ground black pepper
Fuller's Fine Herbs Beaujolais Blend from Mendocino, CA (dried basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, rosemary)
1/2 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp onion, grated
1 can corned beef
fresh ground black pepper

1 egg yolk

The potatoes were fried in enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the pan under low heat with pepper, herbs, garlic, and onion until mostly cooked (approximately 10 minutes).

The corned beef was broken up and heated with the potatoes until the color of the smeat changes from pink to your desired hue of brown. For this shade, it was another 10 minutes. The heat was turned up to high the last 3-4 minutes to crisp everything. I also added more black pepper.

The Beaujolais [herb] Blend was a gift from my father years ago when he visited Mendocino, CA.

I prefer to eat my corned beef hash with ketchup and a raw egg yolk with extra black pepper. It wasn't as salty as I expected, which means less rice intake. A good thing.

My corned beef hash with ketchup and egg

Bug prepared his plate of corned beef hash with Kewpie mayonnaise, sriracha, and shoyu. This was pretty tasty; as such, the way my 2nd serving was prepared. [sorry, no pic]

The dish was pretty filling and cost a total of $2.50 for 4 servings plus white rice. It was a nice way to bring back the feeling of those carefree times when my biggest worry was what which fishnet stockings I was going to wear to school the next day.

- Cassaendra

Top 10 Films of the Decade

As the decade comes to an end, "Best of/Worst of" lists are abound. As a movie buff, I figured I'd throw in my lists for the decade. The following list is my personal top 10 favorite movies from the past 10 years (2000 – 2009). The selection does not reflect money made at the box office or importance to film in general. These are the films that I find myself watching over and over again.

10: The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (2003-2007). I was always a fan of old pirate movies when I was a child and I was quite excited when the first Pirates movie was announced. I didn't have very high expectations going into the theater.

Johnny Depp blew me away! Johnny's portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow was fantastic and made the movie for me. Pirates is a popcorn film - entertaining with nothing profound. It's a nice little throwback to the old pirate movies with great special effects.

9: Donnie Darko (2001). I'm not sure if it was the title or if the trailer just didn't inspire me, but something about this film made me steer clear of it when it was released. Years later, a friend of ours suggested we'd like this movie. Several years later, a local video store was closing and everything in sight was marked down super cheap, so I picked up this little gem for a steal.

When I viewed the movie, I dove in fresh with no recollection of the trailer or the premise of the movie. To my surprise, it was an intelligent film. Not knowing anything about the film was a great boon for my enjoyment factor. Rarely does an original movie come along that does not force feed details to the audience, and challenges them to question what they saw on the screen. This film deserves multiple viewings to get a good grasp on what is going on.

8: The Dark Knight (2008). I was not a Batman fan until I saw this film. I saw Batman Begins well before seeing this film. While I didn't hate it, I wasn't entirely moved by it.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the performance of the late Heath Ledger in this film. We almost never buy into hype but decided to see this film in the theater anyway. Cassaendra loved Batman Begins, so if I wasn't thrilled at least she would still enjoy it.

Holy crow! Heath's performance was outstanding! He is the main reason I liked this film so much. His version of the Joker was crazy and diabolical, but most of all believable. It's rare that someone can pull off a character that is as terrifying. That is not to discount all the other outstanding performances in this film. Everyone was on their mark. This didn't feel like a ridiculous superhero movie. The characters actually felt real for a change.

7: The Host (2006). I enjoyed monster movies when I was a child. While leafing through an issue of Fangoria one day, I saw an article on The Host. I rarely read Fangoria these days as they tend to be overly biased on their film coverage, writing only about mainstream horror movies. In this particular issue, they covered this little-known Korean monster movie.

The Host was shown under limited release in the US. When we found out it was playing at a local art house theater, we had to take advantage of viewing it on a big screen.

