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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Wednesday 2020.5.27

In Appreciation of Toys

I have another one. This one is free on the Microsoft Store. It's a little Text to Speech app into which I can load text from, say, an ebook and the voice will read it to me. Why is that important?

For being such an avid reader, I'm really not a good reader. I read too slowly and my mind tends to wander. I like having an audiobook to listen to while I'm reading the text on my ebook reader, but that is seldom possible.

The Text to Speech app fills the gaps. There are three voices. If the book's author is male, I'll use David or Mark. If female, I like Zira. The speed of the reading can be controlled, but I like the default setting. It reads at a pace that is just fast enough for me to follow along without my mind wandering.

The app isn't perfect. For example, it might read the year 1836 as "one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six" but for most years, like 1960 or 2020, it reads it as we would likely say it — nineteen-sixty or twenty-twenty. And another thing, that long dash in the previous sentence, known as an em-dash (having the same width as the letter m), the software breezes over it as if only a hyphen.

However, the voice sounds natural, not digital as in old text readers, and the sentence structure sounds appropriate. Okay, "et cetera" is read as Ee Tee cetera. Oh well; I can live with that.

How do I use it? Most of my books are ebooks. I have the free Sigil software on my computer. I can open any ebook in EPUB format and copy a chapter into a Notepad document. Then I move that onto my laptop computer and load it into the Text to Speech app. I prefer headphones for listening. I use the laptop because it's easy to move into the livingroom where I like to read on my sofa with my feet up. And in good weather, it's easy to carry outside onto my deck.

I Like Things a Certain Way

Or at least some things. Call me OCD if you like. Audiobooks are one example.

Some audiobooks on CDs are assembled to make the best use of the available space. This might help the publisher reduce costs and eke out a better profit, but it doesn't help us readers. I like an audio file to begin at the start of the chapter and continue through to the end. If the chapters are short, several can be fitted on one disc. Create and name the files according to the chapters of the book.

Think of music CDs. The songs begin and end properly, with a pause in between. They don't run all together and break only where it is convenient for the CD manufacturer.

I recently came into possession of the audiobook for Rick Wilson's book Running Against the Devil. I read the book earlier this year, without the audiobook. I like audiobooks, especially when the reading is by the author, because I enjoy following along while reading. The author gives me the expression of words and phrases that a printed book cannot convey, except with the occasional use of italics. The author knows how the reading should sound. I like that.

Now that the presidential campaign season is heating up, I might read Wilson's book again, this time with the audiobook. But there was one problem.

The audio was all in one large file. Say hello to the sound editor. I have one, which I rarely use; so I needed to sleep on it one night before I remembered how to use it for my purpose. Load the huge audio file into the editor, highlight each chapter and export it, following a numbering and naming pattern to keep the files in proper sequence. I won't bore you with the details.

It didn't take long. All the chapters are now separate files, and to be safe, I burned them to a blank CD to have a backup.

Meanwhile, I finished reading David Plouffe's book, A Citizen's Guide to Beating Donald Trump. Now I'm reading Arguing With Zombies by Paul Krugman. I can't say I'm impressed. I only read the first few parts, so far, but it appears to be nothing more than an assemblage of his opinion pieces written for The New York Times during the past few decades. No new information.

However, it gives me an opportunity to play with my new toy, as explained above, the Text to Speech app. I'm enjoying that.

Sunday 2020.5.24

Proceed At Your Own Risk

I sometimes feel adventurous with foods. I never ate rattlesnake or alligator, but I've had wild boar, moose and goat. In Wednesday's blog I mentioned corn juice. Corn on the cob is on sale this week, five ears for $1. It's sweet white corn, not yellow.

I bought some on Wednesday morning and cut the kernels off of two ears. Then I ran them through the juicer. The result was about a cup of white liquid that was smooth and creamy. It looked a little like melted ice cream. The flavor was sweet and it tasted like corn. It was actually pretty good. And shortly afterward the symptoms began.

I was not at all well. I felt really tired and nauseous. There seemed to be lot of gas pressure in my stomach, but no belching. I spent most of the afternoon in bed (and made a few trips to the bathroom). Around 5:00 I felt well enough to sip a little hot tea and then I went back to bed. I really didn't start to feel better until around 6:00 and I didn't feel back to normal until the following day.

