Go home

Go to the Recipe Archive.

Blog button

Go to Minute Meals.

About the Recipes

About the Cook

Visit the Blog Archives

Download the free cookbook ebook.

My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Sunday 2021.10.17

Who Knew?

I learned something new this week. I was watching a YouTube video about carbon steel pans. I have one, a skillet, that was stored out in the shed. I also have a few cast iron pieces. Cleaning is a bit of a challenge. I need to get it clean without taking the seasoning off. The chef in the video used a stainless steel chain mail scrubber to "remove the carbon" but it didn't damage the coating. I put one on my Amazon wish list.

Impulse or Prudence?

I've been considering portable induction cookers again. The goal for a long time has been to set up a small cooking station on the counter in front of my camera so that I wouldn't need to move the heavy camera and tripod to the stove to show things cooking. The lighting at the stove isn't good anyway.

Induction cookers use magnetic waves to cause the pan to heat. They're weird. They don't heat the pan like a flame or electric coil does. They cause the pan to heat itself.

They require pans with a metallic bottom of iron or steel. Some stainless pans will work, if they have enough iron in them. You can test them by placing a magnet against the bottom of the pan. It if sticks well, it's a compatible pan. If it doesn't stick, or barely sticks, that's a pan that wouldn't work on an induction hot plate.

Cast iron is a given. So is carbon steel. Magnets stick to those like glue. But even a cast iron skillet or pot can be a failure. I have one small skillet on which there is a raised ring around the bottom. It wouldn't work because the entire bottom of the pan needs to contact the induction surface. Aluminum and copper are out, obviously, and, of course, my ceramic saucepans wouldn't work either.

I checked all my stainless cookware. None of it is induction compatible, with two exceptions. My Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker, although stainless steel, has the right bottom. And my old cheap pressure cooker — now used only as a large pasta pot — works too.

So, along with looking at induction cookers, I've been looking at cookware. I don't like the idea of buying another set of pots and pans. Three years ago I bought a set of Calphalon space saving cookware to use in my videos. They're anodized aluminum. And, to be honest, my mismatched collection of old stainless steel pans are from my college days. I graduated in 1983. That's the advantage of stainless steel and cast iron. Take good care of it and it will last decades.

Good quality stainless steel pan sets can be expensive. I really like the All-Clad cookware, but unless they sent me a gift set (the ones with the copper ring near the bottom, please) I don't think I would own them. They're too expensive. And this is where this week's story comes in.

I met a friend in front of Costco because I had two dress shirts to give him. I bought them without trying them on. They're "modern fit," which means they're for thin guys. He's thin; I'm not. When we went into the store I told him I wanted to look at cookware. And LO! There was a road show booth set up featuring HexClad cookware. That was one brand I was considering.

The rep, Denise (easy to remember because my name is Dennis) was very pleasant and informative. She wasn't a pushy salesperson. The pans are beautiful. She seemed honest too. She demonstrated cooking an egg and burning cheese in the skillet. It slipped right out of the pan, "But," she explained, "don't expect new HexClad pans to behave this well right out of the box. They need to be seasoned first and then used for a while. Over time their nonstick surface will improve."

There were two sets of pans. One seven-piece set had three skillets, three lids, and a wok. The other had saucepans and lids. And, of course, the price is always better at Costco, especially at the road shows where they offer an additional discount.

Here's an example. The All-Clad Copper Core 7-piece set from Costco is $700. The same set at Amazon is nearly $1,300. Why?

I told her about my YouTube channel and this web site, and I wondered aloud if HexClad might be willing to sponsor me a set of pans. She took my card, email address, and phone number, along with some of my stats — 50,000 subscribers and the Fish & Chips video having more than a million views — and said she'd speak with the promotional department. They do sponsor some cooks.

And here's where she used a little selling technique. She said they might be willing to gift me the set of saucepans if I purchased the skillets. I bought the skillets.

