Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mother's Fresh Blueberry Pie - a weekend recipe

There are three blueberry bushes in my parent’s backyard in Vivian, Louisiana. Each year, blueberries fill their branches and my mother provided Brother Jack and me with countless jars of blueberry jam, and fresh blueberries for pies, etc. When Jack and I cleaned out the house last week in anticipation of selling it, Marilyn gave me one specific order.

“Bring home a cutting from one of your Mother’s blueberry bushes.”

Inclement weather accompanied us to Louisiana and back again. The tarp used to cover the bed of the truck ripped in the wind long before we made it to Atlanta, Texas, our cuttings whipped and torn by the wind by the time we reached Oklahoma. I transplanted my cuttings into Oklahoma earth, damp from days of rain. Will they survive? I am keeping my fingers crossed.

While sorting through a box containing numerous cookbooks and many individual recipes, I came across this recipe for fresh blueberry pie. I hope that you can find blueberries as tasty as Mom’s. If you can, you are in luck.

· 1/3 cup flour
· ½ cup sugar
· ½ tsp. cinnamon
· 4 ½ cups fresh blueberries
· 9-inch unbaked pie shell
· 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
· ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
· 1 cup flour
· ½ cup butter or margarine

Combine 1/3 cup flour, sugar, cinnamon and blueberries. Mix well and put into pie shell. Drizzle with lemon juice. Combine brown sugar and 1-cup flour. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Spread topping over berries. Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees, and then cover with foil and continue baking for 20 minutes more. Enjoy.

Eric's Web

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Motorcycles, Fast Cars and Strong Beer

My first wife Gail became a player on a softball team shortly after we moved to Oklahoma. Oklahoma is a hotbed for women’s softball. The kind usually seen on ESPN is fast pitch. Gail played third base on a slow pitch team.

Gail’s new friend Vickie, who played second base, and her husband John, soon became our best friends. Not realizing that Gail and Vickie were already friends, I had met John when we inadvertently sat together at a game. Our wives were losing badly to a much better team. Some of the opposition’s husbands and boy friends began expressing their distain by braying like deranged jackasses whenever our team committed an error, or someone on their team hit a homerun.

John and Vickie liked doing many of the same things as Gail and I. Like us, they were both avid campers, but that was just one of the many things we did together. John, it seemed, liked everything that I liked – motorcycles, fast cars and strong beer. He also had a strong attraction for British sports cars.

When I met him, he had two Triumphs, a TR3 and a TR4 that he was restoring. I badgered him so much that he finally sold me the TR4, and along the way, I sold him my Triumph Bonneville 750 motorcycle that I had grown tired of riding only during the day. In those days British cars, and motorcycles, had electronics by Lucas.

For those aficionados out there, you already know that many called Lucas the “Prince of Darkness.” This is because of the propensity of the lights and wiring of cars and motorcycles using Lucas Electronics to fail at the most inopportune times. When the headlights would abruptly go out while driving the TR4 at night, I was deft at restoring power by manipulating the wiring behind the dash, all the while never removing my foot from the gas pedal.

Our marriages to Gail and Vickie are both defunct but John and I are still friends, even after several decades. I also still have the TR4, now parked in my garage, desperately in need of a new restoration. After all these years, I sometimes have to restrain myself from braying like a deranged jackass when I see someone performing at less than one hundred percent.

Eric's Web

Monday, May 04, 2009

Shrimp and Plum Kebabs - a recipe

I have found a new website that features many wonderful recipes for healthy eating. Please check out This recipe for shrimp and plum kebobs immediately caught my attention. Toss quick-cooking shrimp, juicy summertime plums and zesty jalapeños with a simple cilantro-lime marinade for a deluxe meal in minutes. If you like, use peaches or nectarines in place of the plums and red or green bell peppers for the jalapeños.

3 tablespoons canola oil or toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
12 raw shrimp (8-12 per pound), peeled and deveined
3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise
2 plums, pitted and cut into sixths

1. Whisk oil, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice and salt in a large bowl. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the mixture in a small bowl to use as dressing. Add shrimp, jalapeños and plums to the remaining marinade; toss to coat.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high.

3. Make 4 kebabs, alternating shrimp, jalapeños and plums evenly among four 10-inch skewers. (Discard the marinade.) Grill the kebabs, turning once, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Drizzle with the reserved dressing.

Eric's Web

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Unlikely Results in 134th Kentucky Derby

I love racing, every manner of racing from autos, to bobsleds, to humans on foot. This afternoon, I witnessed a race that people will remember forever – the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. A 50-1 long shot, a horse purchased for only $9500, won by almost 7 lengths.

