Massachusetts Man: Donuts! Edition

The Boston Globe reports:

Former state senator Brian A. Joyce collected about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks that he laundered through his law firm, according to a sweeping 102-page indictment that accuses the Milton Democrat of turning his public office into a criminal enterprise — even accepting hundreds of pounds of free coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts owner.

Joyce, once the Senate’s assistant majority leader, was taken from his Westport home in handcuffs early on Friday morning and escorted by federal agents to be booked and fingerprinted, and face federal charges of mail fraud, corruption, money laundering, and embezzlement, among many others.

Acting US Attorney William Weinreb said prosecutors launched the investigation of Joyce after a series of stories by The Boston Globe that began in January 2015 looking at Joyce’s mingling of public and personal business.

Weinreb said investigators estimated that Joyce’s many illegal schemes have netted him about $1 million since 2010. Prosecutors say, among other things, Joyce extorted a Jeep from a Milton developer and collected more than $100,000 in phony legal fees from a Dunkin’ Donuts store owner in exchange for using his influence to help them.

Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, was more blunt: “We believe Mr. Joyce was greedy, plain and simple.’’

Ya think?!?!?

Anyhow the donut reference, yes I know it was coffee from Dunkins, and the Boston reference trigger the following obligatory entries.

Open thread!



Thanksgiving Files: Blueberry Pie

This was my very first (!) pie attempt years ago

I have to work today, but I thought I’d put together a couple of Thanksgiving recipe posts to give you guys a chance to share your favorite recipes.  I cancelled my big Thanksgiving plans and told the relatives I’d go out early December to see everyone, instead. But I’ll still be cooking for friends, here. The weather will be in the 70s tomorrow, so I suspect there will be some hiking involved.

To get the ball rolling – dessert. From my blog:

Blueberry pie is a must at my house for Thanksgiving. This recipe is my go-to. The key is to add fresh blueberries to the cooked blueberries for the most blueberry flavor.  Originally posted in 2012

Blueberry Pie

Filling:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness preference, I used 1/2 cup)
  • 2-1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (and thawed) blueberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

In a saucepan, add sugar, cornstarch, water and 1 cup blueberries. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, add 3 cups of blueberries, lemon juice and lemon zest, fold in completely. Cool in refrigerator until time to put the pie together. I also chilled the bowl I mixed everything in, as well.

Crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, very cold
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Cut butter into small pieces (I actually cut frozen butter, it was easier) and place in the freezer to chill it completely. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until it is crumbly. Drizzle in the water and mix together until it forms a loose ball (do not over mix, you want visible butter pieces). Turn out onto a floured surface, knead gently, divide into two equal pieces (I weighed them), form each into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. While I was at it, I refrigerated my marble rolling pin and marble pastry board.

To assemble pie: roll out one of the balls until it’s about 12-13 inches (depending on your pie plate size) and about 3/16” thick. To move to your pie plate, flour your rolling pin again and fold the dough over it, transfer to the plate and it should fall into place. Gently form it to the plate and let excess dough overhang the edge – you can brush the edge with water before adding the top pastry. With all the butter, this step really isn’t necessary, it quickly seals itself. Add blueberry filling. Roll out second ball to the same size and thickness. Move to the plate and adjust over the pie plate. Now you can trim the excess dough, or you can tuck it under and then pinch to flute it. Next time I’m sure I’ll experience one of those, but this time, it was pretty skimpy for me to flute.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 375 and continue until golden brown (I had to bake another 40 minutes). You’ll probably have to tent the edges with foil to keep them from burning. I did that at the 25 minute mark. Let cool until just warm to touch for the blueberries to set if you want to serve warm.

Later today, we’ll talk turkey.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite/successful recipe for pie crust? And what desserts will grace your table this Thanksgiving (if you celebrate)? What dessert do you absolutely loathe?  Mine is minced meat pie – which my dad adores, so I try to make sure it’s available for him. Open thread.








Tuesday Afternoon Open Thread

Just cleaned out my fridge to make room for the Thanksgiving feast makings. The hens are the chief beneficiaries, being the wrong kind of poultry and the right kind of recipients of vegetable and fruit drawer flotsam.

I am making the following for Thanksgiving:

Turkey
Gravy
Mashed potatoes
Dressing/stuffing
Fried cabbage
Corn casserole
Candied sweet potatoes
Parker House rolls

My sister is bringing the obligatory green bean casserole, and I’ve farmed out a few other side dishes and desserts. While the cooking is underway, we’ll have appetizers out, primarily cheeses and fruit — including my husband’s excellent homemade ricotta. Plus there will be iced tea, sodas, beer, wine and homemade (hard) cider.

It’s supposed to be rainy here on Thanksgiving, which is a pity, because I’m always threatening to move the entire party to the beach. But I’m talked out of that yearly anyway, because that would be a pain in the ass.

