al b. darned's Profile

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Rule #1...always...

I'll second that!

Rule #1...always...

Make sure the basement freezer is plugged back in after your contractor, who was working in the basement, leaves for the day. I had a contractor installing a new bathtub. When he went down in the basement to connect all the plumbing he unplugged my freezer to plug in his drop light. He got done with all the piping, unplugged his light, gathered his tools, and went home.

I discovered that it was unplugged nearly a week later when I went to get something from it. Was the only time the freezer got cleaned out and totally defrosted since I bought it 10 years earlier… or since.

Lay's Potato Chips: Just 3 ingredients?

Their website has a bit of hype, tho...
Our products are all-natural with no artificial colours or preservatives, no trans fats and they are certified gluten-free and cholesterol free.
AFIK everybody's plain chips can say that. Lay's certainly can.

Lay's Potato Chips: Just 3 ingredients?

No potato chips are bleached before they are fried. Potatoes go from the washer, to the peeler, to the slicer, and drop directly into the oil.

If they are darker it is because of the variety they use, or are cooked longer and/or at higher temperatures. Period.

Have you ever used a Pressure Cooker?

Have any of you used your pressure cookerto try "broasted" chicken?


From Fagor's Users's Manual:

When using pressure cookers, basic safety precautions should always be followed:
1. Read all instructions.
12. Do not use this pressure cooker for pressure frying with oil."

Sep 18, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

How The Coffee Shop Has Ruined Customer Service


Has something changed with canning lids?

This is good to know if I come up a lid short when doing up a batch of something. However, since "old habits die hard" and it "can't hoit" to simmer them, I will probably continue to do it the old way.

Sep 10, 2014
al b. darned in Home Cooking

Mistakes, I've made a few

While DW is a self-proclaimed non-cook, she enjoys baking from time to time and is really pretty good at it.

In her wedding registry she asked for and received a popover pan. In the 14 years that we've been married, the only time that pan is been out of the cupboard is when we've had to move it to get to something else. And every time it comes out, she looks at it and says, "I've got to make a batch of popovers one of these days." And then it goes back into the cupboard. And so it goes.

Aug 29, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware


Thanks! I needed a good laugh today!

Aug 29, 2014
al b. darned in Site Talk


Mrs.Extrahomework will be teaching. Crap , boo hoo .
I had this very reaction when I found out I would be having Mrs.Extrahomework for eighth grade math way back in the day. She turned out to be one of the best teachers I ever had, and nearly 50 years later I still look back fondly on her class. So sometimes you never know. If you stick around and give it a chance it might turn out to be a good ride.

Aug 29, 2014
al b. darned in Site Talk


Nice to hear from you again, jfood! I always enjoyed your straightforward insight and common sense, such as you have written here. I, for one, look forward to seeing more of it.

Yes, the world continued to rotate while you were away, and I didn't stay up night pining for the fjords because you hadn't posted in a while, but still, I welcome you back and hope you'll continue to participate.

Aug 29, 2014
al b. darned in Site Talk

Keurig Vue Going Away

It appears that the Keurig Vue system is going away. On Keurig's website is only available as an office system through "authorized Keurig distributors" with no more home machines available. So if you're a fan of the Keurig Vue system now might be a good time to snag a machine at closeout prices.

I'm going to grab this non-DRM "small office" model from Staples:

I will get all of the advantages of the Vue machines at a bargain price. The website lists this for $129.95, but says it is out of stock online. A call to my local store revealed that they had several in stock, and are on "clearance" for $97.95. Plus, if you buy it by August 30 you get a $30 Staples gift card.

I've also ordered one of these KV2 adapters from Amazon:

That way, I can continue to use K cups and still have the advantages of the Vue Brewer.

I figure the worst that can happen is that once we get all the pieces and it doesn't work the way we expected to, we can always schlep it back to Staples for a refund.

Aug 28, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

I really like <fill in chain> and I look forward to returning

KFC (Pot Pie)
Pizza Hut (Thin 'n' Crispy Super Supreme!)
McD's (Egg McMuffin and Hash browns)

Aug 27, 2014
al b. darned in Chains

New All-Clad Handles... About Time.

After looking at both pans, I still think I would've gone with the one I chose because I like the angle of the handle better. Also, by not buying this one instead of not buying the A-C I would only have $14 in Compensatory Cash to spend on another shiny.

And what's with W-S and their "Suggested Price" and their "Our Price"? It's their brand, so who "suggested" the higher price?

Aug 26, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

The Next Big Thing… Garlic Caviar

I am going to let you all in on the Next Big Thing. Like all great inventions, Garlic Caviar was discovered by accident.

As those who have obtained garlic scapes know, there is a small seed pod on the top of each scape. Most people I know simply trim that part off and throw it out. Others (like me) trim the seed pod off the scape, trim off the "tail" on the top and use them just like the rest of the scape. They are particularly good quickly sautéed in butter and added to rice, along with pistachios and sautéed onions and mushrooms.

This year was different however. Somehow one bag of scapes fell down behind the shelf that it was being temporarily stored on and forgotten about until discovered a couple of weeks later. In that time the aforementioned seed pod continued to draw moisture from the tail on the top of the seed pod, and the seed pod continued to develop.

I broke open the pod and discovered a bunch of little pearls. I popped a couple of my mouth, and they are awesome! Since I'm sure the garlic flavor will be lost if I cooked them so I am reserving them for cold dishes. They are great as part of a tossed salad (or whisked into the dressing) and they are a tasty addition to both potato and pasta salads. I can definitely see them as part of an hors d'oeuvres item.

I didn't get a whole lot this year so I've kinda rationed them a bit, but next year I plan to experiment further.

And the best part is that the rest of the scape was still perfectly edible!

Remember folks, you heard it here first!

New All-Clad Handles... About Time.

Well, the Finance Committee approved my request for the purchase of a 1 1/2 quart saucepan (sans lid!) even though the price has now gone up to $190. But my Practical Side kept saying, "It's nuts paying that much for a small saucepan… And you don't even get a lid!"

So I perused around, and right under my nose on Amazon I found a very nice Cooks Standard tri-ply 1 1/2 quart saucepan *with lid* for just over 40 bucks. Okay, it's made in China, not the US, but most of my other cookware is also made in China and has held up well and hasn't poisoned me yet. Sure, I had to sacrifice a couple layers and a famous chef's endorsement, but I think I'll adjust.

The pan came came the other day, and it is just a shiny as the AC I could've spent nearly 2 C Notes on. It has a comfortable handle, is well-balanced, has a nice solid feel, and the slightly domed lid fits snugly. And it cooks just as nicely as expected.

Since I was so resourceful, I think I should be able to spend the $195 "change" ($150 "saved" on the pan plus $45 "saved" by not having to buy the lid) on something else shiny, but so far DW isn't buyin' it.

Aug 25, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Creative ways to use for Hamburger Helper that taste better?

I was thinking the same thing when I saw the headline!

Aug 12, 2014
al b. darned in Home Cooking

littleneck clams

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation you are fine:

Clams can be frozen either in the shell or shucked. To freeze the clams in the shell, simply place the live clams in moisture-vapor resistant bags. Press out excess air and freeze.

To freeze the clam meat, shuck the clams, then clean and wash the meat thoroughly. Drain and pack in freezer containers, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label and freeze."

FWIW - If the clams were dead their shells would be open. You should never eat clam whose shell was open when you got it. By the same token, if you steam the clams and one does not open you should also discard it. Do not try to open it and eat it.

Aug 09, 2014
al b. darned in Home Cooking

Lots of wild blackberries

Philadelphia style ice cream!

Not familiar with this term. Please 'splain.

Aug 09, 2014
al b. darned in Home Cooking

Food related television commercial failures

The one for me is the Velveeta commercial for Velveeta Shells & Cheese where the tagline is, "Eat Liquid Gold."

I'm not sure why, but just the idea of eating liquid gold kinda grosses me out. And I don't get the vision of eating real gold, it's just some runny, goopy, slimy stuff oozing out of some squeeze packet. Yuck!

Food related television commercial failures

Actually, I think the Lays commercial with Mr. Potatohead busting the Mrs. for eating Lays potato chips is kind of cute.

Having said that, I think the cannibalism in the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal commercial is really kinda gross.

What are the cooking temperatures of your slow cooker?

What is the temp difference between the two settings?
In many slow cookers, nothing.

