Saturday, July 13, 2019

Mid July

We're supposed to be having a heat wave this weekend, so I absolutely don't want to go to my Aunt's house where it's over 100 degrees.  However, I have been waiting for a hot day to clean my carpets.  I live near the beach, so the sun didn't come out until afternoon.  Then it didn't stay long, it was gone by 4pm.  I vacuumed with the intent to follow up with the carpet cleaner but it never got warm!  I only had enough time to go for a quick grocery run--oops I needed gas.  So hard to find an open pump today, what gives?  I got some ingredients to complete the chicken/potato salad. 

Meanwhile I found some freezer burned rib eye in my freezer.  Had no idea what to do with it but I wanted it out today. I bought a huge brown onion, thinking I'd do a "pan fry" in the instant pot.  Had a change of heart by the time I got home with the onion.  Threw in the frozen steaks, threw in a can of mushroom soup and a can's worth of water.  It cooked, it was soft.  I noticed a slight freezer taste.  Fed Mom but I needed more flavor and I wanted to thicken the sauce.  Doctored it up after dinner and cooked a bit more.  I got what I wanted, minus what we ate for dinner.  Success despite myself.

The pressure cooker that has been my life for the last 10 months has finally let up.  Caught up on my  projects at work.  Auntie's house is up for sale and I've got the first two offers.  I packed up the valuables but they're going to stay in the house until a month before the probate court date.  I'm going to have to rent storage space.  Then I'm going to rent more storage space & hire movers for my house so that I can make room to renovate. I figure everything will come together by the end of the year.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

So good!

Wow.  I really wish I had a bigger office.  My workspace is covered in papers for the past 6 months.  I've got 4 to 5 monitors and 2 to 3 computers at any time.  If it weren't for all the electronics I would love to start warming my food 20-30 minutes before lunch break.  The issue is the steam that the electric lunch box creates during cooking.  Steam & electronics don't mix.

I think it's the consistency I like over microwave warmed food.  Microwave is unevenly cooked, even though our ovens at work have a rotating disk.  Tonight I heated up French Onion Soup.  Trader Joe's sells these frozen blocks of soup in vacuum packed plastic bags.  Normally you'd put the soup ice cube into a bowl and microwave it until it's warm to your taste, about 10 minutes.  I put it in the ELB tonight.  By the time my fish & tots were done in the oven (20+ minutes) the soup was done at the same time.  Steaming hot, no over boiling, nothing popping or blowing up.

Earlier this week I warmed up the last of the country pork ribs (see a couple posts ago).  It did need that extra bit of moisture.  ELB made it so good. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

"InstantPot" for one ?

Actually, it's called an Electric LunchBox (ELB).  It's a portable steamer about the size of my ol' Thermos food bucket.  Why?  I had a bug up my a$$.  I saw it on YouTube, I wanted to play with one.  I held off the purchase for months because the microwave will heat food in a few minutes, where it takes 10 times longer in the ELB.  Yea, 2 minutes vs 20 minutes.  There's no justification.

The people who buy this either have something against microwave ovens or don't have access to a microwave oven at work,  I think microwave ovens are the greatest addition to the kitchen in the last 50 years.  I bought my parents their first one in the 80's.  It cost about $1000 and came with a series of cooking lessons. The microwave and the ELB are great at warming up food.  The challenge is to cook with it.

Now that it's the weekend, this is the first chance I've had to play with it.  I have an electric steamer.  Before Mom moved in with me, I used it to cook my rice.  A rice cooker is actually more efficient at cooking rice, so I got a little rice cooker when I needed more capacity.  I've made rice in the ELB now.  I expected it to shut off but after 40 minutes, it was still going.  At least it wasn't overcooked.  Rice cooker takes 20 minutes for any amount up to capacity.

My first experiment was actually oatmeal.  I like the regular oats over the minute oatmeal.  It was awesome!  Easier than stovetop oatmeal, better than microwave oatmeal, which often cooks unevenly.  I will eat overnight oats, but I've decided it's not my preference.

I'm going to warm up lunch in the ELB today.  Recipes on the web feature mostly Asian food.  I like Asian food, but not all the time.  Outside of warming stuff up, future recipes include:
1) beans & weenies with cornbread
2) chili with cornbread
3) I should find a cornbread pudding recipe & substitute in the above
4) grits & eggs
5) ramen & steamed veggies w/ tofu
6) hmmm, what would go with a can of soup?  I like Progresso soups or the Chunky's.
7) frozen salmon w/ rice or couscous
8) chicken w/ baby potatoes

The reason I don't have puto here, even though it's meant to be steamed, is simply the quantity of batter.  I don't even like doing this in the 6qt Instant Pot, it works best for me steamed on the stovetop.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Third time's the charm (cheesecake)

Yup, finally did it.  Followed Auntie's recipe to the letter. and it worked.  I did over bake it a bit.  Just a bit.  The graham cracker crust was too dark, I was trying to get some color on the filling.  Mom didn't like it at first, said it was too sweet.  What?  I cut the sugar in half! 