Naturally, I wondered if it wasn't the corn but some sort of early symptoms of COVID-19. I took my temperature; it was normal. And I'm fine now.

I should probably also mention that I don't have a food intolerance for corn. I've eaten it many times, either as one of several mixed vegetables in a side dish, cooked corn on the cob, or as an ingredient in foods like corn bread. However, I never consumed it raw, and I wonder if the raw corn juice might have been the problem.

Needless to say, I didn't attempt it again. There were three more ears of corn, which I cooked during the following days, using the procedure "Easy Corn on the Cob" in this web site's Recipe Archive. And I didn't feel like drinking juice, any juice, for a few days afterward.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, corn juice if popular in many cultures. It is often puréed and cooked with milk, then strained. Sugar can be added. I've seen videos on YouTube. So if you feel adventurous, you might want to experiment. As for me, I can say I tried it once and that's enough for me.

Costco

For the first time in several weeks I ventured into Costco again. There was the usual snaky line, like waiting to get on a ride at Disneyland, but there was almost no wait at all. The area in which I did need to stop for a minute or two was in the shade. And, when I left the store, the line was a lot longer. People were waiting in the sun.

As required, I wore a mask. Not required were disposable rubber gloves, but I wore those too. I needed some things, like the trash bags I use, that are available only at Costco. And I go in with a list, which had only six items on it. I kept to my list. It's too easy to come out of Costco with a shopping cart full of items when all you initially wanted was a gallon of milk.

Of course, not much had changed in the store. A few of the aisles were a little different, but I found the few items I needed without searching all over the store. I sometimes suspect Costco moves things around to make people search, hoping they'll see something along the way and impulse-purchase it. That's how the shopping cart gets filled.

Al Franken

I discovered something new lately (new for me). Al Franken, former senator from Minnesota, has a weekly podcast. In the one I listened to he interviewed Steve Schmidt, former Republican political strategist and now a founding member of the Lincoln Project. The podcast is the first of his second season.

I was impressed. When I listen to or read books from informed people, especially insiders, I feel informed. That's what got me interested in political books. I believed George W. Bush and his cronies were lying to the American public about their justifications for invading and occupying Iraq. We all learned, of course, that there were weapons of mass destruction and Hussein wasn't working on a nuclear bomb. The books told me so much more. Iraq does have oil.

According to Franken's latest podcast, the Republicans easily control Lindsey Graham because they have the goods on him. Graham is a compulsive shoplifter. And that explains why he changed direction 180°, initially declaring Trump a xenophobic, misogynistic liar and then becoming Trump's most devoted sycophantic lap dog.

You can easily find Franken's podcasts by searching YouTube. Meanwhile, I continue my reading (and listening).

Wednesday 2020.5.20

Deliciousness

Sunday morning, after publishing my latest video on YouTube, I juiced several of the pieces of produce still in the refrigerator. It was, I think, an unusual combination: carrots, oranges, beet, apple, lemon, and some fresh spinach. The spinach gave the juice a maroon color. The flavor was magnificent — citrusy and sweet, with a hint of the spinach. No celery or turmeric this time.

It got me thinking: Do I really need books? I can just combine produce spontaneously. Well, yes, the books will be useful to give me more ideas. For example, I need to buy kale. I can look for strawberries on sale. What about frozen berries? Fresh melon? Cantaloupe and honeydew typically go on sale during the summer. And that's another thing: Now I anticipate each week's sales flyers in the mail.

And then there are the tangerines on the dwarf citrus tree in my yard. The grapefruit tree produced another three fruits over the winter. I don't like grapefruit, but what would the juice taste like mixed with orange and lemon juice?

Now I know. Yesterday morning I included one of the grapefruits that ripened on my tree. I used another mixture of produce, this time also adding some pear, beet greens, and red kale. The juice was fine.

And starting today white sweet corn on the cob will be on sale, five ears for $1. I will definitely buy some to experiment. Juiced corn is popular in some cultures.

Pedal Power

Yesterday afternoon I decided to do an errand to the credit union where I have some savings. I chose to ride my bike rather than drive. However, I was almost concerned enough to turn around. Almost. There were only two bars of battery power on the meter, and I knew I'd need that to get home because it was windy and it would be blowing against me all the way.

