dxmachina: (Chemistry01)
I made twelve kinds of truffles this year, and I decided to update my recipes and notes for easy reference.

Read more... )
dxmachina: (Christmas)
It's truffle time again at Casa Machina! I've put up 16 dozen or so truffle centers so far, and should finish off the last four batches of centers (about 9 dozen) today. Then it's time to dip.

There was a short snag when I went to look up my truffle recipes. I store them here on Livejournal so that I won't lose them, but LJ was down, and past experience has shown that they could be MIA for days. Now I have the basic mix committed to memory, so I tried to soldier through and make a batch of mocha truffles from memory. Turns out my memory of the details was faulty, as I discovered a couple of hours later when LJ came back. Fortunately, no harm was done. I used incorrect settings whilst melting the chocolate in the microwave, but my habit of checking the progress a lot caught the mistake before I scorched the chocolate. And mixing up tsps of coffee powder with tbsps yielded deep chocolate rather than mocha truffles, which were on the list anyway.

I saved a copy of the recipes to a text file so that I won't have this issue again. The irony here is that normally I am totally against storing info in the cloud, yet I have this huge blind spot when it comes to my recipes, all of which are here in LJ and occasional scraps of hard to find paper.

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Some observations of the universe... )

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I baked bread today, or rather, I took a bread recipe and made hard rolls with it, just to see how they'd work out. Just came out of the oven, so we shall see shortly.


dxmachina: (Cooking01)
Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] mme_hardy:

Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of.

I wonder how many pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, stick blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese knives, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic crushers, martini glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers, rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, ice cream makers, canners, mandolines, electric grills, and fondue sets languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.

[mme_hardy's note: I added a few. Feel free to do the same.]
[DX's note: As did I.]

Some other notes: I used to use the breadmaker all the time before I got my stand mixer. Now I just use that. I used to use my bamboo steamer a lot during sweet corn season, but then I noticed the vegetable settings on my microwave. Corn season is already humid enough without adding steam. The rice cooker is a microwave version, not a stand alone. I did once have a blender, but then I traded it to my ex-wife for her stereo. Now I get by with the stick blender and the food processor.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Labor Day is the end of summer, or so my garden apparently thinks as it seems to have packed it in for the year. Mind, I had only planted tomatoes, pickling cukes, and spaghetti squash, all warm weather plants, but we've also had weather that wouldn't be out of place in August in Louisiana, so it's not likely death from frostbite.

The spaghetti squash I can understand. I'm sure growing something that big takes a lot out of the plant, which is probably why the vines are basically dead. I harvested the squash today, 21 lbs. worth, and all appear thoroughly ripe. The pickling cuke vines are still hanging in for the most part, although there are few new blossoms or cukes, which is just as well because I am up to my ears in pickles, with a dozen pints and three quarts of various recipes of bread and butters and dills (see below). I threw away quite a few enormous overripe cukes, too, as they grow from gherkin to mini-watermelon sized monsters in what has to be just days, hidden deep in all the foliage. It was hard to keep up.

The tomatoes were a good news-bad new situation. The good news was that apart from a few early nibbles, my precautionary measures against the local field mouse colony seem to have been effective. The bad news is that none of the four varieties of tomatoes I planted were particularly satisfactory, and now, as I said above, all the tomato plants seem to have packed it in for the season way ahead of time. My neighbor's plants are all dying, too.

I had planted one fairly mature* beefsteak variety that gave me two fruits early on, but nothing later apart from one fruit that rotted on the vine. There was one Ultra Boy variety, which produced a number of perfect, superball-sized** fruits that seem to give me digestive problems. Then there were a couple plants each of two heirloom varieties. One yielded large, neat-looking yellow fruits streaked with red that went from underripe to rotten in the blink of an eye. I think I was able to salvage one by picking it while still mostly green on top and letting it ripen a little more on the counter before cutting away the entire still green top half of the fruit.

* By which I mean there were already flowers on the plant when I bought it.

** That do not, alas, bounce like superballs when dropped.


The other heirloom, a pink variety, gave me most of my usable tomatoes. It's problem was that I wound up having to cut away the tops AND the bottoms of most of them because the blossom ends were badly deformed and scabbed over. Fortunately, most of them were fairly large fruits, so there was still plenty of tomato left. And once it started producing, I was able to pick sufficient tomatoes to meet my needs, at least until this weekend. Even so, only one of the two examples of that variety I planted actually produced any fruit. The other just sat there, growing tomato foliage and little else.

