Tuesday, February 26, 2008

KitchenAid Repair

When I was in culinary school, I purchased a KitchenAid Professional 6 stand mixer under a group purchase. I used the mixer twice; it got hot and quit working. Because I obtained it through a group purchase, it was quite a hassle to return it, so I didn't. In retrospect, I should have went through all the hoops, but working my way through college demanded nearly all of my time. As a result, it sat in storage for many years. This weekend I got it out and took it apart. I deduced that it must be a blown thermal fuse, but I couldn't find it. Today, I disassembled it further and found the fuse in the motor housing (the logical place to put it). I removed and tested it to find that it had indeed blown. A quick trip to Radio Shack yielded a new one for only $1.83. The only problem is the old one was set to blow at 100ºC while the new one blows at 128ºC. I decided that I would just have to be careful that it doesn't heat up again. So now I'm ready to make some bread!!

So, why did it blow in the first place? Because I didn't read the manual... Yes, even chefs are fallible. It turns out that I was kneading dough on 1st speed because 2nd speed seemed to shake and abuse the machine too much for the particular recipe. However, the fan is connected to the rear of the motor and does not turn fast enough on 1st speed to sufficiently cool it. Moral of the story: Always knead dough on second speed - even if the machine shakes a bit.

DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be a tutorial. If you lack sufficient knowledge of electronics, DO NOT attempt to fix this yourself. Also, DO NOT replace the fuse with one that is rated at a higher temperature than 100ºC - I am going to install the correct fuse in my model as soon as I can order it online (Radio Shack did not carry the 100ºC fuse).

The disassembled mixer with the motor removed.

The square spot is where the thermal fuse was located.

The offending fuse.

The reassembled mixer.

Close-up view.

The mixer in action!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Warpharin Ale

Tonight I tapped the long awaited Warpharin Ale (named after our band, NOT brewed with blood thinners). The idea was to determine what each band member prefers in a beer, then customize a brew to please everybody. After careful consideration, I decided to rule out stouts and porters, and opted for an American Amber Ale. I thought a session beer would be very appropriate. I also thought I would avoid an intense hop bitterness, and go for hop flavor and aroma; partially because of the current hop shortage. I chose Cascade hops that impart a slight citrus flavor. Next, I added a full pound of honey malt to provide a nutty and caramel flavor. A half pound of Belgian Caramunich malt provided excellent head retention as observed in the photo. I also added a bit of dark brown sugar to lighten the body and add a bit of sweetness. Lastly, I pitched Safeale S-04 dry yeast for a very clean fermentation without obvious esters or yeasty aromas. Also, it was fermented at a chilly 60ºF, which facilitates a nice clean flavor.

Without further ado, my official review:

Warpharin Ale
American Amber Ale
4.84% ABV

Appearance: A deep amber color with an light brown rocky head that eventually fades to a thin layer. A significant amount of lacing is apparent on the glass after the beer is gone.

Aroma: Strong caramel and honey aromas. Light hop presence, but noticeable. No yeast character is apparent. Slight alcohol vapor, but not overwhelming.

Flavor: Deep caramel and a bit sweet. Moderately malty with a slight nutty character.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth with a fair amount of carbonation. The residual sugars slightly coat the tongue without completely shutting out the hop bitterness.

Drinkability: Very drinkable as a good session beer should be. All in all, the beer might be slightly unbalanced toward the malt side. Currently, the IBU's are approximately 29, and I might up them to 34 for the next batch. It's still a very delicious brew that I would deem a success!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

After the Eclipse

A special thanks go out to Ken and John who were both kind enough to remind me about the lunar eclipse tonight. I didn't take any pictures during the eclipse, but I really liked the fiery glow of the moon afterwards. I only wish I had a telescope to get a better view. Maybe when Ken gets his, I'll take some pictures through it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Poached Pear Breakfast

OK, so it was more like noon before the pears were finally done, but it was still the first meal of the day. I mixed about a cup and a half of sugar with enough water to cover two peeled pears. I added some honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla to the mix and brought to a simmer until everything dissolved. I then added the pears and poached for over an hour. When the pears were nearly fork tender, I removed some of the cooking liquid and reduced it into a sauce. You could use wine in this recipe as well to add complexity. For me, it was too early in the day to pop a bottle of wine, but they still turned out delicious.

Soup of the Day

Roasted Butternut Squash and Potato Soup:

Halve one small butternut squash (reserve the stringy inside bits) and spray with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Peel 4 or 5 small yukon gold potatoes and halve. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper in the pot that you are going to make the soup in. Put the squash and potatoes on a sheet pan and roast at 400ºF until slightly browned. Lower the temp to 350ºF and bake until fork tender (about an hour). Meanwhile, melt about two tablespoons of butter in the soup pot. Sweat about half an onion (diced), 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (minced), and the stringy bits.

When the vegetables are done, add the potatoes to the pot and scrape the squash from the shell with a spoon. Be careful not to get the squash rind in the soup. Roughly mash up the vegetables with a fork and cover with vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water. Bring to a simmer for at least five minutes. Purée with an immersion blender while adding enough warm milk (or cream) until very smooth. Adjust the consistency with milk and season to taste. This recipe can be seasoned with various spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, paprika, cumin (not all together, though). I chose a bit of paprika and habanero powder which gave it a nice kick. Garnish with Jalapeño peppers, yogurt, and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Red Curry with Potatoes and Tofu

Last night, we had a bunch of Yukon Gold potatoes to use up, so I decided to whip up a curry. Curries are great for utilizing leftover stuff, so I proceeded to clean out my fridge. For this recipe, I seared the tofu in peanut oil, then set it aside. Next, I sautéed onions, orange bell pepper, potatoes, garlic, and red curry paste. I deglazed with chicken stock and a bit of water - enough to cover the potatoes so that they would simmer. When the potatoes were about half way done, I added a half can of coconut milk, and a big handful of frozen spinach. When the potatoes were nearly done, I added the tofu back in to warm. I garnished with green onions and served with white rice.

Have you noticed that I REALLY like Thai food?

Gloria's Candies: First Attempt

Well, our first experiment wasn't a complete failure. My instructions from the Mexican cooks were: Cook sugar and milk for a long time while continually stirring, then add pecans. Sure, it was a little vague, but I can make it work. Basically, I poured all of the granulated sugar I had into a sauce pan and began heating it; meanwhile, I covered it by about an half inch with 2% milk. We simmered and stirred it until it was nicely caramel colored and at the soft ball stage. I should mention that I also added a bit of 100% maple syrup at the beginning (more on this later). So, I cut off the heat and added the finely chopped pecans. I let it cool for a while then stirred vigorously to incorporate air to keep it from being a dense caramel - I was looking for more of a light fudge consistency. They were decent, but very crystalized. I added a few drops of milk to help dissolve the crystals and bring it back into a cohesive mass, but it didn't completely cure the crystal problem.

When I decided to add the maple syrup, it wasn't just because maple and pecans go so well together; I had intended to add an invert sugar to prevent the crystallization problem. As it turns out, I should have added honey instead, because pure maple syrup is not an invert sugar. Next time I will be adding honey or some other form of acid or invert sugar to keep the candy nice and smooth. The only other problem was that it wasn't nutty enough. Add more pecans than what you think you will need.

When I try the recipe again, I will post the amounts of ingredients that I used. It is all sort of a guessing game at this point since there are so few references to Gloria's Candies online.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V-Day

As much as I find this holiday insufferable, I thought it should at least be an excuse to cook a nice meal. I opted for Paella Valencia because I couldn't decide what I was in the mood for. Why not have it all? Mussels, clams, sausage, chicken, and saffron to kick it off. I left out the shrimp, as Becka generally is not a fan except in shrimp cocktail and dim sum. It was still excellent even though I didn't have a paella pan and didn't cook it over a wood fire. I still managed to get the much sought after paella crust from the cast iron pan I used. The only other substitution I made was Andouille sausage since Schmuck's didn't have Spanish Chorizo.

