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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Sunday 2022.1.23

The Video Did Well

I've been watching the traffic on my Sweet & Sour Chicken video. This morning it topped 3,600 views, but its popularity is waning. Of my most recent 30 videos, it is now in fourth place. The video earned $11.50; so it paid for itself. No complaints. It was a fun run while it was hot.

I wish I knew what factors make a cooking video popular. I thought spicy hot food would be popular. That's why I did Freaking Hot Party Wings. It didn't do poorly. It has about 1,500 views, but it took about a year to accumulate those views. Sweet & Sour Chicken reached it's current number in only two weeks.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I owe the success of my YouTube channel to three old videos. They generate most of the traffic. I was hoping I might have added a fourth video to that small list by publishing the chicken video. Oh well.

At-Home Covid Tests

The U.S. government is offering four free Covid tests per household. A friend alerted me to the web site a day before it went public. It was an early opening to test the site for glitches. I ordered mine, which haven't shipped, but I was able to enter a successful order.

One glitch some people are experiencing is when there are duplicate home addresses. The site offers only one order per address. People who live in apartments might have difficulty. In my case, I live in a mobile home park. There are more than 50 spaces in this park; so if I had ordered later I might not have successfully entered my order.

Free N95 masks are also being distributed, but I don't need any of those. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I have 170 of them. I could give some of mine away for free, but these are unusual times. What if someone gets Covid and blames me for giving them a faulty mask? Even if the mask is good, people can wear them incorrectly. I saw a news interview in which a man with a beard asked how effective an N95 mask might be for him. The doctor told him the beard allows air to leak in from the sides, bypassing the mask, and that would reduce the effectiveness. So, other than you, no one else knows I have those masks.

As for COVID-19 Here

On Friday the county published another weekly status report. Some of it is good, some not so good. The number of new cases is down — 7,072 compared to 7,690 last week. The number of deaths are up — 11 this week compared to 4 last week. Of those eligible to be vaccinated, 69.9% are fully vaccinated, up slightly from 69.5% last week.

Like many people, I was hoping the war against Covid would have been fought and won by now. Some scientists are saying the virus might circulate among the population for several more years. Annual flu shots might include a Covid shot in the future. In fact, I hope they stop calling it a vaccine. Just add it to the flu shot people get every fall.

Another Cooking Idea

A friend and I were discussing the success of the Sweet & Sour Chicken. He recommended I consider doing Asian Style Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs. I looked at some YouTube videos. The ribs are sawed into 1-inch pieces. Ribs sold in the stores here have the long bones, whether they are spareribs or baby back ribs.

He was in Costco this week — he goes there regularly — and he called me about ribs he saw cut into short lengths. If you've been in Costco, you've seen the large racks of ribs vacuum sealed in sturdy plastic. These "St Louis Sparerib Portions" are arranged on a rigid foam tray and wrapped in cellophane, which leads me to believe the Costco butchers cut and packaged them there at the store.

I bought a package to do a video. At $30.19 the video will need to do better than Sweet & Sour Chicken to pay for itself, but that might be accomplished over time. My Fish & Chips video was very expensive because I paid nearly $70 for the four pounds of fish I bought. It was $15.95 per pound. By comparison, the ribs were $4.99 per pound.

As usual, I've been doing my research. I found one recipe I like. If everything goes according to plan, I'll prepare the ribs this week, but I might save the video until later. Allow some time to pass before publishing another Sweet & Sour recipe again.

Wednesday 2022.1.19

What?

To be honest, I don't have much to blog about. I suppose there is always the weather. We had a little rain. It was storm number 12 of the season. We are currently at about 125% of our normal-to-date rainfall. This latest storm, however, didn't contribute much. Where I live less than a tenth of an inch of rain fell. And our reservoir is still at less than 50% of its capacity.

How About Some Trump?

I haven't said much about Trump during the past year. He's out of the White House and good riddance to him. But I wonder if he's not as keen a businessman as he claims to be.

