Buttermilk or not Buttermilk

Mom and Dad didn’t Bake. 
My sister Pat only baked a few things.  I’m thinking fondly about my sister’s Irish Soda Bread that we had after she had Home-Ec at school.   She made it for a good while then we all moved onto other things.

I baked more than the rest, but there was always something else to do.

Now that it is the Holiday Season, it is the Baking Season for me and I’m finding myself looking critically at my recipes.  After all, it has to be fairly sturdy to make the 1200 mile trip to New Jersey.  I can’t make things that spoil at “room temperature”, even if that room is the back of a USPS truck in a late Autumn temperature band. 

That leaves out un-canned Jellies and Jams.   Mostly cookies and candies, which are always well received.

The breads I make are fine but by the time they churn through 5 to 7 days in the box from the Post, they’d be stale.

That also leaves out my biscuits.

My biscuits are made completely from scratch.   While I don’t grind my own self-rising flour, I do churn my own butter and use it along with the buttermilk to make the biscuits.  Got a food processor?  Add a pint of whipping cream to it, turn it on with the cutter blade, and walk away for about 5 minutes.   You will end up with some of the worlds best unsalted butter and a pool of buttermilk.

The thing is that there are at least three different kinds of buttermilk.

The stuff that is leftover from the churning has lumps of butter floating in it unless you strain it is the good stuff.  For baking purposes, a little extra butterfat is always welcome.  If you taste that stuff, it is rather bland.  Think of skim milk that has been skimmed again until almost all of the taste is gone.

That is the “Original” Buttermilk.  That stuff is wonderful in making recipes that call for it, but it is very hard to get at the stores unless you know a friendly farmer’s wife.   Or me I guess.

So what do you do if you really need the stuff?

The buttermilk you find in the stores is a thick clumpy brew.  More like Yogurt, it’s also quite sour.  That is the kind of buttermilk that most recipes actually expect you to use for the acidic tang. 

I wouldn’t recommend drinking it because our tastes don’t really go for that sour taste these days.  I tried it once and found it … vile.

So what do you do if you’re baking, have a recipe that calls for Buttermilk and don’t feel like hitching up the horse and buggy to go to the local farmer’s market?

  • Take one cup of milk.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Allow to “brew” for at least 5 minutes.

The vinegar will change the taste depending on what you are making.   If it is to be a sweet recipe, try Balsamic vinegar.  

Luckily there is no need for buttermilk in the cookies I’m planning on making.  There is a need for butter so it gives me an excuse to use up that last bit of cream that is in the refrigerator.  Better to make butter instead of making whipped cream!

A Haunting in my Florida Room

Got Wifi?  Check.
Got a computer that needs updating?  Check.
Frustrated with a potential of a 6 hour download?  Check.

Time to migrate.

The open high speed Ethernet in the house is in the Florida room.  In case you live outside of Florida, it’s still a Florida Room if it has windows all around but is fully enclosed.  I used to hear them called Solarium, but in this case since I am in Florida…

The problem with mine is that it isn’t as well insulated as it could be.  Beautiful exposed wood stained chocolate brown, single pane jalousie windows that look out through the Bougainvillea to the swimming pool, and screens when the weather is nice.  That’s about 8 or 9 months of the year here.

I picked up the computer, plugged it in, and the thing immediately went fast.  Oooo!  Speedy!  That 5 hours went to 15 minutes. 

That is just enough time for the mind to wander while the vagarities of the internet, the process of updates, and the newness of sitting in the room for the first time in a long time came to me.

In other words, bored.   It was past 10 at night and I wanted to look at something funny.  Turning on the TV that serves as a 32 inch monitor for the computers at my desk, I failed to find something funny since channel surfing found a lot of Spanish Language programming and Saturday Night Live.

Holiday Themed Sketches with Will Farrell dressed as a giant elf are funny for about 3 minutes and 43 seconds exactly.

All the while, I heard tapping, tapping at my chamber door.

What’s that?


I looked up for the accursed Raven and didn’t see one through the windows.   Note to self: Time to clean the windows.

Went back to Weekend Update on Wednesday Night and saw “Uncle Drunk” acting incoherent when there was more tapping at my chamber door.

This time I pulled out the big guns.   Went hunting for the flashlight that would better be described as a weapon.   It puts out a 75 watt light into a beam the thickness of a pencil.  Do Not Look Directly Into The Light, Carol Ann!

No Raven.
No Iguana.
Not even a disturbed Tree Rat.

I did hear the constant Tick Tick Tick of the Quartz Clock when I decided to switch off the TV.  That was about all until…

Tap Tap Tap.  

The only other possibility that it could be was…

RAIN!  For the first time in three weeks!

All is well, the rain sounds like a Raven, my dear Edgar Allan Poe.  Funny how the mind wanders!

Sitting in the same room 12 hours later in the sun, and looking at the windows that need attention, things are a little more settled in my little patch of Tropical Paradise.   Wind Chimes making music on the breeze, sun reflecting off the water making patterns on the chocolate wood, and a pigeon coming by for the daily visit to my own Oscar the Parrot. 

All is right with the world.

If you can’t groom your best friends, who can you groom?

This morning, I committed a grievous offense.

Waking well before dawn, as seems to be habit, my feet touched the floor, or as close to the floor as I could.  I tried quietly to grab my socks from their spot on my shoes next to the bed but then she was on me.  

Dark in the predawn hour, she was a flash of black and grey,  a wet nose on my knee as I slipped the one sock onto my foot.  Yes, my faithful sidekick had slept with one eye open awaiting the time where I’d be ready to be here to entertain her. 

My Dog Lettie.

Just turned 12, as best we know, she moves stiffly when she wakes but still spry enough to be excited when she sees me move from one spot in the house to another.   What’s Next Dad! is what she seems to be saying, ready for all comers.

We moved into the bathroom, as soon as she got her invitation, and I closed the door.

I went about my morning ablutions, half awake, thinking of nothing but the morning haze as the phone went about its business of turning itself on and gathering up the information I needed to decide how to dress for the day.  

Absentmindedly I looked down at my mostly black companion and thought that she needed some loose fur groomed.  There were, shudder, little clumps of grey undercoat that were loose and needed tending to!

So half awake, I reached down and began to remove them.   Pluck is too strong a word, more like coax them out of her thatch.

This was when she turned from the friendly sweet dog we all know and love to … Cujo.

Too well mannered to act on her extreme displeasure of the indignity of the act, she started by breathing heavily.  That escalated quickly.

Breathing became a low rumble.
The lips curled away to show still sharp teeth.
The low rumble turned into a throttled breath and a growl to bring fear in the heart of a lesser man.

Through all of this I was busily removing some of the unneeded disconnected undercoat and gathering it up to be placed into the little painted bamboo trash can kept for just such emergencies.

She was, decidedly, unhappy with the action.

Finishing up, I left the little room, the little trashcan with a chihuahua sized pile of fur in the bottom, and the little door was opened.   Out like a shadow in the dark escaped the herding dog to the open prairies of the living room.

Signing to her that she needed to go out and water the grass, she sheepishly looked at me and ambled outside to do her business.

Later during her official walk, she kept well out to the end of the leash, wary of another evil grooming session.  You see that was only one of the haunches that was cleared of loose fur. 

Groom all you want, we can make more!

By the time we got back all was forgotten.   She was back to begging for scraps of Bagel with Lemon Curd and Cream Cheese, Fruit from the Oatmeal, and wondering why I was perfuming the backyard with roasting coffee.  We’re back to being best friends again. 

If you can’t groom your best friends, who can you groom?

Better to Cyber Monday than Stand in Line on Black Friday

Better yet still to shop locally, but this is a different thing.

You see this was supposed to have been the biggest Cyber Monday yet.  Cyber Monday is that day when everyone goes to work after the long Thanksgiving weekend having stood in line on Black Friday and the weekend.  Now that you have missed one or two things, you’re banging away at the office internet trying not to get caught shopping online.

The reality is even if you spent more online on Monday, you probably saved over going through the hour long wait at the big box store for the same item.

Think about it.   Spend an hour in line.   It took you 30 minutes to get there.   It cost you a gallon of gas round trip, maybe more.  That hour and a half in transit if you make $50K a year is worth about $37 for a savings of maybe 10 or 20 dollars if you actually found the item you were looking for.

Still better to shop locally where the majority of the money you spend stays in the city or county you live in, but some simply don’t see it that way.

So if you stood on line for a Midnight Madness sale I hope you got your things.  You gave the rest of us some entertainment.

Need Help Thinking? Maybe it is too Quiet

Stumbled across this one the other day.  Apparently if the room is too quiet or too loud, your mind finds other things to do.  At the Goldilocks zone of just right, you are more creative.

As intros go that isn’t one of my best ones. 

See anyone who has lived with me or visited me for any length of time will tell you there is always some sort of noise going on in the house.  

Always except when I’m sleeping, then it’s the ear plugs.

It helps clear the mind and allow you to concentrate on tasks. 

The idea is that you need some “Ambient” background noise to help you detach from the random noises that will break your concentration.  The bird outside, the car horn a block away, the approaching train a mile and a half away at 4:30 in the morning on the FEC tracks a mile off.   Having a noise that you choose in the background that is loud enough to overpower the ice cube maker in the kitchen helps you maintain a nice easy pace.

I’d suggest a mid tempo Dance station or a Classical Pops format, but that’s my taste. 

If you listen to talk radio, especially someone like Rush Limbaugh, you would be wrong.   No, I am sorry, wrong.  There is never a time where it is appropriate to listen to a fool like that one or any other shouter.

The sweet spot is roughly 70db which is a “comfortable” listening level for background music in the living room.   Any more than that it will get the parrot talking to the singer.   That would be wrong as well, even if it is his house too.

So next time you get the urge to turn on some music and think that it’s a distraction, it isn’t.  Enjoy.

Uses for Bounce Dryer Sheets

Velma wanted me to file this one under Helpful Hints.   We all have them around or could get them quickly, but on the other hand I will say that I was told the worst place to use a dryer sheet is in the dryer.  The “active ingredient” is turned into a gas by the heat of the dryer.  When it cools, it coats the elements inside the dryer and over the years it will clog the dryer up.

So I’ll say they’re best to use on Someone Else’s Dryer.

Bounce Dryer Sheets

The U.S. Postal service sent out a message to all letter carriers to put a sheet of Bounce in their uniform pockets to keep yellow-jackets away.

