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JANUARY 2017

Sunday 2017.1.29

A Funny Thing Happened at Costco

I was in the local Costco store on Friday evening, mostly browsing because there wasn't much I needed. (I went in there to buy cans of sardines — a good source of protein.) A sausage company had a stand set up, one of those "road show" features you often see at the store. I was admiring their electric rotary slicers. These are the big commercial machines that cost thousands of dollars. One of the vendors and I started talking and he mentioned how much he loves watching cooking videos on YouTube. I told him I have more than 260 videos and gave him my card. He recognized my little blue and white camper graphic and said he remembered seeing my videos. That was the first time I ever met anyone who watched my YouTube channel.

And Speaking of Videos…

I wasn't sure if I would have a video to upload this morning. In last week's video I mentioned having injured my back and maybe taking some time off to let myself fully recover. I have been doing better, mostly because I try to move each day, walking around and limbering up my muscles. It accelerates healing.

As mentioned in Wednesday's blog, someone requested I do Fettuccine Alfredo. I really liked the idea because: 1) It would be really easy to do, 2) making pasta from scratch is fun (but you can purchase the dry fettuccine in stores), and 3) I really like making sauces, especially if I can start with a roux.

So, even though my back is not 100% healed, I chose to shoot the video on Friday. I did exercise some care, lest I strain it again. I sat during some of the video takes when I was fully off camera, such as when cooking at the stove or when washing dishes or waiting for the water to come to a boil. The video turned out great.

The only unsatisfactory piece was the plating. Thankfully, I had plenty of sauce; so yesterday I cooked up more fettuccine and carefully planned and photographed the pasta in a bowl. Having that extra amount of time made some difference. The final photograph, though far from perfect and certainly not as good as many professional food photographers might do, was far better and good enough for my humble little web site.

Although the photograph is on the home page, I am duplicating it here because I want it to be a permanent part of this blog when it goes into the archives this week. Today is the last blog of the month; so I'll be starting a new blog on Wednesday.

Fettuccine Alfredo

I have never been very good at photographing a bowl of noodles. Maybe the picture is fine, and maybe it's the disorganization of the fettuccine in the bowl, or maybe it's the sloppy way the sauce spreads on the pasta. I don't know. I do know that white sauce on white pasta is even worse; so I know enough to use noodles with color. This is spinach tagliatelle. As for the plate of food: It tasted very good. I like Alfredo sauce.

Weather

The situation here in Southern California continues to improve. As the land slowly drains its water into the reservoir, the volume continues to increase, albeit slowly. It increased to 12.5% as of yesterday. There is still a long way to go to reach capacity, but more rain is expected later this week and the rainy season is far from over.

Wednesday's Vlog

I don't have a vlog video ready yet for Wednesday, but I'm thinking of talking about why I never signed up for Amazon Prime. A neighbor friend and I talked about it recently. He loves Prime, but I can't justify the cost. Maybe the vlog will upset a few people, but I don't vlog to gain fans (made obvious by the fact that the channel has only 21 subscribers).

And speaking of my channel: I'm thinking of starting another YouTube channel. In the first blog of this month I mentioned I might want to talk about the news in my vlogs. I'm thinking a separate channel. I tried a test vlog and it received the response I expected: Few views and one person commenting that he agreed on a few things and disagreed with most points. Yep. That's how it should be.

Wednesday 2017.1.25

Feeling Much Better

My back continues to heal. Monday I got through the day without any ibuprofen. I also started to walk a lot more around my home. I couldn't do it without a little assistance — I held onto the back of an office chair for support as I pushed it in front of me. Getting up on my legs really helped. Yesterday started with a step backward — more pain and a return to analgesics. However, I still did a fair amount of walking. Sitting is the only problem now. Getting out of a chair is painful.

I learned something new earlier this week. I did some research on muscle spasms, which are my greatest source of pain, and I learned that dehydration contributes to spasms. I certainly wasn't taking in enough fluids. I could only drink a few sips of my morning coffee before I quit. Pain was making me feel nauseous and I didn't want to eat or drink anything. After learning about dehydration, I started forcing myself to drink water. The spasms came less often and were less severe. That was one of the developments that helped me stand up and do some walking.

Also, staying in bed is not good after the first day or two. The body stiffens up and any movement is painful. So I have been forcing myself to move. I started each day rolling around my home in an office chair. Then I move toward standing and walking while holding onto the back of the chair. Finally, by the afternoon I could walk without assistance. The following morning it started all over again. Now I can walk without assistance in the morning.

