Tuesday, 21 February 2012 11:10

Confusing consumers doesn't lead to more sales

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I was in a grocery store last week and I saw that they were carrying both El Monterey Chili and Picante burritos. I've never seen both in one store and have in fact bought Chili thinking I was getting Picante only to get home and spit them back out. I'm not a fan of my frozen burritos tasting like Chili powder. If I wanted chili powder in my mouth I'd combine it with tomatoes  and make chili with it. The Picante burritos though I like and after that unfortunate incident I've had to be very careful to read the package to make sure I was in fact getting Picante and not Chili flavored burritos. 

This display though accentuates the problem - El Monterey has two products that look nearly identical. Yes the shade of red is slightly different and there are a few words that are not identical but I feel these two products need to be more unique. So let's think about having two products nearly the same, most stores won't carry both because the number of people grabbing the wrong one and then returning them probably goes up. I don't know the protocol for returned goods but I bet it's a write off. So by only being able to sell one OR the other in each store you're cutting your market in half. It would seem that by making the packages drastically different they could put another product out there and increase sales. Just an observation.

Monday, 20 February 2012 23:22

Phad Thai - it's what's for dinner

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Phad Thai is a very easy meal to make at home if you have the right ingredients. There are several brands of Phad Thai sauce on the market and frankly I'm not entirely happy with any of them alone. However upon buying several and inspecting the ingredients list and tasting them I've found an alternative to making my own Phad Thai sauce - speedball them! Mae Ploy one of my favorite Asian product makers focuses on fewer ingredients in their jarred Phad Thai sauce and only lists 11 items. Ingredients include palm sugar, shallot, water, fish sauce, soy bean oil, vinegar, tamarind, red chili, salted radish, dried shrimp and salt.  Por Kwan, another popular company has 14 ingredients so in exchange for the shallots in Mae Ploy's sauce they have onion and garlic, tartaric acid, citric acid and sodium metabisulphate. From the ingredients list the Mae Ploy definitely sounds like the better product but the overall effect is a sweeter sauce. After experimenting I've found the best combination is a 50/50 mix of both sauces.  I use one large jar of Mae Ploy and two small jars of Por Kwan.

I'd post a recipe but for something this simple there really doesn't need to be one. The following directions are very loose so feel free to vary them as you see fit. 

  1. Soak one pound of Rice Sticks in hot water for about 15 minutes or until just soft, drain
  2. Slice (2 lbs?) chicken breasts into 1/4 inch thick slices and no more than 1/2 inch in width, brown in frying pan
  3. Pour all jars of sauce in blender with a cup of water and blend, pour in saute pan along with drained noodles (time saver)
  4. Beat 4 eggs in bowl and fry lightly in frying pan until just firm, break up in small pieces and add to noodles
  5. Add chicken to noodles
  6. Finely slice the green stem part of 4 green onions, add to noodles
  7. Finely chop a handful of peanuts, add to noodles
  8. Add two handfuls of mung bean sprouts to noodles
  9. Serve
Notes:
Blending the sauces and water saves a ton of cooking time. Since the noodles and chicken are already cooked all you're really doing is bringing it together. If you put the sauce in directly you have to wait for it to get hot enough to "melt" at which point you've probably cooked the very sensitive rice sticks until they've turned to mush. Blend, pour, warm, eat.

Sunday, 19 February 2012 14:53

Moussaka recipe is up

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After a great deal of time I've put the Moussaka recipe up. The negative to posting photos of really nice meals is that it's inevitable that someone will want the recipe. An interesting story though - I lost my Moussaka recipe. So the one I just posted is a work in progress that's a result of taking some other online Moussaka recipes and twisting them to match my memory. I'm sure I'll have to modify it as time goes on to get it tasting the way I originally had it. However, for now this one is pretty good. 

In the future I'll be playing with pealing the Eggplant, breading and baking it. Primarily because the part of the Moussaka my kids like the least is the Eggplant skin. I'll also be playing with the spices, potatoes and wine. I've given hints about the Bechamel and I'll be playing with that more to decide exactly how I want it. I've folded in beaten egg whites and added grated cheese to it for added bulk and have liked the results. 

Continue to my Moussaka Recipe.

Sunday, 12 February 2012 22:26

Chimichangas Smothered in Heavy Cream

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La Raza a small taqueria near Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood Washington that makes cream smothered Chimichanga. Let me just say that I'm aware that Chimichangas are no more Mexican than French toast is French. However, there's something very nice about deep fried tortilla with a heavy dose of cream. I think you could deep fry a Taco Bell burrito and smother it in cream and it would be edible (about the only way). Even though I like going to La Raza to pick up a Chimi at lunch I don't always like paying $10 per meal. Although the Chimichanga is large enough to share with someone else I don't always have someone there to share with.

