Another bucket, vicar..?

When I interviewed for my first job with the RNZAF in 2010, I was on my way to Wellington to deliver a lecture at Victoria University and the nice folk at Ohakea offered to put me up for the night on the Officers Mess. There, I was introduced to ‘the bucket’, a glass container resembling a wine glass filled with red wine…I could never tell a merlot from a shiraz but ever since I have had a love/hate relationship with reds…I love to drink them but often hate the mornings after…

Fuller than these..!

I don’t drink that much now – to be honest, I normally drank more when away from home, overnighting in transit accommodation, – some of which was enough to drive anyone to drink –  but often because of the company of other similar limbo’d transients…I  still love a red and so cast favourable eyes over recipes with a red content…

This is a recipe I tried 4-5 years ago but didn’t quite get it to realise its full potential. My experimentation with sous vice has rekindled my interest in slow cooking  and this was one in the archive that screams for a long slow flavour-kindling simmer…

Unfortunately, this record dates back many years, before I made a habit of noting the original source material, according to the file metadata I first recorded it in 2007 but I;m not able to attribute it back to a sure source.

Preparation is simple: take all this stuff and drop it in the slow cooker before work, come home, put on some rice and that’s it:

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

1 cup of Plum Sauce

1 cup of Red Wine

500g of shoulder pork steaks, diced

1 apple, peeled and diced

1 onion, diced

The end product has a delicious medley of flavours and textures that is a real winner: the plum sauce and apple are quite tart but offset by the sweet cinnamon and brown sugar. The flavour is very strong and the abundance of sauce means that a little goes a long way: the sauce-saturated rice if very filling and obviates the need for lots of the solid casserole itself…

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Plated up with rice was so yummy, I forgot to take a pic – three times!!

Very keen to do this again…I don’t think that the type of meat will matter much so my next go-round will be steak-based in the sous vide…and draw me a couple more cups closer to the last of the white rice…

Cranberries and broccoli

P70317-194038Not a meal that I had planned or even remotely considered but the combination flavours looked too good to ignore when it popped up in my daily Sugar Soil feed. I already had a roll of corned beef in the sous vide for a 72 hour session and this salad looked like it would provide a tidy offset to the natural saltiness of the beef…

P70317-194027I made it as per the recipe – too simple for words – and fished the beef roll out of the sous vide as soon as the salad came out of the oven. Three days in hot water had broken down any chewy gristley bits in the beef and render it super soft and tender. As expected the sweetness of the cranberries, the bite of the balsamic broccoli worked really well with the salty beef – the salty flavour may have been accentuated by the sous vide ‘cook in a bad’ process: further experimentation will see…

Three days in the hot water was too much for the ziploc bag and it split along the seems as I lifted it out. Subsequent cooks I’ve sealed the meat in a proper vacuumed sealed bag. The heavier plastic and total seal really do make a big different to the richness and depth of the final flavour and I think this is how we’ll do future extended duration sous vides.

The salad lasted three big dinners but the corned beef was just too more-ish and disappeared quickly on toast with fresh sliced tomatoes for breakfast and as inter-meal snacks…there’s another in the freezer already and it’ll be making an appearance soon…

 

 

 

A four power tool weekend

It wasn’t that restful but it was a good weekend. An early start for an ambulance shift in Taumarunui saw an extension into the afternoon after two jobs in the morning…no more eventuated but the afternoon was a good opportunity to get some hands-on with the on-board monitors. I got home with the best intentions of starting on the lawns but my pre-mow poo patrol took us into twilight.

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“Never repeat”? I wish but unlikely…

That, with a 4AM alarm, saw an easy dinner of sous vide corn beef with another crack at Jen Rice’s broccoli and cranberry salad.