Use them all the time when playing baseball and soccer. I use it when I am working outside. It really works. The insects just veer around you. All this time you’ve just been putting Bounce in the dryer!
1. It will chase ants away when you lay a sheet near them. It also repels mice.
2. Spread sheets around foundation areas, or in trailers, or cars that are sitting and it keeps mice from entering your vehicle.
3. It takes the odor out of books and photo albums that don’t get opened too often.
4. It repels mosquitoes. Tie a sheet of Bounce through a belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season.
5. Eliminate static electricity from your television (or computer) screen.
6. Since Bounce is designed to help eliminate static cling, wipe your television screen with a used sheet of Bounce to keep dust from resettling..
7. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors. Clean with a sheet of Bounce.
8. To freshen the air in your home – Place an individual sheet of Bounce in a drawer or hang in the closet.
9. Put Bounce sheet in vacuum cleaner.
10. Prevent thread from tangling. Run a threaded needle through a sheet of Bounce before beginning to sew.
11. Prevent musty suitcases. Place an individual sheet of Bounce inside empty luggage before storing.
12. To freshen the air in your car – Place a sheet of Bounce under the front seat.
13. Clean baked-on foods from a cooking pan. Put a sheet in a pan, fill with water, let sit overnight, and sponge clean. The anti-static agent apparently weakens the bond between the food and the pan.     
14. Eliminate odors in wastebaskets. Place a sheet of Bounce at the bottom of the wastebasket.
15. Collect cat hair. Rubbing the area with a sheet of Bounce will magnetically attract all the loose hairs.
16. Eliminate static electricity from Venetian blinds.. Wipe the blinds with a sheet of Bounce to prevent dust from resettling.
17. Wipe up sawdust from drilling or sand papering. A used sheet of Bounce will collect sawdust like a tack cloth.
18. Eliminate odors in dirty laundry. Place an individual sheet of Bounce at the bottom of a laundry bag or hamper.
19. Deodorize shoes or sneakers. Place a sheet of Bounce in your shoes or sneakers overnight.
20. Golfers put a Bounce sheet in their back pocket to keep the bees away.
21. Put a Bounce sheet in your sleeping bag and tent before folding and storing them. It will keep them smelling fresh.
22. Wet a Bounce sheet, hose down your car, and wipe love bugs off easily with the wet Bounce.
23. Put a sheet of Bounce in your suitcase when traveling, it will help keep mites or any other critters out of it. While you are at it, travel with several Bounce sheets and run them up and down your bed linen before getting into bed, it will cause all the critters already in your bed to run. Keep a sheet in your suitcase even after you have unpacked to protect your suitcases from bugs nesting in it.

Quick, bounce this on within the next 5 minutes! Nothing will happen if you don’t, but your friends will be glad to hear these hints!

Seeing Eye Dog – Humor

Personally, I’m with the bouncer.  Don’t really care for dogs in bars and restaurants since they’re rarely well trained and not exactly hygenic.  On the other hand there are reasonable exclusions for seeing eye dogs.

Just not like this one…

Two women were out for a Saturday stroll. One had a Doberman and the other, a Chihuahua . As they walked down the street, the one with the Doberman Said to her friend, “Let’s go over to that bar for a drink.”

The lady with the Chihuahua said, “We can’t go in there.  We’ve got dogs with us.”

The one with the Doberman said, “Just watch, and do as I do.”

They walked over to the bar and the one with the Doberman put on a pair of dark glasses and started to walk in.
The bouncer at the door said, “Sorry, lady, no pets allowed.”
The woman with the Doberman said, “You don’t understand.  This is my seeing-eye dog.”
The bouncer said, “A Doberman?”
The woman said, “Yes, they’re using them now. They’re very good.”
The bouncer said, “OK, come on in.”
The lady with the Chihuahua thought that convincing him that a Chihuahua was a seeing-eye dog may be a bit more difficult, but thought,”What the heck,” so she put on her dark glasses and started to walk in.

Once again the bouncer said, “Sorry, lady, no pets allowed.”
The woman said, “You don’t understand. This is my seeing-eye dog”

The bouncer said, “A Chihuahua?”
The woman with the Chihuahua said,

“A Chihuahua? They gave me a freaking Chihuahua ?!”

Thanksgiving for Turnover Friday

Now just what are you going to do with a freezer full of Thanksgiving Turkey, Stuffing, leftover Veg, and all the rest?

Feed it to the Dog?
Pass some to the single neighbor that is a shut in?
Toss it away?

No, don’t do that, especially tossing it away.  That’s just wrong.

Every year while some poor sap is standing in line for the so called Deals on Black Friday, I’ve made it a point to avoid all the mess and properly “prepare” my leftovers.

No, this isn’t a recipe, more like an idea. 

Since I make the best biscuits on the island, and actually like to cook, I’m going to combine some things.  That recipe for biscuits gets hit almost every day, so if you really want to go for scratch biscuits, take a quick look at this.  On the other hand, since there is so much flavor in leftover Thanksgiving Dinner foods, you can get by with that box of bisquick that has been hiding in the back of the cupboard since 2007.

Like I said it isn’t a recipe, more like a process.   It goes as follows:

First make up some biscuit batter however you make the stuff.  The baking comes up later.

