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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Wednesday 2019.8.21

Thinking Herbs Again

There was a time when I had several pots of live herbs growing outside my home. It was pleasantly convenient to go outside and harvest fresh herbs for my cooking and, better yet, my videos. However, I was sick with a really bad cold for a week and neglected to water them. Most of them perished and those that survived never did well afterward. I finally gave up.

There was a second problem: My neighbor's dogs. If I went outside where her dogs could see me, they would start barking. Now with three of them (we're allowed only one, per park rules), it's even worse. But she's moving away soon. This week I saw the bed frame and box spring loaded onto a truck. I'm waiting to see if the mattress will go next. When the bed goes, she goes, because I assume she wouldn't sleep on the floor. That's not to say she and her boyfriend won't come back regularly for more stuff, but I believe she wouldn't be sleeping there anymore.

So this week I started my herb garden again. I wouldn't even attempt it if I still lived in New England. Here in Southern California the growing season is more like 12 months long, although plants are expected to grow more slowly or go dormant in winter when sunlight is weakest. Yesterday I potted some sweet basil, Italian (flat leaf) parsley, garden sage, and some German oregano. This time, I put them outside my kitchen window where I would see them often and not forget to water them.

There are a few more I'd like to have — a small rosemary bush (although I can pick fresh rosemary from the landscaping across the street), thyme, marjoram, and maybe some tarragon. And this reminds me of an amusing circumstance. The nearest grocery store sells fresh rosemary in their produce section, but in the parking lot there are some excellent rosemary bushes.

Free Electric Griddle

My new electric griddle arrived on Monday, provided free by the company that manufactures it. I was thinking of buying a new griddle. I've owned them in the past, three that I remember, but they all suffered from the same problem — eventually the legs broke off.

There is an odd reason why I want a griddle. There is one recipe in my cupboard that I never put on this web site nor on YouTube. Salami pie. One reason is that it is probably the most unique of my recipes, and one for which I am most well known. The other reason is that it doesn't bake properly.

As the pie bakes the top crust begins to rise, even though I cut vents in it. At some point it will crack open. When I see the cracks begin to form, I remove it from the oven. However, it's too early. The eggs will not be cooked all the way through. So I place it on a heated grill, about 350°F, for about 20 minutes to cook the eggs. How do I put a recipe like that out for the public?

The original idea for the pie comes from my grandmother, Josephine. She was born and raised in Naples, Italy. Her salami pie was always right. I think she made hers thinner, which is something I need to experiment with. I never saw her actual recipe, but I tasted the pie many times. She often made it for us. So I had a fairly good idea of the ingredients. I do have one recipe that comes close — Torta Rustica.

As for the new electric griddle, I did an unboxing and testing video. It failed in one very important way — the nonstick surface was not very nonstick. I coated it lightly with oil per the directions and attempted to scramble eggs on it. The sticking was immediate. It wasn't difficult to clean, but I have skillets in which eggs do not stick, even though the pans are about two years old. You can watch the video with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2019.8.18

Grilling Season

There are only two weeks remaining before the grilling season traditionally comes to a close on Labor Day, September 2 of this year. Therefore, I chose to feature my video and recipe for Grilled Lollipop Chicken this week.

I'm not sure how many occasions I will have for grilling, although here in Southern California the grilling season never really comes to an end. As long as it is not raining or night, it's grilling time.

Cooking at the grill was never my favorite way to prepare a meal. I prefer the kitchen. I'm not opposed to cooking outside, but I feel more comfortable with a ceiling over my head. I attribute that to being raised in New England where the weather was often unsuitable for playing out of doors. Board games or card games were often employed for fun. We had our own rules for Monopoly; no limit to the number of hotels (we stacked small wood chips) and kept track of debt on paper.

Therefore, it took a while to learn how to start a fire with wood. Thankfully, I have a friend who loves to grill and he taught me how to light up a barbecue and cook over oak. However, there is one drawback of grilling with such a friend — he wants to eat. I want the chicken meat cooked to the bone, at least 170°F (77°C). He thinks 160° is good enough. If not, then 165° is good enough. I need to keep the food thermometer in my pocket; otherwise, he's stabbing the meat in several places every minute or two to see if it's ready to eat yet.

Another disadvantage is in the quality of the cooking video. When I cook alone I have all day. There is no pressure to get food onto the table. I can fuss over the photography for as long as I want, even though the food gets cold. I can't do that when someone is pushing the food safely envelope.

However, I feel very confident now when starting the grill on my own. I still have a stack of oak firewood. I have a chainsaw and wedge to split wood for cooking. I actually look forward to grilling on my own in the future. That future might not be very far away. He and his girlfriend are planning to move to the East Coast in four to six weeks. I might never see them again. That's sad, but there is a silver lining to that dark cloud — grilling alone.

