Category Archives: Gadgets

Gadget Post – Small Bowl Food Processor

20170213_134314-1600x1200I broke down and bought a small-ish food processor, this one is a Cuisinart.  It had good reviews from America’s Test Kitchen.  It’s handy, light, easy to store and use.  The 2 buttons are marked chop and grind, one makes the blade rotate clockwise, and the other the opposite.  The cover is a bit stiff both locking and unlocking so you have to hold tight with the other hand.  It may loosen up with use.



dsc03914-1600x1200Here’s Blossom, a shelter kitteh that Mrs J says is 2 years old.  She came in last week.20170210_122332-1600x1200A bit over exposed, here is a pile of crumbly pastrami on a bun with just a dab of mustard.  It shares the plate with coleslaw and a dill pickle spear.20170205_115909-1600x1200I usually make these beans with a smoked hock but I had quite a bit of that pork belly porchetta  to eat up so I used some of that instead.  I sliced it to about a half inch and browned the slices in a frying pan before chopping and adding it to the beans as they simmered.20170203_165901-1600x1200Mmm… sloppy joe sammich pr0n.  That’s the last of my homemade giardiniera.20170210_152032-1600x1200We got more pods and k-cups in from an Amazon order.  The Fog Chaser pods came sealed in plastic bags of 10 pieces each (iirc) because of their open construction.  They work just like the k-cups, using the same adapter.  We will store the remaining pods from the opened bag in zip-locks.  The Caza Trail Kona blend cups are the standard sealed items.  Both the blends are quite good and are priced nearly the same.  If I have to choose one blend out of all we have tried so far I would give the nod to the Caza Trail Kona because it tastes great and is relatively cheap.  Fog Chaser is a strong second.dsc_5594-1600x1200Mrs J stops by the nose cleaning station where Ollie is on shift.  He has moved smoothly into the regular rotation.

Coffee Maker Update

20170209_134425-1600x1200We’ve had this thing long enough now to be able to give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.  The k-cups are the go-to for a quick cup but we’ve had success with the adapters, shown in the foreground, using our own grounds.  They even make little-bitty filters for them that are optional.  They do cut down on the cup sediments.

I did some looking on line for the cheapest k-cups and ended up running to Best Buy where they had some pretty cheap.  Green Mountain Dark Magic is a dark roast that we like, and they had a good tasting Donut Shop blend that was also on sale at the time.  Since our visit they’ve bumped up the price on both.  I’ve ordered a couple of different blends from Amazon that are very popular:  A Kona blend and one from San Francisco Coffee called Fog Chaser.


Gadget Post – Bunn MCU My Cafe

20170202_113447-1600x1200I’ve been threatening to buy one of these single cup brewers for ages.  This model gets good reviews and I like the Bunn name and the fact that they are headquartered in my state.  Mine came this morning and we promptly set it to working.  Our first cup was with the adapter for using our own grounds and it worked well – turning out a good cuppa.  The next mug was made with one of the pre-loaded coffee cups and it was very good, too.  The cups are universally known as k-cups, much to the distress of the Keurig folks, I’m sure.

So far, so good!  There isn’t any denying that the k-cups are easier and quicker to deal with.  Using our own we had to dig the used grounds out of the tray and then rinse it in the sink.  It comes with four “trays” – that’s what they call the adapters for the pods, cups, loose grounds, and the one meant for nothing more that hot water for oatmeal or whatever.  Pods are like tea bags, the product is enclosed in its own filter.  I suspect most of the pods sold are, indeed, meant for tea.

Also available are reusable k-cups, meant for your own coffee grounds and designed to fit into the k-cup tray.  I’ve ordered a couple of those just to see if they make cleanup a little easier.

Paprika – the App

No, it’s not a condiment selection tool, it’s a handy dandy recipe app that can do a lot more than I need it to (for now, anyway) but I really like the way it can scrape the ingredients and directions for a recipe off a a cluttered page and just present you with the essential information.  It pretty much gives you what you see on a lot of sites when you click on the “print this recipe” button.screenshot_20170113-155257-1600x1200

Paprika has its own web browser that works much like Chrome or Firefox.  If you know the url of a particular site you can enter that into the address bar or just enter search terms like I did in the screenshot above.  screenshot_20170113-155326-1600x1200Once you have the recipe page up you click on the “save recipe” button on the bottom right and the app does it’s magic.  It will chug through a downloading recipe notification and then bring you to the next screen:screenshot_20170113-155921-1600x1200It’s an edit screen, by default it puts all recipes into “uncategorized” but you can put them wherever you like by clicking the “change” button.  The first time you click that you will get pretty much an empty screen but click the big plus sign (+) and you can start your own system.screenshot_20170113-155046-1600x1200I’ve just begun compiling a recipe database on this thing, you may recognize some of the recipes.  Anyway, click or tap on a recipe and it takes you to that stripped down iteration:screenshot_20170113-155119-1600x1200

It’s especially handy when rendered in this two column format, the directions column scrolls independently of the ingredients so you don’t have to go back to see just how much milk they are talking about when the directions tell you to go ahead and add it now.

It has more functionality that this brief sketch shows, it will compile a grocery list and it’s a meal planner.

Homemade Sausage

20161230_095500-1600x1200I ground a pork butt that yielded 8lbs of meat and added 2lbs of store bought to make it an even 10lbs because most of the recipes I looked at were for 5 or 10 pounds.  Also, the store varieties are heavier on fat and I thought that would bring the lean/fat ratio of my mix closer to ideal.  Sausage needs a lot of fat, too lean and it will get tough when fried.20161230_100259-1600x1200I went with a combination of recipes, this garlic and pepper recipe looked good, and I knew I wanted sage in mine so I looked at the breakfast sausage recipes and ended up going with sage, thyme, and rosemary.  My patio chives have gasped their last, I got some but nowhere near enough so some chopped green onions went into the mix.

