Saturday, June 24, 2006

Burritos in the Kitchen

Okay, the first thing to tell everyone is we'll be using a microwave for today's recipe. That's only a microwave -- not a microwave in addition to other things. (However, I just remembered when my oldest son moved out, he didn't have a microwave until we, my husband and I learned of that, in his apartment and bought him one. So everyone probably doesn't have a microwave. For those who don't, I'll provide directions on how to cook the recipe without one.)

Community member Keesha's nine-year-old son e-mailed me asking about snacks he could fix himself. It was a wonderful e-mail and I called Keesha after (we've served on the blog selection committees for The Common Ills permalinks before) to discuss what sort of things she was comfortable with him using and if he had any allergies. So this recipe is for Andre and for anyone who wants something easy to make.

Here's what we need:

a can of refried beans

That's it.

Here's extras if you have them on hand:

a container of salsa
a jar of jalapeno peppers

For microwave users:

Put a tortilla on a plate flat. Spoon a spoonful of refried beans onto the tortilla. Repeat for two. Microwave for 2 minutes. (You can probably fit three comfortable on one plate through careful arrangment. Note that you do not stack them on top of each other, you place them side by side. However, when you try for three, you end up with a big dab in the center of the tortilla -- big dab of refried beans -- so just go for two.)

For those without a microwave:

Heat a can of refried beans on the stove over a medium temperature, stirring frequently, until the beans are warm. For the tortilla, you can heat it, on both sides, in a warm skillet. You do not need butter or any butter bustitute. Put the burner on low, allow a minute for the skillet to warm, then place the tortilla in it for no more than thirty seconds on each side.

For everyone:

If that's all you're doing, you're done. Roll it up and enjoy. For those who have other things on hand, you can add the ingredients now. A lot of people like to microwave the cheese. If you do, go for it. However, if you add cheese after you take the plate from the microwave, it will melt on top of the beans. I think it tastes better that way but, more importantly, Andre won't have to worry about burning the roof of his mouth.

After you add the cheese, you can add whatever else you're using. The 'rule' I have is salsa goes on top. I usually add a little lettuce first, then some tomatoes, then two jalapeno peppers and then salsa. I'll sprinkle some pepper on top, roll up the tortilla and call it a burrito.

Tomtatoes can be sliced or chopped. Andre has been helping his mother with salads this year so he knows how to slice a tomato into rounds, that's fine. If he thinks the tomatoe round is too big, he can slice one round in half and use a half on each burrito. For lettuce, you can chop it or you can tear it from the lettuce head. With all vegetables, remember to rinse them before using them.

Keesha's teaching Andre to grate carrots. With grated carrots, you could add them to the tortilla at any point but they may test best if you put them on the tortilla after you'd smoothed out the refried beans on them with a spoon. They would warm with the beans and you could have them that way or you could add as a sprinkling at any point.

If you come home from school and you think you're starving, you may be tempted to crowd the plate with more tortillas or to fix a second plate to pop into the microwave as soon as the first is done. Don't do that. Keep two on the plate because you want room to smooth out the refried beans. If you just leave them in a clump, they're not cooking through and sections will be hard while others are cold. Eat the one or two burritos you've fixed and, if you're still hungry and dinner is a ways off, fix another one after you've eaten the first (or the first two).

Lettuce and tomatoes can be prepared ahead of time and kept in containers or a bag in the fridge. If you go with just the tortilla and the beans, you've at least prepared one vegetable (beans). If you go all out, you've gotten several vegetables and a fruit (tomatoes are fruits) into your diet. You can play with the recipe and see what works. (My son Mike always prefers spinach to iceberg lettuce. If he's making this or a sandwich and there's nothing but iceberg lettuce in the kitchen, he'll pull some spinach out of the fridge and use it instead.)

That was for Andre and, hopefully, something everyone else can use as well.

So this week? In the United States, we saw another revelation of an unchecked Bully Boy spying on the American people. Only this time, it turns out that he's claiming the right to rifle through all of our finances on a whim as opposed to under a court order. With a nod to Mike's commentary on this yesterday, I'll add that, at this rate, his next stop will be my panty drawer.
Whether he was ever elected or not, he has become the nation's First Peppeing Tom.

