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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Sunday 2018.10.21

Heat

As expected (see Wednesday's blog entry), the weekend was warm. At about 12:30 yesterday, when I was going outside to ride my bike to the grocery store, the temperature was 95.5°F (35°C). When I came home I checked the lights inside of my computers. One will glow red when the central processing unit is overheating. It was red in both computers. I put the air conditioners on and within minutes the color changed back to white again. Phew!

I put ice in a glass, filled it with cold water, and sat down to watch some college football. And the good news is: Even with only 15% humidity, no fires were started in the area. I suspect the reason why is because there wasn't much wind.

Kitchen Vlog Video Planned

It arrived from China — the bulb for my microwave oven. I mentioned it in a previous blog (the first blog this month). It doesn't screw in like a normal light bulb. I'll need to take the microwave apart, at least take the cover off. You'd think they would make it simple, but I guess this is how they make extra money on service calls. This time the bulb was properly packaged. It was in a cardboard shipping carton, lined with rigid foam, and wrapped in soft foam.

And with a new video about to be recorded, I made my recent video — Singapore Soup — public. Although I blogged about it earlier, I'll include the link here again (because I don't have a lot to blog about this week):

Or CLICK HERE.

The response has been positive. Maybe I should do more soup videos. It's almost winter, a good time for enjoying soup.

Chicken Wings

I still plan to barbecue chicken wings in my new Weber grill. I went to the store on Thursday to buy the wings. They were out. I'll try again today. I am having lunch with friends tomorrow. I'll make the marinade in advance and if everything goes according to plan, I'll grill the wings on Tuesday and publish the video on Sunday.

Wednesday 2018.10.17

Demonetization Revisited

In an earlier blog post I mentioned that Google/YouTube demonetized a few of my videos. One was Calzones, which I re-edited and uploaded again. Shortly after making the video available to the public it was demonetized again. Grr.

A review can be requested, which I did, but one of the qualifications is that the video be viewed a minimum of 1,000 times in seven days. That ain't gonna happen. Most of my videos don't reach that number of views until after several months. However, there is one useful little caveat: If the video is "unlisted" it will be reviewed if the channel has at least 10,000 subscribers. I have more than twice that number.

It works. I don't even need to unlist the video first. The calzones video had been viewed 450 times when it was demonetized. I unlisted it and requested a review. Within 24 hours it was approved and monetized again, after which I changed it back to "public."

It was time for a little experiment. My Tiramisu video was also demonetized. That wasn't a popular video — less than 3,000 views since I uploaded it five years ago — but it was important to me because the holidays are coming up and people will be searching YouTube for dessert ideas.

I requested a review, but I wasn't expecting anything because the video was well below the 1,000 views per seven days threshold. It sat unreviewed for a few weeks. Then I unlisted it Sunday evening. On Monday morning it was approved and monetized again. Yippee!

I need to do a Kitchen Vlog about this.

Carpet Cleaning

My mobile home still has the original carpeting in two of the rooms. They weren't very clean when I bought this home, but I've kept them vacuumed well enough. One problem has been the fires during the past several years. Ash and soot falls out of the skies and unless one vacuums everyday, even several times a day, the ash makes its way into the carpets.

Costco recently advertised a temporary price reduction on one of their carpet cleaners:

You wouldn't attempt to use one of these to clean the entire carpeting in a 9x12 room, but for small spot cleaning it works well enough. I was mostly concerned about the area near the door. It gets the most traffic and the carpeting looked like it needed special cleaning. Vacuuming wasn't enough.

I don't know where the term "ProHeat" comes from. To the best of my knowledge the appliance does not heat the cleaning solution before spraying it onto the carpet. Maybe they qualify the title by letting you use hot tap water in the solution tank. Or mine wasn't working. However, the Bissell cleaned well enough. The carpet doesn't look new, and never will, but it does look a lot cleaner, and that's what matters to me.

