Brandied Cocktail Cherries

Steve:

Making homemage cocktail cherries for a second year in a row. I might give this recipe a go.

Originally posted on grow it cook it can it:

I’m crazy about these cherries. They’re so dark and elegant, with a touch of brandy and vanilla bean.

They were inspired by these great looking brandied cocktail cherries that Aimee from Homemade Trade suggested to me.  I didn’t change the recipe much– mostly I just canned it to make it shelf stable instead of something for the fridge. (Since I’m horrible at actually reading and following recipes, and only realized partway through making the original batch that it wasn’t for canning…. but then canned them anyway, since I could).
Because I have a one track mind in the kitchen.  If a recipe just happens to be safe for water-bath canning, why would you not do it? oh, you mean these cherries are for supposed to be for now? Oh, no, I don’t want them now, I want them for later.

Brandied Cocktail Cherries

The original source for…

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50 Great Books You’ll Never Read in School

Steve:

Interesting list.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Back-to-school time is upon us, and for many, that means reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus. Classrooms, especially high school classrooms (college classes are becoming so weird and specific nowadays that you could read just about anything in them), suffer from the “classic effect” — which is exactly what it sounds like. Not that there’s anything wrong with literary classics, and they definitely should be read, but there’s so much more out there. And when you consider the fact that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives — well, it would be nice if they had a little more to go on than The Great Gatsby. After the jump, find a selection of books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read, and add your own favorite anti-schoolbooks to the list in the…

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50 Incredible Novels Under 200 Pages

Steve:

What a great list.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Springtime can make even the most devoted of readers a little bit antsy. After all, there are flowers to smell, puddles to jump in, fresh love to kindle. You still want to have a novel in your pocket — just maybe one that doesn’t require quite so epic an attention span. Never fear: after the jump, you will find 50 incredible novels under 200 pages (editions vary, of course, so there’s a little leeway) that are suitable for this or any season. For simplicity’s sake, the list makes no distinction between novel and novella, excludes children’s books, and only allows one novel per author. Read on to find a book to divert your springtime attentions, and since there are way more than 50 incredible short novels out there in the world, add any favorites missing here in the comments.

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Fascinating Graphs Trace Words’ Appearances in Songs, 1960-Present

Steve:

Interesting data.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

These fascinating graphs are the work of one Nickolay Lamm, and are part of a project that he’s calling Money, Love and Sex. The project charts the frequency with which various words appear in the top 100 singles on the Billboard chart over the years, essentially providing a portrait of how the vocabulary of music has evolved since the 1960s.

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Facebook hit with lawsuit over “Like” ads – user says he never “Liked” USA Today

Steve:

I’ve often suspected as much in my own experience. You?

Originally posted on Gigaom:

A Colorado man who claims Facebook(s fb) falsely told his friends that he “Liked” USA Today(s gci) has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $750 for himself and every other user who appeared in ads for products they never endorsed.

In a class action complaint filed in San Jose, Anthony Ditirro says a friend called his attention to a Facebook ad that shows Ditirro “liking” a USA Today food section:

FB like screenshot

According to Ditirro, he never clicked his “Like” button on USA Today’s Facebook page or even visited the publication’s website in the first place.

“Although PLAINTIFF has nothing negative to say about USA TODAY newspapers, PLAINTIFF is not an avid reader of USA TODAY, nor does PLAINTIFF endorse the newspaper,” says the complaint.

The lawsuit states that the phantom Likes violate a series of state and federal laws related to privacy and publicity rights, and cites a California law that…

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Drinking from the Twitter firehose: I love the stream, but I need more filters and bridges

Steve:

Matt Ingram articulates the main shortcoming with Twitter quite well in this piece.

Originally posted on Gigaom:

By now, many of us who live our lives — or at least significant parts of them — online have grown used to the ubiquity of the “stream” metaphor when it comes to consuming content. It probably started with RSS feeds and blogs, but it has become the default for many services, and particularly social ones like Twitter (s twtr) and Facebook (s fb) and Tumblr (s yhoo). Where once there were individual webpages, now there’s often just a stream that scrolls off into infinity, like a highway that disappears into a distant horizon.

That kind of thing is wonderfully liberating, but it can also be distracting and noisy, and I would argue that Twitter is one of the worst culprits. I’m willing to admit that part of the problem is the way that people like me use it (or possibly over-use it), but part of it is also…

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Top Rope Anchor Cluster

Steve:

If you’re a climber, here’s my latest post on Jive-Ass Anchors.

Originally posted on Jive-Ass Anchors:

Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.
Wim on Pitch 1 of The Crown Jewel.