He does well financially at Mar-a-Lago where patrons pay outrageous prices to play golf and dine with him in the resort dining hall. If I had been advising him, I would have told him to keep the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., move into the most superior suite, and charge outrageous prices for patrons to stay there and dine with him. He could have used the hotel as a base of operations for fund raising, for influencing the operations of the nation's capital, and strategizing for his possible 2024 run for the White House.

Besides, if Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida campaigns and wins the GOP presidential nomination for 2024, where would Trump live? He'd be too ashamed to stay in Florida, having been a loser again, this time to the state's governor. The Washington International seems like the next best residence. After all, his name is, or maybe was, above the door in large gold letters.

Complain?

I suppose there is always something to complain about, but I sometimes think I complain too much. I'll only say there is one friend who keeps emailing me links to recipes and YouTube videos because he wants me to cook something exotic with lamb. I'm not interested. My lamb videos never do well on YouTube and there is still very little room in the freezer.

The Freezer?

Yesterday I took out some cooked chicken and some chicken stock. I had some homemade pasta that I previously dried out. So I made some Chicken Soup for lunch. That wasn't delicious, but I ate it anyway. For dinner I thawed and heated some of the Texas Beef Chili I made with tri-tip and plated that over cooked rice. That was delicious.

Any Plans?

There are still two potential cooking videos I want to shoot. I've blogged about them in the past. One is Beef Stew and the other will be Chocolate Mousse. A lot depends on the status of the freezer. Can chocolate mousse be frozen?

Sunday 2022.1.16

Happy Martin Luther King Day

For some of you, tomorrow might be a holiday. Hopefully you are enjoying a pleasant three-day weekend.

Do I Have a Winner?

This past week's featured (and still featured) recipe, Sweet and Sour Chicken, is doing surprisingly well on YouTube. Typically, a video is popular for a day as the subscribers watch it, then it recedes into obscurity. I mentioned in Wednesday's blog how only three videos are mostly supporting my YouTube channel. I have more than 400 cooking videos.

Sweet and Sour Chicken followed the same pattern for a few days. On Monday it was ranked in first place among my latest ten videos. By Wednesday it was in sixth place. Then it started to climb again. By the weekend it was back in first place. It earned only $5, but the chicken was only 99¢ per pound; so it paid for itself.

The weekend popularity might be only a temporary spike. Or it might continue to be one of my most popular videos. Time will tell.

What Temperature?

One dilemma when cooking by temperature with my new induction cooker appliance is knowing what is meant when a recipe says "Cook over medium heat." What is medium?

Thankfully the Control Freak provides that information when I'm adjusting the temperature. This may not be useful to you, but it was helpful to me:

77° - 140 = Low
141 - 200 = Warm
201 - 250 = Simmer
251 - 280 = Medium
281 - 320 = Sauté
321 - 375 = Medium High
376 - 430 = High
431 - 482 = Sear

The Control Freak's maximum temperature range is 77 to 482°F. I printed the numbers above onto a card that I taped to the back of my stove. Now, hopefully, it should be easier to select the correct temperature per the instructions in a recipe. And note: I didn't include the Celsius numbers because I don't use them when I'm cooking for myself.

I Got Masks

The masks I ordered from Costco arrived on Thursday. I have to admit to being a little disappointed initially. They are made in China. Although the package includes the designation NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), I read somewhere a warning to avoid those masks because they might not meet NIOSH safety standards.

That's not to say all those masks are harmful. The CDC says around 30% of the KN95 masks sold in the USA are counterfeit. Americans have claimed similar issues with N95s. Thankfully, the CDC has a database that can be checked to see if an N95 mask is certified by NIOSH. There is usually a TC number on the mask or packaging. Enter that number into the database and, if found, it will report the mask as certified. I entered the number on my masks and they are approved. The database even provided the name of the manufacturer. Phew.

I can add that I like the quality of these masks. The straps are woven elastic, not the bare rubber bands I've seen on cheaper masks. Those bands break easily.

Interestingly, the mask I was formerly using does not have any certification numbers on it. It only says NIOSH N95. Maybe the number was on the original packaging, but that is long gone.

CNN provided some useful information about using N95 masks, especially addressing how long the masks can be worn. "Single use" typically refers to hospitals where it is important not to carry potential contaminants from one hospital room to another. However, when going shopping or running errands to the bank or post office, a mask can be worn for up to a week if it is properly cared for. When you are back in your car, take the mask off and place it on the dashboard where it can get sunlight. That can help kill any viruses on the mask. At home, place the mask in a well ventilated area and leave it alone. Fresh air will also help kill viruses over time, say a day or two.

Meanwhile, the other box of masks (the Amazon order I couldn't cancel) arrived on Friday. They are made by 3M here in the USA and they are poorly made. The straps are bare rubber bands that feel like they're already drying out. I expect the bands to break quickly. I'll probably use those masks first, saving the better quality mask for later.

And even more meanwhile: I went onto the Costco web site to write a positive review of the masks. The page has been removed. There isn't a "sold out" message; there is no page at all. Hmm. I'm happy I ordered them when I did.

Something That Amuses Me

Back at the beginning of the pandemic store shelves were empty. People were hoarding toilet paper and other nonperishable items. Costco had to place a limit on the purchase of those products. One former friend told me how he was stacking the shelves in his garage with toilet paper.

I live alone. Between these two orders of N95 masks, I now have 170 masks in my possession. Am I hoarding masks?

I mostly stay in my home. I try to limit my trips to the store to one or two per month. At that rate, these masks might last for many years.

And Something That Pleases Me

This week I got my vaccination record QR code. California is one of the participating states that is building a database of vaccinations. I was able to print my code on a card about the size of a business card, which I then laminated and put in my wallet. If required, I can show proof of vaccination.

Wednesday 2022.1.12

Well, That Answers That Question!

In Sunday's blog I wrote about making yogurt, wondering how well the induction cooker would work. I was viewing some of the latest Breville Control Freak videos on YouTube and there was a very short one that showed yogurt being made. It looks simple. Still, yogurt is inexpensive where I live and it isn't difficult to find, but it's good to know I can make it myself if I can't find a full-fat yogurt when I need it.

Back to Normal

With the passing of the holiday season my YouTube channel is returning to normal. My channel is successful enough to generate some revenue each month, but Thanksgiving and especially Christmas are important as people search for holiday recipes. Mom's Italian Christmas Cookies was the clear winner this past year.

New cooking videos can be fun, and the food can add stock to the freezer, but they rarely pay for themselves. A friend wants me to do something with lobster tail, but chicken is a lot less expensive. Most new videos enjoy a "flash in the pan" popularity for a day or two then decline into obscurity. Nearly all the success of my channel comes from three old videos:

Fish & Chips, July 2013
Salmon Jerky, July 2016
Pork Spareribs Cooked in an Air Fryer, September 2018

I wish I could explain why those three are so popular. If I could, I might make more popular videos. However, I'm happy to have them. They help pay for the videos that don't succeed. And maybe worth mentioning: I have more than 400 cooking videos on YouTube.

And Speaking of the Freezer

Once again, I took inventory. If you notice in my videos a list of items stuck to my freezer door with magnets, that's the list of foods inside. Not only is it a reminder of the foods I need to eat, but when I'm hungry it serves as a potential menu of possible meals.

It's early yet. It's only January 12th. It will probably take until summer to really use up nearly everything in that freezer.

On Monday I pulled out one portion of the beef ribs I bought at Costco. I usually pressure cook those first in the Instant Pot before finishing them in the air fryer. However, I wanted to experiment with my Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker on my induction cooker. It worked well, the same as the Instant Pot, which will continue to be stored out in the shed.

And that raises a question about…

Cooking Videos

Back when I was publishing a video every week, where did the food go? I don't remember having a freezer so full I couldn't fit any more food inside. The answer: Neighbors.

I gave away a lot of food to my neighbors, or I brought it to work to share. Times have changed. I'm retired now and my neighbors are more distant. The proximity is the same, but we're "socially distanced" or they're less friendly.

Since the people across the street became Jehovah Witness they don't speak to me anymore. Another neighbor stopped speaking to me when I declined to do him a favor, which was an order — do this for me — rather than a request. And I've kept my distance from a smoking neighbor who goes out everyday, even at the height of the pandemic.

The pandemic probably changed a lot of people. We now meet by telephone or video web site rather than in person. For some it's a necessity. One friend now lives in Kentucky with his wife. Another keeps telling me he'll be moving out of California soon. And when we do encounter someone face-to-face, we're often wearing a mask. It's a different world.

And so it's not just my advancing age that makes me want to shoot fewer cooking videos; it's the lack of storage space to keep those foods until I can eat them. My next video was supposed to be lamb stew, but I'll have to wait until there is room in the freezer.

Got Masks?

I've been trying to get N95 masks because those are now recommended as the best protection against the latest variants of the coronavirus. I have two. One is new and the other I've been using, hand-washing it occasionally so that I can keep using it. I still have the cloth masks I made myself, but those are no longer recommended.

I ordered a box of 20 N95s from Amazon. They were supposed to be delivered yesterday. That has been delayed. When I look up the product on their web site it says delivery will be at the end of the month. I tried to cancel the order, but Amazon said they weren't able to do that.

Meanwhile, I ordered masks from Costco. If you know Costco, you know you can't get a reasonable amount of anything, unless "reasonable" means for a family of ten. Costco, however, promised delivery tomorrow; so I ordered 100 masks for $150. They are shipped in boxes of 20 each. When the Amazon order arrives, I'll have 170 masks. If any of my neighbors change their attitude toward me, maybe I'll share a box of masks with them.

I should probably also mention I have an N100 mask carefully put away. That's for the most dire of circumstances.

Sunday 2022.1.9

Breville Control Freak as a Slow Cooker

The more I use my Control Freak (CF), the more I discover its versatility. On Thursday I made the Sweet and Sour Chicken I wrote about in Wednesday's blog. The CF cooks by temperature rather than by high-medium-low. The original recipe calls for a slow cooker (crockpot or Instant Pot with a Slow Cook setting).

I did a little research. Slow cookers typically cook at around 185°F (85°C). I can do that. I started the chicken cooking at about 225°F (107°C) until the liquid barely began to simmer. Then I reduced the heat to 185.

The USDA's recommended safe temperature at which to cook chicken is 165°F (74°C); so 185 is well above the danger zone. One pleasure of using the CF is the accuracy of its cooking temperatures. I occasionally checked the temperature of the liquid in the pan and I felt 100% safe with this chicken. The CF precisely maintained it at 185.

And now I am beginning to wonder if I need an Instant Pot. So far, everything I typically use my IP for I can do with a pan on my induction cooker. The IP is good for making yogurt because it has a program to sterilize the cooking vessel. However, yogurt is easily purchased here and it isn't expensive. I mostly use it in smoothies during warm weather.

So, I once again put my IP out in the shed to see how long I can go without it. However, I have ribs in the freezer and I know I'll want to pressure cook them to reduce the cooking time while keeping them moist and tender before finishing them in the air fryer. I can use my Kuhn Rikon PC, but the IP might be more convenient.

Voice-Overs

Little by little I am adjusting how I do cooking videos. I've written about it before. The induction cooker is an excellent appliance, but it has its drawbacks when it comes to video. There is fan noise when the appliance is operating and the magnetism can cause problems with my lavalier microphone.

For the last video I did — Chicken with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms — I used a little hand-held voice recorder to do the voice-overs. It worked, but the sound is a little tinny. My video camera's audio is much better, but I was concerned about using it for voice-overs because the video portion of each clip would also be saved. Video clips take up a lot of storage space and they would only be black.

