TV vs Cooking Sites

I just watched the “pickles and preserves” episode of Jamie at Home again, because I’m planning something special for my friends and family, and it struck me as odd that the recipe cooked on the show has virtually no resemblance to the recipe that I printed off of the Food Network website – the American broadcaster for the series – a few months ago (on my birthday, it seems.  Didn’t realize that).

I’ve made this recipe once before, following the recipe off of the website, and it took pretty much all day.  Now granted, I’d doubled it, and the recipe involves a fair amount of reduction, but I still felt that it was a lot of work for relatively little return.  The recipe that I transcribed from the show, however, is not only easier, but uses several completely different ingredients, and may take up as little as half the time (by my rough estimate).

I have to wonder how often this happens. Does it really do the show any justice to make the recipes easier (and, in this case, more time consuming) just to cater to your audience?  In my opinion, unless there’s something substantially wrong with the recipe as presented, there’s no need to make any changes.  Especially, in this case, adding a second reduction step, and trading out fennel seeds for fennel bulb (they taste similar, but are botanically COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PLANTS).

That said, Central Market had yellow tomatoes on special this weekend, so I decided to buy a whole mess of ’em, and will be making some yellow ketchup tomorrow (after I go out and buy some bottles).  It’ll be an interesting change from the last time I made ketchup, when I used all canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and about 1/3 balsamic vinegar because the red wine vinegar bottle wasn’t as full as I’d previously estimated.  Hopefully this time I’ll end up with a product that Heather will actually eat; she didn’t really enjoy the last batch too much, because it tasted more like a steak sauce than ketchup.

I’ll try to post pictures and such tomorrow, if I can remember and have had a chance to clean the kitchen well enough that I’m not ashamed of the mess.

A tasty lunch on a rainy saturday

I started out this afternoon thinking “I’ve got extra POINTS(tm) to blow, I should to go to Central Market and have a pizza for lunch”.  But then I realized that it was noon-thirty on a rainy Saturday, and that everyone and their dog would probably be there. So I watched some old episodes of Jamie at Home (I love his cooking style, even though I’ll never have the appreciation for bitter greens or chiles that he seems to have), to wait out either the weather or my estimate of how many people would be there.

I must’ve been inspired while I was watching the cooking shows, or maybe I came to my senses and decided I didn’t need to eat all that fat and cheese. Whatever the cause, the result was the tasty recipe that’s below the fold.  I was reminded, as I ate it, of a tortilla sandwich that I got as a lunchtime snack in a bar in Madrid, when I was on a tour of Southern Spain after high school.  That sandwich was on a crusty baguette, and this one is on sourdough toast, but I think I properly captured the essence of the sandwich.  And it was much tastier than the pizza would have been. Home cooking triumphs again!

Continue reading A tasty lunch on a rainy saturday

Weight Watchers Yay!

Those who follow my twitter feed probably saw something about this earlier today, but Weight Watchers seems to be working for me (again).

A bit of background:

Back in the middle of April, Heather and I stayed with my grandparents when we were up in D/FW for a wedding.  I stepped on the scale after taking a shower on Saturday morning, and was greeted with a site I’d never seen before: a number over 299.  Utterly disgusted with my fat self, I decided then and there that I was going to start losing weight, and not stop until I got down to what I considered reasonable (200 or lower).  Knowing that this was a lofty goal, especially keeping in mind my own willpower and tendency to gain, rather than lose, weight, I’ve decided to heed standard diet advice, and set small interim goals of 2-3 pounds per week.

I started doing Weight Watchers again on Monday, as soon as we got home. I failed miserably on Monday, so I decided to start again on Tuesday.  I didn’t take my  weight though, because I really didn’t want to get depressed again, so I simply put 300 as my starting weight for day 1, week 1.  Day 1, week 2, my weight was 290.  I’m not sure how much of that 10 pounds that I’d appeared to have lost was real, and how much was the difference between my grandparents’ scale and our WiiFit, but it was still 10 pounds, and the difference between “300 pounds” and “290 pounds” makes a world of difference to my brain and self-esteem.  I recalculated my points according to my weight change, and continued.  Now that all of the parties were over (Christina & Andy’s baby shower was at the end of Week 1), I figured I had a better chance of “being good” for a while.  Day 1, week 3, and I’d only lost 1 pound; 289 is a very sad number when you were hoping for more (less?).

