Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Ceramic-Top Stove

A couple of years ago, I decided to replace my decrepit electric stove with a new model. I had completely wrecked my old stove by boiling 5-gallon batches of beer on it. The weight and reflected heat turned the wiring into carbon. Two of the 4 burners had quit working. It was definitely time to treat myself to an upgrade.

I decided to go with a Samsung with a ceramic top. I liked the idea of being able to clean the stove top thoroughly and not have to deal with the headache of boil-overs that drip down underneath the burners and are impossible to clean. I didn't know much about ceramic top stoves, but the reviews seemed positive so I made the leap.

Overall, I do like my new stove. Except for one component that went bad almost immediately (and was replaced under warranty) it has been very dependable. Upon reading the instruction manual, however, I learned that I would not be able to use my canning pot or my cast iron cookware. The canning pot was unacceptable because it would extend beyond the area of the heating element. My cast iron cookware could not be used because it does not have a flat bottom. This wasn't a disaster since I do have a fine set of stainless steel cookware to use.

There is one thing I do miss about using my cast iron dutch oven. When I made Coq Au Vin or Chicken Marengo, it was great to be able to brown the chicken and onions on top of the stove then add liquid, cover, and bake in the oven. I thought about that today as I was considering what to make for dinner this Saturday. I believe I'll be getting a chicken in my CSA basket this evening, and I already have some bacon in the freezer. I realized it had been a long time since I'd made Coq Au Vin, so here was a good opportunity. I guess I could do all of the cooking on top of the stove, but it's not quite the same.

So... maybe I'll see if Amazon has some flat-bottomed cast iron cookware.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Slight Kindle Problem

I love my Kindle! I'm currently reading H. P. Lovecraft's short stories during my lunch breaks. The Kindle is lightweight, attractive, easy to use, and easy on the eyes.

There is one design flaw, however. To move the cursor, you press on the tiny edges of a square cursor movement button. I use my thumbnail to do this. It could be easier, but that's not my complaint. Closely below the Down Arrow edge of the cursor button is a Back key. It turns out that it's very easy to accidentally press the Back key while moving the cursor down--I've done it 3 times now. If you're in the middle of a book, this might pop you back to the list of books on the Kindle. To get back to the page you were reading, you just press the Forward key, right? Surprise! There is no Forward key!

To get back to your place in the book, you can use a Go To feature and specify a location code, which is similar to a page number. If you recognize that this puts you on text you've read recently, you can page forward until you find your place. I've started placing a bookmark on the page I'm on when I quit reading for the day. This helps, but it clutters up your list of notes and bookmarks.

Others have suggested (and I agree) that Amazon should change the Kindle software to recognize Alt+Back as "Forward". This would neatly solve the problem without a physical change.

If you have a Kindle 3 and have run into the Back key problem, please drop a note to and suggest that they implement the Alt+Back solution.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sitting Duck

My World of Warcraft Characters: Whassup!

Megarid, Level 63 Beast Mastery Hunter

I'm currently working on developing my hunter to level 70. He has just started working in Zangarmarsh in The Outlands. I hadn't played Megarid in quite a while so I was very rusty with the controls. Now that I've reacquainted myself with the basics, I'm trying to gain some facility with the trap-making skills.

The Blasted Lands (his previous haunt) is a great area for a hunter since many of the quests are in wide-open spaces and there are plenty of boars around to skin. Megarid's current pet is a big, tough wolf, Vrolak, that he picked up in Felwood.
Vrolak, Level 63 Wolf

The wolf makes a great tank--he can take a lot of damage before he gets into trouble. As long as Megarid only attacks Vrolak's current target, he can stand back from melee range and fire arrows, which is what he does best. Any kind of multi-target or area attack almost certainly attracts one or more mobs to Megarid. In that case, he winds up barely fending them off while Vrolak takes them out one by one. I have had some limited success throwing a Freezing Trap at one mob to temporarily incapacitate him and give me time to kill his buddy.

Megarid's leather-making skills are not advancing at the moment. The reason is that he doesn't yet know how to work the leather he's been collecting in Hellfire Peninsula and Zangarmarsh. At some point, I need to take him back into the Blasted Lands so he can farm some lower level leather.

Rima, Level 70 Balance Druid

Rima is the latest addition to my "personal guild". I had no idea how perfect a Druid would be for solo play. You've got your healing spells, ranged magic, and shape-shifting. In cat form, you can stealth like a Rogue. In bear form, you can take lots of damage at melee range. As a time saver, you can't beat bouncing back and forth with the "Teleport to Moonglade" spell and using your Hearthstone to return to questing.