To be honest, if you have a spray bottle, a scrub brush and a wet/dry shop vac you don't need this appliance. There is no motorized brush to assist in the scrubbing. I put this to the test, spraying cleaner on the rug, brushing, then removing most of the moisture with my wet/dry vac. Repeat as necessary. The result was the same. Therefore, and this probably won't come as a surprise, I brought the Bissell to the local Costco store and received a full refund.

Summer's Final Stand?

We are well into autumn now, but here in Southern California summer never goes very far away. That is why I typically wait until November before I disconnect my portable air conditioners. So far, the weekend is projected to be in the low- to mid-80's. Depending on what ultimately happens, I might need the air conditioners one more time.

Last year around this time the temperature rose to over 100°F (38°C). That was the day I bought my Pedego e-bike — a purchase I have never regretted.

The nights are getting colder — enough for the heat to come on early in the morning. I need to remember to close all the windows before going to bed.

As for the air conditioners, two will remain in place, but the windows adapters will come down and the exhaust hoses will be put out in the shed. The ACs will be drained, cleaned, and covered. One will be rolled into a closet. And that will be the final act to put this past summer into the history books.

Sunday 2018.10.14

My First Experience Grilling

I should qualify that subheading by admitting I used to occasionally cook on a grill where I lived about 30 years ago. I cooked mostly chicken and I used charcoal, not oak.

Wednesday afternoon I grilled a spatchcocked duck as planned. It was my first time using my new Weber grill. As expected, I learned a few lessons:

  1. Use more fuel. As Jake said, I don't grill over an inferno, but an inferno might have worked better. I didn't use enough wood. The coals diminished significantly before the duck's internal temperature rose above 120°F (49°C). I needed to get it up to around 160°F (71°C). I added wood twice, one or two chips at a time, but it still wasn't enough. Next time I'll load that chimney up with as much wood as will fit.
  2. Know when to close the grill and when to leave it open. I'm still learning. With the vents wide open top and bottom, there still wasn't enough oxygen flow to keep the fire burning (or maybe not enough fuel). The coals did okay, but the duck cooked very slowly over a few hours. I watched the temperature gauge and it rarely rose above 250°F (121°C) with the lid closed.
  3. Timing is everything. I watched some videos about grilling chicken wings, which I thought would cook in 5 minutes per side, and they grilled them at least 30 minutes per side, sometimes longer.
  4. Remember the microwave oven. As much as I hoped I wouldn't need to, I finally yielded to the inevitable and transferred the duck to a platter and nuked it in the microwave to finish the cooking.

I probably should have made a note about the start time. I think it was between noon and 1:00. At close to 5:00 I put the duck in the microwave. It looked good on the grill though.

The video is on YouTube. You can view it by clicking the graphic above, or CLICK HERE.

As for the final flavor, it was good enough to eat, but the meat was rubbery and chewy. To be honest, the potato salad was the better part of the meal. A fan of the web site quipped I shouldn't have attempted to grill a rubber duck.

So what about next time? I think something more traditional — maybe not as traditional as hamburgers and hotdogs, but not an exotic bird that might be better roasted in an enclosed pot in the oven. How about a big batch of marinated chicken wings? They certainly wouldn't need to cook for four hours.

How to Clean a BBQ Grill

I'm not a clean freak, nor am I a germaphobe, but I don't like food debris on my cooking things. That's one reason I don't like using the grills at parks. I bought a grill grate to use instead and I keep it clean. Even home grills sometimes gross me out. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about grilling and many of the grates were caked with debris. Is that normal?

And as a sidebar note: I saw more than one "grill master" use the same plate or tray his raw chicken was in, transferring the cooked chicken back to the wet container. Cross contamination?

After grilling that duck the Weber grate wasn't a terrible mess, but unless kept clean it would eventually be as black as a seasoned cast iron pan or crusty with old food. What to do?

I still had the original carton the grill came in. So I taped it closed and then carefully cut it in half all the way around to separate the top from the bottom. Then I lined one with a plastic drum liner (a large plastic bag) and placed the grill inside. Give it a good splash with degreaser and let it sit a while.

