Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Where to put your Personal Item

I love to read travel blogs and Boarding Area has a great collection of writers.  I won’t get into the specifics of the each blogger that I like or don’t like, but I will tell you they do pose some interesting questions from time to time.

Last month, the Road Warriorette posted an article on Personal Items (since I’ve been on the road a lot in August, I’m just now get caught up on my regular blogs).  A Personal Item is your second piece of carry-on luggage (not your 21″ roller suitcase, but either your briefcase, backpack or purse).  The question she poses is, where do you put your personal item? In the overhead bin, or under the seat in front of you.  I won’t rehash her blog here – go read it – but I will tell you my thoughts.

Planes are almost always full now.  Airlines are charging non-elite (or non-airline-specific-credit-card-holding) passengers fees for checking a bag. What does this mean? It means passengers are bringing so many bags into the cabin.

I usually travel with a simple 21″ roller suitcase (that easily fits in the overhead bin of all but the small Regional Planes) and a messenger bag with papers and my electronics.  I know that all the overhead bins will be filled and some people may have to gate check their bags.  I don’t really worry about that for myself because, I am Premier Gold with United and always get space for my bag in the bins.

I never put my personal item (messenger bag for me) in the overhead bin (unless I’m on a tiny Regional Jet). I know that my small bag will take up enough space that it could make another passenger gate check their bags. I also know that people are self-centered and don’t often worry about the property of other people on the plane (and yes, I am talking about fellow passengers and the Stews). I don’t want my laptop or other electronic devices to be damaged by these people.

I did have a bit of a run in on a recent flight. I was going from SEA to ORD and the woman in front of me decided to put her bag under HER seat and not under the seat in front of her.  To make this work, she had to push my bag out of the way.  After about 15 minutes (on the ground) of foot fighting with this broad, I remind her that her storage area is the under the seat in front of her. She had already filled that space, I found. I then reminded her that she needs to use the overhead bins – which were now full.  The Stew then came back to see what was going on and I explained to her. She then grabbed the ladies bag (without saying another word) that was going under her seat and took it (I assume she put it in a closet up front).  The woman in front of me was extremely unhappy all the flight.  To get back at me, she SLAMMED her seat back. Luckily I was in the Exit Row, so she had extremely limited recline :).  She then hated me even more as she continued to try to SLAM her seat back into me.  Another reason to pick exit row, right?

When you travel, where do you put your personal item – Overhead Bin or Under the Seat?  Do you run into issues with people who don’t understand where their storage areas are?

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Homemade Tomato Meat Pasta Sauce

Fall seems to be the busiest time of year for me. My favorite non-profits start a new season of activities, French Class stars up again and work gets a little more hectic.  When I get home after a long day/evening out, sometimes I want a nice home cooked relatively healthy meal.  One of my easy go to meals on days like this is a simple Tomato Meat Sauce for pasta.  I usually make a very large batch once or twice a year and package them into smaller (single, double or triple) serving contains. I then freeze these containers and can have a nice home cooked meal with little notice.  I’m not delusional – I know pasta isn’t all that healthy, but I eat it in moderation an know exactly what goes into it.

Saturday night I made a huge double portion of my Homemade Tomato Meat Pasta Sauce.  My Le Creuset nearly wasn’t big enough.  Here is my recipe (which is actually a combination of a few different bolognese sauces and simple tomato sauces):

  • 1/4 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 4 Celery Stalks, Diced
  • 2 Carrots, Peeled and Diced
  • 2 Medium Yellow Onions, Diced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Pressed
  • 2.5 Pounds Ground Beef (80/20), cooked with fat drained
  • 4 28 Ounce Cans of Good Diced Tomatoes (no herbs added)
  • 2 6 Ounce Cans of Tomato Paste
  • 1.5 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
Before you start this recipe, prepare everything. Clean, Dice, Peel, Cook (the beef) and Open (all the cans).  
  1. Once you are fully prepared, start by heating your biggest stock pot (with this recipe, you’ll need a pot that holds at least 28 cups) with the Olive Oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the celery, carrots and onions. Cook until the celery, carrots and onions are soft and aromatic – about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add the Garlic and cook for 2 minutes until aromatic.
  3. Add the Cooked Beef (again, make sure the fat is trained) and the Diced Tomatoes.
  4. Add the Salt and Pepper to taste.
  5. Bring this to a boil and add the Tomato Paste. I love Tomatoes — adding two cans of Paste really kicks up the Tomato Flavor. If you want less Tomato Flavor (WHY?) then only use one can of Paste.
  6. Add the Oregano and reduce the heat and cover. Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes taste the sauce. Does it need more pepper? More Oregano? More Salt. Adjust to your tastes.
I serve this over fresh pasta. For an entree portion of pasta I find that 3/4 cup of sauce is good per person. Once this cools, let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, dish this into smaller freezer safe dishes and freeze. I’ve kept these in the freezer for 3-4 month and had no issues. I am sure they will last longer — I just wouldn’t know because I eat it long before it goes bad.

