March 31, 2008

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup Butter (4 oz butter)
1/2 cup Crisco (4 oz)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup White Sugar
2 eggs
Cream together well with beaters
1 tsp Baking Soda
t tsp Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Cream together Well with beaters
1 cup of Peanut Butter (I prefer a natural peanut butter that is a bit runny but it really doesn't matter)
Cream together well with beaters
2 1/2 cups of flour mix in with beaters also.
Once you have finished making the dough, form it into balls, put on a cookie sheet with or without parchment (remember parchment makes things easier but is not required) and press down and cross hatch with the tines of a fork for the quintessential peanut butter cookie look. Bake in an oven at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until done. For a sugary variation once you form the cookies into balls roll them in sugar if you prefer and finish following the recipe. Either way they are great.

March 28, 2008

Historical fishing event

I will start by saying I'm 32 years old and have never caught a fish. I'm not sure if I ever even got a nibble from a fish. I've gone fishing countless times in both fresh water and salt and simply never caught anything. I was, until today, fairly certain that I was cursed not to be able to catch a fish and frankly felt I was so bad at fishing, that my children were doomed as well to never catch a fish.

However, when I married Garaghty and met her family, it came to my attention that my father in law was an avid fisherman and also wrote about fishing for Western Outdoor News, so according to him and my wife my children were certain to become fisherman. I scoffed at such lunacy and chalked it up to the fact that my wife simply had never been fishing with me, thus not realizing her error. She had never seen the time I went on a fishing trip in Mexico and literally watched while everyone on the fishing boat pulled in dorado after dorado while I sat there for 6 hours and did not get a nibble. Or the time, in order to try to break the curse, my father took us to a fish farm in Lake Tahoe to catch a trout and while everyone was throwing un-bated hooks into the water and pulling out trout like it was a carnival game, I was unable to catch a trout with a bated hook or an unbated hook.

So when my father in law wrote an article about a year and a half ago about his desire to have his grand children become fishers and help me catch a fish I nodded my head in polite acknowledgment, but truly never thought his skills as a fisherman could transfer to myself or the kids. To be honest I was a little worried that if we went fishing with him the curse may somehow rub off on him and jeopardize his livelihood.

This weekend he came into town for a fishing tournament and more importantly, to officially break the curse. Apparently, when he wrote the article a year and a half ago a local fishing guide read it and agreed to help him, help me, overcome my lack of fishing ability. So yesterday at 4:50 am we left for the lake with Kaden and Kaya.

I'm happy to announce the curse is officially lifted. I caught my first fish, a striped bass. I caught it casting. I, obviously, never thought fishing was very fun, but after yesterday my mind is changed. I had a great time and my children apparently have a little more Kramer blood than I thought because they caught fish after fish. We caught a total of about 20 striped bass in the space of about 2 hours. I'm going to include a few pictures of the kids. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of my first fish because, well I was fishing and not manning the camera but my father in law got a shot or two so I will get them from him. Enjoy the pics and I will probably go fishing again some time.

March 26, 2008

When thinking of the Economic Stimulus plan

Hysterical from the onion

Keeping things in Persepctive

I was looking at Greg Mankiw's blog, I really like a lot of what he has to say and he posted this article.  Great Article by Robert Samuelson, helps to keep things in perspective.  Am I worried about the economy, yes, but it is nice to see the positives also.

Using Put Options to Hedge your investments

Often people will ask me what I think is going to happen in the market. Typically this question gets asked when the market is performing badly. I've said to people a number of times, if you have stock that you can't unload for tax purposes or because you simply don't want to, or perhaps you take a longer view of the economy and simply are a "buy and hold" type of person, you should use put options as a hedge. Invariably this statement is met with a look of bewilderment and confusion. Once I start to explain put options people simply think they are too complicated and zone out. With that said, I think this blog is a great place to explain the proper use of a put option as a hedge strategy.

A put option gives the owner the right, but does not obligate them, to sell a specific security at a specified price within a specified time. It really is like term insurance. When you buy a put option you pay a fixed price, typically much less than the underlying security, and that allows you to sell the security at that price. So let's see an example:

Shares of ABC security are trading around $100.00 a share and you already own 200 shares. You bought when they were around $70 a share and have made a very nice profit of $6,000.00. You want to protect that profit and are worried that the stock market is weak and your profit could be at risk. So you decide to buy some put options, as Billy recommends. You go out and you buy 2 put contracts; those contracts will cost around $10.00 per share and each contract consists of 100 shares, thus costing an overall $2,000.00.

The next day the market tanks and ABC is trading around $70.00 you have two choices, the first choice is complex and involves becoming short of the stock and buying to cover and profiting from the difference. If you are familiar with going short read the next section. If not, skip the next section and read below it for a simpler method of using put options.

You can exercise your put option which will make you "short" ABC 200 shares at $100.00 and you can re-buy to cover your position at $70.00, thus making a profit of around $6000.00. So for a $2,000.00 insurance policy you have protected your $6,000.00 Profit.

