Sunday, December 30, 2007

Birthday Song

Jeff and Janet came up for new year's weekend. We recorded this song using Sharon's cell phone and the minidisk recorder with otter box. Production was done on my Mac with iMovie and GarageBand 08.

Royan is (left to right) Janet, Sharon, Jeff and Jaya. Recorded December 29, 2007.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Grill Break In

Andrew and I assembled the new grill on Christmas day. Picked up tongs after work the next day. Last night we made a Safeway run to get the meat for this weekend (see future post for recipes). Today I bought the LP gas and some apple wood chips.

I'm using the Blue Rhino gas technology mainly because my old friend Judo Dave started this kind of business and it still sounds like a great idea. Instead of taking your LP tank down the the RV/Camping store and having someone fill it you just go down to the neighborhood hardware store and swap the empty for a full tank.

To break in the grill you need something with a lot of fat to get the thing greased up properly. I chose Italian sausage. After lunch I'll start the pulled pork with significant modifications based on my expertise.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Weber Gas Grill

Sharon gave me a new Weber gas grill for Christmas.

First, read the instructions.

Prepare the turkey for Christmas dinner. Make the gravy.

Assemble the grill. Carry up to the back porch.

Make a shopping list to break in the grill.

  • Gas
  • Grill brush, the Grill Wizard on-line purchase
  • Italian sausage (for the grease, season the grill)
  • Vegetables
On the way home from work Wednesday pick up the above supplies.

Make dinner on the grill :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Turkey Gravy, 4 hour version

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

My biggest problem with traditional gravy recipes is that they are last-minute. This is the final kitchen task of the day, since you need the drippings from the turkey roasting pan and stock from simmering giblets for the best flavor. For best results, try to get others to help with finishing other dishes while you concentrate on that gravy. I've never even attempted to pull this off but instead settle for something quicker and get down to the eating.

There are some secrets to making perfect gravy.

  • Use a wire whisk to stir the gravy to avoid lumps.
  • Make sure to thoroughly cook the flour in the fat (before adding liquid) to avoid a starchy taste.
  • Salt is the key to the best flavor.

This recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine, November/December 2001 edition. ATK recipe for Make Ahead Turkey Gravy.

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: about 3 hours Yield: approximately 1 quart

Turkey giblets (discard the liver, as it will make the stock cloudy and taste metallic) and neck plus the ribs, back bone, loose skin and fat (see butterflied turkey recipe) from the turkey. 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces 2 small onions, coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 3 cups water 2 cups dry white wine 6 sprigs fresh thyme 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 450°. Place turkey giblets, necks, backs, carrot, celery, onions, and garlic into a large flameproof roasting pan. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and toss to combine. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden-browned, about 45 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven and dump the solids into a large saucepan or stock pot. Place the roasting pan over 1 or 2 burners set at high heat. Add some of the chicken stock and deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Transfer contents of the roasting pan to the saucepan. Add wine, 2 cups of water, and thyme sprigs; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain stock into a large measuring cup or container. Cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until fat congeals, about 1 hour.

Skim fat from the stock and reserve/save. Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer to remove remaining bits of fat; discard bits in strainer. Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. In a second medium saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp of the reserved turkey fat over medium-high heat until bubbling (if you don't have 4 Tbsp of fat, make up the difference with butter). Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until combined and toasty honey-colored, about 2 minutes. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually add the hot stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To serve: bring the gravy to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add a few grinds of black pepper, and then stir well to combine. Taste the gravy carefully. Adjust seasonings with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Salt is the key to the best gravy. But you have to add and taste constantly. Start with about 1/2 tsp. for 4 cups of liquid. Then sprinkle in a tiny bit at a time, stirring and tasting. You'll know when you have the right amount, because the gravy will suddenly come alive with a marvelous meaty flavor.

Transfer the gravy to a boat and serve.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Knife Sharpener

We are going to butterfly a turkey for Christmas so I needed to get a knife sharp enough to cut the back bone out of a 20 pound bird. It just so happend the ATK send some email this weeek that included an article of knife shapeners.

Instead of getting the $150 electric sharpener I went for the bust buy manual recommendation, AccuSharp, only $12.

It works like a charm. You can feel when the knife is sharp, the resistance/drag significantly reduces when it is sharp.

A couple of knives that Sharon says are mine would not sharpen. I done ever remember using them so we threw them away. Now we are going to keep the knifes properly sharp or we won't keep them at all.

The AccuSharp website has instructions for use and even tells you how to swap the working bits around to double the life of the tool. I recommend getting one of these for your kitchen to keep knifes sharp. But if the blade is to far gone either get a new knife or take your good knifes to a professional sharpener to regrind the blade and use the AccuSharp to maintain your cutting edge.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tools and productivity improvement

...well over half of the time you spend working on a project (on the order of 70 percent) is spent thinking, and no tool, no matter how advanced, can think for you. Consequently, even if a tool did everything except the thinking for you -- if it wrote 100 percent of the code, wrote 100 percent of the documentation, did 100 percent of the testing, burned the CD-ROMs, put them in boxes, and mailed them to your customers -- the best you could hope for would be a 30 percent improvement in productivity.

In order to do better than that, you have to change the way you think.

-Frederick P. Brooks, [paraphrased]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My friend hurt his back, what to do?

Yoga is one of the better things for rehabilitating back injuries.

I strongly recommend Dr. Leon Root's book Oh my aching back. I used it to understand the anatomy and kinesiology of my back. Once you know how it is designed and works you can begin doing the things that will stabilize it and give it a chance to heal. The book Posture Alignment by D'Arezzo should also be studied.

I haven't though about my 'bad back' for years. But know this, when I was going through the pain and inability to stand up straight I never imagined I would be care free again in my life time. It took a couple of year before I wasn't thinking about or worrying about by back. The last 10 years it doesn't even cross my mind, true peace :)

There are links to the books by Dr. Root on my site, The book I used is out of print, I imagine the new book is improved.

Bottom line: educate yourself then take action. You have to develop strength and flexibility in addition to removing/minimizing the things that resulted in a broken back.

With the education you can structure a yoga program that will be beneficial. Many of the therapy exercises are also yoga exercises. But yoga is so much more than the physical, it is like Qigong, put your mind and intention into the body and breath. Simply going to a class that is labeled yoga will not do it, you have to have the mental intention a yogic approach to whatever you do.

Restoration Therapy is also very helpful if the person is in a serious program to change their body.

Make sure he knows that difference between pain and injury. My hip surgeon told me that the body will not allow you to do things that will injure the body, you can ignore the pain.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ian Lambe Low Whistle

I play an Ian Lambe low D whistle that I discovered in Galway on our first trip to Ireland.Ian Lambe logo I wanted to get a low whistle and I had heard how hard they are to play but I love the tone and find the range more my style than the high D whistles. I played all the low whistles they had and the Lambe was the only one that was playable. I got a great low D right off the bat without any difficulties in covering all the holes.

Mr. Lambe keeps a pretty low profile on the web. In fact today is the first time since 2003 that his website came up when I tried the URL. But marketing and distribution channels doesn't do squat to make a fine musical instrument.

To date I have yet to play or hear a better low D whistle then the Ian Lambe I have.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Agile Software Development

The main topic in the 2007 symposium on software development held at my work this week was "agile development". One presenter recommended reading the Agile Manifesto.

At this site I learned that Brian Marick was one of the signers of the manifesto. I know Brian from some of the Los Altos Workshop on Software Testing (LAWST) weekends. When I have an opportunity to work in an agile environment Brian's website is where I'll start my training.