Monday, March 28, 2022

BRAISED CELERY RECIPE

This is a repost of my most read blog post - a recipe for braised celery.    

John? Celery? Really? As a main ingredient?  Are you crazy?  Yes, I am crazy.  

But this celery thing is amazing!

This MUCH overlooked veggie deserves the spotlight sometimes.  I thought we'd braise some with a crispy topping.  It turned out great.  Much more complex that you'd ever know.  And totally budget conscious.    


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 head celery (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 large shallot or yellow onion, finely minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
1 cup stock.  I used a veg stock
1/3 cup freshly grated  Parmigiano-Reggiano (the real stuff)
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs


Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Using about half the butter, generously butter a large gratin dish or baking dish (9- to 10-by-13- to 14-inch).

 Washing and trimming the celery: Tear the celery stalks from the head. You should have about 10 or 12 sturdy outer stalks. Stop tearing off the stalks when you reach the shorter, pale, tender stalks, or the heart. Set it aside. Rinse the celery stalks, giving special attention to the inside of the base of each stalk, where dirt tends to lodge. You may need a vegetable scrubber to remove stubborn dirt. Trim off the top part of the stalk where it branches into leaves, and set the tops aside with the heart. Using a small paring knife or vegetable peeler, scrape the outside of each celery stalk to remove the fibrous strings that run its length. Do your best to get all the strings out of the celery - or else you will end up with tender celery streaked with strong, stringy fibers.

Cut the stalks into 3- to 4-inch lengths. Arrange them in a layer in the baking dish. It's fine if the sticks overlap some; they will shrink and flatten into a single layer as they braise.



Finely chop the reserved celery heart, with the celery tops and leaves. Melt the remaining butter in a medium skillet (10-inch) over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, thyme, and chopped celery heart and leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half, another 6 minutes or so.



Pour the celery-shallot-stock mixture over the celery sticks. Cover with foil and slide into the middle of the oven to braise until the celery has collapsed and feels very tender when prodded with a knife tip, about I hour and 15 minutes.



 Remove the celery from the oven, and increase the oven heat to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the celery, and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the top is crusty and browned, about 10 more minutes. Serve hot or warm.



Tracy, my lovely wife, was not so excited about eating a celery dish.  Once she took the first bite, she was sold.  This one's a keeper!

Monday, March 21, 2022

CHICKEN WITH GREEK PASTA (KOTOPOULO ME HILOPITES) - GREEK COMFORT FOOD

Like my home page states, this blogis not just about dividend investing.  Lots of it is.  But I also love vinyl records, and stuffing my face with food.  And I like to write about them.  

This is an updated version of an early post from 3 years ago...

This amazing Greek recipe is one of the ultimate comfort foods.  I crave this every few months.  I so appreciate that my mom made this every once in a while during my childhood.   

Chicken with Hilopites.  What are hilopites?  Usually homemade, this little square egg noodle ("Heelo-pee-tess") may be hard to find in the US other than in cities with large Greek populations (NYC, Chicago..).  I remembered hearing my mom explain that she cannot find hilopites in Seattle and missed them dearly.  

Now they are easily available online at that big huge online store based in Seattle...ahem...

They are little square egg noodles.   This can be made with other pasta like orzo, but these little things have the best texture for this recipe




Here's the recipe:

1 chicken cut up
1/2 cup olive oil
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 tomato cut up
1 small can of tomato paste
1 package hilopites
1 onion chopped
2-3 cups boiling water
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp cinnamon
grated mizithra cheese
Salt
Pepper


Preheat oven at 275 degrees.
Clean, singe and wash the chicken well and cut into pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven and sauté a few chicken pieces at a time, on all sides.


Remove chicken and place aside. 
Sauté the onion and garlic in the pan.  
Once the onions are soft, add the tomato paste and let cook for a minute or two.
Then add the tomato sauce, tomato,  cinnamon, 1 cup of boiling water, return the chicken to the pot and let all slowly simmer.



