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MARCH 2017

Wednesday 2017.3.29

Philly Cheese Steak or Cheesesteak?

I've seen it both ways on the Internet, but "cheese steak" seems right to me. If you're not familiar with it, it's a sandwich, like a hoagie or sub, made with beef and provolone. Fried onions can be added as an option. Why am I bringing this up? For a couple reasons. Someone requested I video a recipe for it, and I never tasted a cheese steak before.

I grew up on the East Coast, in Connecticut. It isn't far from Pennsylvania, but people didn't drive much back then. Going to see my grandmothers in Massachusetts, only 60 miles away, was such a long trip to us, we only did it twice a year. So Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwiches were well beyond our horizons. When I moved to California, some of us would drive to Los Angeles, more than 100 miles, just to go dancing.

I did a lot of research on cheese steaks because it is one of those foods that generates a lot of opinions, like chili or barbecue. No one is indifferent. My goal was to make them as near to the original as I could. Nowadays they are made with Cheez Whiz (what is that, spreadable Velveeta?), bell peppers, and other odd additions. One of my textbooks has a recipe for Philly Hoagies and it doesn't even use beef. The recipe calls for prosciutto.

The most adamant of recipe authors claim that a true Philly Cheese Steak should include thinly sliced beef rib eye, no substitutions. So that is what I purchased. To be honest, I'm not much of a beef fan. I don't dislike it, but if I want red meat I usually go for lamb. I like the flavor better. Beef just seems to lack flavor. Maybe I ate too much of it when I was growing up; whereas, we never had lamb.

Another thing about Philly Cheese Steak is the way it is made. You're supposed to cook the beef, kind of chopping it up a little with a spatula while cooking it. Then you add cheese, mix it all up, open a hoagie roll and place it, open side down, on top. Then scoop the whole thing up, turning it over and placing it on a plate. If you look at the pictures on the Internet some look like a mishmash of ingredients. Not appetizing at all. So I made mine a little different, layering the ingredients. Here is a photo:

Philly Cheese Steak

Unless you really like beef, it doesn't look like much of a sandwich anyway (at least not to me). But they are very popular on the East Coast and I wouldn't want to disparage anyone for liking them. I did eat the one I made, and it was good enough to enjoy. But I'd rather have the Italian Sausage Sub I made last week.

Another One Bites the Dust

I needed to get a little heavy-handed on YouTube again. I don't like to, but someone has been leaving negative comments on my videos. I usually leave them because sometimes they can be amusing; however, they started going too far. I don't mind if someone doesn't like one of my recipe ideas. No one likes everything. And I do like it when a negative comment offers a positive improvement. Those kinds of criticisms can be helpful to others, and to me. But just to be insulting for the enjoyment of it is, well, sophomoric and inane.

He kind of gives away his mentality anyway by using the YouTube name that basically means "looking good" about himself. His channel picture is of a bare-chested torso with developed abs, looking more like a wall poster than a self portrait photograph. I can't help wondering if he might be a 300 pound troll living his fantasy on the Internet. Anyway, I thought it was time to do something about him; so I banned all his comments from appearing on my channel. He can write them, but they will always be hidden from the public.

A few months ago I did a vlog about trolls. Someone responded to it saying, "If you don't allow certain behaviors in your home, you can certainly ban them from your YouTube channel." Yep. If you haven't seen it yet, here is the link:

Trolls at Play


And Speaking of Kitchen Vlogs

Once again I'm short on ideas for something to vlog about; so I think I'm going to reminisce again about my college days, especially my experiences in theatre. I did that in one of my previous vlogs and since then many more memories have come to the surface. I don't like being boastful, but the memories are of some of my better successes. And I don't know how entertaining they might be, except to me. And I also don't like people who spend a lot of their time talking about themselves. So I need to do this one carefully. Here is the link:

Kitchen Vlog link


A Change is Coming

Those who watch my videos, whether cooking or vlogging, will notice a very minor change in the future videos. At the very end I finish with a sort of "Credits" screen. The text is centered nicely. However, in future videos, the text is moved to the bottom. The reason for this is because YouTube is offering a new feature to help promote additional videos and channels. It is called "End Screens." Before I publish a video on YT I can add one or more little screens at the end, which link to other content. Those little screens can be positioned (I'm moving them to the top). To prevent them from blocking the text, I move it to the bottom. See? I said the change is minor.

I'm experimenting with two end screens. One will be a picture of me, promoting one of my other channels, My Kitchen Vlog, Vlogging the News, or my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. The other screen will be a link to another video. Currently I'm trying to drive traffic to my two vlog channels; so those are the links I'll use most.

This is a new feature of YouTube; so I have no idea how successful it might be for me. Also (keeping my expectations low), I'm not a big-league content creator on YouTube. Some people have millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions of views. I have fewer than 13,000 subscribers to my cooking channel and only about 1.4 millions views.

More Air

Monday surprised me. One of my computers started beeping. That's the alarm to warn me that things are getting too hot inside. As I mentioned in Sunday's blog, I have an air conditioner in the office. Inside the room it was 80°. Evidently, that was enough to set off an alarm. So I turned on the air condition to start bringing the temperature down. The beeping stopped.

Maybe worth mentioning, the weather predictors at the National Weather Service forecast a daytime temperature of 71°F on Monday. When I checked their web site during the afternoon they reported 73° and my outdoor thermometer said it was 84°. Yesterday was much the same. It was 83° here before noon.

My portable air conditioner (the one I keep in the office) is only 9,000 BTU and is therefore not very efficient, what with two computers and three monitors generating heat. Nonetheless, it kept the temperature down to around 77°, which made my computers happy.

Less Air

So Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing some of Barack Obama's climate regulations. Here is my first attempt at a political cartoon:

Political Cartoon

Sunday 2017.3.26

Gimme Some Air

I bought a portable air conditioner this week. Costco is running a discount on a DeLonghi 12,500 BTU model that connects to a window insert by means of a wide flexible hose, etc. This one claims to be able to cool up to 480 square feet. With doors closed, the front of my mobile home is only about 350 square feet; so I should be comfortable enough during the warmer months of the year, July through September.

I am keeping my expectations low, or at least within reason. 480 square feet is probably with ideal conditions — excellent insulation, no sun exposure, and no kitchen. My home does not satisfy those ideal conditions. However, I don't need to be kept at a chilly 70°F. If the temperature outside is above 90°, I'll be happy if I can keep my home below 80° inside. 75° would be a bonus.

I have an older air conditioner, but it's only 9,000 BTU, which is barely enough to cool the officer where my computers are set up. That room is only about 160 square feet; so 9,000 is minimally adequate with two computers and three monitors generating heat.

How much did it cost? With the discount, $350 plus tax. I'm okay with that. As I've mentioned in some previous blogs, I've gotten the most expensive necessities out of the way already — new storage shed, new plumbing, landscaping, and (although hardly a necessity) a new TV and home theater system.

Vlogging the News

Yesterday I uploaded my third installment of Vlogging the News. It was a busy news week, what with James Comey appearing before a Congressional committee, Devin Nunes reporting to the White House (and not the Democratic members of his own committee, for which he later apologized), and the failure of a signature promise of the Trump presidential campaign — repeal and replace Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA).

I thoroughly enjoyed this past news week. There were so many stories to read or watch on TV. Yesterday was our latest meeting of the World News Discussion Group and I brought 17 articles with me, only a few of which I talked about. We enjoyed a lively discussion. They were just as enthusiastic about the week's news as I was.

I was also a little disappointed with Wednesday's Kitchen Vlog (not a news vlog). I knew the subject matter (taxes) couldn't be more boring — one of the drawbacks of not having a theme to vlog about — but I was hoping the inclusion of Lloyd might make it more entertaining. I even hoped some people might ask me to include him in other vlogs, or even my cooking videos. Nothing. So Lloyd went back into his box and into storage. You never know unless you try.

As for this Wednesday's Kitchen Vlog, I haven't the foggiest idea what I'll talk about. There is more to say about my theater days in college; so I might resort to that idea.

Rain — NOT!

Late last week was supposed to be a day of rain, more rain than the previous storm. However, most sites reported well under a tenth of an inch. Some areas reported more damp than wet. The reservoir report now shows 50.0% capacity. Good enough. If it doesn't rain again until next winter, I'll be okay with that. As I've said before, our water doesn't come from the lake anyway; it's ground water.

Wednesday 2017.3.22

Welcome to Spring

This is the time of year when the days get longer by the most number of minutes (or maybe it's seconds). It's the steepest part of the sine wave. The days will continue to get longer as we head toward the first day of summer in June, but they'll get longer by less and less each day. It's a math thing.

It also means the days get warmer (but not steadily as in a sine wave). It's only March and most of the country will have a few more weeks of cold weather and snow, but here in Southern California it never gets very cold anyway. And maybe it's a sign of global warming, but even though we had plenty of rain days this winter, there was never any sign of snow on top of the mountains as in years past.

Speaking of rain, it rained yesterday. The weather service predicted ½ to 1½ inches in rain-favored areas. We were expecting ¼ to 1 inch here along the coast. More rain is expected this coming weekend, but rainfall amounts are expected to be much less. I don't know if it will enough to finally push our reservoir beyond the 50% capacity milestone.

As of this morning the lake was at 49.6%. Close. This late in the season, I doubt the lake will ever be full this rain year, unless we get one of the occasional "miracle" rains that sometimes passes through the area. So, maybe next year. 50% is a good start. As a reminder, we started the rainy season at 7.3%.

Cooking for Me

This week I added Minute Meal portions to the freezer again. I have chicken, but I was down to my last portion of lamb; so I bought a boneless leg of lamb at Costco and prepared it. This time I picked some fresh rosemary from my little herb garden. I opened the leg and sprinkled the inside with rosemary and fresh grated garlic. Then I tied it into a roast again and baked it enough to be a little too much on the pink side inside. I prefer it undercooked because it will cook more when I heat it later in the microwave. I put 15 portions in the freezer. That will hold me for a while, what with the chicken and fish I already have in there.

Today's Kitchen Vlog

It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, I talk about it being tax season here in the USA. Who, if anybody, would be interested in that? But there is a pleasant little surprise about 6 minutes into the 11-minute video. I won't spoil the fun. Here is the link:

Link to my Kitchen Vlog


Vlogging the News

And this weekend's Vlogging the News upload should be a good one. It has been a news-packed week — more articles than I can possibly cover. We plan to meet again on Saturday for our World News Discussion Group. I'll bring everything with me, but I'll probably only discuss two or three articles — maybe none at all of they launch onto conspiracy theories again.

Speaking of which, the Wall Street Journal criticized the president this morning for undermining his credibility. He can talk about fake news, but do most Americans now consider him a fake president? If North Korea launched a missile that landed in the Pacific Ocean within 100 miles of Hawaii, would Americans believe Trump if he reported it?

Sunday 2017.3.19

A Message to Jonathan

Hi Jonathan. I saw that you subscribed again to my YouTube channel that is in my personal name. I tried to message you through your YouTube channel, but I couldn't find a link. I don't upload my news vlogs to that channel anymore. My new channel is Vlogging the News.

You might want to unsubscribe from the other one and subscribe to the new one.

More Comfort Than Gourmet

As much as we might enjoy gourmet food, comfort food is closest to our heart (but maybe not in a medical way). Thursday I shot another video, using the leftover Italian sausages purchased to do the Sausages and Peppers video. As mentioned in Wednesday's blog, I wanted to use them to make Italian sausages on a bun.

When I lived for a while in Norwich, Connecticut I often ate at a deli-grinder shop. The sandwiches we called "grinders" are known by other names in other states, such as hoagies, heros, subs, or submarine sandwiches. I really enjoyed those grinders, and so when I have Italian sausages to use up, I sometimes cook them for subs.

Brown the sausages, then cook them for about an hour in tomato sauce. I chose to use San Marzano tomatoes (available again in the local grocery store) along with tomato paste, garlic, and a little oregano. Then, with some slices of good provolone cheese, I made an Italian sausage grinder. Here is a photo.

Italian Sausage Sub

Admittedly, it doesn't look like much — sort of like a hotdog with cheese and ketchup on a bun. The red sauce is the tomato sauce. This isn't meant to look like fancy gourmet food. This is two-handed comfort food, like Sloppy Joes. And if the provolone cheese is good, this sandwich is quite delicious.

The sauce, by the way, takes on some of the flavor of the sausages. It's good on pasta; so I froze the leftover sauce for later.

