Top 7: Pink Floyd Songs

Top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

I’ve covered my favorite band, Duran Duran, already. (And I just bought their new album All You Need Is Now over at Amazon so I don’t have to give any money to the devil iTunes.) So now we move on to my second favorite band, Pink Floyd.

That’s right, Pink Floyd. Because I was raised on a hearty musical diet of ’70s wuss-rock, adult alternative, and psychedelic concept albums. I’ve seen them (and various versions of them) in concert several times, and own most of the stuff after Syd Barrett left. Not a big Barrett fan, I. And just like when fans of the Beatles have to declare a Lennon/McCartney preference (McCartney, FYI), so must Floyd fans declare Barrett/Waters/Gilmour. Personally: Gilmour.

Onward to my top 7!

7. “Us and Them”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

So Dark Side is the earliest album that will appear on this list. And it’s an amazing album in its entirety — if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the episode of Classic Albums to see some of the amazing, ahead-of-their-time the guys did. Oh, and it’s also available on Netflix streaming. Seriously, it’s worth it alone for the live footage in the studio. As for “Us and Them,” it’s a gorgeous song with a great sax solo. And the original instrumental done for the film Zabriskie Point (again, see the Classic Albums episode) is gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

6. “Coming Back to Life”The Divison Bell, 1994

This song has it all. It’s a ballad, which you know I love. It’s all Gilmour-ish, with guitar solos galore. The lyrics are deep and dark and meaningful, and yet the song itself is in the upbeat key of C-major without sounding like peppy pop.

5. “Learning to Fly”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I don’t recall my parents buying The Final Cut in 1983, so this was the first fresh Floyd in the house since the late ’70s. And in 1987, I was in the midst of my teenage years. So the album must have been good, to suck me into listening into parent music. This song struck me with the literal interpretation (I wanted to learn to fly [still do, and one day I’ll finish flight school, dagnabbit]) and with the metaphorical meaning — reaching out and trying something new and different and exciting. Plus, of course, Gilmour all over.

4. “The Great Gig in the Sky”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

This is one of my all-time favorites for singing along in the privacy of my car. I’d also choose this as my entry if I ever got involved in a professional whistling contest. It’s even more amazing when you know that Clare Torry’s vocals are completely improvised. And like any good improviser, after she was done she apologized to everyone for being so terrible.

3. “Terminal Frost”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I love it when bands put an instrumental track on their album. This one is all about Gilmour and Mason (Wright wasn’t there, so the track uses a drum machine), as well as two saxophones (one of them clearly the sax player for Supertramp). For some reason, a bunch of the saxophone parts make me think of Trevor Jones’s instrumental tracks on the sountrack for the movie Labyrinth. This is one of those songs that’s best when you put on a pair of big can headphones and block out the rest of the world.

2. “Comfortably Numb”The Wall, 1979

Of course, the entirety of The Wall is incredible. A one-of-a-kind concept album, the likes of which we may never see again. And there are a ton of good songs on that album. But this one has always stood out for me musically. In looking up information online right now, I see that it’s one of the few songs on The Wall that wasn’t completely written by Waters, so that may be part of it. Another part is that it’s one of the first songs I learned on the ukulele. Which sounds like a joke, but really, the chords are dead simple on a uke. (“Mother” is even easier.) Next I’m working on the guitar solos. I’ve actually sat with the uke and the chords and played through most of The Wall while listening to it — Waters wasn’t exactly all about the hard chords.

1. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (parts I-VI)”Wish You Were Here, 1975

If anyone out there wants to get technical and say that this is five songs, I say to you: suck it. This rips from the CD as one 17-minute track, so I’m calling it one song. The thing is, for all seventeen minutes, it just rocks. Weirdly enough, it totally kicks the ass of parts VII-IX. It’s like they frontloaded the best stuff into the whole “Shine on” suite. Although on my CD, it appears that part VI is both at the end of the first set and at the beginning of the second set, bookending the rest of the album content. I use the 4-note theme (technically at the beginning of part II) as a ringtone on my phone. And when we lived at our old apartment, I’d occasionally use this song as a timer for my drive home, which usually took between 15 and 18 minutes, depending on how generous the traffic signals were. It just hits all of my Floyd sweet spots: sax solos, guitar solos, lots of Gilmour, instrumental chunks, slow tempo. Oh, and it’s my second choice for a whistling contest. So come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and SHINE!