So I rode my bike to the credit union without using the motor, except for a few hills to climb. It was not fun. Even at a very low gear the bike is not easy to pedal. It isn't geared to ride like a conventional street bike. It's an e-bike. It's geared for the electric motor.

I arrived home okay. I used the motor all the way home, still pedaling, but letting the motor assist me. The conservation in one direction really helped. The battery power I had left was enough to get me home. (And I celebrated by making a pepperoni pizza.)

Another Project Done

Some of them take a while, but I manage. This morning I finished the last of the trousers, cutting them into "hand rags" that are overlocked around the edges (to prevent shredding) and with a button hole by which to hang the rag on a hook to dry near my kitchen sink. I saved only one pair of trousers in each size to store.

The empty plastic bins and their covers are back in the shed. I still have work to do in the shed. Now that I have some empty shelves, I'd like to move my barbecue accessories onto a shelf rather than store in a box on the floor. That's next.

Meanwhile, I'm sipping another mug of fresh juice. I'll make more tomorrow morning.

Sunday 2020.5.17

More Juicing

I'm beginning to get the hang of this juicing thing. For one, I appreciate the value of weighing my ingredients. Using the same vegetables and fruit as I used in the video (see Wednesday), I wanted 16 fluid ounces (475ml) of juice. So I knew to use 1 pound 4 ounces (about 570g) of produce. Sure enough, the juice came up to the 16 ounce mark.

Second, I thought of the Mary Poppins song that goes "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" (or maybe in Trump's case "A spoonful of Clorox makes your temperature go down"). In my case, a packet of stevia helps.

I'm only beginning. I have books with hundreds of recipes in them. I don't know where I'll end up.

On Thursday my mugs arrived. I mentioned them in last Sunday's blog. They look like canning jars with handles. I chose mugs with stainless steel lids. Each lid has a hole and stopper for inserting a straw. My plan is to make enough juice to fill two mugs, 16 ounces each. Drink one and save the other for making smoothies later in the day.

More shopping for produce was necessary. I looked through my Juicing for Beginners book for a recipe to try and then went shopping, thinking smoothies as well as juice.

Some things I don't like. For example, I'm beginning to dislike ginger in my juice. Some people like that spicy, peppery flavor. Not me. I also don't care for bold flavors. Maybe less spinach and parsley.

I am especially looking forward to summer. There will be ads for summer fruits. I already bought some cherries on sale — not for juicing but for using in smoothies. I have a neat little device for pitting cherries:

If I remember correctly, they're available on Amazon. Search for "cherry pitter" or "cherry stoner". There are many designs. The one I use is from OXO and it works fine for me. It is easy to clean too.

So the plan for my next Mobile Home Gourmet video was to make up a large batch of red juice using beets, carrots, red apple, etc. Then use some of the juice to make a cherry red smoothie. That's the Featured Recipe you see on the home page his week. You can also access it here with this link:

Or CLICK HERE. The link will take you to the recipe. Use the green "View the video" button to go to the YouTube video.

Something Odd

It was well into the evening, after 9:00 to be exact, on Thursday when the thought occurred to me: "I drank only one cup of coffee today." I almost always have two or three cups. I made my usual morning cup, then followed it up with a glass of juice. It was the same formula for the green juice I made in the video linked in Wednesday's blog entry. Huh. Only one cup. It's too early to conclude anything. But it has me wondering.

Something Nice

You've seen me complain about the former hateful neighbor and her dogs and boyfriend. I have a note on my May calendar that says she sold her home on May 1st 2019. (My August calendar says she moved out on August 23rd.) The new neighbors have been really pleasant. Last week when it was really hot here, I stayed in my office most of the time with the air conditioner running. The neighbors hadn't seen me sitting outside on my deck in a while; so one of them came over to check on me, to make sure I was okay. That was very thoughtful. I am so happy to have nice neighbors after putting up with that devil woman for 20 years.

Wednesday 2020.5.13

Juicing

I normally try to upload each blog entry early in the morning. I decided to delay a little bit today because I was expecting my juicer to arrive. Meanwhile, I've been learning all I can, including reading the owner's manual that I downloaded in PDF format. I also used the time to plan what I wanted to talk about in the video.