A little experimenting solved the problem. Without going into the really boring technical details, I can record clips, export the audio, and then dump the clips. On Friday I edited the Sweet and Sour Chicken video featured this week on the web site and I am very pleased with the quality of the audio. And just to bore you a little with some numbers: The video clips were about 2GB. The audio was 5MB. The video used 400 times more space than the audio. I think I have a permanent solution.

What's Next?

I received a request for a complicated dessert. I haven't done any desserts in a while. I'm not a desserts kind of guy. I'm more of a savory entrée kind of person. However, I found a recipe for Chocolate Mousse that is flavored with whiskey. Intrigued, I've been studying it and if everything goes according to plan I might make it this week.

Or, a friend has been asking me to do a lamb stew. I sometimes think of my mother's beef stew. I know my twin brother would like me to video it. You already know I prefer lamb to beef. I did some research on YouTube and found a lamb stew that comes close to my mother's stew. She cut the vegetables into large 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces. So that might be my next video project, but I'll stress that beef can be used instead of lamb. My lamb videos are never popular on YouTube. Maybe I'll name it "Beef or Lamb Stew."

Finally, Shirts

I'm taking time off from tailoring shirts. There are two reasons: (1) I'm cooking more, and (2) I'm running out of buttons.

Wednesday 2022.1.5

I Did it Again

I filled the freezer. If I need a New Year's Resolution, I might have found one — to eat everything in the freezer before I take advantage of any more sales.

I vacuum sealed those seven beef back ribs, for some of which I made a marinade and for others I used up some of the rubs I had in the cupboard. The ribs are so large, I cut the rack into single bones. One should be enough for me if I also make some rice and cook a green vegetable.

I used the second beef tri-tip roast I bought to make another pot of Texas Beef Chili, which I portioned into ten 6-ounce servings and then heat-sealed those in plastic packets for freezing. I have enough chili to last me all winter and probably well into spring.

This week's feature recipe is Chicken with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms. I made enough for several servings; so I also portioned that into seven packets for freezing. I also put a dozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the freezer. And I saved the trim (skin and bones) for making more chicken stock.

I didn't have any of my favorite red meat in the freezer; so I bought a boneless leg of lamb at Costco. Yesterday I cut that into pieces weighing between three and four ounces each and put them, 17 in all, in the freezer. I like to slice lamb very thinly and sauté it with a little olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, and a little sugar. I spoon it over cooked rice.

There is very little room in my freezer. Even the bins on the door are full.

Next

On the desktop of my laptop computer there is a recipe for sweet and sour chicken. That was per a request. I also received a request this week to do another Chinese recipe in a cooking video.

The recipe calls for chicken wings. I really like chicken wings, but they're over-priced for what you get — mostly skin and bones. I've deboned wings, but that's a lot of work. What if I were to cut some of those chicken thighs I bought into strips, each about the size of a chicken wing piece, and cook them for the sweet and sour sauce?

If everything goes according to plan this week, that will be my next Mobile Home Gourmet video.

Landscaping

Someone has been parking temporarily on the edge of my yard. The wheels were on my sandstone and broke them and the mortar, pushing them down. There isn't a lot of damage, but it's enough. I'll need to chisel out the stones, clean them up, and redo the area as best I can. I'll probably need to buy a few more pieces of sandstone.

My neighbor has a small dolly. It was the perfect size to move some potted trees; so we moved three of my citrus trees to the edge of my yard to prevent people from parking there. After I fix the broken areas I'll move two more trees to fill the gaps. I have two empty planters and a Meyer lemon tree already. I want to add a lime tree.

Sunday 2022.1.2

Happy New Year!

And so another year begins. What surprises are in store for us this year? Another coronavirus variant wouldn't be a surprise. I think we should expect at least one. It's way too early to think about the mid-term elections coming in November, although I think most pundits expect the Republicans to take control of both chambers of Congress.