Gluten-Free, Lowish-Carb Beefmeat Balls #2

Second attempt, with some recipe adjustments. I made the balls a little smaller, and put them up on a wire rack over a foil-lined cookie sheet so they wouldn’t be swimming in their own released fat. I also used less fatty beef, but that’s primarily because it’s what was on sale this week. And I added another egg.

2 lbs. ground beef (93/7)
1/2 cup potato flakes
1/3 cup water
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped garlic
3 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp thyme

This time, I did things in a different order as well. First, I threw the potato flakes in my big bowl, and put the water on top to hydrate the potatoes. Mixed that up, then added everything else but the beef. I stirred it all together so it was one big sludgy mix of seasoning. Then I tossed the ground beef on top, and worked everything together with my hands. I think making the sludge (I really should write restaurant menu copy, right?) helped in letting me see when everything was fully combined.

Rolled out 40 of the little guys, roughly an inch and a half across.

Baked the same as last time: 400° F for 15 minutes.

This was a much improved batch. Still tender and juicy, but I didn’t have to dig them out of the pools of fat. The wire rack was easy as pie to clean off. But even though I increased all of the seasonings, we both still thought they could use MORE flavor. Even though I tossed in almost everything but the kitchen sink this time.

Maybe more salt. Certainly more garlic, in both varieties. Probably more chili powder and pepper. But these are totally edible. I portioned them out in sets of eight, and threw some in the fridge and some in the freezer. We’ll see how they re-heat.

Review: De Boles Rice Spaghetti-Style Pasta

Whew, that name is a mouthful. Can you not call it spaghetti if it’s not made of wheat?

At any rate, I got this gluten-free spaghetti-style pasta hoping to find something that would hit the spot when I was really jonesing for a noodle. There were actually a few choices for GF noodles; some were made from rice, some corn, some quinoa. I chose the De Boles because it was the cheapest by far.

Seriously, it was Whole Foods prices at the Publix for most of the other brands. Where a normal package of wheat noodles might be a buck, the De Boles was two, and almost everything was between four and six.

The serving size is two ounces, which may be the same as regular wheaty pasta. I don’t know, since I haven’t looked at a box of wheat pasta for probably five years. And I didn’t look the last time I was at the grocery, because I just don’t think ahead like that.

ANYHOO.

I thawed out some of my frozen spaghetti sauce, and also threw down some of the gluten-free meatballs I made last week.

The noodles boiled for 7 minutes (the box advised 5-7) and were still a bit al dente. Next time, I’ll let them go 8 and see how that works. Not that I don’t mind a little bit of toothiness to my pasta, but I think I can improve.

The meatballs and sauce were fantastic, as usual. The noodles had a vague white rice flavor to them, which just felt weird in combination with the sauce. But the texture was decent, and it really did tackle the noodle yearning I was having in a way that spaghetti squash can’t quite.

I give the De Boles rice spaghetti-style pasta a 7 out of 10, with possible wiggle room up to an 8 if I can nail down the right cooking time.

For the record, because someone asked recently — yeah, this isn’t low-carb. Well, it kind of is, if you consider the huge piles of carb foods that conventional wisdom would have us eat. But the 2-ounce serving was only 42 grams of carbohydrate, which isn’t too bad. To lay it out, I eat 100% gluten-free, and probably 85% low-carb. I’m at my goal weight, so since I’m in maintenance mode, these days I’m trying out other non-wheat carbs to see what I can handle. I’ve been at goal for about a year and a half, and I’m still figuring out my limits for how I’ll eat for the rest of my life.

A Visit to the Grocery Store

So in the barbecue sauce post, the concept came up that reduced-sugar products had blue labels. And reduced-fat had green. In the comments, it came up that in Canada and Australia, a blue label means low-salt.