More Reason to Love My New TV

I've mentioned it before. I had been living in the Dark Ages. Most people probably take for granted the ability to record TV shows. I had an old cable box that didn't have a recorder.

Last week was the Santos Tour Down Under, a seven-day cycling race around the city of Adelaide in Australia. I wasn't able to sit and watch some of the stages, or I wasn't able to sit very long. I recorded them.

This tour is the beginning of the cycling season, which starts in the Southern Hemisphere where it is summer. The races will move to the north and, I think, culminate in the Tour de France in July. Richie Porte won the Santos Tour. The commentators said he is being groomed to possibly win the Tour de France. I'm looking forward to it because I like Porte.

Rain

Monday was the last of the latest rainy period. The third of three storms drove through. You might have seen the reports of flooding, mudslides, and trees down in various parts of Southern California. A camp ground several miles up the coast from here suffered damage and some people had to be rescued. Sadly, five fatalities were reported in connection with this storm.

On the positive side, the rain contributed greatly to the reservoirs in the southern part of the state. Our reservoir improved from less than 9% to 11.9% capacity as of this morning. The reservoir up river is now full — reporting 100.8% capacity. As I mentioned before, when that reservoir reaches maximum capacity the excess water spills over the dam and adds to our reservoir. So the next few storms, when they arrive, should improve our reservoir considerably.

We're now looking forward to at least a week of pleasant sunshine, a time to dry out a little. There are no predictions when the next storm(s) might arrive. It's still early in the rainy season, which ends in May; so there is still time for added improvement.

Requests

I've often mentioned that I like to fulfill requests in my videos. It takes a little of the pressure off when trying to come up with new ideas. Thankfully someone requested a blessedly simple recipe — Fettuccine Alfredo. I really like the flavor of Alfredo sauce. The pasta is especially easy if you buy it in the store, but I will make my own because it's more fun.

And, Finally, Vlogging

I uploaded my latest Kitchen Vlog to YouTube this morning. A fan of my vlogs asked me to talk about my choice to live in a mobile home. He is a young man, with his own vlogs, and he is considering different living choices. He is curious about mobile home living. His name is Linus and he has an enviable voice, what we used to call a network voice — crisp enunciation. He is also erudite and intelligent.

His vlogging style is very different from mine — lots of very quick cuts. I try to vlog in all one take, no cuts. When there is a cut (there is one in this week's vlog) it is usually to remove a mistake (I said "one hundred thousand" when I meant to say "one million"). If you're curious, here is a link to his vlog channel: RETOOLIST.

So, this week's vlog is about how I came to live in a mobile home in a trailer park. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2017.1.22

Happy Chinese New Year…

…unless you're not Chinese; in which case, happy any ordinary Sunday of the year. The day probably has some other important significance. It seems like every month, week, or day is assigned something special now. Maybe it's Be Kind to Garden Gnomes week or Save the Waves month.

As you can see by the Featured Recipe this week, I did make the Chinese Dumplings AKA Pot Stickers. It was the first time I did a cooking video sitting down. I can stand and walk, as long as I don't do too much of it. I think making the Frosted Pineapple Squares last week put too much stress on my back. Depending on how much prep time a video might require, I could spend several hours on my feet. My back wasn't fully healed from the previous injury; so standing for a long time aggravated it and the result was, well, worse this time.

There is one advantage to this week's cooking video project. The final photography is already done. As I said in Wednesday's blog, this video is a re-make of one I did nearly six years ago. The final photograph of a bowl filled with steaming dumplings is good enough. After six years of food photography, I'm sure I could do a better photo. But with a sore back, I'm content with the picture I already have. It looks fine to me. So, the elimination of final photography made this project a little easier.

Also the recipe is a fairly easy one. The one time-consuming procedure is stuffing all those dumplings. According to the recipe I wrote nearly six years ago, I made 58 dumplings that time. This time I only made enough for the demonstration. The remainder of the filling went into the refrigerator. Using one of the cheats I demonstrate in the video — egg roll wrappers — I've been making a few each day to enjoy until the filling is used up.

As for future projects, I'm switching to wait-and-see mode. After more than a week I'm still struggling. The situation with my back is not improving, at least not to my satisfaction. I've been through this enough times to know what to expect. After a few days I feel well enough to walk around, albeit carefully. I was able to shop for the ingredients to make the dumplings. But now things are getting worse. Yesterday morning it took 30 minutes to get out of the bedroom. This morning was better, but how much difference can a day make? I'll give it another week. If I don't see improvement, I'll see a doctor.