So instead of spending $20 to take my family out for Chimichangas we make them ourselves. For $6.00 I made 7 Cream smothered Chimichangas or roughly 85 cents each. I get my 40% heavy cream from Cash and Carry, tortillas from anywhere, chicken on sale and the rice is dirt cheap no matter what. 

Loose instructions for Chimichangas. There's no real recipe because it's largely done by taste.

Rice

  • Roast 2 cloves of garlic and two Jalapenos on a comal
  • Combine garlic and peppers in a food processor with a bit of salt to make a paste
  • Add half lb of tomatoes and pulse
  • Heat a little oil in a dutch oven and when hot add 1 cup of medium grain rice and cook 5 minutes
  • Add tomato salsa from food processor and cook for 5 minutes
  • Add 3/4 cup of water or broth and place in oven for 25 minutes

Everything else

  • Grill small strips of chicken breast pieces
  • Pour 2 cups of heavy cream in fry pan on medium heat
  • Add enough sour cream to thicken
  • Add enough sugar to sweeten
  • Combine refried beans on large tortilla with rice, chicken and shredded cheese and close with toothpicks
  • Fry in deep fryer at 350 degrees until brown, turn over and repeat
  • Place Chimichanga on plate and pour cream over
  • Sprinkle paprika over cream

That's it really. Making the rice is the most work. If you double the rice recipe you can make these several times in a row or just eat the rice. For me this recipe made about 7 Chimichangas.

 

 

  

Sunday, 05 February 2012 16:02

Interactive install of OpenSuse 11.4 VM (64 bit)

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Note: Updated to work with XCP 1.5b/1.6

Install Type

  • Interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized

Prerequisites

  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution

Introduction

This tutorial was written in the spirit of my CentOS 6 VM (64 bit) automated installation on XCP  howto. In that tutorial I do an automated network installation of CentOS 6. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using a physical install media. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a CentOS mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.

There became a need to do the same thing using OpenSuse thus this tutorial.  

Sunday, 05 February 2012 15:34

Nine hour smoked Brisket

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Seattle temperatures nearly reached 60 degrees yesterday so I felt it time to fire up the smoker red hot and burn the living organic matter from it that accumulated during the wet winter. Once the inside was nice and clean and my bricks had lost their green fungus overtones I loaded the offset chamber with mesquite lump charcoal and brought the temp to 250. Once the temp

 had stabilized I loaded it with a heavily rubbed point beef brisket and smoked it with hickory fairly heavy for about 4 hrs at between 250-225 degrees which is longer than I usually do but I felt adventurous. To be honest after this winter I think I just missed the smell of the smoker running in the back yard. The Brisket was then double wrapped and put in the oven at 225. I probably should have pulled it at 8 hrs but it still turned out really great. The fat cap was mostly gone, the texture like melted butter and after resting very little juices ran off.  It has a great layer of bark and the flavor nice and smokey.

The photo to the right is cut against the grain. You can see the substantial bark and the looseness of the muscle fiber.

Friday, 03 February 2012 22:53

Sweet Potato Smackdown!

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I've been wanting to discus the venerable sweet potato for quite a while. Having read Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave to the World and History of Food I've been curious about the confusion surrounding sweet potatoes. I've also wanted to learn a bit more about them and see if there were difference between the available varieties.

In the last 100 years there's been a trend to shrink the genetic biodiversity of our food resulting in less choice. After growing tomatoes and many herbs I have become well aware that you grow food so you can have the right food, not necessarily to save money. It is cheaper to grow your own but if you factor in your labor a garden you probably costs you twice as much as just buying the food but the advantage is better quality and more choice. There are paste tomatoes, slicing tomatoes and sauce tomatoes depending on your needs. There are many different varieties of mint (chocolate mint is very nice), basil and other herbs. You can grow pumpkins for Halloween and pumpkins to eat (not the same thing, see my previous articles on pumpkins). However, we're nearing a disaster of epidemic proportions. Not only are we engineering seeds that can't produce more seeds and then patenting them so other people can't grow food without paying for the seeds but the plants can't survive without us making them subject to our commercial interests. There are seed banks trying to combat this but that will only allow us to plant these various crops, it won't give anyone the incentive to do it.

