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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Wednesday 2021.9.15

Some Thoughts After Yesterday's Newsom Recall Vote

Probably the biggest takeaway is the ebbing of Trumpism. Larry Elder tried using it, and it didn't work. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, eyeing a 2024 presidential run, is trying it (and well he might because Trump lives in his state). There are still plenty of Trump enthusiasts out there, but the base is getting smaller. One news headline I remember from a while ago said something like: People are getting tired of seeing Trump's name at the top of the news everyday. I certainly was.

As expected, the Republicans, especially Larry Elder, are claiming voter fraud. Actually, they started making their claims well before the vote. I assume they knew in advance they would lose, so get the conspiracy theories out into the public domain as quickly as possible. Will there be an insurrection at the state capital building in Sacramento? I probably shouldn't say that, lest I give anyone any ideas.

Feeling like I really need a perspective reset, I started reading Jon Meacham's book, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels again. I'm feeling discouraged about America's future right now. Meacham said there were worse times in American history — look at the Civil War — but the pendulum always swings back the other way, eventually. But here's the thing: Each time the pendulum swings to the right, it seems to go a little further, and each time it swings to the left, it doesn't go quite as far.

The political shifts in Texas are one example, and not surprising. Meacham introduces his book by writing about the motivating force of fear. It was how the Ku Klux Klan got started — fear that the Catholics, Jews, and Blacks might gain too much power in the country. In 2020 there was talk about Texas possibly becoming a blue state as shifting demographics brought in more Democratic voters. Fear of losing their control and power, the Texas Republicans have been repressing voting rights and drawing new district lines to make certain they will maintain control of the state.

Now there is another protest rally scheduled for this Saturday in Washington. I don't wish to be a pessimist — but c'mon, let's get real — I expect there to be violence again. They probably won't enter the Capital building, but I expect there to be unrest in the streets, especially if the right wing kooks encounter stalwart lefties.

Personally, I blame Trump. He made civil disobedience seem okay, even desirable, even legal. The January 6th insurrection at the nation's capital is proof of that.

How About Another Brilliant Idea (destined to go nowhere)?

If you've seen my last few Kitchen Vlogs, you know I enjoy playing a little with LEGO kits. I am definitely not a LEGO Master. In fact, I rarely touched the bricks during my lifetime. Only recently did I buy my first few sets for use in videos.

LEGO channels are popular on YouTube. I saw one video in which the builder said nothing; he silently assembled a kit. There was audio. I could hear him pressing the pieces together. But he never said anything. I want more.

I am thinking of converting one of my unused YouTube channels into a LEGO channel and assembling a set while I'm doing a non-LEGO commentary about something, like maybe politics or whatever. I'll run the idea past a friend who is totally into LEGO to see what he thinks.

And here's an OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) thing: For the first build I arranged all the bricks on trays in the order in which I will need them to do the build. No searching for bricks in the pile. Meanwhile, I've been taking a few notes for talking points as I read Meacham's book and why I feel I need to read it again.

So, meanwhile, I did a test run earlier today. It did not go well. I can't talk about one of the books I am reading while trying to assemble a LEGO kit. So here is yet another idea. Do the assembly without talking. Then, using my teleprompter and a script, record a separate audio track to be used as a voice-over. Duh! I've seen that done so many times in cooking videos, why didn't I think of that before doing the awful test run?

I'll try again this afternoon.

Dream Biscuits

I like biscuits. I've been wanting to make them again, but summer doesn't seem like the best time to bake. Now that the weather is beginning to cool a little, I decided to turn my attention again to my oven.

When I was looking around on YouTube I saw a video for Dream Biscuits from American's Test Kitchen. I always trust them, even though they disappointed me once or twice. The recipe is from Dan Souza. I trust him a lot.

The oddity about these biscuits is that they go against the rules. Normally the ingredients are cold — like refrigerator cold. Instead, Souza warms the cream in the microwave to a temperature between 95° and 100°F (37 to 38°C). The idea is to melt the butterfat in the cream, making it flow more liquidly (that's a word; I had to look it up).

I've been making biscuits off and on since my college days, following a recipe on the side of a can of baking powder. Whether warm and slathered with butter or spread with butter and honey, biscuits make a satisfying snack, especially on cold winter days when the heat of the oven is a welcome pleasure. But I never heated cream in a microwave.

It works. The result is a soft dough that is close to a batter. And the biscuits were light and fluffy, and just as delicious. Look it up on YouTube: America's Test Kitchen Dream Biscuits. They're good, and they're also easy.