No wingnut relatives will be in attendance this year — not due to any conflict or design, it just worked out that way. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

Open thread for all topics, including Thanksgiving plans, recipe swaps, etc.



Late Night Thanksgiving Food Atrocities Open Thread

Since even a skilled cook can find it difficult to make a modern pre-frozen Butterball bird corpse taste like anything other than poultry-flavored styrofoam, it’s not surprising that every few years there’s a new fad — brining! deep-frying! — intended to add novelty to the “essential centerpiece” of our national celebratory Bloat.

The NY Daily News blames this year’s novelty, courtesy the Reynolds Corporation, on “Instagram chefs — who cook things just for their photo value”. (Of course Kids These Days is another time-honored perennial.)

It also predicts worse for the future, difficult as that might be to imagine…



Not College Football Open Thread

I’m on my way to the beach, so I can’t post today’s matchups (image source not particularly mobile friendly). Here are some nice biscuits I made instead:

I’ll be joining my sister to watch the crappy Gators play a hopefully even crappier team. We’ll also eat unhealthy foods and possibly drink too much.

Feel free to discuss football, biscuits, beer, barbecue, whatever.








The Next Wall Street Bubble: Restaurants?

I grew up thinking of “home-cooked meals” with a shudder. My mother once produced a Thanksgiving turkey so inedible our cats wouldn’t touch it; my father fell victim to every food fad from the 1960s Tiger’s Milk powder to the recipes of Euell Gibbons. One of my favorite things about modern life is that one no longer has to be rich or a competent cook to eat well. So I found this article frankly terrifying — “Thanks to Wall St., There May Be Too Many Restaurants”:

After a prolonged stretch of explosive growth, fueled by interest from Wall Street, experts say there are now too many fast-food, casual and other chain restaurants.

Since the early 2000s, banks, private equity firms and other financial institutions have poured billions into the restaurant industry as they sought out more tangible enterprises than the dot-com start-ups that were going belly-up. There are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population…

Customers continue to spend a large share of their food budget in restaurants, but they’re spreading the money across a larger number of establishments, so profits are split into smaller individual pieces. Yet the industry — particularly chain restaurants — continues to expand, a strategy that both masks the problem and makes it likely that more places will falter.

Sales at individual chain restaurants, compared with a year earlier, began dropping in early 2016, analysts reported. A majority of restaurants reported sales growth in just four of the last 22 monthly surveys from the National Restaurant Association. Before that, most restaurants had reported growth for 20 consecutive months, from March 2014 through October 2015, the survey found.

As Americans work longer hours and confront an ever-growing array of food options, they are spending a growing share of their food budget — about 44 cents per dollar — on restaurants, according to food economists at the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

But while consumer demand contributed to the restaurant boom, it was changes on Wall Street that really fueled the explosion. Chains like Del Taco, Papa Murphy’s and others began attracting money from private equity firms, and banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America saw lending opportunities in the restaurant industry.

Those developments complemented each other well. New fast-food investors wanted to rely less on owning restaurants, and offloaded many company locations to eager buyers who came with bags of cheap money from the banks. The investors could then count on a steady stream of franchise fees and royalty payments — buffers against overall sales declines if, say, the market ever became oversaturated. And they didn’t have to worry about actually operating the restaurants.

Franchisees pay for the right to operate a McDonald’s or a Subway, following rules that dictate everything from what type of taco to sell to where to buy iceberg lettuce. They take on the risks and costs of running the restaurants, in exchange for the marketing muscle and name recognition these big companies provide. While every Dunkin’ Donuts or Taco Bell may look the same, dozens and sometimes hundreds of independent owners can operate most of the restaurants within a single brand…

he shuttering of restaurants could have a major impact on the labor market. Since 2010, restaurants have accounted for one out of every seven new jobs, and many restaurateurs complain that it has become increasingly difficult to hire and retain workers. In Muscogee County, Ga., a former textile center, the Labor Department reported an overall decline in employment of 2,000 jobs since 2001 — but a gain of 2,700 restaurant jobs.

Those positions could be in jeopardy if sales continue to fall and force more restaurants to close…

So, having broken the small local restaurants and dinners by overbuilding franchises, Wall Street will now break the individual franchisees by demanding unrealistic quarter-upon-quarter profits. And when those franchises go under, they’ll kill one of the last low-skill, can’t-be-moved-overseas job sources. Another “win” for the banking community!



Friday Evening Open Thread

Here’s a bloom on our turmeric plant:

Nice, huh?

We’re chowing down on Italian sausage, peppers and onions on a roll with mustard, accompanied by potato salad. And waiting for the Astros-Yanks game to come on. Go Astros! You?

PS: “Mustard Pee” would be a great band name.