This entry borrows a chapter from the book “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” In early December (2013) we had a very rare and sustained cold snap in the Pacific Northwestern U.S. It was cold enough to freeze some of the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge that divides Washington and Oregon, and all of my Portland area climbing pals were going ape shit crazy with all of the ice climbing opportunities. I managed to get out on two days myself, and even had the rare opportunity to climb the Crown Jewel below Crown Point on the Oregon side of the river. It’s two pitches of WI3. That’s my buddy Wim leading pitch 1 in the photo above. Not the gnarliest thing in the world, mind you, but you have to appreciate how rare it is for it to ever be ‘in’. Moreover…

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Is SEO Dead or Alive? Introduction

SEO is Dead Search History. Screen capture by Steve Heikkila
‘SEO is Dead’ Search History. Screen capture by Steve Heikkila

The Report of SEO’s Death

“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” Mark Twain once humorously quipped. He was responding to a minor media debacle whereby The Herald newspaper mistook news of a cousin’s grave illness for news that Twain himself was a death’s door. I think of this quote every time I read an obituary for Search Engine Optimization. While the reasons offered in support of the claim that SEO is dead often sound fairly compelling, the skeptic in me always insists upon withholding judgment. After all, the news of SEO’s death has been reported repeatedly at least since 1997, but somehow the old boy always seems to pull through and keep kicking. Given the perennial nature of this death knell you can hardly blame a fellow for being a bit wary.

“Okay sure, maybe it was just hype in the past,” SEO’s most recent undertakers will argue, “but this time it’s for real! Because, you know, Panda! And Penguin! And Humming Bird!” And the more adamant of SEO’s defenders will retort, “Don’t be so naïve! SEO is alive and well, and it will continue to be as long as search engines continue to exist.” The practical truth of the matter surely lies somewhere between these highly invested and polarized viewpoints, and is certainly less melodramatic.

Cutting through the Bull

Let’s cut right to the obvious but oh so sensitive chase. Both those in the ‘SEO is dead’ camp and in the ‘SEO is alive and well’ camp are correct in their own way. The reason this is the case is because the whole controversy is largely semantic. SEO is dead or alive depending upon what you mean by SEO. Define your terms appropriately and you can make a case either way. This is important to note, because in most cases the people who insist upon discussing the future of SEO in stark, all-or-nothing, ‘dead or alive’ terms have a dog in the fight. They’re not interested in a nuanced and even handed treatment of the subject matter. They address the issue in stark ‘dead or alive’ terms on purpose. I’m thinking especially of the ‘SEO is dead’ camp here, because they’re the ones who are driving the debate. In this camp are social media marketers, content marketers, bloggers, SEM and PPC practitioners, social platform providers, inbound marketing solution providers, and anyone who proposes to represent the ‘answer’ to SEO’s demise. They’re business people, and they’re competing for wallet share.

Those in the SEO defender camp are largely those who make their living off of SEO. They’re defending their livelihood.

The important take away here is that by framing the discussion about the fate of SEO in stark, ‘dead or alive’ terms, the debate itself has been rendered utterly facile. It glosses over the more practical and fundamental question that we all really want answered, which is simply this: given the present configuration of the digital universe, what is the best way to drive or attract traffic to a website?  

We might argue as to whether I’ve articulated this more nuanced question too broadly or too narrowly, but I hope you’ll agree that I’ve at least captured the general idea correctly. The answer to this question is what’s really at stake. There was a time when, and a place where SEO was the answer to this question. It remains to be seen what the correct answer is at present (January 2014).

In future segments of this article I’ll explore the pros and cons of the various pretenders to the throne, including a rather powerful critique offered by the SEO camp. In the meantime, I’ve included list of links I found related to the facile debate regarding the reputed Death of SEO.

SEO is Dead Links

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2012/07/20/the-death-of-seo-the-rise-of-social-pr-and-real-content/

http://www.marketingtechblog.com/seo-is-dead/

http://www.inboundnow.com/seo-is-dead-the-evolution-of-inbound-marketing-and-how-to-adapt/

http://www.inc.com/neal-cabage/seo-is-dead-now-what.html

http://techli.com/2013/12/the-truth-about-internet-marketing-part-2-seo-is-a-scam/

SEO is Still Alive Links

http://searchengineland.com/is-seo-dead-1997-prediction-meet-2009-reality-32113

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshsteimle/2013/07/15/seo-is-not-dead-and-will-never-die-infographic/

http://www.seobook.com/learn-seo/infographics/death-of-seo.php

SEO is Still Alive, and Marissa Mayer is Still VP of Search at Google

http://www.seoisnotdead.com/

SEO Didn’t Die, It Was Simply Reincarnated

http://socialmediatoday.com/node/2030161?utm_source=smt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&inf_contact_key=ee97ec15b213257f74bee35f7f2e37ba840c2ae065f511da1827fcf343fa1376

Santa Claus Fact Sheet

For those of you who are interested in creating content marketing material with visual impact, it’s hard to beat the incredibly effective and popular infographic. I’ve discovered that you can make fairly decent infographics using Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, that’s right. PowerPoint.