Most of the grill scrubbed clean easily. A few tough spots required a spray of oven cleaner. Again, let sit about 20 minutes, then scrub. There was one spot that was stubborn. Buffing with a metal polish removed it. Here is what it looked like after cleaning:

It's a lot of work, but cleanup is part of the task. As for the insides of the grill, I haven't figured that out yet. That's okay. I don't cook food in the bottom of the grill.

I'm not sure how a used chromed grill is supposed to look. My neighbor across the street thinks it should be seasoned like a frying pan, but I disagree. It wouldn't be chromed unless it was meant to sparkle. It would be like seasoning a stainless steel skillet. You wouldn't do that. A cast iron grill gate, however, should be seasoned. I season my cast iron cookware with flax oil because it has the highest concentration of something called alpha-linolenic acid, which polymerizes to give the iron its black finish.

Wings

I mentioned above that I thought my next grilling project should be something more traditional. I went shopping, or at least looking. Costco only has organic chicken wings at $2.59 per pound. Smart & Final has a value pack with a lot of wings, currently $2.29 per pound. That price is good through October 23. So I think I found my source of wings. I'll probably buy them tomorrow and grill them on Tuesday or Wednesday. I already have a marinade and BBQ sauce in mind, based on my Marinated Chicken Wings recipe.

Wednesday 2018.10.10

A Change in Plans

My new Weber grill still sits undisturbed in my shed. The most recent plan was to grill some spatchcocked (butterflied) chicken. Then I got another idea — spatchcocked duck, which also has an advantage.

I've had a duck in my freezer for a while. The freezer is getting full. Some of it is my own cooking or purchases; some of it is frozen meats I allowed a friend to store. More on him in a bit. So it seemed like a good opportunity to make some room by using the duck.

I researched grilled duck on the Internet and watched a few YouTube videos. It looks easy enough. And for those who might not want to cook a duck, a chicken would work equally as well. There is another advantage to the duck; it doesn't need to be cooked as thoroughly as a chicken. Therefore, if I should misjudge the time and temperature a little, I won't need to finish it in the microwave oven (which I've done with chicken).

So, today is the day. I thawed the duck. I prepared some potato salad I really like. I won't invite a neighbor to dinner because there is the possibility of failure. It's not very likely I would cremate the duck, but until I know what I'm doing I don't have enough confidence for there to be witnesses.

Fuel

Then there is the fuel issue. The split oak firewood I have isn't a pile of large logs, but they seem a little too big for my grill. They're better suited for a fire pit at a park. A neighbor uses oak in his grill; so I asked him what to do. He said he cuts the logs into shorter pieces using a circular saw and then splits those into chips with a hatchet.

It isn't pleasant work. The wood is so dry and hard it is difficult to split. I used a small sledge hammer to drive the hatchet through the wood after I cut it with my saw. This might give you an idea:

The angle isn't the best. The log at the top is thick. The pieces at the bottom are flat. A single piece of split oak might yield six to eight chips. My neighbor says two to three of those chips will probably be enough to cook a chicken.

Yesterday my grill gloves and tongs arrived. Here is what I ordered:

I'll use those heavy-duty tongs for shifting burning wood. I already have long (18 inch / 46cm) kitchen tongs I can use for the food. The gloves, well, a friend said I'd need those. They're supposed to be really heat resistant. I've seen grill masters wearing gloves when they poured the flaming charcoals from the starter chimney into the grill.

And another thing I learned from watching videos: Put the meat on the grill and leave it alone. A friend likes to pierce the meat in several places every 30 seconds to see how the internal temperature is doing, which I think might cause the juices to leak out. He also likes to slap the meat around on the grill to see the fat cause bright flareups, especially in the evening when it's dark. It looks dramatic. I had put some quality steaks on the grill and left them. When I turned them over later there were beautiful grill marks on them. Then he came along and slapped them around, obscuring the grill marks. Oh well. They still tasted good.

And, finally, the maillard reaction. I won't go into the chemistry (not that I learned it anyway), but the maillard reaction is the browning that happens on the outside of the food as it cooks. It doesn't seal in the juices, as some people believe, but it does add good flavor and an appetizing appearance. Imagine a steak that has been cooked sous vide to 128°F (53°C) and then plated. It would be a tender, rare piece of meat, but it would look pink. Toss it into a hot skillet for a minute or two to brown it and you have a delicious piece of steak.

Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon I made my Barbecue Sauce. However, before I added the tomato paste I put about half in a jar and set it aside to be the marinade for the duck. Then I finished the sauce for grilling. If you haven't tried my barbecue sauce yet, I recommend it. I love the flavor (as to those who have been exposed to it). I'm thinking of making a gallon, portioning it, sealing it in plastic pouches, and freezing it. That's more stuff in the freezer.

Those Frozen Meats

The friend I mentioned above is supposed to leave for Africa in a few weeks and be there for a while, maybe until after the first of the year. I'm making a new rule — any meats still in my freezer after he leaves for Africa are mine to roast, or grill, as I please.

Sunday 2018.10.7

Columbus Day

Tomorrow is Columbus Day. When I lived in Connecticut it was more of a big deal. I rarely hear it mentioned here on the West Coast. If I remember correctly, Columbus and his crew brought their sicknesses with them from Europe and that almost wiped out many of the indigenous tribes living along the East Coast of North America. So, happy Columbus Day.

Christmas Baking

It's way too early to think about Christmas recipes, but I watched several baking videos on YouTube. One reason is that my brother's wife wants me to do a recipe for pecan cookies, something my mother made each Christmas.

One feature that always strikes me is the look of the kitchens on YouTube. Big kitchens with granite counter tops, large stainless steel appliances, six-burner stoves, beautiful cabinets, and lots of decorations with a feminine touch. I feel a little pleased with myself (but not smug about it) that my channel does fairly well even though I do all my cooking in a humble kitchen in a mobile home. However, my counter tops are Corian, which the previous owner installed. So I'm not exactly slumming.

As I mentioned last month, part of my plan is to have recipes on YouTube for those who might be planning their Christmas baking. So this week's feature recipe is a re-edit of an old video about making Croissants, now called Crescent Rolls. As I mentioned, YouTube had marked the original as inappropriate for all advertisers. Someone said Google doesn't like foreign words. Maybe "Croissants" is a bad word. I don't know. The Crescent Rolls video has been on YouTube for two weeks and so far it hasn't been flagged as inappropriate.

Grilling

My new Weber grill still sits in the shed, unused, but not forgotten. I thought I might want to grill some spareribs on it, but someone reminded me those take a long time. It might not be a good idea for a first project.

I've been researching grilled spatchcocked chicken. For those unfamiliar, spatchcocking is the process of cutting out the back bone and then spreading the chicken out flat, like a big steak. Some cooks also remove the breast bone, sometimes called the "keel." The idea is to shape the chicken in such a way that it will cook evenly and quickly. I think I will buy two at Costco, grill them, and then later pull all the meat off to repackage for my Minute Meals.

Oriental Cooking

Jonathan in Singapore sent me some seasoning packets that I've been thinking about for quite a while. I'm not familiar with this type of cooking; so I took some time to research ideas. I ended up making a soup with one of the packets — actually half the ingredients inside. And I videoed my experience.

The soup was pretty good. I like vegetables, so I used a lot, and I cooked some chicken as well. Here is a photo:

Although the video is currently "unlisted" on YouTube (I'll make it public later), you can watch it now by clicking the graphic above, or CLICK HERE. I didn't know what to call it for the video, so I named it Singapore Soup.

There are a couple more packets. I am setting them aside for further experimentation. One I'd like to use with shrimp. Another packet, a Knorr product, might be good with the spatchcocked chicken I mentioned above, either for marinade or as a starter for a barbecue sauce.