Next year I'll try some different varieties. I should also water them more often, even if they don't need it, just to keep them from bursting at the seams every time we get a good strong thundershower. The other thing for next year, if I do cukes again, is to install a trellis for the cukes to climb. I found that the best looking cukes were the ones hanging from vines that had started climbing the tomato stakes. A lot of the cukes growing on the ground were deformed, stumpy looking things. Also, a trellis should make them easier to spot instead of having to root around through all the ground covering foliage.

I sampled some of the first batches of pickles, which were also not very satisfactory. The first batch of B&Bs tasted fine, but were very rubbery. I probably over processed them. The first batch of dills were made from an old Betty Crocker recipe from a long time ago, and are way, way, too salty. And that's after I substituted kosher salt for the table salt in the recipe without converting the quantity, which means they should've been even saltier. I cut the amount by half for the second batch I made, and tasted the brine before adding it. That batch should be better.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
1 four-pack cucumber seedlings - $2.75
1 onion - $ 0.66
spices, salt, sugar, vinegar - $2.00
1 dozen Mason jars (pints) - $12.83
1 canner and utensils - $27.76

3 pint jars of bread and butter pickles - priceless $15.33 a frelling jar for pickles?!?

So, the garden has begun to bear fruit, mostly pickling cucumbers of which there have been multitudes. Except that once you take that big bowl of cukes and slice 'em up and pack 'em in jars they don't amount to all that much. Today, two days after I did the B&Bs, I had another bowl of cukes ready to go. These I cut into spears and made dills. Yield was 4 pts of those. Apparently spears don't pack as well as slices.

I've never canned anything before. The ex did occasionally when we were together, and I always likes the results. I figured I wasn't going to have all that many jars to do, so I tried to use my stock pot, but it just wasn't deep enough, even for pints. Also, it would only fit three jars, and at the time I thought I'd have more than that, so I just went and got the canner. It works great, but man that's a lot of water to boil to can three lousy jars. Now I have enough pickles for quite awhile considering I'm the only one here. Meanwhile I now have to figure out where to store the humongous unitasker.

Finding decent recipes has been a challenge. None of my modern books have much apart from the occasional refrigerator pickle recipe. Tried that last year, but I'm not a fan. My go to Cook's Illustrated cook book doesn't even mention pickles. Even my ancient 20 volume Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedia of Cooking failed me. I finally got the B&B recipe out of a James Beard cookbook snagged from my mother, and the dills from my old Betty Crocker.

I've harvested two tomatoes. The first was nibbled by field mice, but I cut off the nibbled parts and it was still pretty tasty. The other was tiny but good. I'd hoped I'd seen the last of the field mice, but I guess not.

The spaghetti squash are abundant and doing splendidly.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
So, this morning I pruned juniper #2 with extreme prejudice, then lopped the carcass into manageable portions and fed it to the evil thicket. The arbor vitae will live till next year, at least, but I still need to trim them back some. Soon.

After a much needed shower, I spent the afternoon and evening making truffles for the Tiptree bake sale at Readercon. Tomorrow I'll make some triple chocolate cookies, as well.
dxmachina: (Rats!)
So, I roasted an oven stuffer last weekend, and buoyed by my stock making effort for Christmas dinner, yesterday I took the stripped carcass of the roast, threw it into a pot, added veggies, herbs, and water, and set it to simmering. After about four or five hours, I strained out all the bones and stuff, and simmered it some more to reduce it down to about a quart of liquid. Then I set it on the counter to cool off some before sticking it in the refrigerator, and forgot all about it until this morning. Nothing like some good ol' salmonella soup. Rats!

What I should've done was just stick it in the back of the truck last night, because it was the coldest night of the winter so far. It was 11° when I woke up. It's only 21° as I write this mid-afternoon. The cold is putting a crimp in my current project. I need to paint it, but it's too damn cold down in the basement for the paint to apply, much less cure, properly. I tried using an electric heater down there yesterday, but not much joy. I was able to get it warm enough to apply primer with a roller, so that's something, but the spray cans I have for the main coats have to be used at 65° or above. It's 50° down there today.
dxmachina: (Bike 04)
Eight days into the new year and I've already broken my all-time best mileage total for January. Mind, the previous best was only 49 miles and the current total is only 58. It's not from any extraordinary effort on my part, either*. The weather has been surprisingly moderate for January in New England. Yesterday it even touched 60°. Today was the coldest weather I've ridden in recently. It was 45° or so. And sunny. The only weather related complaint I have is that it's been windy.