Start by sizing your slide as “Custom” under the Page Set Up menu to create the infographic palate size you want (in this case, I went with 30 inches x 90 inches).

Slide layout settings menu
Slide layout settings menu

From there it’s simply a matter of making use of PowerPoint’s text, shape, and image tools. To create icons, combine various shapes from the shapes menu, position, color fill, and size the pieces appropriately until you have your recongizable icon, and then highlight each component (Shift+Right Click) and conjoin them as a group (there is a group option in the menu). You can then move, resize, and manipulate your icon as a single piece.

When you complete your infographic, save it as a .PNG file and share away.

I’m not much of a graphic designer, but if you are, you can produce some pretty decent results. It’s not as slick as Adobe PhotoShop or Illustrator, mind you, but it’s much more impressive than I expected, and it uses software that most business people have on their laptop already. My first shot at this is below. Happy Holidays to you, and happy content marketing.

Santa Claus Fact Sheet Infographic
Santa Claus Fact Sheet

Texas Chili Recipes

Over a three week period I made three batches of chili, starting on what seemed to be on the right path based on researching online, and then tweaking a bit. If you’re looking for inspiration to cook, be sure to scroll down to recipe #3. It’s the best one. This whole odyssey began with my Texas Chili Project post a few weeks ago, so if you’re interested in the history and culture of Texas chili, start there.

Texas Chili Recipe #1

Texas Chili Recipe #1: the First Attempt.
Texas Chili Recipe #1: the First Attempt.

Ingredients

The Beef

3 pounds of sirloin steak, cut into small cubes (about ¼ to ⅓ of an inch cube)

The Chilies

3 oz package of dried New Mexico chilies, seeded and stemmed

2 oz. package of dried Ancho chilies, seeded and stemmed.

1 oz package of ground Pasilla Molido chili powder

1 T Ground Cayanne Pepper

The Remaining Ingredients

2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium fine

1 12 oz can of Campbell’s beef consomme

1 ½ t Kosher Salt

¼ t Ground Black Pepper

1 T Onion Powder

1 T Garlic Powder

1 T Ground Cumin

1 T Ground Coriander Seed

1 t Ground Cinnamon

½ C Apple Cider Vinegar

Method

Boil the whole dried chilies in 1 quart of water for about 5 minutes to soften. Puree in a blender until very smooth (this is key, I discovered, or you get bits of unpalatable pepper skin in your chili).

Saute onion in the olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent. Add the beef, black pepper, and the remaining salt. Cook until mostly browned. Add the onion and garlic powder, stir. Then add the chili puree, the ground chili powders. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour covered. Add water if it gets too thick.

After an hour, add the remaining powdered ingredients (I don’t know if it really matters, but I read a recipe in which cumin and coriander are added later because they can burn in the stew). Cook for about another hour. Keep adding water so you end up with a nice chili consistency–not too soupy but not too thick.

Notes

  1. This was an admirable first attempt, I think. Nice amount of heat (although I could go quite a bit hotter), and super flavorful. I gobbled it up in pretty short order.
  2. Apparently you can overcook chili until the meat gets mushy. My two hours seemed to work well. The sirloin was very tender but not mushy.

  3. Without the cayanne the chili isn’t very hot (it’s fairly sweet). I found that 1 T of cayanne gave it a nice heat without being really hot (for my taste–it would be too hot for some). I might even add a bit more next time if it was just for me, but this amount is probably good for ‘company’.

  4. Most recipes do not include the cider vinegar,but I found the chili was a bit bland and muddy tasting without it. It really needed some acid. Adding the vinegar was key in my view.

  5. I didn’t puree the chiles well enough, so I had some bits of New Mexico chili skin in the chili, which wasn’t a good texture. Need to be sure to puree those well.

For Next Time:

  1. A bit of ground clove?

  2. Try a Tri-Tip roast for the beef?

  3. Some recipes have a bit of brown sugar to sweeten the chili. This could be good.

  4. I’ve seen some deglazing with tequila (mabye a few ounces).

  5. Some Texas chili recipes have hasa flour in it.

  6. Some versions have tomato sauce and beef and chicken “granules” (buillion, I assume).

  7. Most “award winning” chili recipes have Goya Sazon in it (it’s a mix of MSG, Annato, gatlic, cumin, salt, and artificial coloring)..

