Organising recipes

First the COVID news: 112 new cases in New South Wales in the last 24-hour reporting period. The Government expects the numbers to keep going up for a few more days until the effects of the lockdown start being felt and, hopefully, bring them back down towards zero.

And in personal health news, my throat is feeling a lot better after the tonsillectomy. There’s just a little residual pain when I yawn widely, or move my tongue around to extreme positions in my mouth. But it’s still improving day by day and feels pretty close to back to normal. I think the coughing and phlegminess is reducing each day as well.

I worked on writing Irregular Webcomic! strips today, hoping to have a batch done in time to photograph tomorrow morning, but I don’t think I’m going to make it. It’ll probably have to be photography on Wednesday.

Something else I did was look into recipe organiser apps for my desktop machine. I’ve been collecting recipes using OneNote, which I use as a general note-keeping app for many types of information. It’s been okay so far, but it’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to find recipes, and I’m wishing for features such as search by ingredient and better categorisation using tags. So I’ve looked around and am currently trying the free version of Recipe Keeper.

I’m impressed with it so far. It’s not overly complicated or feature-bloated, but it has just the right set of features for organising recipes. There are three different groups of customisable tag sets. It imports recipes automatically from URLs from many popular recipe sites – and worked flawlessly for one I use a bit, the Australian site SBS Food. And it does automatic unit conversions from American units! No longer will I have to wonder what an “oz.” is. It also has a meal planner and automatic shopping list generator, although at this stage I’m not sure how much I’ll be using those features. I’m going to give it a few days, but I’m already thinking I’ll pay for the “pro” version, which gives you unlimited recipe storage and ability to synch to phones and iPads.

Oh, I was out walking Scully this afternoon when we met Billy, a 14-week-old toy poodle, black like her! He reminded me exactly what Scully looked like when she was a puppy!

Scully and Billy

New content today:

Baking and waking in the rain

First, today’s COVID news. NSW recorded 77 new cases in the last 24-hour reporting period, up 27 from yesterday. 33 of those cases were not isolating, so potentially infection in the community. And in very bad news, Australia recorded its first COVID-19 death of 2021. The screws continue to tighten with new restrictions and stern recommendations. It’s now strongly recommended not to go into supermarkets or food stores at all – if you possibly can you should arrange home delivery of groceries. On the current trajectory, officials are expecting over 100 new cases tomorrow, with numbers continuing to rise due to the delay between implementing stronger lockdown measures and reduction in case numbers.

My wife and I took Scully for another big walk today. We also tested out a new accessory, a K9 Sport Sack carrying backpack for Scully. The reason for this is that we’ve been using ferries to travel around the city with Scully, since you could take dogs onto ferries as long as they’re on a lead. Well, it turns out that the law doesn’t actually say that – it says you can take dogs on ferries if they are confined within a carrying container. The ferry crews have long turned a blind eye to this and not enforced the rule. But that changed from 1 July – the State Government has ordered ferry crews to begin enforcing the rule, and not to allow dogs on board if only restrained by a leash. Apparently this change of policy was precipitated by a complaint from a ferry passenger after being bitten by a dog.

M. and Scully

We were a bit concerned if Scully would like getting into the backpack, or if she’d struggle and try to wriggle out. We tempted her with peanut butter (one of her favourite treats) and did things slowly and gently, and she never protested once. And once clipped onto my wife’s back and we went outside, Scully positively seemed to enjoy being up there, looking around as we walked. So I think it was a positive experience for her and we’ll be able to carry her around in this backpack whenever we need to use some transport that demands dogs be confined. (Someone online checked specifically if these sort of backpacks would be acceptable on ferries and was told they are.)

At home I had a bit of a baking afternoon. I’ve been making my own pastry for quiches recently, but previously I’ve been neglecting to chill the pastry in the fridge before rolling it out. So today I made the pastry at lunchtime and stuck it into the fridge until dinner time. I honestly haven’t been very pleased with my home made pastry – it’s turned out to be very friable and sort of powdery/floury when baked. It handles well when rolling not too sticky or too crumbly, so I think the consistency there is good. I was hoping that the refrigeration before rolling and baking would fix the post-bake consistency, but no, it turned out almost the same as before. So I’m not sure what to do to make it hold together better after baking. Google suggests it might need a bit more water when mixing, but I really don’t want to make it any stickier during the rolling phase. I guess I’ll try it next time and see what happens.