Instead of focusing on that, the media has whipped itself into a frenzy that a group of young men who appear to have serious problems (though not problems that make them a danger to anyone but themselves) have been dubbed "terrorists" and arrested. Well, November's not that far away and it's been awhile since they used the color coded terror alerts so that's probably the next step.

In the Senate? The Democrats presented two "plans." One was actually a plan and one was a plea, a non-binding plea. The plan was put forward by John Kerry and Russ Feingold. It would have combat troops out of Iraq by July 2007 -- basically one year from now. This plan won only the support of thirteen. (Including my other senator, Ted Kennedy, whose vote on this wasn't surprising but I was still glad to see.) The plea proved more popular and won 39 votes.

To put it in kitchen terms, Senators Kerry and Feingold said, "Come on over next year on the Fourth of July and we'll have some steaks." Harry Reid and the other do-noting Dems proposed, "I fix dinner all the time, every night. If you stop over sometime, I'd really like you to, I can whip up something for you, if you'd like. I'm a really good cook and maybe some time, if you want, you can come over and I'll show you."

So the war drags on.

And in Iraq? I'm posting C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from Friday below. But I will note that even the heavily fortified Green Zone is no longer safe from the threat of mass violence. Not just a bomb now but an actual invasion. That almost happened on Friday.

So since only thirteen Senators (twelve Democrats and one Independent, Jim Jeffords) had the guts to say the illegal war needs to come to an end, we've got no end in sight. Iraqis, Americans and anyone with a government foolish enough to stay in the so-called coalition of the willing (following Italy's announcement last week that they'd be pulling out by year's end, Japan made a similar announcement this wekk) will continue to be wounded and die because the Bully Boy upended all notions of right and wrong.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from yesterday:

Chaos and violence continue.
The ten day old "crackdown" in Baghdad, which has had little measurable impact on stopping violence, sprouted a new development today: "State of emergency." As
Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted this morning, "Earlier today, insurgents set up roadblocks and opened fire on U.S. and Iraqi troops close to the US-run Green Zone." The Associated Press reports this was done as fighting forces seemed intent on breaching "the heavily fortified Green Zone." As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, amidst the violence, US troops "rushed to the area." Current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has "ordered everyone off the streets" of Baghdad, provided "broader arrest powers" and placed "a ban on carrying weapons."
last declared a state of emergency (or martial law) in November of 2004 for the entire country (exempting only Kurdish areas in the north).
Then prime minister Iyad Allawi declared it when
violence broke out through much of the country as US forces geared up for their attack on/slaughter of Falluja. Current prime minister al-Maliki has declared a state of emergency for Baghdad only. A state of emergency was declared for the city of Basra in May of this year. Euronews notes that the Basra state of emergency "has not deterred militants." Omar al-Ibadi and Haider Salahaddin (Reuters) report that today in Basra a car bomb went off (police say ten killed, hospital says five).
Sam Knight (Times of London) reports that "the 5 million inhabitants of the Iraqi capital [were] given just two hours notice of a curfew" (started at 2:00 pm in Baghdad, as Knight notes, but it was set to end at 5:00 pm and not, as Knight reports, on Saturday -- since Knight filed, al-Maliki shortened the curfew). Knight notes the paper's Baghdad correspondent Ned Parker terming the "extended gun battle . . . just north of the fortified Green Zone" a "free-for-all." Along with gunfire and mortars, Reuters reports that two US troops died today "when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad."
In Hibhib, the
Associated Press notes the bombing of a Sunni mosque resulted in at least ten dead and fifteen wounded. Reuters notes two police officers shot to death in Hilla. The AFP reports that five corpses were found in Mishada.
In peace news,
Will Hoover (The Honolulu Advertiser) reports on Ehren Watada's refusal to ship to Iraq when his unit left Fort Lewis, Washington yesterday (6:45 am), he refused to board. Ehren's father Bob Watada tells Hoover of the three officers that spent hours on Wednesday trying to convince Ehren to change his mind: "They put the full-court press on him. They were telling him, 'You know, you're facing 10 to 15 years in jail, and do you want to do all of that?'" The Army issued a statement saying that charges wouldn't be filed "until the commander has had a chance to review all of the facts of the case and consult with the Staff Judge Advocate." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the gag order placed on Watada has been "rescinded . . . allowing Watada to talk to anyone." As Alex Fryer (Seattle Times) notes, "Peace groups around the nation plan a day of protests and vigils in support of Watada on Tuesday." For more information, click here.
Australia's ABC reports that the Australian government "is playing down reports" of a threat to future trade arrangments with Iraq as a result of Australian troops shooting bodyguards of Abdel Falah al-Sudany (Iraqi Trade Minister) -- one died "at least three others [were] injured." Despite John Howard (prime minister of Australia) continuing to downplay the issue (he won't apologize at present), ABC notes "reports [that] the Iraqi Trade Minister is threatening to ditch all trade deals".
AFP reports that the United States Senate "unanimously approved a $707 billion defence bill for the next financial year that includes almost $70 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In news of future wars,
Col. Dan Smith reports, for CounterPunch, on a little known development from June 20, 2006. As the 2007 Defense Department Appropriations bill was being addressed, Representative Maurice Hinchey attempted to attach the following amendment: "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to initiate military operations against Iran except in accordance with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States." Though the amendment was only underscoring the true powers of the U.S. Congress, it failed on a 215/47 vote. Unlike Michael R. Gordon, war pornographer, and his "Iran Aiding Shiite Attacks Inside Iraq, General Says" (New York Times), the AFP notes of George W. Casey's allegations against Iran: "The White House and Pentagon have repeatedly accused elements in Tehran of arming Iraqi insurgent groups. But they concede they have no clear proof that the Iranian government is sponsoring the activities."

