Dining, fine or otherwise

Quit boiling your broccoli. Quit microwave steaming it. Try braising it. 


Cut up a head of broccoli (or two). Rinse it well. Put a frying pan on the stove and heat it. Add one tablespoon of butter and melt it. Toss in the broccoli florets. Add about an ounce of water. Turn the heat to high and put a lid on it. Best is a lid that fits down in the pan and sits on the broccoli. One of those silicone thingies is great.

Cook for a few minutes, until the color changes, then remove the lid. Continue cooking until the water is gone. At this point, your broccoli is ready to eat, unless you want to give it a little fry and brown it. 

This is actually really similar to steaming, but with higher heat and butter. 

If you are really adventurous, don’t add any water. The broccoli will cook just fine and the florets will brown in the most amazing way.

I’m a moto-commuter about ten months a year, in Detroit, no less. My job requires me to work with two sites outside of the Detroit area, so sometimes, my commute involves some distance. Most recently, it found me trying to figure out how to manage a site visit that needed to happen immediately after a long weekend trip to the Dragon.


My trip to the Dragon is an annual affair that I run either with a group of other riders I know or with my old car club, most of whom I have known for fifteen-plus years. Both groups hole up in a rental lodge for a few nights and run day excursions to the various excellent roads around the area. This year, we visited Helen, GA, and ran the Dragon, the Moonshiner (to Fontana Dam and Bridal Veil Falls), and the Blue Ridge Parkway. My necessary stop at work afforded me the opportunity to ride northbound somewhat east of my usual track and I added in NC 209, the Rattler, and the Cumberland Gap tunnel on US 25E. This turned the normal 200 miles of distance into about 1200 miles.


One of the biggest challenges of extreme moto-commuting is packing. Most recreational motorcycling trips that I take involve at least some camping, so my kit needs to include a 25L dry bag full of camping gear. I take a 1pp tent from REI, an appropriate sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a few odds and ends depending on my eating plans. I’ve recently discovered state park campgrounds, where for $25 you can get a decently private spot that includes power and flush toilets. I added a 10′ extension cord to my kit, along with some USB LED lighting for my tent. High living! But the camping kit wasn’t the big issue – it was the fact that one of my side cases was full of laptop, work notes, and the assorted safety gear required by your average garden-variety manufacturing site. Without that side case free for extra gloves and other motorcycle-oriented PPE (personal protection equipment), I was down to one box for clothing – the usual three days of liners and undies and a pair of sneaks fits fine, but now I needed to add two days of work clothes on top. Thank goodness for mechanical latches and locks, otherwise I think my poor old Vario-box would have exploded.


One thing I didn’t expect was the food challenge brought on by the packing challenge – I have Celiac disease and usually would pack a fair amount of gluten-free snacks and bread in my now-full-of-laptop side case. Normally, this is offset by being in the Meijer-zone – Meijer is a Michigan-based market chain that is a very reliable source of all kinds of allergen-free food and have stores all over the upper midwest. Instead, I found myself hopping from convenience store to convenience store, trying to find edibles that fit with my diet. Leaving Kentucky, land of no highway rest stops, I entered Tennessee and discovered the glorious Cheesewich. Behold, the ultimate in biker lunches: the only thing missing was a Ducati-themed SP bottle. Sadly, I did not find any more Cheesewiches along my route. It tasted a lot better than it looked.


Spending roughly 1000 miles of my extreme commute having fun put me in a great mood for work – no matter what plague and misery were awaiting me, I was full of miles of sun and rain, pavement and dirt, and it all showed. I call my I’ve-been-out-riding look “homeless construction worker chic”. Throw in the unbelievable amount of bugs stuck to everything and it’s not what I would call a particularly professional look, even if it is a contagiously happy one. Thankfully, the presence of a motorcycle seems offset the ugly for most people. Several of my coworkers ride, so my arrival by bike is something of an event and gets the site ready for whatever it is that I am there to do. The bike seems to turn most of the staff into little kids, and it’s a welcome change from the serious nature of our work.


