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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Wednesday 2019.9.18

Dining Al Fresco

I had to look it up. Al fresco is Italian for "fresh" or "cool"; in other words, dining outdoors in the fresh air. I have been enjoying my deck, with no dogs barking next door.

On Sunday and Monday I shot another Cooking for One video. Sunday afternoon I prepped pork chops by placing a few leaves of fresh herbs on each chop and wrapping it with a slice of prosciutto. A small (3.26 pound / 1.5 kg) boneless pork loin gave me 20 chops at a cost of about 50¢ each. I cooked one the next day to be certain it was frozen solid. A single frozen chop cooked in less than five minutes per side. I plated it with sautéed snow peas and then ate outside on my deck. Delicious and pleasant. Here's a photo:

Although the video hasn't been made public yet on YouTube, you can watch it now by clicking the graphic above and clicking the green View the Video button on the recipe page.

The preparation is very similar to how I made the Pork Chops Saltimbocca featured on Sunday. The difference was in how I sliced the raw meat. For the Cooking for One video I cut thin slices because I wanted them too cook quickly in a skillet, even though the chop went into the pan frozen. And now that I have a flourishing little herb garden outside my kitchen window, I wanted to use some of each for this video.

In the photo above you can see dark patches on top of the chop. Those are leaves of fresh Italian parsley, visible through the thinly sliced prosciutto. I used small amounts from all eight of my living herbs. The chops are economical and easy, but I would have no reservations whatsoever about serving these to guests who might come to dinner. They're just fancy enough, and delicious.

Rethinking Simplicity

Do I really need a one-cup electric automatic coffee maker? Some things I considered:

How automatic is it when I need to manually load the filter, measure the coffee, measure the water, fill the reservoir, and press the button?

I certainly don't want one of those expensive Kerig-type brewers that require a K-cup, even though some let you use loose ground coffee instead. I like to grind my coffee beans. Jose's brand Columbian Supremo in the 3-pound bag at Costco has been my preferred coffee for decades.

How easy is it to pour a cup of water into a small sauce pan and heat it on the stove while I'm setting up my coffee cup?

I wondered about coffee funnels. I've seen them since my college days, but never owned one. You've seen them; they sit on top of the cup. Fit a filter, add ground coffee, pour hot water in, and wait.

I have the plastic funnel from my counter top coffee maker, but it sits down in the cup, not on top. And then I thought about tea. The tea bag sits in the hot water to steep; it doesn't sit on top. So why not let the funnel sit in the hot coffee a little longer to brew a richer cup of coffee?

I tried it. One important observation is that the coffee was hotter. Otherwise, there was no difference. The flavor was the same, as was the brewing time.

So now I'm wondering if I need that automatic coffee maker. How much longer before it goes into the recycling bin?

The issue has been that it needs cleaning with vinegar two or three times every few months before it quietly makes a cup of coffee again. (We have hard water here.) I think I'll make coffee with hot water from a saucepan for a few weeks and if I never see a need to go back, I'll discard the appliance and keep the funnel. Meanwhile, when I'm out shopping I might look for one of the funnels that sit on the cup. Nice ceramic ones are available on Amazon.

Sunday 2019.9.15

Cooking for One

The idea of doing videos about cooking simple but nutritious meals for one or two people appeals to me. However, there is an inherent limitation built in. When it comes to the main course, such as meats, there are only so many available options. I did chicken and lamb chops. This week's pork chops leaves only one basic meat — beef. I'm not much of a beef eater.

I have steaks in the freezer, actually too many of them. I bought and froze them when there were on sale at a terrific price. One friend who loves to barbecue steaks thinks I should grill them. He doesn't like the idea that I bought them to make Real Texas Chili to enjoy in winter.

As I say in the recipe description, I make this chili each fall when the weather starts to turn chilly (no play on words intended). Here we are in the middle of September. In many parts of the world the weather is already changing. Next month the leaves will change color in New England and begin falling from the trees. (Here in Southern California the palm trees are always green.) I'll probably cook one or two batches of chili next month. I'm already craving it.

That beef chili might be a way to add a Cooking for One - Beef episode. Make a large pot of chili, portion it into single servings, and then freeze them. Remove one from the plastic later, place in a bowl, and heat in the microwave oven. I actually show this on my Minute Meals page, but I don't recall ever demonstrating it in a video.

One advantage is that it doesn't require the use of my FoodSaver vacuum sealer, which can be expensive and slow to use. In fact, I use my impulse heat sealer and poly tubing a lot more often to package food portions to freeze. However, if I do the video, I might demonstrate using the vacuum sealer's Quick Seal function.

And this brings up another issue:

Preparing the Freezer

It was time to clean out the freezer, even more. For the past few months I've been heating or cooking frozen foods to make more room in the freezer, planning for winter. However, there were some foods in there that I knew I would never use, at least not for another year. Most were frozen high-carb fruit chunks I bought for making smoothies.

SmoothieTube was an experimental channel on YouTube. I thought it might catch on and become popular. After it failed to accumulate even 100 subscribers after many months, I decided to abandon the channel. I still have all the videos, which I plan to upload eventually to my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. I'll do that in summer, most likely, when cold fruit smoothies might be more appealing (and when my channel is at its lowest volume of traffic).

Those fruits are not allowed on a ket diet. There weren't many in the freezer; so I decided it was time to let them go. Besides, they had been in there for many months. They went into the trash. I don't like to discard potentially good food, but it was either waste food or waste freezer space. The freezer won.

In autumn my thinking turns to soups. Besides the chili (which is more like a stew) I want to make Keto Friendly Clam Chowder again, more Cream of Broccoli Soup and Cheddar Broccoli Soup. I will also spend more time perusing my keto cookbooks for more soup ideas. And now that I can use my deck again (the neighbor's barking dogs are gone) I am really enjoying some time sitting on the porch sipping coffee or soup from a mug. So far, I've been out there everyday.

Cleaning YouTube

And that brings up another project for the coming winter — cleaning up my YouTube channels. YouTube is a fun place to experiment. I like to try new video ideas. Most fail, but the planning and producing of those videos was fun. They're one of my pastimes to enjoy in my retirement.

I have eight channels, but I only upload to two now: Mobile Home Gourmet and My Kitchen Vlog. The food channel earns a little revenue. Not much. The videos pay for themselves and add a little extra to my checking account. I still need my retirement pension and Social Security benefits to pay my bills each month. My vlog channel doesn't earn any revenue at all. That's fine with me. Those videos don't cost anything to produce.

Three of my channels have no subscribers at all. Neither do they have any videos. Those channels are more like placeholders, possible locations for potential future video ideas. And the other three channels are abandoned because they either didn't attract any subscribers (one has only 17) or I ran out of ideas to video.

So this winter I will probably clean out the videos in the abandoned channels and then either delete the channels from YouTube or name them something different to hold them empty for future use, maybe. The problem is that I am nearly 70 years old. Mobile Home Gourmet took nine years to reach its current level of success. I don't feel like I want to devote that much time again to any new ideas that might never succeed.

What is success? I measure it by popularity, and maybe by revenue. As I said above, My Kitchen Vlog doesn't earn any revenue. But it's popular enough to make it worthwhile. The channel has about 500 subscribers and most videos are seen about 200 times. However, some videos are very popular. My review of the Thule Bike Carrier has been watched 22,000 times. Four of the videos have more than 10,000 views. And they're fun and easy to do; so I'll keep supporting that channel.

And Speaking of YouTube…

I watched a new Derral Eves video in which he talks about the changes coming to YouTube because of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act. The federal government is cracking down on video platforms that do not prevent children from viewing content that is inappropriate for them. Supposedly this will affect many YT content creators and they could see a loss of views and revenue.

I am not worried. I do cooking videos. I checked the demographics on my Mobile Home Gourmet channel. YT reports 0%, yes zero percent, of the views are from viewers under the age of 18. The only issue that might be of concern is the possibility of false positives — YT erroneously identifying a video as having inappropriate content because their AI algorithm is not fully adjusted yet. I went through that when the algorithm found some of my videos inappropriate for advertisers because I used the word "breast," as in chicken breasts.

Even though I am not a parent, I do feel strongly there needs to be more protection to prevent young eyes from seeing content created exclusively for adults. The pendulum swings in both directions. I hope YT doesn't attack the problem with too much gusto and flag videos as inappropriate when they are really harmless. Maybe I need to review my video of Mom's Christmas Cookies to make certain I didn't shape any cookies that might look suggestive of private parts.

Just a Little Political

Yesterday was our semi-weekly meeting of our news discussion group. Speaking about the separation of Donald Trump and his former security advisor John Bolton, I said: "They each have different philosophies about foreign policy. Trump wants to play kissypoo and exchange love letters with brutal dictators; Bolton wants to bomb the crap out of them." Too much?

Wednesday 2019.9.11

Remembering

Today is 9/11, the day of the USA's worst terrorist attack 18 years ago. It was a difficult time for me because I couldn't comprehend something so heinous happening. It was slightly personal too. For many years I worked in the Intercollegiate Athletics department at the local university. I did their NCAA eligibility. Although I was not working in the department at the time (I had moved up to a better position in Admissions) I still kept in contact with the staff and coaches. The department had hired a new Women's Gymnastics coach. She was coming to California to begin her job. She was in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

I ended up in therapy for a while, discussing my feelings with a psychologist. He helped me work through my issues. However, I still try to avoid television documentaries about the events of that day. I agree it was a time we don't want to forget, but living through the pain and horror once was enough.

A Little Success

This week's feature food, Cooking for One — Chicken, is doing well. It has already been viewed more than 1,000 times and during the first half of this week, due to a peak on Sunday, it was my second most popular video. It is already settling down, yielding way to the more popular ones: Pork Spareribs Cooked in an Air Fryer and Salmon Jerky.

The idea of simple food preparation appears to appeal to many people. (The chicken thigh strips can be cooked frozen, five to six minutes per side for serving.) I received some encouraging comments about the video and some people want more of them. I am waiting to see pork loins go on sale at a reduced price at a local grocery store. I check the ads each week.

On Sunday I will feature Pork Chops Saltimbocca Sous Vide, but I want to do the video again as an easy preparation to add to my Cooking for One series (which isn't a series yet, but it's starting to look like one). I prepped several chops and vacuum sealed them in plastic pouches for sous vide cooking, but they might require 90 minutes cooking time. Sous vide cooking is excellent if you are really fussy about the texture of the cooked meat and you don't want it overcooked by even one degree; however, it is not a time saver.

Some of the prepped chops I cooked, frozen, by simply tossing one in a little skillet and cooking it, like the chicken thigh strips, only 5 to 6 minutes per side. While the meat was cooking I sautéd my vegetables. It was easy. Thus the reason for wanting to buy another pork loin on sale and shoot another Cooking for One video.

And now that I have thriving live herbs in pots on my back deck, I think it would be fun to prepare several chops, each with a different herb, before wrapping it with prosciutto and freezing. My one issue is the cost of the vacuum sealer bags. Even at Costco they're expensive.

I'm a little fortunate, I guess, because I have poly tubing and an impulse heat sealer. (See my Minutes Meals page and video series on YouTube to see those items. They're not expensive and they're available on Amazon.)

Do you need an expensive FoodSaver vacuum sealer? No, not if you have a mouth and a few inexpensive supplies. I made one of these:

It's a short piece of vinyl or polyethylene tubing (available in many hardware stores, such as Home Depot), 3/8 inch (about 1cm) outside diameter, about 7 inches (18cm) long. The metal thing on the end is an inflator needle (available on Amazon), typically used with an air pump to inflate things like basketballs. I screwed the threaded end of the needle into the tubing — it helps to warm the end of the plastic tube in boiling water for a few seconds to soften it. That's it. Done and dusted. A homemade vacuum thingy.

I'll demonstrate using it with a plastic jar lid as the food:

Seal a piece of food in a short length of poly tubing. (That's my impulse heat sealer to the right.) Seal both ends.

Poke a very small hole though one layer of the plastic toward one corner. Insert the needle. It should fit tightly so that air can't get in while you're taking air out. Suck the air out (you might need to pull the two layers of plastic apart a little to help the air get out).

Then quickly seal the hole with a little piece of tape as you remove the needle. Finish by using the impulse heat sealer again to isolate the corner with the hole. The tape can then be removed and discarded.

The poly tubing I use works well, keeping air out while the food is stored in the freezer, thus preventing freezer burn (oxidation). And the plastic is inexpensive, only about 2¢ for the length you see in the pictures above. And how much did the needle-tube thing cost me? Way less than a dollar.

Now, to be honest, I don't expect the average Joe or Jane to do what I did. It was a fun little project that proves it can be done. However, I think it might make a good video for My Kitchen Vlog YouTube channel. I'll work on it.

Meanwhile…

I took advantage of another sale yesterday (the last day of the sale), buying a Foster Farms "family pack" package of chicken thighs for 87¢ per pound. It was $4.60, saving $4.87, less than half price, for 10 large thighs in the pack. I deboned them, saving the trim for stock, and I divided each thigh into four strips, which I froze individually and then transferred to a ziplock bag to cook like I did for this week's Cooking for One feature. I usually cook only two strips for a meal, trying to limit my intake of protein (which has been a problem on my keto diet).

Sunday 2019.9.8

Medicine At Home

For many years my mother worked in a medical office. She taught us never to go see a doctor unless we had an illness we couldn't cure on our own. It reminds me of a court of law saying: "A person who represents himself has a fool for a client." A variant might be: "A person who is his own doctor has a fool for a patient." Such was the case, maybe, this week.

On Wednesday I blogged about treating my own toenail fungus and I included a link to a Kitchen Vlog video in which I talked about the experience. Since then I've been faithfully following the package directions, applying the Fungi-Nail liquid to the nail area each morning and evening. I think I'm supposed to continue the treatments for four weeks. So far, so good. The area looks clean and healthy. It will take several months for the nail to grow out and then hopefully it will look like all the others.

Preparing for Possible Power Outages

This week we were warned about high temperatures, low humidity and winds. Where I live, the weather wasn't expected to be bad — temperatures in the low to mid 80s and gusty breezes. However, up in the mountains where the power lines pass through, the conditions were predicted to be worse.

As a precaution, the electric company said they might cut electricity to some areas to reduce the fire hazard. The cut-offs were not expected to affect the area where I live, but a fire up in the mountains could disrupt electrical service. It happened in the past and the power was off for several hours at times.

As I always do, I light my oil lamps to burn off any wax that might have built up in the wick during several months of sitting idle. I also brought my battery powered storm lanterns in from the shed. They use AAs, of which I have plenty. They're nice to carry from room to room without worrying about the flame going out.

So far, there have been no outages. The fire danger and hot weather conditions are supposed to expire this evening. The week is predicted to be mild, temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. If we can get through September and October without a fire, I'll be happy.

Chores

When the weather service issues a forecast of warm temperatures and low humidity I think of laundry. I have a washer, but not a dryer. I have two clothes lines rigged up. The washer has such a good spin cycle the clothes come out only damp, not wet. They dry quickly when the conditions are right. Shirts, trousers, and bed sheets all clean and dry, until next time.

And the day did not disappoint. By 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday the temperature outside had climbed to 98.6°F (37°C) and the humidity dropped to 18%. I made a mug of iced coffee and sat outside, even though the office was comfortably in the upper 70s because of the air conditioner.

Wednesday 2019.9.4

Another Strange Dream

The other night I dreamed I and a few friends visited an abandoned city area that had once been a thriving community. The decaying buildings were barely recognizable columns of crumbling brick and mortar.

There was an old piano that had once been part of a popular night club where there had been a cabaret and dancing. Someone scribbled a few lines of verse on a piece of paper and left it on the piano. I woke up, grabbed my laptop computer, which I keep next to my bed, and wrote down the words.

Hot music once spilled forth
From this old piano
Like sparks in a foundry
During the good times.
Now cold; now neglected
Only the memories
Are still warm.

The Search Continues

With the closing of our favorite lunch restaurant, Ming Dynasty, I am continuing to look for another venue. There is a local pizza restaurant, Pieology, that is a possibility. When they first opened I took advantage of a coupon to try their food. I wasn't impressed. However, one of the options for pizza is a cauliflower crust, good for keto. I tried it yesterday and it was delicious. I told one friend about it and he says Pieology would suffice nicely for our weekly lunch meetings.

There is another alternative. It, too, is pizza and they also offer a cauliflower crust. However, I would need to order a whole large pizza and then bring the leftovers home to enjoy later. I'd be willing to do that.

Still Experimenting With Keyboard Covers

A while ago I blogged about my computer keyboards. They become dirty so easily and they're a nuisance to clean. So I tried enclosing them in plastic bags. I am completely acclimated to typing through plastic. It doesn't annoy me at all. However, I'm still looking for the perfect plastic.

I saved a plastic bag from an item boxed for sale. The plastic is really nice. It's soft and very transparent; however, it isn't durable. Within 24 hours a fingernail had poked a hole through it. The best plastic bags, so far, are the bags in the produce and meat sections of the grocery stores.

Dymondia Nursery

When there were two, sometimes three, barking dogs next door, I neglected my landscaping. I didn't want to hear them bark and I didn't want them to disturb my other neighbors.

As I said in previous blogs, with photographs, I have since started my potted herb garden again — and it's thriving well. Being already September, I doubt there will be much to harvest between now and winter, but with rarely a freeze warning here in Southern California, I expect the herbs to survive the winter safely and flourish in the spring. And if there is a freeze warning, I can move the pots indoors.

Now I am focusing my attention on my yard again. Some of the Dymondia ground cover died back due to lack of water. We were in a severe drought for several years and water usage was limited. Now the crisis is over. There are no water restrictions. So, I want to restore the areas where the Dymondia died.