First, I don't have plans to do any juice fasting. A week ago I mentioned having watched the documentary "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" by Joe Cross, my inspiration for juicing. I watched it again yesterday evening. I'm not sick. I don't take any medications for any conditions or ailments. And as far as I can tell, I'm not nearly dead, even though I am nearly 70 years old. So two out of three ain't bad.

Second, I wanted to do juicing correctly. The juice bowl in my Breville has a capacity of 13½ fluid ounces (400 ml). I estimated I would need about a pound of produce, more or less, depending on how much water is in the fruit or vegetables. That would be a good start for a demonstration. My plan, actually, is eventually to double that amount, having one mug of juice for drinking and another for making smoothies later.

Third, a recipe. I have plenty in books and from watching YouTube videos. One blessing of this stay-safe-at-home directive during the pandemic is that I have the time to do my research. I learned a lot since those early days of making smoothies, which might be better described as sugar bombs. They were high in carbohydrates. The rule appears to be 80/20 — 80% vegetable juice and 20% fruit juice.

I think I already answered this question, but why not just make a smoothie? Why juice? Because smoothies require liquid. I can't just blend fresh produce. I end up with a mush that has a consistency close to baby food. Liquid is required to make a smoothie drinkable. I don't want to use store-bought bottled juice because many of those have added sugar and they're pasteurized and otherwise processed, which destroys the healthy enzymes. Fresh juice is best.

So, okay. The juicer arrived today. I did a video unboxing it and then tested it with celery, cucumber, apple, and some other really healthy ingredients. The juicer works great. Here is a link to the video:

Or CLICK HERE.

This video will be published on YouTube in a day or two, but you can watch it now with the link above.

As for the green juice I made, it tasted better than I thought it would. I think I could easily get into this whole juicing thing, especially if it makes me feel a lot healthier.

Sunday 2020.5.10

Happy Mother's Day

I also have marked on my calendar "Landscaping began 2015" on this date. It has been five years since I mowed a lawn. I don't miss it any more than I miss going to work everyday. I hope you mothers out there have a pleasant day, despite the pandemic.

Things I Like About Myself

I mentioned in Wednesday's blog that I ordered a Breville juicer. It looks like this:

As I mentioned previously, I watched and read many reviews. I've been reading juicing books too. One of the most common complaints is cleanup. Some people don't like to clean. Some said they won't buy anything with parts that cannot go into the dishwasher. Another common complaint is food prep. They don't like to do any preparation. It's better to open a box or a jar and heat stuff in the microwave.

Call me weird, but I think prep work is part of the satisfaction of cooking. And as for washing up, it's easy if you wash things as you use them. Inevitably there is some waiting time when cooking. That's a good time to wash bowls, utensils, etc.

Although I don't have my juicer yet — it's scheduled to arrive on Wednesday — I don't see any negatives, yet. Maybe one. It's too tall to fit beneath the cupboards on the side of my kitchen where the sink is. The other side has plenty of space. I'd like to keep it nearer to the sink to help with cleanup. However, without that plunger thing inserted in the feed hopper on top, maybe it will fit just fine. I'll know when it arrives.

Meanwhile, I'm planning an unboxing and testing video for My Kitchen Vlog on YouTube. I spoke with a neighbor who has a lemon tree in his back yard. He doesn't use his lemons; so he said I could take as many as I want as often as I want.

As for the other fruits and vegetables I will need, I'm thinking this appliance might give me the excuse to get on my bike and ride to the store more often. I need the exercise. Sometimes I ride off in the opposite direction to record a few extra miles before turning around to stop at the store. I have masks now (see below); so I am in compliance with the latest shopping manifestos (all patrons and staff are required to wear masks in stores here).

Some Things Are Easy

Maybe it's cheating a little, but there was a need. I decided I wanted something to use with my juicer when I do the unboxing and demonstration — glass mugs that look like canning jars with handles. You've seen them; they've been around for decades. I spent some time on Amazon and decided upon a set of four with stainless steel lids that have a hole for inserting a straw. The hole has a silicone stopper and the lids have silicone gaskets. Stainless steel straws and a cleaning brush are included.