I also put together another sourdough loaf, to be let rise overnight for baking in the morning. It’s amazing how much flour you go through when you’re baking stuff all the time! I’ve also been making an apple crumble about every 5 days for a warming fruity dessert for me and my wife. Normally she eats raw apples, but she’s decided that a nice warm crumble is more acceptable for winter night…

New content today:

Cooking leftovers, a new Ethics class, and one less Ethics class

Today I did some housework, vacuuming and then refreshing all of the damp absorbers in the wardrobes and storage chests. Sydney is a humid place to live, and we use damp absorbers with calcium chloride crystals to avoid problems with mould.

I had my first lesson in a new timeslot for online ethics classes, at 5pm today. My other three classes are all either full or close to full, so I listed a new timeslot just last week, and by the time it started today I had two new students signed up. Unfortunately one had connection problems and dropped out after a few minutes, but I had a very good class with the remaining student.

We discussed stealing, and I presented a range of scenarios. One began with imagining a lemon tree inside someone’s property, but close enough to the fence that you could reach through and pick a lemon. Is doing so stealing? (The girl said yes.) What if everyone in the neighbourhood knows the people who own the house never use the lemons, they just let them fall off the tree and rot – would it still be stealing? (Yes.) What if one fell off and was sitting on the ground – would it be stealing to reach through the fence and take it? (Yes.) What if it fell off and rolled through the fence, onto the footpath – would it be stealing to take that lemon? (She said no.) I was also asking her to explain her answers, and at this one she said that the difference was that the lemon was in a public place now, so it was fair game to take it.

I switched and said what if someone dropped their wallet in a public place? Would it be okay to take it and not give it back, or would that be stealing? (She said it would be stealing.) So what’s the difference between the wallet and the lemon, if they’re both in a public place? She said the wallet was valuable, and could cause a lot of problems if they didn’t get it back.

I said what if someone is buying groceries and while loading their car a lemon – something not very valuable – falls out onto the car park, a public place. Is it stealing if someone else takes that lemon? She said yes. So I asked what’s the difference between that lemon and the one that fell off the tree and rolled through the fence?

By this point she was grinning and almost laughing each time I ramped up with a new question – she clearly realised what I was doing in making things trickier and trickier for her to answer consistently. I told her that I was trying to make her think really hard about her answers and try to come up with clear reasons why one thing is stealing but some similar thing is not.

By the end we’d gone through 5 or 6 similar scenarios, and given her brain a good workout. She said she really enjoyed the class. So hopefully she’ll be back next week, and the other student will get his connection problem sorted. And maybe we’ll even have another new enrolee.

In other news, school was supposed to start again after the winter holidays next week. But today the NSW Government extended our current COVID lockdown another week, and said all schools in Sydney would be doing home learning rather than face-to-face classes. This means my face-to-face Ethics class on Wednesday morning is cancelled, for next week at least. Given the current state of spread of the COVID Delta variant here in Sydney, I have trouble seeing that just one more week of lockdown will get it under control. They’ll play it by ear as the days go by, and I guess we’ll see.

For dinner tonight I used the leftover sweet potato, beans, and corn from Monday’s dinner, added some chopped onion and tomato and chilli and spices, and made enchiladas!

Sweet potato, beans, corn enchiladas

It was a nice change from the usual Mexican-spiced pinto beans we normally use. Really good – definitely a recipe to add to our list of semi-regulars.

New content today:

Ad-libbing dinner

It’s Monday, and the start of another week in COVID lockdown. My wife is working from home, while I had an online ethics class at 9:00 this morning. The issue was that she is set up on the dining table, which is behind me when I’m doing my Zoom lessons, so the kids would have been able to see her. So I used a background replacement to hide her and the room. This was the last lesson of media bubbles – I start a new topic with the next lesson, which will be on stealing.

Today I mostly worked on Darths & Droids, writing and producing a full 3 strips, a week’s worth. Which is pretty productive – that takes several hours of work.

For dinner tonight I tried ad-libbing a recipe, based in a quick glance of something on a cooking show I saw on TV. I basically just saw sweet potatoes, cut in half, with the inside scooped out, and stuffed with… something, I couldn’t’ tell what. I decided to go for a stuffing of mixed beans (kidney, lima, chick peas, and something else – it was a can of “4 bean mix“), fresh corn cut off the cob, and chopped cashews. I made up the recipe basically from scratch.

