Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Return To Firedome

Earlier today, I got the urge to have a go at the Firedome again. Kind of fitting since the first deposit into the Brick Oven Fund happened earlier this afternoon. Since the urge hit me kind of late, nothing was homemade. I used Mastrianni dough and a can of Hannaford's Nature's Place Organic tomato sauce (which is surprisingly good sauce). I lit a chimney of charcoal and dumped it into the back of the grill before it was fully lit. I topped that off with what I had hoped were the driest pieces of apple wood I have out back. Mostly smaller twigs with a few thicker branches. Put the grate on, placed the new 13" pizza stone I picked up in Syracuse and plopped the lid on. Then the smoke came (Sorry neighbors - it was worse than I expected). After about 5 minutes of smoke, everything settle back down.

I put the first pizza in. This one was topped with black olives. I don't know why, but the kids like olives on their pizza. I'm not opposed to olives on pizza, but in the pizza topping world there are many better choices.

I had used too much dough and the bottom was cooking faster than the top. The Weber lid doesn't reflect the heat that well. Still tasted pretty good though.

As the cooking session went on, I go better at handling the dough. Also in the dome, a 4 ounce piece of dough cooks much better than an 8 ounce piece. Lesson learned.

The pizza stone worked very well. Check out the crust on one of the last pizzas.
Lessons learned from this firing:
1. To better cook the top of the pizza, I think I need to have flames coming up the back of the dome.
2. Bring the cheese and any toppings to room temperature so they require less time in the oven.
3. Start making my own dough. I have so many recipes to try and I'm pretty sure any of them will be better than store bought.
4. Nature's Place Organic Tomato Sauce is surprisingly good.
5. I currently smell like a campfire.

Olympic Fever - C'mon America

I don't really pay too much attention to sports. I like UConn to do well in the tournament. It would be nice if the Mets won, but I don't follow them all season. Hockey pretty much died for me when the Whalers left Connecticut. I lost my team. And I just don't get football at all. But I've always liked the Olympics.

I can remember everyone "speed" roller skating after Eric Heiden won five gold medals in 1980. If you were an American kid during the summer of 1980, you bent over and skated one arm flailing whenever you laced up your roller skates.  Eddie the Eagle was a hero of mine (even though he's British) and one of the best Olympic stories of all time. How cool would it be to buy that guy a beer?

Remember when Greg Louganis hit his head, got a concussion, and still won? That was the summer everyone became a diving expert: Ohh his feet separated or that guy wasn't straight when he went in the water and my favorite - that was too big a splash, points off for that. I remember staying up way past my bedtime with my brother Dave to watch the late night broadcast, the one that starts at 1 AM. We were watching a woman's volleyball game and the network had the nerve to interrupt it for a local news report. We played chess with the sound off until the game came back on. The team needed us.

The Olympics brought me to the game of curling. I was watching Olympic curling in 2000 (Salt Lake City Olympics) and talking with my buddy Joe on the phone while he watched too. We agreed that while we probably wouldn't make the next Olympic team, it was a game we could actually physically play. Two weeks later on the Great PBS Auction, there was a family membership to the Schenectady Curling Club. I bought it and have been playing ever since. Didn't even know the club existed.

Sadly, the Olympics also taught me a little about politics. The Olympic boycotts are probably the politically driven thing I can remember. Plus the judging...I pretty much stay away from judged events now. Torvill and Dean's ice dancing bronze medal in Lillehammer took care of that. You didn't need a trained eye to see that they were clearly the best. It wasn't close. I still get a little pissed off thinking about that one. Anything without a judge, count me in.

Sunday afternoon we were just hanging out, watching the Olympics and the kids were really getting into it. I was surprised how quickly their nationalistic pride generated. Allison had a little fist pump every time the US men's volleyball team scored against Serbia. And she got a little tense when the Serbs had a rally in the 3rd set. When I heard "C'mon America!" I told them about U!S!A! and that was probably a mistake. That chant is significantly louder than "C'mon America!"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Still More Trader Joe's Progress

Flyers have been sent. This came in the mail yesterday.

The pitch:  Bring the postcard in for a reusable Trader Joe's shopping bag. You can also add your phone number to be entered in a drawing for $50 to use in the store. Valid from August 3rd to August 17th.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tofu a la Lilimonster

Spent last night grouting tiles. I think I got the hang of it in time for the last dozen tiles. At about 10 I was finishing up and realized I hadn't eaten since lunch. I had about half an hour to kill before sponging off the last set of tiles so I ran to Hannaford and picked up some silken tofu. Got back to the house, mopped up some grout and then following Lilimonster's lead, I topped the tofu with soy sauce, sesame oil and some cracked black pepper. I added some sriracha sauce to half. I sat down to watch a 30 Rock rerun and inhaled the tofu....and pounded a beer.

Pretty tasty. A perfect, healthy dinner for when the kitchen is completely covered in grout dust. Thanks for the idea, Lilimonster.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Tile Work

Counters cleared?                                      CHECK

Implements of destruction ready?                CHECK

Bottle of recovery Scotch within reach?      CHECK

Commence trashing the kitchen again in 3, 2, 1...Trash the kitchen!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Well, not exactly embezzling. More like slowly stealing from myself.

Back in 2004 we bought a vehicle (a family truckster since daughter #1 was on the way). To purchase that vehicle, we had to borrow money. To make the payments, we had to open a savings account at the bank giving us the loan. Every other Wednesday, part of my paycheck went into this savings account. Every other Thursday, that deposit became a car loan payment and was automatically withdrawn from the account. The vehicle was paid off in 2008 and I stopped the deposits but we never closed the account.