But today it has started to pay off “for real”.  Mr. WiiFit said I weighed 283.5 this morning.  That’s 5.5 pounds (give or take) in the last week.  It’s close to “crash diet” speed, but I’m still starting the diet so I’m not overly concerned.  It’ll probably level off at 3 pounds per week after another month or so.  Which (if everything goes right, and math can be trusted) puts me at 190 round about mid-December.  Only I’m also not delusional, and I know that things like plateaus and holidays happen (and willpower only goes so far when there’s pie).  So realistically, I’m hoping to be near my end target by November of 2010.  We’ll see how that goes; it might take me 5 years or more.  For now, my immediate goal is 275. (I figure 25 pounds at a time is a reasonable goal system for me).

Now if I can just make myself start exercising again on a daily basis.  Sedentary lifestyle + 10 years = very lazy.  But I’ll have a toddler to start chasing around in a few years, so maybe all the chasing will help.

Sewing for Guys: Basic Equipment

I think I may turn this into a series of posts, or even an entire site.  But I’ll start with one post about the basics.

First, an introduction. I learned to sew in 2006, shortly after I started dating the woman who is now my lovely wife.  Part of the reason I learned to sew was, to be honest, in order to find an interest that we both shared. But it’s now grown far past that; I sewed my entire outfit for Texas Renaissance Faire last year: a doublet with detachable sleeves, a high-collar, long-sleeve shirt, and a pair of fitted breeches (pants).  I’ve made several shirts, a couple of doublets, and at least 2 pairs of pants.  I’ve sewed several small pouches, and I’m currently working on a fairly ambitious laptop bag.  I’m not brave enough to commit to making an entire outfit that I’d wear to work, for example, but in my wife’s opinion, I apparently have the skills to do.

I decided to write this post (which as I said may turn into a series, or more) because I know there’s a stigma that sewing isn’t a manly thing to do, or that it’s women’s work, or that you must be gay if you like to sew and are male.  So let me set the record straight (no pun intended) from the start: I am a heterosexual male, I am married and have a child on the way, and I enjoy sewing.  The act of creating something with your hands, which you or someone else can then wear or use, is fascinating and deeply satisfying to me.

There are many speed bumps and deep pits on the journey from “that sounds like a neat hobby” to “check out this shirt that I just finished sewing”.  I’ll do my best to help you navigate around those pits, so that you too can experience the joy of creating something that isn’t made of electrons and doesn’t need to eat.  I’m starting today with what I consider the “basic equipment” needed to sew.  This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s instead just the bare bones without which I would likely not start a project.  Read the full list, along with some crappy pictures that I took with my phone, after the jump.

Continue reading Sewing for Guys: Basic Equipment

Silly poll

I saw this “getting to know you” poll over at Brownie Points, and figured I’d answer it and pass it along.

metal or non-stick?
I assume this is about pans and not utensils. Non-stick for eggs, metal for things that need a good fond. Otherwise, whatever happens to be clean.

cast iron or stainless?
cast iron, unless my arms are sore and I can’t lift it out of the cabinet.

cutting board: silicon or wood?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cutting board made out of silicon, or silicone for that matter.  Polycarbonate (AKA “plastic”) for me, unless it’s exclusively for non-staining veggies.

knife: carbon steel or stainless?
carbon steel

Kitchen Aide or hand mixer?
Kitchenaid, unless I’m making Chocolate Lava Muffins or too lazy to carry the mixer into the kitchen.

cooktop: gas, electric, induction?
is this a preference, or what I actually have?  I love gas, but am stuck with electric at good ol’ PLV. I’ve never used an induction range.

side-by-side, freezer on top, fridge on top?
again, if this is preference, fridge on top. Currently, freezer on top.

apron or whoops?
whoops, unless I’m deep-frying or wearing black pants; in that case, half-apron. Never full-apron.  If I had a chef’s coat, I’d wear it.

mashed potatoes: by hand, ricer, or mixer?
My order goes “by hand”, then “ricer”, then “break out the potato flakes”.  Mixer turns potatoes into glue, not food.

sandwich or wrap?
sandwich, unless “mission style” burritos from Freebirds or Chipotle count as wraps.

pb & _________ ?
the rest of the ingredients that go into peanut butter cookies.  Oh, you meant on a sandwich? Molasses. Or bananas and honey. Or strawberry jelly. Or “more peanut butter”.

pancakes: syrup or applesauce?
I’d forgotten about putting applesauce on pancakes until I saw this question.  It was really good when I was a kid.
Tends to be lite syrup these days.

cake: scratch or mix?
The cake is a lie. I mean, from scratch if I can get it, but any cake is better than no cake. Except for Red Velvet cake; “no cake” is better in that case.

chili: beans or no?
I’m from Texas. No beans means it’s not chili.

napkin: cloth or paper?
Napkins? Hah.  Paper towels (or “kitchen paper” if any Europeans are reading this).