So, there might not be any new Featured Recipes or YouTube uploads for a while. I'll try to blog, but even that is not easy because it can be uncomfortable sitting in this office chair.

Stormy Weather

The weather continues to improve or deteriorate, depending on how you look at it. Today is the third of three storms that were expected. It is supposed to be the worst. Some areas could see three to five inches of rain. Urban street flooding is expected to cause problems. Mudslides are possible, but hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen. Several years ago a hillside came down not too far from here. It buried a house with a mother and four daughters in it while the father was walking down to the corner store to buy ice cream for his family. I think the greater tragedy was that they had been warned of the danger, but decided to tough it out.

This time a camp ground up the coast suffered a mudslide during the second of the three storms. There were no fatalities, but a few buildings and several cars were damaged or destroyed.

On the positive side, much of California might soon declare the drought has ended in their districts. Some state resource management agency folks want to wait until the end of the rainy season in May before making any final declaration. Where I live the situation improved marginally. With the second storm the reservoir finally reached 10% capacity. Better yet, the reservoir up river is now more than a third full. It's a small one that fills and empties quickly.

With each storm the local reservoir improves by only one or two tenths of a percent. It might take several of these rainy seasons to see it full again.

A Possibly Amusing Observation

A week or so ago I blogged about buying some boxes of "equal" sugar substitute packets from the Clearance racks at a local store. The price, originally $25.99, had been marked down to $6.49, 75% off. This week I noticed a box is still there, but the price has been marked back up to $25.99 again. Maybe it wasn't a clearance item after all. I'm glad I bought two cartons when the price was low.

Wednesday's Vlog

The vlog video is done. If I get it edited, it will be (by request) about how I came to live in a mobile home in a trailer park.

Wednesday 2017.1.18

The Struggle Continues

If you read Sunday's blog you won't be surprised to learn that the first part of this week was a struggle. The sprained back didn't heal quickly. So, how did all this begin?

It all goes back to my teenage years. When boys grow rapidly during their adolescent stage of life they stumble and maybe fall down a lot. It's because the legs are a lot longer. Think of a triangle in the shape of a pyramid. The two sides are equal. The length of base depends upon the angle at the top, between the two sides. Lengthen the two sides without changing the angle and the base becomes longer.

Now imagine walking. You put your foot in front of you for the next step. The angle at your pelvis and the length of your two legs determines the length of your stride, the base of the triangle. So, when the legs start getting a lot longer, suddenly the stride is too long for walking down a flight of stairs. You miss a step and tumble down the stairs. That's what happened to me. I fell down a flight of stairs and injured my back.

Much later, a doctor in the hospital explained it to me (I was in the hospital several years later because I had hurt my back and couldn't walk). He said there is scar tissue in the back muscles and that means less of the muscle is available to do the work of holding me up. Fewer muscle fibers need to carry the load, and they can thus become fatigued easily. Too much strain on the back means an injury finally happens — the muscle tears.

I've been dealing with it most of my life. It doesn't sprain often, maybe once every five to ten years. When it happens I know what to do. Immediately relax and drop to the floor or ground. That minimizes the injury.

A few times, however, the injury is serious enough to prevent me from standing. Mornings are the worst. I need to crawl to the bathroom on my hands and knees. However, during the day I push myself to move a lot and the exercise slowly limbers up my back to the point where I can stand on my own two feet again. (It also accelerates the healing.) I can walk well enough, although stooped over, to prepare meals, get my mail, and otherwise function. Thanks to my Minute Meals, I have plenty of food in the freezer. Heating is easy in the microwave oven. So, trips to the store are unnecessary.

It takes several days, but little by little (longer, now that I am a lot older), the back heals and life goes back to normal. I can stand, walk (albeit carefully), sit, and lie down. Getting up out of a chair remains the most difficult challenge. I'll be much better next week. Yesterday, for the first time, I left the house to go shopping. I felt well enough to walk around the store with a shopping cart in front of me for support.

I had to do the shopping because someone asked me to do a remake of my Chienese Dumplings (Pot Stickers) video. Sunday is the Chinese New Year celebration, and I have a good story to go with that.

For many years I had Chinese friends here. They since moved back to China, where he is a professor. They would invite me to their New Year celebrations. The traditional food was pot stickers, which they call dumplings. The folklore is that each dumpling is a little packet of good luck. The more you eat, the more luck you will have during the new year. Therefore, the only food they serve during the evening celebration is dumplings, all you can eat.

