Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kids and the Kinect

We've had our Kinect for the xbox 360 for about 6 months and have been through the wringer with this sucker. It's neat. Absolutely! Pain in the buttocks? Mmhm. I'm gonna break this down into sections...

Gaming Issues
While the Kinect is a groovy idea, sometimes the idea and the reality don't quite jive. Before you shell our your heard earned schekels take the time and read some reviews. I lurves me some Raving Rabbids, oh yes I do. The main reviewed complaint about the Kinect game with those bwah happy little critters is that the games are super short and you spend more time getting to the game than playing the game. Which makes it a no-dice for me and thanks for helping a sister out, reviewers!

Tech Problems
My man is basketball tall and my daughter only reaches his waist. The kinect will snap to him every time when they're trying to play together. Doesn't matter what I do - and believe me, the plenty I tried was WAY above and beyond your average Wiley Coyote measures. - it's just like that. When my daughter plays with friends who are of similar height, we have no problems with multiplayer games. She does have some problems with the Kinect "hearing" her, but that seems to be with one game so far. She LOVES bossing the Netflix around using the Kinect voice commands.

You MUST have good lighting to make the kinect work properly and try not to Goth out or Chameleon yourself with the background color. We had to hang our Kinect really high so that it could see my man from Head to Feets.We bought a Zoom attachment to see if that fixed our spacing issues and nope it didn't. I can see where it would, it just didn't do the trick for us.

My kid is too engrossed with the screen to worry about such boring things as where her feet happen to be at the time. She'd get mad that the game wasn't working because she'd wandered out of the camera "sweet spot".  I bought a rubber bottom bathrug and throw that down on the floor when she's going to play. If she's on the rug, she's in The Zone. It gives her a tactile reminder of where she should be to best play the games. It's not as effective as I'd hoped, but she knows where to return to when problems start happening in the gameplay.

Nickels and Dimes
This is pretty much my mantra for anything... I want to get it for 50% off list retail and 30% or less is my supergoal. I take a look at what Gamestop is charging, then I go take a peek at their used selection. (Generally perusing the reviews as I pass by) Then I wander over to Ebay and Amazon to see what used are going for on those  planets.  Can it be found within my price parameters or should I wait 3 months or try the pawn shop? Ebay will not only show you what current bids are for items, you can also see what they have been selling for during the last month, so you have a better idea of their usual target price.

Can I buy it as a download or just a disc? Download codes are WAY cheaper than buying the disc, usually. We got Fruit Ninja Kinect download card for free by asking the clerk at GameStop about it. (Pure luck) I picked up another game or two from Ebay for $5 per code. The Xbox Game Site wanted $10, $25 or $30 bucks for these games. They also had some games recently for $1 to download. Not all games have codes, sometimes you get lucky.

How long ago was the game released? If it was released less than 6 months ago, the only way you might get it for less than 80% of list is to get lucky in a pawn shop. Unless it sucks, then you'll find em scattered for bargain prices. 

Games that Rock for Kids - Mostly
Kinect Adventures -
This one isn't a bad starter for the system. It teaches the kids how to move and how to interact with the Kinect properly.

Kinect Star Wars - 
If you like candy, you'll dig this. It's not meant to be anything more than it is - a fun and odd romp through different SW games and environments. Not too easy for the little kids. I'd wait till 8 or so to let em give it a whack.

Kinect Party -
This is a game that has no rules or scores. It's great for the little ones. It really shows off the capabilities of the Kinect itself. Our problem with it is that the Kinect can't "hear" my daughter, so we're always having to yell at the system to change the games for her. She loves it and will wear herself out playing with these little games. 

Kinect Carnival - 
Harder than it looks and not worth much money, to be honest. There are very limited games within the Carnival and it doesn't look like it is a game that has long time play options. I'd say if you really wanna try it, go ahead but I wouldn't spend more than $4 on it, if that.

The Gunstringer - 
Not for little kids. It's a bit graphic about some things - but the gameplay is smooth and it's a fun character to play. It's built for adults and only involves using your arms - no jumping or dodging or any of that action.

Kinect Fruit Ninja - 
If your kid keeps jacking your tablet to play Fruit Ninja, this will get em outta your hair for hours.

Kinect Mini Ninja - 
Decent little game. Monk is digging being a ninja. It's not for the eensy tykes, but it is pretty cool to watch em make choices and analyze different areas of the screen.

Kinect FreeFall Racers - 
A flying race game where you get to be a flying squirrel. Fun! My kid isn't so into the race games, but Daddy seems to dig this one. :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Creamy Mostly Veg soup

Tonight, I dug through the veg in the fridge and came up with a pile of stuff. It was getting cold, so my genetic code was screaming "Soup Time, Woman!" And I just went with it...too chilly to argue, anyhow.

It go like this, here it go:

1 cup diced celery  (leaves and all)
1 head cauliflower
1 med-large yellow squash
1.5 broccoli crowns
1 can evaporated milk
2/3 bar Cream cheese
1 box Chicken stock
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1.5 tsp Adobo Crillolo
.5 tsp White Pepper
.5 tsp Onion Powder
1/2c Italian Blend Shredded cheese (mozzarella, asiago and provologne mix)

Put the Chicken Broth and Cream of Mushroom soup in a pot. Bring it to a gentle boil while whisking. Add diced and chunked veg. All the veg now belong to the Soup. Let it simmer until the veggies are super tenderized. Turn off the pot and hit it with an immersion blender. Blend until smooth. Add pepper, onion powder and Adobo. Stir the pot. Add the cream cheese in slivers and chunks and the evaporated milk, too. Stir until the cream cheese has become one with the soup rather than floating about in odd lumps. Add the Italian blend cheese and mix that in until it disappears. Add more salt, pepper or onion powder until the taste grooves you. Serve and get down, babycakes!

I told my kid that I'd used "herbs and spices" to make all the little flecks she was seeing in the soup.
(Yeah, Dude, I'll lie straight in a kid's face about vegetable content in what they're eating and not even feel guilty. Not for a second.) She ate  everything in her bowl and enjoyed it!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Induction Cooktop Insane Easy Caramel

With the holidays rolling around, people are FB posting all their favorite sweet recipes. My cooking buddy was excited about her cousin Bobby's crock pot caramel recipe. She tried it with great result. There were many variables that made no logical sense to me. Things I've been told one must never ever do, unless you're TRYING to make somebody's day a little less bright. After a quick search of internet recipes to see what the common points and not so common variations are, I learned this:

Don't make yo shit harder than it needs to be. Science can be simple.

Hold your questions till the end, kids.

It goes like this, here it go:

Set the temp on your induction cooktop to 195.  Put an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot and fill the pot until you have covered the can with at least a 1/2 inch of water. Put the lid on and set the cooktop for 6 1/2 hours. Once the cooking cycle is complete, let the can sit in the covered water bath for another hour and a half. Transfer unopened can to fridge until you're ready to do something with your caramel.

Seriously, that's it. When the caramelish stuff has chilled, it will have a thick texture and lovely colour. The texture is not quite as stiff as the cellophane wrapped caramel candies and the colour is just a bit darker than those. It's not a chewy stringy substance, it's more spreadable like a thick Nutella. 