BBQ: takes the whole weekend to make or take out?
As long as I get barbecue, I don’t care. I’ve never made BBQ myself though, so I guess I’ll have to go with “take out”.

chicken: white or dark?
Depends on what it’s in.  Dark meat for fajitas or in braises like my chicken pepperonata, white meat for other things (including sandwiches).

ice cream: cone or dish?
I waver on this one. I really like waffle cones, but can’t stand having sticky hands from the run-off, so I usually eat it from a dish (or straight from the carton).

An update? What, is it June already?

OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit. I’ve just found that micro-blogging (and I don’t even do THAT too often most days) is easier then a full-on blog update. But I got jealous of Heather and Katelyn both posting updates in the same day, so I figured I’d follow suit.

So, what have I been up to since my last post? To be honest, I had to go back into the archives (and sift past all of the autoposts) to remember. And it looks like I’ve started (and done) a lot of stuff since my last post.

I cleaned up my “home office” several weeks ago. Cleaned out the closet, picked up all of the books that didn’t fit on the shelves, and put a lot of those same books up for sale on Amazon. I also REALLY cleaned up my desk; I got some new servers to replace the giant towers I’d been using, which cleared up a lot of foot room. I donated my two huge 17″ CRTs to the church garage sale, and picked up a 15″ LCD that’s connected to the two servers via KVM. I got a “laptop stand” (it’s a giant metal file box turned upside-down) to put my MacBook at a reasonable height.

All of this is in preparation for mid-August, when the baby comes. Yes, that’s right; if you read this blog and know me, and haven’t already heard, Heather’s 6 months pregnant right now, and we’re due August 11th. We’re having a home birth (and our midwife is excellent). But we’re going to need somewhere to put all of the “baby stuff” and this isn’t as big an apartment as it was when I was living alone. So we’ve decided to turn half of the office into a nursery, and separate it from my desk and the bookshelves with a room screen; we found a really nice one on for not too terribly much. I still need to get rid of the couch that’s in here (anyone want a blue & white striped love seat?) so we’ll have somewhere to put the crib, and I need to get rid of this extra desk and TV as well (ditto a 6-foot desk and 24″ SD CRT TV; any takers?), so we’ll have somewhere to put the changing table/dresser. And I need to clean up our storage unit, so that we can store the sewing table and a few other random pieces of furniture that’ve started collecting space.

I’ve also decided that I need a new laptop bag; my old one is still in near-perfect condition, but I don’t think it’s big enough for my tastes. So earlier this week when Heather was buying fabric for some new maternity outfits she’s making, I flipped through the McCall catalog (the patterns were on sale for 99¢) and found this one. This morning, we went back to Hancock’s, and I got some black canvas and navy twill. Based on the directions, it looks like it’ll take me at least two weeks to sew, if not a whole month (I tend to get distracted on the weekends some times). But in the end, I’ll have a nice big laptop bag, with lots of pockets. And nobody else will have one that looks the same.

Also: still fat (moreso than at any previous point in my life), started WeightWatchers again; “this time I mean it” (like I haven’t said that before). First goal is 275; end goal is 180 (but that’s at least 2-3 years down the road).

Musings on 140 characters

Sometimes, it seems like my normally quiet nature works against me. I have a blog (you’re reading it right now), but it seems like 95% of the posts in the last few years are the reposts from (née The long format just isn’t something at which I’m very good. Twitter seems to be a little better for me, but I fear that were I to abandon the blog altogether, I’d eventually have something to say that wouldn’t fit into the 140 characters that you get from Twitter (for example, this post, which is up to 555 characters already). But in the same vein, I also worry that the blog has become a wasteland, a remnant of better days when I had more to say (or at least, was able to write more about what I wanted to say). Plus there’s the whole “what happens to your data if the cloud blows away” aspect; what if twitter were to go under? All the posts that I make, even considering the signal:noise ratio, vanish into the aether. The digital world is even more transient than the physical, I understand that, but at least while I control my own sites, I can be reasonably certain that what I’ve written won’t vanish without warning.