A big advantage of the extreme moto-commute is that it ends in work, which means hotel room, and usually a pretty decent one. Hotels mean two things – warm and dry. In my case, it really means “dry out the camping gear before you put it back in the closet”. Convenient, it is. If you are really with it, you book a hotel with a laundry so you can catch up on wash before getting home. The travel agency can get confused when you are hundreds of miles from home and have no transportation booked.


My trip ended up going really well, with a very uneventful final 200 mile leg of boring old I75N. The main thing I would do differently is ship my work gear to my site and take more food. I’m still hungry.


Are you ready for an extreme moto-commute?

Finding the right riding partner for a trip is no easy task. Sometimes, it falls into place with a wave, other times, it’s a disaster of epic proportions. Here is a non-exhaustive questionnaire to help sort things out. Maybe it will help you clarify your limits as a rider, too. I personally would not hand this to anyone I met casually, but could see it being used as a guide or prior to a large tour where people did not know each other or the participants.

PDF version of the final document is here! – Riding partner checklist

I saw it on a beer ad – “Always drink responsibly.”

I thought about it for a while and wondered who teaches our children to do this responsible drinking thing? By the time my children can legally take a sip of wine, they will be past the point of me teaching them much of anything. At twenty-one years of age, they can for the first time partake of an alcoholic beverage. Three years after they have left the protection of my home. Three years after they have flown the coop. Three years after I have had the best chance of instilling some sensibility in them.

With this, I would like to raise the question – how can I teach my children to drink responsibly if they cannot drink with me and learn from me?

Other nations have sorted this out. During our time in Germany, we availed ourselves of the local liquor laws that allow children to partake in this dangerous game so long as they are at home and in the care of their parents. A sip of wine with dinner and tastings of various beers that crossed our threshold were little chances to expose our kids to America’s forbidden fruit. They discovered all kinds of things – bubble wine tickles. Sweet whites are “yucky”. Dry wines taste like the earth. Light beer is not really beer. Dark beers all taste different. And so on. One simply liked trying new things and the other turned into a cheese snob with a preference for dry whites. Their feedback and comments were delightful as they learned about the role of beer and wine on the table for those three precious years. And now, we are back in the US. It’s not as much fun when we can’t include them in the pairings we’ve carefully arranged for dinner.

Had we stayed longer, we could have bought them a beer at a restaurant at the tender age of 14. One beer, which in our town was a whopping 7oz. At 16, they could buy themselves beer or wine, and at 18, hard liquor. That’s right – graduated drinking laws. Just like graduated driver’s licensing, which nearly every US state has now.

Imagine being able to introduce your kids to alcohol in a holistic setting. Imagine them running off to college while thinking that the only reason to drink wine was to improve dinner. Imagine teaching your kids responsible drinking, right in your own home, when they are still receptive to your guidance. Imagine their first poor judgement call as a teaching moment instead of painful shame. If you have daughters, imagine preparing them for the worst, arming them with self-knowledge needed to protect themselves from potential harm.

I want my kids to drink responsibly. I want them to learn to drink from someone whose ulterior motive is something other than drunken stupor. I want them to know when to say when, before they have to for real.

It’s time to start a new discussion about US liquor laws.

Way back when we were less well-off, I used to take ketchup and mustard with a bit of olive oil and use that as BBQ sauce. Basically, hot dog condiments. Sometimes, if we had relish, I would throw that in, too. Over time it evolved to include a bit of balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and lemon juice.

3oz ketchup (Heinz 57, please. No imposters!)
1oz mustard (prefer real Düsseldorf style, but any ground mustard will do)
1T olive oil
1T maple syrup (or more!)
1T balsamic vinegar
1t lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1T tomato paste if you are using crappy ketchup

This is enough for about two pounds of cut up chicken breast. Mix it up, soak the chicken for 1-2 hours, then throw on grille until the edges are blackened. The blackened edges are sooooooo yummy!

I was back in Germany again for the last two weeks.

The Jeep Renegade is a huge hit over there. Not only did I see a bunch of them, but all in nutty loud colors and parked to be seen. I like this vehicle a lot and I think FCA hit a home run with it. The popularity in Germany is proof.

