Judgmental Mood

I asked a simple question...

I went onto Facebook and Twitter and asked the same question.

"Hypothetically, if I was going to make roasted cauliflower with pasta, should I make it with rotini, or penne rigate?"

On Twitter, I got four votes for rotini, and one vote for penne rigate.

On Facebook, I got a single vote for the penne, but only after the person grilled me on what kind of sauce I was planning to use (none).

Another person commented on how cauliflower pasta can be mushy if you cook it wrong. (No vote)

Another person responded that her daughter loves potatoes with cauliflower. (No vote)

I don't know what kind of broader statement I can make about this, but the results don't surprise me. Not a bit.

In the end, I made it with the rotini, and it was good.

Today was one of those "use some ingredients that need to get used" days. We tossed around various breakfast ideas this morning before I announced that I was going to make pancakes. I found a recipe for faux buttermilk pancakes and scaled it up for two of us, then I dug to the bottom of the freezer and found a bag of blueberries from 2017 that should probably get used. The blueberries are still good, and the resulting pancakes were fine.

Blueberry Pancakes

We went out for a fairly long walk early this afternoon, and made a point of swinging by the local butcher shop. My original plan had been to grab a couple of strip steaks, but I noticed that they had butterfly pork chops on sale, so I grabbed those instead. As I was pulling them out of the fridge for the grill this evening, I spotted a plastic container with some boneless chicken thighs that I'd bought earlier in the week. I'd used most of the thighs, but most of our meals are already planned out for the weekend, and they don't include thighs. They needed to be used.

On a whim, I tossed them on the grill when the pork chops were about half done, and when the thighs were nearly done, I topped them with a bit of roasted pepper barbecue sauce. I figured that - at worst - the cooked thighs would last longer than the raw ones would have.

We both agreed that the "afterthought" thighs were the highlight of dinner. We finished the thighs, and half of our pork chops ended up in the fridge as leftovers.

Next time I might just grill thighs.
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    House Of Lords - Can't Find My Way Home
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Judgmental Mood


We sat down and filled out our taxes yesterday. We did not submit them, though, because we realized that we didn't have the forms for our 2021 RRSP contributions.

Even without that, we are looking at a moderate refund this year -- but only because we'd made some unusually generous charitable donations in 2020 (that's not to say that we don't normally make charitable donations, but we had a couple of extraordinary ones we made split over 2019 and 2020).

But without those, we'd have owed a sphincter-clenching amount of money in taxes this year.

I think.

I'm going to contact the guys who handle our mutual funds to ensure we're entering a couple of forms correctly. We've never had to deal with these particular forms before, but as near as we can tell, they represent capital gains that we were not expecting. Because, you know, we didn't sell any funds.

I think.

We had a Zoom meeting with them back in February to go over our portfolio and move things around. Not to sell anything, just to shuffle them around between funds.

They didn't warn us about this when we moved the funds around, so I am wondering if instead of moving money from fund A to fund B, he accidentally sold fund A and bought fund B instead. In that case we'd get soaked for capital gains on the one he sold.

As long as it keeps going up, we're fine. We'd have to pay the capital gains tax anyway. If the new fund tanks, though, then we're double screwed.

Assiniboine River
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    USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) - Work Shoes
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Judgmental Mood


After the host on one of our usual YouTube channels made yeast-leavened waffles, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. I dug up a recipe online that called for the batter to ferment overnight and figured it was worth a shot.
I mixed up the milk, butter, flour, yeast et al last night and put it in a covered bowl on the counter. At atara's suggestion, I laid a cookie sheet under the bowl before I went to bed because it looked like it was in danger of blowing the lid off during the night.

Fortunately, that didn't happen. By this morning it had settled down a bit, so I stirred in a couple of eggs and a half teaspoon of baking soda and fired up the waffle iron.

These are unlike any waffles I've ever had, and I mean that in a very good way. They are crispy on the outside, remarkably fluffy, but with more of a chew than regular waffles. The yeast and overnight fermentation also gave them a full, rich flavour.

The batter had a different consistency than usual - more stretchy and sticky - but it wasn't especially hard to work with. Overall, this was no more work than making regular waffles. I'll definitely plan ahead when making them again and repeat this recipe.