Rima's professions are Enchanting and Inscription. Normally, this would be a bad combination because you need Herbalism to gather herbs for milling into pigment, which is necessary for creating glyphs. That's where my personal guild comes into play. Diabolik, my Rogue, has Herbalism, so she does the gathering for Rima. Some glyphs can fetch a pretty good price in the Auction House. If I were creating a single new character, Herbalism + Inscription would be a great pairing of professions--right up there with Skinning + Leatherworking and Mining + Blacksmithing.

Biroc, Level 70 Holy Paladin

My Paladin was the first to reach level 70 and gain a flying mount. I love being able to fly. It's extremely helpful when you're farming in a zone--you fly right past the annoying mobs that would slow down your resource gathering.

Biroc has been on sabbatical for a while as I've been advancing my other characters. At the time he left active play, he was making a ton of gold at the Auction House with his Blacksmithing skill. As the rich man of my personal guild, he has provided the financing for my other characters' advancements. It was kind of hard leaving him since the other characters make much less money. Also, since he can wear plate and has great healing spells, he's dependably tough in a melee.

Diabolik, Level 60 Subtlety Rogue

Attaining level 60 as my Rogue was a hard-earned achievement. This was quite a milestone, because now she has a flying mount and can farm herbs efficiently. As the mobs get tougher, advancing as a Rogue gets much tougher. It's always a little tricky trying to sneak up from behind on a mob that is pacing and changing directions quickly.

It will be interesting to see if I'm able to advance her to level 70, which will be my next goal after getting Megarid to 70. As it is, she's performing a great service by gathering herbs in the "kiddie" zones for Rima to mill.

Plans For The Future

My short-term goal is to get Megarid to level 70. After that, getting Diabolik to level 70 will be a goal. I may break off and try to advance my characters professionally--in particular Rima's Inscription skills. Megarid needs to catch up on his leatherworking, too.

Beyond that, I think I'll be trying to take my four characters to level 75.

So much fun. So much addiction.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 4

Marimba Lettuce

In this week's basket:
  • A head of cabbage
  • 2 heads of dark red, leafy lettuce (Marimba?)
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 2 sweet red onions
  • 1 bulb fresh garlic
  • A small bag of shell peas
  • 2 packages of pork breakfast links
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 1 package of chorizo sausage

The cabbage is destined for cole slaw and soup. I'll use the lettuce and radishes in salad. I'll need to pick up some additional soup and salad ingredients at the grocery this weekend. I'll have no trouble at all finding a use for the garlic. Olive oil and garlic are two things I can never have enough of. The peas will be a side dish. I'm thinking supper this Saturday will be a barbecued pork chop, cole slaw, and peas. I've been meaning to do another oven barbecue but I've always gotten side-tracked.

I'm not sure what to do with the red onions. Some people and restaurants will include them raw in salad, but that's not my style. I could use part of it in my cole slaw. I know there's at least one dish I make that calls for red onion, but I'll have to go through my recipes to to jog my memory. And there's always the Ingredient Search at

Having chorizo in the freezer is a great excuse to make one of my favorite dishes: Black Eyed Pea Jambalaya. That may be my project for the following weekend.

The sausage links will go with scrambled eggs and grits or hash browns--either for breakfast or supper. Obviously, there are countless ways to use the bacon!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wet Burritos à la Snakes



  •     1 lb. hamburger or chorizo
  •     1 T. canola oil
  •     1 medium onion, chopped
  •     1 T. minced garlic
  •     1 bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped separately
  •     2 small cans green chilies, chopped
  •     1 small can jalapenos, chopped
  •     1 can enchilada sauce
  •     12 oz. V&V Supremo Queso Fresco, cubed
  •     1 can diced tomatoes
  •     1 can chili without beans
  •     1 can re-fried beans
  •     2 t. chili powder
  •     1 t. ground cumin
  •     ¼ t. salt
  •     ½ t. pepper

  •     Large (8”) tortillas
  •     V&V Supremo Queso Chihuahua, shredded
  •     Salsa

Side Dishes (Optional)
  •     Re-fried beans
  •     Spanish rice


  1. Brown hamburger or chorizo in canola oil. Set aside to cool.
  2. Brown onion, garlic, and the white part of the green onions. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  4. When the meat has cooled, crumble it into the mixing bowl. Add the cooled onion-garlic mixture and blend well.

Burritos (1 serving)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Place two good-sized spoonfuls of filling on each of two tortillas. Fold the burritos and place in a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate.
  3. (Optional) Add servings of any side dishes to the pie plate.
  4. Sprinkle shredded cheese over burritos and re-fried beans (if present) and top with salsa.
  5. Wrap the pie plate tightly in aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Have Become a Kitchen Gadget Geek

I used to think that a coffee maker and an Osterizer blender were all the gadgets I needed for my kitchen. I've accumulated a few others over the years, but this year I've zoomed past the tipping point and am boosting Amazon's share price with all my orders. The shopping spree started when the food processor attachment of my immersion blender broke while I was using it to crush ice. That accident inspired two purchases: a Cuisinart food processor and a dedicated ice crusher.

