Aunt Ann, Multitasking, and the Kitchen

The thing about this cooking stuff is that if  you do it right, you have a feeling of accomplishment that you can eat.  If you do it wrong, it’s a meal and not a life time commitment.

The problem with it is that I had a mental visit with someone who I grew up in my mind.  I kept hearing her “I’ve only got two hands, will you calm down?”

Over And Over And Over.

A couple days before this incident, I was out at the local non warehouse warehouse store.  Since I am very flexible with my own diet, I was pricing main dish food.  I was looking at the coupons I had on hand, two dollars off this, three off that, that sort of thing.  I had a great coupon for a rather large container of hot dogs.  They are the kind of thing that I have always had as an occasional thing since they’re not exactly the best thing for  you.   Looking at the nutrition sticker I passed.  Each hot dog was 140 calories out of 170 of fat.  Not good at all.

I was torn between some “Premium Burgers” and some Pork Loin.  I had to ask myself just exactly what made Premium Burgers, Premium, anyway?  Did they come into your house, cook and serve themselves?   Were they made of some futuristic ethically superior cow that wanted to jump out of the pasture and into the box?  Were they standing by the road saying “Moooo!  Please Eat ME! Moooo!”?

I doubt it.  Claims of Premium status are almost always just that, Claims in word only.

I settled on the Pork Loin.  The price of a lean piece of pork was a dollar a pound cheaper and it gave me an excuse to make some Barbecue since I would be the only one eating Ethical Cow or Unethical Pork.

We got my Unethical Future Barbecue Pork Loin home and into the refrigerator where it will wait for the time to be made.

In the meantime, the next day, we hit the big supermarket downtown.

There is a rule in this house.  If I can make something better and cheaper, we go with homemade.   If I can at least come close to the quality, homemade.

When I say rule, I really am saying, don’t let me catch you put that jar of Cherry Jelly into the basket or else.
It went back onto the shelf and became a tease back and forth for the rest of the night.  Besides, I really do like to make that stuff.   It’s a lot easier than you might think.

Or so I thought.

Finally that day hit.  I had a large block of time to get the restocking of the refrigerator done.  I needed to make some main courses for the week, and now would be the time.

I cut that pork loin in half, froze part for later, and put the rest into the crock pot with a half cup of barbecue sauce.

Note to Self: Use a cup.  It was good but not quite as good as it could be.

Pressing go, I reminded myself to watch the crock pot.  I only wanted the Pork to get internally to 145F, and that crock pot would cook to 180.

Pork doesn’t need to be cooked the way it was Back In The Day.  That is to say, “well done”.  Well done is typically 165F and pork loin cooked that hot tends to be rather over done.  A Pork Chop cooked that hot could be used to resole your shoes.

All this was going through my absent mind when I realized that after grabbing that jar of cherry jelly with a lecture out of the cart, I needed to replace it.   I had to make Cherry Jelly.

Another Note to Self: The canning pot takes between 45 and 60 minutes to come to a boil plus 15 minutes to sterilize jars, lids, rings, and all the crap it takes to can things.

That kind of got in the way.

Aunt Ann was in my head telling me to “Calm Down, you only have two hands!”.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But, my dear childhood Aunt Ann was right.

I turned away from the Cherry Jelly to get the gear out of the pantry slash laundry room.  That was being cooked by the bread machine anyway so it wasn’t going to be babysat.

The pot got on late.

When the bread machine beeped, I found half of a jar worth of bright red cherry flavored goo sitting in the bottom of my one month old bread machine.  My heart sank as I was getting a mental lecture from my inner Kevin as I said that we’d have to make another trip back to the thrift store to find another bread machine with a Jam setting.

There was enough Cherry Jam in the pot to warrant trying to can.  Two full jars and a half.  That should calm someone down before he dares to reach for cherry jelly in my presence!

HAH!

I still haven’t checked that machine.  I had to turn the hose on the inside bucket to wash out the bright red goo that would have looked like it was in place on a candied apple.

The goo, by the way, tasted excellent.  Always taste your goo.

I was happily multitasking away, waiting for the water to come to boil any second now, when I thought to check that pork.   170F!  DAMN!   I quickly unplugged the crock pot, growling at myself, the International Crock Pot Manufacturers Cabal, and everyone from Thomas Edison to the writer of Charlotte’s Web.

The pork was overcooked to me.  Might have been good for someone else, but … well we went through that before, Aunt Ann, I’ll do better next time.

I’d bloody better.  I have an electronic thermometer that will bleep at me when a preset temperature gets hit.

The water was now at 205F, almost there.

I set the timer once the temperature hit boiling.  It was going to be a late lunch at this point.  At least I could snack on some Well Done Pork Barbecue.  Not bad, if a bit “pedestrian”.  Will go with some vegetables I have here….

Pot’s ready, set the timer for 15 minute, Aunt Ann!

I’d better do that myself.  The ghost of my dear Aunt won’t be of any help here other than to remind me that I’m multitasking too much in the kitchen.

The jars managed to get filled, sealed, and replaced in the boiling water for another 15 minutes.

You know how they tell you not to put glass directly on a source of heat?  I had that happen to me in my own head again.  I think this was my father coming to me through time, I’m not quite sure.

Other than having visits from ghosts of my own childhood, what happened next had me shouting at the pot loudly enough to scare the dog.

Sorry, Rack!

I reached into the pot to grab the first jar.  The smallest jar, it lifted up and promptly lost its bottom.  Losing your bottom in a pot full of boiling water means now that I have cherry and glass soup in a giant Lobster Pot sized apparatus.  I was hoping that the other two jars would be safe, and they were.

So the rule for the day?  Multitask anywhere, but the kitchen.   Your Cherry Jelly, no matter how good, will thank you for it, and your Pork Loins should always be cooked to 145F!

A Half Moon of Dog Food

It’s there.
I never know when it will disappear.
But it’s there.

Starting at some insane hour of Stupid O’Clock, our day begins.

Shortly after I haul my bulk out of bed, and shortly before we go out to greet the pre-dawn day, I pour out half of my dog Rack’s food.

He promptly ignores it.

He may get a drink of water before he leaves.  Because, Dog.  That’s why.

I’ve never met a dog so indifferent to eating.  I was originally a bit hesitant to put a metal bowl of food on the ground.  Lettie would eat so fast that I’d half be expecting to see sparks fly from the bowl.

Rack has been known to ignore breakfast until sometime after 9:00.  That’s in the evening.  He’ll just skip a meal. 

Food?  Meh.  Never has been one of those things he was concerned with.

Why?  I guess he’s trying to maintain that Swimmer’s Build he’s got.  Lean, rippling muscles under black fur, glistening in the sun when he bounds through the jungles of South Florida.

But food was never a driving thing in this dog’s life.

He’d taunt me some days.

I’d be in the kitchen before dawn, making a little something for my own breakfast.  Bowl full of dog food’s best, nutrition for canines, sits there ignored.   My own food might be something more interesting.

I’m being peered at by twin nut brown eyes, laser beam intensity pointed directly at my soul, melting me into a pool of…

WHAT IS IT?

He cocks his head a good 60 degrees to the right.

I go back to making coffee turning my back to him.

I hear him nuzzle the bowl.  A bite is taken.

My own start to the day is done.   I look into the bowl, it’s holding brown pebble like bits of kibbles, no longer even, dented in one side.

The dog has disappeared to where ever it is that dogs disappear to.

I settle in and go about my own business.  I’ve got things to do and I will tease the dog later.  Maybe drop a few dog cookies in and mix it up.  I can sometimes get him eating with that trick.

I temporarily forget the stealthy dog hiding in a corner under some furniture creating a den analogue off in another room.  The music I’ve got on the headphones creating my own den to forget about the world.

Hunger wakes me from my chores.  I pad into the nearby kitchen.  Glancing at the still ignored bowl, I shrug and go about my business.

Fixing the first course, I’m leaning against the counters.  Leaving a stripe of wet on my jeans, I vow to do a better job at tidying up the place.  Not that I’ve ever been all that good at tidying up anything.

More nut brown eyes laser beaming at me, I let Rack outside.  I’m chopping onions and it’s not something for dogs to nibble on.  He goes out to do a perimeter search of the yard slowly replacing his own scent marks that he had placed there yesterday.  Pesky irrigation system washed them away an hour before.

I’m forgetting about the world again creating more breakfast.  Turning to the sink to pre-soak the skillet, I see him sitting outside the back door.  I apparently haven’t paid quite enough attention to the dog.  After all, that is why we’re here, right?

Letting Rack in, he immediately comes in and magically starts eating.  I relax and join him in my omelet. 

He wanders off and I’m presented with a half moon of dog food.  Weird dog, he’s making shapes again.  My

own Charlotte’s Web of Dog Food strangeness.  I am reminded of my own childhood games with breakfast cereal – eat all the oat shapes first so you have a bowl of marshmallow bits to scarf down in a soon to be created sugar rush frenzy.

Going back to my own responsibilities, I manage to get through all the morning tasks.  It’s now lunch.  The half moon is still sitting there staring me in the eye.  I pick up the bowl, give it a shake and a sigh.  It’s time to park it under his nose again, maybe the dog will finish it, maybe not.

You never know with kids, do you?

Oil Free Pizza Dough and Pan Pizza Recipe

I have a “go to” pizza dough recipe.  Pat’s Pizza Dough is a recipe that I have found in countless “other” places.  I’ve got the same recipe on files dating way back in my recipe box and on my directory on my computer.   I’m guessing that other people liked it too.

It’s a standard Yeast Raised bread dough recipe.  I’ve made donuts, breads, bagels, and many other things from it.   It’s incredibly flexible.

But there are times where you want to try something else. 

It also has 2 tablespoons of oil in it.  Since I usually cook to a calorie count, those two tablespoons translate to 200 added calories.

This recipe is a little lighter since there is no oil in it.  That allowed me to toss in some sausage for the pizza which means that I could indulge myself a bit.

You can make this recipe by hand, in a stand mixer, or on the dough cycle in the bread machine.  I have done each of these and found it to work well no matter what.

Ingredients:

  • 2C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dry active yeast
  • 3/4 C warm water – around 105F or 40C

Process:

  • Add all ingredients except the flour to the mixing bowl and allow the Yeast to wake up by letting it sit for between 5 and 15 minutes.
  • Add your flour to the mixing bowl and mix well until smooth.
  • Kneed dough as you would any other and allow to rise until doubled.
  • For pizza, roll dough out before the rest period to allow for the crust to rise for a thicker crust.

To prepare a pan pizza:

  • Grease the pan thoroughly.
  • Roll dough out to fit the pan and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil that has been coated with a liberal layer of corn meal.
  • Prepare pizza to taste with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
  • Allow dough to rise in place until you are happy with the thickness of the crust.
  • Place empty Pan in oven and preheat to 450F.
  • When Oven is at temperature, Slide prepared pizza into pan.  The way I did this was to remove the Now Hot! skillet from the oven and carefully drop that prepared pizza into the pan, then replace the lot in the hot oven.  Yep, takes a lot of care and skill.   Good luck!
  • Caution, you will probably burn your hand so be careful!  
  • If you’re worried, skip the pan and just go with a cookie sheet.  See Plan B!
  • Bake pizza for about 12 minutes before first check.  
  • Enjoy Pizza!  
  • Did I really have to tell you THAT?

    Plan B – For when you dropped the pizza on the floor when you burned your hand trying to get it in the hot pan:

    • Starting over – grease the pan thoroughly, or skip the pan and just use a cookie sheet lined with parchment and dusted liberally with corn meal.
    • Dust the pan with corn meal.
    • Roll the dough in the pan until you get it to cover the bottom of the pan.
    • Prepare the pizza to taste with sauce, cheese, and toppings.
    • Allow dough to rise in place until you are happy with the thickness of the crust.
    • Preheat the oven to 450F.
    • Place pan and pizza in the oven.
    • Bake Pizza for about 12 minutes before first check.
    • Enjoy Pizza!
    • I didn’t have to say that again, did I?

    Prey Drive, Play, and the Gate in Dogs

    When I got Rack home from the rescue, I had a very different dog than my Lettie was.  Rack was terrified of his own shadow.

    The key would be finding something he liked in order to draw him out of his shell.  I thought he’d be safe with toys, and sometimes he will play with them.  Mostly he is indifferent towards his toys.  He’ll take them to another room and herd them to a spot, then he’s done.

    Rewind back to Lettie.

    She was afraid of storms, most dogs are.  She also had a very strong play/prey drive.  I was able to break her of hiding in a corner and barking at the sky when Thunderstorms would approach by “Making Storm Time Play Time”.

    We learned how fun a tennis ball in an enclosed space could be with an overeager McNab Border Collie cross.

    I’d bounce that ball around the room whenever the thunder would clap and she would be completely distracted.  Sure, she never completely got over the storms, but many dogs just don’t.  They either have no problem with it because they’re deaf, well really, disinterested, or they’re cowering in a corner in fear.

    Get that tennis ball and you may take the edge off.

    But we were fortunate.  We had a big house with lots of interesting things to look at.

    The third floor of that house would let her look out onto a busy feeder street to the shopping district a block away.  She’d be able to see people come and go while simply standing there in the top floor of the house on the top of the hill over the tree line.

    But the Kitchen was her entertainment center.

    Actually we all enjoyed that room.  It was a massive area that was originally an outdoor space, then enclosed.  It had a giant hearth that had been enclosed into a fireplace to enjoy in the cold months.  It also was huge, 22 feet by 16 or so.  With plenty of windows to look out on our green and leafy yard, there was an air about it that made you want to be there.

    I spent plenty of time sitting there, watching movies on the laptop while waiting for bread to rise, while watching the goings on in the backyard.

    Where you had trees, you had visitors.  Where you had visitors, you had a herding dog who wanted to herd.

    Lettie would sit by that door when I was there, absolutely riveted.  Tail wagging when she saw something off in the distance, she’d guard us from all comers.

    When a visitor got too close, she’d lose her mind.

    The back door led out to the deck that was fenced.  It was a double glass door so it gave you a panoramic view of the yard.  Step out onto the deck, make a 90 degree turn to the right.  Take two steps and you would be off the deck.  You then were at a T Intersection.  Left to the yard, right to the driveway and the gate.

    One year after the driveway was in place, I figured out that I could use a piece of the fence that we had taken away as a gate to stop Lettie from going out into the great forest of Philadelphia.  Which is to say Chestnut Hill.  It was about waist high, made of wrought iron, and had been made of vertical wires held together by horizontal bars.  Each piece was about the thickness of your smallest finger.   If we needed access, we would simply pick it up and move it out of its way.  It wasn’t held up strongly by posts because it did not need to be.

    I sat in the kitchen waiting for something to happen, maybe it was bread rising, it could have been marinading dinner, or I could just have been listening to the radio then.  But we got a visitor.

    Squirrel.

    Or rather SQUIRREL!

    Lettie didn’t like them.  They were unruly and brought disorder to the yard.  They needed to be moved on.

    There needed to be a lot of chaos to re-institute order to my yard.

    Lettie would attack the door and the squirrel would vanish.

    After a while the squirrels became more complacent and realized that she was inside and they could get away.  That’s where I got involved.  I had the bright idea to let my Lettie out the back door and see what she’d do.

    If you have ever watched a herding dog, you know that they’re an intense beast.

    Lettie would vibrate at the back door, whining.

    I had opened the … OH HOLY CRAP!  She blasted out the door.

    Navigating the first turn, she scrabbled to make the grip on the wood.  Gaining a purchase, she had lept onto the side yard turning to the left.  Bursting into the main part of the yard she was off like a shot.

    The squirrel wasn’t completely stupid, it began to run off, zigging away from its approaching threat.  By the time it made it to the far corner of the yard, the squirrel was airborne climbing up the big tree that was there and to safety.

    True to form, Lettie was standing paws up on the tree.   She realized that she couldn’t get to it, so she did what any dog would do.  She marked the territory, scratched the grass, and marched back to the house with an air of “That’ll Do!”.

    One day we were out near that same tree.  The Jeep was parked far back on the driveway that day so there was clearance between the house and the gate.  I could see back to the street around the car, but more importantly so could Lettie.

    In came a visitor.   This particular squirrel was a more bold one.  Perhaps it had been chased up that tree before and thought that it could outrun my dog.

    It was right but with a difference.

    Lettie spotted the squirrel and was having nothing to do with it.   She leapt into action.  Charging the squirrel, it ran down the driveway, through the wires of the fence and down to the Jeep.   I couldn’t see it any longer.

    However in the same instant that my mind realized that the squirrel was gone, I also realized that Lettie had done something colossally strange.

    Running down the driveway she forgot the gate was there.  She ran headlong into the gate.

    If you ever pushed your finger into a water balloon, you know they will bulge elsewhere to absorb the impact.  This was what it looked like from behind.

    Lettie had slammed into that fence so hard that her head passed between the wires of the fence.   The impact of 45 pounds of dog running at nearly the speed of light had compressed her body into the fence and lifted her hind sections off the ground.

    The fence didn’t have a chance.

    The next thing I knew was the fence toppled over onto her.  Black dog, white feet were flailing in the air

    trying to get a purchase.   I was running into the yard to her to help free her from this fence.

    Silly mutt.

    I lifted the fence up off the ground, Lettie’s head was crammed between the wires.   She looked up at me as if to say “Yeah, I know I screwed up, just get me outta here!”.

    Grabbing onto her collar, I pulled her back through with a Pop!

    Now, Lettie was a highly intelligent dog.  But as a K9 Police Officer once said to me, sure they’re smart, “But on their best day, they are still a dog”.

    That is to say in my own Lettie’s case, she had to try that again the next time that she spotted a squirrel.   Same results.

    Luckily that was the last time that she tried that particular stunt.   She finally learned that when the squirrel goes right, leave it be.

    Silly mutt.

    Now, if I could only get Rack interested in chasing something, I might have a chance at calming him down in a storm. 

    Does anyone know of a good Radio Controlled Squirrel?

    One Day A Genie Was Found By An Old Woman

    One day a genie was freed by an old woman.

    Like every cliche genie out there, he decided to grant her three wishes as a reward.
    The old woman first said, “I wish for 100 million dollars.” POOF! 100 million dollars added to her bank account.

    “Go on,” said the genie impatiently. “I don’t have all day… probably.”

    “I want to be young and beautiful, like a princess,” the lady demanded. And POOF! The old woman turned into a pretty young lady.

    “Last wish! Choose wisely or else,” said the genie.
    She looked at her pet cat she was walking. The woman then turned to the genie and asked, “Can you now turn my cat into a handsome man?”

    Puzzled, the genie said, “Uhhh.. I thought you would wish for something better…, but turning a cat into a man… that works too.” And finally, POOF!

    The cat turned into a handsome man.

    The man then turned to the woman and suggested, “Shouldn’t you have wished you hadn’t had me neutered?”

    Ten Mommy, Mommy! jokes – part one of who knows how many

    You will remember some of these jokes.

    They are dreadful and I have a long list of them.  So instead of doing them all at once, I thought I’d stretch it out.

    Here are 10 of them…

    Mommy, Mommy! What happened to all that dog food Fido wouldn’t eat?
    Shut up and eat your meat loaf.

    Mommy, Mommy! When are we going to have Aunt Edna for dinner?
    Shut up, we haven’t even finished your Grandmother yet.

    *Mommy, Mommy! I hate my sisters guts. * Shut up and eat what’s put in front of you.

    Mommy, Mommy! What’s an Oedipus complex?
    Shut up and Keep kissing me!

    Mommy, Mommy! What is a delinquent child?
    Shut up, light your cigarette, drink your whiskey and deal those cards.

    Mommy, Mommy! What is a delinquent child?
    Shut up and pass me the crowbar.

    Mommy, Mommy! Are you sure this is the way to make ginger bread men?
    Shut up and get back in the oven.

    Mommy, Mommy! Are you sure this is the right way to cook Peking Duck?”
    Shut up and close the microwave oven door behind you!

    Mommy, Mommy! What’s for dinner?
    Shut up and get back in the oven!

    Mommy, Mommy! But I don’t wanna eat pizza!
    Shut up and get in the oven!

    Cool Your Laptop – Downshift Your Power

    I use my laptop all day.  For me, most days that means from before 6AM to around 10:30PM. 

    They get hot.  Every one I have ever used would get hot, no matter what processor the machine had inside of it.  I tried mats which worked for a while but they can block the vents.  I tried shifting it onto a table and that gave me a stiff neck trying to maintain a fixed position. 

    Solution.  I slowed down the processor.   In my case, it was only 10 percent and that was enough to stop my leg from turning lobster pink.

    Your mileage may vary, but just knocking 10 percent off of the maximum speed might solve your problem.  You probably won’t notice this difference in speed, I didn’t.

    On Windows 7 or Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.

    1. Go into your Control Panel. Start, Control Panel.
    2. At this point, since Microsoft tends to move things around you will make it easier to find if you set the control panel to view by “Large Icons”.
    3. Click Power Options.
    4. The “Choose or customize a power plan” screen will show.
    5. The “Plans shown on the battery meter” line that is highlighted and has a button selected is the one you want.  In my case it is “Balanced (recommended)” but yours could be currently Power Saver.
    6. Click on the blue link that says “Change plan settings” off to the right of the plan.
    7. The “Change settings for the plan:” screen will show.
    8. Click on the blue link that says “Change advanced power settings”.
    9. The Power Options window will open.
    10. Under this window, locate the line that reads “Processor power management” and click the plus button to the left of it.
    11. Locate the “Maximum processor state” line and click the plus button to the left of it.
    12. You can set the “On battery” and “Plugged in” maximum processor speed at this time.  Click on the number to the right of the line and the amount will change to allow you to type in a new amount or click on the arrows to raise or lower the amount.  Mine is set to 90%.