  • Current Music
    Alice Cooper - Halo of Flies
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Kinda bleah mood

Not much news, but...

I haven't posed anything here in awhile, in part because life has been limping along from one nothing to the next.

I saw the retinal specialist on Monday. If I had not been scheduled to see him already, I'd have called his office anyway because my eyesight degraded noticeably over the weekend. They tested my vision and took a couple of scans, confirming what I already knew.

The doctor didn't have to tell me that the swelling had returned - it was pretty clear on the scan when he called it up in the treatment room. I told him that it was probably unrelated, but that I had received my first shot of the AZ vaccine on Wednesday. He said that while the shot can lead to inflammation, the swelling in the eye was unrelated. We'd stretched the time between shots to eight weeks to see how the eye would react to it, and the answer was that it would react badly.

I don't think he used quite as much numbing on this last visit, so I twitched a bit when the needle went in. My eye has definitely been a bit more painful than usual in the aftermath, though it's feeling more normal today, so I guess there was no serious damage done. I have an appointment for my next treatment in six weeks. I hope it holds out better this time because I really ... really don't want to go back to monthly injections.

If you have never gone through a procedure that requires regular injections in the eyeball, I don't recommend it. The process is as awful as it sounds.

I made cheddar biscuits for breakfast earlier this week, and I am rather pleased with the way they came out.

I didn't follow a recipe for these, per se. I have a formula that I printed out a couple of years back that gives the ratios for bread products (bread, biscuits, pie crusts, etc). I have made biscuits enough times now that I know the ratios off the top of my head: three parts flours, two parts liquid (I use milk), one part fat (I use butter), a teaspoon of yeast for each 225g of flour, and a bit of salt. Knowing the ratios rather than a recipe means that I can pull out one of the ingredients, see what I have left (hm, 60g of butter left in this stick...) and work from there.

Adding the shredded cheddar to this batch threw off the moisture content a bit, so the dough was in a really awkward place. It was too dry to spoon it out into blobs, but too wet and sticky to roll it out into a sheet and cut squares. I pressed it down and folded it over itself a few times with a dough cutter while I tried to figure out what to do with it. On a whim, I rolled it up into a tube and then cut it into discs with a sharp knife. I put the discs on a baking sheet, pressed them a bit flatter to ensure they cooked through and tossed them in the oven.

They turned out great - and I like the visual result where they almost look like a cross between a biscuit and a danish.
  • Current Music
    Nina Hagen - Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen
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Judgmental Mood


Not that I let the internet rule my life, but every once in awhile I see a tip or trick on YouTube and think, "I must try that."

A couple of days ago I watched a show where three levels of chefs (beginner, intermediate, and seasoned professional) made their own versions of biryani. What especially caught my attention was that the two more advanced chefs added rosewater to their rice. This is something that would have never occurred to me, and I was intrigued to try it.

Since I needed rice for the leftover curry I was nuking for lunch, I decided to give the trick a try. When the rice was done, I stirred in a capful of rosewater ... and immediately regretted it. In retrospect, the issue was not the rosewater, but the fact that I had lightly browned the rice in sesame oil before I added water, and the toasted sesame and rose did not play nicely together.

Fortunately, when I combined the rice with the curry, the sesame oil got buried, and only the rosewater came through.

And it was good.

It elevated the curry, giving it a sophisticated kind of flavour one would normally expect from the kind of restaurant that sports a pretentious name like Chez Raja's Maison de Curry.

I will definitely do this again, though I will skip the sesame oil next time.

Jetfire has a giant tool.
Jetfire's Giant Tool
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Judgmental Mood

Let's just pretend that didn't happen.

Today is the anniversary of the first case of the novel coronavirus reported in Winnipeg. We all knew at the time that we were probably going to end up in lock-down at some point, and that happened a few weeks later. I never imagined at the time that within a year, I'd be about a month away from being in the next demographic to receive a working vaccine against the virus that was rapidly bringing the world to its knees. This thing went from "we are years away from a potential vaccine" to "hold out your arm" in a head-spinningly short span of time.