I forayed out to the grocery store and looked around. Here’s the row of ketchups:

Where blue deals with sugar, orange is all about salt, and green is … organic.

The soup aisle disagreed completely:

Here, green is reduced sodium, while off-white is “light” — which usually means low-fat and low-calorie.

Overall, the color choices were all over the map. There doesn’t appear to be a consistent labeling system for anything here in the states. I guess each manufacturer chooses their own color scheme for the brightly colored banners that go on their foodstuffs.

You know what else is a variety of colors?

That’s right, Easter Peeps. They were stocking the Easter section at the Target when I was there, so I got to see them construct mount Peep here. But despite all of these Peeps, they still don’t carry the sugar-free ones. Or low-sugar. Or sugar-alcohols-that-will-give-you-the-runs Peeps.

Whatever they’re called, does anyone know where in Florida I can get some to try? Target and Publix are both no-go. Is this more of a drugstore/gas station thing? I know I can get them over at the Amazon, but seriously — two bucks for Peeps and five and a half for shipping? No thanks.

Plus, I much prefer the harder, Brach’s circus-peanut-style Easter marshmallow critters. Although they’re much harder to find, the smooshy texture can’t be beat.

Low-Carb Gluten-Free Quickie Barbecue Sauce

BBQ sauce is a tougie as far as low-carb goes. There used to be a sugar-free sauce put out by … I’m tempted to say K.C. Masterpiece, but I may be wrong. One of the big names, anyway. It was discontinued probably 2 years ago.

It looks like there are a couple of sugar-free BBQ sauces on the market, but I’ve never seen them in any store. Scott’s, Smokin’ Joe, and Nature’s Hollow all come up on a Google search for sugar-free sauce, but I’d have to send away for them via mail-order. Since I’m both lazy and cheap, I threw together a sauce from what I had on hand.

For the base, I used the Heinz reduced-sugar ketchup. Many recipes would have you start with tomato sauce or tomato paste, but I figured the ketchup already has a little flavoring zip and zazz in it. Plus, it’s easily found — both the SuperTarget and Publix grocery stores in my area carry it. Look for the blue label — that seems to be the agreed-upon color for lower sugar content. Be warned, this ketchup is sweetened with sucralose (aka Splenda) instead of sugar, so if you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners, you would want to go with regular tomato sauce/paste.

Side note: it used to be, in days gone by, the condiment aisle had both ketchup and catsup. These days, at least in central Florida, it’s 100% ketchup. Did everyone decide on a common spelling at some point? Or is the southeast all about ketchup the same way they call pop “soda” all the time? Maybe there’s still catsup in the northwest. Anyone?

Anyhoo, here’s what I mixed:

5 oz. Heinz reduced-sugar ketchup*
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 pk (4 tsp) Splenda

* I did the ketchup by weight, so I could just squirt it straight into the saucepan, and not dirty up a measuring cup. But if you don’t have a food scale, I’d say it was roughly a cup or so of ketchup, maybe a little less. Since the bottle of ketchup is 14 ounces, it’s a little over a third of a bottle.

Mix it up, and heat it in a saucepan. (You can see some of the scratches on this saucepan — I’ve had the set since college.) For the batch, you’re looking at somewhere around 12 grams of carbohydrate. We threw some gluten-free little smokies in there, and ended up with three servings, so 4 grams of carb for the sauce on each serving.

I’d made this before, but I didn’t write the recipe down, or measure anything. Foolish! This time I used actual measuring implements, so I could report to you fine people. In future batches, I think I’ll add even more liquid smoke, because it wasn’t quite smoky enough. It was good, but it could be better. I think I’ll also squirt in some brown mustard for additional tanginess. So I’ll probably go with 2 tsp liquid smoke, and 1 or 2 tsp brown mustard.

At any rate, the smokies were grand. I believe these were the Target house brand.

Gary Taubes on Dr. Oz

I recorded the Dr. Oz show for the first time ever the other day, because science journalist Gary Taubes was a guest. And despite the tittilating episode title “The Man Who Thinks Everything Dr. Oz Says Is Wrong”, I hoped there would at least be a fair and free exchange of ideas and information.

What a fool I was!

To be fair, Oz did say a couple of things that weren’t moronic. One was that he respects Taubes’ opinions, even though his own differ. The other was that he approves of the fact that Taubes is challenging conventional wisdom, since that causes doctors, researchers, and scientists to take a good, hard look and double-check all of the information they’re handing out.

Not that Oz double-checked anything, or decided to revise what he’s telling people.

Things I learned from Oz:

► You should cut out added sugar, but you should then eat lots of fruit (sugar) and “healthy whole grains” (sugar).

► After living on sugar all day every day, when you don’t eat sugar for a day, you feel grumpy.

► If you’d normally eat a slab of salmon, green veggies, a salad, and some brown rice, that meal just doesn’t translate to Taubes’ vision. Why just lose the brown rice, when you can replace it all with a huge steak?

► Oz is used to eating five or six times a day. Not a surprise, since his diet of sugars would require frequent replenishment due to blood-sugar spikes and valleys.

► Oz has no problem turning to his guest, basically telling them to shut up, and then monologuing at them nonstop. When the guest might potentially bring up a salient point, it’s time to shout them down.

► The rest of the show consisted of … game shows? I never thought I’d say this, but I have more respect for the integrity of The Doctors.

Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be watching Oz’s show ever again. I don’t understand what anyone sees in him — listening to his voice is like nails on a chalkboard (I compared it to a Jerry Lewis character), and he has a permanently smug expression on his face. I was surprised to see him eat meat in his “eat Taubes’ diet for 24 hours” joke of a segment, because looking at him, I would have guessed that he’s a vegetarian — he has the same scrawny, veiny look I’ve seen a lot.

Overall, I learned that those who blindly cling to conventional wisdom aren’t going to let go anytime soon. Despite the recent wave of articles, studies, and research supporting a low-carb, high-fat diet, it’s hard as hell to battle 50 years of misinformation and lies.

Gluten-Free Low-Carb Meatballs!

Before we get to the recipe, a couple of things. First off, Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, will be appearing on the Dr. Oz show today. It’s my understanding that Dr. Oz is a big proponent of vegetarian eating and “healthy whole grains”, so it should be a fascinating program.

Also, on one of the low-carb blogs I read, today someone posted a recipe without any pictures. I gasped and clutched my pearls. Unbelievable!

Onward! The other day, The Gluten-Free Homemaker posted a recipe for meatballs. I’ve tried meatballs before, but without the breadcrumbs, they get really dry really fast. This recipe tickled me because she used potato flakes as the filling/binding agent. I read that and thought to myself, “Self, didn’t you used to put actual grated potato in your meatballs, years ago?”

Why yes. Yes I did.

So I made a few changes to GFH’s recipe, adding in more of the Italian flavorings I crave.

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Beefmeat Balls

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef (I used 80/20 chuck)
1/3 cup potato flakes*
1/4 cup water (or milk, or stock, or broth — something to moisten those dried taters)
1 Tbsp parsley
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp chopped garlic (that’s right, double garlic)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 egg

* I figured the potato flakes would be way carbier than they actually are. For the 1/3 cup, it’s 17 grams of carb, with 1 gram of fiber. That means for this batch of 20 large-ish meatballs, it’s less then one gram of potato-based carbohydrate per meatball. Compare a dish of 6 big-ass homemade meatballs to one of those craptacular low-carb wheat tortillas for the same carb load, and this meal totally comes out on top in any battle.

I threw on some of my trusty rubber gloves and mashed it all together. You certainly could use a mixer with a paddle attachment, but for me half the fun is getting in there with my hands.

Roll them into balls and put them on a baking sheet or pan. I used my cake sheet pan, lined with non-stick foil, because I didn’t know how big a pool of fat would form at the bottom. I’m glad I did — with the 80/20 beef, it was a sizeable amount of beefy grease. It might have overwhelmed a cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes.

Now in my house growing up, we’d pan-fry meatballs. Which can be kind of messy and splattery. I’d never done them in the oven, and now I can’t imagine doing them anywhere else. They browned up beautifully, got a little of that crust on the outside, and were done through.

I made enough so that I could freeeze half of them. We’ll see how they microwave back up. Here I scooted them all off to the side, so that the pool of grease could cruise over to the other end of the pan. I should probably keep that grease, but I don’t know what I’d do with it. Treat it like any other cooking fat? Pack it in a container and stick it in the fridge? Fry things in it? Hmmm.

Scott and I agreed that these were good, but they need even MORE spice next time. Maybe I’ll try adding some oregano or basil as well.

Midnight Cat in the Garden of Good Eatin’

Well, for the love of pete.

Commie the cat is the kind of guy who’s very into people food. He’ll get up in your face and try to sample whatever it is you’re eating, no matter what it is. He’ll even try to get close and smell your breath if you’ve been eating. Trouble, however, doesn’t care one bit about the foods we eat.

Clearly, it’s because she’s more into the plants that grow the foods we eat.

I brought home and planted some houseplants the other day. Basil, banana peppers, and strawberries. Trouble found her way onto the kitchen counter and checked them out up close.

No amount of shooing, hissing, or physically removing her from the counter helped — she’d just hop back up when she thought we weren’t looking. She also started doing most of her dirty work at night while we slept. First, she went for the banana peppers in the little container. The next day, it was the banana peppers in the larger container. She didn’t eat the leaves; she nibbled just enough to separate the leaves from the stalks, then left everything sittng there. It was a slow decapitation process.

I figured when she was done with the banana peppers, she’d leave the rest alone.

Then, the strawberry leaves started showing up separated from their stalks. Over the course of a couple of days, she stripped that plant too. Except for the one sad green strawberry that came with the plant.

At least it appears she’s not interested in the basil at all. Which is the main reason I grow houseplants, because it’s my favorite fresh herb.

I guess I’ll dig out the pepper and strawberry plants and try a couple of other herbs. The internets tell me that cats don’t like things with a citrus or mint taste (Which is perplexing, since catnip is part of the mint family, isn’t it?), so I’ll have to see what there is at the store. Maybe some lemon thyme? Cats apparently don’t like rosemary, but I really don’t like it all that much either. But maybe I’ll throw some in there to keep her away from the whole planter. Any advice, those of you with edible plants and cats?

Meanwhile, in totally unrelated news:

Words Salad

I have an Android phone, so up until recently, I’ve had to scratch my fake-Scrabble itch with a game called WordFeud. It’s been good, but it seems like you can’t be alive without hearing about how great and amazing the fake-Scrabble game for the iPhone is.

Well, now we Androiders can enjoy the same game as those iPhoners (and play against them) in rousing rounds of Words with Friends. That’s right, there’s now an Android version!

I do have to wonder, though: does the iPhone version not allow you to shuffle the letter tiles in your tray? I’ve gotten used to that WordFeud feature. Oh, and can you set a specific ringtone to let you know when it’s your turn? Because the Android version of WwF doesn’t have that. Although they do have sound effects when you play. I guess there were some complaints about those sound effects, because right after the game came out, an update came out that included the ability to turn sounds off.

Oh, and does it crash every other time you use it on the iPhone? Just wondering. Because it’s the only app that’s ever crashed on my phone.

Also! How long did it take you iPhone users to figure out that to delete old finished games, you have to gently swipe your finger over the game in a leftward fashion until a red “delete” button pops up? Or is that a standard iThing that you all knew about already? Perhaps I’m just silly, looking for some kind of delete feature on the menu.

Oh, and do you iPhone users get a menu? We don’t have that.

Lastly, I want to praise a feature that makes me laugh. It’s when Words with Friends puts two game boards on top of each other, so that you have to pop out and then back in a few times until it gets its words straight. I don’t know if it’s a bug or a feature … or maybe just one of those sneaky “rearhax”.