* Well, apart from the fact that I haven't ridden this much since mid-November, which meant my legs and back were and still are complaining vociferously.

I'm living on the weather equivalent of house money. I'm know it can't last, but I intend to take advantage when I can.

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I cooked for a crowd this weekend, the crowd being me for the next couple of weeks. Yesterday it was an oven stuffer (on sale). Today I put a big ol' pot roast and a pile of pintos in their respective pots and shoved both in the oven for three hours. All came out splendidly.

Ooh, this week's Sherlock is ready to watch. Gotta go...
dxmachina: (Chemistry01)
I started with a couple of recipes I found on the Food Network site*, and added some cheese. Turned out great.

3 large Vidalia onions, peeled and quartered
4 strips bacon, diced
nutmeg
cayenne pepper
salt
black pepper
3 tbsp white wine
1¼ cups half-and-half
3 tbsp flour
2 oz swiss cheese, shredded
2 oz parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup panko
2 tbsp chives, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350°. Render the bacon over medium-high heat in a high sided pan until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Reserve for later. Add the quartered Vidalia onions** to the pan and saute in the bacon drippings until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch each of nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and black pepper, then add the white wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Whisk together the half-and-half and the flour, then stir it into the onions. Add the reserved bacon pieces along with 1 oz each of swiss and parmesan cheese, and stir over medium heat until the cheeses melt and the mixture thickens. Pour the mixture into a casserole or gratin dish.

Melt the butter in a bowl, then stir in the panko, chopped chives, and the remaining shredded swiss and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the onion mixture. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover for 5 more minutes.

* Source recipes below. Mostly it was the first recipe combined with the bacon from Emeril's. The cheese was my contribution:

Creamed Vidalia Onions

Creamed Onions with Crispy Bacon

** The onions I used weren't actually Vidalias, but were the local equivalent from Schartner's farm stand.



dxmachina: (Cooking01)
The best moment of the day came when baby!sis walked into the kitchen and said, Can I help? )

Eldest niece has volunteered to do next Christmas. Let's hear it for the next generation!
dxmachina: (Hangover)
So, spent the day baking cookies (two kinds) and making beef stock for demi-glace from scratch. Plus I made two batches of kolacki* dough, as well as the no-sugar added apricot jam for the kolacki filling. Did not have time to make the third kind of cookie, but the kolackis will be better anyway. Finished dipping truffles Wednesday night, so at least those are done. Now it's just a matter of assembling packages. Also did last minute shopping and went to the company Christmas luncheon. Am very tired.

* A small Czech pastry, that is sort of a cross between a tart and a Danish. I will post the recipe. They apparently all the rage in Texas. It's pronounced ko-latch-key. It seems like every "c_", be it "cz" or "ck", in Czech is pronounced as a soft "ch", except for "ch" which is pronounced "ck".

Have I mentioned I'm cooking Christmas dinner? Not here, but at my sister's house. I did this once before, and it was fine. I'm overthinking and overdoing, of course. Menu to be rib roast with both brown gravy and Tchoupitoulas sauce (thus the need for the demi-glace), roasted potatoes, peas, carrots of some sort, creamed onions, Yorkshire puddings, and rolls. Rie is getting the beef and potatoes, and I think I have everything else I'll need. Now I just need to remember to put it in the back of the truck tomorrow. Plus the potato slices that are marinating in the frig for the potato salad for tomorrow night's traditional cold cut dinner. (The Italians do fish on Christmas Eve, my family does cold cuts. It's a thing.)

Still need to roll out, fill, and bake the kolackis, and finish making the potato salad.

The weather has been insanely moderate for this time of year. I might have ridden my bike today had I not been running about like a madman. Now I'm worried about keeping stuff cold for the trip.
dxmachina: (Bike 03)
So, that NASA satellite that nobody can find? Didn't land on my house, so that's good.

