Popcorn And The Hot Air Popper

In the 1970’s my family had one of those dome popcorn poppers that used oil, very similar to this one:

The oil went in the bottom, the popcorn kernels went in with the oil, the machine would get hot, then my mom would shake it vigorously while it was full of dangerously hot oil… welcome to the 70’s…

Then in 1980-82 we got one of these:

It’s a West Bend Poppery II. The top part of the lid functions as a measuring device for the popcorn and it can be used to melt butter while the popcorn is popping. Very clever. It pops popcorn start to finish in around three minutes. I’m not sure how that compares to microwave popcorn, but it has to be similar.

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The Salad Table And Cold Frame

Most years I look at the calendar and say: “I should have started the salad greens two or three weeks ago.” This year I took all of the potential seed packets, picked the things we were most excited about (or the oldest packets regardless), and started the cool-weather greens indoors on January 25th.

Generally that would be fine. The coastal Pacific Northwest has mostly mild Springs, and the seedlings can go outside in February after they’ve been hardened off for a few days. Last week the seedlings forced the issue because they were outgrowing the lighting rig. This coincided with snow in the forecast, so we brought the cold frame out of the back yard and placed it on the sunniest place on the property — along the edge of the front walkway tucked up next to the salad table. We added row cover over the top of the salad table as well to protect the newly transplanted arugula (the row cover is not pictured):

That’s Miner’s Lettuce on the bottom level of the salad table and all around the nearby pots. It’s Northwest Native, high in vitamin C, makes a nice salad base, and it’s been re-seeding itself the last few years. I’m now trying it in other places around the side and back yards to see if it’ll grow there too. The cold frame has Super Sugar Snap peas, some lettuces, dill, and cilantro.

We got more than 6 inches of snow on Thursday and Friday. I’d include a current picture but it’d look like “A Polar Bear In A Snowstorm” — the top of the snow is almost level with the top of the front of the cold frame.

We’d purchased the cold frame a few years ago at a home and garden show, with the thought that we could grow cool weather greens in the back yard with the assistance. Unfortunately the micro climate in the back yard isn’t suitable for spring gardening — the sun level is too low in the horizon so the (East-NorthEast facing) back yard stays frosty well after the front yard warms up. We wouldn’t want to have it partially blocking the front walkway all the time, so the cold frame has mostly been idle the last few years.

But it’s nice to finally use it the cold frame again. The snow has started up again as I write this. Bringing the cold frame to the sunny part of the yard may become an annual Spring tradition.

My Poker Chip Diet

My desk at work is near the kitchen/breakroom. I think some people working from home can relate to that. There are all kinds of available goodies and it can be hard not to get up and go to the breakroom for a treat. Repeatedly. I’d imagine people working at home might be able to relate to that too.

I’ve sort-of-tried to lose some weight for four years now, and I’m right about where I started in January 2017. I’m not at a really unhealthy weight, but I think I’d be healthier if I were lighter. The biggest issues for me have been the breakroom food, regular food, “calorie laden adult beverages”, and the fact that I’m never excited about “working out”. That, and a general lack of self-control when it comes to stuffing my face sometimes. And I enjoy good, rich food.

Given that I’m spending about half my waking hours at work I thought it would be a good start to limit my excess calorie intake when I’m there. Ideally the “don’t eat junk food” reminder could be something visual that I’d see every time I went to grab a quick snack, and it would gamify dropping weight. So — The Poker Chip Diet:

My computer monitor risers at work.
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Joy of Cooking Gingerbread House Recipe – Step by Step

Note the little window box on the left. It’s a Kit Kat with bits of gummy. We were pretty pleased with how that came out. I like the snowman too — neither of the snowman nor the window box were my contributions. I contributed the oddly shaped tree.

The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Gingerbread House recipe. I chose this recipe because it seemed to be the simplest dough, or, at least the dough that was the most similar to something that I was familiar with. I treated the house-pieces as crackers and I think that “grounding” helped.