Am I now obligated to get the induction cooker? Maybe. The pans can be used on the stove, of course. And then there is the problem of storage. Where oh where do I put these things?!?

I've been spending some time out in the shed, looking for space. When I use all the foods I stored during the pandemic I'll have some room. But, really, it's time to get heavy-handed with that shed. I've got stuff, like old computer components, I haven't looked at in years. They need to go.

I feel pretty good about my accomplishments so far. I consolidated two 15 X 20 X 10 inch bins into one bin. That frees up a decent bit of shelf space. There is more to be done.

My Diabolical Plan, Maybe

Why is my box of HexClad skillets still sitting on my sofa unopened? Options. If HexClad doesn't come through with a free set of saucepans to sponsor my cooking channel, I can bring the skillets back to Costco for a full refund and then maybe order the All-Clad Copper Core set. The store is only a few blocks down the street. I can walk there.

I've been watching videos on YouTube and the All-Clad appears to be a better option. I don't need three skillets. One is enough, and I have plenty of others out in the shed. The All-Clad set would be easier to store — one skillet, one saucepan, one sauté pan, one stock pot plus three lids.

Payback?

As I said above, I am trying to eliminate unneeded stuff from my shed. That includes taking some things apart to separate plastic from metal before putting the stuff in the recycling bin. Maybe I should have left that job to the recyclers. I literally drove a screwdriver all the way through my hand. The point came out the other side. I immediately grabbed a clean paper towel and applied pressure until the bleeding stopped, which only took a few minutes (then I typed this with one hand). It wasn't a big screwdriver.

It hopefully sounds worse than it really is. I didn't cut any tendons or nerves. I'll keep an eye on it. If there is any sign of infection I'll see a doctor for an antibiotic. Maybe this is payback for my diabolical scheme?

Quick Follow-ups

I pierced my hand on Friday. Today is Sunday. I removed the bandages and looked at it. It looks fine. I can see the hole where the screwdriver went in and the hole where it came out. There is no swelling, no bruising, no redness. I have full use of both hands and there is almost no pain. I am going to consider myself safe, but I will watch it for signs of infection.

And the Alisal fire is currently 17,253 acres and 78% contained. We're in no danger.

Wednesday 2021.10.13

One Puffed

Okay, in Sunday's blog I said I threw in the towel and committed to only cook my homemade corn tortillas in the microwave oven. It's faster. It's easier. And I can live without the puff when I cook a tortilla. And then I watched more videos.

How do they do it? Is it magic? Do they have some sort of Harry Potter magic wand I lack? Is there some incantation I know nothing about? I decided to try again.

I made enough dough for two tortillas. I followed my usual formula (see Sunday's blog entry), with one exception. I used all masa flour, no all-purpose flour. That required a little more water even though the volume of flour was the same.

And then I decided to crank up the heat. I got my cast iron griddle, also known as a comal, up to around 500°F (260°C). I cooked according to the directions in the videos — 20 to 30 seconds on the first side, flip, 1 minute on the second side, then flip again. It puffed.

For the second tortilla I should have turned down the heat a little. The pan got a little too hot. The second tortilla tried to puff, but the surface browned too quickly.

So here is what I concluded: It's about the right combination of hydration (water to flour ratio) and heat. Get enough moisture into the dough and get the griddle hot enough.

I still think it's easier and faster to cook them in the microwave; so that is what I'm doing.

Another Bargain

I get Costco advertisements in my email almost daily. When the store asked for an email address I knew it wasn't to send me happy birthday wishes once a year; so I gave them my spam address. I check it often, but mostly to delete the messages in the In Box.

I do look at the Costco ads because the store is only a few blocks down the road. I can walk there. Sometimes I get lucky, which I wrote about in Sunday's blog. There was a lamp unit for using with a camera or cell phone. It's one of those ring things that surround the lens, providing ample lighting to the face when vlogging or meeting on Zoom or other online video service. I had been considering getting one of those.

