Thur. Jan. 21, 2021 – 012121 – yep, easily amused

Cool and damp, may be even damper later in the day.

Yesterday was pretty nice for mid-winter high with 60s and low 70s.  Overcast all day, but shorts and t-shirt weather for me.  I got a couple of things around the house cleaned up.  Finally got the last of the Christmas decor down and most of it put away.

Because I was at home in the afternoon, I cooked a lamb roast.   It’s a great example of saving money with a freezer, vac sealer, and buying in bulk.  I like lamb.  If you haven’t had it since you were a child, it’s different than it was.  Most of the ‘lamb’ taste, the mutton/gamey flavor is gone because of the farmers growing a different breed.   We enjoy it rare to medium rare.   Anyway, I buy the bigger roast and cut it in half.  Vac seal and freeze the resulting 2-3 pound roasts, and you’ve got a roast that is perfectly sized for two adults with leftovers, or a family like mine.  It doesn’t take forever to roast at that size either.    You can get a much better grade of meat in lamb roast for the same money, than you typically can for a beef roast.  Better living for less….

I buy hamburger in a bulk pack and repack it as 1 1/3 pound slabs.  I press it into a shallow square plastic food saver package then vac seal that shape so it will stack better in the freezer.  I used to do 1 pound packs but the kids are growing.

I buy pork roasts in the 10 pound tube, and slice into center cut pork chops any thickness I like.  I also cut a couple of 2-3 pound roasts out of the whole.  All get vac sealed and frozen.   The 10 pound pack is cheaper than smaller roasts, or pre-cut chops.  I usually season the chops in the vac bag with garlic salt and chinese oyster sauce.  The family LOVES the sweet brown sauce on pork and I don’t have to make a mess at cooking time, or worry about marinading it ahead of time.  Another win!

Beef ribeye roasts get the same treatment as the pork roast, some steaks, some of the best beef roast ever.  I season the steaks before vac bagging with Adkins seasoning.  It’s a nice mix of garlic, citrus-y something, and black pepper.   It’s a lot like Penzey’s Chicago Steak seasoning, without all the hate for conservatives.

Bacon in the bulk pack is 24c/lb.  It’s double that in smaller packaging.  I re-pack it in 3/4 lb blocks which is just a bit more than we need for breakfast.    It rarely lasts until lunch.  Vac seal and freeze into one meal portions…

I should note that I’m not Rockefeller.   The vac seal and freeze routine means the meat lasts as long as it’s frozen, so I only buy the stuff on sale.  I buy a BUNCH when the price is right and store it for later.  There are significant savings to be had if you shop this way.   There are shopping trips where I might not even buy any meat if it’s not on sale, because I have some at home in the freezer.

Another thing I do is freeze the leftovers from holiday meals.   I do the same “shape them into a flat block” trick of pressing them into a plastic storage container before freezing.   It’s easy to gauge the number of portions when it’s time to eat, just look at the bag.

If you want to vac seal something wet or squishy, put it in the plastic container and freeze it first, then take it out of the container and vac seal the block of soup, or chili, or whatever.

You can vac seal and freeze partially prepare foods too.   I like to sear the meat before using the slow cooker to make stew or pot roast or carnitas.  I don’t like the smell in the house (and I didn’t have a working exhaust fan) so if I’m going to get out the cast iron and make the mess, I like to do at least 2 or 3 meals worth.   After searing,  I put the meat and juices into vac sealed bags and freeze them.  The next time I want stew or pot roast, or pork carnitas, I defrost the meat and put it right into the cooker, no muss, no fuss.

I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that have written or ‘tubed about the vac sealer more eloquently and more completely than I have, but these ideas should get you started if you are holding out.  I consider the vac sealer to be essential, so I have my daily driver, then another spare of a similar type, then two more  spares of the ‘seal a meal’ manual type.  I just picked up another one from goodwill this week to have on the shelf.  You’ll find uses for it, if you have one.

So that’s some ideas for stacking, get to it.

 

nick

Sat. Jan. 2, 2021 – and away we go!

Cold.  Clear.  Gusty.  Starting in the mid 30s and getting warmer throughout the day.  I hope.