Sweet potato stuffed with beans, corn, and cashews

It turned out really good! My wife loved it and asked if we could have it again another day. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • half a can of “4 bean mix” or similar, kidney beans, pinto beans, etc
  • half a cob of corn kernels
  • about 1/3 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
  • cumin
  • sweet paprika
  • cinnamon
  • a small chilli

Method

  1. Wash the sweet potato and slice in half lengthwise. Bake at 240°C for… I thought it would take maybe 20 minutes, but it was more like 40-45. Until soft enough that you can scoop the middle out, leaving boats.
  2. Meanwhile mix the beans, corn, and chopped cashews. Season with ground cumin, paprika, and a little cinnamon and salt. I also added a small chopped chilli.
  3. Save the scooped out sweet potato for another day. Spoon the bean mix into the boats, drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 180°C for 10 minutes.

I just served it with some steamed broccoli, but you could do it as a side for a meat dish if you wanted, or make it a vegetarian main with something else on the side.

New content today:

Tonsil recovery day 9

My throat continues to improve. There’s little pain eating and swallowing now, but it is still pretty sore when I move my tongue around too much, and I have developed a hacking cough and it seems impossible to clear all the phlegm from the back of my throat. Well, at least it seems to be improving overall.

Today I dealt with some bathroom cleaning, and also some cleaning up of my wife’s phone. She’s been collecting thousands of photos and video clips that she’s taken over the years, and her phone was just about out of memory, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet and copy it all to our desktop computer, and delete it from her phone. There was stuff on there dating back several years.

I am in the habit of copying across photos from my phone to the computer every day, and keeping the camera roll on my phone empty, but my wife has never developed this habit, despite me reminding er that if she lost her phone she’d lose all of those photos, whereas once they’re on the computer they get backed up regularly so the chances of losing them are virtually zero. Anyway, I spent a few hours going through all the photos and videos and sorting them into suitable folders on the computer. And suddenly she has nearly 100 GB of empty space back on her phone!

The other thing I did was recopy all our music and ebooks back to her phone – it seems at some point the phone rebelled and decided to start deleting music and books. For some reason the books got lost from both our iPads as well. I dunno what it is with Apple’s management of ebooks – it’s just terrible. I’m exploring some alternative ebook reader apps now, thanks to recommendations from friends.

One Friday while shopping I saw that our local supermarket now stocks a wider range of non-alcoholic drinks. (Unlike the USA, supermarkets here do not sell alcohol – you have to go to a specialist liquor store to buy alcohol. It always freaks me out a little when I visit the US and go into a supermarket and see beer and wine on the shelves.) Anyway, along with the small range of alcohol-free wines, they also had some Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits. I’ve been meaning to try these for a while, since I like gin, but you can’t exactly drink it with wild abandon. I’ve heard that Seedlip provides the same sort of herbal/spicy flavour experience of gin, just without the alcohol. But I’ve also been reluctant to try it because it’s so damned expensive. A bottle of Seedlip costs pretty much the same as a nice bottle of gin, even though there’s no alcohol in it (and hence it doesn’t attract the alcohol excise, so they’re actually grossing more of the sale price).

But now the supermarket had it right there, and I figured this is probably about the cheapest place to buy it, so I grabbed a bottle of Seedlip Spice 94. And now I’ve tried it and can make some comments…

Well. I opened the bottle and had a sniff. It’s very subtle. You obviously don’t get that whiff of alcohol carrying the other aromas like when sniffing gin, whisky, wine, or any other alcoholic drink. So it was difficult to smell much of anything, honestly – just a vague spiciness, a bit like a cold cup of herbal tea. I poured some and had a sip neat. Yeah, totally underwhelming. It tasted like someone had put a chai-spice herbal tea bag in cold water for a while. I normally have gin with soda (I like tonic, but I find it too sweet for regular use), so I added some soda and had a swig. Yeah…. okay. I was kind of prepared to be underwhelmed, but I was amazed at how underwhelming this was as a drink.

I’m not passing final judgement yet – I’ll give it a few more chances – since I have a full bottle fo the stuff now that I paid $50 for. I might actually try it in a martini style drink, with some actual vermouth, and see what that’s like.

And in another topic, yesterday while chopping salad ingredients for lunch, I inflicted a small accidental cut on my thumb. I swear, I really like these new knives I bought a while back, but I’ve been cutting myself with them semi-regularly. I’m sure I never cut myself anywhere near this much with my old kitchen knives that had trouble maintaining a sharp edge.

I see it said often that “a sharp knife is safer than a dull one”, but honestly it seems in my experience that’s simply not true. I’m positive I’ve cut myself significantly more frequently with these lovely sharp knives. It’s not like I’m a knife novice either – I cook nearly every night and have been using knives almost daily for decades. I do get the the sharp knives are nicer to use – I really love them, but dang, they love nicking my fingers.

I’ve set up a new Irregular Webcomic! poll question to explore other people’s experience with sharp and dull knives…

New content today:

Sausage roll expedition

After writing yesterday’s entry in the early evening, I had the first night of my late night ISO Standards Zoom meeting, beginning at 11pm. The opening session is administrative stuff, and much of it was taken up with discussion of how to schedule the next meeting in October this year. Some people believe that they will be able to travel and are keen to begin starting face-to-face meetings again. Apple has offered to host a physical meeting at their offices in Cupertino. Normally I’d like to go, but there’s no way that Australians will be allowed to leave the country that soon. And there’s the prospect that ISO’s current ban on physical meetings (currently to the end of August) will be extended to October, forcing the meeting to be virtual again. But despite this, enough people were keen to try for a physical meeting that we ended up with a convoluted contingency plan that will try to encompass both options.

The next thing was to settle—if the meeting became fully virtual—what time slot it should occupy. The present meeting starts at 09:00 New York City time, which translates to 23:00 here in Sydney, and ends at 02:30 in the morning for me. Which is pretty bad…. but the chair proposed that to make things easier for the US west coast next time, who currently are beginning at 06:00, we begin the next meeting three hours later. Midday in NYC and 09:00 on the US west coast… and 03:00 here in Sydney (it’s 4 hours later since we go onto daylight saving at the start of October).

Yeah, you can bet I spoke up and pointed out that I’d have to start the meeting at 04:00, and also Japan would have to start at 02:00. After some discussion it was decided the time should be moved another 3 hours later, beginning at 07:00 Sydney, and 05:00 Japan, which was deemed acceptable by the Japanese delegates. So phew!

There was one technical session following the administrative stuff, but it was the one I personally have the least knowledge about, so I basically just listened silently and waited for the session to end so I could go to bed.

Today I slept in a little, but probably not enough. I decided instead of sitting at home all day I should go out and get some fresh air and exercise. I went on an expedition to a new cafe that was recommended to me for its sausage rolls. I’ve written up the review for Snot Block & Roll.

Back home I did a bit of work for my online ethics class planning. And made pumpkin soup for dinner. And now I need to stay up for another late night Standards Zoom meeting.

New content today:

Variant cauliflower bomb

This morning was another online ethics class, doing the “getting even” topic I mentioned on Friday. A new student signed up for the class about 15 minutes before it started, and was my first student from the USA. I’ve got students from at least 6 different countries now.

I had some things to do in the city today, so caught a train in. We no longer need to wear masks on public transport here, since there’s no COVID circulating, but it still feels a bit weird being in close quarters with so many people.

I spent a couple of hours in the city, and before coming home I visited one of my favourite bookshops. Browsing the gaming section, I found and decided to buy The Ultimate Micro-RPG Book, which looks like some good fun.

For dinner tonight I tried a variant on the cauliflower bomb which I’ve made a few times. I had half a tin of chick peas leftover from Sunday’s dinner, and decided to make hummus with them, and then realised baked cauliflower would go well with that. So I basically did the recipe replacing the honey cashew cream sauce with hummus, and it worked beautifully. Really delicious. I neglected to take any photos though, so I can’t share with you, alas.

New content today:

Triple baking

This morning I had my Monday Outschool ethics class – same subject as last Friday with different students. It was interesting because another part of the discussion was about the difference between trusting doctors versus people advocating traditional/herbal medicines. Last Friday, the students all said definitely trust the doctors more. Today they both said definitely give the herbal medicine a go first. Obviously these opinions come from their upbringing, and it’s interesting to see how that can vary across a range of children.

I took care of some odds and ends today. I had to finish writing comments on a photography standards document draft and send it off. The ISO meeting begins on Friday, with a plenary session from 8:00-9:30 pm in my time zone. That’s not so bad, but the technical sessions during the following week are all going to be 11:00 pm-02:30 am each night, for five nights in a row. That’s going to be a very tough week.

Last time we had a plenary meeting, it was in Lisbon in 2019, and I flew there with my wife. I had a week of meetings while she did sightseeing, and then we spent another week doing more sightseeing around Portugal together, so it was very pleasant. This meeting should have been in Okayama in Japan, which would have been lovely too. But COVID made sure that didn’t happen as planned.