The price grabbed me. Normally $70, it was listed at $40 off, the price good for only a few days. I thought about it a while and then decided to order it. With the Costco store only blocks away, a return for a full refund would be easy if I'm not satisfied with it.

It's not exactly perfect. At a maximum height of 54 inches, it's about 11 inches too short for my video camera on its tripod. However, an upturned milk crate (I have a few of those) is 11 inches. Another problem is that I wear glasses. They could reflect the light into the camera's lens. But that's okay too because I actually want to use it slightly to one side of my camera as a fill lamp to remove a shadow that often appears on my face in videos.

At only $30, which includes a microphone I might be able to use with my computer, it seemed like a bargain. It's supposed to arrive this week.

Maybe I'll shoot another unboxing video, but maybe not. Would anyone be interested? Then again, why not? I don't earn any revenue from My Kitchen Vlog; so I don't care whether a video is successful or not.

Speaking of Videos…

I'm falling behind on my video work. For a few weeks I've been thinking about doing a video about the "The Best Ant Bait in the World." I have what I need; I just need to get around to shooting the video.

Again, if you read my blog often, you know what I'm talking about. The ants living around my home simply love my roasted chicken breast (actually from Costco rotisserie chicken). If I chop it up fine enough and then mix it with some boric acid powder, it's an ideal bait. The particles are small enough for ants to carry. If I set a packet of bait near an ant trail, the ants swarm to it and then they're gone in about 12 hours. And they stay gone for several weeks. That means I eradicated the nest.

And Speaking of Bargains — or Not

What do you do when you want something that is way too expensive, but you still want it anyway? I don't want people to laugh at me and say, "You paid how much for that!?!" I decided the trick is never to tell anyone. Just buy it and keep it a secret. So don't ask.

The Nights Are Getting Colder

I don't know what the nighttime temperatures are like where you live, but here it got cold quickly, at least for a while. I was seeing 50 degrees at night fairly regularly. There were a few nights in the 60s. However, the last few nights I saw the temperature dip down into the 40s. That's the coldest it has been at night since spring.

And Smokier

Maybe you heard on the news about the fire several miles west of here that shut down the 101 freeway for a while. It's far enough away to be of no danger where I live, yet, but the wind often blows from the west. I can see, and smell, smoke in the air.

Because the wind typically blows from the west, the fire is moving to the east. I'm not worried about my home being destroyed. I live in a densely populated residential area. The fire would need to destroy many homes before it got to mine. However, the high voltage lines that supply electricity to this area are up in the mountains north of here. Fire has burned beneath them in the past and it knocks out the power for hours, sometimes a day or two.

I'm prepared. I lit one of my oil lamps to burn off any wax that might have accumulated in the wick during the past year or so. I have some battery-powered storm lanterns as well and I have plenty of charged batteries. And I also have a wind-up battery-powered radio that I use during blackouts. The crank charges the battery and there is a solar cell on top for charging in sunlight. I'm ready, I hope.

This map shows the current extent of the fire. I put a red dot where I live. And in case you're wondering, yes, this is California. Most of the coast goes north-south, but where I live it goes east-west. That's why they call this area the South Coast region. It faces south.

Sunday 2021.10.10

Sometimes I Get Lucky

Those who read my blog regularly might remember I tailored several shirts for myself during the stay-at-home order earlier this year when the pandemic was spreading rapidly. I used fabrics from queen-sized flat bed sheets, 100% cotton, bought at Target for $13 each. Each sheet had enough material to make two shirts. I made 10 shirts during that (sort of) lock down.

This past week I went to Target again for something different, but while in the store I looked at the sheets again. The price is now $25. They nearly doubled in six months. Why? Target is probably using the delays in the supply chain, with dozens of cargo ships anchored offshore near Long Beach, California (the nation's busiest harbor), as an excuse to hike prices. I didn't buy any sheets. I was only browsing anyway.

