Thinning The Herd

This morning I decided to go through my Pepperplate account and thin out the deadwood. What qualified a recipe for deadwood status? Things I know I’ll never make. Duplicate recipes (do I really need 78 different versions of oatmeal cookies?), and recipes the tools for which I no longer own (think: rice cooker, crockpot).

I started at 11:30, and finally finished at 2:45 pm. I went from 2328 recipes in Pepperplate to 1649, a decrease of 679 recipes. When you consider that I have Pepperplate on both my iPad and my iPhone, you will understand why I wanted to reduce the space Pepperplate was consuming.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said

“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–

And whether hot dog manufacturers and hot dog bun bakers will ever agree on sizes.

Here’s what I mean:

For most of my life, hot dogs came in packages of 8, while buns came in packages of 6. Or was it the other way around? I really don’t remember. But it really doesn’t matter. The point is that you ended up with either a shortage of one or an excess of the other, which clever marketing technique forced you into buying one more of one of them.

This was probably the shrewdest piece of marketing since some unsung advertising executive decided to put “And repeat” on shampoo bottles.

But the excess problem has been resolved: I can now buy both hot dogs and buns in packages of 8.

So why am I complaining? For the simple reason that when I made my lunch today, I discovered that the packaging geniuses pulled a bait-and-switch: sure, the number of dogs and buns match, but now the dogs are so fat that the buns can’t hold them!

Today’s hot dog buns are barely wide enough to hold a hot dog, let alone the onions, sauerkraut, cream cheese, and jalapenos I want to add to it.

So I guess I’ll just go back to skinny hot dogs. Either that, or wait for the weather to cool and bake my own buns.

seattle dog


NaCHO Nachos, OUR Nachos

Something that helps keep relationships strong is sharing the same taste in food. Last night was my turn to fix dinner, so when Stacey texted me from Wegman’s wanting to know what my plan was for dinner, I immediately replied, “Either nachos or quesadillas.” (I had already asked her to pick up a bag of grated cheddar.)

After several texts back and forth, we had decided on nachos with onions, salsa, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. I prefer to add chicken, but that’s what we had Wednesday night, and neither of us was in the mood for leftovers.

One of Staceys texts wanted to know about the sauce we had in the refrigerator door. She had typed “salsa,” but her over eager autocorrect stepped in and what I got was “What about the Saudi in the refrigerator? Hot?”

I ate dinner in fear of the NSA sending Homeland Security to burst in on us.

Oh, and the salsa? Wegman’s own brand of peach-mango salsa is om-nom-nom yummy good!

The only downside to the dinner? The oven heats up the kitchen to the point where it’s almost unbearable. Sorry, but no. We have no microwave, so nachos have to be done in the oven. Fortunately, it’s starting to be autumn, which will mean lower temperatures. 

Which, in turn, will mean more baked goodies.

My Recipe

  • One bag of Tostito Scoops brand corn chips
  • 1 8-ounce bag of grated cheese. I use sharp cheddar, but the choice is yours
  • 1 small onion, chopped (we use Vidalia onions)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole 
  • Diced fresh tomato 
  1. Cover two oven-proof plates with corn chips. Add onions to your taste. Cover with the shredded cheese.
  2. Put in a pre-heated 350F oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Remove from oven.
  3. Add salsa, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole to taste.
  4. ENJOY!
This is my last-minute recipe. Normally I’d add either some ground cumin, or some chopped cilantro. I’ve also been known to sprinkle lime juice over it all.
My nachos go very well with Negro Modelo beer.
Some people like to add garlic; I’m not one of them.

On Learning a New Stove

I recently moved from Rochester, NY to Seattle, WA. One of the nuisances we don’t consider when we move is having to learn the peculiarities of a new stove. My old stove was a gas range. Will my new one be gas, or electric? And if it’s electric (which I must admit is a more efficient way to cook), how long will it take me to learn its idiosyncrasies?

What, for example, is a “4.5” on the settings dial? Or how does “medium high” translate into actual heat?

Ovens are pretty simple: they have a temperature right on the dial. And with the help of a decent oven thermometer, it’s easy to check the dial’s accuracy and recalibrate it.

oven thermometer

Oven Thermometer

But I’m not going to worry about that right now. Right now my main goal is finding a place to live. While living in Rochester, I had forgotten that Washington State law allows a landlord to collect an amount 3 times the monthly rent before letting you move in: first and last month’s rent, plus a damage deposit equal to the monthly rent. On top of that, most landlords also demand a $40 application fee to cover the cost of running a background check on potential tenants.

Had I remembered that, I’d have stayed in Rochester until I had saved up enough money to cover those costs.

And that, my faithful readers, is why I have no new recipes for you: I don’t have a kitchen!


Writing Your First Cookbook

“ACK!” you say. “I don’t want to write a cookbook!”

I agree. That’s never been an item on my bucket list. I have Pepperplate and Pinterest to keep track of my recipes, and they both do an excellent job of that task.

But consider: if you’re like me, you’re on a limited income, so you can’t afford to buy expensive gifts for birthdays, weddings, Christmas, or any of the many other occasions we celebrate by giving gifts.

Enter The Custom Cookbook

But wait! There is something you can give that hardly costs anything more than your time. Not only that, but it is a personal gift of your own creation.

I’m talking about gathering together all your favorite recipes and kitchen tips and creating your very own electronic cookbook! Once you’ve created it, it’s a simple task to burn it to CD or DVD and give it to your friends or loved ones on an appropriate occasion.

And again, if you’re like me, you’ve already got an extensive recipe collection in electronic form in Pepperplate. It’s just a matter of copying those recipes and combining them into a single file. That’s something I did years ago (long before Pepperplate) in Microsoft Word, but now there’s a better way.

Scrivener “is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.” That’s what the web site says, but let me try to put it into practical terms.

Scrivener is a complete writing environment. From initial research through to final publication, every single task involved in creating (in this case) a cookbook can be done within Scrivener. In fact, that’s how I write this blog. Any research I do, I file under the Research heading. Each year has a folder, inside which there is a separate folder for each month of the year. And inside each monthly folder is where I write the actual entry for a given day.

When I’m satisfied with an entry, I copy and paste it into Open Live Writer (OLW) and post it to the blog. I’ve found OLW to be the best tool available to preview the entry and then post it.

Formatting A Cookbook

In the case of a cookbook, instead of a folder for each year, you could have a folder for each recipe type. For example:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Breads
  • Dairy
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Each of those folders could, depending on how far down you wanted to break each category (”Meats,” for example, could contain “Beef,” Lamb,” “Pork,” etc.) contain sub-folders. Regardless, once you’ve got things structured as you want, you can start adding recipes, either by creating a new document and then copying & pasting from your existing recipe, or by using Scrivener’s Import function.

For details on everything Scrivener, I would address your attention to Scrivener’s support pages. They do a far better job of explaining things than I can!

Scrivener Versions

For the longest time Scrivener only came in two versions: Windows or Mac OS. But this week they announced the long-awaited (and much desired) iOS version for the iPhone and iPad. Naturally, I bought my copy!

I’ve configured both my iPad and laptop versions to save their files to Dropbox, so I can access them anywhere I have an Internet connection. This will be especially handy next month, which will find me on the road (well, to be honest, the rail) to Seattle, WA. Stacey and I have finally decided the time is right to head home to the Upper Left Coast. I’ll be traveling by Amtrak, and I’m bringing my iPad, laptop, and camera to document my journey. Stacey and Fyona will follow later by car.

So I would strongly urge you to investigate Scrivener, even if you have no desire to write a cookbook. It is the perfect writing tool for all your creative endeavors. You can download an evaluation copy, which is free to use for 30 days of writing. And that’s 30 actual days. For example, if you write every day, it’s 30 days. If you only use it two days a week, that’s 15 weeks of use.

As your mother used to tell you, “You’ll thank me later.”

Robyn Jane

It’s 90° Outside. Who The Hell Wants To Cook?

Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It’s beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play?
John Lennon

The problem with summer is the heat. Specifically, I live in a flat with a view to the east. That means that the sun has thee entire morning to heat up this side of the building. The building is also well-insulated, and that means it’s usually cooler inside than out. So I don’t open my windows until the late evening when the temperature has dropped.

So it’s not easy to get inspired to cook or bake. And that translates to being less than inspired to write on either of those topics. I’m trying to get inspired, and if I do, I’ll post something worthwhile.