News Discussion Group

Yesterday was another meeting of our semi-weekly News Discussion Group. Most of the conversation was about Trump, as usual, and the coming elections. One of the concerns, for both the GOP and the Dems, is the possibility of the Republicans losing control of the Senate to the Democrats. It would only take three or four seats (depending on which party wins the White House). Some of the Democratic candidates with little to no chance of winning their party's nomination next year are being urged to run for the Senate in their home state. It could be a fascinating election season this year.

There was also an interesting discussion about Jeffrey Epstein's suicide. Two years ago when former NFL football athlete Aaron Hernandez hung himself in prison, there was press reporting afterward, but nowhere near as much as we've been hearing about Epstein's death. Why? Wasn't Hernandez more famous? One person suggested the flurry of news coverage and FBI raids is because Epstein, by killing himself, denied the government a wealth of salacious and damaging information, had he been called before a grand jury to testify about Trump and his associates.

As for Trump's interest in buying Greenland, maybe with his negligible geography skills he doesn't know where it is, and the name containing the word "green" makes him believe he can turn it into a golf course.

Keto Blood Test Meter

On Thursday afternoon I used my new KetoSens blood test meter to check my ketones. I did an unboxing video of my meter and used it for the first time. You can watch the video by clicking the following graphic:

Or CLICK HERE.

Wednesday 2019.8.14

Happy Anniversary

Today is a special day. Nine years ago on this date I wrote my first blog, which is still in the Blog Archives. I wrote about Salmon Jerky. As promised, I later created the recipe for this web site, but it wasn't my first. That was White Bread.

Another thing I said in my blog was that I probably wouldn't be regular about writing it. I have posted a blog every Wednesday and Sunday since that day. Nine years of consistent blogging.

My fantasy back then was that this web site would become so popular companies would want to advertise on it, supplementing my income with extra revenue. That never happened. What did happen was my YouTube channel. None of my videos (now more than 380) ever went viral, but I was successful enough to eventually monetize that channel and earn some additional income.

Grilled Lollipop Chicken

Monday was the day chosen to grill the lollipop chicken with a BBQ friend. I've been doing cooking videos for nine years. This one felt more like a well-planned production than most of the others.

Saturday I wrote up my shopping list. I even organized the list for each store so that I could start in one place and sweep through to get all my items in one pass. No walking back and forth.

Sunday I did the shopping, going to four stores. I probably could have bought everything in one location, but I know where my items are in each store. And I also know where I can get the food at the best prices. And I should probably mention my favorite fallback for fresh basil.

I went to the farmers market and I saw a vendor pulling sprigs of fresh basil out of a large plastic bag and tying them together into bunches to sell. That tells me the basil is not fresh from their farm but from the wholesale produce market down in the city. I know I can buy a one-pound bag of Mexico-grown basil there. In fact, I suspect many of the "farmers" buy their produce at the wholesale market.

Another problem with fresh basil is that it doesn't stay fresh after it's cut. Use it in 12 hours. After 24 hours it's limp unless put in water as soon as it's cut. So what is my favorite best option? The garden center at Home Depot. I bought a potted basil plant. It costs a little more, but it stays fresh and there is the possibility of planting it in a pot afterwards to enjoy fresh basil later.

My Monday plan was to do as much prep as possible before my friend arrived (because he loves to have someone listen to him talk, which slows things down considerably). This is a production, a food video, not a friendly chat. Get it done.

The grilling went well. I didn't need to do much because he loves to grill. My one assignment was to keep the food thermometer in my apron pocket because he likes to stab the food every minute or two to get a temperature reading. I think that lets juices escape. Cook the chicken until you think it's done, then check it to make certain it's ready to eat.

Here are two pictures:

Which of the four flavors was best? It was not easy to decide. All of the chicken pieces had a heavy smoke flavor because we grilled over oak rather than clean charcoal briquettes. My two favorites were Smokehouse Maple and Brown Sugar Bourbon because they offered a more complex flavor with slightly sweet notes. Mesquite had a decent barbecue flavor with spicy notes. The clear loser was Montreal Chicken because it was flat; it lacked depth of flavor.

And one additional point: I didn't know how difficult it might be to photograph this chicken. I tried several times and still couldn't come up with a photo I liked. Thankfully, I had plenty left over to try again the following day. That second picture of the chicken and salad on a plate was shot the following day. I made the salad anew. The chicken was cold from the refrigerator, but I rubbed it with olive oil to make it look fresh and moist.

Another Collaboration?

Omorc contacted me again. They really liked the videos I did using their air fryer, which they gave me for free. They want me to do more and it appears they are willing to send me a free electric griddle. I like electric griddles, but I never keep them for long. The legs keep breaking off. I now use a stove top griddle instead. However, I'm willing to give theirs a try, especially if it's free.