Motorcycle parts are far more widely available, as usual. I managed to warp a rear rotor (yes, I actually warped it) due to the crappy Brembo 11mm master cylinder corroding again. In the US, the best fit rotor is the stock BMW one, for $248. EBC makes one that I haven’t seen yet for about $150. The OEM TRW rotor is a whopping 68€ from Louis. Yes, I brought home a brake rotor. The CBP guy who stamped my passport back in looked at his deskmate and said “I clearly need to go over there and buy some parts.” Yes, you do, Mr CBP Officer. A set of matching TRW pads cost a whole 37€. With the exchange rate at stupid lows, that was a no-brainer. I haven’t really addressed the spares situation in the past, but thanks again to Motorrad Alexander who delivered an annoying piece of wiring harness to my desk for 20% of the cost new. It’s in great condition and should resolve some nagging issues I have with harness damage on the BMW. I’ll be repairing the old one and saving it for the other frame.

Eggs. When you go to the breakfast buffet in Germany, the scrambled eggs are real eggs. I forgot how awesome this is until we went to San Antonio for a long weekend a few weeks ago and had the American version made from powdered eggs. Not even close.

I always forget how much I miss riding the trams and walking everywhere. It’s sooooo nice. A totally different kind of mobility.

I do have a gripe with airline food. I have Celiac disease, which can suck for a variety of reasons. One of them is airplane food. I finally figured out what is going on with the grilled chicken breast, broccoli, and rice that I get on every. single. flight. It’s not only gluten-free, it’s Kosher, Halal, lactose-free, low sodium, and whatever else you can come up with short of vegetarian/vegan. It’s also generally flavor-free and boring. Everyone else gets something different each flight, I get that damn grilled chicken. I have to beg for butter, explaining that I am not lactose intolerant or anything else. I do love the rolls that I get on the flight home, they are way the hell better than the rice cakes I get on the flight out. One positive note is that Delta flight attendants, pursers, and stewards are generally quite food allergy aware. This time, I was able to get scam an ice cream and it arrived with no cookie! I know that the airlines are kind of dependent on LSG or whoever their food service contractor is, so I don’t want to come off as bagging on Delta. But I would like some fancy food once in a while!

I was counting cars in the parking lot for a project and discovered that Germans like big window glass just as much as Americans do. I wonder if the area of the greenhouse is why people here like SUVs so much? With sedans losing glass at every increasing rates, it seems that eventually the only way to get a real rear window will be in a minivan or other xUV. Hmmm. Now I want to call hatchbacks UUVs – urban utility vehicles. I guess minivans would then be FUVs – family utility vehicles. Let’s tacticool name all the vehicles!

I was completely shopped out from my last trip, but not enough so to avoid looking in the windows at Hein Gericke. Oh, damn, another pair of gloves – from Richa and size Ladies’ XL. What a concept – I have a difficult time finding gloves with long enough fingers, hopefully these will do it. Thankfully, LS2 seems to be doing a great job of bringing HG back into form. The new assortment is quite attractive and continues the tradition of high-end product lines.

I (finally) learned how to pronounce Garching. I used to say /gar’ shing/. Now I say /gar’ hing/. With that silly-sounding Bavarian hissing H.

I find a lot of people who don’t like guacamole, but then eat gobs of the guac I make. So, here is my dirty, secret recipe.

2-3 mostly ripe avacados
2T dehydrated chopped onions (I prefer the McCormick ones)
1.5oz lemon juice
salt to taste, ~1/2tsp

Halve and scrape out the avacados, them mash them up. Mostly ripe is key – better not quite ripe than overly ripe.

Put the dehydrated chopped onions and lemon juice in a microwave-proof cup and microwave them for about 20 seconds, twice. This will reconstitute them – puff them back up. They need to be fully puffed, so hit them again if necessary.

Mix reconstituted onion flakes into mashed avacados and mix well.

Add salt to taste.

There you go. Basic, Mexican guacamole. No fancy flavors, no tomatoes (yikes, tomatoes always turn me off), nothing. The big secret is using the lemon juice to reconstitute the onions. I don’t even remember when I first started making it this way, but it works.