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Long time, no post. There really hasn't been much to report. The weather has been lousy most of the month. I took the week of Labor Day off, planning to do some long rides on the week days, but the remnants of Lee decided to show up and wash out the week. It rained most of this week, too. This past weekend has been abominably humid in the aftermath of all the rain, the kind of humidity that saps all one's energy.

One longish ride I did take was to try out the new section of the South County bike path over Labor Day weekend. It's nice, if short. It's also hard to find. The original path ends behind a strip mall, then you have to cross Rt. 108, and ride aways down a side street before the new part of the path picks up again. Would it have killed them to put some signage the point out the way?

The new section ends behind Narragansett Elementary School, and when I got there it occurred to me that it's only about a mile to the sea wall. I hadn't been down there in years, and local TV (and even the Weather Channel) had been doing live reports from it during the hurricane, so I decided to keep on going for a quick visit. The next thing I knew I was all the way down Ocean Road to Scarborough Beach, watching the sunbathers. Left to myself, I might have kept on going to Pt. Judith and/or Galilee, but it was lunch time, I was hungry, and my wallet was back in the truck at Kingston Station.

The ride was about 24 miles, round trip. I was surprised that it wasn't longer. It's about 15 miles round trip from my house to Kingston Station, so I might actually plan a nice 40 mile ride from here to Scarborough and back. Maybe if this humidity ever lets up...

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I discovered a big old puddle of water down in the basement on Friday. I thought at first that it was from all the rain, but it turned out that the dehumidifier was overflowing. It seems that the little sensor that shuts it off when the tank gets full had stopped working for some reason. Bother.

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I spent a good chunk of yesterday making a burrito. Actually, I started making it Friday night when I put some pinto beans into a big ol' container of water to soak.* Plus there was the pot roast that got shredded for the meat. It was a pretty good burrito, but it probably would've been easier to head over to Trini's or Caliente. OTOH, I have plenty of fixin's left.

* Be sure to pick though your beans before soaking, the way they tell you to on the package. They really mean it about the bean-sized rocks.
dxmachina: (Bike)
So, I am in scenic Burlington, MA, enjoying my annual summer vacation weekend, aka, Readercon. Been fun so far. I'll talk about panels attended next time.

The weather has been about as good as one could expect given the time of year. Friday was warm and a little humid, but there were some largish clouds for shade and a breeze, so it was really quite pleasant outside. Today was quite hot, but not especially humid, which made things bearable. Slept in this morning*, then headed over to Bedford to ride the Minuteman bike path, aka, Rt. 128 for bicycles. Actually, that's probably a slur against Rt.128. I ride the path every year when I'm up here for Readercon, but I don't recall it being quite so bumpy as it was this morning. The problem is roots that have been frost-heaved up through the pavement, creating multitudes of sudden and, because you occasionally have to look away from the constantly shifting pavement to see if there are pedestrians plodding along ahead so you avoid mowing them down**, often unexpected speed bumps.

* By which I mean I got up at 6 AM instead of my usual 5:10. We're doing summer hours at work this year, which means that I work 6:30 to 5 Monday through Thursday, and have Fridays off. Very handy, except that I seem to be spending a good part of Friday napping to catch up.

** In Rhody, pedestrians on bike paths are told to walk on the left, facing oncoming traffic, just as if they were walking along a road. In Massachusetts, pedestrians are told to walk on the right with their backs to the oncoming traffic. This seems inherently unsafe to me.


I usually turn around at Arlington Center because there is a not very well thought out gap in the path before it resumes towards Alewife on the other side of the green. The gap requires riding along Mass Avenue for a block in the space between traffic and parked cars, always a thrilling experience. Worse, the return trip requires that you either ride on a sidewalk (not recommended or legal), or on the wrong side of the street, i.e., facing oncoming traffic (spectacularly unsafe and also illegal), to get from one piece of the path to the other. There has to be a better way. Still, I have negotiated it before, and there was way less traffic early on a Saturday morning than the last time I did it (noonish on a weekday), so I took the plunge. It's really not worth the terror. It's only another mile or so to Alewife, and although you do go by Spy Pond, the rest of the mile ain't all that scenic. In future I think that if I want to extend my ride by a couple of miles, I'll explore some of the other trails at the Bedford end of the path***.

*** Three bike path/trails start within spitting distance of each other and the Bedford bicycle shop. It's almost like a wormhole junction. The Minuteman you know about. Last year I explored part of the Narrow Gauge trail, one that starts out paved then transitions to gravel. There is also the Reformatory Branch trail, which apparently runs through a heavily wooded conservation area towards Concord. I drove by the entrance this morning, and it looked very narrow, and very overgrown. I may need to bring the Univega with it's fatter tires next year**** to better negotiate that trail.

**** Which is what I said last year...


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I made truffles for the Tiptree bake sale. It's the first time I've tried making them when it wasn't the dead of winter. Dipping chocolate when it's 80° with 80% humidity turns out to be a very different experience from doing it when it's 68 and the humidity is more like 20%. I had a hard time getting the chocolate to stick to the centers. Next time I need to let the centers equilibrate to room temperature and then blot off any condensation before dipping. Or maybe do them in a dessicated glove box.

I also made some of Cook's Illustrated "best" chocolate chip cookies, which were quite good. I love Cook's Illustrated, but they often make some very optimistic assumptions about the equipment inventories of their readers' kitchen. The recipe calls for a #24 cookie scoop. This is apparently a largish one, which they say holds about 3 tbsps of dough. The cookie scoop I bought for one of their other recipes only holds about 1 tbsp. Bother. I did have an unmarked ice cream scoop, and when I spooned 3 tbsps of water into it they all fit, so I used that. It made for some humongous cookies. I wound up with 13 cookies. The recipe quotes the yield as 16, so the ice cream scoop wasn't all that far off. Anyhow, now I know what to get the next time Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a coupon. Come to think of it, that's what I did for the last time I bought a cookie scoop.
dxmachina: (Chemistry02)
I made a couple of important* discoveries this weekend in my research into truffle making which show the value of both the scientific method and serendipity in the pursuit of knowledge.

* To me, anyway....

Science and Serendipity... )
 
dxmachina: (Bike Snow)
I'm sitting here with my coffee while waiting for the feeling to return to my toes. I rode my bike this morning, even though it was below freezing outside. It wasn't really my choice. I had to drop my truck off at the shop for some work (the heater stopped working this week, natch, among other things), and rather than hang around the waiting room for hours and hours, I figured I could tough out the ride back and forth.

It wasn't awful. I dressed properly, and apart from my toes (and around my eyes, early on) it was warm enough. Being early Saturday morning, there wasn't much traffic, and had it been warmer it would've been a pleasant ride.

The bike was less happy about things. It stays in the back of the truck when not in use, so it was very cold when I hauled it out. The biggest issue was that the rear derailleur wasn't moving at all, so I couldn't do any shifting with it, at least at first. The front derailleur worked, so I was able to use that to do very rough changes, and fortunately the first part of the ride was mostly flat. After a mile or so, the rear hub warmed up some, and the derailleur started working again. Sort of. There were still a few unannounced gear changes along the way. Anyway, I made it home (5½ mi), and the ride back should be a little warmer as it's supposed to get up into the forties today. As long as it's before sunset.

This morning's ride was the first time I'd been on the bike in almost a month. It's been too cold for comfort. I haven't been on the stationary bike much, either, which I need to change going forward.

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Yikes! Just got a call from the shop. Repairs are going to be close to a grand (new radiator, new wheel bearing, new differential cover). Merry frelling Christmas!

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Speaking of Christmas, I started in on my annual trufflemania. I had yesterday off, so since Thursday night I've managed to make 7 types of centers already, and I should be able to finish off the rest today, barring another unfortunate drop-the-cream-cheese-on-the-floor incident*. I may even start coating tomorrow. That's way ahead of where I usually am this time of year. On the other hand, I haven't even thought of a design for a Christmas card yet, much less begun production of same, so there's that.

* For family members who may happen to read this, no, I did not attempt to wipe it off and use it anyway. Even if it would've been fine, which it was when I had some of it on my toast this morning.

Also, with regards to truffles, I added one more flavor last year, but apparently never bothered to write it down, so here it is (the base recipe is here, and some additional flavors are here):

vanilla centers -

chips: white chocolate chips**
flavoring: 1½ tsp of French vanilla extract***

coating: milk chocolate

** A careful reading of the ingredient list for Nestle's Premier White Morsels (note the missing word) informs me that they do not, in fact, contain any chocolate or cocoa butter whatsoever.