It took me a while to get around to using these devices, but over Memorial Day I finally made coleslaw with the food processor and made a whiskey sour with the help of the ice crusher. The food processor is very fast and efficient, but you still have to prep the ingredients and cleanup can take a while. Then again, the coleslaw recipe involves 3 different blades, so there were a lot of parts to clean. The ice crusher is great for one or two people, but at 15 seconds per ice cube, this model would not be suitable for a party situation.

My one remaining jar opener was very old and had developed some tears, so I treated myself to a new set.
I'd been wanting a bread box for a while. Since I was on a roll, I picked one up from Amazon.

It works well! It kept a loaf of home-made bread fresh for almost 2 weeks.

After finally using the food processor, I realized that it would be difficult to store the blades and discs safely. I didn't want to just toss them into a drawer. Fortunately, Cuisinart offers a blade-and-disc holder. This was my next acquisition.

Having made a pitcher of sangria last year with fresh citrus fruits, I was well aware of how tedious it is to juice by hand. Even juicing one or two limes is a pain because the pulp and seeds clog up the slots in my cheap hand juicer. I decided to get a good quality juicing machine.

I used this last night to juice 6 limes. The limes needed to be peeled before juicing, which took a bit of time. The actual juicing was done in seconds, but the cleanup, especially of the fine mesh basket, took a while. The juice was excellent--not overpoweringly sour like bottled juice. There was a little bitterness (not necessarily a bad thing) from the pith, and it was also a little foamy from the pith.

After researching how best to prepare citrus fruits for juicing, I realized that a dedicated citrus juicer was probably the way to go. You only have to cut the fruit in half and the rind is left intact. So, this morning, I placed an order for a citrus juicer.

I expect this to be delivered on Saturday. I'm sure I'll get plenty of use out of the other juicing machine for such things as berries and vegetables.

My credenza in the dining room is now covered with gadgets. My kitchen and dining room are actually one large room. The kitchen part is pretty small--virtually no counter space for gadgets. I think I'm going to remove and store my espresso maker because I haven't used that in a couple of years.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grasshoppers: Pickup Number 3

Chinese cabbage

This week's basket contained:
  • 1 bunch of broccoli
  • 1 zucchini and 2 yellow squash
  • 1 head of Chinese cabbage (sui choy)
  • 1 head of Bibb lettuce
  • A small bunch of green onions
  • A bag of pea pods
  • About 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 4 beef bratwursts
  • 2 ground beef patties

I'm a little confused by the pea pods. The pods are thicker than snow peas. I'm guessing they should be shucked before cooking. (2011-06-06: No, these were snow peas. Just a lot more beefy than the snow peas I see in the grocery!)

I mistook the sui choy for Romaine lettuce last night and made a salad with part of it. The salad was delicious, but I think I'll use the rest of it in a stir fry. Heck, I might as well use the squash, green onions, and some of the broccoli in the stir fry as well. I have some fresh ginger in the fridge, so that can go in there, too. I'll use the Bibb lettuce in salads. I'll probably cook the peas as a side dish with the remaining broccoli as a second side. Maybe I'll thaw out one of the pork chops from the last pickup and do an oven barbecue as the main dish of that meal.

Good stuff, as always. I love my CSA.

There's "Smoke-Free" And Then There's... Not

I hate conflict. Seriously. I avoid it whenever I can, but sometimes I can't.

One of those times was yesterday. My house is just north of a day care center. They've been good neighbors, but some of their employees have been using my driveway as a smoking commons while I'm at work. I come home to find cigarette butts in splotches of 2 around the concrete.

The day care center has a policy that their staff may not smoke anywhere on their premises. It's unhealthy for the kids and it looks bad to parents to see staffers sucking on their smokes. On the other hand, that places an unfair burden on adjacent property owners. I really don't mind people smoking in my yard. I only mind them tossing their litter on the ground when they're done. I think the proper thing for a company to do in those circumstances would be to require employees to smoke in their cars. I know that could still be off-putting to parents, but the day care center doesn't have the right to define usage policies for neighboring properties.

Yesterday, after coming home from a workday filled with trivial stress, I found that the number of cigarette butts was growing exponentially. I walked next door to the day care center and asked to speak to one of the owners. The lady who opened the door for me took me into her office and heard my complaint. She understood and said she'd take care of it.

I hope my direct approach has led to a problem solved. I suspect that the owner is going to tell her staffers to smoke in the parking lot of the office buildings on the other side of the day care center. As long as my driveway isn't being trashed up, I'm not going to complain.