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following the journey of an Ohio Buffum…


Category: Images

I’ve been hijacked. Robbed. Swindled. Ripped Off.
Those fat green bastards. I am so angry. Buddha must be powerful indeed. I wanted to squish everyone but left them to rot into the plastic container while they shat out their devastation.

So this comes on the heels of me spending 7 hour plus days in the garden for a week tilling, aerating, composting, fertilizing and changing over the caliche compact soil we have mixing it in with good dirt, compost and fertilizer. And apparently a little extra bonus in one of the bags I picked up :P fucking Home Depot.

Then I put the new plants in the ground and spent another 3 days watering extra walking around checking them making sure they’re okay. thing is…. those little bastards are the same color as all my plants. *swears*

I also put in 3 new lights. One in each of the long planting beds, and a new on on the lime tree as it’s always been a dim piece of shit.

Replaced 2 burnt out bulbs, promptly a 3rd one burnt out. Luckily they come in a pack of 4. New blacklight bug zapper *ZOTZ* I am human and I AM sick of being eaten alive by those mosquitos the size of my hand. And everything else that flaps apparently.

I’m still pissed about the peppers. Apparently some kind of sphinx moth from what I can figure out. Son of a bitch.

For the new plantings I put in Spinach, Epazote, Lime Thyme, New lemongrass. Back bed has Cuban Oregano *oh yes ese* mojo time, Celery, curly parsley, italian parsley, purple sage, Jerusalem sage, Berggarten sage, and dill. We let loose the lady bugs to feed on the world. Too bad they couldn’t eat the caterpillars >.<

And I even spotted a baby translucent gecko one night while I was talking to Katie on the phone. (Photo's not great, but he kept running toward the light *ha*ha*) ;)



Baby Gecko

New spotlight on Oleander

Backyard full darkness new light on left and right. Lemon tree in center. (Half the brightness of the two new lights, but is brighter in person).

I’d post more pictures but right now I’m too tired to do them one at a time the batch uploader is broken and it’s annoying ;) later.

I think my brain is going to burst at the moment. I can’t stop the neurons from firing. Now.. normally this is what I’m used to, but today it’s like the ideas are just hitting me *pow*pow*pow* It’s a little unsettling. And I’ve only been awake like 3 hours.

First yesterday was the first REAL workout I’ve had in a while. Last week was the wrap on my Physical Therapy for the ankle and knee and so this week I continued my workouts at the PT center since they have all my data. I do miss some of the equipment at my old gym and Sarah my trainer. :( I guess life moves on. Anyway yesterday went to the workout and hit it hard. By 10pm about 6 hours after the workout the DOMS had set in and so I tried to go to sleep which probably was a bad idea. I would just get comfy and all my muscles would twitch. Jeeez… Needless to say sleep was not as much fun as one would think.

So I woke up and things still ache. Arms mostly, neck surprisingly and don’t know why that one, I think I slept wrong ;) Legs have recovered as I expected them to. Officially as today the new medicine I started on May 4th one month ago, I have lost 40 lbs as of today. Booyah. We’ll see if that keeps up, but I doubt it. In the last week/two it’s gotten slower. Now mostly due to movie night, no more effing popcorn or nachos. Damn, 4 lbs gained each. Seriously, that’s messed up. My goal for June is to cross the 400 mark and not look back. Something I haven’t seen since roughly the year 2000. Fingers crossed. Lots of sweat in the doing.

A friend of mine has been talking about getting a moped because of gas prices in California. And it reminded me how much I loved my moped when I was 15.

I found this photo online, it’s what mine looked like, but this one of course isn’t mine. I sold mine for next to nothing to a friend in college and the stupid bint left it unlocked and got it stolen. I don’t know why that still angers me so much. I suppose it’s the careless nature of ones possessions. I was always taught to take care of your stuff and look after it. I loved riding that moped. Freezing in winter with 2 pairs of gloves and 2 coats to school, even when I’d be warmer on the bus, just because it meant that I didn’t have to leave when THEY said I had to leave for school. No no, I actually had to leave earlier to get there on time. HA. So funny. But I could dawdle after school and when the buses pulled away I could smirk as I was still there. I don’t know why that gave me such a sense of superiority. Seems silly now. I suppose it was because I felt in charge of my own destiny. Not ruled by the powers that be. Sick of being pushed around even at age 15 ;) Of course it also meant I could stop off at Dairy Queen for a Mr Misty Grape slushy in warmer weather before coming home too ;) Or drive through Minerva Park and visit the ducks and geese at the pond and feed them some bread if I had any left over.

