Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chef Jack's smoked meatball recipe

Yesterday I smoked chicken, sausages, and a new first for me; meatballs.  Everything turned out great.

For anyone who wants to try my smoked meatballs, here's the basic recipe I used.

Chef Jack's smoked meatball recipe

3 pounds ground Angus sirloin
1 pound ground pork
1 cup three cheese bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup grated Romano cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
½ cup whole milk
1 tbs freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs Tabasco or other pepper sauce
1 tbs granulated garlic
1 tsp sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp smoked or hot paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp Carolina Reaper Pepper Flakes (Optional)

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and weigh out 5 ounce portions of meat, press together and shape into balls and place on smoking rack.  Smoke until a minimum internal temperature of 160. About  1.5 to 2 hours at 225 to 250 degrees.

Makes 20 5 ounce before smoking meatballs.  Serve with BBQ sauce or your own dipping sauce.  I mixed 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/8th cup yellow mustard, dried dill, granulated garlic and a 1/2 cup of spicy honey BBQ sauce which made an excellent dip.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Review: Meijer's Curbside Pickup Service

So I tried Meijer​'s curbside pickup for the first time today.  Early this morning I had created an order of about 25 items for the Cascade Michigan Meijer I use.  Below are some pros and cons for the process.

o For a large or heavy order this saves you from having to fight the usual Meijer crowds and their inability to ever have sufficient checkout lanes open unless you go at 2 AM or some other ungodly hour for shopping.
o Process was fast;  I drove up to the curbside pickup station, announced myself, and my order was brought out in about 7 minutes.  My credit card was swiped, my groceries loaded into the trunk, and I was good to go.
o Agent was friendly and cheerful.

o Agent could not shut my trunk.  She tried several times.  I got out of the car and shut the trunk with no issue using one hand.
o Agent was unable to give me a receipt as her receipt printer was not working.  She seemed to have no idea what the issue was or how to fix it.  As I am a mPerks customer I knew I could get my receipt online so no worries for me and I told her I did not need a receipt.
o Agent had trouble understanding me over the speaker/mike when I checked in.  Had to say my name three times and then spell it.  There was no wind or other background noise.
o The ordering system is not 100% accurate.  Some items I knew the store had did not show up online when I was creating my order.
o Takes awhile to go through the online ordering though subsequent orders should be easier as you can bring up past orders.
o As there's a flat rate for your order regardless of the size it's not worth using to just pick up a few items.
o Scheduling could be better;  after placing my 25 item order the first pickup time was almost 12 hours later.  There were no other cars in the curbside area when I made my pickup.

For things like produce, meats, etc. you are basically at the stores mercy, though there is a comment field for every item you order.  I ordered some boneless skinless chicken breasts, some ground beef, and some produce and was quite pleased with the results of what was selected for me.  It will be interesting to see if this is maintained as I envisioned damaged produce and extra gnarly chicken, but it was almost as if my mom had picked the items out for me.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Falco's Fall Chili Recipe

6 Red hot chili peppers
8 Serrano peppers
3 Habanero peppers
3 Bulbs of garlic
1 Large white onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon each of the following powdered spices
   Cayenne pepper 
   Hot chili powder
1 tablespoon Carolina Reaper pepper flakes*
4 Pounds chopped chili beef
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons masa or all purpose flour
1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained

Sour cream & extra sharp cheddar to taste

* Carolina Reaper flakes are quite spicy and in fact are hotter than the Ghost Pepper..  For those who can't stand this much heat simply omit this.

Yesterday was the first cool fall day we had here in West Michigan.  I decided to make a pot of spicy chili to chase away the chill.  Made with beef, red kidney beans, fresh Serrano, habanero, red hot chili peppers, garlic, and onion this recipe makes 8 bowls of chili. For some extra heat there's a tablespoon of Carolina Reaper pepper flakes.  It's a good amount of work prepping all the fresh veggies but I knew it would be worth it for the taste it would impart.