After 45 minutes, remove the chickens from their pot and set on a platter.
Stir in  the hilopites and another 1 to 1 ½ cups boiling water. 


Just use enough liquid that would be soaked up by the pasta.  Return the chicken pieces and put this in the oven to cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. 


Plate it up!



Top with some grated mizithra cheese and dig in.  You can use grated parmesan if you can't find any mizithra.  I did not take the best photo here.  I was hangry..

Yum

OPA!!!!!!
Enjoy!











Sunday, March 20, 2022

CURRENT VINYL PLAYLIST 03/20/2022 - SOME NEW, SOME OLD

 Welcome to entry #3 of what I've been spinning recently.  I will try to update this every 2 weeks or so moving forward.

Been going back to some older sounds, mainly the 60's and 80's, as well as a new release from an older band and a current artist my kid turned me on to.

Here goes.  

Left to right from top row


1.) Ravi Shankar - India's Most Distinguished Musician In Concert  Picked up this ultra clean 1962 release in a thrift store.  Always loved Indian music. This is Ravi Shankar before his mentoring George Harrison on the sitar.  The whole "raga rock" band fad of the late 60's were triggered by Shankar as well as The Beatles incorporating a track of George's Indian music on a couple albums.  For a concert, this is a very clean recording.  Also hase some very informative liner notes.  Good music to put on when reading and in a mellow, relaxed, meditative mood.  Ohm.

2.) Melanie Martinez - After School EP  This late 2020 release is a follow up to her "K-12" LP released the previous year.  She's not as connected to her Cry-Baby persona on these tracks, but is still some very quirky alternative pop.  The cover really appealed to me.  What I really like with this release is that it's on 45rpm on some heavyweight vinyl and has great sound quality for a colored disc.   Here's the "Test Me" video...


3.) Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point  My first 2022 release and the first studio album by this duo in almost 18 years, which was a reunion of Roland ORzabal and Curt Smith after almost 15 years before that.  This album is closer to their debut "The Hurting" than any of their other releases.  There are no anthem type tubes like "Shout".  What you do get are a group of songs dealing with the grief from the loss of Orzabal's wife as well as a sense of acceptance of those feelings and that life does go on.   They still maintain their sound but it all has a level of maturity and reflection that only years of experience and the emotional toll of grief can give.  This is a great listen.  Here's "The Tipping Point"



4.) Fun Boy Three - Waiting  Fun Boy Three was formed 1981 by the three singers of The Specials after their breakup and was active for only 2 years.   David Byrne produced this second and last album in 1983.  Full of sharp social commentary put to a catchy New Wave sound, this album also features a cover of the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed", which Terry Hall co-wrote with Jane Wiedlin.  Unfortunately, they split after this album due to poor sales.  But looking back, this was one of the best albums of 1983.  Terry Hall has since reunited The Specials with Fun Boy Three's Lynval Golding.   Here's "Our Lips Are Sealed"



5.) John's Children - Come And Play With Me In The Garden   This 1967 single by the UK psychedelic/mod band that featured Marc Bolan before he started T. Rex.  Their claim to fame was upstaging The Who with their outrageous opening act and being booted off their tour.  This single has one risque cover for that time.  Their next single "Desdemona", was banned by the BBC for the lyric "lift up your skirt and fly".  Then they broke up..   

6.) The Seeds - The Wind Blows Your Hair.   This is the Los Angeles version of psychedelic garage band music headlined by one of the most eccentric musicians of all time, Sky Saxon. This is one of the classics of garage music.  Here's the single:  

By 1968, the original members left, and Saxon carried on until about 1970.  

That's when his story gets really strange.  

He joins the Yahowa religious group, led by a Father Yod, is renamed Airlick and Sunlight, and records up to 65 of psychedelic tribal music by a group named Ya Ho Wa 13, most of which are lost. 

In August of 1975, despite having no hang gliding experience, Yod decided to hang glide and leapt off a 1,300 foot cliff on eastern O'Ahu.  He crash landed on the beach suffering no external injuries, but was unable to move and died 9 hours later.

This is not made up.   

