Category Archives: Gadgets

Butter Beans

These went from dry to done in just a couple of hours thanks to the Instant Pot pressure cooker.  It probably could have been done quicker but I was a little leery of the cooking tables.  I have a vague memory of being disappointed in some pintos I cooked following their data.  I decided to simmer them for an hour then give them an hour in the cooker.  They cooked in chicken stock with a chopped onion, bay leaves, pepper, salt, dried thyme, and a couple chunks of cured ham.


Well, It’s Kind of Cooking

I have a nice London Fog jacket that the color just wasn’t working for me anymore. It was this pale, celery green and while the jacket is in great shape, it felt dated.  But it seemed wrong to get rid of a London Fog.

After looking for a new jacket for an upcoming trip, I couldn’t find anything as well made as this one. So I thought, I wonder if I could dye it? Being a poplin – polyester/cotton blend – it wasn’t going to be an easy dye job. But Rit just came out with a dye that can be used on synthetics.

It was suppose to work well on blends. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it shot. I think it turned out really well. Even dyed the green buttons, green zipper teeth and pulls.

It’s a bit wrinkled – I’ll dig the iron out later (sure hope it still works, lol)

It’s a high heat dye, so you have to do it the old fashioned way – on the stove in a boiling pot. I stirred it for 30 minutes and then rinsed and rinsed – finally gave up and decided to rinse it the remainder of the way in the washing machine – still took three rinse cycles.

Now I want to dye more things….


Mmm… Fresh Tomato Soup From Scratch


Mrs J picked some tomatoes the other day, enough that it was worth the trouble to bring out the juicer:This is a Breville unit, and it makes juicing a snap – separates the skins and seeds and fills the little container with juice and foam.  Dump the juice into a big pot and start boiling.  It will can foam over at first so you have to watch itWe started with about 5-1/2 quarts, added a pureed sweet onion, a dash of ground cloves, allspice, some chicken base, salt and pepper, and reduced that to about 2 quarts.  Don’t go overboard on the spices, it is going to concentrate the flavors as it reduces.  They do add a great aroma to the kitchen!  You can always add more when it’s thick enough.  I suppose you could add thickeners to it and not reduce it all the way, I may test that with the leftover soup to stretch it out some. Add a grilled cheese sammich and you have the classic lunch.  I had some odds and ends of cheese so I used them in these, a bit of Swiss, provolone, cheddar, Monterey jack, and American.  Olive oil is a tasty substitute for butter when you grill.

Stewed Tomatoes

Our tomatoes are coming in slow this year but and the squirrels are a problem but we are getting some. I had a bowl full of tomatoes that I needed to use, not enough to make it worthwhile to set up the juicer to make sauce or soup.There were plenty to make a pot of stewed tomatoes.  I added a green pepper and a bit of onion and simmered them down for a half hour or so.  You can add green chilies and make your own Ro-tel style tomatoes – add to cheese sauce for a killer nacho dip.They are also great with elbow macaroni.I decided to can these in my pressure canner.  It was a good chance to really give that big burner on the new stove a good run.  These got processed at 10 lbs pressure for 25 minutes per the Presto guidelines.

New Stove!

Mrs J has be after me for years to get a new range, the old one was tottering along sans a functional self cleaning cycle.  We sprayed its oven chamber down with cleaner and left in on all night but it was still a job to get it halfway clean.

This one is a GE Profile dual fuel range, gas burners on top and an electric oven.  The center burner on top is an elongated oval, the center grate swaps out for a cast iron griddle.Here’s the maiden batch of cookies.  They came out rather well.  The oven is wifi enabled, and there’s a smart phone app.  I set it up and played with it while baking the cookies, it doesn’t really do anything that you can’t do more easily using the controls on the stove.  One plus, though, it syncs the clock with the cloud, though it’s not clear from the docs just who it checks in with, and on what schedule.

Pennsylvania Dutch Potato Salad

This is my new all time favoite potato salad of the month!

Thanks to Balloon Juice commenter NotMax for the tip and a recipe.  I went with another recipe for purely logistical reasons:  The Paprika app can strip recipes from a page where there is only one recipe but it struggles with comment sections.  We like Paprika, it’s an android app we put on tablets because the larger screen puts the ingredients and directions on the same screen.  Here’s a screenshot of the recipe page for this potato salad, the tablet is a Galaxy Tab S2 9.7″:

The app works on phones, too, but you have to swipe and scroll to get the same info.  There is a windows desktop app but they want more money for that then we want to spend for very little added utility.NotMax’s recipe says to refrigerate for at least an hour so I presume the salad is good cold.  We opted to reheat it for this tasty lunch.

Sous Vide Ribs

I almost waited too long to put the ribs into the water bath.  I was thinking the morning of the 4th would be good for the holiday dinner.   The slab  was cut into two pieces, rubbed with seasonings, and sealed in vacuum bags well in advance.  Then I looked at the recipe over at the Food Lab site the day before: “TOTAL TIME:16 to 50 hours”!  I set the bath up and started it up around 2PM on the 3rd with the temp at 155 degrees.They spent the night at 155, then I boosted the temp to 165 the morning of the 4th.  Around 11Am they came out and were placed in an ice water bath to cool.  Here they are after blotting with paper towels.And after brushing with BBQ sauce while the oven was heating to 400.  The one on the right was wanting to break in two, all they needed was reheating to seal on the sauce.The ribs were as tender as any we’ve ever had, the bones sipped out of the slabs cleanly.  Two thumbs up!Got bone?

Happy Summer Solstice

Had the first fire in the fire pit tonight.

Happy first day of summer!


Gadget Post: Meet Alice

Carson has a new friend and they work as a great team. She’s an iRobot Braava that I have named Alice.  I have had her for a few months and am very pleased with how well and thorough she cleans. Very quiet, but with a nice, loud, cheery, beeping tune when she’s completed. She has never run over any of my rugs, she gets in tight spaces (behind the toilet!) and doesn’t leave streaks.

Running time is long, about 1.5 hours and the recharge is less than 30 minutes. She’s slow, so my small house takes her about an hour to complete (Carson is less than 45 minutes to vacuum).

Only a couple of issues: instead of an on-board brain like Carson has, she has a little GPS box you have to place in the room. Which means, unlike Carson, she can’t do the entire house without relocating the box. And secondly, for the expense, you get one cheap mopping cloth that isn’t going to last long. I had to order replacements right away (knockoffs from Amazon).

There is also a sweeping feature, but since I have Carson run through the house first, then Alice mops, I haven’t had the opportunity to use it. Basically she’s like a very expensive swiffer. But I find it hard to argue with the price, because I was seriously looking at hiring a housekeeper twice a month. Which didn’t really address what I needed – clean floors with 5 very hairy animals.

I run Carson three times a week and Alice once a week – and while they run, I’m busy working (or sometimes I’m running around doing other cleaning)  – so for me at least they are time-saving, cleaning wonders. Well worth it.



B.E.L.T. Tacos

B is for bacon but this one is sous vide pork belly, sliced about a quarter inch and crisped a bit.  SVPBLET just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite right.I really like this taco rack.  I bought it thinking to use it to oven crisp store bought tortillas but it’s perfect for holding these home made tortillas for dressing.  My perfect BELT would have the egg yolk still runny, this time I scrambled and chopped a couple of eggs to make them easy to build with.The sauce is half mayo/half sour cream and that seems to work pretty well, it is spread on the tortilla about like you would spread mayo on toast for a traditional BLT sammich.Enjoy!