I am never ever going to buy strawberry or blueberry topping ever (not that I ever have).  SO EASY!  I didn't really have a recipe, I had left over fruit so I threw it into a little pot with sugar.  Both times  I overestimated the water to get it started, then I thickened it with powdered sugar (because I have too much) because  it has cornstarch.  Oooo, I'm going to try that with apple & with peaches when they come in season--just because.

Haven't been doing too much cooking lately.   After I got the Letter of Administration and I ended up going to Bank of America every day for 3 weeks straight after work before they finally released the Estate funds and I got accounts straightened out.  I was out so late, there was no time to cook, so I was bringing home fast food for those 3 weeks.

Last weekend I brought home country style pork ribs.  Had no idea how to cook it, got it because it looked good in the store..  Everything on the web said, "Easy!  Cover in BBQ sauce & stick it into the dutch oven."  Damn, I have no BBQ sauce.  So I made it up.  Ketchup, soy sauce, garlic powder, pepper, brown sugar, and a splash of cider vinegar.  Have you ever tried star anise?  Makes it taste like Chinese BBQ.  Threw it all into Instant Pot.  It was fall-off the bone, and moist.  Not hating pork anymore.  It's now my favorite cut of pork.  I'm never buying BBQ sauce again.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Another cheescake fail

As Administrator of the Estate, I have to file my aunt's final taxes and then once more next year as the Estate.  The CPA needed last year's returns and supporting documents, so I made a run to the house.  While I was gong through the office (it's all very organized) I came across a folder with my aunt's recipe's. I found the recipe for her cheesecake.  It's actually Lemon Cheese Pie.

After many failed attempts to give it another shot, I was finally able to try again last night.  I was surprised the instructions just said to bake it, without reference to a water bath.  But now I know, it's a cheese pie, not a cheesecake.  Well, it was about 8:30p and I didn't want to turn on the oven so I attempted it in the Instant Pot.

Oopsie, I was pulling it out after the prescribed cooking time & depressurizing time.  I DROPPED IT!  Lucky, no mess on the counter, just inside the pot.  The filling was watery and dumped half into the bath water.  I poured it into a strainer & put that into a bowl.  I was tired, so I just put everything in the fridge to deal with in the morning.  Tastes a little too lemony, too much lemon rind, but otherwise as expected.  Texture of what was left over the graham cracker crust is good, the part that I strained into a bowl was a bit soft.  Okay, I'm going to try again today.  Going to the store for a pre-formed graham cracker crust.  I've got more lemons, about 8 more cream cheese blocks (from Auntie's fridge to my freezer).  Going to do it in the oven this time.

Week from Hell

It was only a few days after the last post.  A really stressful week.  After almost 6 months with the incompetent caregiver.  Everything came to a head.  I was over 100% mentally and physically exhausted, yet I kept going to work like a zombie.  That was a mistake.  I don't regret it, I really had to meet with an engineer who works remotely from Colorado.  Oh man, I made a lot of mistakes at work and the boss was rushing things out the door without having been checked.  2-3 weeks later it all came back to me when the parts arrived with mistakes.  Boss sat me down with HR to witness - I think I was almost fired right there.

Honestly, I'm ready to semi-retire now at 55.  As much as I need health insurance, I can pull it off it until I get medicare for either turning 65 or  for going dialysis before that.  My grandfather retired at 45, and my aunt retired at 58.  My brother is in a position to retire when he turns 55, too.

So, I tried to work with the caregiver almost 6 months.  I stayed over many times to train and re-train her. I swear, her memory was only 25% better than mom's.  I've had a new caregiver in place 2 or 3 weeks now, wow, what a difference. I see now, she broke my back massage machine and she was the cause of my plumbing always backing up.  No problems ever since her departure.  OMG, I was going through toilet paper like crazy.  On her last day, there must have been 1/2 roll of toilet paper in the upstairs toilet--and it was plugged.  I texted her about it because Mom just doesn't use that much toilet paper!  She didn't admit to it, but she didn't put it on Mom either.

To be continued...gotta make breakfast.

Edit: I think it's a week since I wrote above.

So now, I've had a new caregiver in place--it'll be a month this week.  Night & day difference!  I could tell within a couple days, the new girl is conscientious and not a procrastinator.  Maybe the other girl just had bitch face, but I don't see attitude with this girl.  I don't have to listen to excuses because she's just doing what needs to be done.  So I doubled the hours (what I've been needing for the last 6 months, since Auntie died.)  There's a couple hours gap between the shifts to cover the time I'm away.  Now, even when wifi goes down at the house, I no longer worry about the cameras not working.  If Mom's doing something demented, I don't have drop everything and run home because somebody will be there to pull up her pants.

My stress had dropped from 100% to about 50%, then just yesterday I got what I've been waiting for since Auntie died--court papers that officially let me handle her accounts and sell her house.

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.