Last week I bought a Soda Siphon by iSi.

And I found out some things. First of all, Sur la Table can drive you crazy by having the equipment but not the parts that you need to use it. The one by my house had the unit but not the chargers with gas to power it up. Well, they had chargers for the cream units. So I said, sell me those. I had to look it up on my iPhone, in the store, to see what the difference was. Turns out the cream chargers carry Nitrous oxide 8g and are colored silver. The soda chargers are carbon dioxide 8g and colored gold. So I say, wtf right? I now have to investigate the whole mess.
Turns out the nitrogen is actually antimicrobial and that is one of the reasons they use it with cream and dairy products. Also apparently it’s odorless and colorless of course and so doesn’t react with the food it’s being passed through. Large quantities of nitrous oxide in a beverage would be a very bad idea however. Well, unless you want that sort of thing. But don’t forget to check your Erowid Nitrous oxide intake beforehand and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh and it’s flammable too, so if your guests smoke and drink….
So that’s why they use the carbon dioxide in the soda siphon, that and it of course ‘carbonates’ the beverage you need carbonated. Which I had to drive halfway across town to get the soda chargers to use with my new toy.

So I had purchased some squid and I decided what the heck, lets do some tempura batter. Lets just see if using icy cold soda water in the batter gets it super crispy as I’ve been told all these years. … HOLY FUCK YES Okay sorry. I know I’m a little excited. But yeah, it worked. I put the box of tempura flour into the bowl. I added 500ml of cold water into the soda siphon, charged it with two soda chargers to ensure proper fizzelation. (Maximum charging number per my source I’ll explain later) and then after it was chilled for 30 minutes in the refrigerator discharged it into the bowl with the flour and mixed it quickly, but not completely, leaving lumps. And immediately dunked the squid and fried it. ZAM Instant super duper unbelievably crispy batter. And I didn’t even add the vodka to it yet. (Need to try that next, but saving that for the haddock!)

So As I sat there reading my book from Heston….

I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell I was going to put all the things through the soda siphon that I wanted to do. I wondered how the hell Heston put all the things through the soda siphon that he does. How does it get the foams? The liquids? The espumas? Chocolate? Soda Syrups? How many chargers can you use safely? Am I going to discharge the top off into my chest if I use too many? Can I cook the food that I have used a NO2 canister into? I’d really hate to blow up my oven, I’m awfully fond of it. But I do have good home insurance ;)

So I started looking… Okay the manual from iSi is kind of a joke. Never put anything bigger than your elbow into the soda siphon… blah blah blah.. .yeah Okay I get the point… Everything I’ve seen Mr. Blumenthal do is against every rule in the manual. It’s almost like me and the moped ;) So I scoured the internet. Everyone goes on about how they did this with their siphon and that, but no one says HOW they did it, did they leave the parts inside it? Did they use 2 chargers, 3? How viscous was the fluid they pumped through it? Merde. So I decided to write Mr. Blumenthal. I figured someone there might be able to explain it, or he might have written it down in one of his books and it would be able to explain it all to me. That would be fabulous.
So I sat down to write the note. I had to write it 3 times. It had to be short, I didn’t want to waste his time. It had to be to the point, and maybe even a little witty, I’m sure he gets thousands of letters. Housewives must make his toes curl. Managed to do it. Got it all into one notecard. Posted it off..

Got a call this morning…
Number was blocked, I almost didn’t answer it, I sometimes don’t answer them. I’m glad I did.
It was a young man, Otto, a Senior Development Chef calling from The Fat Duck in Bray. OMG> *jaw hitting floor* Hello! Thank you so much for calling…
….. (Me with flurry of million questions)….. (Him very patient and explaining things) …. *shock*

I think I’m still in shock. But I’m indescribably happy, and optimistic. I have to however, go buy a whipping canister. For the thicker foams and creams and chocolates and such. And he helped me with my idea for swirling the lemon syrup through the ice cream ;) If I was in the UK right now I’d give him a giant huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. :) Thank you Otto. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to call me, and answer my questions and patiently explain equipment to me, a crazy, mad, housewife.
Today, you are my hero. :) I hope you have a great service tonight.