The rest of their music are all memorials to Father Yod. 

Here's a song they made as Children of the Sixth Root Race...  "We Are The Dinosaurs"   

Wow.


 By around 2003, Sky reforms the Seeds.  They play oldies shows until 2009, when Sky Saxon passes.

I'll have another set of records in a couple weeks.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

HOW I PAID OFF MY DEBT - DEATH OF DEBT BY A THOUSAND CUTS

Ten or so years ago,  I had quite the credit card debt.  Mainly from going out to eat and drink up tasty cocktails, buying vinyl records, buying clothes, and a bunch of other garbage I got on a whim.  I had a wild hair that was oly scratch by shopping. 

Having a child changed all of that.  Time to end debt.

To get out of debt, I set a goal of paying a debt on a DAILY BASIS.
Yes.
Daily.
Every. Single. Day.   

Weekends too..
It is measured and methodical.   It is easier than plunking a bunch down at one time. 

I simply took by 2 week paycheck and divided that by 14 to determine my daily budget.   I would never spend more than that amount and all the leftover went into debt payment.  

First, I broke out all of my regular bills. I call that my FIXED EXPENSES. 'Cause that's what they are..  
At time of writing, it adds up to $48.07 per day.  
  • water/sewer bill - $8.38
  • electricity - $4.72
  • gas (home gas, not car..) - $2.45
  • cell phones - $6.24
  • property tax - $12.49
  • home insurance - $2.26
  • auto insurance - $4.18
  • car tabs - $0.88
  • internet - $4.42
  • Streaming TV apps - $2.05
I put $50 per day in Savings.  And pay the fixed expenses from the savings stash.  So that's out of the way.

That leaves me the rest to feed my family.  Some days, that is nothing.

The remaining amount went to paying off the credit cards.  It was easier than I thought. Some days I put over $100 towards the debt,  After a few months, it was wiped out. 

Once my CC debt was wiped out, it morphed into a vacation fund.  
It has resulted in having a 10 day trip to Hawaii totally paid for, including all food and spending money.  I've been doing this for over a decade.  Saving up for the trip takes about 3 months.

I still had leftover.  So $35 per day ($250/week) went to the brokerage.

Still have a bit left over:  Gifts, records, and fun stuff

All it took was plugging away at it.  Killing debt by a thousand cuts

Just wanted to bring up a tip that I think makes paying off debt or saving for a goal easier

And it does not involve gambling your ass off!


Saturday, March 12, 2022

HOW TO MAKE DIY WINDOW CLEANER - HOMEMADE "WINDEX"

I know what you're gonna say..."This is not dividends or music or food.  Get with the program Chickenwizard.   If that's even your real name."..   

Chillax.   This is a good way to SAVE A BOATLOAD OF MONEY...well more like $5 a bottle.  And no, Chickenwizard is not my name.  Geez.

Remember, after making  food, I got this huge ass pile of dirty dishes and a messy countertop.  What am I to do?

Make some Fake Wi*dex.  Oops.  I'm not supposed to say "Wi*dex"

Being Greek, it's fitting.  Windex mends everything,  broken legs, scabies, touching a stranger...  everything...

Oh, and it cleans windows really really well.

 After you try this you'll never ever need to buy the real thing ever again.  

It even smells the same.  Really.

1 empty spray bottle of window cleaner you wasted your money on
1/8 Cup Ammonia (1 oz)
1/3 Cup Rubbing Alcohol
1/4 Cup White Vinegar
1 DROP Laundry Detergent (DO NOT STIR IT ALL IN - OR IT WILL SUDS UP)
a few drops blue food coloring (you'll never notice it when cleaning)
Fill the bottle with Water.

The whole thing costs about a dime to make.  It works and you'll forget you didn't buy it.
You will never by the real thing ever again.

Really.  And please, don't drink it..  or even place it close to a blue Mt Dew.  For reals..

...Is "suds up" grammatically correct?



Monday, March 7, 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 BUYS

 It's been a pretty active February when it comes to buys.  

Switched out a couple of companies for better growth opportunities..    