It was a nice day, if a bit gusty and cool yesterday.  36F when I went to bed, down from mid-40s.

I basically took the day off.  Didn’t even look at my phone until midnight.  Left it on the charger in the other room.  I did make a nice dinner for New Year’s Day.

I started with five pounds of bone on ribeye roast from the sale last week.  Mashed potatoes with cream and bacon crumbles.  Steamed broccoli from the garden.  Biscuits from a roll, and key lime pie from a can.  Yup.  A can of pie filling, some whipped cream, and a graham cracker crust, a few hours in the freezer, and a delicious treat was served.  I even garnished it with a thin slice of lime, heavily sugared.

Canned pie filling is one of my stored food staples.   Cheap, quick, easy, and very satisfying.  I’ve got everything from key lime to chocolate, with dark cherry and apple being two favorites.  Some you bake, some you freeze, but all have been good and the dark cherry is great.  Crusts are either pre-made graham cracker (which keeps forever in the fridge) or the rolled up pilsbury, also in the fridge, or from some premade mixes.  My wife will make pie crust from scratch.  I don’t.  The other way I use it is to make little ‘mini’ pies in small ramekins.  A circle of pie crust, a scoop of canned filling, another circle to cover, et viola!  Personal sized pies.  I sometimes roll the pre-made crust a bit thinner to be sure I have enough.  Or use the mini pre-made graham crusts, and some jello pudding mix to make little pies…  Everyone is cheered by the sight of a pie.

Which transitions nicely into the idea of morale, and the importance of keeping it up.  Even though we’re not fully locked down and isolated, we were in the early days.  I’d planned for a long time on our lifeboat, and did several things to hopefully improve morale.  Firstly I stocked a variety of food.  I stock a bunch of stuff we don’t eat regularly and some we’ve never eaten as a family.  I figure that coming up with new meals and tastes is important to keep people interested in eating.   I stock a bunch of different canned pie fillings.  They can be used as pie filling, served over icecream, or used in other ways to keep things interesting.  I have some freeze dried “astronaut ice cream” as a special treat.  I have a lot of cake and cookie mixes too.  I figure a nice dessert goes a long way to helping with morale as does good food.

I stocked up on gifts for special occasions.  We were able to augment the stored gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, but I had SOME things ready if needed.  It had been handy pre-covid, to grab a gift from the closet for the ‘pop up’ birthday party the kid forgot about until the last minute.

I have lots of movies and tv shows on DVD that the kids and even my wife and I have never seen.  We’ve got old favorites too.  I’ve got puzzles, games, and art supplies.  Books of course, but also books with activities for kids – like how to draw horses, or making paper airplanes, or how to make origami animals.  I’ve even got a couple of books on learning to play instruments we have.  The idea was not just to have stuff to do, but also some novelty.  A couple of decks of cards and a Hoyles book of card games is a DEEP fallback position.

I stored books and supplies for traditional crafts and handiwork too-needlework and leather-crafting in particular, as there are practical applications as well as busy work.  Keeping hands occupied and accomplishing something usually raises peoples’ spirits.

Lego and Vex kits also keep them busy.  I’ve got other educational kits in reserve too.

Throughout the last 9 months, as the kids were looking for something to do, or needed project materials for classes, I was able to just tap into the stuff I had stored.  When they would get a bit ‘down’ we’d whip out something novel they hadn’t seen or done before.  Sometimes it didn’t work.  But usually it did.

For us here in Texas, and other states that didn’t go full jackboot, the covid restrictions have been a bit of a dry run for the zombie apocalypse or a really bad plague.  Mostly stuff worked well.  There were some gaps, and I’m working to fill those.  Being able to keep prepping and adding to preps during the pandemic has been helpful.   Still a long way to go to prep for civil war, economic collapse, civil unrest/race riots, the Greatest Depression, global cooling, alien invasion, ebola, chicken AIDS, or whatever is coming next to plague us.

People and relationships are important, both virtually and in real life.  Skills are important.  Knowledge is important.  Having the stuff to USE those skills and that knowledge on, or to help out a friend, or build a relationship, is important too.  So keep stackin’, you don’t want to be lackin’…

nick

Fri. Nov. 27, 2020 – just another day to work

Cool, overcast, possible rain later.