We are narrowing our biodiversity for commercial profit. It's just easier to grow and ship two types of tomatoes than 10. Likewise it's easier to provide one type of basil, one type of mint, one type of sage etc... Another reason may be that people are just further removed from their food than they once were so we don't pay attention to the different types of foods we have available. If you've never studied sweet potatoes you may think there's only one type – labeled Sweet Potatoes in the store. In fact there are over 6,500 varieties of sweet potatoes. Obviously we can't try them all so I focused on the three varieties commonly available in super markets – Beauregard, Garnet and Jersey. I've seen the Jewel variety in stores too on occasion but they weren't available for this comparison so I may do a follow up when I can find some.

I tested three varieties cooked in 4 different ways and noted the difference. Before you skip the rest of the article because you think they're all the same you might want to reconsider. Read the article after the jump.

Saturday, 28 January 2012 00:59

Boniatillo - Sweet Potatoes for Dessert!

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In the U.S. desserts usually fall under the categories of cake, pie or ice cream. I'm sure there are desserts that don't belong in these categories but they're the exception, not the rule. This dessert is a breath of fresh air and not (that) bad for you either. At least it has something in it besides sugar that your body can use including Vitamin A. It may seem strange to use a vegetable for dessert but we do it all the time when we make Pumpkin Pie (or Sweet Potato pie in the south). And what better than to use a tuber that purees nicely and is already reasonably sweet.

Boniatillo is a Latin American dessert described as a Cuban tropical sweet potato pudding. The Cuban version uses the white fleshed Boniato sweet potato. This rendition uses the more commonly available Jewel or Beauregard Sweet Potato most often mislabeled as Yam in American grocery stores. It also infuses the sugar syrup with lemon, orange and cinnamon creating a nice fruity sweet sensation along with pleasant Sweet Potato overtones. To add richness butter and egg yolks are beaten into it then whipped egg whites are fluffed and folded with the pudding to give it body. A sprinkle of cinnamon and a little cream and you have a nice tropical dessert pudding.

 Link to the Recipe: Boniatillo

Thursday, 26 January 2012 22:40

Bus Maintainance

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There are times we get ourselves into situations where we're giving every ounce of our strength to those we're taking care of. This to us is a selfless act and we can't ever imagine doing anything else. We eventually get worn down to the point that we just can't go on and we eventually fail. This is not an uncommon occurance and usually happens to those single parents who have the world on their shoulders or maybe the "unevenly yoked" people who care not only for the children but the other adult in the relationship. We may even extend this situation to total strangers who need help, co-workers, people from church etc.

We help until we've nearly destroyed ourselves because if we were to do anything for us it would be selfish which goes against our very nature.  Or would it? That's where bus maintenance comes in. 

Bus Maintenance

Let's assume for a moment that you live on the edge of death valley and you own a bus. You make your living by carrying passengers from one side of the valley to the other in this bus. You care a great deal about your passengers and you'd do anything for them. In order to keep them safe you need to take good care of your bus because if you neglect it at all you and your passengers could end up stranded in the middle of the desert and people could get hurt or worse. 

Doing regular maintenance on the bus is a necessity to keeping those who you care about safe. Sometimes it's hard to put money into it because it's YOUR bus and it feels a little selfish. It seems like you're only thinking of your own possessions so buying parts and spending time tuning it seems a little self serving. However, you have to keep reminding yourself that if your bus breaks down people could get hurt so you keep it in as good a shape as you can.

The bus is you

This bus is YOU. You have to take care of yourself or the people who are counting on you will get stranded in the middle of the desert. YOU can't fail, it's not an option. The more people who rely on you the more you have to maintain your bus. 

What does maintaining your bus really mean?

Maintaining your bus means different things to different people. What does maintaining your bus really mean?. I personally have a desire for deep thought so I need to spend a certain amount of my time every week surrounded by people with like minds. This recharges me. For you it may be that you need to go shopping or go on a date or just get your nails done. It all depends on who you are and what you need to recharge but the point is if you don't do it you're bus will at some point break down.

Spending a little time on yourself is a necessary thing in order to be able to continue taking care of those who need you.

Saturday, 21 January 2012 22:29

the Man, the Myth, the Legend traffic progress

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Last August I decided to get serious about SEO/SEF and getting rid of bottlenecks in my site. A fast site gets indexed and just now in January am I getting the site close to what I want it to do. The gallery's are still a mess and I have some other issues I need to deal with (disqus comments still don't attach to the old articles) but I'm working on them. The Disqus problem will get taken care of in the coming weeks. The Galleries I'm not sure what I'll do about. I'd really like to move away from embedded Gallery2 but haven't found a Joomla gallery that was anything more than a lightbox showing photos in a folder. I really don't think that will work for 6000 photos. 

Anyway here's the results of the work I've been putting into this. Let it be known that it took four years to get to my first million hits. Now I'm doing 200k - 250k per month.