Then I happened to notice a Costco advertisement in which one of the items listed was 100% cotton bed sheet sets. Each set contains a top sheet, bottom sheet, and four pillow cases. That is probably enough fabric to make five shirts if I use the pillow cases for smaller pieces, such as collar, cuffs, pocket, etc. I went to Costco and, luckily, I found the last two sets on the shelf. The size is cal king. The price? $24.97 each. Amazing! And considering how much 100% cotton sheet sets cost these days, $25 is an undoubted bargain!

Needless to say, I bought them both. The colors are man-ish, medium blue and medium gray. And so this winter when I might feel more inclined to stay home during flu season (I get a flu shot every November), or if there is another spike in COVID infections, I'll have another project to keep me occupied for a while. Yes, I'll have five shirts in each color, but who cares? I wear only one at a time anyway; so who will know?

Meanwhile, I was out of iron-on interfacing (the stuff that adds a little body to collars and cuffs); so I ordered more from Amazon. It arrived yesterday. And I already have matching thread, enough to get started.

Tortillas

I made my first corn tortillas on Wednesday. The tortilla press arrived earlier than expected. There is a learning curve and it seemed kind of steep. The videos on YouTube make the process look so easy. Although my first attempt yielded half a dozen usable tortillas, some were not usable — they went into the trash.

I learned that my tortilla press makes really thin tortillas — maybe too thin. They tore easily and they didn't puff while cooking.

I wasn't done experimenting yet. I tried adjusting the hydration — a little more water added with each attempt until the dough was too sticky. Still, no puffing. Actually, I take that back. The last tortilla puffed a little. Next I tried adjusting the thickness. Maybe I was making them too thin. They were easier to handle, but still no puffing.

In the end, however, I did end up with some delicious homemade corn tortillas. If I can get the formula and preparation right, these might be something I make often, even if just for a snack with a little butter.

Next I want to try flour tortillas. Supposedly they are not made in a tortilla press but are shaped with a rolling pin instead. However, I saw a recipe for something else in which the flour was kneaded between the fingers with a little butter before the liquid was added. The reason given was that the fat encases the protein molecules and that prevents the formation of gluten chains, the things that give bread dough its elasticity. By eliminating elasticity, the dough might press well in the tortilla press without shrinking back. It's worth a try.

Let's Get Weird

What would we do without modern conveniences? I saw one "keto" tortilla video in which the host cooked his tortilla in the microwave. I had to try it. Using a standard corn tortilla formula, I assembled only enough dough to make one tortilla, which I then cooked 1 minutes in the microwave oven. It works! While it was still hot, I spread it with a little butter and folded it. It tasted good and it was pliable and moist — maybe a little too moist. The bottom was wet.

And so that led to another experiment. I cooked the tortilla in the microwave, then I place it wet side down on a hot griddle. It worked fine. It didn't puff like so many of the YouTube tortillas do, but it was delicious and I used it to make my lunch. I cooked some pork longaniza, maybe about ¼ of a link (skin removed and the meat broken up in the skillet) and then scrambled an egg in with the cooked meat. I then transferred that to my tortilla, seasoned it lightly with salt, shredded some Monterey Jack cheese on top, then folded it in half to make a soft taco. I don't like tacos, but this was delicious. I'll be making these again.

And Another Thing

Watching so many tortilla videos on YouTube, I learned of an important trick. Don't use plastic from ziplock bags in the press. Use plastic from those thin — and free — plastic bags you see in the produce or meat section of the grocery store. The thin plastic peels off the raw tortilla much more easily, making it possible to get the tortilla to the griddle without it tearing.

And what if you want to make just one tortilla to experiment with, whether it's a different source of plastic film or cooking in the microwave? Or what if you simply want to make one quick snack tortilla? I've been experimenting with that too. It's a simple formula.

3 tablespoons Maseca (or other brand) corn masa flour
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hot tap water

Mix well, then knead until smooth, several minutes. Shape using a tortilla press. Cook in a skillet or experiment with your microwave oven.