*** For the record, French vanilla should not be a flavor. It's a style of vanilla ice cream made in the French manner, i.e., from an egg custard. That's why it's richer and yellower than normal vanilla ice cream, not from anything having to do with the vanilla itself. It really ought to apply only to ice cream. <Takes an ironic sip from his cup of French vanilla flavored coffee...>

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Other stuff. I caught a bad cold the day before Thanksgiving, so I missed the family dinner for the first time in my life. That sucked. Took about ten days to finally shake the cold, too.

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Toes have warmed up. Time to make some more truffles.

Weekend

Aug. 9th, 2010 10:01 pm
dxmachina: (Bonk)
Had not the best weekend. I rode both days, but had zero energy. This was especially so on Sunday while riding Blackstone, when my legs ran out of gas all the way up in frelling Woonsocket, a good five miles from where I parked the truck. I managed to plod back, but I didn't enjoy myself much. It wasn't even all that hot, although the humidity cranked up to eleven later in the day.

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I had similar luck with an attempt at smoking ribs on my super-duper grill. I'd actually done this a few weeks ago using a slab of spare ribs that I picked up for $1.99/lb, and they turned out great. I used a Cooks Country recipe which is very specific about times and temperatures. They did recommend St Louis cut ribs, but the regular spare ribs were fine, if a bit hard to get at some of the meat. So this time I splurged on some St Louis ribs for $3.99 a pound. It was about half the weight as last time, so the cost was about the same.

Anyway, the way they recommend involved heating the grill, with the pan of wood chips or chunks as the smoke source off to one side, and then putting the meat on the other side while turning off all the burners except for the one under the wood. All this whilst maintaining a temp of 257° for four hours. Well, I'd figured out last time that I couldn't turn off all the other burners (there are four, all told), but that I could do it with burner #1 (under the wood) on high, and burner #2 on low. I just had to shove the meat as far over the unlit burners as possible. This had worked.

For whatever reason, I didn't do that this time. I turned off all but #1, and then when I went out the turn the ribs an hour later, the temperature in the grill was only 200° or so. So I flipped on all three burners to low. (I was already very hungry from the smell of it all.) An hour later, when I went back out to turn them again, I had a nice smelling slab of charcoal. Bother. I wound up throwing a frozen burger on the grill for dinner.

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The garden is doing okay, I guess. My three spaghetti squash vines have produced two fruits amongst them, and don't seem to have any intent to produce more. I've been picking tomatoes now for a couple of weeks, but they have all been smaller than a clementine. The heirloom variety I planted has sme bigger fruit, but they are staunchly refusing to completely ripen so far.
dxmachina: (Calvin)
Back in the mid-sixties, my father flew for Aer Lingus on the New York to Shannon route. Shannon was the first duty-free airport, and my father took advantage of this by bringing us home various Irish and British foodstuffs, like Cadbury's chocolate (long before it became available here) and this weird rose hip syrup that was supposedly high in vitamin C*.

* I hated the stuff, myself. Every time one of us had a cold, a big spoonful got shoved in our mouth, and I always had to suppress a gag reflex. It was like when one of the Little Rascals was given a spoonful of castor oil. Somehow the subject came up during Christmas dinner, and I discovered that everyone else in my family loved the stuff, even to the point of occasionally sneaking a spoonful. Crazy, all of them.

One of the other things he used to bring home were these big ol' jars of Bovril, which was a thick, dark beef extract that looked and flowed a lot like molasses. It was basically concentrated cow. My mother used it for gravies and soups and anything else that needed beefiness, and we loved the stuff. Of course, when my father stopped flying to Ireland, the supply became restricted to tiny, ridiculously priced jars at gourmet shops, so that ended that.

I do a lot of my shopping at Dave's Market, a small local chain that has a somewhat higher ratio of esoteric products than, say, Stop and Shop, and the other day I noticed one of those tiny jars of Bovril. So I bought one. Tonight I decided to make beef stew, so it was the perfect time to crack it open.

I put a good dollop of the stuff into the Dutch oven with the rest of the ingredients, and then tried to puzzle out whether it now had to be refrigerated or not. Now I don't think we did back in the day, but I wanted to make sure. Lots of things have a "refrigerate after opening" warning on them now that didn't used to (ketchup, for example). The first problem is that being a tiny jar, the type face is, like, 3 pt. Even with my reading glasses I could barely make out the type. I actually had to get a magnifying glass. Ah, store in a cool dark place. Perfect. Then I looked at the front of the jar.