I've been working on an idea to make keto friendly mozzarella sticks. I saw a TV show in which they were made. Traditionally, the cheese pieces are rolled in an egg mixture and then in bread crumbs for freezing and then frying. I'd like to try frying chopped cauliflower florets until fairly dry and then using them as a substitute for the bread.

And, Finally, Another Project Done

My latest YouTube task, hopefully the last one for this year, was to edit the names of my videos to help them appear more often in searches. I discussed this in an earlier blog entry. Rather than "How to Make…", which can mean many things (how to make a bird house, how to make laundry day easier, how to make a video, etc.), I changed many of the titles to either "How to cook…" or "How to bake…". Yesterday morning I finished the last of that editing.

Now, the only thing I can do is wait to see how the changes might affect my YouTube channel's traffic. I've been tracking the trend for the past six months. I know what to expect by the end of December. If activity exceeds expectations, I'll give the credit to the re-styled thumbnail images and more accurate naming.

Sunday 2019.8.11

The Proof is In the Numbers

I mentioned in Wednesday's blog that the activity on my Mobile Home Gourmet channel on YouTube had plummeted. I wondered if maybe YouTube was suggesting my videos less often. I captured this graph to better illustrate my concern:

As the title says, this is realtime activity. Each bar represents one hour and the graph displays activity for a 48-hour period. During that period there were 5,205 views of my videos. The red vertical line is midnight. Overnight the activity was cut in half. Why?

I made two changes. 1) During the summer I publish every other week. We all need a break occasionally. 2) I changed the style of my video thumbnails for better branding. Branding is supposed to improve my ranking.

I vlogged about it because I was way overdue for publishing my next Kitchen Vlog and this seemed like a good topic. I heard from those with an opinion, telling me what I should do. I'm always respectful. I don't tell them what I really think. "People believe having an opinion makes them an authority. It doesn't. It only makes them opinionated."

I do look at their YouTube channel to see if they might be speaking from experience. I might see two short videos and fewer than 30 subscribers. I'm not trying to be elitist, but how can I take their advice seriously?

I also heard from some people who shared their observations. That's better. We all benefit from another perspective. Thank you for telling me of your experience.

All that aside, Google/YouTube published this notice on Thursday: "We are experiencing issues with the systems for realtime data. This may cause inaccurate view counts and reports of video performance. We are working on the issue." So, it really is nothing more than a hiccup in the data. Phew!

A Strange Dream

I wonder if the little bit of anxiety related to my YouTube channel led to the strange dream I had.

I dreamed I was starting a new job. It was my first day in a large office, with some cubicles, but I wasn't placed in one of those. I was given a space at a window. There wasn't even a desk. We could put some things on the window sill. There was only a small bracket to hold a laptop computer, but I hadn't been assigned one yet.

They were setting up my "key" to access my computer before they gave it to me. One guy a few seats away at the window showed me his key. The woman to my left handed me a binder with pages about that guy's key. One page said he was a well-known Internet troll, responsible for antagonizing many web site owners. The woman on my right said, "You're not paid enough to read those files," as she took the binder away. I told her to read page 54, which was about the troll's activity.

Then my cell phone rang and I said, "I need to take this." It was a call from a director in a physics department that wanted to hire me because of my ability with database programs. I accepted her offer and told her I'd start on Monday. I told the people at the window that I was leaving on short notice. Today would be my first and last day.

A Short Addendum

Late Friday morning, a little before noon, my YouTube realtime activity numbers shot back up to normal again. The decline really had been only a temporary glitch.

And, Finally, Another Idea

I've heard from people who say my videos have a natural ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — Google it) quality. They relax people. I've mentioned this before. It was suggested I put "ASMR" in the name of my channel. I tried it. There wasn't any significant growth, but I did hear from some people who said my videos are not true ASMR. I agree. I don't intentionally attempt to produce relaxing videos. But I do recognize the quality is there. I've been told many times I have a relaxing voice.

So here's my idea: I can put in the description something like, "Some people say my videos have a natural ASMR quality." That would get the letters into my channel in such a way that they might be picked up in searches. It's worth a try.

Wednesday 2019.8.7

Thumbnail Project Finished

Rather than wait for the next YouTube content creators workshop, I uploaded the remaining thumbnails to my channel early this week. Now it's a matter of waiting to see what impact, if any, they have. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, I probably won't know until January. For now, I can take life a little easier, having put one major project behind me.

What's In a Name?

Now that the thumbnail project is done, I can move onto the next one. The organizer of the YouTube workshop sent me a PDF that explains how best to name my videos on my channel. Honesty is important — don't promise something you can't deliver. I'm okay there. But I learned something new.