Questions and concerns:

1. This isn't really true caramel, it's dulce de leche. My unrefined hippy tastebuds can't tell a difference. It's yummy. I swear.
2. Quite a few blogs say that you MUST use Eagle brand. All I had in the cabinet was Great Value and it turned out just fine.
3. The caramel is quite thick once it's cooled. Feel free to add stuff when you use it... butter for a more caramel-y flavoured caramel. Salt for a salted caramel. Vanilla... you get the picture. Don't be skerred, it's just minor tweaks to make it groove for you.
4. Yes, Beavis, take the label off the can before you cook it.
5.  If your can seeps condensed milk into the pot, you're boned - start over with a new not-jacked-out can.
6.  No, the can will not explode (when you cook it at 195 degrees) and leave your kitchen a sticky horror. I was worried myself. We even talked about cooking it outside in case of splosion. Nope. Green lights all the way, man.
7. If your stuff turns out lumpy, you probably cooked it at too high a temperature. Since we can set the temp with an induction cooktop, that's not a problem.
8. If you MUST see what's going on in the can during the cooking process, use ball jars with the lid and all that.
9. This is NOT shelf stable, it must be refrigerated. It's milk.
10. You may need to thin it down with milk or cream to make it more easily pourable when warmed. Play around with it to get the texture you want.
11. Keep an eye on it while it cooks. The water must cover the can at all times.

Enjoy, y'all!

Side note: I am not responsible for the dimples on your behind once you get addicted to this super easy caramel. Heh!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sock Monster freedom! Hallelujer, I say!

I've been the Sock Monster's bitch since I was 15. It only got worse as I aged and started accumulating humans. Bipedal life forms of any age in my vicinity develop severe Sock Monster Syndrome. Dunno why. That's like contemplating the color blue - it's an IS. Finding pairs of mated socks is darned near impossible. I do find single socks under beds, in between couch cushions, on dodgy ledges and occasionally in the wrong drawers. I gave up on matching Luna's cute little patterned socks by the time she was 3. There are only so many hours of the day I can spend digging under furniture. Ask, beg, threaten all with no discernible change in where the socks end up. I have a grown human who will wear a single pair of socks until they have so many holes he can't wear them or a clean pair appears in his drawer. All without a single request to have socks laundered.

When I had 5 kids and two mates, I was writing letters in sharpie on socks, buying different styles and colors and even laying paws on some sock clips that hold socks together in the laundry. Nope. Still the sock monster's bitch. Go in any room and open the sock drawer, you'd find 3+ unmatched socks, at least one pair of  someone else's socks and a handful of socks that should have been thrown out two sock purchases ago... and if you're lucky one pair of matched socks of the correct size and style.

Then I bought my Sweetness a pair o these:

Vibram Fivefinger Toe Shoes

I am free of the Sock Monster at last. That assclown can starve. No more socks! Well... on rare occasion. My daughter is begging for a pair of shoes like Daddy's. If I can get her hooked as well.. oh YES!!! *giggling maniacally*  I live My life in a pair of Birkenstocks but neither Man nor Child have hippie feet.  Shame, but that's the way of it.

Damn skippy, Skippy.

May not be the perfect plan, but the break will be nice!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pork and Veg Tomato-ish Soup

Winter is coming, the days are getting colder and I'm ready to start doing weekly soups. Family and friends have their favourites but every once in a while I'm game for something new. This week I decided to wander into the land of pork with a tomato groove to it. It's more of a soup than my usual, meaning it's a thin but savoury liquid with teeny bits of this and that floating about in it. My man dug it in a big way and I was able to modify it when sending it along as his lunch one day.

I cook my soups in a crock pot and let em simmer all day, it makes the house smell amazing!

It go like this here it go...

Part 1: Meat!

1 24oz Hormel Pork Sirloin - Garlic & Herb flavoured.
1/3 c Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing
1/3 c Ken's Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 c White Wine
1 tsp Adobo Crillollo
1 Tbsp Molasses

Cook the meat in the crock pot till done. It takes about 3 hours or so. Let it rest until it's cool enough to handle. I took the meat out of the juice, strained the juice and put it back in the crock. This can be done the night before if you can't be there during the day to deal with it. Cut the meat up into small bits, about 1/2" cubes is good enough and throw it back into the juice.

Part 2: Souptastic goodness!

1 Lg Yellow squash - diced
3 Med Carrots - diced
1 Med Sweet onion - diced
1 Med-Lg Leek - sliced & chopped
2 c Mushrooms - diced
2 small cans Hunts Tomato Paste with Basil, Garlic and Oregano
1 can Cream of Celery Soup
2 Boxes Swanson Chicken Broth
2 Tbsp Italian Dried Herb Mixture
Reserved Juice and Pork bits
1 tsp Adobo Crillollo

Throw the canned stuff and broth into the crock pot and wisk until smooth. Toss in everything else and give it a stir. Let it grok in the crock on HI for 5 hours or so. It's a crock pot soup, you really can't overcook it unless you forget about it for a couple of days. Check the veggies, when they're as tender as you want em to be it's done. Salt and pepper to taste when your veggies are ready. This makes about 12 cups of soup as near as I can figure.

I served it with Jiffy cornbread because I was feeling lazy. :)

Soup Mod!
I wanted to make some changes for the third serve of this soup and added diced smoked sausage, minced garlic and hidden veggie macaroni elbows. I transferred the last of the soup to a pot and put it on the stove. The macaroni cooked in the broth along with the rest of my new additions.  Pasta done? Serve it!

Sorry there's not a photo. I've been sick. *bleah*

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I saw a photo of  some Spider Chip cookies and knew that my little Goth Empress would lose her mind over them. Followed the art direction... Fail. Cookies tasted great. Did the chips end up looking like little spiders? No, they looked like chocolate chips the cats had taste tested while the dominant female human wasn't looking...

You know me, can't see a recipe without wanting to put my own thoughts and imaginings in the mix.  A quick search netted the Toll House recipe. Mhmm. White flour. Pfffft. Man I wish I had some peppermint extract. Oh well, I've got peppermint mocha creamer. Let's get into trouble, Baby!

*edit* Yeah, the creamer didn't pack as much of a punch as I'd hoped.

So I did this with it:

1/2 c Cheap ass Margarine
1/2 c Shortening
1 c Brown Sugar
1/2 c White Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Peppermint Mocha Creamer

Toss it in your mixer and cream it all together. Throw in two eggs and 3/4 tsp salt. Keep on beating.

Whisk together in a separate bowl:
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 c Milled golden Flax seed
1 c Oat Flour (Ground down plain oatmeal)
1/2 c Whole Wheat Flour
3/4 c All Purpose White Flour

Add the flour to the goo in your mixing bowl and whup it good.

Once combined, add in a whole packet of semi sweet chocolate chips. The dough is gonna be a little loose. Chuck it into the Frigidaire for at least an hour to firm it up. I might let it sit in there overnight.. Or you can throw it into the freezer to firm it up faster.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drop by heaping teaspoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Nom nom nommity!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Duck me? Duck You! (Sauce)

I've been threatening to make Egg Rolls from scratch over here for the longest. Gotta have a fab duck sauce to go with. Some people dig the hot mustard, others want em au natural. Not me. I adore that sweetish yellowy orange goo. I ran through the recipe areas to see what's in it. Looks easy enough - but some of the stuff isn't stuff I keep around the house. Dry mustard? I've used it but spice goes over in a year and I'd never use a whole teensy tub o the stuff. I keep the prepared version in the fridge at all times. Red chili flakes? Yeah, not so much. Tiger Sauce, tho? Can't live without it. Time to jack around with some substitutions and my own brain sparkles and see what we get.

It go like this, here it go...

1 Pluot (It's a plum/apricot hybrid or you can use a regular plum)
1/2 c Apricot Preserves
1 tsp Yellow Mustard
1 tsp Tiger Sauce
1 tsp shaved Ginger Root
1 tsp Molasses
2 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar (or balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 100% Apple Juice 10 oz juice box

Chunk up the fruit and throw it in the pot with everything else. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 mins. Make sure the fruit is soft. Throw it all in a food processor, blender or hit it with an immersion blender. Blend until smooth. Let it cool. Done!

*takes a bow*

Remember, this is from scratch, ghetto style. It will not taste like the packet goo with all the preservatives and etc. If you want it sweeter, make it sweeter. If you like a sour groove, add a touch more vinegar. The point is you can tweak it to be the kitten's whiskers with a little effort. :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cinnamon Buns - Let's pretend it's healthy-ish!

Carbs, fat and sugar. Makes you feel naughty just thinking about it, eh? Mmhm. My sweetie had to work late and is going in super early tomorrow. It's time to bake something special. Something he can drag in and make a sucktastic morning not so crap.

A few minor tweaks are gonna turn my standard cinnamon buns into not quite so horrible for you breakfast fare.

It go like this, here it go...

2 c 5x Protein Vanilla flavored Almond Milk
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Yeast Packet

Warm the almond milk and pour over the yeast and sugar in your mixer bowl. Not too hot, don't wanna kill the yeast.  Let it get all foamy like - 5 minutes or so of waiting.

Add in:
1/2 c Milled Flax Seed
1 c Whole Wheat Flour
1 c Oat Flour (I put plain Oatmeal into an electric mini chopper and let 'er rip until it made powder)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 c Brown Sugar
A sprinkle of cinnamon

And beat on medium-low for a few minutes.  Hooray, you made glop! The oat flour will suck most of the moisture from the mixture, so expect a heavier dough than my usual stuff.

In a small bowl add 1/2c oil, 1 tsp Almond extract (or vanilla) and an egg. Beat em together. Throw that into your mixer and give it the business.

When it's combined nicely add in:

1.5 c All Purpose White Flour

Beat it some more. You should be seeing a doughy paste ball. Scrape it outta the bowl onto a well floured board and start with the kneading. Don't over knead it, but do make sure you get a happy ball of squishy dough. Maybe 5 minutes till you're to the good. Toss your ball into a greased bowl and hit it with some spray grease on top. The dough will feel like decent play dough. Not stiff, nicely pliable and springy. Cover with a moist paper towel and let it rise.

Punch it down in about a half hour or once the dough has doubled in size. Grease everything again and cover with your moist towel before letting it rise one more time.

And then:
Get out a small bowl, add in 1/2 c softened butter, 1/4c Brown sugar and 1 Tbsp Cinnamon. Mix till everything is combined nicely.

Flour your board again and drop the dough bomb on it. Roll it out until it's about the size of your 13 x 9 cookie sheet. Flip the dough once or twice while you're rolling. When you've got a nice even rectangle, spread your buttery sugary cinnamony paste across the entire thing. Grab a long side of the dough and roll till you hit the other side. Goo is likely to squeeze out, so be gentle if you want to keep the goodness on the inside where it belongs. Let it rest for 5 - 10 minutes. Slice the spiral dough tube into 1 inch thick circles. Lay these side by side on your cookie sheet. Don't crowd em too much, they still have to rise again. Shake a touch of cinnamon across the top. Maybe a pinch of nutmeg too, if you're feeling adventurous.

Time for more rising. Let em go as long as you can hang. If it's gonna be more than an hour, let it rise in the fridge.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Vital wheat gluten is wheat flour without the starch. It's a source of protein. With the super duper almond milk and egg, this should have more oomph than the crap you can find at a donut shop or in a cellophane packet at a convenience store. Almond milk does not have the fat that is in my lovely lovely red cap homo milk. We're robbing Peter to pay Paul with it, though. The buttery center is where we're gonna jam the fat back in.  You can replace the sugar with agave nectar or honey or whatever form of sweetish goodness floats your boat. I'm a fan of brown sugar. Why not have the little tickle of molasses in there to add it's own groove?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Homemade Pizza

I've been using my standard bread recipe to make pizza dough with. Mostly because I couldn't find any semolina flour that wasn't cost prohibitive - if I could find it at all.

Bingo! Finally found it.

When making this for the first time, I realized that the dough is crazy sticky. I looked at the glop in the mixing bowl and had doubts that I could reliably count to 2. A quick double check on my fingers assured me this was not the case - but the dough still looked funny to me. I put way more flour & semolina on the board than I'd usually use and worked the dough till it was mostly absorbed.  A good solid half cup or so.

Are you ready?

1 3/4 c warm water
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 packet Yeast (no it doesn't have to be the Pizza yeast packet)

Let the yeast get all foamy and happy.

Add in:
1 c Whole Wheat flour
1 1/2 c All Purpose White flour
1 c Semolina Flour
1 tsp Adobo Crillollo (Garlic salt..if you're gonna use salt why not one with a flavor)
1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten 

Start the mixer on low/medium. Let it go for about 3 minutes then...

Add in:
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Italian Seasonings (I like my dough to be pretty)

Keep mixing for another 5 minutes or so. Let the doughy glop rest for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a seriously floured board. I used a mix of white and semolina. Knead the dough until it absorbs most of the flour. It should hold together nicely and be a little springy. Place your dough bomb into a greased bowl - spray it with more grease and let it rise for 30 mins.

** this dough is supposed to turn out better if it's left to sit in the fridge overnight. I dunno, never got a chance to let it.**

Punch it down and let it rise again while you gather your pizza fixings.

I use Hunt's Garlic and Herb tomato paste, straight outta the can as my pizza sauce. Yum!

This dough makes two medium pizzas. Cut it in half and roll it out as thin as you can get it without tearing it. Sauce it up and deck it out for nommage.

Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 22 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pumpernickel Hot Pockets

I took photos for this, but they were a gnarly pile of suck. I'll use them sparingly.
This recipe made a dozen hot pockets.

And we're off!
Pumpernickel Dough (from my post here)
3 cups of cooked Turkey Breast
3 Macintosh Apples - peeled, cored and shredded
1 Cream Cheese block - or the light version
1/4 c Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing
2 cups Fresh Spinach leaves

Mix the cream cheese and Ken's until you have a creamy paste.

Grab a chunk of dough about the size of your fist. Roll it out until it is a little bigger than the length and width of your hand on a lightly floured board.

Spread 1 or 2 tsps of creamy wonderfulness onto your dough, leaving about a 1/2 inch without all the way around. Layer the turkey, apples and spinach on top.

Gently bring both long sides together and seal em. Then fold the ends in. It should look like this:

Yeah, I KNOW what it looks like. ;) Hehehe Naughty, naughty. Now back to the food.

Let them rise for about 20 minutes then bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes.

Ready to get down? Nom nom nom!

Pumpernickel v2 - this time with vital wheat gluten!

I made a turkey breast in the crock pot. It came out amazing and I've been itching to do some more hot pockets. They send in pack lunches So nicely. Baby's working extra this week, so might as well fortify him with some groovy grub.

Time to try Pumpernickel again!

Last time, it came out a little cat head-ish, so this time I'm adding more liquid and vital wheat gluten. That being said, this is in no way GLUTEN FREE. Not even a little. Matter of fact, I'm adding extra gluten to it.

1 cup warm Water
1 packet Yeast
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Throw it in the bowl and let it sit there for about 5 minutes to proof.
It should look like this:

Then toss in:
1 1/4 c Rye Flour
1/4 c Ground Milled Flax
1 c Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 c Molasses
2 tsp Ground Caraway Seeds
1/4c Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten

And beat it a little. My cheap behind does not have a dough hook for my dearest vintage Kitchen Aid. Maybe this xmas, since I'm doing so much bread. :)  It will look like a bowl full of sloppy what-the-hell. It's ok. No worries, man.

Add in:
1 egg beaten into 1/4 c oil. Then beat it a little more to combine.

Add in:
1/2 c brewed Coffee
1/2 c Milk (or almond milk)

Beat it some more.

Next is:
1.5 c All Purpose White Flour

Add it in 1/2 c increments, beating a little after each addition. You should end up with a still gooey pile of brown doughy stuff.
Like this:

Dump the sticky mess onto a well floured board and roll it in the flour to coat all sides. If you miss any spots, you'll know. It will stick like crazy. Then knead the dough until it becomes more elastic than sticky. Yes, if you stick your little puddin' fingers deep into the center it will be sticky. Just fold and knead, guys. Don't be afraid to toss some more flour on your board if the dough absorbs what you have.
Almost finished kneading looks like this:

When you've got the dough nice and smooth and looking, you're there! Spray grease a bowl and set your dough into it, then spray grease the dough. Cover with a wet papertowel to keep it moist while it rises for the first time.
It should look like this:

Let her rise for about 30 minutes - unless you're speeding up the process with a warm oven or hot sunny day. And you get this:
The top looks white because of the wet paper towel that was sitting on it during the rising process. All is cool.

Punch down the dough, coat the bowl and the dough with spray grease and let it rise again.

This is planning time. What cha' gonna do with the dough? Rolls? Loaves? Me? I'm making hot pockets! You have two more rises to get all your goodies prepped and ready for action.

Punch the dough down for the SECOND time. This time, if you're making loaves or rolls, cut the dough into what you need. In half for two loaves, in 32 bits for rolls. or 16 for hoagie buns or hot pockets.

The THIRD rise is the last before you slide that sucker into the oven.

This should make 2 loaf pans of pumpernickel. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or so. Take a look around minute 22 to see how dark the crust is. No burning the bread! All ovens cook at different speeds, it's just like that - deal with it.  Rolls take less time to bake, about 12-18 minutes.

If you're curious about how my Hot Pockets turned out, I'll be posting that next.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Part 2 - Newfangled Idiot Boxes and You in the console gaming continuum.

So, where were we? Oh yeah - eyeballing the options. We hit a major chain store to pick up some stuff and wandered over to look at the flatscreen television options and get a good feel for what's available.

Mr. Gamer-guy immediately started tripping out that the 32's were not big enough for his gaming needs. It's ok, logic and measurements will only get you so far, I guess. *facepalm* I'm shopping for his pleasure - gotta get what makes babycakes smile.

I'm not having much luck finding a 720p 60hz 37" LED flatscreen that is within price parameters. (read: not more expensive than a bargain 40") and very little luck finding a 39 or 40 on a sales floor that has the resolution and speed that my research has said is the best bet.

Guess I'll be rolling through some pawn shops to see what I can find. The one closest to me is darned near impervious to haggling. *gasp* Dude, I'm a haggling jedi. Finding folks who refuse to dicker is amazing to me. Pfft - I'll find my price - bet on it.

*** Edited ***

Alrighty, I hit the Pawn Shop and got lucky. The lady had a 42" lcd with one dead pixel and no remote for $139, hidden in the back. A little bit of dickering got her to drop the price from $175 to what I paid. Being the cheap ho that I am (not to mention Mr. Hotness standing next to me giving me the puppy eyes) we jumped on the deal. A fast Ebay search netted an original remote for $14, including the shipping. It's a Dynex, which is the Best Buy house brand before they chose the name Insignia for their house brand. We've had quite a bit of good luck with Insignia products, so I'm not complaining. With steak tastes and a hot dog budget, I've gotta take chances carefully. A 42" new telly is running about $300-$400 on the low end. I got this one at about 50% of market retail, which fits within my thrift parameters. The size is WAY bigger than I'd even considered. OTOH, after setting it up my darling was chanting "It's So big! It's BIG. I love it.Oh, it's huge." till I wanted to put him in a rainbow shirt. *cymbal crash*

So far, we've tested out movies and games and it looks brill. The remote should be showing up in today's mail, so that's when I'll do my final tweaking.  He's happy, so I'm happy.

Xbox Frustration

When it comes to streaming via game system, Xbox is my go-to girl.

Baby, you gotta lick a little to the left. Just a smidge, cause you're almost there!

I've been dragging the tech boards to find out why the Youtube app keeps kicking me back to the start or flat out hating on me. I love to watch Will Wheaton's Table top, PewDiePie and Drunk Kitchen -among other gems in the YouTube Continuum. That gets tiring when you can only watch 2 minutes (if that) at a time before the app crashes. As I said, I went looking for answers.

Short Story -
You're boned. Wait it out, the geeky tech gurus will find a solution or the app will get fixed on the developer's end. Stop laughing, I'm serious. WAFO, bro.

How did I reach this conclusion?
First, I went LAN rather than WI-FI. The boards are full o' folks talking about how wi-fi is for guests, occasional users or tech (like tablets) that it is totally uncool to have tethered to a cord.  Ok, that's an $8 solution to my creative cursing. I like it. Let's try! Um... no fixee the problem.

Next, I read that you need to fine tune your MTU. (My what?) It's the Maximum Transmission Unit. Basically, how big the chunks of data are that flow through your router to your Xbox. I've got a Linksys EA2700 Smart Router, his name is Edgar and I love him. This is the link that helped me. If your chunks are too big, it causes problems. Too small and you're wasting the space you have available. Did it fix my problem? Nope.

Then I took a look at another board which told me how to further fine tune my router settings. Which also didn't work.

There was an Xbox Help answer that told me that doing speed tests on your Xbox does not give you an accurate accounting of how much bandwidth is being used. Basically, it no workee. Yeah, you'll get numbers - but they don't mean what you think they mean.

Another person mentioned that you can use the IE app to backdoor your way into YouTube. I was amazed! It worked even worse than the app - which is saying something. *grumble*

Maybe my problem is partially due to my 3.0 MBPS speed and the amount of users I have, all eating bamwich at the same time.  Won't know until I can upgrade to 6.0. That's a monthly bill addition centered on a "maybe". Ummmm. If AT&T will let me upgrade, then I'll test it out. If not... wah-wah... staying boned and not liking it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nookie Pork - Oriental style!

I'd planned on cooking Egg Rolls earlier in the week, but the plans fell over. :( This left me with an odd assortment of items in the larder. After a few days, it was time to get creative with my ingredients.


Pork so good you'll be craving it an hour later with foodie lust throbbing on your tongue. Yeah, it's got an oriental groove happening. Yummy.

It go like this, here it go...

Nookie Pork

1 24oz Garlic and Herb Pork Sirloin from Hormel
1 Plum
1/4 c Apricot Preserves (or 1/2c Dried Apricots)
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1/4 c Brown Sugar
2/3 c Apple Juice
1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Five Spice Powder
2 tsp Minced Ginger

Crock Pot or Oven, either way that you prefer. Oven style gets covered and cooked at 350 for 1.5 hours. Try to flip it at least once halfway through. Use your thermometer, the interior temp needs to be at least 170 degrees.

Unwrap the pork and set it in your crock or pan.

If you want to add veg, now is the time to think about it. Broccoli, scallions, snow peas and thin slices of carrot is how I'd go. Just pick out what you like and scatter it around your meat. Feel free to throw some cashews in there, if you're feeling spunky. A few spicy peppers can change the flavors dramatically. Don't be skerred, it's just food, Dude.

Pit the plum and toss it into the blender or mini processor with all the spices and liquids mentioned above. Puree and pour over the meat and veg.

Cook that sucker.

When it's finished, let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. I prefer to slice my roast and throw it back into the pot, tossing gently with a big spoon, to coat it with all the yummy goodness that has settled on the bottom.

If it doesn't POW, add a smidge more soy. 

Serve over rice, noodles or even rice noodles - whatever grooves you. Nomomnom!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

6 Month Streaming Anniversary!

We've been off cable for 6 months. A-ma-zing! I've had cable in the house since the early 80's, so this is a big thing for me. There have been bumps and it's still nowhere NEAR perfect but it's passable and you can't beat it for the money. Not. At. All.

So far what I've learned is stuff I already kind of assumed, but didn't have the cheese or the gumption to make a reality.

Mo Bandwith, Mo Betta - If you're streaming on more than one unit plus have computer(s) in der haus, upgrade as high as your provider will let you and if'n ya gotta, switch providers to get the highest speed you can find. Yeah, affordability is a balancing act - how much cabbage you've gotta lay out vs how many times you can handle yourself or someone else in the home bitching about their electronic device creeping, freezing or puking. We're running at 3.0 Mbps which is horribly slow for what we need. Don't be me. Pay the money, man, just pay it.

Schedules and Time - Netflix will only allow you to stream on 2 units at a time. You want more? Pay more. (Cha, as if?!) Pops' system is considered in the house as "always on" and "Netflix hog". All other users have to recognize that there is a bandwith drain 24 hours in there and that there is only one other Netflix slot available at any given time. If I want to download, uh, stuff - I have to wait until there is nobody else using bandwith. We call it "eating your BamWich" thanks to an untechsavvy ex-roomie who thought that's what we were saying whilst complaining about lack of bandwidth.
*Huge shout out to the cast and writers of Charmed. You've kept an old man held warm in the embrace of your jiggly and giggly. Extra kisses to the wardrobe department! - Thanks, Dad.* 

Channels - With new apps coming available all the time, there are endless new channels to look at and realize they suck yak scrote. You will see groovy apps for HBOGO and Syfy, for example. HBO will not let loose of it's goodness unless you're market cost paying for it. She's an old whore who has experience that far outweighs the new kids and is still mighty good looking for her age, so no money-money?  No honey, Honey. HBO refuses to sign any agreement that will allow the streaming pay sites access to their content. (read:Netflix and HuluPlus). HBO refuses to offer a'la carte streaming service. Ain't gonna. No way. No how. Showtime does offer it's shows - the old ones - on Netflix. Again with the no a'la carte. Syfy will show you endless clips of behind the scenes stuff but not a single episode via their app. You can, however, stream most of their shows on your computer for free. This is a problem with HuluPlus as well. Some shows they will only allow you to view through the computer website, rather than on a streaming box or game system. Why? Dunno, though my best guess involves money. (Money is usually the answer to any question.) There are free movie apps that do show movies for free. Not generally films that I'd devote time to - but they're there.  Crackle is a pretty cool saving grace. I've found some fun tv shows on there and the occasional neat movie. It leans heavily towards the cult movie tribe, which is a great idea. I like I Heart Radio. It's a targeted radio app/channel that lets you pick from music stations all across the US. There is a premium aspect to it, if you choose to go that route, which offers more options for choosing artists and music. I'm doing fine with the free version. If a channel is free, I'm more than willing to give it a test drive and see if I like what it's offering.  More than half the time I'm noticing that the app really doesn't have what I'm looking for. Personally, some of these apps/channels from the big networks feel like placeholders - don't want to give away too much or make things too easy, but gotta gotta have at least something out there. The NBC channel has grown quite a bit in the last 6 months. Still not great, but I'm no fan of their webstreaming site, either.

Hardware - Wii is fine - in the little kids room. Or maybe for Grandma because she only wants to watch Netflix. Anyway, you can probably pick up a used/pawnshop Wii for cheaper than a Roku. PS3 and Xbox 360, well you know how I feel about that already. I likee the xbox for streaming - if you MUST stream on a gaming system. Roku eats the gaming system's lunches every time.
A good router is a very important link. My rule of thumb is the same for routers as for kids shoes, buy a size larger - they're gonna keep growing and buy quality, used if that's all you can afford. I absolutely ADORE the cisco router we have. It has a Smart Wi-Fi application that allows you to see who is on your router and turn off anything that is connected to it, even set times for wi-fi to turn on and off for each electronic item.

LAN vs Wifi - Before the cursing starts, do you own your home? Allowed to rewire stuff or drill holes in walls? Pining for the 70's when everyone had speaker wire strung up walls and across ceilings? If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, LAN is going to be your new best friend. Hardwiring does not involve line of sight, it is faster and more reliable than wi-fi. Yeah, wifi is groovy and all. For friends who pop by and use your internet, tablets and phones. Or if you're renting your pad. If you have the ability to run ethernet cables in your house, do so. Cat6 is the new boy on the block and he's built for the future. Not much more expensive than the current standard Cat5e cable. Cat5 is fading into the background, don't bother using it. We're going to tackle this project in the next month. *shudder* It's been interesting trying to decide where to run the lines... above or below. I'm an ebay slut. I won't pay $40 for 50ft of Cat6 at a chain store when I can buy it out of New York and have it sent to my house for the bargain price of $12.

Timey Wimey - It's a work in progress, still. I don't have everything as tweaked as I'd like it to be. It's a big change. I can't tell what time it is by walking through the house. Hmm, the Today show, must be 9am. Ah, Colbert! It's 11:30! I like the gorge viewing part. It's how I read, so no wonder there. Cable cutting is becoming so prevalent that there are bills in the House over how to regulate it. Cable companies are peeing their pants, so we're doing something right. I think this is the start of a wave that is only gonna get bigger and more awesome. Time will tell...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Part 1 - Newfangled Idiot Boxes and You in the console gaming continuum.

Whoee. Just spent some time dragging the techie boards for my dearest. Our bedroom telly suffered a critical malfunction about two weeks ago. That area is where Mister does his PS3 crack. (Xbox is in the livingroom with a Wii riding shotgun)

As acquisitions maven and super-research woman, it's my job to find the closest to perfection that my clinically thrifty arse can buy.

First step: How big do you really need?

Bigger is not always better. I had Cap'n Sexy sit in his "optimal gaming area" and tell me where his peripheral vision maxes out, whipped out ye olde tape measure and got a length. Televisions are measured in diagonal inches, rather than height or length. I took a look at the specs for 5 different tv's, trying to find out where the standard width is compared to the diagonal. Bingo! 32" will be fine. 39" is just a tad too big unless he moves. Too big = can't see all of the screen and ends up dead a whole lot in first person shooter games. (bag o' suck!)

Fine Print Info: Tech specs and number babble

From what I have gathered on said geekboards, when you're looking at under 42", the differences are negligible when it comes to clarity. It's completely a "eye of the controller-holder" kind of groove. Unless - you're considering a ps4, then you wanna go 120hz. The Xbox and Ps3 game systems and games are set (currently) for a 720p output at 60hz. LCD is fading away in the face of LED. Plasma - new, not old - is the super best (but way more expensive) Old plasma tends to have burn in problems. The battle is still raging between 120hz and 60hz. Again, under 42" - pfft - go cheap. Lots of complaining about "soap opera vision" where the lines and blacks are SO crisp it looks super-real. Yeah, it's distracting to me as well, so I'm gonna try to avoid that.

Second Step:  Field testing!

I've narrowed the field to a 32" 720p wall mountable LED tv, most likely 60hz. Time to go look at them in their natural habitat... Best Buy or Sears, maybe Walmart and Target. Currently, these sets are selling in the $200/$ 250 range on the lower end. I expect to purchase whatever extended warranty is available which tacks on another $50 give or take. (Time to find out who gets employee discounts where)

Part 2 - Newfangled Idiots Boxes and You will happen once a purchase has been made and we've run it for about a month.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cheap Ass Chinese - Dumplings (dim sum)

Pops was always pretty good about bringing new food influences into the house and not being scared to try and replicate them. It gave me a cavalier attitude towards cooking. If it fails, feed it to the dog. If the dog won't eat it, try the cat. If the cat says, hell no - trash it and go get trashed, while laughing at your culinary wedgie. Yes, I have wrecked up bad enough that I was unable to in good conscience offer it to the critters. So, you skip two steps, it goes straight into the can and then, beer.

When I buy Dim Sum at the local chinese to-go, it's like $4 for 6 dumplings and some gingery soy sauce. Mama is WAY too cheap for that kind of action. I'm not so much caring about authenticity as I am about taste. The goal is to completely wreck your tastebuds, so that when you go out and just pick some up feeling lazy it tastes like cardboard.

The local grocery stores around here have ground pork for $2.50/lb. Flour is HOW cheap? Piffle, time to get out some recipes and make this worth the money. Yes, they can be frozen (before you cook them) to be eaten later. I'm not sure how long they can last... mine don't make it past the end of the week.

The Sauce v1 :

1 c Soy Sauce
1" Ginger knuckle - peeled and finely chopped
1 c Orange Juice
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Toss it in a pot and simmer until it's about 2/3rds of the original size. Strain if you have picky people who can't handle a bite or sight of ginger in their sauce. I keep a clean glass Salad dressing bottle to decant the sauce into once it's cooled.

The Filling :

1 Medium Carrot - grated
4 Scallions or Shallots if you prefer - minced
1# Fresh Ground Pork
2 tsp Five Spice Powder
1 Tbsp Crisco or Vegetable Shortening
1" Ginger knuckle - peeled and minced
1 tsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Corn Starch

Dim sum is really a fridge cleaning easy chow. If you have elderly mushrooms, go ahead put em in. A squash that's about to turn? Shred that sucker. Wilting celery? Why not - chop it really fine.

Mix everything together in a bowl, cover it and stick it in the fridge until you're ready to cook em.

The Wraps :

What's the end goal? Do you want to fry them and then steam them? (That's potstickers) Then you'll need a thicker dough. Boil em in a soup? A little thicker than for steaming. Just steam them? Then you need a nice thin dough.

2 c Flour
3/4 c Boiling Water

Make a well in your flour and pour in the water, then stir. When you have a solid lump, knead it until it gets smooth and elastic. Yeah, it's gonna be warm, you don't have to burn your mitts off, tho.  Put the dough in a ziplock bag and let it sit on the counter for about an hour. You want to give the gluten time to develop. Some website I was on said that the dough should have the firmness of your earlobe. That's been working aces for me so far...

Assembly : 

Get your filling and dough out. A floured board and rolling pin, too. Snatch a chunk of dough outta the bag - about the size of a fat green grape. Roll it into a circle that's about as wide as a largish coffee cup rim. Or a big biscuit... Drop a tablespoon of filling into the center and pinch the sides closed. There are many different ways to make beautiful and creative looking dumplings. Bah - it's gonna be in mah belly soon enough, pretty can be for flowers. If you need a few drops of water to seal the dough, use em.

I steam mine in batches of 6 for 11 minutes per batch. If the center is firm, you're good. Don't want no raw pork, ain't gonna serve no raw pork. No way. No how.

Once you have your little dumpling sealed and ready for the next step, that's the time to freeze what you want to save. I steam a batch - see if I want to add more ginger, salt or five spice - adjust the mix and test it again before I freeze keeper batches. Too late for wishing once the dumpling has been sealed. Way too late once it's frozen. Spray some grease on a cookie sheet and throw the dumplings on there while you're making them, then stick the pan in the freezer. Once they're solid, toss em in ziplock bags 6 at a time. You will have to steam them for longer if they're frozen and not fresh. Add another 4 minutes and test. You'll find the timing that works for your setup.

Serving :

Throw 6 in a bowl, coat with the sauce and Nom! Double dipping is encouraged! This recipe makes about 36 dumplings. Yeah, think about the costs for a second. All said and done, it should cost less than $8 to make $24 worth of dumplings. And you don't have to wonder what's in it.

You want to try beef, chicken or shrimp? Go ahead! You want to add dried mushrooms to make em a little more savory? Soak your mushies and mince away! I don't eat any kind of seafood, but I'm told that a blend of 2/3 pork to 1/3 chopped shrimp is the super-duper-bomb-diggity.

More than white flour, you got options.

Bread, so evil but so yummy. 

There are different things that can be done to a basic dough to give it your own special grooviness.

Sweeter dough? Add 2 Tbs honey or brown sugar or molasses.

Garlicky dough? Switch your salt for Adobo Crillollo and add fresh or powdered garlic. Maybe 2 tbsp of grated Parmesan for fun.

Prettier dough? Add finely chopped craisins or other dried fruit to a sweet dough. Italian herbs to a garlicky or pizza dough. Savory herbs like rosemary or tarragon or caraway seed or fennel spark up a hearty loaf.

Don't be skerred, it's just bread. Try your own additions, if you like it - yay!, if not, maybe something else will do it for you.

Bread dough is not just about the nifty additions, the flour you use is important to taste and texture as well.

All Purpose White Flour : Good enough to get away with, if'n that's all ya gots in the cupboard. It won't rise as high - it's got gluten but not the mad amounts you need for really pouffy bread.

Bread Flour : Now, we're talking! It's got a higher gluten amount than APW and all the Wonder Bread whiteness you could ever want.

White-Wheat Flour : About equal to APW when it comes to gluten, gives the bread a slightly more ivory tone.

Whole Wheat Flour : Yeah, it looks like your normal wheat bread color but has a bit less gluten in it than APW. It's also a little tougher, as it's a whole grain.

Semolina (Durum) Flour : This is the pizza/pasta flour. It makes your Italian bread chewy. You will have to hit a moderately upscale grocery to find it (or even get them to order it in) Higher in gluten than APW

Rye Flour : This is what gives Rye and Pumpernickel bread their distinctive flavors. It's easier to find than Semolina, but not by much. I'm working on my Pumpernickel recipe, will post when I've got it share-worthy. About the same gluten as Whole Wheat.

Oat Flour : I'm sure someone sells this - but I ain't buying it. Pfft, man, I'm cheap.  Get a box of your favourite Oatmeal and stick it in an electric mini chopper. Oatmeal keeps the bread moister and gives it a springy texture. About the same gluten as Whole Wheat.

Milled Flax Seed : Lots of positive health benefits. Thumbs up to the omega vitamins and whatnot. Very low gluten.

There are many many more types of flour... oh yeah. Do your research on what you wanna use and get down with it. If I've used it with pleasant results, I'll add it later. If not, have fun exploring...

Now that you've seen the list... how does it apply?

My personal bread recipe calls for 4.5 cups of flour like substance. I try to keep at least 2 cups of bread flour in the mix. Too much less and your bread won't rise as high. If you really need to use less than that, try to keep at least 3 cups of APW in the mix or add a packet of Vital Wheat Gluten. That's extra gluten you can sprinkle in to help the dough rise high.

The other 2.5 cups.... mix and match what works for you. I rarely go over 1/2 c of milled flax in my doughs. It has very low gluten. Get all mad scientisty about it. It's fun.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homemade hot pockets! Zomg!!

After mastering the art of carbolicious bready goodness, it was time to do something else with it.

Hot pockets? Sure! I've got leftover meat from a roast.

First step - whaddya want in it? Well... what'cha got? I like meat, cheese and veg in mine. Pick out what looks good to you.

Make the dough... go to my bread recipe to see how...

Filling example :

2 cups pre-cooked shredded Pork roast
1 Yellow Squash (shredded)
1 Medium Carrot (shredded)
4 scallions (cut into 1/4 bits)
1 can Tomato Paste w/garlic, basil and oregano
Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing
Adobo crillollo (spanish seasoned garlic salt)

Put the meat, cheese and veg into a bowl and toss with about 2 tbsp dressing and a few shakes of adobo.

Dough shaping and filling time! :

Take a lump of dough about the size of a tangerine, roll it between your hands to form a log. Grab the rolling pin and roll the dough on a floured board into a rough rectangle shape a little longer than your hand and about as wide.

Spread tomato paste to about 3/4 in from each edge. Coat it well, if you can see the dough add a little more. Put a layer of the stuffing onto the paste and pinch the long edges to seal it. Flip the short edges in over your seam and lay it on a greased cookie sheet seam down. Feel free to squidge the tube o' goodness  to make it a little firmer before you set it down. Spray with more spray grease and cover with a moist paper towel to keep them from drying out as you work.

Repeat until you're out of stuffing or dough.

Make sure to leave at least an inch between hot pockets, so they have room to rise.

Let em rise for about 20- 30 minutes then bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes.


Bread baking!

Back in the day, when I was spending more time at the commune than at home I used to try my hand at baking bread. The stoned bastards there would eat just about anything around 3am, so it wasn't hard to get rid of whatever I'd been experimenting on. Bread was my nemesis. I could buy the frozen dough loaves and make those perfectly, but that's not from scratch. From scratch, I ended up with what my father called "Cat Head Bread". It was dense as a brick and dry... oh, so very dry.

Recently, I found a recipe that worked for me. I passed it to my cooking chum and it worked for her as well. So far, I haven't found too much in the carb lovingest bread-land that I can't make with this dough as the base.

It go like this, here it go...

One packet yeast
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp sugar (white or brown, dealer's choice)

Warm the water to not hot and add to the yeast & sugar in your mixing bowl. Stir gently.

*If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. I don't use a thermometer. Do the wrist test, if it's just a touch too hot for baby, you're there.

Beat one egg into 1/4 cup of oil. Set to the side.

Add 2.5 cups of flour to your foamy bowl o' yeast. I like to use 1/2 c ground flax, 1 c Whole wheat and 1c All Purpose Flour. Mix until combined.

Add the oily egg stuff and 1/2 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp sugar. Mix until combined.

Add 2 cups Bread Flour. Mix until combined.

Sprinkle more flour onto a board and flop your dough outta the bowl right on it.
Knead by folding the dough towards you, then spinning it 180 degrees and folding it again - whilst mashing it with the heels of your palms. Do this until the dough becomes smooth. Too much kneading will wreck your goodness, so keep an eye on what you're doing.

Grab your can of spray grease and grease up a new bowl. Toss the dough into it and spray the top of the dough. Cover with a damp paper towel and let rise in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

* I put the oven on 200 degrees then set the dough bowl on top of one of the turned off burners. There is usually enough heat bleed through the back eye to warm the dough nicely.

Grease your hands and grab your dough. Let it slump across your fist and tuck the edges under a time or two. Re-grease the bowl and throw the dough back in. Grease it, too. Remoisten your paper towel and cover the dough. Let it sit for another 20 minutes, then do it all over again.

Third time is for the shaping. This should make two loaves or 16 hoagie buns.

My fav thing to do right now is making homemade hot pockets.

Yeah, I'll post that recipe too...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

wii vs xbox vs roku for streaming

I've spent some time now working on each system to see which I like the most. So far, Xbox wins, hands down of the gaming systems, but Roku eats their lunch.

WiiMC tends to get skippy on playback of avi's. Luna's nabi tablet only reads MP4's. I'd rather not have to convert from avi to mp4 or back. Xbox handles mp4's and avi's with ease. It's really just that simple.

Also, my linksys router will allow me to put Xbox live on top priority for streaming.

I do like the Roku best of all, if you don't have a system. It's WAY less expensive than purchasing a gaming system that is only barely used for gaming. $300 vs $100

The new Roku 3 has a headphone jack in the remote. Win!!

Kid Tech - Tablet style

I picked up a Nabi tablet for the little kid. Yeah, you read that correctly. I bought an 8 year old a tablet. Normally, I'm in the land of "If you can pay for it, go ahead" but we needed something more portable than the laptop for her homeschooling.

Price: $200 (Black friday had em for $130, dang my poor timing!)

So far, worth every cent.

The Nabi's claim to fame is that it can be dropped from a height of 7 feet and keep on ticking. Um, yeah! I know our pitbull has stomped on it more than once with no ill effects (other than little miss getting read for leaving her electronics out...)

We don't have the one that will allow you to stream through a service provider - that junk costs money. There are free wi-fi areas all over which are not too hard to find. I went to an IHOP near the local college in the middle of the night and asked a waitress there. She told me where all the college kids go to suck internet for free.