The simpler option is to simply sell the put option for a potentially large profit. Remember you bought the put option at $10 a share (2 contracts, 200 shares for $2,000.00). As the underlying ABC stock falls in value the put option rises in value. It is very likely that that options value could now well be over $40 a share. So now you can simply sell your put option for $40 a share and again you will make around $6,000.00 protecting your profits. It really is as simple as that and really works as insurance used in this manner.

Let's see what happens if ABC goes up instead of falling in value. ABC the next day goes up to $105 and the next day $110, for whatever reason you are no longer worried about the Stock falling in value you have 2 choices: 1 let the put option expire worthless, or, before the option expires simply sell the option to recover a portion of your insurance policy. If you were to sell it in a week and ABC had advanced in value you would be able to sell it for around $7.00 a share, 2 contracts, 200 shares and recapture $1,400.00 of your $2,000.00, thus your put option (insurance policy) only would have cost around $600.00.

When buying a put option the only money at risk is the premium for the option. In the case above $2,000.00. Good luck in the market and be safe in your investing.

March 25, 2008

Pans for the Kitchen

If you are setting up a kitchen and need to invest in some goods pots and pans or are simply looking to buy some good pots and pans this is the post you definitely want to read.  

When I first came back from my Mission I wanted some amazing pans and was enamored with All Clad Pans, I thought these were the end all be all of pans; stainless steel, heavy construction, stay cool handle wow amazing.  They were very expensive and work wonderfully well.  However, after owning 2 restaurants and cooking a lot I've come to the conclusion it is hard to beat a nice cast iron pan.  

First cast iron is cheap you can get them at Walmart for around $20, down from $100 for All Clad.  If you season them they are fairly non-stick, non-reactive with food and completely bomb proof in a kitchen.  You can take them straight from a stove to an oven to the sink and not hurt them a bit.  They don't scratch mar or wear out and cook food up beautifully.  In addition using cast iron helps you to get iron in your diet.   The only down side is that they are really heavy with little short handles.  (I'm working on a solution for that as a hobby. ) 

The number one misunderstanding about cast iron is how to season it.  I've found the best way is when you get a new pan, put it on the flame on med high, get some salt, about a cup, and some canola or Peanut oil, (something with a high smoke point), pour a little oil in put in a couple table spoons of salt and rub it into the pan with a bunch of paper towels.  Continue doing this until your pan starts to turn brown.  Once it turns brown it is seasoned.  Let the pan cool and simply rinse it out with water.  Once you start cooking in it, it will become more and more seasoned and cook better and better and be more non-stick.  Before you balk at all of this work, realize you really only have to do this once as long as you take care of your pan after you use it to cook.  

Taking care of cast iron is a cinch, after you cook you simply rinse it out with water and put it back on the stove to dry.  If things have stuck to it you can put it in a sink of water for a few minutes and even use soap.  The trick is not to scrub it.  If you scrub cast iron you will scrub off the seasoning.  The seasoning by the way is not old food the seasoning is carbon.  Whenever you cook the carbon from the food you cook binds to the iron and carbon from previous seasonings and forms a little layer of carbon molecules that act as a great non-stick surface.

I absolutely always recommend against using teflon.  It is a freaky material that is dangerous and bad for your health and should not be used in a kitchen in my opinion.  If you have teflon pans throw them out, it is worth it for your health and the health of your family.  

Stainless steel pans are great but take some skill at using successfully for everyday tasks like frying eggs etc.  Typically people overheat the pans and everything sticks to them.  They can be expensive, but are fairly reasonable at Sams Club or Costco.  They would be my second choice behind Cast iron.

Aluminum pans heat up well but are reactive with acids and thus tomatoes.  Plus they are expensive.

Get some great lodge pans from Walmart, season them up and enjoy cooking.

March 24, 2008

Bear Stearns Rant

Today I woke up to the news that JP Morgan is going to re-evaluate and offer a higher number to Bear Stearns for the buyout.  If people remember right, it was last week that the Fed organized a buyout of Bear Stearns in the face of a massive liquidity problem.  The Fed's reasoning at the time was that Bear, using a series of counter party transactions (which is a fancy way of saying Bear would take debt, re-package it and sell it, to offset their risk), simply created too much overall exposure to the market as a whole.  It was too difficult to find out all of the counter parties and or the counter parties were too large themselves and if things started to go sideways the unraveling was going to be disastrous having massive ramifications throughout the entire market.  

So, the Fed stepped in and organized a non-bankruptcy bankruptcy for Bear by having JP Morgan buy them and the Fed backing the sale with "Fed dollars" (in case anyone was wondering that would be tax payer dollars or printing press dollars thus eroding the value of the dollar.) At the time I read this I was annoyed at the Fed stepping in but after listening to some of the reasons and considering the counter party situation finally concluded that, though I disagree with the Fed bailout, possibly in this situation it was merited.  