Last night, we had Elaine and the gentleman she's seeing over for dinner and then attended the Iraq study group that my son Mike, his girlfriend Nina and Tony (who's Mike's best friend and my husband and I are Tony's godparents, we grew up with Tony's parents so it seems minimizing to refer to Tony simply as "Mike's best friend) started. That was a wonderful idea on the three's part (Mike, Nina and Tony). Tonight's meeting was at our house and they meet every Friday at nine p.m. It lasted until midnight and that's a bit late for me if I'm at someone else's home. (Because there's still the trip back home.) However, it was more than worth it and I plan on attending future ones as well. The Congress is obviously not going to lead on a discussion about Iraq so it will be up to us. When the three kids (I've been asked by all eight of my children to stop referring to them as "children") came up with the idea, they thought it would be a small group and it's blossomed into a large group. (It was like an extended family get together on a holiday last night and we hauled every folding chair we had out of the closets and still didn't have enough for everyone. A sure sign that people want to discuss this topic.)

I am going to close with some highlights but I want to comment on what Rebecca's "mid-party post" from last night. She had a miscarriage last Saturday and some people (she's responding to an e-mail) seem to think she needs to either explain it in detail or post something downbeat. I only had one miscarriage but that was more than enough. You don't forget that you had it because you can't. I still remember mine. But you do get on with your life and discuss the miscarriage with people you trust. Someone wrote her and seems to think that if she writes about something pleasant in her day, she's avoiding dealing with her miscarriage. A miscarriage isn't like doing your taxes, you can't go months saying, "I'll do it and mail it in when April rolls around." You know it happened. You think about it throughout the day. If someone's unhappy with what she's written, they need to not look to her but ask themselves what is about themselves that makes them so eager to see a woman torn down and grieving. Let Rebecca be Rebecca and worry about your own life.

Somethings worth reading:

"NYT: Striving for tabloid (again)" (I agree with C.I., there's no need to print rumors of beheading that you can't confirm when families are still attempt to find out what happened)
"NYT: What to do when your p.r. is in conflict with facts? Dump the facts! Dexy's back""NYT: Zernike's drive-by taxi ride to nowhere" (Kate Zernike did one drive-by after another all week)
"Repubes: The delicate flowers" (Kat made me laugh with her response to some e-mails from Republicans)
"nancy keenan, rick hertzberg (the useless 1s)" (Rebecca showing on Monday that she's still going to be herself)
"Law and Disorder on tasers" (Mike)
"WBAI's Law and Disorder covered Mumia Abu-Jamal and David Gilbert" (Cedric. I always mean to listen to the radio program Law and Disorder but never find the time. I'm saying "This coming week." I've said it before. If you read Cedric and Mikes' commentaries, you'll join me in feeling you need to make time to listen.)
"White House thumbs its nose at the Supreme Court (Bully Boy Press & Cedric's Big Mix)" (Cedric)
"THIS JUST IN! THE WHITE HOUSE THUMBS ITS NOSE AT THE SUPREME COURT!" (Wally. The two are joint posts that Cedric and Wally did on Friday.)
"THIS JUST IN! PSYCHIC CASEY SAYS "HONEY, THEY SHRUNK THE ARMY!"" (Wally on the laughable General Casey announcing that troops will begin coming home)
"TV Review: There's always a platform for some" (Ava and C.I. with the best thing I read Sunday, in print or online.)
"Army Lies to Mother of Slain Guardsman for Two Years, Says Killed by Insurgents Instead of Allied Iraqi Soldiers" (Powerful story from Democracy Now with Amy Goodman interviewing Nadia McCaffrey who lost her son in Iraq and was lied to by the military)
"Access of Evil" (What's wrong with the corporate media? Amy Goodman tells you.)
"Tears of a Clown: Al Franken's War" (Al Franken is disgusting -- if you agree, you'll enjoy John Walsh's article, I did)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Potato Casserole in the Kitchen