My friend's wife is secretive about her recipes. However, I figured out this one. I've made these dumplings many times. The date on my recipe is April 2010; so it's time to do an update. Look for it on Sunday (if everything goes according to plan). The challenge is my back. It will take a lot longer to set up for a video, and I may need to do this one sitting down.

More Rain

One reason I did the shopping yesterday is because it is supposed to start raining again later today. I think everyone in the world knows by now that we have been struggling through five years of severe drought. Last year was supposed to be the Godzilla El Niño event, copious rains. Northern California did well, but because of a stubborn high pressure ridge in the Northern Pacific Ocean near Canada, weather was directed away from Southern California. That ridge is now gone; so although this year is not an El Niño year, we are finally getting some much needed rain.

The first of three storms is expected to arrive this evening. Another on Friday and the third on Sunday. So far, each subsequent storm is predicted to be stronger, dropping more rain. The third storm could bring three to five inches of rain — good for the reservoir, but bad for flooding and mud slides. Our reservoir is currently at 9.2% capacity.

Today's Kitchen Vlog

In today's vlog I answer a question about my retirement. Some might find the story amusing, maybe even a little impressive. Others might think I am boasting. What happened is true. I am proud of what I accomplished. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog

Or [CLICK HERE].

Sunday 2017.1.15

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Some days just don't work out. Yesterday morning I hurt my back again. I wasn't doing anything strenuous, just standing up from a sitting position. Standing most of the day Friday, doing a cooking video, was probably too much strain on my back. Then it doesn't take much to turn a strain into a sprain. So, there almost wasn't a new Feature Recipe and YouTube video to upload today. I wasn't able to stand to shoot the final photographs I needed to finish the project.

Maybe I should have shot a video of myself moving around my home in an office chair. It has wheels. I did all the final photography sitting down, including cutting the Pineapple Squares, plating them, and setting up for the photographs.

There is one advantage to all the movement. The more I move, the easier it becomes. After about an hour of effort with the photographs and the chair, I was finally able to stand up — hunched over, but at least on my own two feet. I delivered two plates of Squares to two neighbors. (If I hadn't been able to walk, the food would have gone in the trash, and I hate to waste food.)

Been Busy

I am managing to barely keep ahead of the weekly uploads to YouTube. I need to look through my binder of possible recipes and find some easy ones I can do and set aside to put backup projects in the vault.

Friday I made the Frosted Pineapple Squares featured today. It became a two-day project because there wasn't enough good light to shoot the final photographs. I like to work with natural lighting, but the sun was going down. So yesterday I did the photographs, as mentioned above. The delay on Friday was because I had to do part of the recipe a second time. I know I should read the directions before I start shooting a clip. I have the sheet of paper taped to the wall of my kitchen. But I jumped ahead, thinking I knew what I was doing, and when the ingredients didn't go together correctly, I knew why. So everything in the bowl went into the trash and I started again. Thankfully, I didn't need to go to the store to buy more ingredients. But it delayed me enough to miss the afternoon sunlight.

I don't like rushing, but lately I've been too distracted by a new TV and home theater sound system. Add to that the problem with my back and I haven't wanted to do much at all. I don't like taking pills; so it's a big deal when I swallow a couple ibuprofen.

However, I'm pleased with the Pineapple Squares. It was a request from someone who remembered her mother or grandmother making them from a recipe in a Fleischmann's yeast cookbook published in 1961. I like those old recipes. They bring back memories of my childhood. I was ten years old in 1961. However, they are challenging too.

First, try to find those recipes. I searched on the Internet. One recipe was incomplete. Another listed the can of crushed pineapple wrong — 1 lb. 4 oz. is 20 ounces, not 30. Second, the writers of the original recipes expected home cooks to know what they were doing. People cooked more back then; so there wasn't the need to explain every little detail. The home cook knew what a cup of sifted flour was — sifted, not scooped nor spooned. Third, things are different today. Many of those old bread recipes called for "scalded" milk. You'd heat milk to near boiling, remove it from the heat, then let it cool. That was to kill any bacteria that might be in the milk. Today, milk is pasteurized, or even ultra-pasteurized. It's the same heating process. That's why a carton of milk can last four to six weeks in the refrigerator; whereas, fresh milk back then might be good for a week.

