Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Mushroom Green Bean Casserole!

For Thanksgiving, I made this casserole to take to Steve's house:

It started with mushrooms from Eric at Pegasus Book Exchange. I'd stayed away from mushrooms for a decade or two, after a very sad bout of sickness at a singles mixer that my former-WSBA pal Eric Schwab had invited me to. I'm just not good at mixing, ate too many mushrooms that disagreed with me, and ended up with a very unfortunate result (...and was never invited back lol).
But after about a year of hearing Eric (bookstore Eric) talk about mushrooms, I decided to give his a try. And wow! they were great.
So when my brother Steve invited me to his place for the holiday and asked me to bring a side, mushrooms seemed idea - I didn't realize he doesn't eat them either. The green bean casserole with onions that so many insist is traditional seemed like a good way to present the mushrooms. I googled some recipes and got nice beans from Costco.
However when I set to work, it was time for substitutions. I steamed the beans - that kept their flavor and texture fine. I didn't have cream for the sauce but half-and-half worked fine with a little cornstarch. I didn't have flour for the roue (or whatever the mushroom equivalent was) but again cornstarch came through, with a little ground flax for consistency. I don't really like the crunchy onions on top - the flavor is nice but the texture seems like plastic. So I made a separate creamy onion sauce and then layered the casserole like bean dip - first panko crumbs, then beans, then the onion layer, then more beans, then the mushroom cream on top. But it looked incomplete.
That's when the inspiration hit me. I steamed more beans and spelled out a message. 
The result was tasty - I'm sure I'll make it again - and it didn't really take all that long to prepare - using good ingredients was probably helpful - but it was the presentation that made it memorable.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Furlough's End

A week or two ago I got the call back to work starting Monday.
There is roughly zero chance I'd get a better job before then, although I'll keep looking. Now that I've gotten past the barrier of getting started, I'm enjoying the networking and application process. It's been impossible, since no-one really wants to hire a guy who is over 60, but hope springs eternally and all that. I'm required to do it as a condition of  getting unemployment compensation (...and unlike a certain mother-in-law I could name, I don't believe in faking it...). Plus the networking is fun. I've met some interesting people!
Now the day before Thanksgiving is not going to be one on which anyone is doing anything related to hiring, and the rest of the week is not going to be any better. I'm concentrating on cleaning up stuff that got past me and preparing the house for perhaps renting a room or two come next year. I'm really not badly off but need to keep my options open. Clearing out and cleaning up is satisfying!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

And Sometimes You Win

Somewhat to my surprise, my writing seems to have helped the local chapter of Veterans' Service Organization I'm with to achieve its immediate goal of getting out of suspension.
 The story is long and complicated and not over yet (...nothing is ever really over...), but basically there was a dispute among the membership, which the losers escalated to the National level, which responded by suspending the Chapter. This struck many as unfair. However, my friends in the organization are not writers; they are talented and accomplished, having done many things far beyond my abilities, but they are not writers and had difficulty putting their story into order, along with the relevant rules, and supporting the conclusion that the Chapter should come out of suspension.
That's where my legal education paid off. The relevant rules were private, not public law, but the mechanics of making an argument were the same. I wrote a couple of letters that were essentially appeals supported by briefs; the first failed, but the most recent - filed only two weeks ago - succeed. I had actually expected this month's meeting to be more of the same denial and delay over the suspension. I certainly did not expect a formal reply to the letter. Instead, we got something better: a letter read at the meeting ending the suspension as of the new Chapter as of interim elections to be held next month.
This was a better answer than we had anticipated.