Monday, February 11, 2019

more cooking experiments

I love mad scientist mode, it's my only time to play these days and whether or not the experiment works out, we eat.  Latest experiments are dumpling filling -- I didn't have time to go hunting for dumpling wrappers--and puto. 

Edit 2/13/19:
The original post was rather long & detailed. 

1) Dumpling filling - Meh, didn't like the ground pork but it went well with ramen noodles. 
2) Puto, a Filipino snack, a white steamed cake.  First recipe using pancake batter, success.  I could stop there but I want to know the difference between the cake flour recipe & rice flour recipe.  I just received bigger silicone molds.  Oh, but I'm out of milk at the moment.

I had to go to Auntie's house to dig up more information to file her final income taxes.  While I was digging, I found a folder with her recipes.  I'm so happy.  I got  so much walnut, cinnamon, and sugar from her pantry, now I have a way to use it up and make more space in my freezer.  There was one recipe called Food for the Gods.  I don't recall Auntie ever serving this to me, but I went & got the dates to make it.  I also found the lemon cheesecake I was trying to figure out.

Friends have been raving about their air fryers.  It's just an air convection oven.  I had one in the 90's and bought into the accessories, like I'm buying into the Instant Pot accessories.  Loved the  90's version, bought a new one when the motor broke but something changed.  It was louder & crumbs would blow around the kitchen!  I only still have it because I have the accessories.  I got the smallest one.  I did (frozen) coconut shrimp & (frozen) fish fillet tonight.  So quiet!  So crispy!  It's a keeper.  I'm getting rid of the old jet oven & everything that went with it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Stupid mistake

Ugh!  I made my first stupid mistake with the instant pot.  I made mushroom barley.  It came out okay but half of it was burnt to the bottom of the pot.  For as long as it cooked, I didn't understand why it was so dry, why it burnt.  I had put it back on for a few extra minutes because it wasn't cooked through and saw my clue.  Steam condensation on top of the lid.  Turns out I forgot to put the gasket in, so it never pressurized.

Before that (last week, actually) I made mushroom beef.  I'll have to adjust the family recipe to the instant pot.  It was nice and soft but it didn't caramelize aka turn dark before the meat softened and I ended up with way too much gravy.  Thus I was trying to use up some gravy.  It usually cooks down and concentrates the flavor, which didn't happen in the instant pot. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Mason jars

Seems to be my latest obsession, ever since I organized my spice cabinet with 4oz & 8oz jars.  Today I found amber jars for the coffee & teas because they keep out the light.  OMG, so much tea--how did that happen?  And I got 1/2 gal jars for bulk grains (oatmeal).  At least it's not an expensive obsession and I'll be getting rid of anything not in a jar because it's not something I cook with (might have come from Mom's house.).  Auntie's recent additions are more fresh.

FAIL:  No-bake cheesecake.  I mean it was edible, tasted like it was supposed to (cheese & lemony), but it was too fluffy and it never stiffened up like cheesecake.  I thought for sure that's why Auntie had all that powdered sugar--because there's a bit of cornstarch in powdered sugar.  Now I can't imagine what else she was using for all that powdered sugar.

OMG did I mention the 15 bags of regular sugar?  She entertained a lot but 15 bags of sugar!  Nobody needs that much sugar.  Anyway I donated it to food bank before Christmas.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Instant pot fails & success

InstantPot FAIL:  Sweet potato.  Takes too long.  It never got soft.  I ended up putting it in the microwave oven.  Ol' tried & true worked.  10 minutes (for the quantity I was making).

InstantPot FAIL:  Whole, intact head of cheesy cauliflower:  Takes too long, never got soft.  Finished it in the microwave oven.  Still wasn't quite right but it was edible.  Next time I'll either do the electric steamer or the wok steamer.

InstantPot FAIL: Meat loaf.  I meant to cook this in the instant pot. First off, I forgot the tomato paste & didn't have one in the pantry.  Secondly, I don't have a bottle of ketchup.  I was squeezing a million condiment packets.  Lastly, it was a really cold evening.  I wanted to turn on the oven.  What better reason than to cook a meatloaf in a loaf pan.  I've freeformed meatloaf before, but it still looked like a loaf.  Never had a round meatloaf before.  Anyway it stores better in the loaf pan.

InstantPot SUCCESS:  Kind sorta pozole.  I've never met a pork roast I liked.  I usually just eat the hominy out of pozole.  But if Mom doesn't eat this, I have to eat the whole thing myself.  My first/last attempt at pozole 25 years ago was awful.  This time, I used ground pork for that porky flavor.  I actually used spices this time.  I skipped ground coriander--don't have any, didn't miss it, but I added garlic powder.  I thought I had stewed tomato in the cupboard, but I didn't, so I substituted tomato paste.  It still worked out, love it!

WaffleMaker FAILs:  I found my waffle maker.  Blueberry waffles--meh, half-fail.  Tasted great, looked like a pile of shit.  I had one perfect waffle pair.  Tried cooking bananas.  They were too ripe.  Abandoned the mess after the first batch, went back to the skillet.  The waffle maker is non-stick, well greased, still crappy.  I still want to try a thicker waffle batter before I give up.  I seem to remember previous successes.

Kitchen SUCCESS:  Before the pozole, I organized my spice cabinet with 4oz, 8oz, & 12 oz ball jars.  What I had was a conglomeration of everybody's spices: mine, Mom's, my brother's, and now my Aunt's.  Got rid of anything older 5 years.  Yea, I know the limit is 2 years but peppercorns, bay leaves, & salt last forever.  Mom still had some spices dating back to the 70's (gone).  I had lots of opened duplicates like 4 cans of baking powder, 3 cans of salt, 3 cans/boxes of baking soda, 3 sources of pepper corn, 3 sources of bay leaves, 3 (open) bottles of olive oil.  I only kept what I cook with, with one exception: I kept Auntie's saffron only because it's so expensive.  No idea what to do with it, but I kept the dusty bottle of balsamic vinegar for 12 years (now gone) for no better reason.  I guess I'll be doing alot of baking this year.

NEXT is going to be a lemon cheesecake only because I miss my Aunt's.  I'm trying to figure out her recipe, which she claimed she got off a box of Philadelphia Cream Cheese when I asked for her recipe.  I'm leaning toward a no-bake cheesecake because it uses powdered sugar, which I don't know why I have a big bag.  I don't know why Auntie had so many boxes of powdered sugar.  I think it's for cheesecake.

I will attempt pozole again in a month.  I'm actually going to use a can of tomatoes and a can of chili to see if it's any better.  At lunch I had it with quesadilla's, perfect.  Tonight I had it with Tostito's  chips, which made the pozole taste like it needed more salt.

EDIT:  Chalk up another success:  Chinese cabbage.  I usually saute this vegetable dish on the stovetop because if you don't use a big pot, you have to cook down a batch, add more cabbage, cook it down, etc.  So I have the 6 quart Instant Pot.  I cooked down the stems first before adding the greens.  So nice to not have to stand over the the stove for 30 min.  Used quick (steam) release method.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Moving on...

Just heard from my bro, he's home now, mission accomplished.  It's amazing how the cost of dying & transferring everything-you-can't-take-with-you is milked, especially in California.  The auntie who died in the Philippines was cremated, interned, and all her bequests completed within a week of her death.  ONE WEEK!  And she had a house!  And her will was verbal !  OMG, California auntie's will was handwritten, must be verified & testified to, and will be milked for up to a year.  I think my dad listened to me & bro, spent all his money and already disbursed all his real & personal property before he died. Whatever's left over in the banks is inconsequential (no inheritance tax).

So I'm finally jumping on the fad.  I GOT AN INSTANT POT.  Every year, my company gives us $50 gift card at Thanksgiving.  It's always been to a grocery store but this year it was to Target.  Since (Cali) auntie died, I've been getting rid of my own stuff that I haven't used in a long time.  I got rid of two crock pots -- they've never worked for me because I can't sleep when I smell food cooking.  But it's not a crock pot, it's a modernized pressure cooker.  Some models have wifi monitoring.

Growing up, Mom did not spend the whole day in the kitchen.  She did everything in her pressure cooker.  When I moved out on my own, I preferred the oven.  If you couldn't cook it (anything) in the oven, I wasn't interested.  Along the way I got interested in wok cooking so I started doing stuff on the stove top.  That and Alton Brown's 90's show lead me back to the pressure cooker.  It was cool, but it wasn't all that.  I hated how the steam would depressurize against the wall, against the wood cabinets, etc.  I tried the quicker depressurizing method in the sink.  I eventually took out the gasket and just used it as a big pot.  Now I understand why mom left her pressure cooker on the stove for so long.  I never had that kind of time, that's what the valve was for!

First run today.  I did my recipe for beef barley soup.  Normally I would need my two biggest pots for this.  One for the beef (so that beef keeps softening after I get some broth for the veg), one for the veg to speed up the process, then it's reused to cook the barley.  Success, though it yielded half as much as I usually get.  Con: I've gotten so used to more heart healthy methods.  I'd have to stop this cooking process half way/overnight if I really wanted to separate the fat from the beef broth.  Pro: Because it would shut off automatically (unlike crock pots) I actually left the house to run 2 hours of errands after I put all the ingredients together and left it to stew.  It was depressurized by the time I got back.

I was actually going to get a thermal cooker.  Another one-pot method that I can just put together then leave it to cook, soften meat, and not burn because it's off the heat.  I went with instant pot first because I can walk away sooner in the process.  Plus, I've inherited so much sticky rice, I need a big rice cooker.  With the thermal cooker, you have to bring it up to boil for a few minutes before you can put it in the thermal outer pot and walk away.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Then the shit liquified

My dad passed on Sunday.  I can't travel because of Mom.  The dementia is getting worse, partly because the days are shorter.  I started the caregiver service so that I might get 24 hour caregiving if I had to travel for this, but I have near zero confidence in these caregivers.  So I was going to get mom qualified to go to a respite/memory care place but when Auntie died, that process got put on the back burner.  They only need one signature on the death certificate, so my brother will go and bring his ashes back to Hawaii.  Then he'll get a US Navy burial at sea.  Dad was retired Navy and a Vietnam Vet.  He was 87, so he had good run.  He was the last of 13 siblings.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Then it all goes to shit

My Aunt Edith died (in the Philippines) in July.  She had been withdrawing over the past couple years & getting less verbal (like Mom), then she didn't want to leave the house any more, she wasn't walking around the house for exercise, then she stopped talking.  She stopped eating.  I used to write to her all the time.  She loaned me money to help buy my first house.  Then writing became difficult, but phone calls were useless.  Most of the time on the phone between Mom & Edith was like, "Hello?  Can you hear me?  ____ is that you?"  Her last real communication with me was when I got cataract surgery in 2014. "Upgrade for the lens correction," she said. I already requested it.  She knew my taste in clothing.  She gifted me my most favorite shirt ever.

Two months later, my incredible shrinking Auntie Susie passed away.  She lived about 70 miles from me.  Back in the 90's when my cousins started having kids, they started calling her Lola (grandma) but she said "No, call me Auntie.  I will be Auntie to everyone." And she was. 

OMG, this was hard.  In the past few years, as Mom slips deeper into dementia, Auntie was my shoulder to lean on.  I used to tell her all of Mom's incidents and accidents.  She didn't have any advice, but she would listen.  Then my birthday passed.  This was my saddest day.  All the usual suspects called, but I missed her phone call so much.  She used to be the first one every year to call to wish me happy birthday.  So now she's left me to be executor of her will.  So much to do, but somehow she did everything she could to make this easier.  I mean everything was so organized.  She left cash in her safe so that we could pay bills until the probate court makes me the official Trustee.  We tried, it isn't enough to the bank that we present the death certificate and the three most likely beneficiaries. 

But wait, there's more!  My aunt's cousin lives around the block (I call him Uncle because of the age difference), he was the closest and has a key to the house.  He's the one that found her.  In the Filipino tradition, her body hadn't left the house yet while all the closest friends & family gathered at the house and prayed for 9 days, followed by pot luck every night (OMG, so much food!  I don't think I've done groceries for a month, and I was only there on weekends.)  By the third day, Uncle was complaining about chest pains and went to ER.  A couple days in the hospital for tests, then he's having a quadruple bypass.  I think Auntie broke his heart, yea I know it was like going through a stress test.  My heart broke too, but I'm much younger than him so I guess I stressed out better.

Now we're coming up on her 40th day.  There will be more prayers at a special mass.  Apparently this time, rather than pot luck, it's time for the family of the deceased (that would be me) to pay for a buffet for everyone who has been praying and pot lucking for my Auntie.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Incompetence is making alot of work for me

It's been 2-1/2 months since I've had a caregiver coming in.  Just when everything is going smoothly *crap* school starts.  So she's taking classes toward a nursing degree and I only get her 3 days a week.  She'll be a good nurse and she has a passion for clients with dementia.  The first trained substitute is no longer available.  There's another substitute, but she's not trained to do stuff the way we like. Heck, she couldn't make instant coffee.  So things are up in the air for 2 days/week right now.

A month ago, I hired carpet cleaners off of a local coupon book.  They showed up and pulled a bait & switch.  I showed them the door, they came back and bargained. So I let them just do the downstairs.  It looked clean when they left but it didn't feel clean.  I had to go over it with my own carpet cleaner, a plain water rinse. The collected water was literally black. End result was good enough, but I need to do it again because dirt is coming up in the high traffic areas even though we're not wearing outside footwear inside.  I wanted to do it this weekend, but I don't have enough time.

A year ago I bought a solar-charging battery banks with the intent to use it for my raspberry pi projects.  It didn't work out because #1 it didn't charge my phone to 100%, it would stop around 97%.  #2 The pi projects didn't draw enough current to keep it on, so it would keep going to sleep.  I complained to the company, they sent out another one and a cheap, random "gift."  It wasn't totally useless, I loved the flashlight function--came in handy for a couple of electrical blackouts.

Well, the replacement battery bank was just the same, so it I just had to accept that it the wrong battery for my purpose.  But last weekend, it was dark while I was plugging it in to charge and the input mini-USB connector broke off.  I took it apart hoping it was fixable, but my soldering iron (and eyes) aren't fine enough.  For their part, they cheaped out on assembly.  If they had just soldered down the housing, it would have prevented the connector breaking off the way that it did.   This weekend I took the battery out of it and made the battery power supply I wanted in the first place.  It's still charging now, so I'm going to test it tomorrow to see how long it lasts.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

3-1/2 weeks

At the end of week 2, Mom tried to send the caregiver home.  It just took a phone call home to sort it out but at least I didn't have to go home.  I did have to go home the other day. but it wasn't drectly care related.  My wifi was out at the house, after caregiver had left, so I couldn't keep an eye on Mom. 

I started the caregiver in the afternoons because that's when I was running home the most for dementia issues.  It was making a difference to me and Mom's quality of life but I was still always running late, and if I'm too late, I can't work the full 8 hour shift because I don't want to work past 5pm because that's when dementia goes up another notch.  I was worried about losing my job but then my boss started chemo treatments (so I'm okay--praying for him to get through his thing).  After that event, I moved the caregiver hours to the morning.  By this time, she's familiar with the house and Mom's quirks.   

One of the reasons I was always running late, Mom just wanted to sleep a little longer.  Now she can and I don't worry that she's stuck upstairs.  I don't worry that she's going all day without eating.  There was a little dementia issue this week but the caregiver & I came up with a prevention plan for that.

So it's still a work in progress.  We had wins this week with bathing. 

Today, the HOA opened up the gates for a community garage sale.  We have two a year.  They took care of the city permits and advertised in the local papers & Craigslist.  I put very little effort into it anymore, yet this year I managed to sell $12 and get rid of a couple bulky items while I was doing some yard work.  Last year I made $20 for less than a hour of effort, while I cleaned a corner of the garage.  I call that a successful day.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Finally! Caregiver

It's only the first week done - three days, three hours a day.  It was a slow start as she tried to build a rapport with Mom.  I really had no expectations other than hopefully I don't have to run home from work anymore because Mom's been sitting on the floor more than an hour.  Mom is resistant to having help.  By the end of the 3rd day, though, she was able to brush out Mom's hair.  Bonus for me, I think she washed my bedding.  I didn't see that coming (or on the camera either).

So today, Saturday, I'm looking around the house to see what needs doin'.  I cleaned up last week.  I had decluttered a bit, I put away ID-sensitive papers & camera gear.  I got rid of all the little boxes that have been accumulating.  I'm also getting together some stuff for the community garage sale next month.  After getting groceries, now what am I going to do?   I've forgotten how to relax!  Maybe I'll be pulling out my paints soon...we'll see.

However, I'm still having a hard time putting in a full 8 hour day at work.  I don't sleep well because Mom keeps getting up at night. I don't think I've been on time since daylight savings kicked in.  So I'm often 30-45 minutes late, and that's after I adjusted my hours.  I do have the flex to work as late as I need to, but I can only stay until 5pm because of Mom's "sundowning."  That will get progressively worse as the days get shorter until Christmas.  I have a computer job, what I need is to be able to make up my time from home.

Sunday edit: I had energy today!  I put it toward yardwork.  It's been so long since I had energy for the yard, it's either overgrown or browning.  I'm going to minimize then look for a backyard makeover.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Wow, it's almost June

It is Memorial Day weekend.  It's too long!  I'm so bored.  I did all my cleaning & laundry last week, so I have noting to do this weekend.  I edited 3 videos yesterday (they're too personal to publish). We had a BBQ at work on Friday, but I left at 2:30 because I hadn't seen Mom on the camera since before lunch.  (Pushing though long holiday traffic commute home) I found her sitting up on the tile floor behind the chair (camera view).  She says "I was waiting for you."  Wow, that's about a 4 hour wait. I need to get serious about finding a caregiver.  Then I have to figure out my next step because I took so much time off work this week.  Good thing nothing's hot on my desk.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

TMI Life update

Wow, time is flying, it's March already!  I can't say I've been really productive but I do have more things to do than I have time in the day.  I haven't had side work since December, but let's start with weekends.  I'm pretty non-productive on Saturdays and Sundays.  I'm always awake by 7:30, but then I wait around until Mom's ready to awaken so that I can offer her a bath.  If it doesn't happen on Saturday, I get a little more firm on Sunday.  If it still doesn't happen (like today she was really cold despite me turning up the heat + bathroom heater), then it's sponge bath & dry shampoo, and I'll offer the bath every day until she accepts.  It'll make me late for work, but I don't care about work anymore. I'll cover the time with vacation, until they say I can't do that anymore.  I can't work late anymore.  Mom gets confused after 3pm so I can't stay at work past 4pm.  I think she tried to scare me couple weeks ago when she told me she "went to the other house looking for me" when I was late.  I don't think it's true, she was never off the camera view that long.  Anyway, I'm burning out.  I think I'm not completely burnt out yet because of the weekly workouts I'm getting in.

Mom's motivation to leave the warmth of the bed is hunger.  So I prepare her breakfast & lunch before I leave for work.  That takes more time than I have, actually, so I'm always late to work.  But I'm able to bait Mom by offering coffee. I don't think I've been at work on time since December.  Whatever, I almost don't care anymore.  If it comes up at my next review, I'm going to give it to them straight.  I need to be able to work from home 10-20% of the time.  There's alot of work out there, I could do better than my salary now freelancing from home, but I'd be spending all that to buy healthcare insurance.

So Mom's tired from watching TV all day and walking between her chair and the couch.  She turns in early and I help her into bed.  When it's really early, I can come back to my home office and do stuff, otherwise it's the end of my day, too.  I need a longer day to actually get stuff done.  At least I'm a step closer to getting help from a caregiver.  I successfully installed a smartlock this weekend.