Sunday 2021.9.12

Another Plan Carried Out

Last month I mentioned having a Breville Big Squeeze juicer. I wasn't able to use it much in the past year because of the pandemic. I was too paranoid to go to the store to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for squeezing. Most of my groceries I ordered online. I allowed myself one trip to the grocery store each month.

Now that I am fully vaccinated and everyone is wearing a mask in the stores again (they're really good about that here in SoCal), I feel safe going shopping. I bought nearly five pounds of red seedless grapes on sale — 99¢ per pound, regularly $2.49/lb. After rinsing them well, I juiced the entire lot. I put six cups (in 1-cup containers) in the freezer and half a cup in the refrigerator. The plan was to use the fresh juice for making smoothies.

I also bought more bananas, 49¢/lb., regularly 65¢/lb. Those I'll chop up when they're fully ripe and freeze, like I did the last bananas I bought. And I bought some apples, oranges, and nectarines. Again, I'll use them for smoothies.

However, Poor Planning

I wanted to shoot another smoothie video on Friday, but I noticed an ant on my kitchen counter; so I placed one of my bait packets near it. Within an hour the ants found it. It takes a good 12 hours for the ants to carry the bait back to the nest and eradicate it. So, a video was out of the question, which wasn't a total loss because I was also hoping to photograph an ant carrying a little morsel of bait. That would be for another Kitchen Vlog I was also planning.

However, trying to photograph a scurrying ant with a morsel of bait in its clutches proved to be too tedious a task. When my back began to hurt from bending over my camera, I quit. On the positive side, I saw where the ants were coming from (under my kitchen sink); so I moved the bait packet to there and washed the counter well. That made it possible to shoot a video.

And why a bait packet? Why not just sprinkle the bait where the ants will find it? The bait is finely chopped chicken meat mixed with some boric acid powder. If scattered, it would dry out quickly and might not interest the ants. By placing it in a small plastic packet, it retains its moisture long enough to fulfill its intended purpose.

My Kitchen Vlog

Yesterday I uploaded another Kitchen Vlog video. I unboxed and demonstrated the Vitamix stainless steel blender jar I mentioned in last Sunday's blog. Not surprisingly, it works fine, like any good Vitamix accessory would. I also showed my latest LEGO kit a friend sent me. You can watch the video with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

I thought about buying the food processor attachment for the blender, but I changed my mind when I learned it operates at only one speed. The Vitamix base senses the processor and sets the speed. That was disappointing. However, I have a really good Cuisinart "Limited Edition Metal" food processor, and that works fine. And where would I store another food processor?

SmoothieTube

This morning I uploaded another video to my SmoothieTube channel on YouTube. It was one "from the vaults," an older one I deleted when I planned to remove the channel altogether. As I said last Sunday, I'm devoting some attention to the channel again because it is demonstrating a little interest. It's not a popular channel. It has only 260 subscribers. And it generates no revenue. However, I enjoy making and drinking smoothies; so why not video them and add them to the channel?

This is the smoothie video I uploaded this morning. You can watch it by clicking on the graphic link.

Or CLICK HERE.

You might have noticed I'm switching to the same thumbnail format I use on my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. The plan is to eventually replace all the original smoothie thumbnails with this format. I'm hoping the brand recognition might get me a few more views.

Wednesday 2021.9.8

What To Do?

I was on the horns of a dilemma this week. A neighbor asked me to do him a favor — pick him up at the hospital later this month after he has a minor surgical procedure done. Actually, he told me rather than asked me. He's not the kind of guy to bark orders. "Hey, Dennis, you're going to do this for me." I've helped him so often in the past, he probably assumed I'd do it again. No need to ask. Yeah, but back then there was no Coronavirus.

Here's the thing: The virus here — mostly the delta variant — is spreading. Each Friday I receive a report in my email about the number of people infected, the number who died, etc. The numbers have been increasing. During the past several weeks the numbers of dead were 1–2–4–4–3–6. The county is slightly better than 50% vaccinated. That's good, but it's not enough.

Where are these sick people? They're in the hospital. So he is going to be in there with them for part of a day and then he'll be in my car with me. I'm vaccinated. So is he. But there is still the potential for getting sick. I like to say the vaccine is not a hazmat suit. It doesn't shield us from the virus, but it does help the body prepare to fight an infection. Vaccinated people can still get sick — you've heard of breakthrough infections — but it is highly unlikely we will end up in the ICU or, worse, dead. We can recover at home.

You probably follow the news. It's difficult to avoid it. Everyday they are reporting on COVID‑19. It appears we are well into another surge. Many schools are open again. I've been watching college football games. It concerns me to see the stands so full of people cheering loud, their mouths wide open. Are all those people vaccinated? I'm sure many are. Some colleges and universities are requiring their students to be fully vaccinated before returning to school. What about family and friends? Hopefully the officials at the gates are asking for proof of vaccination before allowing the spectators into the arena. The coming weeks will tell.