So I’ve become enamored with Heston Blumenthal and the way he cooks. No, not the molecular gastronomy part. The mad scientist part. IT’s not that he uses dry ice, and liquid nitrogen and vacuum sealers and cooks sous vide… it’s that he understands if even on the basic level the slightly mad scientific principals needed to begin an undertaking.
It’s like if you were asked to create a human being from spare parts of dead humans you’d say “That’s Mad!” Well that’s what Dr. Frankenstein did, hence the mad scientist title. Heston to me is kind of like that. If you told me he would create a dish that had edible sand with sea foam and sea ‘food’ creatures and water and it would look like a day at the beach but the whole thing would be edible. I’d tell you, you were crazy. Yet he’s done it.
sounds of the sea dinner dish image by heston blumenthal

Sounds of the Sea by Heston Blumenthal

I watched a series of his that he did for the BBC back in 2007 just recently (Thank you internetz). What I found amazing was, that he really looked into certain ingredients, figured out what made them tick, what was the best way to get the most flavor, presentation, value out of a food item and then figured out how to do it in a way that us cooks at home could replicate. Sure, you have to have a little mad scientist in you I’ll admit, but it’s doable. I started with probably the most crazy of his ideas, dry ice ice cream. It was fantastic. I made a batch of creme anglaise flavored with a bottle of ‘Joe Cola’ soda and some vanilla bean. Vanilla coke, ha. And then chilled the mixture in the refrigerator before putting it into my KitchenAid mixer and putting it on the first setting.
I set my husband upon the bag of dry ice with my rubber mallet and told him to smash it to powder Ooklah we ride!!! Which was good because in about a minute he had utterly destroyed that sad piece of dry ice, it was glorious, and my Boos block was luckily none the worse, good thing we put the towel around the ice first as Heston suggests ;) I had to stand back as Erik had the good Harrods oven mitts on (Good lord those things could save you from Dragonfire!) and into the mixing bowl it went. BOOM! Dry ice cloud billows out of the mixing bowl and immediately my bare feet are 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the floor. Fascinating. So I come over to the mixer and lean in and give a good ‘blow’ to disperse the fog and I look in and the liquid is actually about 85% solid… I can’t believe it… so I notch up the beater to the 2nd notch which on mine says “Stir” and in fear for the little plastic beater blade (I think I’m putting the metal one on next time!) I wait 30 seconds and then I can hear it, it’s done. The motor begins to strain just slightly. I hit stop and grab the bowl and blow off the fog and it’s frozen, I mean, instant ice cream. None of that ice cream mixer consistency ‘soft serve’ crap that’s half melted. Just good solid, yet still scoop-able ice cream. OH my god I’m in heaven.

Sadly there are no pictures. The whole operation was over in 2-3 minutes and there just wasn’t time with so much fog going on. I’ll try to get pictures on another adventure with it. Our next opportunity we are trying coconut ice cream. Then more lemon…

But the thing is I just purchased a Soda Siphon with gas chargers…. And I will be charging a batch of ice cream to attempt to make it ‘lighter’. Erik doesn’t like my ‘Gelato’ style ice cream. I know, he’s crazy. However, my theory is, that if I can charge it with enough aeration to lighten it, can I charge it with flavored syrups injected into the mixture?

Because I’m thinking… I might try to make a lemon syrup and then charge it in the siphon and discharge it (making it a foamy mousse esqe) and swirl that into the creme anglaise and then dry ice it. I also have to figure out how to use the siphon to get my favorite wine Riesling into my ice cream… decisions decisions… so many options, choices, plans…
And now as I cackle off into the sunset you know how the mad scientist begins their descent into madness…

I know I can wax Quixotic for how most of you cook on a daily basis and the things I cook you’d never attempt in a million years. However, today we’re gonna do something everyone can cook and it’ll change your life.

Homemade stock.

Now I hear you, you say “But Rachel Ray sells it in a box at the store and it’s easy and it’s pretty good.” Sure, in a pinch when you’re in the weeds okay, box stock will do. But make ‘stock day’ in your repertoire and you’ll never have to buy stock again. The cost is negligible compared to what they charge for stock. Safeway a local grocery store here makes their own version called “Organics” and their low sodium chicken stock sells for $2.00 for 32oz.
My ingredients and their relative cost in US$.
One leek (1.27)
One yellow onion (1.20)
4 carrots (.75)
4 stalks celery (2.00)
Fresh rosemary (from my garden)(2.09)
Fresh oregano (from my garden)(2.09)
fresh sage 2 kinds (from my garden)(2.09)
3 lemons (from my tree)(.99)
3 turkey backs (Whole foods)(7.12 for 4.58lbs)

So to figure your cost for the stock. My pot is a 12 quart stock pot so for the above mentioned prices for me without buying herbs it costs $12.34 or roughly $1.03 for 32 oz… if you had to buy herbs (which would make several batches of stock) it would be $19.60 or $1.63 per 32oz.