This movie has it all: a unique monster, believable characters, humor, and tension. This, folks, is the best monster movie I have ever seen. While the creature in the flick doesn't do the building stomping or mega monster fighting à la Godzilla, it does seem plausible and very real.

6: Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003). I did not read the books before seeing these films, but I was a Peter Jackson fan before this trilogy came out. Brain Dead (Dead Alive) and The Frighteners rank high on my short list of all time favorite films.

When I heard that PJ was taking on a very large and serious project like LotR, I was surprised, but most of all I was uncertain how it would turn out. Much to my and the rest of the world's surprise, it turned out better than anyone could have hoped (especially the studios that turned him down LOL!).

I love fantasy and I LOVE these films. Great story, thanks to Tolkien, and wonderful visuals by a relatively unheard of studio at the time, Weta. One could easily call these films the Star Wars of modern times; epic in every way, e.g., story, budget, influence, technology.

5: Sin City (2005). Style and substance. Normally those two don't go together very easy, especially in the world of big explosions and pretty CGI. Robert Rodriguez always has a flair about his movies and that didn't stop with Sin City. This movie is best described as film noir meets ultra violence.

Sin City is violent, gritty, violent, stylistic, violent did I mention violent? The violence in this film is very over the top, yet oh so entertaining. Based on the comic series of the same name by Frank Miller, who also co-directed the film with Robert Rodriguez, the movie is faithful to the source material.

4: Shaun of the Dead (2004). Many zombie movies came out over the decade. While the zombie fan in me thinks that is great, the film buff in me knows that means there are bound to be a lot of stinkers. Shaun is the cream of the crop. This gem of a film pulls off what few can, the horror comedy.

This movie is a great commentary of the way we walk through our day like zombies, while being very witty and downright horrific (in a good way). Simon Pegg is great as the Every Man stuck in a boring job with relationship problems. The characters in this movie feel like people you could very well meet on the street.

3: Clerks 2 (2006). Kevin Smith goes back to the well for this raunchy comedy and I hope he keeps going back. I love comedies, but I'm also very fickle when it comes to them. Rarely do they make a lasting impression on me or make me chuckle more than a few times throughout the film. Clerks 2 breaks that mold. I laughed so hard in the theater that at one point my side actually hurt. No kidding! That, folks, never happens to me, well except the time I saw The Kids in the Hall live, but that is for another time.

Dante, Randall, and the gang are back, and the wit is just as sharp as ever. The humor isn't for the feint of heart or the prudish. Nothing is sacred in this film, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings...nothing. Every time I watch Clerks 2, I laugh, despite having watched it at least 20 times.

2: Inglourious Basterds (2009). I like World War 2 movies, pure and simple. When I first heard about this movie, I had mixed emotions. While I like a fair bit of films directed and/or written by Quentin Tarantino, I also dislike several. I took the plunge and saw this in the theater, and couldn't be happier. The movie gets better with multiple viewings.

Inglourious Basterds has all the trademarks of Tarantino flicks in spades: homages to older films and directors, violence, and a lot of dialog.

The movie has very little in common with the 70's Italian film it takes its name from, other than being an exploitation flick set during the European Theater of World War 2. If you're a fan of war movies like The Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes, you'll love this movie.

Look out for Christoph Waltz at Oscar time. If there is any justice in this world, he will win one for his portrayal of Col. Hans Landa.

1: Band of Brothers (2001). While this is technically an HBO mini-series, it stills ranks number 1 on my list of movies. This is MY list, after all, so deal with it. Few movies or series make me want to watch them again the second they end. This is one of them.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and running over a span of 10 episodes, the story is about the men of the 101st Airborne, Company E, during the European Theater of World War 2. The series starts with a flashback of the company during boot camp, continues to the night landing on the eve of the Normandy Invasion, and ends with the take over of the Eagle's Nest, the final holdout of Adolph Hitler.

The performances are top notch and the emotional power is amazing and the production is stunning. If there was only one war movie/series to watch all decade, this would be it. Make sure to have tissues on hand for episode 9, as it covers the death camps.

Next year, The Pacific comes out on HBO. The series will be similar to Band of Brothers, but will cover the Japanese Theater. I can't wait! If it is half as good as Band of Brothers, I'll be pleased.

- Bug

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fade to White

We are fortunate to be able to continue buying fresh vegetables and fruits for reasonable prices at Miles [Farmers] Market as winter nudges its way into our lives.

Each week, we come home with 2 large bags filled with fresh vegetables, typically spending $10-15 on each trip this time of year. During our recent trip, we foraged potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, grapefruit, pears, oranges, basil, brussels sprouts, and cabbage.

Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage patch

With both of us sick, we veered from our meal plans for the week. Our dinner two nights ago included brussels sprouts, zucchini, fried chicken tenderloins, and rice with furikake, toasted sesame and nori.

Bug tossed, in batches, a carton of brussels sprouts into a grill pan and sauteed the zucchini separately in a pan.

Brussels Sprouts Done
Jailbird sprouts

After the vegetables were done, Bug fried the breaded chicken tenderloins in peanut oil. Dunked in an egg wash, the tenderloins were rolled in a simple but flavorful breading that consisted of flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.

As a front row spectator, this came with the benefit of being at arms length to the grilled sprouts while the meal came together.

Fried chicken1
Dinner's ready!

I can't imagine a more perfect batch of moist and tender fried chicken. The batter was crisp, not abrasive, and delightfully peppery.

The meal was also cheap.
1 lb of brussels sprouts ($0.99)
2 zucchini ($1.27)
8 chicken tenderloins ($1.37)

Total: $3.63

This was a delicious dinner with enough leftover for a light lunch to anticipate while sitting in morning meetings.

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 21, 2009

Soup's On!

On Tuesday, I was beginning to feel a touch under the weather. By Thursday, I felt awful, sitting in meetings for the majority of the day with nearly full-blown symptoms of a cold, frequently scurrying to the bathroom from guzzling water, cranberry juice, and jasmine earl grey green tea throughout the day. Saturday came quickly as I slept through most of Friday.

Bug made a scrumptious batch of potato-asparagus-corn chowder while he was still well on Saturday.

Potato Asparagus Corn Chowder
Chowdah with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

1 lb bacon
5 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2/3 lb asparagus, chopped (1-2" long)
2-3 c corn
5 c whole milk

1. Prepare several layers of paper napkins on a plate to absorb grease from cooked bacon.
2. Fry bacon. Lay cooked bacon strips flat on paper napkins and set ~1/4 c bacon grease aside.
2. Place potatoes in a soup pot, then add enough water so it is level with the potatoes.
3. When the water boils, reduce to a simmer until potatoes are cooked, then remove from heat.
4. Meanwhile, blanch asparagus. Set aside.
5. Separate 1/4 of the cooked potatoes and 1-2 c of liquid from the soup pot. Transfer to blender and puree.
6. Pour potato puree in to soup pot with the remaining cooked potatoes. Return soup to simmer.
7. Add corn, asparagus, and milk to soup pot. Stir.
8. Add bacon grease (1/4 c). Salt and pepper to taste.
9. Simmer until soup is at desired temperature, few minutes.
10. Ladle soup in bowls and add several pieces of bacon to each bowl.

Garnish with cheese, croutons, or whatever you prefer. I prefer extra black pepper and cayenne pepper.

The sweet, plump, and crisp corn brightened the soup. Of course, the bacon added a crunch, as well as a smoked meaty flavor. We enjoyed it so much, the pot of soup lasted just 1 day between the two of us.

If pfeffernüsse, a nutty, spiced cookie, were available all year, it would be one of our top guilty pleasures. We prefer Bahlsen, but Trader Joe's seemingly drier version was the only one available this year. As much as we adore pfeffernüsse, we have never attempted to make them ourselves. Their scarcity is a good thing!