And so, after days of working on it, I carefully worded a response to my neighbor's request. I expressed my concern for my age. I'm 70 now. It seems like too large a risk to take at my age, even if we both wear a mask in the car.

Where Are the Ants?

Where are the ants when I need them? Today my 8-ounce blender cups are supposed to arrive for my Vitamix. I ordered them to chop up small amounts of chicken breast meat to make bait packets to kill ants. (The blender jar is too large.) I was hoping to do a Kitchen Vlog unboxing the cups and also shoot a photograph of the ants carrying away little morsels of poisoned chicken. But there are no ants in my kitchen. (But they'll be back, eventually.)

Here's a trick I've done before. When a package arrives I want to use in a video, I open it from the bottom first to inspect the contents inside. No surprises. Then I tape the box closed and open it from the top in the video. It's not always necessary, but when in doubt, open the box from the bottom first.

The cups won't be used exclusively for making ant bait; therefore, I won't put the boric acid powder in with the chicken meat. I'll combine the two on a piece of parchment paper that I can then toss in the trash. I'm not sure what else I'll use those cups for, but it's one of those situations in which you have something and after a while you find other uses for it — kind of like having a Vitamix to make smoothies and then figuring out you can use it to prepare ant bait.

Another example is my impulse heat sealer. I bought it, with poly tubing, to make Minute Meals to take to work. Now I use it for so many things, I need to order another huge roll of poly tubing. My ant bait packets are made with poly tubing.

And One More Thing

Yesterday I was unable to access the internet most of the day. I have a cable modem and the TV channels were working, but no internet. It's strange how isolated and cut off from society one can feel without internet access. There is something important about that, but I don't know what it is, and maybe I'd rather not know. By evening everything was back to normal again, or at least this "new normal" we're all trying to live with.

Sunday 2021.9.5

Happy Three-Day Weekend

Here in the USA and also in Canada tomorrow is Labor Day, a day to honor the workers. It's always the first Monday in September. In other countries it might be May 1st. I used to be a working person. Ten years ago I retired with a pension; so I like to claim I am now gainfully unemployed.

And speaking of labor…

Tedious Work

Have you ever tried to remove or add a link to a metal watchband? I own a really nice Casio Pathfinder watch. It's a good one. I haven't worn it since well before the pandemic. Back then I had lunch with friends and I kept track of the time. They had the time on their phones, of course, as did I, but looking at my watch seemed so much easier. And I like wearing a watch.

Let's just say I filled out a little during the pandemic. Too much sitting in front of the computer or TV and not enough getting outside to walk or ride my bike. My watch was too tight to wear. I have the parts and the tools, but adding a link to the band is really tedious work. Some of the parts are so tiny. However, this past week I decided it was time to get it done, even if I have no immediate need to wear my watch again. Despite the difficulty, I succeeded.

Smoothies Again

Almost three years ago I conceived the bright idea to create a new YouTube channel dedicated to smoothies. I called it SmoothieTube. It was never monetized; it doesn't generate any revenue, and probably never will.

Things didn't go well. I wasn't expecting an overnight success, but I was hoping for more than a dud. There was almost no growth during the following year. Subscribers remained low and the number of views limped along feebly. After 18 months and 42 videos I abandoned the project. I made my last SmoothieTube video on June 18, 2019.

Feeling like a failure, I started removing the videos from YouTube with the plan to eventually delete the channel and thus hide my shame. However, some of the videos were somewhat popular; so I spared those. Of the 42, 14 remained in place.

The years passed. The channel still isn't doing well, but once or twice each month I receive an email message saying someone subscribed to the channel. There are now 259 subscribers and the channel has accumulated 11,300 views — hardly something to brag about. Nevertheless, I decided maybe I should revive the channel. At best, I can gradually upload the former videos, maybe one every Saturday, and see what happens, if anything. And it might give me something to do if another wave of COVID-19 crests this winter. Besides, I like smoothies.

If you want to see that first smoothie video again, here is the link:

Or CLICK HERE. To be honest, the smoothie looks disgusting because my old blender didn't grind up the ingredients into a smooth beverage. I donated that blender to a charity thrift store and bought a Vitamix. It works much better.

Meanwhile, this week I ordered a new blender jar for my Vitamix. It's made of stainless steel, with a clear lid for watching the process inside. I also found something I had forgotten — a set of three mini ice cube trays. Each tray makes 60 small ice cubes and they are supposedly ideal for blenders. And they look cute in a video.