Second, grab some biscuit dough.  You will need a biscuit sized clump of the stuff.

Third, Roll the biscuit dough as flat as you can.   You will need a well floured surface since biscuit batter can be quite sticky.

Fourth, place a serving of Turkey in the middle of that dough.  Place on top of the turkey some of the stuffing, a little cranberry, and maybe a little of the yams that you may have around.   Oh and if you make good yams, lets talk.  I love the stuff.

Fifth, fold the biscuit dough over top of the pile of thanksgiving goodness.   You just formed a turnover.   It is exactly like a ravioli since you’ll need to crimp the edges with a fork to hold all that food inside of the pocket.

Finally, repeat the above steps until you have used up your leftovers, your biscuit dough, or your patience.   Bake in the oven as the biscuit recipe would call for – typically 450F for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Sure it will take some practice to get the amount of food in the biscuit right, but it’s worth it.  When baked, they will come out of the oven warm but not overdone.  All the fat in the stuffing will make the turkey moist and tasty, the spices are always better on the second day, and you are making a good use out of something that might get a bit annoying toward the end of the week.

If you really like the results, I’ve done the same process by lining a pie pan with biscuit batter in a thin layer, piling the leftovers in, and then covering it all with another layer.   It’s a dead simple way of making a “Pot Pie” or a savory main dish.

Now if you will excuse me, I’ve made myself hungry.  I’ve got to make some butter and buttermilk!

Firefox 17 is out, but not for Old Macs

I haven’t upgraded Firefox here to this version.  Maybe later today…

Firefox 17 has been released.   Most of those out there will get a little message saying “Hey, I’ve upgraded, click this and make all your problems go away.   I do mine Manually since I don’t want to have to completely back out of my browser windows and stop what I am doing.

Firefox has been excellent for me.  I don’t want to use another alternate browser such as Chrome or Opera.  I will stay here on Firefox for a while until its time to move on. 

The newest version of Firefox offers integration into the social networks.  I fail to see why that is needed, it just sounds like a massive security and privacy hole, but there really isn’t that much privacy left unless you want to stick your head in the sand.   That’s why I manage what I say online fairly closely, you should too.

There are also other features that will be helpful to the user and you can find the complete list here.

That Mac problem though …

I support a few folks on Mac here.  It’s a pleasant experience and to say I support them is a major exaggeration.  It’s more like I get an occasional question and they go off into their happy world where Unicorns roam free and your kitchen sink gives you hot, cold, and Hot Chocolate.  

I even have a Mac here, but it is an aging beast that is really well past it’s prime.   The old PowerPC platform is the problem.  When the sainted and departed Steve Jobs deigned that it was time to make the move to the same Intel hardware that most of us use in our desktops and laptops, he also said that he would limit the support to the old PowerPC platform to two more revisions of the OSX operating system.

Now we are three versions past that, at least another 5 years along.   Those machines are still around and if you believe the “Apple Distortion Field” they’re heavily in demand.

They aren’t but people who have them are trying to sell them like they are.

The biggest problem with modern computing is the Browser.  It’s a huge security problem because it is where we do most of our “work”.  Since all the major browser programs are stopping support for the older operating systems, you can look forward to more and more spam from friends who are on those computers because they surfed a “bad” page and now have a virus.

Their last modern browser is Opera.  These holdouts on Tiger and Leopard need to stop using anything else and switch over.  It’s a modern browser that has all the things we’ve come to depend on and works fairly well.

If that isn’t what they want to do, there’s always LinuxLinux is a thriving operating system platform that is currently being supported on the ancient hardware.  I can say from personal experience that Linux on PowerPC runs amazingly well and actually faster than the Mac OSX that I replaced it with.  It won’t run the usual programs in the Mac world so it means keeping the old hardware or buying a new computer.  On the other hand, you can run MOST windows programs on Linux using Wine.  I’ve run Wine in the past and it works well.

There you have it!  Happy updating!