Well, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone.  We here at Casa de Nick have enjoyed another feast, with most of the traditional foods we are used to having.  We missed having friends and family over, but it did make for a more calm and relaxing day.

I actually managed to get some other stuff done too.  I went through a bunch of stuff and filled a couple of bins for my local auction.  I have more to go through, and the ebay bin will need to be listed, but it looks like progress…  And I repaired an item that should sell for hundreds of bucks on ebay.

My wife continued painting in the kitchen in addition to preparing some really good food.  If I wasn’t going to my rent house to do plumbing repairs today, I’d be in the attic getting the range hood installed.   I guess that will wait until Saturday.

I’ve never been interested in “Friday of Color” sales.  I can often find better pricing, or similar pricing but on better versions of the items and avoid the stampedes.  I did look at a few of the cyber- offers.  An ammunition reseller had Pelican cases marked down.  That was it.  They didn’t even have any ammo for sale.  Some other places online had weirdo import guns, and small manufactures I’ve never seen before, but no big names.  A few, very few, had name brand models, at high prices.  Selection and quantity were very limited.

Fry’s offers were about where MicroCenter is normally.  MicroCenter was competitive with Costco.  Costco expanded the tech they have for sale dramatically.   As an aside, a decade after leaving the field of large format, high resolution CURVED displays, the new hotness is curved monitors on desks.  I guess once you’ve sold everyone two monitors, and with 3D still a bust, curved looks like a growth space.   After a decade of putting in curved displays, we determined that they are essentially single user devices.  They work poorly for large groups unless the display is HUGE and the intent is awe, rather than work.  Large curved TVs had the same issues we saw with our much larger systems and didn’t fly off the shelves.   Desktop users might be the actual sweet spot for wide curved displays.  As long as you don’t need two…or three.*

It will be interesting to see if the shoppers ignore social distancing and masks in the rush to get cheap crap, like the holiday travelers did.

I’m not one to panic, but I do take the wuflu seriously.  It didn’t kill us like it killed chinese, but I’ll put some of that down to unknown factors, and some down to masks and distancing.  It’s hard to catch something if you aren’t around anyone who has it.  The number of people traveling this week pretty much ensures that we will see a large spike in cases, on top of the current increases, just in time for Christmas travel, which will either not happen if things are REALLY bad, or will put the nail in the coffin of containment and mitigation.  You can argue severity, transmissibility, lethality, and the legality and effectiveness of the actions taken by political figures, but you can’t argue the ACTUALITY that the disease exists, is spread person to person, and makes some percentage very sick, and kills a smaller percentage of those.  With very large numbers exposed, we WILL see large numbers of sick, and larger numbers of both very sick, and lethally sick people than we have been seeing.

That will cause a number of responses, both social and political.  I can’t predict which way it will go.  I expect political ‘leaders’ to try more, harder.  If you are in an area with already repressive government – I think you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Those of us in less restrictive areas are going to see increasing restrictions.  Or despite everything we’ll lose control and it will sweep through like a wildfire, in which case you’ll stay isolated voluntarily.

Either case or anything in between can be made better on an individual level by avoiding people.  Get ready to increase your personal protective behaviors.  This isn’t going to be a time to be out shopping or ‘living your best life’.    Get that stuff out of the way NOW, right now, before the wave hits.  And stack it high, because a surging hospitalization rate is actually likely to be only ONE of our worries as the next month or two plays out.

I know it’s doom and gloom.  But we ARE living with social unrest (rioting/insurrection), a global pandemic, and an uncertain election and transfer of power, which could turn into full on fighting in the streets.  France fell in 2 weeks to the Germans.  Just last month, suddenly Armenia and Azerbaijan were lobbing mortars and bombs into each other’s cities.  Venezuela fell to failed state in less than two years.  It can happen very quickly.  Be ready to live with it and through it.

Keep stacking.  Be thankful for every day without those issues.

nick

 

Tues. Oct. 13, 2020 – back to school

Another fairly hot and very humid day.  No rain forecast though.