Rear Hatch Lift Struts

This week I also replaced the lift struts in the rear hatch of my SUV. If you have an old SUV you know the problem. The rear hatch won't stay up anymore; so you keep a stick in the back to hold it up. My Nissan Pathfinder is a 1993. Although it has only 68,000 miles on it (I prefer to bike rather than drive), it's old. Parts wear out even when the car sits in my driveway.

I looked on Amazon and struts for my make and model of SUV are available, and they're only about $19 for the pair. That's a good price; so I ordered two. They were a lot easier to install than assembling a Weber grill. I videoed the process. That video is also currently unlisted on YouTube, but you can watch it now by clicking this graphic:

Or CLICK HERE. I'll make the video public in a week or two.

And, Finally, Something Political

I wonder if Saturday, October 6, 2018 will go down in history as the day justice died in the USA. With the Supreme Court now weighted in favor of the Republicans, there seems little point in finding Trump or his associates guilty of any conspiracy with the Russians. The same can be said for the American oligarches who fund Republican campaigns. They can simply appeal to the Supreme Court and be declared innocent.

Wednesday 2018.10.3

A Change in the Weather

We've been expecting rain here, early for the rainy season, which doesn't officially begin until next month. It's the remnants of the tropical storm Rosa that tracked across Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, then moved northward into the Pacific Southwest region of the USA. It was supposed to start raining yesterday, but that was changed to "partly sunny" by the weather forecasting people. Today there is a 70% probability of showers with thunderstorms possible in the afternoon.

I woke up to the sound of rain this morning. We've had some light rain so far, which has watered my landscaping. It needed it. And from the appearance of the weather radar, it looks like it might rain all day.

And I also find it amusing that I finally buy a barbecue grill, then it rains. I'm thinking of buying a rack of spareribs at Costco. I read somewhere that the membrane is already removed. That would make things easier.

I've seen videos of the "snake method" for slow cooking. Arrange a long line of charcoal briquettes around the inside of the grill, covering nearly the entire circumference. Then light one end. It slowly burns, igniting the next few briquettes in the line, slowly working its way around to the other end, which provide a long cooking time at relatively low heat. It seems effective and interesting, but I have a load of oak.

What if I were to arrange a line of split oak around the sides, start one end burning by using one of my paraffin starter briquettes, and close the vents most of the way to keep the flames relatively low. It might be worth a try.

Weber Grill

Yesterday I shot a pickup I needed to finish the video of the assembly of the Weber Grill. Most of the video was fine, but when I attached the wheels that step was out of frame. I was able to fake a closeup that worked well enough.

Here is the link to the video:

Or CLICK HERE.

I doubt it will be a popular video on YouTube because it's the full assembly — no short cuts, no fast forwards. The length after editing is about 32 minutes. I concluded the video with my final thoughts on the assembly. I don't recommend the average person attempt this project without the help of a mechanic who knows his/her way around a tool box (or maybe a support group). It is not as simple as replacing a light bulb.

And Speaking of Light Bulbs…

I was hoping to video a second Kitchen Vlog this week because the bulb for my microwave oven arrived. It isn't a simple installation, like screwing a bulb into your conventional oven. It requires removing the cover.

I looked at instruction videos on YouTube. You remove a few screws, take the cover off, and replace the bulb somewhere in the top of the electronics. If I can build computers I can change a light bulb.

However, when I opened the package the bulb was broken. The little box was crushed. It should have been packaged in a shipping carton, not a padded envelope. I immediately filed for a refund on Amazon and dropped the package off at the local UPS Store. I logged onto Amazon and the price of the bulb had increased $2, and I would have needed to spend another $25 to get free shipping. Forget it.

I ordered another bulb, but from a different supplier — the product ships by a vendor other than Amazon but the order is fulfilled by Amazon. The price was less than half with shipping. From the delivery estimate, two weeks to one month, it is probably coming from China. I can wait.

Meanwhile…

The support struts for my SUV's rear hatch arrived. I'll do a video of that installation when the weather clears. And I ordered some BBQ gloves and tongs. I'll leave my kitchen tongs in the kitchen. The BBQ tongs look like they'll work well for moving burning logs as well as turning food on the grill.