The dough recipe begins with 1 cup (2 sticks) butter melted over low heat. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup unsulfured molasses and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl whisk together 4-1/2 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, and (I left these out) 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Make a well in the center and mix in the wet ingredients. Add another 1/2 cup AP flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead on the counter a few times, wrap in plastic, and move to the refrigerator to fully cool for up to 3 days. I removed the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before rolling out — I’d suggest allowing 3-4 hours for the dough to come to room temperature instead.

Note: I found this dough too grainy and loose to knead, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water. Interestingly, the recipe thinks the dough may already be too wet and calls for adding more flour if needed…

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Container Garden Recap 2020

2020 was not kind to the garden. The weather was marginal for much of the summer and the wildfire smoke finished off a prime part of the growing season.

To quote the 2019 Recap

20-25 pounds of produce per box is pretty normal. (“Normal” is around 30 pounds of tomatoes per box, 10 pounds of peppers, and 25 pounds of tomatillos.)

This year we grew fewer boxes overall, and the yield per box was way down as well:

“Slicing” Cucumber (2 boxes, 6 plants):  22.5 pounds

Taxi Tomato (1/2 box, 1 plant):  9.4 pounds

Black Krim Tomato (1 box, 2 plants):  8.1 pounds

Oregon Spring Tomato (1-1/2 boxes, 3 plants):  23.0 pounds

Roma Tomato (1 box, 2 plants):  8.6 pounds

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Epi De Ble, And Drying Basil For “Italian Seasoning”

We had a socially-distanced birthday dinner on the covered back deck. Everyone got their own tear-apart Epi De Ble — instead of messing around with whole loaves and bread knives.

These Epi De Ble were inspired by this King Arthur webpage. Note that two Epi will fit on an 18″ sheet tray, at 150-175 grams of bread flour per Epi. The recipe below makes four Epi.

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Summery Flatbreads And A Few Words About The Garden

It’s been a very mild summer here Vaguely-North-of-Seattle. We finally got a few days that could be called “very warm or hot” strung together and the basil really responded. Happy and productive basil means it’s time for panzanella (last week, didn’t get a picture), flatbreads (more below), and pizza:

The toppings are basil, roasted red pepper puree, and fresh mozzarella that I squeezed as much water as possible out of so it wouldn’t make the pizza soggy.

Recipe: 300g bread flour, 175g water (58% hydration), 6g olive oil (2%), 6g kosher salt, 3/4 tsp instant yeast. Knead and let rise 2-3 hours, folding the dough about halfway through. Preheat oven to 425F. Stretch the dough out over the screen, top with red pepper puree and bake 10 minutes. Top with mozzarella and bake 4-5 more minutes. Remove from the oven. After the pizza has cooled somewhat top with the basil, unless you’re ok with dark green wilted basil, in which case putting the basil onto a hot pie will work fine too.

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Pepperoni Pizza

We really enjoy Salt Blade’s cured meats. The business is small and local and we like to support local artisans. Salt Blade is distributed in the Seattle area through Haggen’s, Met Market, and many other outlets. They also ship through their website. Tonight it was Pepperoni Pizza:

200629 pizza

The full pie. It’s 1/2 really cheesy and 1/2 with sparing amounts of cheese:

200629 full pizza

The Salt Blade package:

200629 salt blade

The pizza was topped with the pepperoni, a Roma tomato sauce from the garden by way of the freezer, and mozzarella.

The pizza dough recipe is simple: 300g bread flour, 160g water, 6g kosher salt, 9g olive oil, 1 tsp or less of instant yeast, depending upon how long you want to wait for the dough to rise. I used 1/4 tsp of yeast, let the dough rise for a couple of hours, then put it in the refrigerator until the next day.

The pizza was baked at 450F for about 15 minutes on a pizza screen. The cheese was was added at about the 11 minute mark.