Suitable for vegetarians

Say what? How can concentrated cow possibly be suitable for vegetarians? I pulled out my trusty magnifying glass again to peruse the list of ingredients. There are lots of them, but none of them contain the word beef in them. Or cow. Or any other kind of dead animal. Huh.

Wikipedia clued me in
. During the dark days of the mad cow scare, the manufacturer replaced the beef extract with yeast extract to "allow vegetarians to enjoy the rich taste" which is apparently code for "the European Union won't let us sell it otherwise." People complained (think New Coke), so once the ban on beef exports was lifted, they apparently reintroduced classic Bovril as "Beef Bovril." Dave's, unfortunately, carries plain old (New) Bovril. $3.49 for 125 grams of yeasty goodness. Sigh.

It smells about the same as I remember it did. I will see how it tastes in about an hour or so.
dxmachina: (Chemistry01)
So, it's time to start making some Christmas truffles. When I was out and about at various stores this morning I was thinking about laying in some raw materials, but I also remembered that I still had some of the materials left over from last year. I also wasn't exactly sure how many batches I would need to make. Still, I knew that I had none of one essential ingredient, cream cheese, in the house, and by happy coincidence Stop and Shop is running a buy one get one free special on Philly. That works out to a buck a package, so I picked up four. I also got a bag of shredded coconut and couple of bags of white chocolate chips at Wal-Mart. Now to figure out how much I actually need.

Planny Stuff... )

Of course the other thing that must needs be done before anything else is cleaning the kitchen. Sigh...
dxmachina: (Chemistry02)
Previously on The Trouble with Truffles, things went swimmingly. Thus enabled, I decided to try some more experiments this time out. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? *

* I say this after reading an article about amateur scientists who are experimenting with genetic manipulation in their basement laboratories. At least the worst I ever did with my chemistry set was clear the house out with hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg gas). I wasn't trying to make no frankenbugs. **

** By coincidence, Bloom County is rerunning the set of strips wherein Oliver's dad gives him a chemistry set and hilarity ensues.



Anyway, back to the truffles. I tried three new flavors, maple, butterscotch, and caramel, using my usual recipe.

Lab notebook... )


dxmachina: (Cooking01)
It's truffle time at Casa Machina. I picked up most of my supplies Friday night. It's apparently my lucky week for making them, as Walmart had Hershey chips for $1.50 a bag, AC Moore has candy melts for a $1.69 a bag, and Dave's has Philly cream cheese buy one (@ $2.49) get one free! For the bean counters amongst you, that's basically $3 per 1 lb batch, plus flavorings. I get off cheap there, too, because I still have plenty of extracts leftover from last year. I only had to spring for a bag of shredded coconut ($1.50) and a bottle of mapleine ($2.49), this year's experimental flavor.

I'm going to make a couple of batches of cookies, as well, Marnie's chocolate chips and ATK's triple chocolates.

---
AC Moore also has some 50% off coupons up on their site, one of which I may use to buy an air brush.

---
For the past thirty years or so, my dad has been my easiest gift. He loves cheese and beef stick and candy, so every year I've given him a food basket based on those items, heavy on the cheeses. This was good, because otherwise he would probably be the hardest person to buy for. However, at Thanksgiving he mentioned to me that now that he's had that double bypass, perhaps it would be better if I stuck to low fat cheeses. I have since discovered that this turns out to be harder than it sounds. I always include some Jarlsberg, and that's available in a lower fat version, but after that there don't seem to be a lot of choices unless I decide to wander over to the Cracker Barrel aisle. Dave's had some no fat cheese from Vermont, but I'm leery.

Of course, a risk assessment might say that if it took him 83 years of eating regular cheese to develop the original blockage, chances are good that a nice wedge of cheddar is unlikely to keep him from reaching 166. Right?

---
It was lightly warmer today, 40 instead of 32, but windier, so it felt about the same as I rode. Broke 1700 miles for the year. Not too shabby. Afterward I made beef stew in the pressure cooker. Today I also cleaned the bathroom and most of the kitchen, and did laundry. Next I'm going to make some truffle centers. I feel very accomplished.

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