There are a couple of things at play in the fast turn-around. First, the technology for producing a vaccine has improved dramatically in recent years. Labs don't even need access to the virus any more to work on an vaccine, they just need to go on the internet and download a copy of its genome. Another thing is that when they talk about taking four years to develop a vaccine, at least three of those are spent in building proposals and counter-proposals, requesting funding, and all of the preliminary administrative work that usually happens before they even start doing basic science.

On another note, 2020 feels like it flew by in a blur. When it was happening, the year dragged, and I remember people joking at the end of March that, "The year of March is finally over, now begins the full year of April..."

There is an interesting brain property where boring things don't form lasting memories. When they are happening, they feel like they are going on forever, but in retrospect they feel like a blip. It's the reason why an 8-hour delay at an airport feels like half a lifetime, and then the rest of the vacation feels like it flew by. Then, when you are looking back, the airport barely registers as a memory compared to the rest of the trip. Our brains store the entire time at the airport as a single event, which makes it feel much shorter after.

2020 was the equivalent of spending an entire year in an airport lounge. It was long, and boring, and not worth storing.

  • Current Music
    Death In Vegas - Your Loft My Acid
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Screen Punching Mood

Over-tuned Tea Kettle

We have an electric tea kettle that I think may straddle the line between being a fine-tuned bit of technology and a slightly over-tuned piece of technology.

As one might expect from a tea kettle, it is extremely basic to use; you fill it to the level you want, put it on its base and press down the activation switch. Shortly after the water starts boiling, the kettle shuts itself off. I don' need to take the kettle apart to make an educated guess that it's mechanically driven by a bimetallic strip.

The only other user-accessible moving parts on it are the lid (hinged), and two spring-loaded retractable clips that hold the lid in place when it's closed. These clips are where the issue of tuning arises.

99% of the time, when you snap the lid closed, it stays closed. The other 1%, one side or the other does not entirely catch, and the lid can pop up slightly on that side. One might think this would make no difference, other than upping the small risk of weather splashing out if the kettle is filled to capacity and boiling vigorously.

But it actually prevents the auto-stop feature from working.

The tiny amount of evaporative cooling from having the lid improperly seated is enough to keep the bimetallic strip from tripping. I have never left it long enough to test my hypothesis, but I suspect that the kettle would merrily boil itself dry in this situation.

Presumably, it would get hot enough to shut itself off once the water was all gone, but it's an annoying little glitch. It really makes me appreciate the intricate engineering that goes into designing something as ostensibly simple as a tea kettle.

That an almost imperceptible gap in the lid is enough to upset the delicate balance and make the kettle malfunction is ... interesting. It's the kind of engineering quirk that I try not to think about when driving across a large bridge.

Cake and Coffee.

Maybe it's a generational thing, or maybe it's just me.

I'm ... not a fan of Janice Joplin.

I think part of it is that I got thoroughly sick of hearing Me and Bobby McGee, Mercedes Benz, and Piece Of My Heart on endless repeat during the 60s segments of the radio stations I listened to back in the 80s and 90s. It's nothing to do with her talent as a writer of music and lyrics, nor to do with the importance of her work. I know that people find her voice "distinctive", but I find it about as appealing as nails on a chalkboard. I partly blame getting tired of hearing it so frequently. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Enough about that. I came here to talk about cake and coffee and interesting frost on the windows of our garage. Last week as the weather was transitioning from very cold to slightly warmer, it hit the right combination of gradients to form some very artistic ice crystals on our garage window.

I had some leftover carrots and parsnips from roasted vegetables I'd made earlier in the week, at atara's suggestion, I use them to make carrot cake. It called for three cups of carrots, so I added two cups of shredded carrots and one cup of shredded parsnip to see how it would turn out. It turned out really good. I don't know if any of the parsnip flavour came through at all, but there is nothing wrong with this cake.
I made cake
As an interesting aside, I made fake cream cheese icing to go on top. The recipe I found called for almond milk (which we don't have), so I substituted some instant coconut milk for that. I could have used real milk, but I thought that experimental cake deserved experimental icing. Apple cider vinegar and lemon juice gave it the tang of cream cheese.

It was good the first day, but the next day we both agreed that if we hadn't been told that this wasn't cream cheese icing, we'd never have guessed otherwise. I am making a note here for both experiments: huge success!