A night of cooking and a
very full Le Creuset
Do you find yourself making comfort food like this in the fall? What is your favorite pasta sauce recipe? Do you make a huge batch and freeze or just do it as needed?  Do you think 12 ounces of tomato past is too much here?

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PNW Roadtrip: PNW: Final Thoughts

This trip to the Pacific Northwest was built around the International Pinot Noir Celebration.  We had a bunch of vacation days left over, since our trip to Vietnam was cancelled (read about that here, here, here, here, here, here and here) because of this.

This was a great trip – even though it had more driving than I usually like on any trip.  I was able to show MS my home state – show him some of the touristy things that I did as a child and I was able to experience some things that I really should have done when I was younger (like this, this or this) but didn’t.

I was thinking of things that I would change about this trip – and other than the long drives, I think the only thing I would change is the hotels in Portland and Seattle. I wouldn’t change these hotels because they were bad, but because there are so many other options out there, I’d like to try something new.  The hotels near Crater Lake or in Lincoln City were perfectly lovely and I would definitely return to each of them.

Have you taken a Pacific Northwest Road Trip before? Where you focused on Wine, Hiking, History, Architecture, Food or something else?  What did we miss that we should visit on our next trip? What did we visit that makes you want to take a trip now?

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Culinary Genius or White Trash

Cinnamon Roll Waffles? One of the blogs I follow posted a picture of what looked to be a terribly unhealthy but unbelievably tasty (and white trashy) looking breakfast.  It isn’t so much a recipe as it is an alternate guide to cooking mass produced grocery store food that requires the most minimal amount of actual “cooking”.

For breakfast I had what I’m calling a Cinnamon Roll Waffle. Yes, for breakfast this morning I had Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls — cooked in a Waffle Iron.  I knew going in that this breakfast wasn’t going to earn my kitchen even a single Michelin Star.  I figured it would be a nice thing to try — and maybe use it as a quick breakfast when I have house guests.

Always recommend prepping your
ingredients before you start to cook.

The “recipe” is simple. Turn on your Waffle Iron (mine has just two settings: on and off) and spray with a cooking spray (I used Pam as you can see). Once the Iron is hot, put a single pre-made cinnamon roll in each of the waffle spots.  Close the lid and latch it closed, if you have a latch.

My Iron took about 2 minutes to cook the rolls through and crisp up the edges.  You’ll have to check your own Iron as it may cook quicker or take a bit longer.  Once done, immediately use the provided frosting (if the rolls aren’t hot, your factory produced icing will not melt).

So, how was it? It was very good. It is all sugar and processed flour and not at all part of a balanced breakfast.  I could easily see making this again – when guests are staying here, or when I host brunch (like here).  This is not high food, but it is a bit of comfort food, especially for those of us who grew up in households where we never had homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

Part of a balanced breakfast?
Not so much.
Have you made this “recipe” before?  Does this whet your appetite?  Have you used your Waffle Iron for alternate uses, like this (or to make biscuits or brownies)?

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Cookin’ and Freezin’ on a Saturday Night

I had a WILD Saturday night last night. I made two big batches of freezable meals (and watched a bad movie).  Since Fall is upon us, I decided to make a big batch of Homemade Tomato Meat Pasta Sauce and an Artichoke Soup with Fresh Mint.  I decided to keep one serving of each in the refrigerator and package the rest in individual (single, double or triple) servings and freeze for a later day.

Large Pot of Artichoke Soup
and a HUGE pot of Meat Sauce.

I’ve made Giada de Laurentiis’ Artichoke Soup with Fresh Mint so many times before — it’s so good and so easy. I really love it in the summer, served cold.  It seems like I always have a little bit of it in the fridge or freezer.  Yesterday I made a double batch and froze a huge portion for quick a quick fall meal.

I also decided to make a huge portion of my Homemade Tomato Meat Pasta Sauce. I will post the recipe later and link back, in case you want it.  Fall is the perfect time to make and freeze soups, don’t you think?

Frozen sauce/soup for quick fall meals

What is your favorite fall soup recipe? Does it freeze well?  On a cool fall day, don’t you just want a nice warm soup when you get home?  If you have a favorite soup recipe, email me or post it in the comments and I’ll make it.

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