I didn't post last weekend but intended to. What happened was that one of my children had gotten themselves into a jam. It was the sort of thing that was a minor detail when it happened and, if it had been taken care of then, it wouldn't have been as big a problem as it was. By the time it was brought to the "folks," it was a very huge problem. These things happen and are part of the growing process. (We continue to grow and learn, I know I still do.) So addressing that wiped me out. I did attempt a post but couldn't log in. I only tried once, I was too tired.

So that's my explanation.

Now we'll pick up where we left off, with Lila. She was proclaimed a cook when she wasn't and left in a jam that she needed out of quickly.

Potato Casserole
4 medium potatoes, sliced thin
2 cups of diced ham*
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/4 cup of milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish (a pie dish will also work). Take the potato slices, ham* and onion slices and layer them in the dish, one on top of the other making the last layer potatoes. If that's not clear, you're layering potatoes, ham*, onions, poatatoes, ham*, onion, potatoes . . . and ending with potatoes. You need the potatoes on top. If you like pepper, you can pepper the layers as you go along. (I wouldn't recommend salting them because we all have too much sodium in our diet as it is, but it's your life, do what you want.) After you've finished the last layer (remember, potatoes need to be the last layer), add a dash of salt and pepper.

We're not putting the dish in the oven but I want to stop here to add a few notes.

*You don't have to use ham. I don't mean you can use another meat, though I'm sure you can. I mean that you can make this without meat.

I've needed a side dish before and had nothing but potatoes, onions, milk and cheese left in the kitchen. If you don't eat meat, don't eat pork, or don't have it in your kitchen, the casserole will turn out nicely without ham.

If you don't use ham, you can just use the other ingredients. If you want to add to it, Lila added a small can of mushrooms as she tried the recipe out a variety of ways. She did it using the mushrooms as she did ham. A word of caution, you need to drain the can. Beyond that, you should then set the mushrooms on a clean hand towel or paper towel so that they are not moist when you begin layering. You don't want a saggy casserole.

Before you put it in the oven, you pour the milk over the top. Then you put the dish into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Wally's mother has used a recipe similar to this one for years. However, she skips the milk and instead uses a can of cream of chicken soup which she dilutes with a half can of water. I didn't have time to try that step because I was trying Lila's mushrooms. So to combine both their suggestions, I used a small (6 oz.) can of mushrooms and a can of mushroom soup (diluted). That was used instead of ham and it turned out very tasty. You can also (and I usually do) top it with cheese. I honestly prefer it without cheese and only add it (on top of the last layer of potatoes, after the dash of salt and pepper and before I add the milk) because little kids will often run from a dish of vegetables -- add cheese and suddenly they want to taste it. (That's actually true of many grown ups -- check the frozen food section of your grocery store and notice how many frozen vegetables have cheese added to them these days.)

If I'm making it for myself, and this is a dish I have made for just me -- many times, I'll skip the ham and the cheese and just use the potatoes, onions, salt and pepper and milk.

However you make it, you'll find that it doesn't last long.