  8. Bit of coffee?

  9. Toast the dried chilies before rehydrating them.

Texas Chili Recipe #2: Leaning in the ‘Contest Chili’ Direction.

I read a lot of award winning chili competition chili recipes and decided to make a batch that stirs in that direction. I decided to try the MSG (Goya Sazon) and some chicken bouillon (lots of contest chilis have it). Also, last time I didn’t puree my chilis enough and ended up with unpleasant bits of New Mexico chili skin in the final product. So I was careful to puree the chilis well. Most competition chilies seem to use powdered chili and chili mixes exclusively, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go a fully processed route. See my post about my Texas Chili Project for more on this.

The recipe is essentially the same as recipe #1 with the following differences:

  1. I replaced the 1 oz package of ground Pasilla Molido chili powder with a 1 oz package of ground Hot New Mexico chili powder.
  2. I added 1 Knorr chicken bouillon cube (all the cool kids are doing it).

  3. I added 1 packet of Sazón Goya con Culantro y Achiote (a fairly ubiquitous ingredient in competition chili).

  4. I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

Notes

  1. Not nearly as good as the first batch in my opinion. It had an odd, I don’t know, chemical like flavor. I think it must have been the Sazón Goya.
  2. It was a bit too sweet for my taste. I think the brown sugar addition was fine, but I’d back off on the amount next time. Maybe just a big tablespoonful. 
  3. I decided to go the other direction for the next batch (rustic homestyle rather than competition powdered concoction).

Texas Chili Recipe #3: The Best of the Bunch.

Texas Chili Recipe #3 is a winner.
Texas Chili Recipe #3 is a winner.

This final recipe was the best. I’m pretty satisfied to use it as a master recipe. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the Homesick Texan, who argues it’s perfectly acceptable to experiment a bit with chili, and that you needn’t be so anal retentive about it. You can mix it up every time, using different chilis, and varying the spices. He also puts coffee in his chili, which I’ll likely try next, and Mexican chocholate (which is a no-no to some because it reads like Mexican mole). I think what I like best about his approach is simply that it embraces my own instincts about a dish like chili. He’s got what looks like an awesome recipe here.

I ground my own spices where possible, but one noteworthy point is that I forgot to toast my chilies before soaking them. I’ll do that next time. I also tried a chuck roast rather than sirloin this time. The chuck is fattier, so it’s probably not as texturally uniform for competition chili, but I like it better. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

The Beef

3 pounds of chuck roast, cut into small cubes (about ¼ to ⅓ of an inch cube)

The Chilies

3 oz package of dried New Mexico chilies, seeded and stemmed

2 oz. package of dried Ancho chilies, seeded and stemmed.

2 oz package of Chil Negro Entero (chil pods), seeded and stemmed.

1 T Ground Cayanne Pepper

The Remaining Ingredients

2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium fine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 12 oz can of Campbell’s beef consomme

First Dump (with the chilis)

1 ½ t Kosher Salt

¼ t Ground Black Pepper

1 T Onion Powder

1 T Garlic Powder

Second Dump (after one hour)

1 T Ground Cumin

1 T Ground Coriander Seed

1 t Ground Cinnamon

1 t Ground Allspice

½ C Apple Cider Vinegar

1 T Brown Sugar

Method

Boil the whole dried chilies in 1 quart of water for about 5 minutes to soften. Puree in a blender until very smooth (this is key or you get bits of unpalatable pepper skin in your chili).

Saute onion in the olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent. Add minced garlic for a few minutes. Add the beef, black pepper, and the remaining salt. Cook until mostly browned. Add the onion and garlic powder, stir. Then add the chili puree. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour covered. Add water if it gets too thick.

After an hour, add the remaining powdered ingredients and the sugar and cider vinegar.. Cook for about another hour, or until the meat is very tender. Keep adding water so you end up with a nice chili consistency–not too soupy but not too thick.

Notes

  1. I don’t care for the sweet gravy, but a bit of sugar takes out a slight bitter edge I detect. A tablespoon was just about right.

  2. I cut the chuck roast into slightly larger cubes because of the grain of that cut (tiny cubes don’t come out so well). The chuck has a bit more fat than the sirloin, which I think is a no-no for chili competitions, but I don’t care. The original Chili Queens recipe has ¼ C of Suet and ¼ of Lard.

  3. Added raw garlic due to preference for scratch cooking. I contemplated leaving out the onion and garlic powders as a result, but decided against it last minute. They’ve got a different flavor than the raw stuff.

  4. This shit is da bomb.

Digital Marketing Professional, Creative Thinker, Alpine Adventurer, Vanquisher of Chaos

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