All those little challenges make old recipes fun to decode and rewrite. The Pineapple Squares turned out well enough. However, layering a pineapple filling between two layers of bread, sort of like a pineapple sandwich, isn't my idea of the best dessert, even with frosting on top. I'd rather bake two thin yellow cakes, layer them with the pineapple filling, and then frost. However, the squares were good enough to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea, which is how I ate them (the few I kept for myself).

Frosted Pineapple Squares

Although the same photograph is on the home page, I'm including it here so that it will become part of the Blog Archive. As far as photographs go, it ain't bad for being unable to get out of a chair.

My Next Kitchen Vlog

At least the vlog is done. One less thing to worry about. Someone wanted to know what kind of a job I retired from; so I talked about the type of work I did and how I got into it. The vlog might be a little on the boastful side, but it really is true. Look for it on Wednesday.

Wednesday 2017.1.11

I Learned Something New Today

I was scanning through one of my America's Test Kitchen (ATK) cookbooks and saw a recipe for Manicotti. I know what the pasta is: It's a large dry tube. They are available in stores; although, trying to find a box in which all the pieces are unbroken can be a challenge.

I also know what stuffed pasta tubes are: Cannelloni. I have a recipe in the Archive. You can make cannelloni by either stuffing manicotti pasta tubes or by using flat pasta sheets into which you roll up the filling. I prefer the latter method.

So what is ATK's recipe for Manicotti? Looking deeper, it turned out to be the common eroneous name often applied to cannelloni. I wrote to a food friend from Italy for clarification.

She wrote to say the distinction is lost in America, and sometimes in Italy as well. Manicotti, she says, means "big sleeves." They are pasta shells. I was correct about cannelloni — filling rolled up in a pasta shell. But there is another Italian dish that is similar, but made without the pasta. She says it is crespelle (creh • SPEL • leh).

That sent me to my books. All the "Italian" cookbooks that originated in the USA have no mention of crespelle. English translations of Italian cookbooks contain recipes.

Crespelle means crêpe, the very thin pancakes we often think of as French. They are both easy and challenging to make. You prepare the batter and then let it rest for an hour or longer, preferably overnight. This allows the bubbles to float to the top and escape. That's the easy part. To cook, you ladle a small amount of the batter into a little frying pan, or crêpe pan, and swirl it to coat the bottom evenly (that's the challenging part), then cook briefly until it starts to brown around the edges. Then flip and cook briefly.

Unbeknownst to me, I have a recipe for crespelle in the recipe archive: Shrimp Crêpes. They are made the same way as the Italian method and are draped with Bèchamel sauce, which is also traditional.

From one of my books I also learned that cannelloni are supposedly a recent addition to Italian gastronomy. They are not mentioned in any cookbooks prior to the mid-1800s. It is only in the books of the twentieth century that they make their full appearance. That sent me to another book.

In The Fine Art of Italian Cooking author Giuliano Bugialli goes to great lengths to authenticate true original Italian recipes (and prove that the French stole their cuisine from Italians). He's amusing. However, on page 616 there is a photograph of a "recipe from an early fourteenth-century Florentine manuscript, for crespelle or crespe (crêpes)." I can't read fourteenth-century Italian. See if you can find it.

Manuscript

He includes a recipe for dessert crêpes in his book.

So, I returned to the ATK cookbook and read more thoroughly. The recipe does not mention cannelloni, or crêpes. However, more correctly, the food they made are true cannelloni, not manicotti. My Italian friend is, as usual, correct. The distinction between manicotti and cannelloni is lost on Americans.

More to Learn

The mention of the ATK cookbooks brought up another issue. A fan of the web site wrote to ask about brining chicken. He tried everything from one hour, overnight, to 24 hours and he couldn't detect any difference. Did I recommend it?

I know ATK brines their poultry. They do it a lot. Somewhere I even joked they brine their mail. So I dug into their books.

Any effect on chicken will be achieved in 30 minutes. Brining longer is a waste of time. They did tests on turkeys and found that brined birds held more moisture during roasting, making for a juicier and more flavorful turkey.

In one of my videos (I forget which one) I experimented with brined chicken. As I remember, the chicken was a little more tender. I don't know that it was worth the waiting time.

I wrote back to the fan and told him what I found. I finished by saying that I think a good bourbon sauce might be more desirable.

Reservoir

I often mention the rain and our reservoir in these blogs. I found some pictures of the lake. The first is from October 2013 when it was nearly full. The second was taken yesterday. They have a live cam there.