Have you made any New Year's Resolutions? I haven't; although, if I were to, I think it would be to do more cooking videos this year. I don't know that I can return to my activity in the past. I used to upload a new video every Sunday and it wasn't unusual to have as many as ten videos finished and tucked away for future uploads — and that's when I had a job and worked five days each week. Of course, back then I had a lot of vacation time. It was usual for me to work three or four weeks and then take a week off. In a single week I could easily shoot five videos.

I mentioned in earlier blogs my slowing down as my age advances. I can give you some numbers.

This past year I published only 9 videos.
In 2020 it was 20.
And in 2019 there were 43 videos.

I paid a price, maybe. 2018 was my last really good year on YouTube. This past year was worse than the previous two. It's difficult to name a culprit. Was it the lack of new videos? Or was it the pandemic? My channel doesn't generate revenue according to the popularity of my videos. I get a small percentage of YouTube's advertisement revenue. If some companies cut back on their advertising because the pandemic is causing them to lose money, then YouTube has less revenue to share.

Lately there have been delays in the supply line and the rise in inflation. How will those affect advertising? I'm keeping my expectations low for the new year.

Research

I don't have as many cookbooks as many cooks do, but I have more than enough. They're a good source of ideas for cooking videos. I learned something new, maybe more important as I get older: Don't get too many ideas.

It's too easy to find a dozen or more recipes I want to try. That becomes too overwhelming for me. Where do I begin? What do I buy? I learned the best method is to select only one recipe, study it, modify it, write it up for this web site, and then cook in front of the video camera before considering another idea. Even the longest journeys are completed only one step at a time.

Real Texas Chili

Meanwhile, a local grocery store had trimmed USDA Choice beef tri-tip roasts on sale for $4.99 per pound (regularly $9.99 per pound), limit two per customer while supplies last. That's half price. I had to call a friend because I don't know much about beef. He said the price was very good. I also told him I wanted to use the beef to make Real Texas Chili because he'll sometimes tell me not to, especially if the meat is a good quality steak, like USDA Prime rib eye, which he says would be blasphemy to use for chili.

Beef is beef to me. I know the difference between ground beef, steak and roast, but that's about it. I never was much of an authority on beef. I bought two roasts.

On Friday afternoon I made a pot of chili, using my pressure cooker and induction cooker. I used one of the two packages I bought because they were each a little over three pounds.

It was the best chili I ever tasted. I wrote one friend to say I gave this one an "11". Although the tri-tip was "Trimmed", there was a thin layer of fat on one side, the bottom, hidden in the package. I didn't mind. I cubed the meat anyway because beef fat can add a nice flavor to a dish (and one doesn't need to eat an entire quart of it in one sitting).

After enjoying a few very small servings (in ramekins) I put away ten servings in the freezer. The servings are a little small, six ounces each, because I plan to plate them over steamed rice. I've been eating beef chili that way every winter for many years. And I still have the other roast to use.

Impulse Buying

I'm not often guilty of an impulse purchase, but it happens. It did when I purchased that set of Hex Clad Skillets (which I returned for a full refund).

I was in Costco looking for lamb and I overheard two guys talking to a butcher about beef back ribs. As mentioned above, I don't know much about beef, although I can tell the difference between a cow, a pig and a lamb. They were saying how excellent the price was — $3.99 per pound. Intrigued, I had to ask those guys, "How do you cook the ribs?" They put them in a roasting pan with some liquid, cover them and roast them for an hour and 15 minutes. Then they either finish them on the grill or under the broiler, adding a little barbecue sauce toward the end. I bought a rack.

Again, I called my friend. What if I were to cook them in a pressure cooker and then finish them in the air fryer? I found one recipe online that said to cook them in an Instant Pot for only seven minutes, but most recipes say 30 minutes. My friend said to cook them only two or three ribs at a time, those being more than enough for one generous serving. So that's the plan.

It's a large rack — seven bones. So, as I've done with pork spareribs in the past, I'll probably section it into two-bone pieces (one three bones) and vacuum seal them in packets with a little marinade. Those will go into the freezer to enjoy when I feel like cooking ribs.

Shirts

Two done, maybe eight to go.