I am thoroughly pleased with the final tortillas and I'm thinking this might be the perfect way to make a quick snack, such as the soft taco mentioned above. The only requirement I can see is to keep some prepared filling in the refrigerator, not the freezer, for easy use.

But I give up. I surrender. Trying to cook them in a skillet is too difficult. They tear or fold and don't puff up. However, if usable, they taste good. So, from now on, I'm going to cheat. I'll cook them in the microwave oven and then finish them in the skillet to brown a little. That's what microwave ovens are for, aren't they? To cheat a little?

Finally, a Milestone

Now I have 49,000 subscribers who do not watch my videos. Actually, that isn't quite accurate. The average number of views for my most recent 30 uploads is 2,000 per video. The most popular is Air Fryer Pizza at 14,500 views. Of all my videos, Fish & Chips remains at the top with more than a million views. It's my only video to top one million.

Wednesday 2021.10.6

Rain!

We enjoyed a pleasant period of rain here on Monday. It started in the afternoon and continued into the night. It included lightning and thunder. There was no hail and there were no heavy downpours, which can sometimes happen during a thunderstorm. Instead, it was a light but steady rain for several hours. It wasn't enough for me to check the drainage off my updated landscaping, but it was certainly enough to reveal a potential problem.

You can't cover your entire yard with stone and mortar without cracks developing somewhere. The hardened material needs to expand and contract with changing temperature. Cracks are where seeds can gather and eventually germinate and sprout when they get enough water. So, during the next few days I'll look around my yard for sprouts. I have some liquid crack filler to squeeze into the gaps where necessary.

In terms of measurable rain, there wasn't much of it. About half of the county's stations reported some rainfall. Of those that did, none of them received as much as a quarter of an inch and four of them reported less than a tenth of an inch. Where I live 0.14 inch of rain fell. And, of course, we are still woefully behind on our usual rain. The current statistic is 16% of normal-to-date rainfall. The forecast is for more rain, maybe, on Friday — currently 30% probability.

Another Toy

Can anyone have too many toys? Yes. The determining factor where I live is storage space.

I ordered a tortilla press. As mentioned in Sunday's blog entry, I've been experimenting with taquitos/flautas again. I want to make my own corn tortillas. They look so easy and, according to the many videos I watched on YouTube, they taste a lot better than the packaged tortillas sold at the grocery store. According to Amazon's shipment tracker, the press is "out for delivery" and therefore it will be here today.

As usual, I have been watching videos on how to make corn tortillas. In fact, there are so many on YouTube I feel discouraged to make my own video. I'll do an unboxing for my Kitchen Vlog channel and maybe include my first attempt at using it, but I don't know that I'll do a cooking video for my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. Maybe.

As I said in Sunday's blog, I already have a recipe/video for Flautas. I fry those in oil. After seeing some videos of cooks "frying" their flautas in an air fryer, I tried it and it works fine. So a video might be a possibility because it can include both the preparation of the tortillas and then the making of the taquitos.

I would call them "taquitos" rather than flautas for two reasons:

  1. They would be slightly smaller than the flautas I made because the press I ordered typically makes 6-inch tortillas, which is about the width of the tortillas used to make the frozen taquitos I bought at the grocery store.
  2. They would be made with corn tortillas, which some people can be more than a little opinionated about. As mentioned on Sunday, the frozen taquitos are made with flour tortillas, not corn. But what do I know?

Actually, I might know the reason why. One video said the corn tortillas are more brittle and delicate; therefore, flour tortillas are used more often in restaurants or for commercial foods because they are more durable.

And that leads to this: What if I were to buy, say, a rotisserie chicken at Costco and use some of the meat to make a large batch of taquitos? I could freeze them, package them in pairs, and store them in the freezer. I have to go shopping for masa harina anyway, so I'll pick up a chicken too. I can also use a little of the breast meat to make more ant bait packets.

And that leads to…

Ants

I need to do a YouTube video titled something like "The Best Ant Bait in the World." On Sunday evening I saw a few ants in my kitchen. I took one of my bait packets out of the freezer, punched a whole in it and placed it near the ants. Within an hour they were swarming to it. On Monday morning there were no ants. It really does work.

