Sunday, November 30, 2008

Convection Cooking and Rampant Consumerism.

Convection Cooking. It wasn't sufficient that I have a slow-cooker, a microwave oven, a solar oven, a charcoal grill, a frydaddy, Foreman Grill, conventional stove with oven and one-burner camping-type gas thing. I didn't have a toaster, and can't use the broiler in the conventional stove because it isn't vented.

Enter:
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It toasts, broils, bakes, and bakes convection style.

I tried it out for the first time yesterday. My first test was using a bread recipe from Crunchy Chicken Cooks. I've been experimenting with whole wheat bread recipes for a few years now and I just can't seem to get a recipe with LIFT. This recipe was no exception.

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The loaf on the left was baked in my conventional oven and the loaf on the right using the convection feature on the new toaster/broiler/oven. Adjustments to the recipe are necessary for going from conventional to convection, so I lowered the temperature to 350 and set the time for 30 minutes. Insertion of a digital thermometer indicated that the internal temperature hadn't gone over 188 degrees, so I kept it in for another 10 minutes which put the temp at 204. The internal temp on the loaf in the conventional oven was 206. Both were done, and tasty, but didn't get much over 2 inches high even. It happens every time. My dough rises to double, I separate it, it rises some more, but it never gets that oven shoot that others get. I always add gluten flour and dough enhancer, but I STILL don't get the oven bounce. Just a few more pounds of flour to use before I start milling my own, so if freshness is the problem, it'll soon be rectified. You can see how the loaf baked in the convection oven got a better color.

The toaster/broiler/convection oven came with a broiler pan and drip pan that I used to bake tilapia last night. I didn't use the broiler setting ... just the broiler pan. Also ordered a few more pans with drip racks because these things are the perfect size for the solar oven, as well. Baking meats in the solar oven required a balancing act of meat placed above the pan with hopes that it wouldn't drip grease into the oven chamber.

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I convection baked last night's supper of asparagus, sweet potato casserole, and tilapia, learning that a 25 degree reduction in temperature with no reduction in time is just right for my convection oven. Didn't think to take a photo until half-way through eating it, but it was delicious.

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Attempts to minimize compost scraps created have been unsuccessful. Yesterday's plate looked pretty much like most days.

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It's all being tossed into

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next Spring's first garden plot, and will be plowed under as soon as I find some agricultural molasses to toss all over it first. You can see some arugula that decided to grow, as well an onion, perhaps. Arugula grows really well here. Too bad Em doesn't like it.

It's the time of year when I reorganize, reline, reinventory all my cabinets. I do pretty well until I get to the data entry part. I HATE data entry. I HATE data entry.

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Now that Em's off work for the winter season, he can help me poke some drainage holes in my potato apartment complex:

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The lid's only on to keep rain from filling it up before we use it. I've got both russet and red potatoes working on sprouts right now. I have sweet potatoes working on roots and leaves, too, but it's a bit too cold for them this time of year.

I have more things to be delivered this week from my rampant consumerism. Most involve cooking/baking (I'll be trying my hand at homemade pizza soon), but a few things have to do with gardening, as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Decisions, Decisions.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Happy Thanksgiving, BTW.

I asked Em what he wanted to do this year for Thanksgiving and he said, "Nothing." I'd gone to Chicago for Thanksgiving the past two years, but decided not to travel this year. Maybe he ate at his sister-in-laws the past two years; I don't really know, but his niece asked if I was going to cook because her mom might not feel like cooking this year. That was my thought when I asked Em what he wanted to do this year, so I asked him again just to be sure I'd heard him right the first time. He wants to eat at Luby's this year.

Charities get more donations during this holiday season than any other time of year. They're much like the retail stores in that regard. We had three boxes of non-perishable food and sundries to take over to Mission Arlington, but I'd never donated anything perishable. Kroger had turkeys on sale for $.39/lb., so we got a big one and took it over with the other stuff this week. Just because we're not having Thanksgiving this year doesn't mean we can't help someone else have one.