In any form, it's expensive and it will fill you up. I had planned to do this recipe last week and then move on to a different staple but there were so many e-mails from people saying that they wish they knew what to do with potatoes that I'll offer another potato recipe next week before moving on. Potatoes are inexpensive and there's much more you can do with them besides tossing them into the mircowave. If this recipe makes you nervous, attempt it and you'll be pleased with the results. There was a wonderful recipe that Zoe sent in but it's a complicated one. I enjoyed it and maybe in time, we can share it here. But it's been a bit of surprise to hear from so many about what I'll call "oven & stove top fear." I expected that from those who'd just moved out because I've seen that phase in my own children. (Parents, if you're wondering if your adult child may suffer from "oven & stove top fear," here's a clue. When you visit, is every area 'lived in' except the kitchen? If so, the kitchen's probably not being used.)

I think that's because we're so used to using microwaves now. That wasn't always the case. I have nothing against a microwave (and actually have two in the kitchen because I may be using one to melt something while I'm preparing dinner and someone may need a quick snack heated up) but I think it's allowed us to raise a generation far from the kitchen and the stove. That's wonderful if someone has the money to eat out or bring in take out every night. Most people don't have that option. When I was a kid, even TV dinners had to go in the oven (regular, not microwave). So we got used to using it even for the quick meals. My oldest daughter (who is no longer suffers from "oven & stove top fear" -- though she did when she first moved out) brought home the changes last Sunday. (Obviously, if you read Mike's entry on last weekend's difficulty, you know she's not the one who had the problem last Saturday because Mike noted that the one with the problem did not show on Sunday.) She wanted some popcorn and went to the kitchen for a few minutes then came back to the living room and sat down.

I asked her if she changed her mind and she explained that the box of popcorn was empty. (Someone forgot to throw it out.) What about the bag of kernals? It was as though I was speaking another language. (And she's had popcorn prepared for her that way.) So we went into the kitchen and I showed her how to make pop corn without a microwave bag. At the end of which, she remarked how great this 'new' method was because now she could pop what she wanted and not worry about being wasteful (she usually can't finish a microwave bag by herself).

She has seen me make pop corn in a pan before. All the children have. But there's a difference between seeing and doing it yourself. We're very proud of our children when they're able to pop something into the microwave (and should be, it's a sign of growing up) but I think we all (including myself) assume that since they see or saw us using the oven and stove, they grasp how it's done. (My oldest son had a revelation with the stove top shortly after he moved out -- "Ma, it's just like using the fire in a camp out." Yes, it is. And yes, I laughed when he told me that.)

I don't know if toaster ovens are still popular. I doubt it because anything I'd use one for, I now use my microwave. But using the microwave is like using the toaster oven and being able to use one doesn't mean the person is able to use the stove or oven.

I enjoy all the e-mails and never think, "Well why are you so scared of the oven?" I know that exists because I've seen it in my own kids. That's why, after it happened with both the two oldest after they moved out, I made sure the younger ones were using the stove and oven. (And if you do that and think you have the bases covered, you may not. Be prepared to hear, "Oh sure, I can cook in your oven but I don't know a thing about mine.") It's normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

The only surprise for me has been hearing from so many who do suffer from "oven and stove top fear." I appreciate the sharing and the honesty and we'll continue to move slowly and try to get you more comfortable. But for those who have children, whether you're comfortable yourself or not, start thinking about including your children in the process. (Or be prepared for the Thanksgiving dinner, when you're much older, that one of them prepares which features a turkey dinner.)

To me, using your stove and oven regularly isn't a requirement. But I do think knowing how should be. No one should be chained to the oven (metaphorically women once were) and anyone who hates cooking shouldn't cook. But it does provide you with another avenue for food.

Matt wrote a wonderful e-mail about how he was addressing his "oven and stove top fear" with the recipes. He takes little breaks when he prepares a meal. He only has time on Saturday to cook and he says at first he was rushing through it like it was a race.

I think that's the biggest turn off to cooking. When I was starting out, I thought the dinner had to go on the table at a certain time. I would freak out and get so angry with myself. The truth is dinner doesn't have to be on the table by any set time. If you usually eat at six o'clock and dinner's not ready until six-thirty, no one died and no one starved from waiting a half-hour more. Betty is someone with a small window of time because she has young children. She loves the oven recipes because she's not standing at the stove, listening with one ear to make sure nothing's gone wrong in the living room. With the exception of having to cook and guard over small children at the same time, there's no reason to rush. (I told Betty what she needs is a tattle tale. I had two in the family and though I'd always say "Now you shouldn't tattle" as I turned the stove off, I secretly appreciated it. With more than one child, the odds are that she'll have a tattle tale shortly.)