The centerpiece to building a solid dividend growth portfolio is to make sure you pick up shares of a company that regularly increase the dividend.  Otherwise, you are only depending on equity growth to boost income.  

Started a new position in Service Corps Intl (SCI).  Good track record of growth at will not be going away.  They are the owners of funeral homes.  They have a very very captive audience that will only grow.

I did sell 2 holdings, PPL Corp (PPL) and Vitaris (VTRS).  To cut a long story short, I did not like the direction they were going in financially.   With the funds, I purchased the SCI and 63 shares of Leggett and Platt (LEG).   

The final tallies:  $2,239.18 invested and will receive 2.24 les in dividends annually from them.  The positive is they have LOTS of room to grow.  All have a decent payout ratio.

Here are the details:









Thursday, March 3, 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 DIVIDEND INCREASES

 Last month is the perfect example of the impact of dividend growth on my portfolio.   The three keys to dividend growth investing are dividend growth, reinvesting the dividends you earn, and regularly adding cash to invest in these stock.  

This growth is no joke.  In simple terms, this is a pay raise for just holding on to these shares.  That can't be beat.  These increases are exactly why I invest in these companies.   

If they did not regularly increase the  dividend, future payments would only fall behind costs as inflation makes everything more expensive., even in normal economic times...   If there were no increases, we'd have to eventually sell shares to survive.  I fully plan on leaving these for my kid someday.

So here is the perfect example.  February brought me 18 dividend increases that added $227.41 in passive income.  Passive f****n income baby!  Whoot whoot.

I did have 2 decreases.  Unilever (UL) dropped by 2.2%, but is not surprising being that they fluctuate each quarter and the overall pattern for them points upward.    

The other one PPL Corp (PPL)  cut their div by 51%.  That is not acceptable to me and I replaced it with Leggett And Platt (LEG) - which actually has a higher dividend anyway.  

Here's the breakdown:  


As you can tell, OMF is the big winner - a 35%.7% increase.  Using my cost basis from purchasing this company, I now earn a 8.81% yield, even though the current yield is only a measly 7.3%...  lol.   It's why you hang on to these for the long term.  It's the same with Steel Dynamics (STLD).   One of these days, I will be holding on to a company that will pay me annually what I spent on buying them in the first place.  At that point, life is golden.

Let's see how March treats us!   

Remember, if an idiot like myself can do this, you can do it too.



Wednesday, March 2, 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 DIVIDENDS

 First of all taking about dividends don't mean squat when we have a humanitarian crisis and innocent people are being killed for no reason whatsoever.                                         

GO UKRAINE.  

We are praying and pulling for you to not give in to the big bully in the room.   


Other than this war starting, February is my favorite month.  Why?  "With all the yucky weather and no holidays, you like this?"  Why yes.  It's the best month of all specifically because I was born in February.  And the best month contains the very best day of the year - February 19th.    

February 19th is chock full of birthdays of famous people:   Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven of Stranger Things), Seal, Smokey Robinson, Copernicus, Benicio Del Toro, Jeff Daniels, Falco, and Justine Bateman.

Most importantly, three left-handed guitarists: Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath,  Dave Wakeling of English Beat, and yours truly - Chickenwizard of that juggernaut Chickenwizard.  



I don't play nearly as well as the others....

BTW, I will be renaming my band name in the next few months before my next album release.  I am the band, so I am not doing this to other band members. 16 years of that name was enough.  I need something more fitting for my music.  

BACK TO THE DIVIDENDS NOW...

February is great since I get paid for being alive by 29 different companies I trust with my money.   

29 payments totalling $1509.50.   It may be my lowest month of the quarter, but I am not complaining.   It's a 8.05% increase from last February.  

Here are the details:


The biggie was, of course. AT&T (T).   The last of the giant payouts by them I believe.  But will still be nearly 5% after the spin off coming in a few weeks.  I tend to feel things will work out fine.

My goal is to see this 8% annual increase be the smallest of the year.  That is my challenge.

GO UKRAINE.