Monday was so humid I was sweating just standing outside talking with the roofing contractor.  It got up into the low nineties too.  Hotter in the sun, I’m sure.  Roofing is one of those jobs that I would do just about anything to avoid.  Septic pumping is another.

I did my pickups.  Got my roof vents and the rest of my household stuff.  Not much for resale in these two auctions.

The roofers got the back side of the house and some of the garage done.  Today they’ll finish with the garage and do all of the front side.  The new color shingle looks great.  It really freshens up the look and I can’t wait to see it on the front from the street.  House will look good for the riots at least.

I really don’t like having the crew in my driveway and around the house in the back where all the good stuff is.  The generators and water tanks are pretty hard to miss if you are in the yard.  The food is a bit more undercover.  @paul would probably recognize what I’ve got going on.  I’ve used night shields (aluminized fabric set up like an old school movie screen) horizontally to cover my three sets of shelves where my canned goods are stored.  The night shields are normally used in a grocery store to cover the open face of reach in coolers and freezers at night.  I picked up three at some point.  They work great as retractable ‘doors’ in front of the metal shelves.

Hard to maintain OPSEC when you’ve got people crawling all over your house.

Once the roofers are done and gone, I’ll be able to get more Halloween decor out.  That gives me a sense of normality that I kind of need right now to counter my sense of dread for what I see coming.  Every one of these milestones I want to make as normal as possible for the kids, so if things do go pear shaped, they have that to remember.  And if they DON’T go pear shaped, all the better to have celebrated the small events, instead of skipping them.  On the other hand, I can be pretty sure we won’t be doing 4 Trunk or Treats this year.  As long as we get one Trick or Treat night I’ll be happy.

Ate one orange from my tree today.  A bit sour and woody.  Very disappointing.  I hope the others are better.  Daughter 2 wanted to make cookies, and used a box of mix Best By 2018.  It was pretty bad.  There is something bitter in there.  For everything that lasts well past its BB, there is something else that doesn’t.

On the other hand, I used a skillet flavor mix from 2018 to make chicken tacos last night and they were REALLY good.  Chicken from the freezer, ‘street truck’ one skillet flavor packet, and I made the tortillas from the big bucket o mix.  Just add water!  I’m getting the hang of it.  They aren’t round, but I’m getting them cooked more consistently and rolled out to a more consistent and thin thickness.  The dough really needs to be kneaded, and it really needs to rest.  After that it rolls out nicely.  The tortilla press was a failure again.  Operator error or just not needed, the press is going to Goodwill.  I don’t have a comal but the western rolling pin works just fine and I’ll keep trying.  Sometimes the simplest things are much harder than they might look.  That’s why we need to practice the skills.

And keep stacking.  So you have the resources to use with those skills…

 

nick

Tues. Sept. 29, 2020 – more cool and damp?

Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get the cool without the damp today.  ADDED- 54F and 90%RH this morning.  Fall is here.

Yesterday was certainly nice.  It was a bit overcast for part of the day, but the sun did peek out.

I got seeds in the ground in the remainder of the raised beds.  I put turnips, beets, and quick growing radishes in the beds.   I’ve still got the window boxes to do, but I feel better now with something in the ground.  The peas are coming up, and I think the beans might be too.

Beyond that it was little things knocked off the list.  Washed two down jackets I picked up for the kids.  Like new condition, real down, traditional makers, and I used a technical down wash on them. I’m running them in the dryer on the ‘no heat’ cycle until dry.  Just in time for cooler weather!

Moved some more stuff to the auction pile.  Looked through the current auction, which finally lists some of the stuff I dropped off last month.  Maybe I can drop off this stack soon.  I put back one of my UHF antennas, and moved another wire antenna.  Not super high on the list, but I was up on the roof to look at the chimney cap.  I’m not going to be changing that out for new.  The repair guy mortared it in place.   I’ll leave it until we need to have the chimney cleaned to worry about access.  At least the cap won’t blow away ever again.

Had a real nice dinner with a new recipe.  I talked about it in yesterday’s comments.  Usually my ‘go to’ book is an older copy of “Joy of Cooking”.   If you only have room for one food prep reference book, I think that should be it.  It will answer any questions, provide delicious recipes from simple and basic ingredients, and it’s funny besides.  Add a couple of other category cookbooks, preferably older or put together by a church lady, and you are pretty well covered.  I’ve got a couple of wild game books, the Fanny Farmer book, a bread book, some specialty books like on chinese cooking or low carb,  and several ‘church lady’ books.  Those are great for regional favorites, simple and hearty meals, and classic ‘church social’ dishes.  I’ve done posts or comments on recipe books before to cover the other ones I consider essential from a ‘prepping’ standpoint.  Search should find them.

We finished the night with a little campfire in the fire ring in front of the house.  We made s’mores and watched the flames for a while.  I’ve got a mexican pottery bowl half filled with sand that is perfect for a little fire made from twigs in the yard.    Just what you need for a dozen s’mores.

Later today I’m making a scrap run with a couple dozen dead batteries.  Then I’ll head out for a couple of auction pickups.  If I have time, I’ll stop at my buddy’s store and drop off some mold killer/disinfectant/odor killer.  He got some water in the house during the big rain.   And of course, all the backlogged tasks are still there too.  Maybe I’ll get some of them knocked off.

I’ll try.  And I’ll keep stacking.

n

Wed. June 17, 2020 – work work work, mess around, work, rest

Hot and humid again.  Go figure.

Yesterday was both, although it seemed pretty nice in the shade, when the wind blew.

I did my auction pickups.  Got a couple things for the pool.  Got a couple items for ebay.  Got a very specialized tool, that should make moving a safe much easier and less likely to crack flooring.  At some point, I’ll need that and it was super cheap.  I like to buy stuff before I have the need, so that it’s ready to go when I finally do need it.  That’s sorta the nature of prepping and it applies across my life.

I made some adjustments to settings in my garage fridge and it’s now reading 37F in the back.  If that holds up, I’ll be moving stuff to it again.  Add a quart of spoiled cream to the total losses during this exercise…

Dinner was instigated and (mostly) executed by daughter one.  Pasta with home made alfredo sauce, oven roasted seasoned potatoes, and grilled steak (my contribution.)  My wife did provide guidance but oldest mostly worked from a cookbook she got for her birthday.  Everything came out of the pantry or freezer.  It was very tasty.


Since I was out running around most of the afternoon, I didn’t get much time in front of the computer, so I’m a bit behind the news.  Still no official response in Seattle.   REALLY biased reporting of the defensive gun use in New Mexico.  Lots of people who thought the lifting of restrictions meant the threat of illness was gone, and now they’re sick.   All good reasons to practice rule number one, Avoid Crowds.

And keep stacking.

 

nick

Fri. June 12, 2020 – another week under restrictions, but apparently not enough

Hot and humid, although it should be less so than the rest of the week.

Yesterday was a bit cooler and drier than the earlier part of the week.  It was still 90F in the shade in the late afternoon, because it’s summer in Houston after all.  It was practically chilly getting in the pool after dinner.

Unfortunately it looks like Houston is about to validate a whole lot of stuff regarding wuflu.

Houston “On The Precipice Of Disaster” As Officials Weigh Reimposing Stay At Home Order Amid Spike In Cases

I’ve been saying ‘wait and see’ and ‘let the other guy see if the flame is still hot’ and it looks like it is.   I’ll give it a little bit more time to develop further, but it seems to be right on schedule and just as predicted.   That isn’t good, as it means we’ll be seeing a bunch more cases and all over the place as the Memorial Day celebrants and then the protesters get sick, right on schedule.

It’s not going to make much difference in my life or plans, but it’s gonna be a kick in the teeth for some people.  I’m in this for the long haul.  I hope you all are too.

With that in mind, I was trying to buy another freezer today in an auction.  I stopped bidding at 1.5x the freezer’s original price.  Still half of new CURRENT price on amazon, but jeez.  It wasn’t a good fit for the space I have, or as big as I wanted.  There will be more as estates keep settling.  I could just order one, and wait for fall delivery, but I want to start stocking it.