Reservoir 2013

Reservoir 2016

We're inching up. The latest rains helped. We are currently at 131% or normal-to-date rainfall and the lake is at 8.7 capacity.

One interesting statistic: The reservoir up-river has not been reporting any capacity for several months. It has been empty. This week it started reporting again, 7.5% capacity. We like to see that one full because any overflow goes into our reservoir.

And, Finally, Today's Kitchen Vlog

This vlog will upset a few people. I say some things about animals. I know how people love their pets. They are little furry people (the pets, not the owners). I have some theories about that, but best to keep those to myself. Here's the link:

Vlog 011

Or CLICK HERE.

This is the last of my ready vlogs. I need to video more.

Sunday 2017.1.8

Deal of the Century

Okay, maybe not the century, but the first good bargain of 2017. I buy the box of Splenda packets at Costco. It's sucralose. I use it in my coffee. The last time I checked, a box of 1,000 was $20.29. On the way home from lunch on Thursday I stopped at the local Smart & Final (S&F) store for some half and half (also for my coffee). I always check their Clearance rack because sometimes you find a great bargain.

Case in point: Last year I saw some three-bar packages of Camay soap, the large bars. They were half off. I bought all they had, nine packages. They are more than 50% larger than the bar soap I typically purchase at Costco, and they cost less per bar. I'll take advantage of a deal like that.

So I looked at the Clearance rack and there were cartons of "equal" sucralose packets, 2,000 in the box. The artificial sweetener commonly sold as Equal is aspartame; so this must be a different brand. Aspartame is typically in blue packets, sucralose in yellow; these are yellow

S&F sells many retail items in common household sizes, but they also stock many items for the commerical food service industry. Anyone can buy them; you don't need a restaurant license. I looked at the "Good if used by" date on the box — 10/15/19. And it's sucralose. It would probably last nearly as long as honey.

The regular price is $25.99. However, the clearance price was only $6.49. That's 75% off! I bought a box. And, I went back later and bought another one. I'm glad I did. Others saw the savings too and bought some. There was only the one box remaining when I went back. I have enough packets now to last for years. I only drink two to three cups of coffee per day. Do a little math:

365 x 3 = 1,095
4,000 packets should last four years. I'm set for a while.

I Love My Neighbors

I might have spoiled my neighbors. It's amausing. When they drive by my home now they slow down and look to see if my blackout drapes are covering the windows. Natural lighting changes throughout the day; so for consistent lighting when shooting a video I use studio lights in my kitchen and block out the outside light with special drapes.

Some of my neighbors know when they see the blackout drapes that I am inside doing a cooking video. That usually means food being walked up the street to them because I often can't eat all that food, and it often doesn't freeze well.

I've been seeing my neighbors looking lately because it has been raining this week and I have all the curtains open. I like watching it rain.

There were two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, when the windows were covered. I was making the Posole I wrote about in Wednesday's blog. However, no one received any of it. Why not? Because it was too awful to give away? No. It was incredibly delicious. And it is soup, or more like a stew, and those freeze well. This was one of those times when the food was so good, I didn't want to part with any of it. I put ten generous portions away to be enjoyed later throughout the winter. Posole is great stuff.

No one has said anything yet, but I'm expecting at least one neighbor to ask, "Have you done any cooking videos lately?"

Rain

This might be the winter we have been hoping for. I've been reading weather projections in the news. Some, like The Los Angeles Times, are predicting this could be the wettest season in many years. Northern California is already doing well. They are well above their historic average rainfall this season. Here in Southern California we are still coping with the drought. We're doing okay currently at 100% normal-to-date rainfall.

One projection said we could see the most rain here since the 1960s, a record rain season. I know better than to get excited. Last winter was an El Niño event. The meteorologists were anticipating copious rains. Almost no rain fell here in SoCal.

It rained yesterday and heavier rains are expected tonight. It's something they call the "pineapple express" because it is an atmospheric river of moist air coming up from the region around Hawaii. They can cause devastating destruction with floods and mud slides if the weather system stalls. The front, however, is expected to move through during the night and tomorrow we'll see rains tapering off to scattered showers. I'm okay with that.

Meanwhile, yesterday evening very brief thunder storm passed through. Those are rare enough here in SoCal to be an exciting event. It really was brief, a very narrow band of thunder a lightning with a short period of heavy rain. It was enough to enjoy.

However, with two fairly new computers and a new home entertainment system, I didn't take any chances. Even though everything is plugged into surge protectors, I unplugged all the protectors from the wall outlet. I don't think my stuff was in any danger. The storm wasn't intense and it was gone quickly.