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Sous vide brings out the colour in red meat…

The original recipe on the Anova website recommended cooking for 48-72 hours (gives a whole new meaning to slow cooking!) but the follow-on comments suggested that this was over-cook and likely to result in a mushy mess. As the uncooked beef felt a little mushy, I let it run in the sous vide for ‘only’ about ten hours. I’ve mastered by sous vide technique and use clothes pegs to secure a shopping bag around the top of the cooking pot to prevent the water evaporating and then stack a few tea towels on top to keep in the heat. Comfortable that running low on water during an untended sous vide won’t be an issue, I could have left this on much longer – just would have needed to have a Plan B for dinner on Saturday night…

While nice, the corned beef was still a little gristley…I expect that a 3-4 times increase in the cook time would address this…Unlike the normal cooking method for corned beef i.e. in a pot of water, sous vide traps all the fluids and flavours in the bag. With corn beef this means that the salt taste is much more defined…not so much stronger as sharper…definitely onto something with this dish! The salty beef works so well with the sweetness of the cranberries and the bitter effect of the balsamic broccoli.

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Dessert was a nibble on these coconut almond cookies – sweeter than the ones I made last year – than leaven the coconut almond meal (which is quite heavy) with homeground flour and coconut flour. It also has more sugar so are a tad sweeter. These are really filling and it only takes a couple to fill any post-main gaps…They’re based on this recipe from Celebrating Sweets but modified to lighten the heavier meal left-over from my nut milk production…

I’m not sure what scales exist for measuring the satisfaction of an outdoor working day but the number of power tools used must surely be one of them. Sunday was a glorious bluebird day that boded well for getting on top of lawns and clearing the scrubby self-seeds from the lounge windows outlook. Four power tools this day…I fired up the cheap Chinese chainsaw and diced up the logs that had been sitting opposite the garage for months, then laid into the scrub in front of the lounge.

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The plan is to eventually open access into all the punga groves in front of the lounge…

Powertool #2 was the dropsaw mounted on an old school desk that we use for dicing up wood for the chippy, anything less than about five inches in thickness. It makes reducing logs to chippy-sized chunks a breeze and the saw dust goes into the compost bin as a dry mix to offset the wet mass waste from the kitchen.

The old reliable mulcher was #3 into the mix, converting leaves and smaller branches into four bags of mulch to fill out hollows in the ground for later landscaping. The mulcher has had a long hard life but keeps on keeping on. It’s more than paid for itself in unpaid dumping fees at the transfer station and the associated fuel costs for the round trip with the each trailer load of green waste…

It’s been a very wet not-summer – the recent break of ten days or so of sunny weather were the longest such break we have had for the better part of a year – and I have resorted to using the big ride-on to just keep on top of the lawns and prevent them totally running away. Even they were quite long and it felt good to finally be able to power up the mower and knock them down to a respectable level. Even more satisfying to be able to mow around the area when the now diced logs had been residing for so long. The many loads of grass went with the mulch to smooth out hollows in the ground for later compacting and shaping….

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So nice to finally clear this area…the baths will go up on blocks next…

It’s been a long time since I had such a satisfying day in the garden: I crashed with a V (a now rare sweet treat!) to start on the next series of JAG (so shoot me!) as my reward…

Literal green pizza

Playing with toys again…had to wait weeks before the Todo pizza makers showed up again at NZSale…only a third of the price they go for at Mighty Ape…Yes, I know I can make pizzas in the oven but I was interested in something that might offer a more portable pizza-ing experience and a new toy (plus it IS in Deadpool colours)

p70101-192150I made a few conventional dough-based pizzas but I’d been hearing for a while about vegetable bases for pizzas. Being gifted a full head of broccoli seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this (plus a head of broccoli goes a loooong way in conventional meals).

I found this recipe at Gothamist. It was easy, easy, easy…I put some baking paper down case it stuck but I need not have worried: the base pan is super-non-stick.

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The topping was just whatever was in the fridge: tomato, pineapple, yellow capsicum and some mozzarella…

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Forgot to add the tomato sauce base (store-bought pasta sauce) so applied over the top of the other toppings…

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Came out OK…cooked for about 20 minutes…even though the base is a full head of broccoli, the taste is quite subtle and not as overpowering as you might expect – probably a good way to sneak soem veges into unwilling younger diets…

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I use the pizza make quite often with a variety of bases, including store-bought ones which are good to rush meals and also wraps, although these need some care so that the more liquid toppings don’t flow off the edge…

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix i n accordance with the recipe on line but next time I thin l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I foud that the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…

‘Cado, pineapple and ‘mato salad

Last night, I mentioned that, I was still searching for a suitable side to go with my Kumara curry and salmon hash browns…after five years, can you believe it? I’ve been getting by with rocket salads but I kinda hate rocket…if I’m absolutely honest about it…

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So, on Wednesday afternoon, I sat down with a lot of coffee and considered the problem. What textures and flavours would complement but not compete with the textures and flavours of the hash browns and salmon. There is just a hint of curry in the hashes, mixed with the salt of the salmon and smooth cheesiness of the sour cream that holds the stack together. Overall it’s quite sweet and smooth.

It all came together quickly after I thought of an avocado base….smooth and sweet…with pineapple, sweet with a fibrous texture…with diced tomato…more tart and something else to bite into. Originally I was going to warm this mix in the microwave – it is winter after all – but opted for a natural heat from a sauce derived from the fried avocado tacos at The Guardian by blending all these together:

1 cup of sour cream

2 small chillies

2 gloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of lime juice

1 bunch of coriander

a smidgen of salt and pepper

The black rice was an afterthought left over from the previous night’s beets, feta and rice…I wasn’t really sure what to do with it otherwise but it worked well in our salad.

The first night I only used a teaspoon-sized dollop of the sauce on the salad – wasn’t enough to appreciate all the flavours. I had one hash stack left over plus about a cup and a half of the salad and other stuff in the fridge from a  week of cooking that I needed to consume to free up fridge space.

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So this is Take Two: one curry kumara salmon stack reheated in the microwave (it was already cooked: normally, I would keep the hash mix uncooked), with a goodly amount of greek yogurt on top, with the salad accompanied by a decent-sized dollop of the coriander and chili sauce, topped with feta from the beets and rice dinner…

Mmmm…primo!!!! A great blend of flavours and textures, with bonus points for good use of left-overs…less points for unused salmon which I just remembered is still sitting in the fridge…

…so tomorrow’s challenge may involve smoked salmon, streaky bacon, feta, sour cream, greek yoghurt, a tomato and an avocado. The rest of the pineapple – all fresh here no canned stuff – is destined for smoothies with banana, chia seed, coconut milk and tumeric…

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Good for the Soul

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So far this winter has been more wet than cold…three winter’s ago, we had already had some serious snow by now…
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This is a time when root vegetables, carrots, potatoes, parsnip, kumara, etc, are seasonal and thus cheap at the moment. I’ve been investing heavily in freezable storage containers to store the vegetable largesse as soup…

I scored half a large bag of potatoes that survived the ‘Kune Carrot Carnival a couple of weeks ago and scored the net for a variety of tasty light things to do with potato. There are surprisingly few variations on the theme of potatoes, less than consume large quantities of the target vegetable….

Although not a big consumer, this recipe combined potato with chicken and cheese. Like most soups, it is simple and quick to make.

Ingredients

100 grams of butter (probably should have used coconut oil but didn’t think of that at the time)
1 onion diced
3 carrots diced
3 spring onions (the recipe calls for celery but I’ve gone off that for now)
1/3 cup of flour
2 potatoes diced
2 cups of coconut milk (the recipe calls for cow but I don’t have that in the fridge anymore apart from occasional small quantities for guest brews)
1 teaspoon of black sea salt (yes, you could be boring and just use normal salt but I’m trying to stay away from processed foods: if it’s white, it’s bad)
3 cups of chicken stock
1 decent size organic chicken breast (after the Hot Doc’s warning about the growth additives that go into commercial chicken, I avoid it now) diced
1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar/Colby/tasty cheese
Fresh parsley and or coriander, finely chopped

Directions

Melt the butter in the pan
Add the onions, carrots and spring online and cook for 3-4 minutes
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir it in.
Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, potatoes and chicken.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes.
Slowly add and stir in the cheese until it has all blended into the soup.