Speaking of coolers, my garage fridge wasn’t cold when I went out there last night.  The freezer was still frozen, but the air passages feeding cold to the fridge compartment were blocked with ice.   I might have lost 20 pounds of chicken and 10 pounds of lamb.    The milk is cheap and I can get more, and the eggs will be fine.  All the cheese will be ok.  Losing the meat would suck.  I’ll be looking closely at that today, and possibly just cooking it.  It wasn’t warm, and the tubes of biscuits hadn’t exploded, but it’s been warmer than 36F for at least a couple of days.  I brought the meat into the house, and unblocked the passages.  With as hot and humid as it’s been, I should have been paying more attention.  It’s a known issue for me with this fridge, but I forgot.  Little things, ignored, can have bigger consequences.  Fortunately, we’re not on the ragged edge at the moment.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do today, after swim team.  Swim team is looking like a bad idea in light of the rise in cases.  I guess we’ll make a decision soon.

Yesterday number one daughter used cake mix, frosting mix, and other stuff from the preps and pantry to bake cupcakes for her friend’s birthday.  Hooray baking club.  She did it all herself, with me in the kitchen, but not helping.  She even did a pastry bag with a decorator tip to apply the frosting.  #proudpapa !  They looked great, like store bought, and tasted delicious.

Dinner was grilled lamb chops, leftover french fries, and broccoli- two stems from the garden and half a head from the store.   The garden broccoli tasted and looked good, but there wasn’t much.  I cut it off the plants and expect they’ll grow more, like the last time I harvested.

It’s pretty clear to me that bad times are here, and more are coming.

Now more than ever, don’t let your guard down.  Keep stacking.

 

nick

 

 

Fri. Feb. 16, 2019 Friday, again. Wow.

I’m tellin’ ya, time is flyin’ by….

70F and 99%RH. Moisture condensing on concrete deck and floor, and anything metal or solid in the garage. Can anyone say “less than ideal storage conditions?”

I did make a great dessert last night from “middle” term storage. I’ve found that the fruit cups from costco will discolor and the fruit gets mushy after the expiration date. This is pretty typical, “color and texture might change but contents remain healthy and safe” is true for cans as well. I’ve mentioned here before that when I notice that a case is aging out, I make fruit cobbler.

So last night, a delicious mango cobbler was made, and half was consumed after dinner. The mango tastes pretty much like peaches after canning. I used prepackaged cobbler mix. It couldn’t be much easier- melt butter, pour in mix with milk, dump in 4 fruit cups. Bake. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Kids asked for seconds. Success!

Managing your stores probably deserves a whole post, but the short story is — use what you have too much of. In other words, if we’ve eaten fewer eggs than normal, I will make something to eat that requires more eggs, like French Toast (Freedom Toast!). That’s a good way to use up some bread too. Or fruit desserts to use aging fruit cups that don’t LOOK attractive, but are still delicious. Think about baking, or pre-cooking meat and freezing. Pies are a way to make fruit last a few more days. Juice fruits and freeze the juice…

Anyway, I’m toying with the idea of a “use less week.” The idea is that you probably use more than needed during these times of prosperity, and would use less if times were tough, so why not try it now??

Some easy examples: toothpaste. Most people probably learned to put a stripe of toothpaste the whole length of the toothbrush. I find that less than half of that is sufficient to fill my mouth with foamy cleaning action. I’ve completely internalized this change.

Shampoo. The bottle usually says how much to use, but do you just pour some in your hand? Bigger than a ‘quarter’? I’ll bet half will give the same sudsing action. If not, just “lather rinse repeat” like the bottle says. Nothing to lose.

Hand soap, hand sanitizer. The dispensers kick out way more than needed.

Eggs. I love eggs. I now only buy the Large size though. Simple change from the Extra Large I grew up with and just kept buying. They are cheaper too. And I’m finding that one is enough for breakfast when I habitually ate two.

Toilet paper. I’d bet that most of us just use this the way we learned as kids. I did. Having kids to teach, and someone else’s butt to wipe, made me rethink both technique and amount. Not something to skimp on, but if you knew the supply was limited, would you be more careful and use less? TP is a very bulky item to store as preps, and not something you want to run out of.