Vlogging the News

I did another news vlog. I have to admit, vlogging about the news is the most entertaining, enjoyable, and satisfying of my pastimes lately. It doesn't pay anything. The vlogs are not monetized on YouTube like my cooking videos are. Even if they were, they wouldn't earn me pennies because there are currently so few views. But I really enjoy talking about what I learn on the news.

Although it is early, the pattern is to select one or two news stories each day during the week, articles that interest me, and vlog about them on Friday. After editing the video, I typically upload it on Saturday morning.

I don't have a graphical link (although I suppose I could create something) because I already have two YouTube channels verified on my phone number. Google limits verification to two per number. So, although I am a YouTube Partner because of my cooking channel, now with more than 270 videos, I can't validate my Vlogging the News channel, which means I can't upload a thumbnail image for the video. It's okay because I don't really need a thumbnail image. They aren't as important as they are for my cooking videos. An attractive photograph of the food invites clicks.

Age Has It's Benefits

Although we sometimes wish we didn't grow old, there are times when we benefit. This year I qualify for an additional standard deduction on my taxes. I earn some money from my YouTube videos. Google doesn't deduct any withholding and therefore I usually pay some tax. I end up getting a small refund from my federal taxes and paying some tax to the state. Although the age benefit doesn't amount to much, every little bit helps.

Wednesday's Vlog

I haven't videoed it yet. Maybe this evening. And I don't have a topic yet. Maybe taxes.

Wednesday 2017.3.15

Easy is Good

Yesterday I did a video to fulfill a request. A friend of the web site, Jake, asked me to do a dish that he says is popular in parts of New England as well as New York, New Jersey, and maybe Pennsylvania — Sausages and Peppers. It's an easy dish to prepare, made with chopped bell peppers, onions, and Italian Sausages. This appealed to me because of a friend of mine many years ago.

She was from Port Chester, New York, of Italian descent, like my mother (who was not from Port Chester but somewhere in Massachusetts). Florence was the name of my friend, and if anyone knew how to prepare, and eat, Italian food, it was her. I liked to watch her eat because she would sometimes combine foods on her plate into something different. If she was eating a plate of roasted bell peppers and someone gave her a slice of bread, she might roll the peppers in the bread, dip the roll in the juices in the plate, and eat it like it was involtini. And if she was preparing the peppers, she would add anchovy fillets. In fact, I now cannot imagine some Italian foods without anchovies; however, I don't often use them because few people understand them.

Another useful method that helped make the Sausages and Peppers easy was a technique Gordon Ramsay included in one of his cooking videos — cutting bell peppers. Place one upside-down on a cutting board and cut downward, close to the sides. You separate the good fleshy portion of the pepper from the seeds and membrane inside. I demonstrated it in the video.

As I like to say sometimes, every silver lining has a dark cloud. I can't eat peppers. They "repeat on me" and I don't like that. My mother used to make stuffed bell peppers. I liked the meat stuffing inside, which reminded me of her meatballs, but I wouldn't eat the pepper. However, the silver lining is that I have neighbors who love roasted bell peppers. So I gave them each a large bowl along with some of the Italian sausages. I only kept a few sausages for myself.

The flavor was good. I did the usual tasting clip at the end of the video. Sausages and Peppers really are delicious. And, a slice or two of good crusty Italian bread on the side is an excellent addition. This is a dish I would gladly make for a potluck. It's easy, and it's delicious. It looks good too. Here is a photograph.

Sausages and Peppers

I did eat some of it, enough to know what I cooked and to feel confident it was delicious. And I didn't have the "repeat" problem I mentioned above. Maybe roasting the peppers until tender helps.

And it gives me another idea. One food that I like to make, especially in summer, is Italian Sausage on a Bun. It's simple too. Cook the Italian sausages in the sauce. Then, using some good rolls, cut a roll open and put spaghetti sauce inside. Add half a slice of provolone cheese and then place an Italian sausage inside the bun. You can also make Sloppy Joes with Italian sausage meat, cheese, and kaiser rolls. I might do a video.

One caveat: Get good provolone. I like the cheese they have at the deli counter in the grocery store near where I live. It has a good, slightly-sharp flavor — much better than the packaged slices by Kraft or Sargento. I'm sure it isn't as good as the real provolone made in Italy, but we don't have the luxury of a good cheese market here; so the deli cheese must suffice.

One interesting note about provolone cheese: Supposedly good aged provolone has a slightly smoky flavor. Some packages of the sliced cheese are marked "smoked," which I suspect might be an attempt to imitate the flavor without all the aging.

Today's Kitchen Vlog

I wasn't sure what I would talk about in today's Kitchen Vlog. And I needed a vlog because I used my last finished vlog video last week. I'm not sure how interesting the subject might be for most, but I talked about the return of our World News Discussion Group. I like that group and with a new organizer who doesn't have ego / insecurity issues, it might work out well for us. Here is the link:

News Junkie link


Sunday 2017.3.12

Welcome to Daylight Saving Time

I have always loved this time of year. I especially appreciated it when I was a child, knowing I could stay out later in the evening to play. Spring ahead, fall back. That always confused me. Say at 10:00 in the evening you move the clocks to 11:00 before going to bed. You lose an hour. That was a 23-hour day. But you gain an hour of sunlight. By losing an hour you gain an hour. I know it works, but I hope no one ever asks me to explain it.

Maybe that's why I don't believe in time. For even more confusion see my Kitchen Vlog "On Time".

As for Daylight Saving Time, not everyone would agree that it's a good idea. Recent articles in the news reported that auto accidents, strokes, and other problems increase when the clocks are changed by an hour, supposedly because our internal biological clock doesn't like the shift.

When I had a job I remember having to adjust for several days. Now that I am retired I wake up each morning without an alarm clock anyway; so getting out of bed an hour earlier or later doesn't affect me as much. I do notice it when watching the news on TV. It feels later or earlier, depending on the time of year, for a few days until I adjust.

Some Good News

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while — all three of you — probably remember that I once belonged to a World News Discussion Group. We would meet every other Saturday for two hours to talk about the latest events reported in the news. Some people brought articles clipped from newspapers or magazines. I liked to capture articles on line from sources like The New York Times or The Washington Post.

We're starting up again, but with a different organizer. The original moderator had, according to some of us, ego inflation issues and, if the truth be known, some insecurity, self esteem issues too. One day he talked ad nauseam about his inability to have a lasting relationship with a woman because he's short. He's bald too. Personally, I don't think his height or hair was the issue. He's an Adam Henry (which is police jargon — something having to do with the initials A and H).

One of the former members of the group decided to take up the baton. We met yesterday. All the old faces were there. We got along well enough. Some of the old habits were present too — some think their words are the most important and they therefore feel compelled to interrupt others while they are talking. I was brought up differently; it's impolite to interrupt. Wait your turn. Despite the interruptions, I enjoyed the discussion and I'll probably continue to attend.

Magic with Rubik's Cube

One of my friends, having seen my recent Kitchen Vlog in which I solve a Rubik's Cube sent me a link to a Penn & Teller clip on YouTube. In the clip street performer Steven Brundage solves a Rubik's Cube several times, in several different stunts, in about 1 second. Here is the clip.

I have a Rubik's Cube, as I demonstrated in the Kitchen Vlog mentioned above. I solve it at least once a day to stay fresh on the routines. The solution isn't difficult, when you understand the patterns. You solve it one layer at a time and you only need to memorize about a dozen routines. It took me about a week to get them memorized, and I wasn't working hard.

So can the cube be solved in less than a second? Before writing this blog today I timed myself with a stopwatch. It was a standard solution, all the routines needing to be performed at least once. No mistakes, no short cuts. My time, without trying to set any speed records, was 2 minutes and 54 hundredths of a second — so let's say two minutes.

Solving it in less than a second has to involve some sort of trick. Some tricks are explained in videos on YouTube. I'm not sure which tricks were done before Penn and Teller, but most magicians will tell you there is always a trick and a good magician can fool the audience with skilled hand movements. I did notice that Brundage purposely crumpled up the paper bag he used in one trick, as if hiding something that might be in the bag. The evidence?

Wednesday's Kitchen Vlog

There ain't one, yet. I used the last of my prepared vlogs. I need to video more, hopefully before Wednesday. However, I watched some of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC yesterday evening and she said something that really resonated with me. The investigators who research news stories to possibly cover during the show are told: "Always read to the bottom line." In other news, sometimes the best piece of news is toward the end of the story. That inspired me; so yesterday evening I videoed another news vlog. I'm thinking of creating a new channel on YouTube, Vlogging the News. Stay tuned. I might add the link here or blog about it on Wednesday.

Wednesday 2017.3.8

What Goes Around Comes Around

It surprised me (a little) that Donald Trump alleged that the Obama administration bugged Trump Tower with wiretaps during the campaign. I say surprised because it was only about a week or two ago that Trump was saying the Democrats were attacking him because they were disappointed they lost the election in November. Now it seems as if Trump is attacking the Democrats because he is not receiving the adoration he believes he deserves.

During the weekend the media reported rants and tirades in the White House because Trump's victory lap after his successful speech to both houses of Congress was so short lived. Believing he might have finally turned the corner toward becoming one of the most beloved presidents in USA history (for making America great again), he was broadsided by Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Trump-Russia investigations, returning the President to the mire of the swamp again. And the muck is getting deeper and more putrid as more contacts are revealed.

Likening the Obama White House to the Nixon Watergate scandal might backfire on the President. Richard Nixon resigned from office when the heat of the Watergate investigation became too hot for him. What will Trump do if connections between his campaign officials and Russian operatives before the election reveal possible violations of law? Will he bow out, putting Mike Pence in the Oval Office in exchange for full pardons for himself and his grandees? Some of you might remember Richard Nixon making a similar deal with Gerald Ford.

I can only feel optimistic for so long. For weeks I've been thinking: "Give the man a chance. He might make a difference." Now I'm beginning to wonder. How much longer? At which point will the future books claim the Trump White House jumped the shark? Maybe it already has. For now, it's too early to know. I read more than ten books about the Bush/Chaney reign; I look forward to reading the books about Trump's presidency. Meanwhile, I can only shake my head in dismay and finally concede that this man really isn't presidential after all.

First Harvest, Sort of

I've been reporting that my little citrus trees, one almost as tall as I am, have been flowering and producing some fruit. I harvested one ripe-looking piece of fruit this week, wondering what it might be. Here's a photo.


Curious about what it might look like inside, and maybe taste like, I cut it open. I didn't eat it; I just tasted a bit of it with my tongue. It had a decidedly lemony scent and flavor. So this tree must be the lemon tree. When the trees were given to me, only two were marked — the lime and the dwarf tangerine. I was told the others were lemon, Meyer lemon, and orange. I didn't know which was which. I gave them each tags, and switched a couple since the fruit began to appear. This tree is marked "Lemon"; so I think I got that tag correct.

On the tree labeled "Orange" there is one piece of fruit ripening. I'm hoping one of the neighborhood children won't swipe it before it fully ripens. I want to see what it tastes like, to confirm the tag is correct. The lime tree continues to bloom with abundant flowers. I'm really hoping a few of those will be successfully pollinated and produce fruit, if only to confirm the label is correct.

As I said when I first transferred the trees from five-gallon buckets to planters, fruit was never my goal. These trees are ornamentals, and they look really good in my yard.


On Monday, after finalizing my Last Will & Testament (not that I'm planning to go anywhere) I tried pho at a Vietnamese restaurant that supposedly makes the best pho in the area. Really? It was certainly an experience, and I'm always willing to try something new. I never tasted pho before, and I will very likely never eat it again. It simply isn't my kind of food. I'm sure there are many people who love it; otherwise, a restaurant wouldn't offer it and become known for serving good pho. But it did nothing for me.

It reminded me of the food I used to accept, unwillingly, from a Vietnamese woman who used to live across the street. She talked with her family one day and told them she could see that I lived alone, and maybe I would appreciate some home-cooked food once in a while. I didn't have my web site back then; so she wouldn't have known about my skills in the kitchen. She brought to me typical Vietnamese foods.

I did some research at the time and learned that many of their dishes are made with the least desirable cuts of meat, simply because they are also the least expensive. I ate what she gave me, to be kind, but I never liked any of it. The pho reminded me of her cooking. One piece of meat was like a piece of soft plastic, barely chewable. Two other pieces were sort of like pieces of a meatball, but rubbery in texture. The noodles, fresh vegetables, and broth were fine.

Needless to say, I won't order pho in the future. I tried it once. That's fair enough. And I have no plans to do a cooking video of the stuff.

Learning New Stuff

I enjoy the challenge of learning something new. It's also important because as we get older our mental abilities begin to decline. Today's Kitchen Vlog (below) is one example of an exercise that helps maintain brain capacity.

Like many people, I have movies on Blu-ray disks. They're fine in the home, but what if I plan to travel and there are many hours on a train or in the air? I can take my laptop computer with me, but not my Blu-rays. The computer doesn't have a Blu-ray drive.

I did some research this week and found a program that allows me to rip a movie to a file. Rip does not mean to literally tear the movie from the disc. Ripping means copying in this case. Then, using another utility I can encode the movie file to MKV format. I like MKVs because they retain the resolution of the original. A 1080p Blu-ray can be encoded to a 1080p MKV. And it will play on my laptop computer using Cyberlink PowerDVD.

I tested it yesterday, ripping a copy of one of my Harry Potter movies that I have on Blu-ray. After encoding I copied the MKV to an external hard drive and watched it. It worked fine.

With something like this there is always a learning curve. How do I choose a compression ratio, if any, when encoding to MKV? How do I import subtitles? That's where the "learning new stuff" comes in. I enjoy the challenge. It's like solving a puzzle.

Today's Kitchen Vlog

Okay, I expect a few thumbs down on this one. Self-indulgent might be an understatement. But I had fun with this and vlogs aren't meant to please everyone — anyone, for that matter. I vlog for my own fun, and I had fun making this one. Here is the link:

My Kitchen Vlog


I had hoped that one of my Kitchen Vlogs, on CalExit, might become popular. Nothing of mine will ever go viral. One video being viewed millions of times will never happen. If a cooking video gets more than 100,000 views, that means viral to me. Two videos, French Bread and Salmon Jerky, are the only two I might designate viral.

Sunday 2017.3.5

Pasta with Prosciutto

As planned, on Wednesday I shot the new video for the Pasta with Prosciutto recipe. And as expected, the food was delicious — so good, in fact, that I've been craving it ever since. Some of the recipes I've written affect me that way. There are a few, such as my Clam Chowder recipe, New England Clam Cakes, and Almond Biscotti, for which I occasionally experience cravings.

This Pasta with Prosciutto has the same effect on me. I like proscuitto, but it's more than that. The sauce has a bold flavor. You'll notice from the recipe that I don't add any garlic or onion. They are not necessary. The sauce doesn't need them. Here's a photo of what I cooked on Wednesday:

Pasta and Prosciutto

I only made a small amount of pasta, enough for one generous portion, and to shoot the final photography (as seen above). The remainder of the sauce was portioned and placed in the freezer to enjoy in the future (or use when friends from out of town come to visit).

Drain the Swamp, or Fill it Up?

I've been following the latest partisan furor surrounding the Trump White House. Late Wednesday the Washington Post revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with a Russian ambassador last year during Trump's campaign, but then told senators in his confirmation hearing that no contacts with Russians ever occurred. A spokesperson from his office claimed the two meetings were in his capacity as senator and member of the Armed Forces Committee, giving the meetings a possible military context, not a campaign one. However, one of the two meetings was at the Republican National Convention, which is even more disconcerting. It means at least one official from Putin's inside circle was in attendance at the convention.

In a bipartisan move, several members of Congress recommended he recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation of Trump campaign officials meeting with Russians during the time leading up to the election. He recused himself on Thursday, following the Washington Post announcement. Some congressmen are saying he should resign, like Michael Flynn did.

Further mucking up the swamp, it was also reported late last week that members of the Obama administration "scrambled" to protect evidence of Republican contacts with Russian officials in European cities, fearing that the evidence might be covered up or destroyed if Trump was elected president. The article described the Obama administration as "leaving trails of bread crumbs" to document the evidence.

The week ended with Trump claiming that people from the Obama administration bugged his offices in Trump Tower. If he suspects his, and others', conversations with Russian officials were intercepted, they might have been detected through normal surveillance of the Russians. Such surveillance goes on all the time.

Meanwhile, The Huffington Post — no friend of Trump — led with the best Jeff Sessions headline on their web site on Thursday: "Recuuuse Me!" The media frenzy surrounding these latest actions of the Trump administration has been astounding. Are other nations laughing at the USA?

I'm left wondering what to think. Everyday something new is reported, and each report is worse. How much longer can the Trump White House last? Will he come to the realization that his presidency is doing this country more harm than good? And then what? I can't even wonder anymore.

Wednesday's Kitchen Vlog

This time I expect to upload the kind of crazy, self-endulgent vlog I recorded a few weeks ago. Look for it.

Wednesday 2017.3.1

And Then There Were Two

I found another one — a recipe video that isn't on YouTube, and this one is a good one. I still have the original video and I thought about editing it again and using it, but it was done so long ago. My hair isn't gray and the kitchen doesn't look the same. Now there are aprons on the wall and I have a Corion countertop to use in my videos. I did my videos in a different style back then, not providing the metric equivalents for the ingredients.

A long time ago I read about a recipe that is supposedly popular and common in Bologne, Italy, but relatively unknown outside of the country. It's Tagliatelle with Prosciutto. It's an odd recipe because you start by cubing some thick slices of prosciutto, sautéing it briefly in the bottom of a large pot, and then adding a cup of milk. You simmer until nearly all the liquid has evaporated, leaving the milk fat in the pan. Then you add the tomatoes and other ingredients to make a red pasta sauce.

Try to find whole prosciutto, not sliced. Occasionally the local grocery store stocks it at the deli counter, but it isn't a popular item. It expires and must be discarded before enough is sold to make a profit. There is another store, halfway to the city, where I can usually find it. They had it; so I asked them to slice it thickly so that I could cube it. You can use the paper-thin slices sold in packages, but the texture of the sauce won't be the same.

Then there is the problem of finding the canned tomatoes I like — Cento brand San Marzano tomatoes. This is an issue because there are cans marked "San Marzano," but they are not true San Marzano. The can doesn't say "Imported from Italy," it says something like "Grown in the USA." All Roma tomatoes are not San Marzano, even though the variety is sometimes named San Marzano to cash in on the popularity of the name. To explain:

San Marzano is a region in Italy that is known for growing some of the best Roma tomatoes in the world. They are renowned for their flavor. It has something to do with the local volcanic soil and climate. It's sort of like grapes. They can be grown in many places, but some regions, such as Napa Valley in California, are known for growing excellent wine grapes. If you want true San Marzano tomatoes, you look for a brand that says they are imported and certified on the can's label. I trust Cento brand.

I didn't find the tomatoes I wanted. The local grocery store started stocking Cento a year or two ago, but the shelf was completely empty. The other store didn't have them either. So, I compromised. I bought a can of Centro Roma tomatoes. They're grown in Italy, but not the San Marzano region. At least it's a brand name I know and trust. Some brands are two acidic or have a tinny flavor. I did find a can with a different brand name, but I'm unfamiliar with it. I bought it to experiment with at a later time.

Later today I will make the sauce and pasta in a video. I won't make tagliatelle because most people don't know what it is. And you can use almost any pasta. I think linguine would be good, and I'll say so in the video. I made some pasta dough this morning; it's wrapped and in the refrigerator. I'll roll that through my pasta machine and cut some noodles. Mostly I want enough pasta for photographs. The bulk of this sauce will be portioned and frozen for use later. I like having a few fancy frozen foods in the freezer just in case friends should suddenly call to say they're in town.

Today's Kitchen Vlog

I know I mentioned having purchased new toner cartridges for my computers' laser printers. And I know I mentioned having ordered two toner refill kits to fill the old empty cartridges with new toner. And I also know I mentioned having videoed the process. That video is today's Kitchen Vlog.

I feel really good about that little project. I like knowing that I can do something technical and complicated. That is probably one reason why I build my own computers.

In the meantime, I have more to report. The printers have been used several times and so far they are printing normally. To make certain everything is still okay, I removed each cartridge and looked around inside each printer, using a flashlight ("torch" for those of you in other English speaking countries). I was looking to see if any toner had leaked out of the refilled cartridge. There was none. So, I'm satisfied the project went as it was supposed to.

Here is the link to the vlog:

Link to My Kitchen Vlog