The problem was timing. The juicer will arrive on Wednesday. If I order the mugs, they won't arrive until about a week later. I don't pay for Amazon Prime — but I have a friend who does. He placed the order, set it up to ship directly to my home, and I sent him the money via PayPal, plus a little extra for his time and effort. The mugs should get here on time.

Projects

I've always been a guy who likes projects. There is almost always something going on. Many years ago someone commented on a period in my life when I had no projects. I responded, "I'm between whims at the moment."

Lately it has been the trousers stored in bins in the shed. Last month I mentioned having 73 of them. I've been cutting up some to use as kitchen rags. And here is when my new Brother sewing machine has been a blessing. Each piece gets a buttonhole so that I can hang a wet rag on a hook near the sink to dry. I use them mostly to dry my hands after washing. Why waste paper towels?

The trouser fabric also works well for face masks. A single layer is enough. The masks are not perfect, but I think of them as more cosmetic than functional. I need to be seen wearing a mask when I enter a store. So, job done. I prefer the black fabric. It gives me a look sort of like a masked bandit.

Smoothies

It has been many months since I enjoyed a smoothie. I bought my Vitamix with smoothies in mind. However, as I said on Wednesday, I tried going on a keto diet and most of the smoothies I had made were too high in carbs. I use my Vitamix to purée soups mostly.

I knew I had some blueberries and raspberries in the back of the freezer. So with a juicer on the way, now seemed like a good time to try a smoothie again. Blueberries, raspberries, plenty of almond milk, and some stevia — I made enough for two tall glasses. I drank one and saved the other for the following day (which is when one of those mugs with lids would have been useful). They were delicious.

Don't You Just Love Toys

I've been wanting something for a long time. A few years ago I bought some Bluetooth headphones, hoping I could use them with my Denon receiver. No go. Here's the thing: My receiver on my home theater system is Bluetooth capable, but only for receiving an input signal from something like a tablet or smartphone.

I sometimes like to wear headphones when watching TV, especially late at night when the sound from my speakers might annoy my neighbors. As many of you know, I live in a mobile home in a trailer park. The neighbors aren't as close as in an apartment building, but I try to be a good neighbor. I have wired headphones, but I don't like dragging the cable around if I need to get up.

There had to be something that would connect between the two. It turns out it is simply called a Bluetooth transmitter. Plug it into the headphone jack on the receiver, pair a Bluetooth headset, and I'm good to go. It was about $40 at BestBuy (curbside pickup), which is just a few blocks down the street. I tested it. There is no lag time. Audio and video sync up perfectly. I love living in the 21st century. We have some excellent toys.

Wednesday 2020.5.6

It Made a Believer of Me

Earlier this week I watched the documentary "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" by Joe Cross. If I remember correctly, he was in his early 40s and taking prescription medications for his conditions. He was also obese. His cure? Juicing.

The film not only documents Cross's own transformation, but also that of a former truck driver, Phil Staples, who was morbidly obese. It was heartwarming to see Staples jogging and tossing a football with his son after successfully losing a lot of weight.

I was convinced. So I went onto Amazon to look at juicers. I also watched several YouTube reviews. Prices vary, of course, as do the features and the type of juicer. I learned some useful information.

1. There are two types of juicers — those that spin the juice out of the chopped produce (centrifugal juicers) and those that crush and squeeze the juice out (masticating juicers). Centrifugal juicers work like the spin cycle on your washing machine. They are quick and efficient, but the oxygen and heat can degrade the nutritional properties of the juice. Masticating juicers are a newer, better idea. They're slow, but they typically produce more juice and the nutrition is maintained.

2. They can be compared and contrasted to blenders used to make smoothies. Both make beverages. Juicers extract the juice from the pulp and eject that pulp separately. You get pure juice, some with almost no pulp at all, depending on the juicer. Blenders pulverize the pulp into the beverage for more fiber in the drink. Smoothies are more filling and therefore more satisfying as food.

3. Price matters. As with most things, the more you pay, the more you get. I wanted quality and one point I looked at closely was ease of cleaning. I'm retired. I have time to clean my juicer after using it, but I didn't want cleaning it to be so much drudgery that it would cause me to abandon juicing. Some people won't buy a juicer, or a blender, unless all the parts can be cleaned in their automatic dishwasher.

