My tomatoes are coming along nicely but I'm afraid their days are numbered. It's October 1st (already?) and the average highs for the week have been in the 60s which won't last much longer. I planted Brandywine (Heirloom), Champion VFNT and Better Boy tomato plants in the spring. As you may recall from a previous post the Brandywine plants came from eastern WA where it's very hot and dry and took some time to get over their shock concerning our mid 70 degree summers. The Better Boy is supposed to be a great tomato for Seattle weather and initially started producing fruit about 3 weeks earlier than any other but overall they haven't done a whole lot. The ripening of the fruit hasn't gone well and even now I still don't have ONE good tomato from that plant even though it still has a lot of green fruit on it. Some are turning orange now so we'll see. The one plant that's turned in a great performance is the Champion VFNT which came from behind and has kicked out more ripe fruit than all other plants combined (I have 6 total). It continues to grow and ripen fruit even now but I cut them off due to energy wasted on trying to grow fruit that will never have a chance to ripen only keeps the fruit that does from finishing.

Over the winter I'll be experimenting with aeroponics and I've decided that at the rate the Champion makes fruit ONE plant will produce more than I will ever need. All three of my varieties are Indeterminate Tomatoes meaning they continue to vine and make fruit indefinitely as opposed to having one large crop at a time. To me the idea was that I'd rather have a continuous supply of tomatoes than a pile I can't eat fast enough then nothing.  I'm still interested in the Brandywine but it's clear that it's not an outside tomato plant for the Pacific Northwest.

So my plans are to create a home brew aerogarden in the garage this winter and grow one Champion and maybe one Brandywine until I get it all figured out. I can always find a use for tomatoes (ketchup, pasta sauce, tomato juice, tomato paste, BBQ sauce etc...) and sometimes it takes a great deal of tomatoes to make the product. If nothing else I can give them away because tomatoes in the middle of winter run about $2.99/lb. I don't think I'll have a problem getting rid of them. Stay tuned as I'll be posting about the aeroponics later. I'll also be growing all my herbs in it as well.

 

I've had decent luck with homemade tortillas but sometimes the mixing, rolling and cooking process can get a bit long. Corn tortillas seem to roll out better than flour and don't have the stretch factor. Mission however, has just made my life better by introducing fresh rolled flour tortillas so I picked up a couple of packages in various sizes to see if they were worth it. There was a $1 off coupon on each package so I ended up getting about 90 oz of tortillas for $3.60. I figured even if they turn out horrible I'm only out a couple of bucks.

The tortillas look like rolled flattened pasta dough (yellow and a bit translucent) and take only 30-45 seconds to cook. If you cook them on a lower temperature and longer they end up tasting just like the cooked tortillas from the bag however, I like the fact that you now how control over how they're cooked. I'll be playing with deep frying them in their raw state as well.

You do have to be careful with them before they're cooked as they can break easily. Also they need to be refrigerated but I'm testing them in the freezer to see how well they keep. I'll update this after I have results.

Conclusion: Outside of the cost break (because of the coupons) I don't see a huge advantage to uncooked tortillas since they cook up to taste just like the cooked ones. I do see more waste because if you don't have that pan at the right temperature you'll burn a few. However, you do have more flexibility in HOW you want them cooked and they may possibly keep better than cooked ones but that remains to be seen.

What I'd really like to see is an uncooked real mexican tortilla made with lard. I know it's passe to want lard in your food but they taste great and most people don't keep lard around because it's too much work to render (or they keep that hydrogenated lard type stuff which isn't any good).

 

 

 

Since I just got done thrashing on Fusion To Go and their mixing of Bahn mi, Macaroni Salad and Tacos I thought I'd see how the other half lived and made Chimichangas and Macaroni Salad for dinner. Actually to be honest, the macaroni will get eaten tomorrow night but still...

 

The Macaroni Salad will be added to the recipes section later as I get it just right. The Chimichanga's are a remake of the Pork Chimichangas at La Raza in Lynnwood where they pour heavy cream over them. You can't say this is authentic since Chimichangas come from Arizona. You can't even say that their close cousin the un-deep-fried version is authentic since they come from Texas. However, it is a nice meal and there's something to be said for having a grease soaked burrito smothered in cream. As a matter of fact 9 out of 10 cardiologists approve (of you helping pay for their new villa).

I usually use heavy cream (36-40%) with a touch of Mexican sour cream mixed in to thicken itup with a spinkling of paprika and cilantro leaves but I only had half and half and sweetened condensed milk so that's what I played with. It didn't work very well to be honest. As soon as I have heavy cream again I'll make more. The pork is your basic shoulder cooked either as carnitas or sliced into small strips and grilled. I prefer the latter with a touch of lime juice. Combined with black beans and Mexican rice (ancho chiles, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro in medium grained rice) it makes a decent meal. Again, not very Mexican but worth the trouble in my book.

 

I understand that as time goes on people take ideas from other areas. The fact that rice is very popular in South America is a great example, it grows well there and is cheap so it satisfies the need. Imagining Mexican food without rice is difficult. I also understand that if I'm in Seattle and I want to have a French restaurant I'm probably going to cook Salmon because it's readily available and the locals like it. Sometimes you can get food from one culture in another because people request it. An example of this is the amount of soy sauce you find in Thai restaurants. I've been in Thai restaurants and had someone say "what kind of Thai restaurant doesn't have soy sauce?".  That's like asking what kind of Polish restaurant doesn't have Italian food.

I was at the annual Seattle Night Market in Chinatown/ID last night and took a photo of this food truck.  Now granted, the trucks name was Fusion on the Run but I think we're stretching the term a bit when you have Banh Mi, Tacos and Macaroni Salad in the same truck. Reminds me of the old joke - A Vietnamese man, A Mexican and a white guy walk into a bar... Never mind.

My issue is not that you can't have different kinds of food from the same truck/restaurant but that the odds that the cooks will know and understand each different culture and be able to do a decent job is small. The only way I could see this working is that if you actually had three different accomplished chefs that decide to do what they do best and combine their efforts. I don't think this is how these things come together though. It's usually an entrepreneur trying to figure out what his customers want and providing for that.

The Blimpies Sub shop near the Everett Mall is run by people from India who make burritos. I was talking to the owners and they relayed to me that Mexicans come into the shop and tell them that they don't actually eat burritos in Mexico and yet when you go into a Mexican restaurant there they are - burritos. I rest my case.

Fusion keeps life interesting and we can be thankful for it otherwise Thai and Indian food would be bland, Italians wouldn't have red sauce, the Irish wouldn't have potatoes and the middle east wouldn't cook rice but still I wonder some times.

 

After weeks of skipping out on any sort of food related post I was in the garden today and thought I'd update people on the science of tomatoes. That's a fancy way of describing me avoiding work and staring at plants.

Since I'm trying to learn about Tomatoes I ask everyone what they grow. I'm finding out that people know as much about what they grow as what they drink (referencing wine drinkers that think red and white are varieties) which doesn't help me learn. So here's the current results of my tomato growing experiments. Keep in mind that we're talking about Seattle climate and if you live somewhere else all bets are off.

I grew two indeterminate hybrid varieties (Bettery Boy and Champion) and one indeterminate heirloom (Brandywine). Indeterminate just means that they'll vine forever and keep producing fruit throughout the growing season instead of one batch like a determinate tomato plant. The Hybrids have been bred with certain traits. The Better Boy is a VFN and the Champion a VFNT. This means they're resistan to certain diseases. The key is as follows.