Some folks (in the name of environmentalism or even prevention of cruelty to animals) refuse to buy "factory grown" animals for consumption. Mission Arlington figures it needs about 5,000 turkeys to feed over 18,000 people who need help this Thanksgiving. These people aren't worried about how the turkeys lived their lives; they're busy trying to just stay alive themselves. So, I got to thinking about how we make decisions like, "Is it more important to me that many people eat a satisfactory meal produced using cruel methods that pollute the environment or that few people eat an excellent meal produced using humane methods that don't pollute?

How far do I want to take environmentalism?

With that thought still in my mind, I found myself following some links which led to Affluent People Living Sustainably, who were having their November Carnival. I'd never been to one of their virtual carnivals before, although I've visited carnivals of frugality as well as carnivals of green. While poking around at the various blogs who entered the APLS carnival, I ran across


Mon, at Global Homestead describes it as eco-apathy vs. eco-anxiety. She, too, had questions about how far she wanted to take environmentalism, as depicted in her entry for the APLS Carnival.

Every decision has consequences and it's up to us to decide which consequences best allow us sleep at night. Somewhere between eco-apathy and eco-anxiety strikes me as a good place to be.

No. 1 came over today. We visited for a while and then drove to Target to buy her a humidifier and us new bed pillows. No. 2 had the frog humidifier which prompted me to buy the frog for us at Target last year, so we knew Target would have them. They did, although the price this year was $35.00, and also had elephants, penguins, and dragons. No. 1 chose the elephant and I got not just two pillows for our bed, but strawberries, asparagus, and potatoes. I felt guilty buying food there, as I have two grocery stores within walking distance of home that won't be able to prosper if I start buying groceries at big box stores. But, we were right there in the store and these 3 items were either more expensive or not available in my local groceries. It's good to feel guilty sometimes. It's an emotion that lets us know we're somewhere in the middle of the extremes of boycotting the big box stores and apathy for buying locally.

After Target, we stopped at Home Depot. I bought a window box planter for spinach and lettuce this winter as well as a 32 gallon rolling garbage can which will become a potato apartment house this winter. I don't understand why potatoes cost so much these days, but as easy as they are to grow UP, might as well start some right away.

Shopping complete, we came back to the house to have a boggle and chat for a few hours. It's been too long since we'd done that, and it felt good. She'll be spending Thanksgiving volunteering at the shelter where she's doing her internship.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peggy Sue No. 1 gets Married...next year.

May 29, 2009 seems to be the date. Details to follow as they become real.

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Best wishes to them both!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More Solar Baking Experiments.

It's cool enough to bake indoors now, but today (and tomorrow) are totally clear days, so I continued the experiments in solar cooking. It's been evident that the solar oven lends itself easily to things like roasts, stews, casseroles, but we really like meals that don't combine all the flavors so much while cooking.

As I may have mentioned previously, the swinging shelf in the Sun Oven is both limited size-wise and tends to be a bit unstable when accommodating heavy items. Those two limitations have restricted my solar oven use to mainly two cooking pans with infrequent use of a few other light pans.

Today's experiments were a bit different. Since everything pretty much seems to take 2 hours to bake in the solar oven (at least early in the day), I started off at 8:30am baking some of the sweet potatoes harvested last week. My goal was to peel, mash them with some brown sugar & pecans, then bake them again.

The day was so accommodating weather-wise, that after I baked the sweet potatoes I baked red potatoes and a couple of red apples. I'll make potato salad from these tomorrow.

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I'd had success previously with making a spicy breaded chicken in the solar oven, so prepared that dish again for today after preparing the sweet potatoes in a heavy glass casserole dish.

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I peeled and chopped one of the baked apples to go into a spinach/arugula/cheddar side dish to be baked in another heavy casserole dish. I was pleased that even a klutz like me could arrange the two casserole dishes on the swinging tray without toppling it all.

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By the time Em got home from his grandson's football game and a few errands, the before-work meal was ready and I hadn't used any energy but the sun.

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It's Been An Amazing Week in Politics, One I Won't Soon Forget.



Just the beginning of the rebirth of America.

Repower America.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wear Sunscreen.

I've always loved reading this, but had never before seen it turned into a video. h/t to Jenny Mae.