So what Matt does is put on some music before he goes into the kitchen. (He says if he used the TV, especially during a ball game, he'd be going back and forth and burn something.) Then he slices and dices what he needs. As he preheats the oven, he sits down, reviews the recipe and just relaxes for a few minutes. Then he goes back to cooking with additional breaks as needed. He says that sometimes means what should be ready in less than an hour takes two but it's the only time when he's not rushing. He wrote that he got the idea while he was at the gym and on a break between sets. You're apparently supposed to rest muscle groups when working out with weights. While he was resting a muscle, he realized that those rests were the only time he wasn't rushing (rushing to work, rushing at work) and thought he might enjoy learning to cook more if he wasn't looking at it as some sort of race.

It shouldn't be a race. (Racing leads to people thinking, "I know the temperature is supposed to be X, but if I double it, it will be ready twice as fast!" No, it will burn in half the time.) If you can, invite a friend over (or speak on the phone). It can be a social time. It can be a quiet time. But if you're seeing it as one more deadline, it's going to be a very aggrevating time.

There are enough of those already. Such as the fact that we passed the 2,500 mark on American soldiers who have lost their lives in Iraq in Bully Boy's illegal war. I was very disappointed with the coverage and spoke with C.I. about that. C.I.'s comment didn't make it up at The Common Ills so, with permission, I'll share it here:

The Pentagon announces Thursday that we've hit the 2,500 mark and the press pretty much stays silent. It may be the only official statement they haven't glommed on in the last few years.

Our paper either didn't get tossed this morning or 'walked off.' My daughter was going out so I gave her money to pick up a paper and she came back in the afternoon with the New York Times. Our paper runs stories from the Times (I assume most do) but I'm not a regular reader of it. (Our paper is actually owned by the New York Times, by the way.) On page A7 of the New York Times is a small box with the headline "Names of the Dead." It lists a Michael A. Estrella, twenty-years old, from Hemet, California who was with the Third Marine Division. Before that, it tells you: "The Department of Defense has identified 2,492 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the death of the following American yesterday." Yes, and it confirmed the death of 2,500 earlier this week. But apparently readers of the reporting in the paper will have to wait for eight more names to be released before they do a story on the fact that 2,500 Americans have died. (C.I.'s noted the lack of coverage in Friday's paper in "NYT: Dexy puts on the redlight (yet again).")

Apparently, we're all supposed to look the other way. The New York Times, which has a bad reputation for running with official sources and with anonymous plants. The Pentagon annouces that 2,500 troops have died in Iraq and the paper's suddenly waiting for all the names to be released?

Michael A. Estrella shouldn't have died, none of the 2,491 before him should have died. (Nor any troops from other countries or Iraqis.) The illegal war should have never been launched. Acting as though the Pentagon didn't announce 2,500 doesn't change the fact that they did. But sitting on it, waiting to report it, may be an attempt to minimize the shock some who will learn it from the New York Times when the paper finally gets around to covering it.

I'm with Ruth, people need to get real about the war. Shrugged shoulders won't bring anyone home alive.

Recommended: "War Hawks in America, War Cheerleaders in the Green Zone"
"The 'revolutionary' Thomas Friedman"
"Hillary and The Beat of Black Wings"
"Iraqis protest, Take Back America silences protest"
"TV Review: Windfallen Perry and Gedrick "
"extra "
"Editorial: Administration attacks the American Way of Life "
"Guns & Butter, the war hawk Hillary"
"Law and Disorder, Dahr Jamail & Amy Goodman on Falluja, the death of two Iraqi women, Ramadi and more, and Jason Leopold"
"Law and Disorder discussed Tasers plus some other stuff "
"'the way i see it,' he said 'you just can't win it'"
"The American people are demanding answers" (Barbara Lee)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Potatoes Anna in the Kitchen

It started Wednesday when an e-mail arrived with the heading "911 -- Help!" Lila had a problem. Her boyfriend (they told his parents they were engaged Friday evening) had been talking her up to his parents. Talking her up and inflating her with regards to cooking. Lila was told to bring a dish to Friday's dinner. Though he'd played down the big news on the way, he'd raved and raved over Lila's cooking.