Sprinkle with the parsley and coriander. Serve with stick bread sliced longways, or toasted jalapeño cornbread

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I’ll be making this again, for sure, not only is it tasty as and filling. I’ve already had a few requests for it and one can’t ignore one’s fan base. Changes I would make apart from those listed above? Probably only to add a diced parsnip: I forgot I have a bag of them in the pantry: it’s sweetness will go well with the chicken and cheese flavours…

Pure | The Daily Post

DSCF9555For this week’s challenge, share a photo of something pure — it can be a person, an object, or a moment.

Source: Pure | The Daily Post

Pure…strawberries…no additives…just naturally pure…sweet and tasty…

Thinking about pure got me on the thought path of purify and a chance to review when I am on my green journey. ‘They’ say that you need do something for six weeks before it becomes habit…I’m now six months in to the journey, taking its start from when I purged – in a most unhealthy manner – all the junk foods from the house. It’s now been six months since I had crisps/chips where I used to knock off a big bag at a time; and maybe three months since I last had a chocolate bar: those Whitaker’s L&P slabs are still just too good to walk away from entirely: who would ever have thought that anyone could successfully combine a chocolate bar and a fizzy drink to mindlessly well..?

The journey is pretty stable now: I’ve settled on the core elements and binned some the trial components. I never much liked the rice milk and so that’s gone and I don’t miss the coconut water even though there’s still a bottle in the pantry I need to polish off: for the most part, good old-fashioned filtered water does the trick – pure as well as it come straight off the roof. I’ve stocked up on bulk chia seed, black rice and sliced almonds from Happy and Healthy, and bulk coconut milk powder from Naturally Abundant. Fresh fruit and veges depend on what’s in season – with just a few out of season treats – bananas being the core staple for smoothies and sugar for baking.

I am becoming a creature of culinary habit – not necessarily a bad thing – starting with porridge and stewed apple mixed with a little coconut milk: the cocnut milk adds a great and unexpected sweet twist to the texture of the porridge and semi-tart apple. I follow this with a slab of homemade herby wholemeal toast with apple butter – a new addition to the pantry that is so tasty and simple, if time-consuming, to make; depending of my degree of personal organisation in the morning, toast may be consumed in the car on the way to work. My morning cuppa is evolving as well – it used to be simple Earl Grey with a little cow but now I am looking for a black tea that will blend well with the coconut milk that has replaced cow’s milk almost entirely now. I still keep some 250ml bottles of milk in the freezer for just in case visitors who still prefer something a little more conventional.

I think that I have finally mastered the coconut bannofee smoothie: the key was the coconut milk powder. I now dice a single banana (reduced from the original two) into the blender with a heaped teaspoon of Jed’s #5 coffee and a table spoon of coconut milk powder and zoom it all together for 30 seconds. It’s quick, it’s easy, it tastes great with competing hints of banana, coconut and coffee.

Lunch now is a bannofee smoothie and either a vege smoothie with cabbage or spinach, carrot (for its the ‘Kune carrot season), LSA or flaxseed, and water; or Jen’s pineapple, banana and tumeric smoothie mixed with a 50/50 combo of coconut milk (from the powder) and homemade almond coconut milk. Pre-assembling and freezing a couple of dozen smoothie bags – just add LAS and water – was a good move and, as I polish off the last of the first two batches, I run up some more – I just have to remember to take one out to thaw the night before…

If personal organisation in the morning trends towards zero, and I don’t the smoothies done, not too worry: the Pihanga Cafe in the side of the Chateau does a great and very filling kids menu (burger and chips, pasta, pizza or chicken tenders on a potato mash)for $8.00, $6.00 with a Whakapapa Village community card! Occasionally, I might supplement this with one or two apple oatmeal or almond coconut cookies – both very chewy and filling – or a couple of slices of my jalapeno or kumara bread – now that I have them sussed – toasted…

