Well dang…. vacation is over.
I do have to say that for not having spent the week on a exotic,remote, tropical location being waited on hand and foot by a never ending stream of Polynesian woman (Fletcher Christian knew what was going one there !!!), it was on of the best vacations that I have had recently.
I ended up doing quite a bit of things and I think the biggest reason was that I got up everyday and went to the gym. It’s a good way to get the day started and prevents me from lollygagging the day away !!
Went for four nice little bike rides.
I had a gift card for Chili’s and we had a late lunch there one day:
I was not impressed with this burger.
It was my daughter’s birthday which meant FREE SUSHI at JuRin:
For me, this was sushi dinner “B”.
Also got a nice “Caterpillar Roll” . (Eel) YUM !!!
Also being my daughter’s birthday, she had an sleepover with three of her friends. I got to go out at 6am and get them doughnuts.
Did another hunk of homemade bacon. This time it did not turn out as best as it could. I think that I had the heat too hot for a while, but I am getting close to getting to the perfect recipe and process. Also tried smoking some salmon. That also was not the best because of the high heat but it was still very good. For good measure I put a slab of beef ribs on as well.
The doctor said I could have one beer while on vacation:
You’d be surprised at how quickly this was emptied.
We put a fence around our backyard about 13 years ago and I still had some leftover parts that I finally wanted to use up and get out of the garage.
A new planter box !!
I think it will last 3-4 years before it goes onto the burn pile.
And now, another project:
I have some good skills with concrete and there are several things I can make: Bowls, plant stands, specialty bricks and some various do-dads. The wife had a friend that she had previously given a brick to and she requested several more so we took the time to whip some out:
Combination of a sand mix and a pea gravel mix.
JUST ADD WATER !!!
How much more simple can it be??
If you have a backyard, every proper house should have a wheelbarrow.
The wife has a kit of plastic molds and letters that are used to stamp letters/names/words on the bricks. Even though the molds are plastic and the concrete doesn’t stick to it, it helps to give them a little spray of WD-40 to help release the bricks. (Helps with the clean up too.)
Like the bag said, just add water and mix !
While the concrete is being mixed, the letters are being arranged for stamping.
Concrete goes into the molds.
Have to wait for the concrete to set to just the right condition and then it gets the letters pressed in.
If the concrete is too wet, the letters blur and if the concrete sets up too much, it too hard to press the letters in.
This is one of my specialties.
Just trowel a fern leaf on the top and when it’s dry, peel off.
And of course, the clean up.
The recent Memorial Day weekend was fantastic weather !!
After a very cold winter and a cool wet spring, this was the first real set of consecutive great days of weather.
So, I took advantage of this weather and used it to clean out my compost pile. (WOOOOOOOOOOOO, I’m a wild man !!)
There she is !
This pile has been there probably since the end of last summer. I put my household food waste into the blue garbage can and let it cook in there for a time. I drilled some holes in the garbage can for drainage and ventilation.
I mow and bag a lot of my garden waste, and that gets tossed in the can for cooking as well. I try not to put too many stems and stalks from plants as they don’t breakdown well enough. In the fall, I mow/mulch my tree leaves really fine and that gets tossed on the pile and cooks there over the winter.
The pile that was there last spring was GREAT for digging huge worms out for fishing. (Mental note.. buy new fishing license)
If you have a yard, you need to have a wheelbarrow.
About ten years ago I made the homemade sifter. Just galvanized screen with 1/2 X 1/2 openings.
Two good sized shovels full of the compost at a time.
Give the screen a good shake, toss out the chunks and repeat until the wheelbarrow is full.
All gone !!
I got over two full wheelbarrows of the sifted compost.
I can either use it straight up in planters or mix it with store bought potting soil or just mix it into the garden area.
This is how much didn’t go through the screen.
The current compost in the cooker gets dumped into the cleaned area.
Getting it ready to go again.
I put the chunks in a bucket and chopped it with a shovel, and after re-sifting, this is all that was left that will get tossed.
Composting is really pretty simple, but it does require a little bit of work if you want it to come out the best it can.
Here, I took the extra time to chop/slice/dice our watermelon rind.
Also helps quite a bit if you turn it with a shovel every couple of days.
And the process begins again !!!
This will be the third time that I have attempted to make Homemade Bacon.
The first two times were less than impressive.
I have decided to try one more time.
Pretty simple for the seasoning:
Fresh Ground Pepper
Thyme and Rosemary are optional so I left them out.
About a 3 1/2 pound slab of pork belly with the skin on.
All the parts are ready to go.
I cut off about a quarter of the pork belly and plan on cooking that separately.