Pfeffernuesse Ice Cream
Pfeffernüsse with some ice cream

I don't recall which grocery store we walked in to a week ago, but they had Edy's ice cream on sale so we were suckers took advantage of the reduced price and picked up orange sherbet, caramel cone crunch, spumoni, and French vanilla. The ice cream tends to be a little fluffy, but for the price, they are good.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, December 19, 2009

First Snow

Our first snow of the season arrived today, fashionably late by about 2 months. While we received only a dusting, I'm sure our foot of snow will arrive soon enough.

First Snow
First snow of the season

I am appreciative that we are not under the same blizzard warning that Baltimore and Long Island residents are currently experiencing with a snowfall forecast of ~2 feet over the weekend.

There is a special spring in Akemi's step when we take her out for a walk in snow. It isn't because her little paws are frozen. She really enjoys prancing like a fox through fluffy drifts as high as she is.

First Snow Akemi3
Akemi's first icy snacks of the season

Our walks today consisted of taking 5-6 steps, pausing for Akemi to take a quick bite of snow, moving 5-6 steps, another snow snack, and so on. The fine white dust around her snout made her look a bit dodgy.

Song of the day:

Lupin the Third '78 by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Thanks to Michael for indirectly introducing me to Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra(TSPO). I received an email from him this morning with a link to a beautifully filmed video of Ti Amo by Exile and inquiring about the identity of the lead character. After digging around, I discovered he was Atsushi Yanaka, a baritone saxophonist for TSPO. They look fun live!

Lupin III was a great anime series.

- Cassaendra

Monday, December 14, 2009


Bug emailed me a picture of the best bed of all for those cold winter nights - a tauntaun!

Tauntaun sleeping bag (image taken from

Yes, it's real (the sleeping bag, that is) and can be purchased at for $99. Intestines included!

I realize this probably isn't very amusing if you aren't Star Wars fan.

- Cassaendra

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Bone, No Waste

Bug is a World War II buff, so I wasn't surprised when he picked up The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 by Geoffrey C Ward and Ken Burns yesterday. He had a 30% discount coupon and $5 gift card that dropped the price of the book on sale for $9.99, originally priced at $50, to $2.53 (tax included).

As the title indicates, this book focuses on wartime life experiences instead of strategies and schematics.

Bug pointed out an insert that dealt with food rationing in the US, which displayed a picture of ration tickets and a Spam advertisement (pun unintended).

Spam Birds
Spam meal idea (picture taken from The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, pg 222)

The ad suggested Spam birds, probably for Thanksgiving:
Wrap thin slices of Spam around your favorite stuffing, fasten with toothpicks, brown in a hot oven. Serve with garden peas, fried candied sweets.
Many people these days would be appalled by this, but I find it interesting. Then again, I enjoy eating Spam.

One can look at this and victory gardens as flag-waving propaganda, but I would rather view this as the ingenuity of people stretching what little was available.


Inspired by the Spam birds and nudged by a growling belly, I fried up Spam with leftover mashed potatoes. Bug named them Spaters (Spam taters). Getting the Spam to remain closed was a bit of a challenge, crossed and parallel. I would have applied the toothpicks closer to the top edge, but I was afraid of the roll tearing.

The combination of salty, smoky, slightly crunchy and charred Spam was tasty with the lightly salted skin-on garlic mashed potatoes.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Akemi Meets Santa

While out for a walk earlier in the week, Akemi discovered Santa lying limp in the dirt.

Investigating Santa
Super Sleuth Akemi investigates Dirt Nap Santa

As she leaned forward to sniff the rotund rubber object, it slowly writhed in the dirt and repeatedly slurred, "Ho, ho, hooo."

Scared of Santa

Akemi leaped backward, startled by the possessed portly man and his mysterious message. Was he friend or foe?

She had no time to ponder as we marched forward. She shuffled backward, tugging against her harness, gaping at the hapless figure.

- Cassaendra

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