Dinner is where the variables come out – I am still slowly working to consume all the meat stockpiled in the big freezer. Items like chicken pieces that can be fried go into the air fryer with kumara and potato chips – just got given a big bag of spuds left over from teh ‘Kune Carrot Carnival so need to work on consuming these…watch this space for variations of potato soup themes. Other things that be can be diced or otherwise mixed in, go into one of my repertoire of stews and curries, to be eaten with rice – still currently white but switching to brown once the last of the white is finally gone. That’ll just leave a few small roasts to find something creative and healthy to do with…

So back to my ‘purify’ thought…yes, I think that I am slowly purifying my diet, reducing if not entirely eliminating processed foods and working more and more with the raw (literally) materials…I still get the munchies some evenings but an orange generally deals to these. I know there’s ice cream in the fridge and that I can make a dessert in a cup in minutes but I just can’t excite myself about that sort of food. Don’t panic though..!! I haven’t totally gone off either ice cream or dessert but I’m certainly not hanging out for or consuming either in anything like the quantities that I used to…watch this space for my crack at raindrop cake dessert with ice cream and a passion-fruit (or maybe tamarillo, I haven’t quite decided yet) coulis…

Is it actually achieving anything..? Well…yes…most definitely…although it’s getting into winter here and temperatures are dropping, I’m not eating more so my weight is holding around 87kg; I am sleeping less but way better, and I feel good…thanks Bubble...

Beets, feta and rice

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Source: Dream | The Daily Post

This is one of those kitchen experiences where everything just came together perfectly…a dream to prepare and more so to consume…

The foundation was another of Jen Rice’s cracker recipes, Roasted Beets With Goat Cheese And Honey…if you have any interest at all in spicing up your kitchen and your diet, you really must check out Jen’s site Sugar Soil: it’s chock full of great ideas and cues to try different ingredients. Living in rural New Zealand, our local shops don’t have the same range of more exotic items as larger centres: at the moment, I’m making regular purchases from Happy and Healthy for things like root tumeric, agar, black rice and bulk almonds and chia seeds.

Anyway…as I’ve discussed on a couple of occasions previously, my green journey is driven by a desire to eat and be more healthy and less by any philosophical issues – although the Hot Doc’s insights into what gets pumped into commercial chicken and cattle gives me pause – so I’ve not gone entirely vegetarian or diary-free, just adjusted my habits for more healthy outcomes…which is why I’m quite comfortable with the dairy content of this particular dish…

As you can see, it is quite simple to prepare but I did make some minor changes:

I thought that I was buying baby beets at the supermarket: I was but it was only when I opened the packets to actually use them that I realised that they were precooked. I should have and will in future just buy normal beetroot.

Jen’s cooking time for this is up to four hours in the oven – I don’t get home from work til around 6 and there is no way that I will be waiting til after 10PM for dinner. My cunning plan was to just toss it all in the slow cooker while I was at work. This sounded like a good plan until I found that the beets were precooked.

I wanted a rice base to bulk it out as a meal – as writ in the original recipe it is more a snack or an entree than a meal in its own right – so set up a cup of black rice to pre-soak through the day so that the only cooking and delay in the evening would be cooking the rice.

I couldn’t find any goat feta locally so opted for the stuff from cows…I think I’ll survive.

I used black sea salt instead of normal salt – I bought some of this just to try but then found I had run out of normal salt any way so it is going into anything calling for salt.

I warmed the honey so it would mix better with the balsamic and spread over the beets.

I was worried that the precooked beets would just turn into mush after a day in the slow cooker. I needn’t have worried as they were still nice and firm when I nervously lifted the lid off that evening.

From there it was just a matter of flicking the rice cooker to ‘cook’ and dicing up a third of the feta…and then racing up to the National Park Village just before it closed to get the Greek yogurt that I had forgotten on my way home – they had none so I had to settle for natural yogurt: not a biggie for this non yogurt connoisseur. They only had a mega container though so will be applying yogurt to the next week or so of meals just to burn it up…

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Yes, my plating still needs work but OM-bloody-G!!! Did this taste good or what??? The best meal I have eaten in a long time – if I do say so myself – even better than the coriander tacos from Eat in Ohakune or my meal at Kokako the last time I was in Auckland and I COOKED IT!!!!

