al b. darned's Profile

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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.

What DON'T you like in a sandwich?

Reading through all the replies I was kind of surprised to see only a couple of entries mentioning some of my dislikes.

First and foremost, no sandwich of mine shall ever contain Spam. End of discussion. In fact nothing I eat shall ever be contaminated by Spam. There, I've got that off my chest!

Bananas, as in "peanut butter and banana sandwich." The same goes for "peanut butter and pickles" and "peanut butter and tuna fish." (The latter was one of my Dad's favorites.)

And please, don't put coleslaw on my sandwich. If I want coleslaw I will order a side of coleslaw. It doesn't add to the flavor or texture, and all it does is make the sandwich soggy. Besides, most of it will end up down the front of my shirt. No sauerkraut either, except occasionally on a hot dog.

I also don't get why people put French fries in a sandwich. Again, if I want French fries I'll order French fries on the side. You couldn't pay me enough to eat one of those "famous" Pittsburgh sandwiches that have both coleslaw and French fries in them.

Real mayonnaise (preferably Cains), real horseradish, or good mustard are acceptable condiments on my sandwich, but not much else. No Russian dressing, no Italian salad dressing, no yellow mustard, and definitely no ketchup. Even my Italian sub/grinder/hoagie can only be made with mayo, not oil and vinegar Italian dressing.

As you can probably guess from a couple of the above entries, I don't care for a Ruben. Corned beef on a nice rye bread with Swiss cheese and a good mustard? Bring it on! Add the other stuff that makes it a "Ruben" and I'll pass, thank you.

Drippy or wet sandwiches are right out! Getting a bowl of "juice" to dip my sandwich in is bad enough but those sandwiches that they make on a sub roll and dip the whole thing in hot juice is just gross in my opinion.

Speaking of messy things… The only time a fried egg belongs in my sandwich is if it is a "fried egg sandwich." A sandwich where they break the yoke while they are cooking the egg so it doesn't drip. A fried egg, especially one with a runny yolk, does not belong on a hot dog, hamburger, or any other sandwich.

Lastly, although it's not a specific ingredient, I don't like additions that make a sandwich hard to eat. Whether it's something that makes it messy, as outlined above, or just the addition of too many ingredients that makes it hard to hold and get my mouth around without spilling most of it down the front of my shirt or in my lap.

Outside of the aforementioned Spam, I didn't mention other ingredients that I wouldn't put in my sandwich because I wouldn't eat them any other way either. Most offal comes readily to mind along with a few other things, but in general even that list is fairly short.

I will defend to the death your right to enjoy any or all of the above, but since the OP asked, "What DON'T you like on your sandwich?" this is my list, and I'm sticking to it.

Jul 24, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

Eating flowers

I really like the peppery flavor of nasturtium flowers. I've also added the leaves as another green in a tossed salad. If you grow your own nasturtiums you can let them go to seed and the seedpods can be used similarly to capers. I pickled the seed pods one year and use them all winter.

Jul 23, 2014
al b. darned in Home Cooking

Restaurant blames cellphones for service complaints

My favorite sign is in the vestibule of a church. It says, "If God is calling you, it won't be on your cell phone. So please turn it off during services."

Let's talk about white bread

You put those in your ears...

I thought that was dried beans. In fact, there was a song in the mid-1960s by The Serendipity Singers called, "Beans in My Ears." One of the verses went:
"You can't hear the teacher with beans in your ears
Beans in your ears, beans in your ears
You can't hear the teacher with beans in your ears
Beeeeeans in your ears."

It was also banned from the airwaves in some cities because kids were putting … wait for it… beans in their ears!

Jul 21, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

I Wish I'd Kept…

And as someone who's gone through his share of toaster ovens in the last 25 years, I highly recommend the Breville 800XL Smart Oven. Yes, it is expensive, but this is one case where you really do get what you pay for.

We've had ours for almost 2 1/2 years, and we have had absolutely no problems with it. In my experience it toasts well, it bakes evenly, and the broiler works very well. It's big enough to fit a whole pizza, as well. And the cost is only a bit more than a quarter of what it would cost to repair your dead wall oven. They are selling it at Amazon right now for about $50 less than what I paid for mine.

I Wish I'd Kept…

Okay, I'll go first.

I wish I'd kept my Fagor Ucook pressure cooker set. It had four and six quart pots that nested together for easy storage, and was dual pressure. When you opened the pressure relief valve to quickly release the pressure at the end of a cooking cycle it discharged the steam straight up. When you closed the lid it automatically locked. It had one flaw, however. I have limited use of my left hand, and opening the lid was a bit of a chore. Both the top and bottom handles were stubby and rounded with no discernible difference between the two handles when the lid was latched. That combined with the aforementioned spring-loaded lock made opening the top awkward at best.