Some of the higher end slow cookers, like the Cuisinart I've had for several years, has three distinct temperature settings. That means the slow cooker starts off at full power and a thermostat will control the temperature at each setting (simmer, low, and high).

This would be like you putting the pot on your stove with a thermometer in it and turning the burner on high. You then watch the thermometer, and when it reaches the desired temperature (simmer, low, or high) you control the burner to maintain that temperature.

Most slow cookers, however, only have one thermostat, set for the maximum temperature, usually just under boiling. The difference is that they use in-line resistors to control the power, and therefore the rate at which that maximum temperature is reached. So while the maximum temperature of "low" is still just below boiling, it will take twice as long to reach that temperature, then if you started out on "high."

This would be like putting the pot on the burner as before. However, for "low" you would turn the burner on halfway and full for "high," and when the food starts to boil you turn the burner off and on prevent it from boiling over.

So that means in my Cuisinart, High = 212°F, Low = 200°F, Simmer = 185°F, Keep Warm = 165°F. But in a model with only resistors, not individual thermostats, low = 210°F and high = 210°F. (I would think these models would need a second thermostat to control the "keep warm" temperature, if they have one.)

The reason most slow cookers are made with only one temperature because in-line resistors are cheaper than thermostats, pure and simple.

Aug 08, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Two Buck Chuck? No Thanks

"Editor's Note

This blog post contained un-sourced claims about Two Buck Chuck and its proprietor, Bronco Wines. It has been removed from the site in accordance with our blogger terms."

Aug 08, 2014
al b. darned in Wine

Old Spaghetti Company

Just curious… Why would anyone want to the old spaghetti?

Aug 08, 2014
al b. darned in Chains

Most non-toxic cookware: Unglazed clay pan or 100% titanium coated pan?

I'm not sure where you're getting your "facts" about the toxicity of most cookware.

While I'm not convinced that Teflon will be the death of us all, I respect your right to choose cookware without it.

I have seen no credible evidence to suggest that any metal in good quality stainless steel cookware will leech out and enter our food stream. I ran this by a friend of mine who has several degrees in metallurgy and engineering, as well as being a registered Professional Engineer and ran his own metallurgical testing business for 30 years. He said he has never seen any credible evidence of the same, either.

As others have pointed out, the earthenware that you are considering is good for some things, but not everything.

As for the titanium cookware you linked to, as I pointed out in my reply to JTPhilly, this reeks of cookware hucksters at the state and county fairs. Aside from more than their share of downright bogus information, once you wade through all the fast talking you don't get a lot of real information.

What it boils down to is this cookware is aluminum with a layer of titanium on the inside. For something that is supposedly this good I would expect to see some independent testing of these pans by someone reputable such as Cooks Illustrated or Consumer Reports. I would not only want to know how nonstick surface is, but also its durability. For example, what happens if you use metal utensils on it? So far all I see are some staged videos from the vendors themselves. Independent testing goes a long way toward establishing credibility.

And before I plunk down the kind of money they are wanting for this cookware, I would like to see reports from other users (or maybe even the above mentioned independent testers) as to the longevity of the nonstick surface. The Web is awash with reports from early adopters of ceramic coated cookware. The vast majority of these reports all say the same thing, "They were great at first, and nothing stuck. But after about six months food started to stick like glue."

With all due respect Drew, I think your fears are unfounded. Invest in a few could quality stainless steel pieces and I think you could look forward to many years of happy and healthy cooking.

Aug 07, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Most non-toxic cookware: Unglazed clay pan or 100% titanium coated pan?

I'm not sure it reeks of infomercial, because they actually tell you the the price, and shipping is included (for some things).

It does, however, remind me of the cookware hucksters I see every year at the state fair. If I could take off a pound for every time I've heard how much weight I would lose simply by using their cookware, "With no fats or oils." I would be so skinny that I would be marked "absent" if I stood sideways.

There were a couple of things I found amusing while perusing their website.

Say Again? Dept
From the FAQ:
"Can the non-stick coating come off into the food?
No, there is no coating on the pan. It is a layer of Titanium, ..."

So what is the difference between a "coating" and a "layer"?

Also from the FAQ:
"What oils/fats should I use?
Although you do not need oils or fats to prevent sticking, ...
Note: Please never use SPAM or Non-Stick Cooking Sprays. This will cause a chemical build up on the surface."