The challenge now is to be able to recreate this success next time. yes, it is possible that the sugars in the beets and the honey contributed to some extent to my sky-rocket level of satisfaction and enjoyment but then my serving also filled me up…

Whether by accident, chance or skill (most likely one of the first two!), this meal offers a great combination of texture and flavour:

The soft smooth beet, yoghurt and cheese is offset by the texture of the black rice.

The sweetness of the beets and rice is balanced by the more tart cheese and yoghurt.

Even the colours work well with the dark red of the beets and the black of the rice contrasted nicely by the lighter cheese and yoghurt.

There’s not really anything that I would change about my ingredients or preparation of this dish – if it ain’t broke… – other than use raw beets next time and see if I can find some Greek yoghurt…This was the first time that I had used the black sea salt and the black rice but both performed well: many recipes mention the need to soak the black rice overnight but it came out well after soaking through the day and also came out of the rice cooker, even after presoaking, better and cleaner than normal white rice…

15 out of 10 on the yummilicious scale!!!!

Hot stuff

Plans for dinner last night didn’t start so well…I was a bit unsure about the meat that I had thawed out during the day so the dogs got a treat for dinner…

Jen Rice’s beer and jalapeño cornbread was already a contender and I had bought some jalapeños and chillies on my way back from the Rangipo Dune field on Monday evening…I had thought that I had bought a couple of cans of Guiness for cooking purposes previously but couldn’t find them anywhere so went with this instead…

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The recipe is quite simple, not much more than mix all the ingredients and bake in a greased pan, so I won’t repeat it here unless I end up changing it at all.

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Almost ready for the oven

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With the butter drizzled over the top before baking – not sure this was a good idea…

It was quite delish though and I was sorely stretched to wait for the recommended 30 minute cool down period before removing it from the pan and slicing the first slice off…the combined aroma of fresh bread and jalapeño wafting out of the kitchen was irresistible…

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Even small slices like these are very filling but I need to think some more on where this might fit on the health scale…probably about midway as there is nothing inherently unhealthy in it, i.e. no sugar but it is three cups of white flower (although I could have added some bran had I thought about it) plus the beer. I used bottled jalapeños and canned corn: I’d prefer fresh next time if I can find some…

The top crust is quite crumbly, possibly due to the butter drizzled over the top before baking. Next time, like, probably tonight, I may try this again but deleting the beer and just putting it through the breadmaker. I think this may give me a denser loaf and less wastage from crumbing – this is too good to waste one speck!!

Have created this, I was a bit lost as to what to have with it and took the lazy option of a can of soup from the pantry – there is probably a reason that it was on special: the only reason that I would buy soup…it wasn’t very nice: well, certainly not a shade on our home-made soups. I tried a spice of jalapeño bread toasted with butter this morning and that was very nice – only later did I remember that I have some dipping sauces in the pantry that I bought because I liked the containers…

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I can’t complain as I’ve had a really good break with the weather while I have been consuming some leave – having the truck (still) at the ‘doctors’ has been a bit of a limiting factor as the courtesy car they gave me is way thirsty than the mighty Ssangyong and it’s only intended for local running – but it is a bit of a crappy day today so there go my intentions to finish off the framing for the roof over the deck on the cottage…

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I made a good start yesterday…it’s not a particularly complex task but made all the more difficult because the design that I inherited in this thing isn’t the greatest and the original construction leaves a lot to be desired: almost nothing is square and the builders took a lot of shortcuts. The spacing on the original roof supports over the deck was only a few cm less than the 660mm width of the supplied roofing iron so my first attempt had to be taken down and redone at 400mmm spacing…

….so insidey jobs today…more cleaning…updating my paper model database and more progressing on this beast…

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It’s not really as chaotic as it looks…just want to get all the foam-reinforced parts ready for sanding (outside) once we get some nice weather again…

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…most of the larger sub-assemblies are done…

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Just debating whether the day deserves a fire or not…