Louisiana jockey Calvin Borel brought the winner Mine That Bird home on a sloppy track, hugging the rail and winding through traffic. Mindful of the importance of the victory, Borel paraded Mine That Bird around the track Instead of heading directly for the winner’s circle.

The trainer, Chip Wooley, a relative unknown in the sport and now a first time winner of the Kentucky Derby, had driven the horse from New Mexico, a twenty-one hour drive, with a broken leg from a recent motorcycle accident.

Three heroes emerged from this historic race: Borel, Wooley and Mine That Bird. I watched the event in rapt amazement, wondering how a well thought out movie script could have conveyed more emotion.

Eric's Web

Friday, May 01, 2009

Life's Little Speed Bumps

Still early spring in Oklahoma, the day began as wet and cool. Sometime after lunch, the sun came out and I decided to clean my spa, a task to which I was not looking forward. The problem, I quickly learned, was worse than I imagined.

While Marilyn and I live in the city limits of Edmond, we have no city water. Our house is on a well and septic tank. The water is palatable, yes, even healthy because it is loaded with minerals. Well, healthy for humans, that is.

There is so much calcium in the water that it clogs the pipes and hampers the cleaning ability of our dishwasher. The water is “hard.” Yes, we have a water softener but it never seems to stay ahead of the hardness problem. Because of the minerals in the water, our spa is a nightmare to maintain.

Water evaporates quickly in central Oklahoma making it necessary to add water to the spa almost every day. This means the ph of the water increases every time you add more water. The spa water was dark from dirt, sand and plant debris that had blown into it over the winter, so I decided to drain it and start over. Once the last drop of water drained from the fiberglass shell, I realized I had a larger problem than I had anticipated.

Thick calcium deposits coated the walls and bottom of the spa. My first thought was to throw up my hands in defeat and return to the house for a cold beer. No way, I told myself. I will not let this little problem get the best of me. Grabbing a gallon of vinegar, rags and a stiff brush, I went to work removing the calcium scale.

Commercial vinegar will remove some scale but is woefully lacking when it comes to strong deposits. What should I do? I wondered. My problem, I knew, was a simple lack of chemistry skills. I was not even sure if increasing the ph made things more basic, or vice versa. I was unaware of the fact that I am chemistry challenged until I left home to go away to college.

I had to take many science and math courses to complete my degree in geology and one requirement was twelve semester hours in chemistry. While I like cooking, and creating meals by systematically adding ingredients, I soon learned that the study of chemistry is, by nature, much more precise. Not a precise person, my last chemistry course almost became my undoing.

Advanced qualitative analysis was my last chemistry course; at least I think because I have tried for years now to block it from my mind. I had flunked the course at least once. Maybe it was twice, but I have effectively blocked that little failure from my psyche. This was the only course I had left to complete my degree.

My last semester occurred during the Vietnam War and undergrads deferred from serving as long as they maintained their grades and did not graduate. Because of this, colleges across the country experienced record enrollment. So many young people wanted to attend college that it became necessary to weed many of them out. Advanced qualitative analysis was one of the courses administrators used to accomplish their goal.

Most students completed this course their sophomore year. I was not so lucky. I quickly learned it was my nemesis and likely my undoing. I had a Dee, just barely, going into the final exam. I was far from the best student at the university, but I prided myself in never groveling. As the final exam drew near, I thought better of my pride. Catching the Prof in the hall alone one day, I took the opportunity to plead my case.

“This is my last required course,” I said. “If I don’t pass it, I’ll be drafted. If this happens, I know I will die in Vietnam without a degree. Please, please help me,” I begged.

When I checked the test results, posted on the door outside the chemistry lab, I saw that only twelve out of two-hundred and fifty students that had taken the course had passed. I was one of them. Even though I was last of those that had passed, I felt like the king of the world.

Years have passed since taking that last chemistry course but I thought about it as I pondered how to remedy my spa’s calcium problem. After checking the internet, I realized I needed to lower the ph. Luckily, I had two bottles of ph reducer. Add two capfuls, circulate for thirty minutes and then recheck the ph, the directions said.

I honestly attempted to follow directions, but after an hour had passed, I realized I had done little or nothing to change the high ph of the spa water. To hell with this, I thought as I dumped the entire bottle of ph reducer into the spa. Tomorrow I will check the spa’s chemistry again and hope no one takes a dip before then.

Eric's Web