The aforementioned veggies

Remove the stem from each pepper and cut in half lengthwise. Removed the seeds or you can leave them in for extra heat of course. Cut the halves in half again lengthwise and proceed to dice into smaller pieces.  Cut the white onion in half and dice each half as well.

A nicely diced onion if I do say so myself

Vegetables all diced

For the garlic remove the cloves from the bulb.  I 'peeled' them buy hitting them with a meat mallet to make removing the skin easier and then hit them again to slightly crush each clove.  I like chunks of garlic in my chili, but you could also dice each clove or run them through a garlic press.

After the vegetables were all prepped I sauteed them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter over medium heat,  and added a teaspoon of salt.  I reduced the heat to low after 3 minutes and covered the pot and let them cook for 10 minutes.

Next I added the chopped beef and the tomato sauce along with the powdered spices and Carolina Reaper pepper flakes, bringing the heat up to medium until the chili began to simmer.

Four pounds of beef

I reduced the heat to low letting it simmer for about an hour, stirring it several times.   I drained and added the red kidney beans and simmered for an additional 10 minutes and then, to thicken the chili a bit, I added the masa flour mixed with a small amount of water.  Do this slowly while stirring  until it is incorporated..

Looks pretty tasty!

After ladling some chili into a bowl it was topped with extra sharp cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.  It really chased the chill of the fall day away!

For those who live in the Grand Rapids area all the ingredients except the Carolina Reaper Flakes were procured at Forest Hills Foods, an excellent store with a great selection.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Windows 10 Upgrade Experience

From start to finish on my quad-core i9 series CPU with 12 GB of DDR3 memory, an NVidia GTX 670 video card, and a solid state disk drive (SSDD) used for the C drive it took an hour and 5 minutes from start to finish of the install.  Note during the install It's a good idea to customize the settings a bit where that option is displayed  otherwise your computer is setup to share your contacts, typing information, and web browsing history with Microsoft and 'selected partners'.

Known problems thus far is one of my external disk drives is no longer accessible and my video card is no longer recognized by PowerDVD 14.  I am a reboot away from the video card issue I believe as I have manually updated that driver.  And I just noticed while proofreading this post that Windows has no audio devices installed and I have a couple of unknown devices shown in Device Manager so there are still obviously some issues.  When I went to do a test connection to the work network via Firefox and our SSL VPN it stated I had no plugin installed yet it still worked and let me connect.

I use Backblaze for backing up my files and it can be kind of finicky but as far as I can tell it seems to be fine and has preserved my backup state  which is great as I have close to 7 terabytes backed up with them and that initial sync took many months!

In spite of the issues above I'll have to say that overall Windows 10 is OK.  It's easy to see it's targeted at tablets and touch screen PCs and I'll have to tweak the UI somewhat to take care of it as I have no desire for the mini tiles interface that appears when one clicks the Start Menu.  Windows 10 does not seem appreciably faster navigating around, using the control panel or system management tools but it is not any slower either, and I'll see if it can shave any time off my already fast 24 seconds boot time I had in Windows as soon as I reboot.

One thing to me that is impressive I have a very old and dirty Windows 7 install.  I had been putting off upgrading my C drive to a bigger drive as the current SSDD is only 250 GB until after installing Windows 10, so the fact that the install ran to completion and allowed me to login and web surf etc. is a testament to the stability and quality of the installation.  Yes, I have a few issues but considering the install has to work across potentially millions of dissimilar PCs it's easy to understand why there can be a few bumps.  I would have liked to just do a clean install but with the free version you have to install it via an upgrade and then you can make a kit for a clean install.  Go figure, huh?

I'll let anyone who is interested know how this proceeds for me.  I have a LOT of Programs to check, and the first one I tried had the video card issues so I do not know if that is a harbinger of things to come.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Mission To Mars Boarding Pass

I just sent my name to fly aboard NASA's Mars mission, InSight, scheduled for launch March 2016!  The InSight lander will listen to the heartbeat of Mars to find out how the rocky planets formed.

Get your own boarding pass on NASA's #JourneyToMars!    

Send your name here: