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)
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: (Books 04)
Readercon 22...

Friday... )

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Saturday... )

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Sunday... )

As usual, there were a few times when I couldn't find anything I was really interested in going to, but also as usual, mileage varies. Add in some homemade baked goods, two decent bike rides, and a couple of terrific meals at Lester's House of BBQ, and it was a pretty good weekend.

Cranky...

Feb. 20th, 2011 10:11 pm
dxmachina: (Snow)
I'm sitting here staring at the notes I took at Boskone this weekend and not working up much enthusiasm for typing up a con report. I'm pretty meh about this year's edition, which is odd because Charlie Stross was GoH, and I find both him and his work very entertaining*. There just weren't many panels that I was enthusiastic about attending, and some of the few that I was interested in were scheduled opposite each other. Plus I was cranky before I even got to con, so that didn't help matters. I will write it up at some point, just not now.

* Early on he was walking around carrying a stuffed Cthulhu which was wearing a knitted Cthulhu ski mask.

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Crankiness... )

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There was one thing that made me less cranky. I seem to have developed a knack for stumbling across good barbecue joints while at SF cons. It may not be much of a super power, but it'll do. This time it found a place called Tennessee's BBQ just up the street from the hotel. Very tasty.

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While at the con, I finished Stross's The Jennifer Morgue which is part of his Laundry series of Lovecraftian spy thrillers. It's a very funny book, and I liked it quite a bit.
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!

---
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.

---
Toes have warmed up. Time to make some more truffles.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
Spent a long weekend in Burlington, MA, riding my bike, eating terrific barbeque, and attending Readercon 21. The weather was really muggy, but otherwise I had a pretty good time. I drove up Friday morning, so I missed Thursday night's session, which looked like it had some interesting stuff. Anyway....

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Friday Sessions... )


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Saturday Sessions... )


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Sunday Sessions... )

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Other... )

 
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: (Cooking01)
Supper tonight was hot dogs and mozzarella sticks, with a banana for dessert.

Cheesecake!

Dec. 2nd, 2008 08:15 pm
dxmachina: (Marvin01)
I made the world's easiest cheesecake last night. I took a tub of Philly cheesecake philling, dumped it into a pre-made graham cracker crust, and then shoved it into the refrigerator for a couple of hours to chill. Took me three minutes to make, tops, cost way less than what an equivalently sized store-bought cheesecake would've run me, and tasted great.

It tastes quite a bit like I remember my ex-wife's cheesecake tasting. If you've got a springform pan eight hours or so to spare, you can try that one. The top-secret recipe is here.

What had me hankering for cheesecake in the first place was close encounters of the pumpkin cheesecakey kind over the weekend. First there was [livejournal.com profile] stephl's discussion of her vegan pumpkin cheesecake recipe in her lj. Then my niece brought a sugar-free version to Thanksgiving dinner, but I was busy with the apple pie. I finally succumbed to a sugary, non-vegan variation at my friends' house Friday night which was yummy. Such a versatile dessert! I've been craving plain cheesecake ever since.

When I was a kid, my father would occasionally bring home a pineapple cheesecake. I'm not sure where he got it. It might have been a local bakery, or it may have been some outfit similar to Entenmann's. It was about the same size as a loaf of sandwich bread, and came in a box. I remember it being really good.

Hmmm... Next time I'm gonna get a can of crushed pineapple, too.
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
So I took some of the leftover roast chicken from last Sunday's dinner, and made a chicken pot pie last night. Mmmm, pie. I used Pillsbury crusts, which were on sale, and used a cast-iron pan as a pie plate, because the other pie plates I had were too small. The pan worked perfectly, and did an excellent job of browning the bottom crust as well as the top. It was very good, and I'm having some leftover pie for lunch as I write this.

I got the pan last year, and it is the first piece of cast-iron ware I've ever used. My mother never had any, and I don't ever recall seeing her mother use cast-iron. The ex bought a set of cast-iron when we moved into our house, but I never used any of it, and now that I think of it, I don't think she did much, either.

It is very cold today, but it's sunny, and I'm going to try to ride. I was thinking about it yesterday, but it never did get above freezing here, and it was windy to boot. I have the week off, so if today's attempt is successful, then I might be able to get in a couple more before I head to Jersey Thursday.
dxmachina: (Snoopy Dance)
Am very hungry, but have to wait until a chicken finishes roasting. It is roasting in my shiny new roasting pan, bought for cheap at the Linens and Things going out of business sale, along with some kitchen gadgets and a lightweight blanket. By happy coincidence, Dave's had oven-stuffers on sale this week. It smells great, making me even more hungry.

[A brief interlude in which the chicken comes out of the oven, and the gravy is started. Now the gravy is reducing a little while the meat rests.]

I got a 3" thick memory foam mattress topper a couple of years ago which has been wonderful for my back. It's also a terrific insulator, which is great in the winter, but on not so cold nights most of my other blankets are just too warm in combination with it. For the summer, I used two sheets in lieu of a blanket, but that's not enough for those middlin' cool fall nights we've been having, and my other blankets are just too much. (Hard to believe that when I was in grad school I used an electric blanket plus a comforter on occasion. Of course, I have more internal insulation these days.)

I have also made a discovery about the sizing of blankets. I have a standard full-size bed. Years ago, blankets were available for full-size beds. Now they no longer exist, and one is expected to buy a "full-queen" sized blanket, which costs more. But last time I bought a blanket I actually looked at the measurements of twin-size blanket, and realized that it would do perfectly well on my bed, especially given that I never make my bed and prefer to just sort of wrap the bed linens around me. Cheap blankets!

Dinner time!

Thursday

Mar. 6th, 2008 08:07 pm
dxmachina: (Calvinball)
The little girl who lives next door delivered my Girl Scout cookies today. Was seriously considering eating all three boxes for dinner, but I refrained.

---
Derek Lowe got hammered by his old teammates today, giving up 5 runs in 2+ innings, but the Dodgers pounded a couple of minor league relievers for 7 in the top of the ninth to win the game over the Sox. Jason Repko hit a gland slam to put the game away. I like Repko. He's fun to watch. His problem is that he goes so all out the he invariably ends up injuring himself. If I'm GM he gets Pierre's spot on the team, but that'll never happen. As it stands now he looks to be one of the better paid players in AAA.
dxmachina: (Snoopy Dance)
Have been spending the weekend getting back to my culinary roots. I have the upcoming week off, so yesterday at the market I picked up a bunch of cold cuts for lunchs. The first thing I did with them when I got home was make a Sloppy Joe. Now, if you're from anywhere other than northern New Jersey, a Sloppy Joe is ground beef in barbeque sauce on a bun. And until I started working at the Wicker Basket deli after college, that's what I thought it was, too. But there's another kind of Sloppy Joe, and it's terrific.

Sloppy Joes... )

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For breakfast this morning I had another staple of Jersey cuisine, a Taylor ham and cheese sandwich. In my family we usually make these on English muffins, but I had all this deli rye lying around, so I used that. Nummy.
dxmachina: (Crusader02)
There's a strip mall a few miles down Rt. 2 from me in Exeter. It was only built three or four years ago, one of the newish sort where there are clusters of buildings surrounding convoluted parking lots, all masquerading as some sort of town center. Exeter has no town center of its own, so perhaps the developers are hoping that this will step into the void. If so, it's an odd choice of location, because although Rt. 2 is a main road, it's also very much a country road at this point. Not many houses or even nearby developments. The Agway is just a mile further south, as is Allen's Seed.

If only there was a Chinese restaurant here... )
dxmachina: (Bike 03)
Damn, it was hot today.

Went out with friends last night. We went to a new Mexican place in Warwick, a chain restaurant. There's never been much in the way of Mexican food in Rhody except for Mr. Taco, which is terrific, but can be annoying to get to because it's in beautiful downtown Arctic. Lately, though, Mexican chains have been springing up like toadstools practically everywhere one might stick an Applebee's. There's Chipotle Grill, Cilantro Grill, and the one we went to, On the Border (such original names). I wanted to go to Mr. Taco, but got outvoted because of the navigation factor. When I heard the name of the place we were going to, for a moment I figured it'd be okay, because I confused it with the place in Cambridge I occasionally used to eat with the Somervillains at, which is pretty good, too. Then I remembered that was the Border Cafe, different chain, similar name, much better menu. On the Border, OTOH, offers a selection of semipronounceable trademarked specialties, such as Ranchilladas™ and Bordurittos™, along with Indifferent Service™ and Expensive Drinks™. They do have some standard Mexican™ items, mostly as part of their build-your-own combination dinner, but they are in really small print, marginalized no doubt because they can't be trademarked. I had the Ranchilladas™. Sigh.

My brain, recognizing that it's the weekend, woke me up at 5 this morning. I did my usual Saturday morning routine. Made coffee, and watched last night's Dodger game. I'm not sure why, but for the last couple of months MLB has been letting me watch (not just listen to) all of its archived games. Weird, because I've only paid for Gameday Audio. For live games, the site restricts me to what I paid for, but once a game is archived, the system doesn't even require me to log in like it used to. That's perfect for an east coast boy who can't stay awake for the 10:40 EDT start time for the live feed anyway. As long as I don't spoil myself, it might as well be live. I get Vin Scully for the whole game instead of just the first three innings. Can't beat that.

After the game (LA lost, 1-0) I headed out into the ridiculous heat (mid 90's) and humidity to run some errands. After that I hunkered down with the A/C. Even managed a siesta, but that just left me groggy.

I woke up again at 5, p.m. this time, and went for a ride. The heat had dialed back some, and the breeze picked up, so it wasn't all that bad an evening for it. There were only a handful of folks on the path. Even the death-bunnies were off doing whatever bunnies do to keep cool. I kept it short (10 mi) because I plan on taking a long ride tomorrow, when it's supposed to be cooler and less humid. I might have skipped entirely if I hadn't skipped last night to go out.

ARod hit number 500 today, a day late and a dollar short...
dxmachina: (Rain)
It's rained like crazy all day, although it's been more a fine, constant spray of small drops rather than a heavy downpour. It hasn't been especially windy, either, although now I can see the trees starting to sway a bit. Regardless, it's been relentlessly wet outside since morning with much more yet to come.

---
I've been sitting at my desk most of the day, noodling around on the template for Baseball Ex Machina. I went to post something early this morning, only to discover that Google decided to migrate me over to the NEW! IMPROVED! BLOGGER! today. Now, it's only been two weeks since I set up the new blog. I wanted to go with the new version, but they wouldn't give me the option to do so. So I went ahead, and created the thing under the old system, doing a bunch of customizations in the process. Then today they won't even let me log in the old way, but they promised that everything will be better if I just use my google user name instead, and that I'll really like it a lot.

Of course, the new system can't parse the old templates, so all the customizations and hacks I did were lost in translation. Truth be told, I wasn't crazy about the result anyway, so I started over from scratch. Several hours of fiddling and googling hacks later, Baseball Ex Machina 2008, was born. The main differentiating feature that I can see is that now I can tag posts. Of course when I wrote most of the posts over here, the only tag I used on them was "baseball," which won't be quite as useful over there.

---
Last night I went out to dinner with some of the volleyball crew, most of whom I haven't seen in a year or more. It was Brazilian rodizio place, where they bring barbequed meats to your table skewered on, well, swords. Great idea in theory, but in practice it becomes kind of awkward, at least when attempted at a table for twelve shoehorned into a barely big enough space. The food was mostly okay, but they use way too much salt on some of the meats.

---
My right foot hurts again, this time from a case of Achilles tendonitis that appeared without warning when I woke up Wednesday. It used to happen to me once in awile, but then it would disappear again overnight. No such luck this time. It does seem to be getting a little better, but I'm still limping like Chester.
dxmachina: (Hangover)
Am safely in New Jersey, piggybacking on someone's wireless. It might be Al's, but then again, it might not be, because Slick is picking up at least three wireless networks, and I just selected the most likely one. He and D are still asleep, so I can't confirm.

To pick up where I left off, I got the rest of the chocolates dipped, cooling them on parchment paper this time rather than the rack. Worked way better. I got Nero installed, and a bunch of Christmas CDs burned.

The trip down was interesting, in the "may you live in interesting times" curse way. The weather was misting for a good chunk of the CT portion of the trip, but traffic was actually pretty light, what with virtually every car in America parked in a shopping mall parking lot somewhere, and I made excellent time. Usually. The major blot on the journey was the parking lot that was I-95 in New Haven. It took an hour to get from Branford to West Haven, about ten miles. First there was "Emergency Roadwork" going on in East Haven. Now, I know Connecticut is renowned for having bridges fall down, but there is no bridge where they were working, so I can't imagine what the emergency could have been. After that there was an accident in West Haven. Fortunately, it was a minor one, but it was just south of where I-95 and I-91 come together, so there were six lanes shrinking down to one. Joy. (The really nasty accident was the SUV that rolled over on a ramp near Old Lyme, although it didn't really slow traffic down much since it was off the main road. I'm surprised I didn't see more accidents, because folks were driving crazy. Twice I had folks try to enter my lane whilst I was directly beside them.)