So I went looking for a new pressure cooker set, and since I was happy with the Fagor brand I looked there first. Lo and behold I found the Fagor Duo Combi set that look like it was just what I wanted. Two pots, dual pressure, and two separate handles that I could actually grab onto. So I bought this set and to make room for it in the cupboard I gave the first set away before even trying the new set. After all, how much different could this new set be? Well…

The first thing I noticed about the new set was that both pots are the same diameter, so that means they don't nest. Okay, I thought I can live with that. Then I went to use it. Even though the small pot is four quart, its larger diameter means you have to use more liquid. Then I go to put the lid on and discover the lock is not spring-loaded. As the water starts to boil, it hisses and spits around the bottom of the lid under the handle. After I fiddled with the latch lock the pressure indicator popped up in the hissing stopped. Subsequent uses have revealed it doesn't seal "first time every time" like my original set did.

I finished my first batch in the new cooker and flipped the relief valve to blow off the pressure. That's when I discover this one blows the steam straight out from the valve (parallel to the stove) instead of straight up, so you have to be careful which direction it's pointed, lest you burn yourself or somebody else with the discharge. Not only that, the valve is designed so that when it is closed the discharge is in line with the handle (obviously pointed away from the handle). That means it turns counterclockwise approximately 90° when you open it to release the pressure, pointing the discharge directly at you if you're not careful.

So to sum up. It costs more, doesn't nest, is a lot more fiddly to seal, and the discharge from the pressure valve can be dangerous. Fagor doesn't make the Ucook set anymore and I can't ask for my old set back, so I'm sort of stuck.

So, what have you sold, given away, throw away, or in some other way disposed of something only to wish you had it back? How long did it take you to discover your mistake? And finally, can you rectify the situation?

Jul 20, 2014
al b. darned in Cookware

Pressure Cookers: Stovetop vs. Electric

In my opinion, while you may gain a bit of convenience with an electric pressure cooker you lose some of the flexibility.

First of all, most pressure cooker recipes in the states are written for 15 psi stovetop pressure cookers. All of the electrics I have seen so far run from 10 to 12 psi. That's enough of a difference that you will have to increase the cooking times to achieve the expected results

Many recipes call for quick release of pressure at the end of the cooking cycle, while others recommend letting the pressure decay off naturally. The former method entails either releasing the pressure valve or running the whole unit under cold water. Some, but not all electric pressure cookers allow for the quick release of the pressure valve. If you decide to go with an electric pressure cooker be sure it has the quick pressure release function.

Also be aware that electric pressure cookers are better insulated than their stovetop counterparts and therefore they will take longer to release the pressure naturally which can lead to overcooking your recipe.

None of the above are insurmountable obstacles, but just be aware of these if you choose electric pressure cooker and try to prepare a "normal" pressure cooker recipe.

In my opinion, the "Electric pressure cookers are better because you don't have flame heating up your kitchen." is a red herring. Yes, you use a high flame bring up the pressure, but after that you are essentially simmering pot. In my experience I have never experienced any appreciable increase in kitchen temperature while using my pressure cooker.

Another thing to consider when choosing a pressure cooker is capacity. Virtually all the electric pressure cookers I've seen have a capacity of 6 quarts or less. Many times a 6 quart capacity is just not enough.

As you can surmise from my comments I'm partial to stovetop units. I expect my Fagor to last longer than I do. Couldn't say the same for any electric unit.

My First Chipotle

I also meant to add: No queso means no Nachos, DW's favorite item. Even Taco Bell has a cheese like substance to go with their chips, and you can get what passes for Nachos at TB, but not at Chipotle.

Jul 16, 2014
al b. darned in Chains

My First Chipotle

We've had a Chipotle Grill in our area for a while now, and there was quite a bit of hype around it when it first opened. Now that the dust is settled, and since we had a gift card, we decided to check it out.

We weren't impressed. Compared to a couple of local Mexican fast food joints, as well as a Moe's Southwest Grill, this place doesn't even come close. For our money, the choices here are just too limited.

All of the referenced eateries offer "chips and queso" with guacamole as an optional extra. At Chipotle, no queso.

So I had to opt for "chips and guacamole." While the guacamole was pretty good, that's more than I can say for the chips. First of all, they are very bland, as they have absolutely no seasoning on them, not even salt. Secondly they tasted old, almost stale.

Meat choices. I prefer seasoned ground beef in both my tacos and my burritos. At Chipotle, no ground beef.

Both Mrs. Boilermate and I opted for a salad. Chopped romaine lettuce (but no iceberg), pinto or black beans, meat or guacamole, salsa, and cheese, with chipotle-honey vinaigrette. Cucumbers? No. Chopped tomatoes? No. Chopped onions? No. Black olives? No. Fresh or pickled jalapenos? No. Anything else to spice it up? No.

Yes, I know, one of their salsas is diced tomatoes and diced onions along with spices all mixed together. But that's not what I want on my salad. I want plain tomatoes, plain onions, etc.

All the news wasn't bad though. Except for the chips (as mentioned above) everything tasted fresh. Both the chicken and the dressing for the salad were especially tasty.

Overall, our experience was pretty meh. This meal was "on the house" courtesy of a gift card Mrs. Boilermate received from work, so I guess we can't complain too bad. Next time we will be spending our own money, so there is a good chance that will be spent somewhere else.

Jul 15, 2014
al b. darned in Chains

What discontinued products do you miss?

What? Nearly 1300 replies and no one else misses Nabisco Wheatsworth crackers? These were so much better than regular saltines, with a bit crispier texture and real flavor. The new whole-wheat saltines just don't cut it.

I've lobbied Nabisco for their return, but alas, to no avail.

Jul 14, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

What discontinued products do you miss?

To me, it wasn't the cyclamate, but the soda itself. Both Fresca and Tab were, and are, extremely nasty tasting!

We seldom had soda growing up in the 60s, but Mom would occasionally buy a six pack of one of the other. I suspect she chose these because she liked them and was more likely to get one, because all of us kids hated it!

Jul 14, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

What discontinued products do you miss?

San Pellegrino sodas are my favorite! Crisp, clean, and refreshing. Lemon is first for me, followed by orange. Blood orange is too sweet for me, and i can't have grapefruit, as it can cause kidney stones for me.

Jul 14, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

What discontinued products do you miss?

Fresca was amazing before they changed and ruined it...not even close to the original formula

The only thing "amazing" about Fresca is how a soda that awful could still be on the market. Sorry, but it was nasty in the 1960's when ifirst came out and it still had cyclamate in it, and it is still nasty today.

The only thing worse than Fresca is Tab.

Jul 14, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

Adam Richman goes too far

... the entire incident was so innocuous nobody should really care less. ...

I don't see how this incident is even vaguely reminiscent of the "Thought Police" in 1984. Richman opened his mouth and then stuck both feet and all the way up to his knees. Then after removing his feet from his mouth he metaphorically unzipped his trousers, took out his d***, and stomped on it with both feet at the same time. His only saving grace, IMHO, is that he didn't use any ethnic or racial slurs.

While his "#thinspiration" hashtag may have been innocuous (and maybe even innocent) at first, his reaction to being called out on it surely wasn't. Starting with calling the woman called him out "the C word" and then telling someone to commit suicide ("Grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you." ) could hardly be described as a slip of the tongue.

Mere mortals have lost jobs (sacked or not offered a job in the first place) over postings on social media far less offensive than this. I don't think he should be given a "Get Out Of Jail Free Card" just because he's a celebrity.

It makes no nevermind to me whether he stays or goes, as I seldom watch him anyway. I wouldn't of watched his new show, either. Not because he was the host, but because it's the same old rehash of all the other shows like this that have gone before him.Yaaaawn! And I am not any more likely to purchase Walmart meat whether he's their spokesman or not.

A (Partial) Defense of Omaha Steaks

As I look back on my posts I realize I wasn't as clear as I could've been in making my point. It was posts from various OS threads like these that set me off.

"OMAHA 'steaks' and everything else were HORRIBLE. Several times I and other grill masters have tried cooking their 'meat' on the grill, oven and have turned out horrible everytime. (BIG WASTE OF $$$) ...- DRY - TASTLESS - SMALL portions. the French have bigger steaks for Pete's sake... GO SOMEPLACE ELSE... (ALL prepared foods very oridinary at best. - being generous with comments)"

"... these are some of the WORST TASTING BLOBS OF BEEF I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED! Yuck yuck yuck!... Too lean. Too closely trimmed. Not aged. BLECK!..."

"I have had them and they are terrible."

"Don't do it. Your tastebuds will thank you."

".... I got a package from them as a corporate gift and wound up throwing some away. Horrible...."

I guess it's the combination of the exaggeration, sarcasm, and YELLING that made me feel I had to say something. And that "something" was the following:

1. OS are overpriced for what you get, just like other companies that provide gifts through the mail. No, I wouldn't buy them for myself (or for anyone else) but if gifted with an order, I would graciously accept it.


2. Far from inedible, the items that I received have ranged from "okay" to pretty good.

I actually thought about this for quite a while before I actually wrote the post, but I guess I didn't do a good enough job making my point clear. Thanks for pointing that out

Jul 07, 2014
al b. darned in General Topics

Adam Richman goes too far

Actually, in the Surface Navy it meant the same as, "Shooting yourself in the foot" or "Putting your foot in your mouth."

In other words, you f***ed up really bad and it was your own fault.