I think the sun thawing out the snow caused me to suddenly think it was summer. That and I had been promising myself to work on some varieties of lemonade since December. A lot of times in a restaurant I will order a lemonade, especially if they have an interesting variety. Up until now I really had no idea what went into making lemonade. Unfortunately I now know how much sugar is in a glass, so I have to be careful about drinking too much of it. Essentially the recipe for basic lemonade is nothing more than a watered down sweet and sour mix.
I tried to incorporate a trick to bring out a really lemony flavor by boiling the rinds of one lemon cut very thin for a few minutes and then adding in the sugar to liquefy
- 2 cups (475 ml) of juice (about 12 lemons), this should be strained to remove any heavy pulp.
- The rind of one lemon cut into thin strips.
- 2 cups (approximately 400 grams) of sugar
- 4 cups (950 ml) purified water
The trick is to place the rinds in the 4 cups of water and bring it to a low boil, and covered. This does two things, it gives you the fastest boil time possible, and it keeps the aroma and flavoring from the rinds inside the pot. It cannot boil for very long. It is important to quickly stir the sugar into the water while it is still just barely boiling and the instant it is completely dissolved, turn off the heat. Place it to the side and let it cool completely. Then strain it into the container you will use for the lemonade. It should be almost clear, with no particles or debris. Then stir in the 2 cups of lemon juice. Taste it, sometimes you will need to add some water to balance the flavors. This can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, but I never like to keep it longer then 4 days at the most.
From this basic lemonade all things are possible. You can juice strawberries and mix that 1/2 - 1/2 to create amazing strawberry lemonade. You can make blueberry lemonade and kiwi lemonade too like I show here. There are many possibilities, I just wish it was July so I could enjoy this in the hot summer sun.
I wanted to use the last of the meat in my freezer and one of the things left was a turkey breast. In order to prepare the bird for roasting I ran 4 cloves of garlic and 4 sprigs of rosemary through the chopper, and then added 2.5 sticks of room temp unsalted butter. This was all blended and then stuffed underneath the skin. After that I sprinkled the whole thing with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. The oven temp was set at 325F and I waited for the meat thermometer to hit 170 (about 3.5 hours). The bird was incredibly moist and absolutely perfect. This is easy and a great dish I will do again in the future.
I really had the urge to make a batch of vegetarian chili when the weather dropped down to -18F (-27C for you metric types). I have always been interested in vegetarian chili styles but I wanted something that had a great texture. I started out with a base recipe from Emeril Lagasse off the Food TV site. But there are a couple of changes that are necessary to really make this shine. First of all, the tomatoes must be peeled and seeded. If you don't do this step the tomato skins curl up and are unattractive in the chili. The second change is to eliminate the one cup of water and substitute one cup of a good quality IPA beer. Something where the hops flavor really pops. And the last change is to add in 4-5 tablespoons of a nicely browned flour right towards the end of the cooking process. Maybe more or less depending on what it takes to get a nice thick consistency.
I have been working on several bread recipes so that I can develop a core of 4 - 5 breads that can be used both in table baskets and for sandwiches. Bread is really interesting and it is an art. You can make a recipe the exact same way twice and one time it will be soft and perfect and the next time tough as leather. This recipe is from Paul Prudhomme's Louisianna Kitchen cookbook. I used diced, fresh jalapenos and a really nice cheddar cheese from Wisconsin. It is not stable enough for a good sandwich bread, but it makes a great roll for table baskets. Table baskets are what I call the breads that are delivered to a table when you are first seated in a restaurant.
As with all things you are preparing for possible inclusion on a restaurant menu, you must know exactly what your costs are. I break down all of my ingredients in a spreadsheet and then weigh the test portions on a digital scale.
I flew back home from Missouri carrying some fresh squirrels from the farm. When I was a kid we ate these fried in flour and then the drippings were used to make gravy. The end product was biscuits covered in squirrel gravy with the fried meat served on the side. Very tasty and the memories of sitting at the kitchen bar stuffing my face with this goodness are some of the best. But when I had a chance to try a little different approach I wanted something to really marinate the flesh and bring out that nut fed flavor. I chose a Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout for the base and added in soy sauce, pepper and a bit of chopped garlic. Then the squirrel was marinated in this for about 4 hours.
Once the marinating was complete each piece was wrapped in bacon and then broiled in the oven on a rack for about 25 minutes. The main thing to watch for is that squirrel, like most game, is low in fat so you have to be careful not to overcook or dry it out. Then I served this over a nice bed of thinly sliced brussel sprouts that were sautéed in olive oil and some chicken stock. The flavor was really good, but squirrel is tough. Face it... its a rodent that spends its days running around from tree to tree. The next time I am thinking of a slow cooked version, or possibly a nice stew. That depends on if I can convince my dad and nephew to part with some of their supply....
I purchased a new immersion blender from Amazon and wanted to give it a try. The Waring WSB40 is a beast and almost overkill for a home kitchen. But I wanted to be able to do tomato juice, soup purees and even hummus without any issues. This thing does the job.