I've been using a weak word in my video names. Something like "How to make Blackened Salmon" is weak in searches. "Make" is not strong. It's a simple thing, but "How to cook Blackened Salmon" is a lot better. People go onto YouTube to learn how to make things. I've done that. I learned how to make those papier maché charcoal barbecue starters. But make can be almost anything. How to make cardboard toys. How to make a picture frame. How to make a music video. People who are searching for food videos on YouTube are looking for how to cook something.

We're supposed to have a task to do when we meet for the workshop. The next one is this coming Sunday evening, maybe. The organizer isn't very organized about announcing the meetings. My task will be to start looking at the names of my videos to see if I might use stronger search words. I currently have 217 "How to make" titles, most of which can be changed to "How to cook" or "How to bake." And if there isn't a Meetup, I can do those edits at home.

Meanwhile, I chose three from my list last Sunday and changed "make" to "cook" to see how they might perform over seven days. Granted, this is the slowest time of year for my Mobile Home Gourmet channel; so I shouldn't expect much. However, any improvement in numbers, especially this time of year, might indicate I'm doing something better.

And Speaking of Things Slowing Down

My Mobile Home Channel is really slacking off at the moment. It's summer. I expect less activity. This slowdown, however, seems uncharacteristic. I am wondering if YouTube is suggesting fewer of my videos because I publish every other week during summer. There isn't reason for much concern. Activity will begin to pick up next month, hopefully.

Otherwise…

All is well here in Southern California. We're heading into our warmest time of year — August and September. My biggest concern is fire up in the mountains. There is no worry my home will burn down, but the high voltage lines go through those mountains and a fire can knock out our electricity for hours at a time, a even day or two. So far, no fires.

The only cooking project on my horizon is the lollipop chicken legs. I would do them tomorrow, but a friend wants to be here. Working around his schedule (he has two part time jobs) can be challenging. I'll lose him as a grilling friend next month as he and his girlfriend move to the East Coast, maybe even to Europe.

Bupkis Again

Yesterday I went out snake hunting again. In particular, to find a gopher snake to bring home alive. And, once again, I came back empty handed, or to be more specific, with an empty snake sack. I have a cloth bag made of breathable cotton muslin in which to carry the snake home, if I can find one. It's a bit frustrating because in the past I occasionally found them when I wasn't looking for them. Now that I'm looking… Oh well, I'll keep trying.

Why do I want a gopher snake? Because gophers are ruining my yard's landscaping.

Sunday 2019.8.4

A Quiet Week

After the events of my birthday this past Sunday, things have settled down nicely. There was a "Coffee Break" Meetup on Thursday, which was pleasant. Only three of us attended and the conversation was interesting. One of the women was a professor of linguistics at the local university. The woman who organizes the Meetup is a programmer. My being a YouTube content creator simply adds more diversity to the group. I like these coffee breaks. The people are interesting and the conversation is fun.

Lollipop Chicken

I learned something new this week. A friend wants to do a "Lollipop Chicken" grilling video with me.

This gets a bit complicated. The chicken pieces are the drumsticks. The tendons are cut and the chicken meat is pushed down the bone toward the joint where the thigh was attached. The other end of the bone is cleaned, sort of like Frenched rack of lamb. Here is a photo (that is probably copyrighted, but I could not find a royalty-free image — please accept my apology):

I think the name "lollipop" might be new, or regional. I've known about these chicken pieces since my college days. I think I learned about them in a Graham Kerr "Galloping Gourmet" cookbook. I remember they were called drumsticks because they look like the drumsticks (also known as mallets) used with a bass drum; like this:

There are several videos on YouTube that show ways of preparing these chicken lollipops. I want to make some and cook them on my grill outdoors; however, I'm watching the ads for a local grocery store that regularly offers chicken drumsticks at a reduced price. My thinking is that this video could be a good opportunity for testing different seasoning mixes. I have a few in the cupboard. A side-by-side comparison might be fun and make a good video.

Meanwhile, I ordered some colorful paper chop holders (those frilly paper things you see on roast turkeys in some photos) because I thought they might look good in a video. They look like this:

In the photo they look like four different sizes. Someone saw that irregularity on Amazon and asked about it. The answer said they're all the same size. I'll have plenty to experiment with; they come 250 per box.

Coming Together

The lollipop chicken concept is coming together. Here's my idea: With four different colors of chop holders, we can test four different seasoning blends. I went to the grocery store and bought four McCormick Grill Mates blends — Brown Sugar Bourbon, Mesquite, Montreal Chicken and Smokehouse Maple.

Better yet, they were on sale, $1.50 each, regularly $3.79, less than half price! The idea is to tape a different color paper frill to each bottle and then use the others to identify the drumsticks. We can finish with a taste test to see which one(s) we like best.

And all the above might help some people appreciate what goes into planning a cooking video. I don't just go shopping and then come home and cook.

Now it's a matter of waiting for Amazon to ship the chop holders. I don't subscribe to Amazon Prime; so shipping sometimes take seven to ten days.