When I discovered that a coffee roaster was within walking distance of our house, I started getting my coffee exclusively from them. Depending on supplies, they have a fairly broad range of beans that flow through their ovens. I kept notes as I went, writing down the various varieties on our whiteboard and making comments about which ones I liked and disliked. The Tanzania Peaberry (pictured below) received my lowest rating. It was an unpleasant coffee that I couldn't wait to finish so that I could move on to the next bag.
Tanzania Peaberry

As you might guess from my daily picture, I bought it again. I picked it up because I wanted to give it another try. I know that grind settings, water temperature and dose can all affect the flavour of a coffee, and I have changed all of those since I last tried this coffee. I was curious to see if the changes I'd made could morph this repugnant coffee passably drinkable.

They didn't.

They made it delicious.

I have always known that a few minor tweaks in preparation can make a difference in the final product, but I am stunned at how radically different this coffee is. For the record, I decreased the grind size (a bit larger than espresso grind), upped the grind time by 1½ seconds to compensate, and use boiling water instead of water closer to 90°.

Also, it paired well with the cake.
  • Current Music
    In This Moment - Big Bad Wolf
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Just Chillin

Chilly in Chilli country

Folks here can sometimes be a bit callous when we hear about other cities having to deal with very cold weather. A few years ago, when Toronto was all over the national news when they were forecasting -18c or so, we had been largely ignored as we hunkered down for days in temperatures in the -30s. That's likely why somebody from a Winnipeg account tweeted "That's adorable" in response to a message from the city of Toronto, warning its citizens of the "dangerously cold" weather coming their way.

I mean, those _are_ dangerous temperatures - especially for some of the vulnerable among the population - but it's not like Toronto isn't a northern city that's ill-equipped to handle the occasional cold snap. They were acting like a drama queen who was being asked to put on a second layer before heading out.

On the other hand, while we might take delight in taking jabs at our northern neighbours, it's a different story when one looks at the weather new and see places like Amarillo and Forth Worth waking up to temperatures in the -18c to -21c range. The cities in that part of the country are _not_ equipped for these kinds of temperatures - especially if the cold settles in for any kind of stretch.

Our buildings are insulated to the point of being like that kid in Christmas Story who couldn't bend his arms from all the layers of clothes. We have trio-pane windows. Our water and sewage systems are buried deep under ground. On the other hand, these temperatures pose a real threat to the power and water infrastructure in some of those southern cities.

Hopefully it warms up again for you guys, so that we can go back to deriding you over complaining when it dips to 15c. Do whatever it takes to weather this: put painter's tape around the doors and windows. Leave a cold water tap running. Put on layers when you go out, and watch that the tip of your nose doesn't freeze (no, seriously, you can get frostbite there before you know its setting in).

Hang in there and stay warm.
  • Current Music
    Joe Walsh - Turn To Stone
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Judgmental Mood

Fannish behaviour

Chilly weather is chilli weather (and ten days into not getting above -20C, I think I would classify this weather as a tad ... cool.) When I was at the butcher shop the other day, I grabbed some stew beef with a vague idea of making a pot of chilli with cornbread for dinner this evening. Once I'm done posting this, I'll be heading out to the kitchen to begin work on cornbread.

The last two times that I've made cornbread, I overcooked it - not burning it to the point of being inedible, but too dry, and unpleasantly dark in spots. I usually cook it in our toaster oven because it heats up faster, and because it has a convection setting that gives it a very even heat distribution (saves me having to go out and turn it halfway through cooking).

I always make adjustments for the fan when I cook. I looked it up, and the instructions were to set the temperature 25F lower than you would for cooking in a static oven. I double-checked that this morning to ensure I wasn't misreading, and I realized that I had missed the second half of the instructions. "...and reduce the cooking time by 25%."

I'd already added a hand-written not to the recipe: "Check it after 20 minutes." Apparently, my intuition was pretty good, because the cooking time following the recommendations would be 22½ minutes.

Anyway, I guess I'll find out how that works later this afternoon.

In other news, I've been a bit lax about trimming my beard lately. On the other hand, I have discovered that slapping on a fedora can mean the difference between scruffy and stylin'.
You can dress me up, but...

Is there anything a fedora can't do?