I guarantee you will like it. Add whatever you want, if you are one of those TexMex types. We Mexico-Mexican types will enjoy it plain, thank you.

Yeah, I should have posted this earlier, but Thanksgiving was a drawn out affair this year. Also, anyone who says that turkey is dry and boring has never had a properly prepared one.

Anyway, here goes, recipes included.

Brine a turkey in the following….

4c water
1/4c Kosher or other large crystal salt
1 T rosemary leaves
20 sage leaves
1 T herbs de Provence
1/4c dark brown sugar
1/2c maple syrup
1 t olive oil

Boil brine mixture until oil is absorbed by herbs. Cool. Add turkey and water to cover.
Place in fridge and let soak for 1-5 days. Longer means stronger flavor. Five days is realistically the limit.
Turn turkey over in brine daily.
Prior to roasting, remove from brine.
Strain brine and tuck strainings under turkey skin.
Roast turkey at 400F for 15 min, then reduce temp to 325F and roast until done.


Gluten-free crust – modified AHA

2c Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend
3t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 to 3/4c water
1/2c oil
Mix drys, add water and oil and blend. Add water as neede for texture.
Makes three crusts

Apple Pie
Oil crust as above
6 Ida Red apples, peeled and sliced thin
Flour as needed.

Layer apples into lower crust with flour and cinnamon. Top with upper crust.Bake at 350 until done.

Pumpkin Pies

Filling – use the Libby recipe, it rocks


Cambric GF stuffing/dressing (You’ll figure out the name if you’re over 40)
2 loaves Schär multi-grain bread, cubed and dried
2 sticks butter
1.5# mushrooms, chopped small
1 head celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, diced (add as many as you want, really)
2 apples, chopped small
Fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
1 qt chicken stock
a shot of Sriracha for the stock if you are so inclined
1T mushroom base for stock

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in bottom of large stock pot.
Add mushrooms and sauté until soft.
Add vegetables and sauté until clear.
Add apples and sauté until aromatic.
Add herbs and sauté until aromatic.
Add stock and additions and cook until warm.
Spray a casserole with cooking spray.
Evenly spread out bread cubes in casserole.
Pour stock/veggie mix over bread cubes and mix up well.
Add water as needed to wet out all bread.

Cover with foil and bake until the texture is where you like it. Hotter oven (400°F) for more crispies. Remove the foil to improve crispies, leave it on for squishies

The stock/veggie mix can be made up ahead of time and kept cold until needed. But be prepared to reheat it first. The butter solidifies things and you need it in the bread, not in the veggies. Otherwise the texture of the final product will be crap.

Cranberry sauce

1 bag cranberries
1 orange
Sugar to taste ~1T

Zest orange and reserve zest.
Peel orange and peel sections.
Place cranberries and orange sections into saucepan.
Barely cover with water.
Simmer until cranberries have burst.
Add orange zest and stir well.
Taste test and add sugar to taste.
Remove from heat and chill.

Sweet potatoes

Peel and slice in 1.5cm thick slices.
Boil until soft.
Fry in butter until browned.

White potatoes (as opposed to yellow)

Idaho russets
Chop and boil until soft.
Mash with sour cream and butter.
Salt to taste.

Green beans

Parboil green beans until color has just barely turned, about 5 minutes at boil.
Fry in butter left over from sweet potatoes until beginning to brown.

Serve the whole mess with a nice Malbec.


It’s all about the flour.

Some time ago, I grabbed a bag of Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend, simply because it came in a big bag. I was rewarded with a flour that bakes pretty well, including things like pie crust. I modified the old American Heart Association oil crust recipe to handle the Pamela’s flour, and it bakes up fantastically.

2 cups Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend

1 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oil

Blend the dry ingredients. Add water to oil in a measuring cup and add to dry ingredient mix. Add water as needed to get texture right. The texture and general behaviour of the crust are uniquely GF as it is not as short as one would like, but overall, it is a serviceable crust that will not let you down. The baking powder is the secret and makes the crust flaky and fun.

Let me know how you do with it.