I bagged the sausage in one big zip lock and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of days to meld all the seasonings.  You can really get your OCD working hard when you weigh portions out on a digital scale for freezing. If it’s 1: 0.1 I won’t sleep well, thinking about how wrong it is.20161230_101418-1600x1200I was able to bag and roll 9 portions of exactly a pound each, the last bit was just zipped up in a bag for today’s lunch.  These 9 went to the freezer.


20161217_111203-1600x1200Mrs J worked her cookie-fu on this Splenda recipe.  We had some sugared pecans left over from another project so she added a good cup of chopped nuts.  She used a dough scoop to drop the mix onto a baking tray…20161217_143350-1600x1200… and tells me to say that the dough must be pressed flat-ish with your palm or it may not spread out right while baking.  These were very good, better than many made with regular brown sugar.

Kitchen Smells Good

20161216_104126-1600x1200I’ve been plagued with brain farts this morning.  I had intended this to be a machine loaf.  I measured all of the ingredients for the standard recipe and added yeast last as per usual but went with 2 tablespoons instead of 2 teaspoons.  Ack!!  I spooned out all but a guesstimated 2 t amount and set the machine to going.  And got to thinking about the last time I added too much yeast – the dough rose so much it near opened the lid on the machine.

I cancelled the cycle and loaded the dough into a hotel pan sized just a tad bigger than a standard loaf pan and let it rise while the oven pre-heated to 375.  I set the timer on the microwave to 20 minutes as a guess on baking time, loaded it into the oven, and set about adding dough ingredients into the now empty bread machine for cinnamon raisin bread.  That done, I set it to a dough cycle and sat in the front room to surf the web a while.  The bread machine has a beep to alert the user when it’s time to add extras like the raisins.  I heard beeping and hurried to add the raisins, that done I returned to my easy chair.

The beeping continued, longer than I had ever remembered happening with that device.  I waited a few minutes but it continued so I checked the readout panel thinking maybe it was  it was alerting me to some kind of error. Ack!!, again!!  It was the microwave’s timer for the loaf baking in the oven.  I rushed to check the loaf, it was plenty brown but not ruined.  I set it down to cool and turned the insistently beeping timer off.  As if to rub it in, the “add stuff now” beeper on the bread machine started.  The beeps are identical!  Those devious machines!  20161216_125001-1600x1200Here it is in that bamboo slicing guide, I dropped the near side for a better view.  I wish the whole thing was made of the same plastic they use for the bottom surface.  The bamboo will splinter when the knife edge is misaligned.  My loaves tend to be taller that the sides so the better slicer would, for me at least, have taller sides with a “v” cut into the slot to lead the knife.

Lunch break!  More of the turkey salad I made yesterday with iceberg lettuce on that fresh bread.20161216_120112-1600x1200

Ah, the timer, again.  Be right back, have to check on the cinnamon bread…20161216_132034-1600x1200Looks good so far.  It’s a little more brown than I was intending but I wanted to get the internal temp up to 200 before I pulled it out to cool.  That shine is from the melted butter it is brushed with.  Needs just a little time to cool before I cut into it to see if the swirl came out right.  This is a Betty Crocker recipe, cut in half, and modified for the machine.  The dough rolled out so long that I rolled it up, then bent it double to fit in the pan.  It should have a double swirl.20161216_140249-1600x1200Yes, there it is.  Not prominent as I wold like.20161216_141442-1600x1200Yum!

Dry Brined Pastrami

20161212_090812-1600x1200I went with a dry brine this time, using Morton’s Tender Quick and various other brining seasonings.  Here is a decent overview of the process (he mixes his own curing salts), and here is another take on it.  They both use beef briskets but Kroger had a sale on big (10lb.) shoulder roasts so I used one of those and adjusted the amount of cure to suit.20161205_171221-1600x1200It takes a good while for the curing agent to diffuse through the meat, one this big will take a couple of weeks.  Be sure to flip the meat daily,  I put the shoulder in a big plastic zip bag and placed that into this same tub in case the bag leaked.  Here it is, after rinsing the salt off, coated with a rub prior to smoking.  There are all kinds of recipes online for a proper rub but they all are heavy on ground coriander and black pepper.  I like a few ground juniper berries in my mix, and also paprika, garlic, onion powder, ground mustard seed, and ground bay leaves. 20161206_154133-1600x1200 I left this one in the 200 degree smoker overnight and nearly all the next day.  The internal temps made it to 185 when I took it out for steaming.  It was so big I used a big pasta cooker, keeping the water level below the lift out strainer.  I added more water a couple of times before the temp reached the target of just over 200 degrees.   Save that water!  You can reduce it for a nice au jus. 20161212_090834-1600x1200Because my middle name is Lazy, I held back on slicing the boneless ham I bought a few weeks ago during a post-holiday sale until the pastrami was ready.  The slicer isn’t that hard to clean up, but, still.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock

20161204_1350241600x1200This makes pretty good stock in about an hour.  I’ve always done stock the old school way – hours of simmering on the stove top.  Smells great, and is certainly a good way to humidify the house on those cold winter days.  We keep a bag of bones in the freezer and add to them every time we eat chicken, pretty soon we end up with enough for a huge stock pot.

Have a roasted chicken for dinner?  This electric pressure cooker is big enough for one carcass and a selection of aromatics – carrots, celery, onion, garlic, plus a few twigs of herbs and other assorted seasonings.  Just add 6-8 cups of water and cook at pressure for  about 30 minutes.  Unplug it when it beeps and let cool.  Strain out the solids and discard.  Cool in the fridge overnight and the fat is easy to remove.