So first we wash all the vegetables, especially the leeks because they grow in sandy soil and you need to cut them in half lengthwise and split the layers to get it all out. Scrub your carrots and celery and top and tail them then peel your onion. Scrub your lemons and top and tail them. Cut everything into large pieces. (see the photo).

Spread it out onto a nice big roasting pan, place your herbs over the vegetables and drizzle with a good olive oil liberally. Place the turkey backs on top of the vegetables salt the turkeys and then drizzle them with a little more oil to coat. Pop the whole thing into a 350-375°F oven (depending on the efficiency of your oven) and bake for 30-45 minutes keeping an eye on the turkeys until they are a deep carmelized golden brown.

At this point up-end the entire amount into a giant stockpot. Return your roasting pan to the top of your stove and place it over a burner, deglaze the pan with your favorite liquor to get the fond off the pan. Last time I used Calvados and it worked really great. Be mindful of the color, if you want a light perfect stock and you use Madeira to deglaze (dark red) you won’t get a light color stock. (But it will be tasty!) :D

After you deglaze the pan of all the meaty tasty bits (the fond) dump it into the stock pot and fill with water. Let it come to a boil and cover and cook (refilling water as necessary as it cooks down) for as long as it takes the flavor to develop. For me, I usually let it cook at least 2 hours, sometimes as much as 3 or 4 if I want more of a consomme instead of stock.

The thing is, once you make your own stock and you taste how good it is, you’ll never want to go back to box stock. I hope everyone will give it a try. Use any herbs you want to try, change up what vegetables you use based on whats in season, use beef or veal bones. But most of all use your imagination, have fun, and enjoy yourself.

I finally got off my arse and with Erik’s help got the Masa mixed and then made the tamales. They’re still steaming as I sit here typing this. They’re taking longer than usual, but that’s because I made such a HUGE batch! HA HA! We’ll be eating tamales for a week.
I took some photos of the process in case someone out there would like some help with making tamales from scratch, enjoy!

Masa Mix
2 lbs MaSeCa flour mix
3 tbsp paprika
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
3 cloves minced garlic
3 cups corn oil or melted lard/vegetable shortening
2 quarts stock

For this batch I used the left over stock from making the braised beef, and some home-made chicken stock that I had on hand to make up the 2 quarts. If you’re going to use store bought, use low sodium.
I also used a solid-at-room-temperature vegetable shortening that I get at Whole Foods because it’s not got any extra additives. I melt it down in a pan with the minced garlic, which aromatizes the garlic into the oil and lets it get into all of the tamale dough mixture.

In a large bowl combine the MaSeCa mix and the dry spices and mix until incorporated fully. Add in the oil (and garlic) slowly and mix until it has been fully incorporated into the dough. Slowly work in the 2 quarts of stock. NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT add all the stock at once you’ll have soup, it won’t work and it will be ruined. Also make sure you get it mixed thoroughly well as you get toward the last 2-3 cups of stock to add as you may not have to add it all. The mixture should become thick like peanut butter and the dough will float in water when it is mixed properly.

Soak corn husks (or shucks depending on where you’re from) in water for at least 20-30 minutes up to 2 hours. Drain husks and then get your scraper or a knife and spread the tamale dough over 2/3′rds of the husk. You can leave one edge slightly unbuttered if you want a clean tamale finish but I prefer a good seal on the tamale.
Add the meat down one side, roll one third over and fold up the bottom of the tamale then continue to roll untill you get a tight package. Stack the tamales into the steam pot and steam over water (OR STOCK!!!) for approximately 2 hours until the dough is firm to the touch.

MaSeCa tamale dough mixture

Draining a corn husk

The next few are a series of spreading the dough evenly onto the corn husk. After practice you can usually do it in one go.

Once you have the shucks coated, you just add your meat mixture…

And roll….

And fold…

And roll again…

Finished Tamale rolled and ready!

One little, two little, three little tamales… all in a row.

Tamale Madness Day!