After I escaped from New Haven, the weather turned quite nice, with bright sun and unseasonably warm temperatures. I arrived at Al's not long before dinner, so we headed out in search of food. I wound up getting a free meal because there was masking tape in my garlic mashed potatoes. I discovered this when what I initially thought was some potato skin in my forkful of mash resolutely refused to break apart when I tried to chew it. No harm done, and I might not have even mentioned it if our waiter had not arrived a minute later for the usual mid-meal "How is everything?" Free food!

Watched Hoodwinked afterwards, a movie that I'd meant to see, but never got around to. It's laugh out loud hilarious retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" from the point of view of the police investigation following the whole incident. I especially liked the private detective, a frog named Nick Flippers, who wears a William Powell-esque mustache, and investigates cases accompanied by a little terrier. I'm going to need to own a copy.

Today it's hang out for awhile, then off to baby!sis's for an early dinner (3 p.m.). I spend the night at sis #2's tonight, and then the traditional family Christmas dinner at sis #1's tomorrow, and back on the road home after that.
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
Lordy, do I suck at dipping candies, even worse than I suck at wrapping presents. I've been making truffles based on a recipe someone (Beathen, I think) posted at b.org a couple of years ago. I made the exact recipe (for mocha truffles) last year, and they were well received, so I decided to experiment with different flavors this year. I have mocha, dark chocolate, peppermint, and coconut. The centers are all done, and I just finished dipping the mocha and peppermint in dark chocolate. I even bought dipping tools at A.C. Moore. The dipping went well enough, but I put them on a wire rack to set up, and most got stuck to the wires as the molten chocolate dripped down through the grid and hardened. Almost every one I picked up wound up losing a little grid-shaped patch of coating from the bottom. I redipped that side, but they look lousy. Eventually I got smart, and just turned the rack upside down and pushed them out of the grid. I'll do the rest (they get milk chocolate outside) in the morning.

I watched my tapes of A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Wish for Wings That Work while getting most of my non-food wrapping done. Have had to change two presents at the last minute. It turns out I still need to get something for evil niece, because I can't find the present I thought I had for her. I'd bought it a couple of years ago for a different niece, who then requested something specific, so I saved the original present for a rainy day. Now it's raining out, and I have no idea where it is. Bother. I'll get something tomorrow.

The other misfit present is a copy of Terry Pratchett's Where's My Cow? that I bought for cutie patootie niece thinking it would be a nice story about making animal noises. It only arrived from Amazon yesterday, so I flipped through it last night, and while it's a perfectly wonderful book, halfway through the key question changes from "Where's my cow?" to "Where's my daddy?" and given that cutie patootie niece's mommy and daddy have split up, I think I'll save that one for someone else. Or keep it for myself, given that if I put it aside, I probably won't be able to find it ever again. My niece will get the wooden pull-train with blocks on it that I found when I was out today. It's a lot like a toy I've been meaning to make for one or the other of my nieces or nephews since forever, so it's a fine substitute.

Pratchett featured in another oddball present this year. I came home the other day, and found a package in the middle of my front yard, as though the letter carrier had just flung it there like a newspaper, which is very unlike my usual letter carrier who always leaves packages on my stoop. Anyway, the package was from an Amazon associate seller, and I knew I'd bought what ever it was for myself, because I recognized the seller's name, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what I'd bought. My short term memory really has been spotty lately. I was watching TV last night, and someone said something that made me want to look something up on Wikipedia. A click later, the wikipedia main page opened, and I'd totally forgotten what it was I wanted to look up. Still don't remember. Anyway, my surprise Christmas present to myself turned out to be a hard bound copy of Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens. Cool!

Still to do tomorrow morning: 1) Dip rest of truffles, 2) prepare food baskets, 3) install Nero on the computer so I can 4) burn some Christmas music to listen to on the 5) drive to Jersey.
dxmachina: (Hobbes)
The meat loaf was based on the Cooks Illustrated recipe, except that I substituted some crushed ginger snaps (leftover from last weekend's sauerbraten) for some of the breadcrumbs. It turned out reasonably tasty. The sauce was way too sweet, though.

It's funny, I'm not sure I've ever made meat loaf before. I have a vague memory of maybe doing it once before, but it's blending with memories of other things, so perhaps not.

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