The acorn squash soup was created using a recipe that is fairly basic. The key is to roast the squash in the oven first to get a nice toasted flavor and then bring that out with some fresh ground nutmeg. When doing the puree you don't want to overdo it, since it gives it a much better mouthfeel if it is just the bare minimum to achieve smoothness without any chunks, but not watery. This was done with a nice vegetable stock and was completely vegetarian, no cream or milk. Very healthy, very tasty and a nice classy addition to an evening dinner.
I ended up choosing HomeSeer as my platform for home automation. One of the driving factors was price - they ran a half price sale around Black Friday. When I compared it to Charmed Quark I found that it was not only cheaper but easier to develop. Many of the Charmed Quark interfaces were outdated, and while they can be developed for a "minimal fee", I would rather have the freedom to browse devices without wondering if/how long it will take to get a driver.
The software was installed on Windows 2008 R2. The instance is one of 3 platforms being ran on my VMWare Dragon Box
- Intel Xeon E3-1230 “Sandy Bridge” – 3.2GHz, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 8MB
- Supermicro X9SCM-F – Intel C204, Dual GigE, IPMI w/Virtual Media
- 16GB (4 x 4GB) Kingston 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1333
- Lexar Echo ZX 16GB Thumbnail drive
- Rosewill 450 watt Platinum Certified power supply
It is a very "green" setup with no hard drives on board. The VMware boots from the thumbnail drive and the instances reside on a NAS box. Everything is powered through a UPS that gives 20 minutes for the entire network including the router. I have a single Z-Troller connected via USB directly off the Supermicro board.
For the CCTV I chose to use Blue Iris and the integration between HomeSeer and their package works well. For cameras I am using the Foscam-FI8910W for the inside locations. I like them, the detail is really good and they have night vision. They are my primary motion detectors at the moment. The rest of the hardware is Z-Wave. I am using a couple of wall switches and a thermal, light, motion sensor in the basement and upstairs. Once I have this running smoothly I will add smoke and CO2 along with a new thermostat. Eventually the humidity sensors will trigger the humidifier so it only runs when needed.
One last thing, if you happen to be using a Cisco RV110W you will find that there is a bug in the firewall regarding port forwarding. I was given a beta copy of new firmware and it seems to have resolved the problem. More information is at this thread on the Cisco forum. It has taken over 1.5 years for this fix to be put in place, making Cisco routers a choice of last resort in the future for me.
I wanted to upgrade the security system in the house along with expanding the capability to include environment controls. To that end I installed Charmed Quark Controller and began working with it to see if it would fit my needs. After a week or so I learned that the web server and XML interface were not included until the $800+ price point. The next step has been to install HomeSeer and begin work with the program to see how smoothly it runs. I have settled on Blue Iris for the camera security software. It works very well and the Android phone app is smooth.
One of the issues with home automation in my home is that the house was built around 1967 and retrofitting is a real pain. I have ran a few Cat5 drops to the upper floors, and there are several downstairs, but the reality is any solution must be wireless. At this point it seems Z-wave will work reasonably well for the motion, thermal, fire and humidity sensors. We will see once I have a controller configured and working. One of the other issues is getting the USB port on the VMware server to map through to my Win2008 instance. I believe I have this working. I used a simple USB memory stick to test with, and after a few hours I seem to have it working consistently. This whole project is going to take several weeks to get configured and then test. Testing will be extremely important as it has to be able to survive power outages and other potential problems. So far though I am reasonably confident that this will not only work, but allow me to control the house from anywhere in the world.
I finished up the North Shore Century and the Apple Cider Century on the Serotta with the triple crank... and wow... it makes it so much nicer to ride. Hills are no longer as scary, and the smoothness of the 11 speed is just amazing.
Earlier this year while still living in China I picked up a used Surly Crosscheck frame from a member of the Paceline Forum. He packaged it with a pair of DT Swiss rims laced to XTR hubs. So that, plus all the other old parts left in the shop were used to build the Crosscheck. Originally I had wanted to take it to Beijing and the Ultegra groupset that is on it now makes it a great urban rider. With the fenders, and stealthy look it is perfect for that city. Beijing is an urban rider's paradise, but you need to keep the bike low profile to avoid thieves. The Surly already had all of the decals removed, and that, plus its scuffed up condition makes it look like just another bike.
Those Velo Orange fenders really make it look sweet though, and I love them. Riding through/over anything is not a problem, but at 31.8 lbs (14.42 kg) it is a weighty bike. I did 55 miles along the Fox River last week and at the end I could really feel it.
Tomorrow is the Evanston Bike Club's North Shore Century ride. Last year this was my first organized ride, and really the one that convinced me this was what I wanted to do. The new wheelset and Campy drivetrain is on, and I cleaned the bike, lubed everything and we are good to go.
And here's a shot of the White Industries hubs built up with HSons+ rims.