Jason Vale has many videos on YouTube. He thinks juicers and blenders should be in every kitchen, as common as the kettle and the toaster. I already have a blender.

I was really into the whole smoothie thing for a while. However, two things changed my thinking. My SmoothieTube channel on YouTube went virtually unnoticed. And I decided to try a keto diet (many smoothies are too high in carbs). However, a strange thing happened.

With this COVID-19 pandemic keeping most of us safe at home, I cooked more foods using ingredients that are not keto friendly. I made a lot of focaccia. I've been eating rice. I prepared a lot of split pea soup. Such foods are convenient because I have the ingredients in my home, thus saving me from a potentially hazardous trip to a grocery store, but they are very high in carbohydrates. When I weighed myself recently, I really expected to see my weight up by 15 to 20 pounds. But there was no change. In fact, my weight was among the lowest it has been during the past four months. What was I doing right?

So I began to think smoothies might not be such a bad idea after all. Summer is coming. It has been unseasonably warm here lately. Some refreshingly cold juices and smoothies seem appealing right about now. The temperatures are supposed to return to normal next week — low 70s — so I welcome the thought of smoothies while the days remain warm — high 80s to low 90s.

As for SmoothieTube…

Back when I felt discouraged by the channel, I planned to remove it from YouTube. I deleted most of the videos, leaving only the most popular ones in place. I even re-edited a few and uploaded them to my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. Now I'm thinking of re-uploading those deleted videos. They're archived on backups. And I'll start working in some juicing videos, devoting the channel to both smoothies and juices.

Sunday 2020.5.3

Got Ribs?

A friend recently told me, "You're frugal, not cheap." He's right. I'll spend my money for something I really want, but I don't waste my money. Here is one example:

Or CLICK HERE.

In the video I say my car is a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder with fewer than 70,000 miles on it (69,394 to be exact, as of this writing). It's true. Those are original miles. The odometer never rolled over. Rather than replacing the car, I keep it repaired.

Sometimes I think I'd like to have a new car, a Toyota Rav4, and maybe now might be the best time to buy one. Supposedly the car dealers are so anxious to make a sale, they're practically giving their cars away. However, my old car still works fine.

What has this got to do with ribs? I watch the sales. I've been wanting to buy more pork ribs. This past week I ate the last of the ribs I had stored in the freezer. And this week the ribs are on sale again, $1.59/pound (regularly $2.19). I went to the store early on Wednesday morning because they often sell out. They had only three. I bought the largest one, 13.38 pounds (6 kilos), for $21.27. The package contains two large racks.

The plan is to do the same as I did for my 20-Hour Sous Vide Ribs. However, I want to make a different Barbecue Sauce. I have most of what I need. I should be able to prepare the sauce without going shopping by using garlic powder in place of fresh garlic. I will again cut the racks into three-rib sections and package each with a little of the sauce to also act as a marinade. Everything will go into the freezer. When I feel like having ribs for dinner, I'll start a day in advance, sous vide cook the ribs for 20 hours, and then finish them either on the grill or in the air fryer. They should be good.

And, because you're probably curious, here are the portioned ribs, ready to freeze.

I felt so good after doing this, I wanted to buy another package. However, before I eat my way through all of these the store will probably have ribs on sale again. And do a little arithmetic with me. Ten portions for $21.27 comes to about $2.13 each. That's frugal.

Although I felt really good after putting all those marinated spareribs in the freezer, the day was not without its challenges. I don't like making a mess when I cook. I made a mess. As I get older, my movements are not a precise as they once were. It's frustrating. I fumbled a spoon onto the counter and spilled a little marinade, twice. I hate when that happens. So I felt like I needed some comfort food for dinner. Thankfully, I had some scallops in the freezer. Thaw, then sear them in a skillet with a little olive oil. Serve with some freshly sautéed vegetables. And relax.

And a funny thing about scallops. Normally I don't like the smell of fish in my house. Even fresh fish can have a little odor. I usually wash the pan soon after cooking the fish. However, I like the aroma of cooked scallops.

As for the ribs, I had some for dinner the following evening. Here's a picture.

As planned, these were cooked sous vide 20 hours then browned in my air fryer. I didn't get as much browning as I wanted. It needed that flavorful maillard reaction. Next time I'll finish them under the broiler or on the grill.