Wednesday's Kitchen Vlog

I'm running out of vlogs too. I only have one left, which I'll try to upload on Wednesday. It might upset a few pet owners, but there is some truth to it. I read a news story this past week about a dog that mauled its owners when they tried to put a sweater on it. Some dogs really don't like to wear clothes.

Wednesday 2017.1.4

Odd Request

Those who follow my blog know that I often do a video by request. This week's Feature Recipe, Flautas, fulfilled two requests — taquitos (AKA flautas) and a request to do more cooking in my pressure cooker.

The odd request came from a professional chef. Make Posole, which is a Mexican soup made with meat (usually pork), beans, and hominy. Note: a professional chef. That intrigues me because what am I? I never went to culinary school. I am a retired database professional who lives in a mobile home in a trailer park. I have a kitchen and a video camera. And I can cook. But I am certainly no professional.

I know a professional chef wouldn't look to me as an authority, but I do understand. Many chefs might specialize in one type of cooking. Chefs in seafood restaurants are probably not specialists in something like Pasta Fagioli. I, on the other hand, am not a specialist in Mexican food. I don't even like most of it. I grew up in New England. My mother was Italian American. Her parents were from Italy. So my favorite food continues to be Italian, but I do try to branch out.

Posole, however, appealed to me because this is winter. I like to eat soups in winter. I keep plenty of frozen chicken stock in my freezer for that purpose. Hominy is a different issue. I've never tasted it. The label on the can doesn't appeal to me. What is it? I had to look it up in one of my encyclopedias. "One of the first food gifts American Indians gave to the colonists." It's a kind of processed corn. The hull and germ of the kernel are removed and the bit leftover is often dried.

Today cooked hominy is sold here in Southern California in cans. In the Southern United States it is sold dried and ground and is used for making grits. I grew up in New England, where the colonists first settled; so maybe hominy is more native to me than I realized. I am supposedly part Native American; a tribe named Nipmuc. They were an Eastern Massachusetts tribe that would have lived among the first colonists.

That is why I enjoy many of these requests. They make me do research. As for the Posole, I started it yesterday, doing the prep work — cook the beans, braise the pork, roast the peppers, etc. The ingredients are ready. Later today I'll assemble the soup.

Trolls Again

The Christmas spirit has definitely waned. People are returning to their normal selves, especially the trolls. This week, so far, I've dealt with several of them on my YouTube channel. The thing I don't understand is why they don't know that I have full control over my channel. It's mine. I control it. When anyone leaves a comment on any of my videos I get an alert in my email. I can see immediately what they said. If the comment is rude, insensitive to others, or just downright wrong and misleading, I simply delete it. If the comment oversteps some inviolate boundary, I simply ban that person's comments from ever appearing on my channel again.

Censorship? Denial of free speech? No, not really. Does the First Ammendment declare that I must allow people to use the N-word on my channel? No. Make antisemitic insults? No. They are free to write those comments. They have that right, until they cross the boundary that results in a hate crime. I have freedoms too. I can control my channel to prevent it from becoming a forum for ignorance.

In my YouTube channel I try to encourage people to do real cooking with fresh ingredients. Without becoming dogmatic I try to suggest low sodium and high nutrition. Even my Minute Meals are designed to be nutritious. I heard from a nutritionist when I first published those meals (then called Lazy Man Meals) on my web site and on YouTube. She congratulated me on the nutritional value of the meals. They were designed with the USDA portion recommendations in mind.

Do the trolls bother me? No. They're comments are easily deleted. They're only a minor annoyance. South Park did an entire season about Internet trolls and I enjoyed it immensely. I recorded every show and I watch them occasionally to remind myself how unimportant the trolls are. I enjoy my web site. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy making videos. The occasional rude comment isn't going to change that.

Rain Again

Yippee! It's raining again. Not a major rain. Gentle but steady rains, followed by on-and-off showers, will pass through the region for the next several days. I enjoy the rain. I love being home, snug and warm, watching it rain outside. I open all my drapes and enjoy the show. If I don't need to be anywhere, it can rain all it wants. I love it.

Today's Vlog

Fittingly enough, it's about Trolls. I was going to upload it last week, but I'm glad I waited. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog

Or CLICK THIS LINK.

ADDENDUM

I made the posole this afternoon. It turned out so well, I wanted to show it off.

Posole

If the editing goes well, I will upload the video to YouTube on Sunday. Oh, and by the way, it is incredibly delicious!