Sunday 2021.10.3

Flauta or Taquito?

Once again I am researching the question. The two names are used interchangeably and with the exception of an opinion or two, they both mean the same thing — meat filling wrapped in a tortilla and fried until crisp.

Its more of a regional issue, like the name for Pasta Fagioli. My grandparents were from Italy and they pronounced it "pasta fazool." If I ask an Italian fan of my YouTube channel she'll insist it is pasta e fagioli. And in some parts of Italy the word fagioli (beans) is pronounced fazooli or fazoli. That's why I do research.

Another question about taquitos is the tortilla. Corn or flour? Therein lies more opinion. Some will argue that flautas are made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn. I found this on a web site: "Taquitos are made with corn tortillas, always, otherwise it's a flauta." Wikipedia says: "Corn tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. The dish is more commonly known as flautas when they are larger than their taquito counterparts, and can be made with either flour or corn tortillas." This past week I bought a box of frozen taquitos and they are made with flour tortillas.

I also bought a package of flour tortillas. They are slightly larger than the ones used to make the frozen taquitos; so if size really does matter, what I am making are evidently flautas.

Why am I researching these again? I already have a recipe for Flautas on this web site. In it I specify either corn or flour tortillas. However, as mentioned above, I bought a box of frozen taquitos to enjoy for an occasional snack with a little guacamole on the side. The filling is so sparse, it is almost undetectable. I want a fuller taquito. It doesn't need to be thick like a Burrito, but I want to taste more than the tortilla.

Another reason I am experimenting with taquitos/flautas again is that in my original recipe I fry them in oil. I've seen YouTube videos in which taquitos are "fried" in an air fryer rather than oil. I have an air fryer and I wanted to try it.

And there's also a story:

When I was in college (University of California Santa Barbara) we would occasionally order flautas at a Mexican restaurant in Isla Vista. They were so good, we didn't mind fighting with the cockroaches on our table. What I remember most was the guacamole-like flavor added to the chicken. It was delicious.

The story goes further: The restaurant came to its end when the owner's boyfriend shot him dead during a dispute.

This week, when shopping, I found a bottle of guacamole salsa. I also bought a bottle of salsa verde. I want to experiment with them both.

On the down side, the guacamole salsa includes cilantro (the salsa verde does not). I have the OR6A2 gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. I tasted the salsa. The label says "Mild" but it tasted spicy hot to me. I can only imagine what the caliente version might taste like. It also tasted of dill and vinegar. Those are not mentioned in the ingredient list. To experiment, I mixed a little of the salsa verde (it really is mild) with a little guacamole. It was better.

And so prepared, I tried making my first taquitos/flautas my way. Initially, I thought I made too little filling. It didn't make for thick taquitos. However, after cooking them for seven minutes in my air fryer, the filling was just right. Only a little guacamole was needed for garnish on the side. The flavor of the taquitos was good enough not to require much extra. I made five; two were enough for a meal. I wrapped the others in foil to heat later.

And that leads to this: What if I were to buy, say, a rotisserie chicken at Costco and use the breast meat (I prefer the dark meat for eating) to make a large batch of taquitos? I could freeze them, package them in pairs, and store them in the freezer. That's an idea for the future.

Got LEGOs?

In previous blogs I mentioned a friend who collects LEGO kits. He estimates he has about half a million bricks. I sent him five car kits on Wednesday. I had built those, but I didn't want to store them.

In an email he mentioned his envy that I lived so close to several thrift stores where he used to search for used LEGOs before moving to Kentucky. I decided to venture forth, mask on, to see what I might find. Only one store had a bin of things that sort of looked like LEGO pieces. I recognized some base plates. The bin was marked $150.00. Is it a thrift store or an antiques emporium? I passed.

That's the problem with living in Santa Barbara. Even the thrift stores are high-end luxury boutiques.