 

V - Verticillium Wilt

F - Fusarium Wilt

FF - Fusarium, Races 1 & 2

N - Nematodes

T - Tobacco Mosaic Virus

A - Alternaria Stem Canker

St - Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot

 

Going into this I had two tomatoes in mind - Brandywine and Black Russians. I chose them of course based on flavor, not practicallity. I gave up on finding the latter and picked up 4 Brandywine plants in eastern Washington. They were a little shocked and surprised at the change in weather and did nothing for about a month. The Better Boy was chosen because it's suposed to fruit quickly and I wanted *something for my effort if the others failed. The Champion was a good compromise and is resistant to quite a lot (VFNT).

 

I was told that indeterminate tomatoes like being pruned and I have to agree. Pruning is everything. They respond to pruning as well as my grapes do. Early on I thought my Better Boy was going to be the only plant with fruit on it and even now it's the only one with red fruit. However, it seems to be very sensitive to water on it's leaves (rain) and has been fighting off a cold. The Champion however, did nothing but make leaves forever and then one day it exploded. The Brandywine thinks it has all year to make fruit although it has at least started if very late.

Here is the results so far:

 

  • Bettery Boy: 13 tomatoes
  • Champion VFNT: 26 tomatoes
  • Brandywine: 2 tomatoes
My one Champion is producing more fruit than my 4 Brandywines and one Better Boy combined. To be fair though when I planted the Brandywines my grapes were asleep. Now they've consumed half the house and are shading two of the plants for most of the day. The third Brandywine is being shaded by the Champion and the fourth is the one with the fruit on it.
 
The yield so far from the Champion is great. The jury is still out on flavor. They may all taste like cardboard once they're ripe, we'll see.
 

I use the SuperBlogger plugin to add blogging features to Joomla! In the past I had article star ratings, links to bookmark the article, digg it, add it to del.icio.us and to post it on Facebook.

As time goes on some of these services have dropped away or have been replaced by others. I'm really starting to use Google+ more so while adding +1 buttons to my template I cleaned it up a bit too. Anymore the big three in social networking is Twitter, Facebook and Google+. The latter arguably may replace both of the former. WIth this in mind I've slimmed down the template to only include Tweet this!, +1 and post on Facebook. There is still a link to Disqus comments as well as I want to encourage commenting. Also the Twitter and Google+ links are both on the main article listing page as well as the individual article page. This allows you to tweet the article without having to click on it's header first. A lot of times I'll post the entire article without a Read More link so people may never see the Twitter, Google+ and Facebook links.

I hope you like the new cleaner look. The old links for PDF, Print and Email are still present as I use them myself. Enjoy

 

I've been using Google+ quite a bit lately and have come to the conclusion that it's just about everything Facebook and Twitter are combined plus Picassa, Youtube and Chat included. Because of circles you can follow people and they don't have to follow you back ala. Twitter. You can also post publically like a personal blog or Twitter and people can follow you. If you have something private to say you can post it just to the groups (cough.. circles) or individuals you want. It's both a public blog/notification service and private social networking combined!

However Google doesn't currently have a URL shortener so people can pass around user identities. Yes, you can put a link on your site but it won't be anything you'll put on a business card so a service called plus.to popped up and you can link a Nickname to your Google+ profile.

Here's mine if you want to follow my rants and inciteful thoughts there. I'll continue to post full articles and Howtos here but status updates and thoughts over there.

http://gplus.to/grantmcwilliams

Thanks for your support..

 

Grant

There's been a flurry of activity around The Man, The Myth, The Legend in the Xen Howtos section and for good reason - CentOS6 was released. It all started as a simple update to my installation tutorials but ultimately I spent half a week on it. There were some issues with how I was doing things because CentOS5 used the old Xen kernel and CentOS6 uses the new libvirt kernel. As of RHEL5/CentOS6 Xen Host (dom0) support is no longer in the kernel. However, Xen Guests (DomU) is and  is handled by libvirt. Last week the last bits of Xen Dom0 support were merged into Linux Kernel 3.0. This means that going forward all Linux distributions will have Xen Dom0 ability unless the distributors remove it.

I've written and tested two xen tutorials this week.