Lila wrote, "I asked him, 'Nachos? That's your idea of cooking?' That's the only thing I've ever cooked for him." She didn't know what to do. She felt it would compound the dishonesty to haul some takeout over and pass it off as her own. "I can slice," she wrote, "and that may be about it. I skipped Home Ec in high school, don't regret it, and don't know what I can cook. I can't do anything fancy but I've got to take something."

I wrote back, "Are you scared of the oven?" She wasn't. So I suggested this recipe.

Potatoes Anna
6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of butter
Salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes, then slice them into round pieces 1/6 to 1/8 inch thick. (Thinner will make them even more crisp.) Use the butter to grease a casserole or pie dish. Take the potato slices and lay them down, overlapping, spiral-like. Do this in layers, building each layer upon the previous with. With each layer season lightly with salt and pepper while adding bits of butter. When you've completed the layers, cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If the potatoes are not brown and crisp, bake for an additional five minutes. Once the baking is completed, place a plate (serving side down) on top of the dish, then invert so that the potatoes are now on the plate. It's now ready to eat. If you're bringing it as a dish to a get together, cover it immediately with foil so that it will keep warm.

Lila made the dish as a test run on Thursday and invited two of her best friends over to sample with the advice that they be as critical as possible. She was advised she needed to use more pepper and less salt but otherwise, everyone thought it turned out well.

Friday evening, she made the dish for the second time. She was nervous but it turned out well and, at her then-boyfriend's parent's home, everyone found it delightful. We're working on a casserole right now and that will be next week's recipe. (Tomorrow, there's a pot luck get together where they'll be informing his brothers and sister of the engagement.) She's already informed her future mother-in-law that she'd just learned to make Potatoes Anna and that her cooking abilities had been highly inflated. Her mother-in-law-to-be thinks she's modest. But as Lila pointed out, "I told the truth so no one can come back later and accuse me of lying."

Lila thought she had a "cooking crisis" on her hand. To my way of thinking, there are two cooking times you're faced with actual emergencies, not enough food on hand or something burned beyond a quick scrape. When I'd asked her how she felt about potatoes, her immediate response was that she couldn't take mashed potatoes because that was "too much work" and baked potatoes were out because that really "wasn't cooking." But there are many things you can do with potatoes and tonight's recipe is one example. Aong with mashing, baking and boiling, there are very simple recipes that will produce very tasteful food. So if you look through the kitchen one evening and find nothing but potatoes, don't despair.

Kat just posted her latest review: "Kat's Korner: Janis Ian blows in on a gentle breeze." I'd mentioned to her how much I liked the CD Folk Is The New Black and asked her to let me know when she posted her review of it. If you missed it, my son Mike spoke with her for "My interview with Kat" so please check that out. And you can read her seven previous reviews as well:

1) "Kat's Korner: Pink's not dead or silent"
2) "Kat's Korner: Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam"
3) "Kat's Korner: Need deeper? Check out Josh Ritter's The Animal Years"
4) "Kat's Korner: Richie Havens: The Economical Collection"
5) "Kat's Korner: Neil Young's Living With War -- key word 'Living'"
6) "Kat's Korner: Springsteen's Seeger Sessions"
7) "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way"

Another thing you have may have missed is a wonderful roundtable featuring Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and of The Third Estate Sunday Review, and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix:

"roundtable with cedric, betty, c.i. and myself participating"
"news via Democracy Now and a conversation in three parts"
"A conversation in three parts"
"Focusing on the paper to avoid my husband"

C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" Friday ran down the basics on the three investigations into American troops activities in Iraq:

There are at least three alleged incidents in Iraq that are under some form of investigation. (Remember that The Christian Science Monitor asked mid-week whether or not the military could investigation itself.) For two who were confused by the new ones noted last night, there is Haditha. Haditha took place November 19, 2005 and resulted in the deaths of twenty-four civilians. This is the one Rep. John Murtha has spoken of and that has had the most attention and media focus. Next, there is Ishaqi which took place in March 15th of this year. For background refer to Democracy Now!'s March report as well as the BBC's report on a tape that has turned up which appears to refute the US military claims. In that incident, the official version is that "four people died during a military operation" when a building that was on fire collapsed on them while the version put foward by Iraqi police is that "US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people." The third incident under attention currently took place on April 26th of this year in Hamandiya this is where one man died and US troops are accused of planting a shovel and gun on him while insisting that he was attempting to plant a roadside bomb. This is the incident that David S. Cloud (NYT) reported "[m]ilitary prosecutors are preparing murder, kidnapping and conspiracy chargs against seven marines and a Navy corpsman" for. Kidnapping? When Jim Miklaszewski reported it for NBC Sunday, he noted that the allegations included taking the man from his home, murdering him and then attempting to hide their own actions by planting the shovel and gun on him.
Those are the three incidents currently under some form of investigation and media light.
On the middle item, Jonathan Karl of ABC News (ABC, United States) is reporting that with regards to the events in Ishaqi, "military officials have completed their investigation and have concluded U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement." Which one is that? This is the one that BBC only recently reported having a tape of. One might argue far too recently for "military officials" to have "completed" anything that could pass for a full investigation. Or, as Australia's ABC puts it, "But a video obtained by the BBC shows evidence that the people were shot." Among the dead so-called insurgents in this incident that alleged followed "the rules of engagement," Australia's ABC reports were "a 65 year old grandmother and a six-month old baby." The Independent of London summarizes thusly: "But the BBC said its tape, which comes in the wake of the alleged massacre in Haditha in November, showed a number of dead adults and children at the site with gunshot wounds."
Pressure on the Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, Nuri al-Maliki, has led to his announcing that Iraq will launch their own investigation. As Ferry Biedermann notes in the Financial Times of London, this investigation is supposed to "look into other allegations of misconduct by the US-led forces in Iraq and the way troops behave toward the civilian population after they have come under attack." The Guardian of London reports that al-Maliki informed US ambassador to Iraq (and puppet master) Zalmay Khalilzad of this decision "during a visit to a power station."

I think about the above and my stomach just goes into knots. The roundtable I highlighted earlier does a wonderful job of addressing the topic. (Your stomach won't go into knots reading that.) But when I think about any of the three, and, I guess more importantly, the reaction in this country which is to disavow accountability on all except the Bully Boy, it just makes me feel ill.

Truthout has posted a wonderful excerpt from a new book. This is from Peter Laufer's new book, Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq:

"We was going along the Euphrates River," says Joshua Key, a 27-year-old former U.S. soldier from Oklahoma, detailing a recurring nightmare - a scene he stumbled on shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "It's a road right in the city of Ramadi. We turned a real sharp right and all I seen was decapitated bodies. The heads laying over here and the bodies over here and U.S. troops in between them. I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, what in the hell happened here? What's caused this? Why in the hell did this happen?' We get out and somebody was screaming, 'We f**king lost it here!' I'm thinking, 'Oh, yes, somebody definitely lost it here.'"
Joshua says he was ordered to look around for evidence of a firefight, for something to rationalize the beheaded Iraqis. "I look around just for a few seconds and I don't see anything." But then he noticed the sight that now triggers his nightmares. "I see two soldiers kicking the heads around like a soccer ball. I just shut my mouth, walked back, got inside the tank, shut the door, and it was like, I can't be no part of this. This is crazy. I came here to fight and be prepared for war but this is outrageous. Why did it happen? That's just my question: Why did that happen?"
He's convinced there was no firefight that led to the beheading orgy - there were no spent shells to indicate a battle. "A lot of my friends stayed on the ground, looking to see if there was any shells. There was never no shells, except for what we shot. I'm thinking, Okay, so they just did that because they wanted to do it. They got trigger happy and they did it. That's what made me mad in Iraq. You can take human lives at a fast rate and all you have to say is, say, 'Oh, I thought they threw a grenade. I thought I seen this, I thought I seen that.' You could mow down 20 people each time and nobody's going to ask you, 'Are you sure?' They're going to give you a high five and tell you that you was doing a good job."

That's going to be it from me tonight. I'm depressed by the reported war crimes and more depressed that the only blame seems to be laid at the Bully Boy's door step. If the reports are accurate, war crimes were committed and the criminals aren't just the ones at the top, they're the ones who did the killing with their own hands.

Stealing from Wally's way of noting highlights, recommended:

"NYT: Re: Haditha, ask the Times for a correction"
"And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)"
"My interview with Kat"
"more marine news and talking about my grandmother"
"Quick post"
"TV commentary: About the women"
"Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way"
"TV commentary: About the women."