Sunday 2017.1.1 — Happy New Year!

Projections on 2017

And so we begin a new year, a little older, and (some of us) maybe a little more decrepit. The direction this web site will take in the coming year should be about the same. I made one change. The Blog Archive library is getting a little large — certainly not as large as the Recipe Archive, but maybe a little unwieldy. If you look at the panel to the left you'll see a slight organizational change. I added a new button: "My Blog Archive." That will call up a page with all the past years on it. Select a year and then a month to get to any of the past blogs.

Rather than list all the previous monthly blogs for the present year in the left panel, that one Archive button should cover everything. It looks a little cleaner and will be a little easier to maintain. I do know of at least one person who reads the archived blogs; so I want to make it easy for her.

And I learned this past week that someone new has been reading my blogs. Welcome Jonathan. I think that makes three, maybe four.

I still love blogging. I've been doing it consistently for more than six years, and I am a little proud (okay, maybe more than a little) of my Blog Archives. There is a lot of history in there. And if permitted to admit to some pride, I am proud of my entire web site. More than 250 recipes, all prepared and written by me. My web site with all its many HTML pages and my videos are all built and maintained by only one person — me. Giving myself a pat on the back.

As for vlogging, that isn't quite as easy. I'm running out of ideas. I'll probably get political, maybe a little newsy this year. I like following the news, and I have my own opinions about what is happening out there, and why. Some members of the former World News Discussion Group are trying to start a new group. I didn't attend their first meeting, but I heard about it. So far, the group is all women and something about Ryan Gosling dominated their first discussion. I don't know his acting well, but I did think he was very good in the film The Notebook. I was asked to join their next discussion and, hopefully, add a little more breadth to the conversation.

I'm also learning that vlogging is sort of a mood thing. I can do a vlog, watch it several times, trying to make myself like it, but ultimately hate it and almost erase everything. But I wait. A month later I'll watch it again and suddenly love it. I felt that way about my vlog in which I talk about animals and pets. I really disliked that one. I thought it was an awful idea. I came close to deleting everything. But I watched it this week and thought it was wonderful. Strike the iron while it's hot — I decided to edit it and upload it on Wednesday.

Maybe My Kitchen Vlog will morph into more of an editorial piece. My opinions sometime piss off some people, but I'm okay with that. You can't please everyone. Four years ago I upset a Christian conservative on the East Coast when I tried to explain why I thought the Republicans were not nominating a strong candidate to run against Obama's campaign for a second term. Maybe a Democratic victory was a foregone conclusion? The conservative thought I couldn't be more wrong and Obama certainly didn't have any hope whatsoever of being re-elected. "Stick to what you know. Cooking." Well, I think I knew a little more than cooking at the time. He wrote a few more times, but stopped after the 2012 election.

I do continue to cook. I like getting requests. I can't pursue them all, but they make it a little easier to come up with new ideas for food. Today's Feature Recipe, Flautas (also known as Taquitos) was a request. Someone also requested that I use my pressure cooker more in my videos, demonstrating ways it might be used. I used it for cooking the chicken and pork I used in the flautas. A pressure cooker isn't necessary. The meat can be easily braised in a sauce pan. But the cooker takes less time and I ended up with chicken and pork so tender it was very easy to shred. It almost fell apart with a little nudge from my fingers.

I confess to giving a little attitude in that video. I tried to explain that I did a lot of research, which I always do, trying to figure out if they are taquitos or flautas. There was no consensus, either on the Internet or in my books. The best information I found was that both names are synonymous for the same food. In the video I said people are going to have their own opinion about what they should be called. Fine. Everyone has an opinion. But I'm not interested. I did my research. Enough said.

Rain

There is always rain to look forward to in the coming year, but I can no more project future weather in the long term than the meteorologists. Case in point: Last year was an El Niño year. Lots of rain — or supposed to be. Not here in SoCal. This year is a La Niña year. Very little rain. But so far we're staying at normal rainfall for the season. I printed the report yesterday and we are currently at 100% normal-to-date for the county.

The reservoir is another issue. We had rain the past two days, but most areas reported less than ¼ of an inch. The reservoir increased from 8.1% to 8.2% capacity. It's still more than 90% empty. What we need is one of those horrific storms (be careful what you ask for) that stalls over the region and dumps heavy rains for four or five days, causing floods and landslides, but filling the reservoirs.

In 2017 I will continue to monitor our rain and report it here.