Laundry and dish soap. Do you just dump some in? When was the last time you read the bottle or looked at the different marks on the measuring cup?

Ketchup or dipping condiments. Just dump a big squirt on the plate? Why not put half as much and then squirt more if needed?

Hmm, this is turning into a coupon clipping, make your own soap kind of post, so I’ll end it here, but I challenge you to look at your habits, and see if you are being a ‘good steward’ of the resources you have.

nick

Sunday, 20 November 2016

11:51 – We had a blizzard last night, except for the snow part. The low was about 23F (-5C), with winds gusting to 60 MPH (100 KPH). That made the wind chill not far above absolute zero.

We’d run out of homemade bread, so we decided to bake a couple of large loaves yesterday. Since we were messing up the kitchen and heating the oven anyway, we decided also to make a chocolate cake. As usual, my go-to source for any recipe involving flour and baking is King Arthur Flour. We decided on this recipe. Originally, I planned to make the optional icing as well, but Barbara suggested we try it without the icing first. I’m glad she mentioned that, because as it turned out the cake was fine without frosting.

Here are the ingredients we used, all from long-term storage:

□ Flour, 1.5 cups (6.25 oz., 177 grams)
□ Sugar, 1 cup (7 oz., 198 g)
□ Cocoa powder, 0.25 cup (0.75 oz., 21 g)
□ Salt, 0.5 tsp
□ Baking soda, 1 tsp
□ Vanilla extract, 1 tsp
□ Vinegar, 1 Tbsp (0.5 oz., 14 g)
□ Vegetable oil, 0.33 cup (2.625 oz., 74 g)
□ Water, 1 cup (8 oz., 227 g)

Making it up takes only a few minutes. Here’s what we did:

0. Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8″ square baking pan that’s at least 2″ deep.

1. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly.

2. Combine the vanilla extract, vinegar, vegetable oil, and water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Immediately pour the batter into the greased 8″ baking pan and place the pan in the 350F preheated oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

The original recipe used all-purpose flour. We used bread flour, which is the only kind we store. I was initially surprised by how little cocoa was called for. When we mixed the dry powders, the result was a light tan color rather than the dark brown of a typical chocolate cake. But when it came out of the oven, it had turned dark brown as expected, and had plenty of chocolate flavor.

I’d also wondered about using bread flour, which is much higher in protein (gluten) than all-purpose, let alone low-protein pastry flour. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the cake had turned out brick-like, but it was just as good as the one Barbara had bought at the supermarket a couple of days ago.

We had four 24-ounce (680 g) cannisters of cocoa powder in LTS. Looking at them, I figured we might get a half dozen chocolate cakes out of each. As it turns out, each cannister is enough for 32 of these pan cakes, so we have enough for 128 of them. Well, 127 now.


Friday, 26 August 2016

09:21 – Barbara is off to the gym and supermarket, where she’s going to pick up a can of black beans, a jar of cumin, and a jar of coriander, the only items we didn’t have in our pantry for making up Jen’s Bean Gloppita recipe. (My name, not hers). Barbara mentioned the other night that she liked black beans and it would be fine with her to have black beans and rice for dinner one night. We’re going to have it for dinner tonight. We’ll follow Jen’s recipe exactly, other than halving it and cooking the rice in the microwave rather than on the stovetop. If it turns out well, I’ll pick up a couple cases of black beans at Costco or Sam’s, along with larger bottles of cumin and coriander, which we don’t normally use.

Speaking of which, we inventoried our supply of herbs and spices (henceforth “sperbs”) in the kitchen and in our downstairs LTS pantry. I need to get that sorted and consolidated so that I can make up a list of which sperbs we need to get on our next Sam’s visit. We’re in pretty good shape on most of those we use routinely, but there are several we’re short of or don’t have in stock at all.

I’m creating POs and ordering stuff that we’re running short of. Today, I need to get several chemicals on order, including ninhydrin crystals and synthetic blood for the forensic kits. I also need to re-order bottles of several types. And I just noticed that my bottle vendor sells 5-gallon pails with screw-on lids for $10 each. That’s a lot of money for a pail, but the real cost is in the screw-on lids, which typically cost $7 to $10 each just for the lid.