In the past, I was able to root cuttings and use those for filling in blank places. I'm doing it again this year. This time, however, I am putting the trays on my porch where they will get more notice and therefore be watered more regularly. If half the clippings survive and root, I'll be satisfied. Here is a picture of the first tray:

I planted a second tray; a third is planned. Three should be enough for a while. If I remember correctly, the clippings take about a month to root. I do know that Dymondia doesn't like standing water; however, when rooting clippings it's best to keep the soil very moist.

Meanwhile, the herbs are doing so well I can practically see them growing. I took some "before" photographs. Hopefully I'll have some good "after" pictures to show later.

And speaking of herbs, I learned something new this week. I have a book, The Cook's Encyclopedia of Herbs by Andi Clevely and Katherine Richmond. I looked for marjoram, but there was no listing. Instead, there was a subcategory under oregano. Marjoram is actually a variety of oregano and can be used similarly, such as in sauces and soups, and to season meats.

And, Finally, Another Medical Procedure

It's a little disgusting, but for many years I've had fungus under one toenail. It didn't bother me much, but I wanted it gone. There is a new CVS Pharmacy up the street; so it seemed like a good opportunity to look for a topical treatment. I bought a tube of Fungi-Nail.

I wasn't satisfied with the directions; so I went onto YouTube to search for instructional videos. They're there, but they're gross. The one I watched showed the removal of part of the nail to clean out the fungus beneath it before treating with the medicine. It looked like something I could do myself.

Working carefully (this type of procedure gives me the creeps), I successful removed about half the nail. No blood; no pain. It went well. Then I cleaned the area well and started treating it with the Fungi-Nail. I didn't take any photographs, but I did record a video in which I discussed the experience. You can watch it with this link:

Or CLICK HERE.

Sunday 2019.9.1

My Summer Vacation Ends

Those who read this blog know that I've been taking some time off from my YouTube channel during the summer. It's the time of year when traffic on the channel is at its lowest ebb; so there doesn't appear to be much reason to devote a lot of time and effort to making cooking videos. Instead, I devoted several weeks to updating all the thumbnail images with a new design and editing the names and descriptions.

I did a little cooking, mostly experimenting, and I videoed those projects. In fact, I put six videos in the vault for later publication. Two of those are actually older videos that somehow became unlisted on YouTube.

Tiramisu is the odd one. It had collected nearly 3,000 views before disappearing from the radar. It was there on YouTube, but its status was changed to unlisted. My remake of Almond Biscotti, which I first made in 2010, was the other one. Evidently I uploaded the newer version but never published it. Both gave me an opportunity to update them a little and schedule them for fall releases. Watch for them in coming weeks.

And now that we're in September, I expect activity to pick up.

Air Fryer Mozzarella Sticks

This week's feature recipe fulfills an obligation. Last month I mentioned in a blog entry that I received another free counter top kitchen appliance, an electric griddle, with the expectation that I use it in a video. I didn't tell the company that I also did a video review of their product for My Kitchen Vlog. The appliance didn't perform very well. If interested, you can watch the review HERE.

My obligation was also to use my Omorc air fryer in the same video. I also mentioned last month the easiest food I found to prepare was mozzarella sticks. I gave myself a challenge by trying to make them gluten free and without any nuts (for those who might have a nut allergy). So I dried and toasted cauliflower florets for the coating. Most of that process was done in a large skillet on the stove because the griddle surface was too small, but I used the griddle nonetheless to include it in the video.

The mozzarella sticks came out quite good and my method of preparation performed very well. The sticks didn't melt and fall apart in the air fryer, as I saw happen in many of the YouTube videos I watched. Would I make them again? Very unlikely. They're a delicious and satisfying treat, but they are a lot of work to prepare.

Making Soup

Thank goodness I love soup! One side effect of using cauliflower florets for those mozzarella sticks is the stem left over. Rather than discard it, I put it in a plastic bag in the freezer, along with the broccoli stems I accumulate regularly (I eat a lot of broccoli). So on Thursday I made a pot of Cheddar Broccoli Soup, also using cauliflower stalks, and put five mugs of soup in the refrigerator. I could freeze portions, but I'll enjoy that soup before it gets moldy.

Meanwhile, on a shopping errand to a local grocery store, I found something new. Several times while enjoying my soup in the past I thought the flavor of ham might be a delicious addition. At the store, when looking for Better Than Bouillon brand chicken flavoring, I noticed a jar of ham flavoring by the same company. I bought it and I have since experimented with stirring a little into a mug of soup. The flavor is excellent. I'll be using it in the future.