Category Archives: Gadgets

Gadget Post – Invisibility Ring

PICT0044It needs some fine tuning but the concept is sound.

Friday Recipe Exchange: A Little of This and a Little of That

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JeffreyW’s delicious blueberry bars

For tonight’s recipe exchange, I put together the recipes based on what’s been cooking in our kitchens this week.

Missing my fresh fruits, I make do with flash-frozen berries:

Love the full-on strawberry flavor in my Strawberry Bread (recipe here)

Blueberries, I could make stuff with blueberries everyday. Including JeffreyW’s Blueberry Bars (recipe and photos here) and his Lemon-Blueberry Bread (click here for photos and recipe)

My afternoon pick-me-up of late probably isn’t for everyone, but really works for me. Hit of energy and curbs my sweet cravings. I blend a pound of frozen strawberries, a pound of frozen blueberries and about a cup of frozen raspberries in my Vita-Mix, which creates a very smooth mixture (if you ignore the raspberry seeds) which unlike juicing, retains all the fiber. I add it and an equal amount of water to a big pitcher, mix well. I have a glass of this in the afternoon and a pitcher lasts a good two weeks in the refrigerator.  YMMV.

My pressure cooker has been getting a real work out lately.  A couple of meals to continue on the one-pot theme from last week:

In this Pressure Cooker Pot Roast (click here), I pushed the limits and began with a frozen roast, just to see what would happen. It turned out great and the booze made up for some of the flavors lost by not being able to brown the beef first.

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Seriously, don’t all JeffreyW’s meals look delicious? Above is his yummy pot roast and below is his Pork Mole

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Playing with his new Electric Pressure Cooker, JeffreyW tackles Pork Mole (click here) with much success.

I would have a Bixby update, but he’s been so crazy today, I haven’t had time to download the photos and video from our play date this week. Crazy-assed dog.

For tonight’s featured recipe, thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day, these are a fun, elegant treat. I’m actually making them for a birthday get-together.

Pretty and tasty, they were inspired by a novel I was reading. If you want to read the full Food in Fiction post, click here.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Moist Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup chopped raspberries

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Grease and flour muffin tins. Cream together oil, butter and sugar. Mix in remaining moist ingredients, one at a time, until well mixed. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture and beat for 2 minutes at high-speed. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they bounce back when pressed lightly.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and dollop over cooled cupcakes

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

saucepan

Puree raspberries until smooth, add raspberries and sugar to saucepan and heat to a low boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until thickened, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Let cool and spoon over frosted cupcakes.

Note:  For a layer cake, take 1/2 of the ganache, let it cool, mix with 1 cup crushed raspberries and spread between layers.  Keep the other 1/2 of the ganache warm and pour over cake to make a beautiful and smooth coating.  Serve with warm raspberry sauce.

That’s it for this week. Have a fun and safe weekend and say a little prayer for tornado damaged area of Florida, as they are expecting more rain and stormy weather. If you didn’t see it, here is my brother’s house, or what’s left of it. – TaMara

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Gadget Post – Electric Pressure Cooker

DSC_1507 (1600x1060)We’ve had this thing for a while now, but haven’t done much with it.  TaMara has mentioned her pressure cooker a few times, and I’ve heard about them on various forums.  This one is Amazon’s best seller, not that their sales rankings provide a slam dunk guarantee of quality.  It will do much more than I expect to ever call on it for – cooking rice, for example.  I have a purpose built device for that I wouldn’t expect this thing to match.20160101_122033 (1600x1060)I cooked a small beef roast in it the first time I used it, and made that into Italian beef for sammiches.  It did a competent job, the saute cycle even did a good job of browning the meat.  Baked beans from dried navy beans seemed a good place to test the speed advantages of pressure cooking.  I looked at this recipe to get a look at what to expect.  Opening the cooker after a 40 minute run and slow cool down left me underwhelmed.  The method the recipe called for was continued cooking with the lid off until they looked good but I gave them 15 more minutes of pressure and another slow cool down.  Better.  Might not have ended so dry if I hadn’t left the vent open for several minutes before seeing the steam blowing off.  I won’t talk about the recipe much, I’ve had better beans, but they did all come out with the right texture, not too hard, not mushy.  So far, so good.  Stay tuned!

Seen on the Internets

This is, of course, an exaggeration but it does seem like you can set fires with the new LED flashlights.  Only a few years ago they were a specialty item and aimed at law enforcement and rescue professionals and that is still a market for the high end products.  On the other end of the scale are lights like this one:DSC_1388 (1600x1060)Three dollars for a pocket friendly light that outshines any of the ones I grew up with – shaking and rapping on tabletops to eke out the last feeble glow.  I have these scattered all about the house in drawers and cabinets so that I will always have one readily to hand.

I Love My Vacuum Sealer

DSC_1216 (1600x1060)Using a vacuum sealer is an excellent way to put away leftovers like the lasagna we had yesterday.  It’s pretty straightforward to cut it into serving sized portions on a tray and then freeze them overnight.DSC_1217 (1600x1060)The sealer makes quick work of packaging the frozen pasta with very little mess.  We use it for a lot of foodstuffs, soups and stews and things like chicken stock are first frozen in plastic containers and then, after removing them from the plastic, sealed.  Works great for things like the green and wax beans we bought at the farmer’s market.  These we blanch, drain, and freeze on a tray and then bag and seal.DSC_1218 (1600x1060)We buy the sealing bags on a roll in a couple of sizes and cut them to length.  This little artsy-crafty gadget makes the cutting a snap.  The length gauge is handy both for measuring and for keeping the roll square – the small blade under the orange button slices cleanly without snags.DSC_1220 (1600x1060)

Tidbits

PICT9603 (1600x1060)Random wildlife – Ginger checks out a backyard visitor.  This was captured by the backyard camera in a happy accident.  There is a setting on the camera that allows you to space the time between shots and we have it set for 5 minutes, iirc.  That cuts down on the number of pictures it will take if, say, the deer here stays and mills around for a while but it may miss whatever shows up during that hiatus.DSC_0559 (1600x1060)I mentioned the other day that I bought the ingredients for mojo marinade thinking about doing a pork butt for a more authentic Cubano sandwich.  I marinated this one overnight then roasted it low and slow.  It was covered for most of the cooking time but I did take the lid off for the last 30 minutes.DSC_0561 (1600x1060)Here’s the sandwich I had in mind the whole time.  It’s basically a layered assembly of Swiss cheese, pickles, ham, and the mojo pork.  The bun halves are smeared with mustard, the other components assembled, and cooked in a grill press.  These are great tasting sammiches even without the mojo, any roast pork will work fine.DSC_0576 (1600x1060)Mrs J planted some cucumbers in with some clematis where it climbs up a wired in enclosure down on the south side of the house and the vines are starting to produce.  (You can just barely see them in the picture with Ginger and the deer, above.)  We had a couple rounds of the classic cucumber, tomato, and onions with vinegar and oil so we used the last half dozen to put together a refrigerator pickle recipe.  Can’t wait to try them, we’ll give them a week to come together but I’ll bet they get better after that.  DSC02505 (1600x1200)Kitteh!  This is one of several in a litter at the shelter, I have no more info than that, alas.DSC_0570 (1600x1060)Mrs J saw a much earlier photo of roast pork and gravy on egg noodles and she remembered that she really liked it and we haven’t had that in a long time and we do have some roast pork and egg noodles, don’t we?  She who must be obeyed!  The fact that these were slices from the mojo pork butt made no difference.  I simmered the slices in chicken stock with onions, colored it with Kitchen Bouquet, added a bit of beef soup flavoring and thickened it with corn starch.  Not the ideal gravy but it worked well enough!PICT1343 (1600x1060)More random wildlife – a few wild turkeys browsing for insects, I assume.  This camera is on the opposite side of the house and is looking North.  It doesn’t get nearly as much action as the one overlooking the spot where Mrs J scatters corn and sunflower seeds but we see a fair selection of critters.  I understand that they have cameras with wi-fi transmitters built in that can broadcast their captures to a centrally located receiver.  Sounds interesting, we gather the memory cards and view the take via a screen in the house.  From what I’ve seen the wi-fi range isn’t far enough to be all that useful for us.

UPDATE: Gadget Post: Hamilton Beach BrewStation Coffeemaker

In March of 2014, I needed a new coffee maker and this one appealed to me. A year later and I have to say, it makes really good coffee and it stays hot for 4 hours without it becoming bitter or stale. A bonus when you have a home office. But I felt I must update to say that it makes EXCELLENT iced coffee. I put in 4 cups of water, fill the warming station with ice (two trays), add enough coffee for 8 cups, make sure the warmer is turned off and brew it on BOLD. Brews perfectly and is ice cold when I pour it. Smooth, strong and not at all bitter. Sipping a glass of it right now. –  Cheers, TaMara

Brewmaster 1a

Last week my coffeemaker died, mid-brew. That is a code red emergency in my house. I stumbled across this carafe-less coffeemaker, on sale, in a pretty cherry red and decided the price was right. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I must say it has exceeded my expectations and I’m very pleased with the Hamilton Beach BrewStation.

It claims to keep your coffee piping hot without burning it or turning it bitter for 4 hours. And that was my first test. I usually brew 4-cups at intervals during the day when I’m working at home, because I’m a slow coffee drinker. I often poured out the last cup because at the 90 minute to 2 hour mark the taste was off.  After running vinegar through the machine, I brewed up 6 cups of coffee. It made a really decent first cup of coffee. I set the warmer to 4 hours and went about my day, grabbing a cup now and then along the way. At the four hour mark, the cup I poured tasted as good and fresh as the first cup.

And if you’re worried about BPA in the warming station, as I was, Hamilton Beach has several PDF’s on their website detailing how none of their products contain BPA, including this coffeemaker.

Brewmaster Innards 1
It’s easy to use. You can either fill the warming station with water and then pour it into the coffeemaker, or since I use filtered water, I just pour the water directly into the coffeemaker. You put the warmer in, top it off with the basket, add filter and coffee and press the buttons. You can choose between bold, 1-4 cups or regular brewing styles, I’ve experimented and really like the bold setting. You can set the warmer to 0-4 hours. It is programmable, so morning coffee is ready and waiting when I wake up.

Everything is easy to read. The water level marks are large and stair-stepped up, so it’s easy to fill, the warmer clearly shows how much coffee is left and setting the clock and programming the autobrew is intuitive. If you get to the 4-hour mark and you still want to keep the coffee hot, you hold the start button for 3-seconds and it resets the warmer.

Easy Pour

And pouring the coffee is easy and quick. You hold the cup up to the bar and fill. It easily fills mugs and travel mugs, though it’s too short for my thermos, but I made do by pouring it into a mug first.

I give this high marks, for $35, it does what I need. And it’s a pretty red to boot.

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Mojo Roast Chicken with Black Beans and Rice

DSC_0544 (1600x1060)I bought a bottle of sour orange juice so I could more closely replicate the mojo marinade needed for a proper roast pork  Cubano sandwich.  I haven’t done that yet, but a recipe for mojo marinated roast chicken caught my eye.  A mojo sauce is mostly olive oil with garlic, citrus, and oregano.  I used fresh oregano instead of dried in mine.  The lemon and lime juices in the recipe are intended to get to the sour/bitter taste profile of the sour orange juice when sour orange isn’t available and regular orange juice is substituted.  Lacking a rotisserie on my grill I used the beer can roaster gadget with good result.DSC_0541 (1600x1060)A recipe for Cuban style black beans and rice worked well and fit the general theme of the plate.  I have no Idea if broccoli plays much part in the Cuban diet but I like it so I steamed some florets and gave them a squeeze of lemon.  I picked the green pepper and a couple of sweet banana peppers from my container garden to make the bean dish.  The addition of a splash of red wine vinegar to the beans right before serving them really made the dish.  I never would have thought to do that but it works!

Frozen Treats: Vanilla Nut Crunch (and Bonus Kitteh)

Vanilla Nut Crunch

It was time to break out the ice cream maker and cool things off. I’d been focusing on gelatos the last couple of summers, but yesterday I wasn’t interested in standing over the stove and stirring an egg mixture. I dug out the instruction manual for my Cuisinart machine and sure enough, there were some simple cream-only recipes. I decided to start with vanilla.

I have two favorite ice creams, one was Ben and Jerry’s Wavy Gravy, RIP (their new hazelnut is inedible IMHO) and Blue Bell’s Moo-llenium Crunch (fingers crossed they can come back from the shut down). I’ve mastered Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato and it’s a fine substitute for Wavy Gravy, so this time I thought I’d tackle the crunchy vanilla ice cream from Blue Bell.

From their description:

Classic vanilla ice cream with a combination of dark chocolate chunks, creamy caramel chunks, roasted pecan halves, chopped almonds and walnut pieces.

The nuts and crunch

Vanilla ice cream recipe? Check. Dark chocolate? Check. Caramel chunks? Nope, but we’ll get to that. Roasted pecans? Nope, will have to live without because I was not going to drop everything and run to the store. Almonds and walnuts? Check and check. On to the recipe:

Vanilla Nut Crunch

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp really good vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds (raw or roasted, unsalted)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (raw)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional ;-) )

mixing bowl, ice cream maker

In the mixing bowl, combine milk, sugar and salt, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine until sugar is dissolved (about 2 minutes). Stir in cream and vanilla by hand.

Freeze according to manufacturer’s direction for your ice cream maker (for mine, I place the frozen bowl on the machine, add the paddle and the top, turn it on and then pour the ice cream mixture in while it’s turning. 30 minutes later I have ice cream).

After it has completed its freezing cycle, fold in nuts and chocolate. Freeze until hard. Makes about 1-1/2 quarts.

Remember the caramel bits? I had a bottle of caramel syrup which made a nice topping and when I was done, it was pretty darn close to Moo-llenium Crunch. I’m sure pecans will make all the difference next time.

And here is a bonus kitteh because he had to “help” me take the photos today.

Z-Man Whatcha making

For tomorrow – Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream.  Until then – TaMara

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Sammich Pr0n – Roast Pork BBQ

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