Friday, December 29, 2017

Slow Cooker Pork and Fennel Stew

This is serious winter comfort food.  If you haven't tried cooking with fennel, and if you, like me, can't stand the taste of licorice, fear not, fennel is delicious prepared this way.  I suggest some good quality, medium-width egg noodles for the base, paired with a hearty Zinfandel red wine.  To please both the palate and the budget, look for either a Kunde (rhymes with Sunday) or Bogle Zin.

  • 4-5 pounds pork shoulder (boneless is easier), cut in 1.5” cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 x 1.5 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 8 oz mushrooms (optional)
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Chef’s choice of noodles, rice, potatoes or favorite starch
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Heat one portion of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add onion and sliced fennel, cook until it begins to brown, about 6-8 minutes, then transfer to the slow cooker
  • Reheat skillet and add the other portion of oil
  • If mushrooms are desired, add and cook until brown, about 6 minutes
  • Add garlic and fennel seeds, cook for 2 minutes
  • Add wine and cook until the volume is reduced in half, making sure to get all the tasty scrapings off the bottom of the pan
  • Transfer the contents of the skillet to the slow cooker
  • Add the pork and top with tomatoes
  • Cook covered on low for 6-8 hours
  • Discard excess fat
  • Serve over your choice of starch, topped with Parmesan cheese

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Excel Left Lookup

Excel's VLOOKUP is a great tool to search one column of a table for a match and return data from another column.  That is, great as long as the match column is left of the data you want returned.  If it's to the right, VLOOKUP will fail you.  But a clever combination of MATCH and INDEX will save your bacon, as detailed at this link.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Electricity Shopping

We've been paying 5.4 cents per Kilowatt Hour (KwH) for the last three years and Dynergy sends a nice renewal letter with an offer of 5.49 cents per KwH for the next three years, a modest increase. But in checking their website I can get 5.29 cents for the same term, so a 2% increase becomes a 2% decrease, turning my frown upside down.  Pays to shop and a good place to start is at this State of Ohio website.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Disable Chrome Autoplay

Videos on web pages that just start playing automatically is a bit annoying, but since I normally have my speakers muted, it doesn't overly bother me.  But when multiple tabs have multiple videos playing, consuming so much CPU that it starts to bog my system down, it was time for action.  Not limited to Mac, the Chrome browser's "Autoplay policy" flag can be set to several options, with "Document user activation is required" meaning "I got to click it to play it" being the most restrictive.  You get to that flag by entering "chrome://flags" as shown below.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Split Loom Tubing Wire Cover

As promised, here is the final piece to the great kitchen cleanup, a section of black plastic tubing that is split across the top.  Cables can be inserted into the end or anywhere along the tube.  Really cleans up the mess and it's really nice in a room like a kitchen, but works just as well with the multimedia mess you might have in another room.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

ClickOnce For Chrome

In my continual battle to use Google Chrome wherever possible, I recently ran across an application that's delivered through Microsoft's "ClickOnce" technology and I was told I had to use Internet Explorer to launch it.  But a far more clever chap then I wrote a browser extension in Chrome to enable ClickOnce, at least for my Windows laptop.  Victory!

Monday, December 18, 2017

CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream

Not that I'm old yet, and in my mind that target slips further out every day, but in the last couple years struggled with some eczema, particularly in in the dryer months.  That's really irritating (no pun intended) because I've had very oily skin my whole life.  Made for some rough teenage years.

My search for a topical solution led me to this particular version of CeraVe cream. It's the best I've found to moderate the itching, a combination of the "pramoxine hydrochloride" (and they think computer people make up funny names) and the cream itself, which is thick enough to stay around all day.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mexican Chorizo Meatloaf

It takes 26 ingredients and a fair amount of chopping, but the results are more than worth the effort. The meatloaf itself is delicious, but it's the salsa-glaze that makes it special.  Be sure to put a cookie sheet below the baking dish as it's cooking, or as we learned the hard way, you'll be cleaning your oven.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Pandora from iPad to Google Home

This one just kinda blew my mind.  I noticed the familiar "cast" icon at the lower-left of the Pandora app on my iPad, which is a Google thing and looked out of place on an Apple product.  When I pressed it I saw the Google Home in the master bedroom and the Google Home Mini in my home office.  I selected the former and a couple seconds later music is playing on the Home.  I suspect this is somehow all delivered "in the cloud" and not something Apple can control.  I think I like this cloud thing.  It helps them all play nice together.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Winter Solstice

Although the winter solstice, marking the transition from shorter days (i.e. sunrise-to-sunset) to longer, is a cause for celebration, I most look forward to December 1st.  That's when the earliest sunset occurs, at 5:15 pm in my locale.  It stays there until December 13th, when sunset begins its gradual climb to 9:08 pm on June 24th.  I really like living on the western side of the eastern time zone, where daylight is shifted more towards the end of the day, where it can be enjoyed when awake, and a little more darkness in the morning is good for sleeping.

Here's a countdown timer to the upcoming solstice, in case you have a cork to pop.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The New Boy

My fraternal grandfather kept a diary for thirty years, writing something on every day from 1932 through 1961.  These diaries each contain five years, so this page from October 13 covers 1952 through 1956, making the fourth entry, "Visit Earl and family to see the new boy", the first mention in his diary of me, five days after my birth. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mountains of Christmas

Google Docs has lots of fonts available and I'll be using their "Mountains of Christmas" font for this year's Christmas cards.  By lots of fonts I mean, at the time of this post, 848 font families resulting in thousands of styles, which you can check out at this link.  I just wish I could use this in these blog posts.  C'mon Google!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Butterscotch Pudding

A Thanksgiving recipe called for heavy cream, but what to do with the rest of the quart?  Make some awesome pudding, that's what!  Another favorite from my childhood is JELL-O butterscotch pudding.  Instead of using two cups of regular milk, I combined a cup of heavy cream with a cup of skim milk, resulting in about a 20 percent fat content.  Instead of splitting the two cups of pudding the suggested four ways, I opted to pour the more satisfying super-sized three bowls you see below.

Total yumminess!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pixel 2 Stable Video

Had to check out the "super stable" video recording on my new Pixel 2 to really see how it performed, so I shot this video of walking while walking around my house. Pretty impressive and I'll have to try it out standing still and recording a sporting event.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

No-Heat Handle

Besides being a cute mug, I was surprised that when I reheated my coffee, this handle did not get hot, unlike the mug I normally use.  I guess I need to pay more attention to the "microwave-safe" jargon.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blanton Stopper Key Hooks

Blanton Bourbon bottles are known for their eight different stopper designs depicting different scenes from a horse race.  These two, with their corks cut down and a steel washer glued on, will become our new set of hooks that we hang our car keys on, a fancy replacement for the current dull plastic ones.

Monday, December 4, 2017

North America

The Northern American continent is comprised of 39 countries and territories, 25 of them in the Caribbean and 8 in Central America.  Canada is the largest country at 9,984,670 square miles followed just a couple percent behind by the United States at 9,826,675.  Greeneland comes in a distant third at 2,166,086.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Pumpkin Eggnog French Toast

The first cooked breakfast I learned to make as a young kid was French Toast, which I rarely have these days, but when someone suggested adding pumpkin eggnog, I just had to give it a try.  The results, including my traditional of sprinkling a little cinnamon and sugar on top, were outstanding.

Whip two eggs with a 1/2 cup of pumpkin eggnog, dunk three slices of bread and fry until golden brown.  And make a little scrambled eggs with the remainder.  Easy peasy.