Last week, I got a letter from the bank telling me that if I didn't make a deposit or withdrawal by mid-September, the small amount of money would go into some state fund and I'd never see it again. So I went to the bank and deposited $5. Crisis averted.

I don't know what gave me the idea to start direct depositing money into the account again. But I did. The paperwork is all signed and brought over to payroll. And these savings have been earmarked. This is the Brick Oven Fund (or BOF for the really cool kids). Just knowing that it is there makes me giggle. I've been reading more about ovens again and it probably isn't long before I start drafting ideas.

Maybe the oven will be at this house or maybe another house, but someday, there will be a bank account with enough money in it to cover the build. And that's the first step in converting the oven from a dream into a reality.

(hehe, stupid grin)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Trader Joe's Progress

The red shopping carts are out front, there's a coming soon sign in the window and a lot of cars out front. Too many cars. If this is the lot during construction, good luck parking any time after August 3rd.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Modernist-ish Bacon Continues

I took the Modernist-ish pork belly out of the cure on Friday. It's hanging in the basement fridge. I'm hoping to smoke it on Thursday. Could be just me but hanging any charcuterie makes me think of Christmas. "The (insert cured meat) was hung with care..."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An unhappy mouse

Earlier today, I helped take a big float out of a barn. It's been in there pretty much untouched for 3 years. Maybe 4. Got a donated, very old pool slide out of the barn too. We got it on a trailer. Hosed everything down. Then headed for the lake to set it all up. Everything went well. Got it in the water without a problem. Five adults kicking go it to the floats summer anchor spot fairly quickly.

Once everything was set up, we naturally had to test it out. A few adults went down first to verify safety while the kids swam from the dock out to the float. All was well. We were having a good time jumping, diving and going down the slide. After about 20 minutes of having fun going down the slide, my older daughter was trying to do the beginner dive where you start on one knee. Her version had a little jump that turned it into a belly flop. I demonstrated how the dive was supposed to look and to tell the truth it is a little harder to do off of a float. When you go in, the float moves back. Anyhow, as I swam around the corner of the float, I was face to face with a soaking wet and very unhappy mouse.

And then it started raining. We didn't have anything to either kill or save the mouse. We had a small coffee can we were using to wet the slide with lake water. I don't think the mouse would have enjoyed being caught in the can and I know I would not have enjoyed swimming to shore with a mouse going crazy in a coffee can without a lid. The threat of having the mouse bite one of us was a little too strong. If it got out of the can while we were swimming, the little bugger was going to dog paddle like mad towards one of our heads.

So we started swimming to shore.

In all fairness, this mouse had ample opportunity to make a run for it while still on land. Several 10 to 15 minute periods of time when the float was completely unattended. I still feel kind of bad just leaving the mouse there. The options left for it were not good: stay on the raft and starve/bake in the sun, get eaten by a bird, or drown. And on the flip side, my only opportunity to help the mouse would have put me too close to a very frightened wild (sure it's small, but it's still wild) animal. The possibility of a thunderstorm didn't help either.

Yes, mice are a pain in the ass. I'm not really sure why I feel sympathetic towards this particular mouse. I'm certainly not a vegetarian. I had no problem nuking a hornet's nest last week. Maybe it's because I liked Stuart Little and Ralph and the Motorcycle as a kid. Or maybe it's because this seems like something an unusually twisted pirate would have done back in the day. I don't know.

For what it's worth (I'm sure it's not worth much): Sorry, mouse.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Modernist-ish Bacon

This writing goals down thing might actually work. Since I wrote down some goals last week I've:
- worked out 3 times including a 5k almost all the way run
- got some information on upcoming 5k races (Thanks DelSo)
- got the kitchen molding primed and installed (I'm going to fill in the nail holes tonight)


- most of the joint compound kitchen work is done, just a little touching up left in two spots but I have to keep waiting for it to dry
- and tonight I am also beginning a batch of Moderinst inspired bacon.

Adventures In Food has begun selling a bunch of locally made/grown products.  The list is here. One of the items they are carrying are pork bellies from Stillwater Farms. The 7.4 pound belly cost $5.50 a pound.  Can't beat the price for a pork belly that looks this good.

I took a closer look at the salt and sugar proportions from the Modernist and Charcuterie recipes. They are pretty similar. The Modernist recipe uses a little more sugar, but the Charcuterie recipe suggests adding other sweet ingredients (brown sugar, maple syrup, maple sugar) to taste. So, pretty similar. In addition to the basic cure of salt, sugar, and cure#1, the Modernist recipe included  Fermento, coriander, pepper, mace, star anise, and sodium erythorbate. I decided to break down the Modernist recipe and drop coriander, pepper, mace and star anise. I almost swapped out some sugar with brown sugar but the opted against it. We'll see how this batch comes out and then I'll start tinkering. Here' the belly covered in cure.

Once the cure is on, the belly gets vacuum packed and put in the fridge for a week, turned daily.

Off to touch up the molding...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The most fun you can have with a clown

This is clearly a 70's toy. Why? Because it could hurt you. I vividly remember playing with this as a kid and loving it. A garden hose forces water through a clown head and the water shoots out the top. The hat "floats" on the spray of water. The more you turn on the hose, the higher it goes. The water hitting the hat sprays all over the place as the hat kind of hovers. Hours of fun for children ages 5 and up, right?

It was a little windy when we had the clown head hooked up but we managed to get it hovering 10 to 12 feet up. I'm guessing this wonderful toy went the way of the lawn dart when too many kids got hit on the head with the hat.