Seasoning rubbed on and into the zip-style bag
This stayed in the fridge for a week, and once a day it gets turned over.
Now, this may be just another boring bacon disaster post after having tried twice before to make my on bacon.
This time I have a secret weapon……………………………….
Meet Mr. Smokey !!!!!
For my fifteen years of service at work, I was given this smoker.
I’ve been cooking with gas for about 20 years (and I love it), but I started out way back when grilling with charcoal. I also had never used a chimney starter. Back in the day, it was just gasoline poured on to start the charcoal. The chimney starter works well to get the coals going.
Lit charcoal ready to go………………………..
Back to the pork belly.
Rinsed off in the sink and patted dry.
I cut the skin off.
I shouldn’t have done that until after cooking.
Oh well. Not likely to be my only mistake of the day !!
This is about after 4 hours on the smoker.
The pork belly looked a little lonely so I put a small piece of beef ribs on to keep it company.
The beef ribs were fantastic !!
OK, once again it at least looks like bacon at this point.
It stayed in the fridge overnight.
Slicing it up, it looks even more like bacon. (We know looks can be deceiving and disappointing)
The sliced bacon looks and feels different from the two other attempts.
Well, here goes everything !!!
Time to fry it up.
Well, my daughter said it was the best bacon ever !!
Woo, high praise indeed.
The wife said it rivaled the specialty bacon that a local person sells at the farmer’s market. (I’ve never had that so I can’t make a comparison)
I thought it was very good. It definitely wasn’t what I expected (not very salty like modern processed bacon.) It was definitely good.
Well, the good news is that I know exactly how much bacon my cast iron will hold. The bad news is that my bacon hoard is exactly that much less !!
Putting the homemade bacon to good use !!
Some overall notes:
It’s nice being able to slice the bacon thick. My slices are about 1 1/2 X thicker than the thick cut bacon you buy in the store.
This bacon doesn’t shrink very much.
This bacon is not easy to overcook and burn like processed bacon. It cooks up to the almost perfect mix of not crispy/crispy but not burnt.
This is the third time that I have used my smoker and I really like it. It’s not a “set it and forget it” device. I need to maintain the heat by putting more charcoal on.
This smoker is kind of a poor design. To me, one of the biggest problems is that when the coals burn down, there is no where for the ash to go and that hinders getting new coals going. (I can fix that I think !!)
I hate smelling like I sat around a campfire all day when I use the smoker.
I’ve probably inhaled more carbon monoxide than a small Chinese village.
I cooked up the other piece of the pork belly and it was great !!
Why do most Congressional Democrats and people in the MSM still have jobs considering their treatment of Tea Party people??
There is an interesting restaurant/winery near Maple Park, Illinois:
I remember a number of years ago when they started this vineyard, they had a very big problem with the birds. Never did hear as to how they finally dealt with the birds, but since they are producing wine, it must have worked.
Through a bit of good fortune, I was given a gift certificate to dine at their restaurant. Since I’m not one to pass up a free meal, we went for my wife’s birthday dinner. From looking at the menu, I thought this was going to be 1) expensive and 2) very fancy.
Most of these prices are well beyond my normal dining out experiences !!!
Here is our bill for the night:
That’s not the biggest tab I’ve ever had for dinner for two. There was a Brazilian steak house that was much higher.
I had the “Zuppa di Mare.”
Not sure what that means in Italian, but I can guess that it loosely means “bucket of seafood.”
This picture doesn’t convey as to how large this plate of food was !!!
The wife ordered the “Patagonian toothfish.”
Never had Patagonian toothfish before??
Man that’s one nasty ugly fish !
Not too many people would order Patagonian toothfish, but if you changed the name to “Chilean Sea Bass”, you can make it trendy and charge a pretty hefty price for it.
The wife and I both agreed that each of our entrees could have been a half serving for half the price.
Here is the empty clam and mussel shells.
I had a small cup of burnt coffee for desert.
The wife had the Tiramisu.
The idea of “leftovers”from a restaurant is a totally foreign concept to me. In fact, when we were leaving the restaurant, my wife had to remind me that I left my “doggy bag” on the table and I had to go back for it.
But I did have enough leftover to take to work for lunch. Even after being in the microwave, the pasta and the calamari were still not over done. If you look in center of the red square, you can see a tentacle from the polpi.
You can see from the bill that it was expensive, but what about being “fancy?”
I was dressed to the nines, even my 10 year old noticed and said “Daddy looks pretty.” This was one of the few times in my life that I was overdressed. There were people at the restaurant wearing flannel and jeans !!
It was a very fine dinner and a nice place to be. They have an al fresco area for when it’s warmer and I think it would be nice to go back and tray a few other less expensive items. Maybe even try the wine.