How many mini ice cubes are equivalent to one standard ice cube? I knew I'd need to figure that out if I wanted to use the ice in a video. "I'm using (number) of these mini ice cubes, which are equivalent to (number) of standard ice cubes." Not everyone will have one of these trays.

Four ice cubes from my standard trays equal ½ cup (4 fl. oz./118ml). One mini ice cube tray holds 6 fluid ounces; so if a recipe calls for 4 ice cubes or ½ cup cold liquid, that would be 40 mini cubes. Or 10 mini cubes equals 1 standard cube. Is that important? I don't know, but it might be important in a video.

And also maybe worth mentioning: I bought the ingredients to concoct another smoothie. This one will be banana, pomegranate juice, Greek style yogurt and some other stuff. If it turns out okay, I'll upload it on Saturday.

Perfecting the Ant Bait Packet

There were ants in my kitchen again. And I should mention my kitchen is really clean. This past week I took everything off the counters and gave all the surfaces a good scrub. I cleaned the stove and washed the floor too. My kitchen is clean.

I've written about my bait packets before. Chicken cut up really fine and mixed with boric acid powder works well to eradicate ants. It is better than the scrambled egg I used to use. The trick is to get the chicken chopped fine enough. This time I put some in a blender jar and pulverized it, then transferred it to a paper plate to mix with the boric acid. I made half a dozen packets using poly tubing and my impulse heat sealer. However, I punched holes in only one. The others went into a ziplock bag and into the freezer.

That sent me onto Amazon to find those little blender cups made by Vitamix. They would be easier to work with and clean than the large jar. And that's how I discovered the stainless steel blender jar I ordered.

As for the ants, it's almost amusing to see the little guys carrying tiny particles of baited chicken back to the nest. In less than 24 hours the ants are gone, until next time.

College Football Concerns

I've been watching football games and something concerns me. The arena is filled with fans again. Are all those people vaccinated? If not, that looks like a series of super-spreader events. I hope colleges and universities don't return to distance learning this winter after the football season ends.

Wednesday 2021.9.1

Another Pizza Experiment

This time I used some of the dough I made earlier, letting it ferment in the refrigerator more than 24 hours. It's supposed to taste better, but to be honest, I didn't notice any improvement.

I was trying for a more crispy crust. So after browning the bottom in the griddle pan first, I transferred it to a pizza peel and then slid it onto a rack in the upper part of the oven. The broiler (grill in some countries) was heated in advance. The hope was that the crust, being exposed to the dry heat of the oven rather than being protected in the griddle plan, would be more crisp. Again, I didn't notice any difference.

I have one more portion of dough in the freezer, enough for another thin crust. I'm not sure how I will experiment next. I am beginning to feel I tested all the options, or at least the ones worth trying. I think these latest pizzas are about as good as I can get in a home kitchen.

Power Outage

A little after 8:00 Monday evening all the lights went out. I went outside to look around. There were yellow blinking lights on the street. Up the road the lights were on, but everything in the opposite direction was dark. I couldn't help thinking this was some sort of planned maintenance and either we weren't notified of any outage, or I didn't get the memo.

Half an hour later the power came back on again. Meanwhile, it gave me an opportunity to use my oil lamps. I've heard warnings not to use flames for lighting, especially candles. However, I like my oil lamps. They give a pleasant glow to a room, and for many years people used them as their primary source of light. Some might complain they contribute to global warming by burning fossil fuel; however, I think they do far less damage than the cars those complainers drive everyday.

Afghanistan

Now that the last of the troops are out of Afghanistan I feel somewhat relieved that an unpopular war has ended, at least for the USA. I'm old enough to have been of draft age back during the Vietnam war. I had very strong feelings about America's involvement in that war. My lottery number was too high to be drafted the year I was eligible; so I avoided going into the military and Vietnam.

I feel somewhat the same about our involvement in the Afghanistan war. My feelings are not as strong this time because there is no conscription. Since Vietnam the USA has been operating with an all-volunteer military. No draft. Like many armchair quarterbacks, I have my uninformed opinions, even though I follow the news more closely than many Americans. This country should stop trying to Americanize other countries. That region has had a tribal culture for centuries. Rather than trying to make Afghanistan more like the USA, maybe the USA should do something about its own tribes — the Republicans and the Democrats.

College Football

It all hits the fan on Saturday. The season officially began this past Saturday, but there were only three games on TV. This coming Saturday there will be 14, and those don't include the games on subscription channels. I'll watch one or two games and I'll record two or three. With so many games on TV I'll switch channels to find the most entertaining.

And, as if that weren't enough, between today and Friday there are five games. I fear I will be overly saturated with football by Sunday.

The most pressing question is what to make to eat during the games. Maybe another pizza?