During the process of writing these tutorials I shrunk the size of the Disk Image. I did this because I like nice small VM disk images (and sparse too) so I can duplicate them and move them around easily. It's fairly easy to resize a disk image so I updated all four tutorials on how to resize Dom0 Disk Images and Logical Volumes as well as DomU Logical Volumes and partitions. I attempted to make it clearer too what the scenario was so people would know what the tutorial was trying to accomplish.

As always have lots of fun and let me know if something doesn't work via the comments.

Note: I lost my original xen config files so I've created new ones here. I no longer have a xen system so I can't test them. Please let me know if the tutorial still works or not -Grant

Introduction

A lot of this tutorial was stolen from my CentOS 5 Installation which in turn was stolen from the CentOS wiki. I've shortened and updated it for installing a CentOS 6 DomU. I just copy and paste all the indented lines into a root terminal and voila! a CentOS VM.

1. Creating an Virtual Disk Image

The first step is to create an disk image that will act as the VM hard drive. The following command will create a 4 GB sparse disk image named /srv/xen/centos6.img. A sparse file is created in such a way that the disk image doesn't actually take up the whole 4GB until you fill it up. If you'd like a larger (11GB) disk image substitute seek=10240 into the following line. I make my VMs nice and small so I can move them around easier. Making a disk image larger or adding a second drive later is easier than making it smaller or taking a drive away.

 

dd if=/dev/zero of=/srv/xen/centos6.img oflag=direct bs=1M seek=3800 count=1

2. Preparing the Xen configuration file for installation

Xen uses one configuration file per VM. We will start out with a config to do the install and replace it later with a config for normal operation. Now we download the install kernel, ramdisk and xen config file.

wget http://mirror.centos.org/centos/6/os/x86_64/isolinux/vmlinuz -O /boot/vmlinuz-xen6-install
wget http://mirror.centos.org/centos/6/os/x86_64/isolinux/initrd.img -O /boot/initrd-xen6-install
wget http://www.grantmcwilliams.com/files/xen-centos6-x86_64-install -O /etc/xen/centos6

  

 

3. Starting the installation

A kickstart file holds instructions for automatic installation and is referenced in my xen config above. My example kickstart file is very minimal but is enough to get a working CentOS 6 VM.

 

Note: I lost my original xen config files so I've created new ones here. I no longer have a xen system so I can't test them. Please let me know if the tutorial still works or not - Grant

Introduction

A lot of this tutorial was stolen from my CentOS 5 Installation which in turn was stolen from the CentOS wiki. I've shortened and updated it for installing a CentOS 6 DomU. I just copy and paste all the indented lines into a root terminal and voila! a CentOS VM.

1. Creating an Virtual Disk Image

The first step is to create an disk image that will act as the VM hard drive. The following command will create a 4 GB sparse disk image named /srv/xen/centos6.img. A sparse file is created in such a way that the disk image doesn't actually take up the whole 4GB until you fill it up. If you'd like a larger (11GB) disk image substitute seek=10240 into the following line. I make my VMs nice and small so I can move them around easier. Making a disk image larger or adding a second drive later is easier than making it smaller or taking a drive away.

 

dd if=/dev/zero of=/srv/xen/centos6.img oflag=direct bs=1M seek=3800 count=1

2. Preparing the Xen configuration file for installation

Xen uses one configuration file per VM. We will start out with a config to do the install and replace it later with a config for normal operation. Now we download the install kernel, ramdisk and xen config file.

wget http://mirror.centos.org/centos/6/os/i386/isolinux/vmlinuz -O /boot/vmlinuz-xen6-install
wget http://mirror.centos.org/centos/6/os/i386/isolinux/initrd.img -O /boot/initrd-xen6-install
wget http://www.grantmcwilliams.com/files/xen-centos6-i386-install -O /etc/xen/centos6

 

 

 

3. Starting the installation

A kickstart file holds instructions for automatic installation and is referenced in my xen config above. My example kickstart file is very minimal but is enough to get a working CentOS 6 VM.

 

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