I also made two batches of dough today – one sourdough for a loaf of bread, and one pizza dough for dinner. We just had dinner, and I baked the sourdough straight after while the oven was still hot.

The title above is “triple baking” – the other one refers to last night. My wife decided she felt like an apple for dessert, but didn’t want to just eat a raw apple because of how cold the weather was. She commented casually that I could make some apple crumble…

So I did! Peeled a couple of apples, made some oat crumble topping, and baked the result. We had it hot out of the oven, and it was delicious! Although normally I like to cook with Granny Smith apples, which are nice and tart, but all we had were my wife’s apples, which are pink ladies. I thought they’d soften more quickly than Grannies, but they really didn’t and were still a bit too firm when we ate it. Oh well. Maybe next time I’ll buy a lot of Grannies.

New content today:

Mushroom pie experiment

This morning I spent putting together my lesson for tomorrow’s online ethics class. The topic is “Trusting experts”, and raises various questions about why we trust experts and whether we should. It should be an interesting lesson tomorrow!

This evening my wife went out to an aerobic dance class, for the first time in ages – I think since we got Scully almost 3 years ago. So I was looking after Scully alone, while also cooking dinner. I had to turn off the stove in the middle of sautéing some mushrooms to take her outside for a toilet, but apart from that it was fine.

I was making a mushroom pie, the first time I’ve tried one of those. I was inspired by a mushroom and feta pie that my wife had had for lunch last week when she’d taken the week off work. I found a couple of recipes just to check what sort of seasonings or other stuff to put into it, and decided on onions and black pepper, but apart form that I just improvised the while thing myself. I used pre-made pastry that we had in the freezer, blind baked a base, filled it with sautéd mushrooms and onion, topped it with crumbled feta, and then a pastry lid.

It turned out pretty good, although the feta I got was the hard sort and didn’t melt at all as I’d hoped. Next time I’ll try some soft creamy feta and perhaps even mix it through the mushrooms to make a creamy sauce before putting it into the pie base. I didn’t take a photo to show you – we ate it so quickly since we were hungry due to eating late after my wife’s dance class.

New content today:

Big Lunch

My wife has taken this week off from work to use up some of her annual leave, and today we planned to go out for a nice lunch somewhere. We’d discussed a few options earlier in the week, but this morning she found a place that looked good and called up to book us a table for lunch, making sure we could bring Scully along.

We ended up at The Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, a suburb about half an hour’s drive north of us. We got there a bit early so we took Scully for a walk around Wahroonga Park, which is a lovely bit of parkland with small rolling hills dotted with large trees, some of which were dropping autumn leaves, as well as gazebos, benches, statues, and plenty of birds. It felt a bit like a quintessentially English park.

At the restaurant we sat out the front on a padded bench facing the street, where we could see all the people walk by. Next door was a sushi place doing really good business with people popping in to grab a bento box or whatever to take away. But the place we’d chosen was excellent, with a fancy menu and attentive waiters. Although the pasta dishes looked amazing, I opted for something a bit more lunchy and chose the barbecue beef burger, with sweet potato chips.

Angus & Brisket burger

The burger had an Angus beef patty and pulled brisket, and it was very good. I also had a chocolate thick shake, and I’m happy to say it was a serious thick shake. I’ve had some disappointing ones elsewhere, where they really should have just been called milkshakes. But this one was a huge tall traditional steel milkshake cup, filled to the brim with what was basically ice cream barely on the verge of melting. And it was richly chocolatey. It was really really good.

It was so filling that it’s now after 8pm, and I haven’t eaten anything since lunch… and I really don’t feel like having dinner.

With the rest of the day I worked on a couple of things. I had to deal with insurance stuff for my market stall. Up to now I’ve been buying public liability insurance on an ad-hoc basis from the market operator each time I had a stall. But I’m planning to do another different market next month and they don’t offer this service, so I needed to get my own liability insurance if I wanted to do the market. I did some research and found a policy that will cover me for a year, meaning I can stop buying insurance individually for each market. It’s actually a bit more expensive overall, but, well, it’s a cost of doing business – so at least it’s tax deductible.

And in between I worked on more outlines for my Big Science course. Today I completed ones for quantum mechanics and plate tectonics. I also went back over the ones I did yesterday to add linkages to the other topics – there are surprisingly many. I should draw a mind map of the whole thing when I’m done with the outlines. It will be a good graphic to show during the course.

New content today: