My Commonplace Blog

Bits of info in bytes


July 2016

The Kludge Report – Geezer Edition

About 20 years ago, when some may still have called him young or at least youthful, I realized the hubs was a geezer. It’s a long story involving a perfectly nice young woman with a nose piercing. Even with that snippet, you can paint the picture.

This realization has been reinforced many times since, often involving the dogs. For example, feeding spoonfuls of his DQ Blizzard to the dog then feeding himself with the same spoon. I hope no one is eating as they read this, apologies. . .

The latest evidence involves Iko and her pool. Let me begin by noting this is Iko’s second pool. The pup’s only a year and a half old. She’s the only pet to get a pool, no less two. Give me a G!

Exhibit A is this contraption:

Iko pool 1

That mess of PVC and tubing is a filtration system. The pool and accompanying kludge displaced a lovely fountain that used to grace the deck. Give me an E and another E!

Iko pool 4

This is the pump that runs the system. The fountain pump wasn’t sufficient. He spent actual money to get a bigger pump. Give me a Z!

Iko pool 2

The clamp (actually a plastic clothespin from Target – only the best – usually employed to hold shade fabric in place over spring garden plants) holds the tubing in place because, well, it might fall out. That is an actual concern? Give me an E!

Iko pool 3

The 2-inch PVC spout was salvaged from the previous attempt at a filtration system. The use of this pipe was extolled to me as a money saver. Give me an R!

Iko pool 5

In the recent heat wave, Iko enjoyed her pool at least twice a day. That means the hubs was out of the house for extended periods twice a day while I was inside enjoying the blissful sound of silence. Give me a half dozen exclamation points!!!!!!





It Bears Repeating

Again! Again! The little girl says as she spins the revolving door in the TV commercial. The joy of repetition of a joyful thing. Mostly.

Twice last week I made desserts with a long, dependable history. Both reminded me of the tension-filled joy of cooking. It’s all in the details.

Banana cake

The hubs went off-list at the grocery store. I remembered that you said you wanted bananas, so I bought bananas! He said. Two rules of buying bananas: No more than four, and on the green side. I eat only half at a time (the end of the other half protected with a food hugger), and less-than-ripe bananas have some nutrition stuff that’s really good for you. I remembered the smart thing to do, not the specifics. . . .

Six almost fully ripe bananas were a problem waiting to happen. I dug up an old favorite recipe for banana cake which is actually a blend of two recipes. Here’s what I saw.

Banana cake recipes

I haven’t made this in a long time. First, I accidentally followed the cake recipe, thereby putting in too much flour. Then I proceeded to just guess — reduced the sugar a bit, went generous on the salt and baking soda, added less oatmeal. It worked! Loved the outcome but doubt I could repeat it.

That leads us to the ice cream.

ice cream soft

As per my stated goal, we are eating only homemade ice cream this summer — aside from a moment of weakness brought on by a sale of Eskimo Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches.

To trim the calories a little, I substituted 2 percent milk and low-fat cream cheese. The mix was thinner while cooking and for some reason I didn’t simmer it as exuberantly as usual. Chilled it for about 3 hours, anxious to see how it was going to turn out. It churned completely differently than previously — still not super thick after 30 minutes. (This is close to the 20 minute mark; even that is longer than standard.)

ice cream soft mix

After a good freeze, the ice cream turned out much softer but still nicely set. No need to let it warm for a few minutes before serving. The hubs said it was perfect, preferred this. Do it again, again! I would, but I don’t know what exactly caused this consistency. So I proceeded to revert to the old method to see what happened. Harder simmer on the mix, super-cooled overnight. Let it sit at room temp for about 20 minutes before churning. It’s softer than usual, but not the texture of the first batch.

I guess that’s the problem with us creative types — we just hate doing anything the same way twice.


Smoked and Slow — and Just Slow

pork shoulder

Back in the day, some time in early spring, I would buy a package of two humongous pork shoulders and make porchetta from a recipe that ran in The Washington Post. Fennel seed, rosemary, crushed black peppercorns, and a few more seasonings — oh the flavor. Divvied up and frozen, we ate well until late fall on a one-time cooking event. The recipe includes a good BBQ-style sauce so pulled pork sandwiches were a summer staple.

If memory serves, the last time I made it, the meat was a bit tough. And slow-cooking, to state the obvious, eats up the whole day. Finally decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Recently the hubs was watching Steven Raichlen smoke pork shoulder and, well, before you can say ‘add the wood chips,’ there’s a familiar package of meat on the counter. He went for the smoking method (on our tiny Smokey Joe Weber grill) and I used the oven method.

smoked shoulder

Mine cooked faster by more than an hour, but speed doesn’t win much here. The smoked shoulder (above) was noticeably more tender. We’ve been adding the BBQ sauce and enjoying pulled pork sandwiches. The hubs even tops it with Asian slaw – a little odd, perhaps, but it works.The flavor is stronger, more in-your-face, than the porchetta.

That flavor, flavor, flavor of the porchetta. I am definitely not a supertaster; generally the stronger the flavor, the better I like a food. This porchetta is an exception. It is quieter tasting (as opposed to mild), best served on its own. How to keep that flavor and get the meat tender. We rewatched Mr. Raichlen’s cooking technique, searched the interwebs, and decided (without debate) to lower the cooking temp (how low is still under debate), increase the cooking time and try again.

Now all we have to do is finish these two cuts first. . . It could be awhile.



The B Side

Blueberry crumble

Went to a soiree last Saturday evening at a friend’s swanky new home. In the email invite exchange, he said the savouries were covered and I could bring a sweet if desired, but not required. We’re both Midwesterners so no invitation comes without an offer to bring something, and a host never insists guests bring anything — but we both know that bringing something is Official Midwestern Policy.

The day before, in our fridge was a Costco container of blueberries. The plan was to make blueberry muffins, experiment with carbonated blueberries (saw this on New Scandinavian Cooking), and eat the rest in yogurt.

Paragraphs 1 and 2 were to be separate events. But when I opened the binder of misc. baking recipes, on the flip side of a recipe sleeve was Blueberry Crumble Bars. Hmmmm. So I broke the first rule of cooking for guests: I used a new recipe. And I upsized it. The recipe called for a jelly roll pan of smaller dimensions than a standard cookie sheet. So I just made a generous smidge more of shortbread crust, gooey filling, and strudel topping. Plus, I’d already started eating the blueberries in my yogurt, so I added frozen Maine wild blueberries (in-house stock for blueberry muffins and blueberry buckwheat pancakes) to cover the deficit.

Blueberry crumble 2

The result was pretty terrific, and I don’t have only my opinion to back that up. The hubs, the hosts, and the blueberry-fan guests were also impressed. I may just run with scissors more often.






Holiday Cheer and Fun With Food

Christmas kisses

Just opened the last bag of Holiday Kisses. We picked up a handful of these on a luckily timed trip to Target; they had just been marked down about 80 percent. Cheap, cheap, cheap!

And using my clever consumption method, I stretch each bag to the max. It’s a diet trick, too.

Unwrap two pieces and insert in mouth. Hold to roof of mouth and allow to melt.

Nits not ewey nu nalk win nuu nu nis, nut wa noclic laps amut nen nu fiteen mints as nit mets so nuu eet liss.

That’s my only strange eating habit. No, wait. I also like to bite Tostitos tortilla chips into the shape of Minnesota.

original chip at angle

That’s it. Really. Happy Holidays – winter and summer!

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