Gardening Odds and Ends

IMG-20140423-00162 chives

"A weed is just a plant out of place". An oft-repeated aphorisms from a gardening mentor which also neatly fits into organizational theory: non-performing team members just who just haven't found their niche or unique role as an individual contributor. Either the plant (or he/she) gets pulled up by the roots (fired/termed/seek new opportunities/make new friends/whacked) and tossed on the compost pile, or gently removed to a garden spot more congenial to its purpose (re-assigned to new and exciting projects!!)     What's not to like about chive blossoms? Grab a few, break them up a little, and toss them on whatever you want to taste like a garlic/onion combo: a salad, an egg tart, or an open face sandwich.   A … [Read more...]

Try some British Food. Tastes Just Like Chicken.

british food

Here's what not to say to your hired car driver in jolly old England: "You know, nobody ever says: hey, let's go out for British food! I've been here over a dozen times, and never really had decent British food." Such was the words blurted out by one American colleague from the backseat peanut gallery during last week's trip. Discussing dinner options shouldn't be a cultural minefield, but there it was. The driver - let's call him Lance, because that was his name - displayed the self-control and perfectly stiff upper lip for which the English are renowned, and only mildly opined that some pub food is better than others, and shepherd's pie at the Spotted Cow was quite good, what? Only a tightening of the jaw line and clenching of … [Read more...]

In The Kitchen: Rub-a-dub-dub, Let’s Smoke Some Ribs

icy covered BBQ grill

  Nothing better than a rack of pork ribs slow-smoked to perfection. Or at least, good enough to chow down on, with good beer and good company. So, let's smoke some ribs. Here at Casa USA Financial Service we don't (yet) have a true smoker with a separate fire-box for the fancy hardwood. No fancy electric convection smoker, no "outdoor kichen" built-ins. Just a regular ol' grill, made the old-fashioned way by Chinese prison and/or child labor. Even though the grill was out of commission for a couple days during December's "polar vortex" cold snap, as long as we're a few degrees above zero and the wind chill is manageable, it's smoking/BBQ/grilling time! First up, the rub: just equal parts freshly ground black pepper, kosher … [Read more...]

Save Money at the Farm Stand

Mr. USA Financial Service is away this week, so the following is a post by Chris Thomas of FreelancePF and the What is Personal Finance Online personal finance encyclopedia, who will be running the site and posting throughout the week. Everyone knows that eating locally grown fruits and vegetables generally (depending on your opinion) taste better, support the local economy, and are better for the environment. What I never realized until yesterday, however, is how farm stands can also be great for your wallet. Farmer's Market My wife tends to do the grocery shopping in our house.   The reason being, she works in the schools, so she generally gets done work three or four hours before I do. Yesterday was one of those days where she went … [Read more...]

Our Piggie is Here

Slap on the grill, searing hot coals

Well, make that half a pig.   Last week we took delivery of a side of pork from a local farmer.  This is our second time buying a side of pork from a local farmer. (and third time buying meat in bulk. I wrote an earlier post about buying beef in bulk.) The total cost came to $278.00, 112 pounds @ $2.48 per pound.  By ordering local, we get to call the meat processor and get to specify, within a certain limit, what type of cuts we want, how thick the pork chops, how much in sausage versus chops, and so on. The other benefit of course, is that the meat is free from all the garbage that is frequently added, like antibiotics and growth hormones... or water.   As reported at the Consumerist website, injected pork water is probably … [Read more...]

Cream Cheese Inflation

Seems like not too long ago, a standard pack of store brand cream cheese could be had for 99 cents.  Now it's more like $1.68.   Lender's refrigerated bagels,  a buck or so a couple years ago, now $1.43.  This is a Walmart's Neighborhood Market, not the most foodiest place around. How's that deflation thing working out again, Mr. Bernanke? … [Read more...]

Buying Beef in Bulk

How about 367 pounds of beef?   That was the "hanging weight" of the side of beef that we bought recently from a colleague at work who cattle ranches on the side.  Most people  blanch at the mere though of buying so much beef at one time. In fact, we kind of did as well.  "Where the heck are we going to store all this meat?" was the first emotional reaction.   Ultimately, rational thought won out. If you have the funds available, buying this quantity of food is equivalent to taking a net present value discount on your future food bills.  A year's worth of pricey beef cuts is a great way to hedge against creeping inflation and rising food prices. Some more thoughts : 367 lbs of beefy goodness @ $2.75/lb, nets out to about 250 … [Read more...]