Then I read the news this morning.  Because of shareholders at Bear Stearns, JP Morgan is considering offering $10 a share instead of the $2 a share initially agreed upon.  The part that angers me is the following article that explains the Fed's approval of this.  Basically JP Morgan is putting up 1 Billion dollars and the Fed is putting up the other 29 billion dollars.  That is leverage of 29:1, at the fed rate of around 2.25 percent. That is ridiculous.  I'm okay with the increase in sales price from the standpoint of the shareholders of Bear that were and are still getting totally screwed, but it is crazy that we are using Fed money or Taxpayer money to pull off this bailout.  How many other banks and investment firms out there were overly greedy and are in the same boat?  Are we going to bail them all out?  If so what happened to letting the market function?  If we are going to bail out these large corporations what about homeowners that got overextended why not bail them out?  

Aside from the slippery slope argument, the government's not letting the market function "naturally" is what caused the Great Depression.  The Fed argues that if they don't do this it could force us into a "depression" however, if they do this are they just kidding themselves? Since they can't possibly bail out all of those banks and investment firms that are going to have problems without completely destroying the economy, dollar, and equities market (by artificially inflating P/E ratios), are they saving us from a depression or pushing us closer to a massive depression?  Time will tell.  

Needless to say I'm not bullish on the stock market right now, and for your average investor, I would stay in cash (realize, of course, with inflation around 4% and money markets around 2.5% you are losing 1.5% on your cash).  If you can't stay in cash for whatever reason use the sound strategy of slowly averaging into positions (buying a little each month), it wouldn't hurt to possibly buy some put options for those that already are heavily invested in stocks.  For an explanation on put options I will post later.

March 23, 2008

Crustless Quiche

This is a nice quick and handy recipe that is healthy to use in a pinch.

1 onion (chop and sauté with a little oil ( I prefer olive))
1 bunch of spinach, swiss chard, bok choy or any green (chopped up coarse or fine it is up to you)
1-4 cloves of Garlic depending on your desires to ward of Vampires and Spouses (chopped or 
crushed with a knife on its side) throw into sauté.
Another Vegetable either: 2 zucchini, 2 Large mushrooms, 1 Bunch of Broccoli, 2 summer squash or 
basically any vegetable you have in your freezer or fridge, Chop it up and throw it in to sauté 
 10 eggs whipped up very well (hold on the side)
1-2 cups of cheese (your choice) shredded up.  

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the eggs and the cheese in a bowl add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, add all sauteed vegetables mix up and place in a 9x13 pan sprayed with PAM or the like.  Spread so it is even in the pan and bake for 25-35 minutes until the edges are brown and the top just starts to brown.  Pull out of the oven slice into portions and enjoy.  Tastes great Hot or cold.  Add sausage, bacon or ham for flavor or fun and have fun creating your own flavors.

If you want to make a more traditional quiche either make a crust or buy a pre-made crust the recipe will need to be divided into two pies.  Experimentation is the fun part of cooking so experiment with vegetables, meats and spices.  Some neat spices that work out well are basil, parsley, dried coriander, and red pepper but try whatever you have.

March 22, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

This is my Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:
1 cube of butter 4 oz of crisco
3/4 cup Brown Sugar (I use dark but use what you have)
3/4 cup White Sugar
2 eggs
Cream together very well with beaters (should be quite creamy)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Vanilla
Cream Together very well with beaters
2 1/4 cups of flour (Needs to be correct)
1 to 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips I prefer semi-sweet but use what you like my mom uses 1/2 milk and 1/2 semi and she makes a wonderful cookie.
3/4 cup Nuts are optional (I don't care for nuts in cookies so I don't add them)
Bake on cookie sheet at 375 until done.
Here is the deal with these cookies, if you use all butter they taste a little odd and feel a little greasy, if you use all crisco or palm shortening or coconut shortening they are crispier than I like them. If you like them crispy get rid of the butter and use all shortening. Also, when cooking on a cookie sheet it is awesome to use parchment paper. Simply cut parchment paper (you can get it at Walmart or a grocery store in the ziplock bag and aluminum foil section) to fit the pan or tear it to fit the pan and bake directly on it. Two things happen, one your cookies never stick and you don't need to spray or do any greasing of the pan, two clean up involves letting the pan and paper cool and throwing the paper away, since the pan never got dirty you don't need to wash it. If you don't use parchment don't grease the pan simply put the dough directly on the pan. It takes me about 5 minutes to put these cookies together and the kids love them. This is a variation on my mother's recipe and she always made a very good chocolate chip cookie.

What is an Epicurean Economist?

An epicurean economist, for me, simply means my blog will mostly talk about economics, and food with a smattering of politics and business sprinkled in.  It has nothing to do with epicureanism, though it was interesting to read about it while I was figuring out the name of my blog.  I will comment on the general economy with a slight bent to the currency markets since I'm very interested in those markets.  I also think this will be a good place to keep a number of my favorite recipes.  Hope you enjoy my thoughts and recipes.  Thanks Billy Bayne

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