Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pumpkin Spice White Chili

Wow, did this turn out much better than expected.  For this months Cast Iron Cook competition, the secret ingredient was "Pumpkin Spice."  I was not thrilled with the choice and I out right refused to make a dessert.  When in doubt, I usually turn to the crock pot to fix most of my cooking problems.  I was not let down.  Joining a few recipes I found on-line and tweaking to my tastes, I made this chili and it was extremely well received by the judges.  It came in second after the scoring was done, but it was requested at next months neighborhood block party.  So I'll take that has a win of a different sort.

Pumpkin Spice White Chili

  • 1.3 lbs Ground Turkey
  • 1 Chicken Breast, diced raw
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 16 oz can light red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 16 oz can cannelini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 14.5 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • The Spices
    • 2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp whole cloves
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
In a skillet, brown the ground turkey and onions until the meat is cooked and the onions clear and starting to brown.  Transfer this to the crock pot and add all of the other ingredients except the spices.  Be sure to rinse the drain the beans both to remove gas inducing toxins and to make sure your chili consistency is right.

I put all of my spices in an old coffee grinder and set it spinning and pulverizing my cloves, cinnamon, and other spices to make a fine fully mixed powder.  When that was done I then pour that over the contents of the crock pot and stir well to fulling incorporate.

Cook this on high for at least 3 hours.  (Be careful because there is raw chicken in this mix, so no tasting for an least  90 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked).  I propped the lid off to the side for the last hour to thicken the chili up.  This is to your preference.

The Result:
This was awesome.  I see no reason to change anything at the moment.  I would recommend this recipe to anyone looking for something with a little taste of fall harvest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spicy Cranberry Salsa

This is the dish that won me the September Cast Iron Cook competition in the neighborhood.  The secret ingredient was cranberry, and I wanted to make something with some spicy kick to it.  The recipe is dead simple, but it will take a little planning.  If you start around lunch, it will be ready to serve as an appetizer before dinner.

Spicy Cranberry Salsa

  • 12 oz dried cranberries
  • Cranberry Juice (100% juice, not cocktail)
  • 3 green onions
  • 1/2 Cup cilantro (chopped fine)
  • 4 jalapeno, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
In a medium pot, soak cranberries in enough cranberry juice to cover for thirty minutes.  After that time, kick up the heat on the stove to medium and bring to cranberries to a simmer Cook for 15 minutes.  Kill the heat and add all of the other ingredients. 

Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl and place bowl in an ice bath to bring down the temperature.  When cooled to room temperature or below move to the refrigerator.  Salsa is best is allowed to mellow for a few hours and let the flavors continue to blend. 

I served this over two logs of goat cheese with some small crescent rolls, but honestly the salsa would be good over anything from pork loin to just served with chips.

The Results:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hero 9201 Fountain Pen is Garbage

I've been getting into fountain pens lately.  I bought my wife a Lamy Safari (Neon Coral) and she loves it.  I also got myself a Pilot Petit1 and a few Platinum Preppys to play with.  So I thought, maybe I'll get something that looks a little nicer, less plastic, but still cheap.  I wanted a pen I could use at work, but if I left it in a conference room I wouldn't be that upset about.

I thought about the Fountain Pen Hero 616 , which is a Parker 51 knock-off, but I don't like the look of the hooded nib.  Instead I saw on Amazon a Hero Fountain Pen 9201 . Nice black pen with gold looking features and a built in converter. I did a little looking online but found no real reviews of this pen.  Since it was cheap I pulled the trigger.

The Pen

A simple classic looking black pen.  Nothing remarkable, but better looking than a plastic Bic or Uni-Ball. Respectable weight, and i like the feel unposted.  Posted it's back heavy.  There is also an overly tight clasp that I can't seem to attach to anything. 

The pen comes with a converter.  The converter doesn't use the usual twist piston but instead has a slider attached to the piston.  Loading it with Noodlers Baystate Blue took about four piston pumps up and down and its still only about 70% filled.

The nib is nice looking.  the gold around the grip is textured.  Again, unposted its got decent hold and balance.

The Problem

It writes like crap.  I'm new to using a fountain pen.  My Pilot Petit1 is very smooth, and a bit overly wet, but I enjoy writing with it.  This thing is scratchy, hard to start, dry, basically everything bad about a fountain pen rolled into one. 

There is a tiny bit of flex in the medium nib, but it starts and stops constantly at a decent rate of writing.  In some cases most of the first word is just missing and I have to find scrap paper to get the pen going again.  I hate it. Its junk. Its like a dried up ball point you get at a hotel.

Save your money folks, a Platinum Preppy writes way better for half the price.  Otherwise get a cheaper Lamy and be happy.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Investments

As you've no doubt seen, the market has taken a bit of a tumble.  I'm viewing this as a moderately god thing since I'm not really a short term trader, and it gives me a better opportunity to buy some stocks at a better price.

A few months ago TradeKing made a boo boo and to correct it, they gave me $30 in commission money.  All well and good... until I noticed it has an expiration.  It seems they can only give you three months to spend that trade commission money so I have some "use it or lose it" money. Normally in my TradeKing account I don't want to make purchases less than $500 to keep the commission below 1%, but since this was basically free trading I made a few smaller purchases.  I will likely add to these positions later, so they just get my foot in the door and assist in diversification.

First up: AT&T (T)

AT&T is an old company.  It's known as a solid, steady, slow growing juggernaut of a company.  My interest in AT&T is the high dividend payout (over 5%) and the fact they've been paying higher and higher dividends for over 25 years.  As I don't ever plan on selling (at least not in the short or medium term), I like the confidence that by the time I retire I will have received enough dividend payouts to cover the initial cost of the stock, that on top of any changes in value of the stock itself which will retain value in one form or another.  I bought AT&T today at $35.00 a share.

Next: Realty Income (O)

I like the concept of owning a piece of a company who owns a lot of property they rent out.  and Realty Income has been doing it for coming up on 50 years.  They also pay a dividend over 5% annually, but they pay it out monthly, which is different than most companies who pay quarterly.  I was able to snag shares at $41.00 a share, which is less than 10% off the 52 week high.

(I bought this through Tradeking, but if you're just interested in investing in Realty Income, you cna invest directly through their site and pay no commission.  Further they have a free dividend reinvestment program that lets you take additional shares instead of cash [look up DRIP investing].  Thats a pretty good set it and forget it approach to investing.)

Finally: iShares Mortgage Real Estate Capped ETF (REM)


This is a gamble, but since I had some left over cash to invest I wanted to try it.  This is an EFT, similar to a mutual fund but traded like a stock.  This fund focuses on companies who invest in mortgages, borrowing and lending money at different rates.  I chose this because of its mouth watering dividend of 13% paid in quarterly increments.  I bought 18 shares at $11.75 each.  I'm hoping to get between $5 and $7 a quarter from this investment and use that cash to pay the commission on future investments.  If it goes belly up I'll be out $200, but if it works then it funds future investment decisions and makes me less concerned about the commission overhead.