They offer support via Facebook, which is handy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cables cost HOW MUCH??

I like to keep my local businesses in my thoughts when I'm buying stuff. Walmart is generally my third place to look for anything. Yeah, I've got the Hippy Hatred of Chain Stores.

When you need a cable, connector, attachment, etc. price it at a couple of electronics stores, amazon,walmart and ebay.

Remember that shipping costs will eat your lunch. A 75c connector that costs $7 to ship is NOT a good deal. Unless it's only $7 to ship enough stuff to justify the expense.

In Ebay-land make careful note of where the product is coming from. Stuff from China and Taiwan can take a month or longer to make it to your mailbox. Generally, if it's only a little bit more to buy from someone in the US, I take that route. Unless you're someone who needs to be able to return stuff or buying something that is high dollar and does not have a warranty.

Gamestop or Radio Shack will have a cable for $20, on Ebay, maybe $7 with free shipping.

Sometimes, the difference is hardly worth thinking about...just make sure it's in stock.

How to find your IP address...

Each unit that uses internet will probably have an IP address. The router is where these begin. You will see extensions xxx.xx.x.103 or 101 or 102.

In Windows 8:

Press the button, Kronk!

right click and choose see all apps
click on command prompt (it's the black square one)
type: ipconfig in the black box that pops up.
Write your ip address down in your little text file saving spot and close the window.
These are the numbers next to ipv4

Find IP Address in Windows 8

This is the ip for the computer you are sitting in front of ONLY. It will be pretty much the same for each different unit.

If you plan to stream from one computer to the other, you will need this number. It's your computer's geek address. Keep it safe.

Bye Bye, Cable...

Hello all! We have been paying waaay too much for cable or dtv. I heard about "cord cutters" and surprisingly, it has nothing to do with umbilical cords. It's how to stream your tv through the interwebz.

Cable - we were spending almost $200/mo
Satellite - we were spending almost $160/mo
Streaming - 90% of this is initial setup money, after that it's $14/mo or less depending on which services you choose to pay for.

Streaming is different than cable. It's more of an on demand than fed by date/time experience.

Make a list of the shows you like and channels you enjoy. Most of the series I watch have been hitting their finales and going bye bye. *sniffle* This may not be the case with you. Premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime are not selling streaming only options. I am sure in the future this will happen, but it isn't here yet. You can certain shows a'la carte on your own from Amazon or Itunes or something.

There are generally 3 options for watching your programs.
1. Wait until the entire season has passed and it populates in Netflix.
2. Wait up to a week for it to populate on it's home channel or HuluPlus the next day.
3. Grab the torrent and download it from somewhere - not legal!! (bad llama, that's stealing the pie off the windowsill rather than waiting for dessert time - hypothetically speaking.)

The research on this project has taught me a few things. It go like this - here we go!

FIRST- Ya want it to be easy as cake, treat it like cake.

In the same way you don't make a cake until you've gotten all the ingredients on the counter, you wanna have all your stuff ready before you crack the first egg. Yes, there will likely be little things that got missed. Make your list and double check that you have all your goodies in order.

The flow is how you determine what you will need to make this a success. Do the math on a year of your current paid tv service. Mine was $1920 with an extra hundred for the router to start and more for the modem.

Go to your notepad on windows and make two files. One for "cost of cutting" the other is "needful things" In the cost file, you put how much you'd spend in a year for your current service and how much you will spend to get your streaming up and running. This simple little thing will give you the long view of what is going on. The second file will hold all your logon and password info for each device, you'll be coming back to this one a whole lot when you start. If anything goes sideways in the future, you have this to help reset your anythings back to where they were. Handy!!!

FLOW - From Modem to Router to Box to TV.

The internet comes into your house via DSL or Broadband (cable internet) through a modem. Cable is better for streaming, but dsl will work if'n that's all you can get. Don't worry about the routers that have a modem in it. You want each piece to be it's own thing. No shortcuts. Your internet will have a speed. You can buy upgraded bandwidth and it's probably a good idea to have the premium internet service. Figure the monthly extra charge and put that in your cost file.

The modem connects to the router. The router takes the internet and sends this info where you tell it the info is allowed to go. Think about the future, this is not the time to be a cheapass. Go for DualBand Gigabit at the very least. Expect to pay around $200. You CAN get these for less than that, but it's the high water mark right now. Mpbs is the max speed that the info will flow through your router. 300 is standard right now...shoot for higher and you won't have to replace your router in a year. (Unless you are streaming to less than 3 units...then 300 is more than fine for a while)

Think about the layout of your house. If you have more than one story to your place, you may need a repeater to get the signal through all the walls and floors. Try to get a repeater that is from the same company as your router. It really does make things easier. Layout is important, try to put the router in a central location if at all possible.

How many units will you be feeding internet regularly? We have 3 computers, a magic jack, a Roku, an Xbox, a Wii and a PS3. I expect that at least 6 of these will be running at the same time. More stuff = bigger router & more bandwidth.

What are you going to stream through? There are pros and cons to each setup. You can use your XBOX, PS3 or WII, or buy a ROKU. Which Roku depends on what kind of tv you have. Old style with no hdmi in the back? Roku hd - $60. If you have the spiffy new flatscreen type, then get the better Roku. You're looking into what will best serve you for the next few years, rather than just a quick band-aid fix. to see what they have to offer.

Different channels prefer different boxes. The wii is the odd man out for the most part.

I'll go more into details about the setup for each channel in posts for each one later. If you want more detailed info now, google it yourself.

Plex is a channel that is free. It can be used to stream info from your computer's hard drive to your tv. The wii does not get plex, but xbox, ps3 and roku do. Wanna watch your ripped dvd's or home movies on the tv? This is what makes that possible. It's the easiest that i've tried so far.

WiiMC is a free channel that will allow you to stream from your computer's hard drive to your Wii.
Easy to use, not so easy to set up. (Unless you have a how to that is easy to understand)

Playon costs $40 for a forever license. I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks SO much better than HuluPlus.

HuluPlus costs $7 a month. Other than being able to watch John Stewart and Steven Colbert, I can't figure out why anyone would want to use this service. Well, maybe if you're a hardcore anime fan. If you're ok with waiting a day to see your shows, then go right ahead.... *edited* ok, it's not as horrible as it first appeared.

Amazon Prime costs $7 a month. Go take a look at how their services work. They explain it much better than I could.

Netflix costs $7 a month for their streaming only option. They have a kids area that is pretty cool.

YouTube is free and has different channels that show original programming. I am a fan of My Drunk Kitchen, Space Janitors and about half the stuff on Geek and Sundry.

There will be channels that get you all excited and don't have jack worth watching on them. It's ok, you can find what you were really looking for elsewhere. For me, the wii syfy channel is like that and the msnbc one. I don't WANT clips, I want the whole damn show.

What kind is only important when it comes to the jacks in the back. You have to be able to connect your streaming unit to your TV.  I'll assume that you can read and hook up this stuff on your own.


Get all your hardware gathered for our expedition into streaming. The "needful things" file is going to hold important info like your IP address, your logon and pw for the router and for your channels and whatnot. Call the file whatever you want, I don't care. The important part is that you can find it without internet service and with ease.