Good advice on the SPAM. Do they know something about SPAM we don't know?

Aug 06, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Pros and Cons of Thermapen?

I am surprised nobody else would like to see this:

I would like to see a "Hold" feature. More than once I put the pointy end into something in the oven, but it responds so fast to temperature changes, the reading has changed between the time I pull it out of food and the time I pull it out of the oven to look at it.

Seems there would be room for a small button somewhere on the body facilitate this feature.

Jul 30, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

New All-Clad Handles... About Time.

On my dear messenger! If it weren't for thee, I probably never would've known about these. About the only time I frequent the WS website is when someone dangles a carrot such as this. And since the WS store is in The Mall, which I avoid like the plague, I would never stumble upon them there either.

If I *were* to purchase one or more of these, they would hide in the cabinet along with the rest of my mixed set of pots and pans. I'm not one of those who hangs all the pots out for everyone to see, and make sure everybody knows what I've got. Besides, most my friends wouldn't have any idea what the big deal about AC is.

For me, that one and a half quart saucepan is the perfect size for lots of things, and a tri-ply really works best my burners. So far, I haven't found a tri-ply than I like. That's about the only way I can "justify" spending 185 Big Ones on a small saucepan. The jury is still out, but the sirens are getting closer.

Jul 27, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

New All-Clad Handles... About Time.

A pox upon you, Duffy!

Up until now, I've always been able to avoid the siren song of All-Clad cookware basically because I hated the handles.

No matter how many times I've been tempted, whether at a store like WS, a "sale" on some website, or some evil person posting on a forum such as this trying to tempt me, every time I perused the lineup I would see or feel those damn skinny handles and come to my senses.

Add to that my aversion to Celebrity Endorsed anything. I always have said that a celebrity endorsement adds to the price, because some of the proceeds from each sale go back to the celebrity, who doesn't need the money. And in most cases, said endorsement adds no value to the product, either.

Now it seems A-C has nearly broken down the last of the barriers. Sure, if I had kids I have to sell one of them to be able to afford any of the pieces. But since there are no crumb snatchers in the house I may even be able to justify purchasing a "starter piece" because it's "on sale." Okay, there still that Celebrity Endorsement thing, but this time TK's input seems to have improved the breed.

Hmmm… Maybe if I say I bought it *in spite of* TK's endorsement, rather than *because of* it…

The sirens are getting louder!

Jul 27, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Almost half of the world prefers instant coffee

Like most Americans, I am bucking the Instant Coffee Trend. I don't consider myself a "coffee snob" either. I have no problem buying preground coffee off the shelf at the supermarket or making my coffee from ordinary city water from the tap. I don't even bother to put in that little filter thingy that came with my Cuisinart drip coffee maker. My Keurig has a water reservoir filled with, you guessed it, city water from the tap. And it may sit there several days before the next cup is brewed. To me, the resultant cup from either of these appliances is perfectly acceptable.

The "problem" for me with instant coffee is its flavor.

Though I'm not really known for my discerning palate I can always tell when I'm drinking instant coffee. No matter how hard the manufacturers try to convince me their instant is "just as rich and flavorful as ground coffee" there is no way you could ever replace my fresh brewed coffee with Folgers Crystals and not have me notice. The same goes for any other brand of instant.

To me instant coffee always has a distinct "instant coffee" flavor that I don't care for. I can't really describe it, but it not only has a distinct taste but a distinct and mildly unpleasant aftertaste. And no matter how many spoons of "coffee crystals" I put in a cup, the resultant brew never seems to have the body of a good drip blend.

I'm not just talking about American supermarket brands here. I've tried various European and Middle Eastern brands, and the results are still the same… They all taste "instant."

Recently I had the opportunity to try Cafe Altura Freeze Dried Instant Coffee. On the surface, this coffee has all the touchstones that I look for nowadays when I purchase coffee. It's organic and non-GMO, and it's Fair Trade. The description made it sound like that elusive instant coffee that I would actually like. The reviews on Amazon were overwhelmingly good, where favorable comparisons to ground coffee abound. But both Mrs. ABD and I were disappointed with this coffee just as we have been with any and all instants have gone before it. It still had that "instant flavor" that all other instant coffee has.

Maybe someday someone will come up with an incident good enough to fool Mother Nature, but it hasn't happened yet.