So I think I will continue to forgo the roses, expensive candies, crowded restaurants, and Hallmark cards in favor of this classic Spanish dish. In fact, I think I will start referring to February 14th as St. Valencia Day...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spinach and Garlic Pizza

Tonight I made a Spinach and Garlic Pizza with Oat Bran Whole Wheat Crust. Actually, I made four and froze three of them. It took very little time to make the other three, and now I have supper for a few days. I referenced a pizza dough recipe from Alton Brown, but I used a bit more instant yeast and fermented at a much higher temperature for a shorter time. His method develops much more yeast flavor and a slightly better texture, but I wanted pizza tonight instead of tomorrow morning. The crust was fantastic for being whole grain; I used the Oat Bran Blend from Hodgson Mills. Also, I didn't have cornmeal, so I dusted the pan with grits - not a bad substitute.

Becka the Pianist

Just another thing I admire about Becka; she plays not only with passion and inflection, but has the ability to play complex rhythms while singing. It's spectacular.

Monday, February 11, 2008


UPDATE (3-2-08): Apple overnighted a new adapter to me after much arm twisting. They did make me take it to an Apple service center in Peoria to ensure that it wasn't my computer ruining the adapter. A representative informed me that there weren't enough occurrences to warrant a recall, but they still shipped me the newly designed adapter free of charge, despite being out of warranty. I plan to somehow reinforce it somehow to prevent this from happening again as I am not completely satisfied with the new design. Anyway, thank you, Apple...

EDIT: After talking to Apple today, they indicated that they would send me a new adapter even though the warranty is expired. However, they want me to take it to an Apple service center in Peoria to ensure that it's not my computer's fault that the power adapter failed since this is the second incident I've had. Seems reasonable, but not once did they mention that there are significant problems with this adapter.

Let me begin by saying that I'm generally a big Apple fan. I've been using them for years, but recently they've fallen short in the customer service department. For instance, the optical drive in my Mac Mini began making an obnoxiously loud noise. Since it was still under warranty, I called Apple to request a work order. They informed me that, although my Mac Mini was under warranty (1 year), my tech support warranty (3 months) was expired. I explained to them that I didn't need tech support; I had a hardware issue, but they would not even listen to my explanation. Instead, they directed me to an Apple service center in Peoria where I could get it fixed. I guess that's not a bad option - maybe I'll get it fixed sooner, but still it's exceptionally lousy customer service.

Now for the kicker: Apple designed an advanced AC adapter for the MacBook Pro line in 2006 dubbed the Mag-Safe Adapter. The plug is held in place with a magnet so that it comes loose in the event of a sudden tug on the cord. It's a brilliant design in that respect, but fatally flawed in another. The part of the cord that takes the most abuse (where the cord enters the plug), is not reinforced well causing the inside insulation to break and the wires to fray. Once this happens, the wires short and quit working (best case scenario) or short and cause a fire (worst case scenario). Luckily, I caught mine getting hot today when it was only mildly shorting out. I immediately began researching and found a pretty nifty post that showed how to disassemble the plug and repair it (Thanks go out to Brian).

I was able to take the plug apart with minimal damage. I then cut the cord and re-soldered the connections. It worked perfectly during the test run, but when I reassembled the sheath, the plug separated from the tiny circuit board inside (this was my fault). That meant that I had to solder five micro connections to reattach it. I did the best I could with an oversized soldering iron and no magnifying glass. It now works intermittently, but I still fear that it will melt or catch fire as in many other cases.

What do Dell, Sony, Compaq, IBM, and Apple all have in common? They all have had issues with adapters, except Apple is refusing to recall this one. Apple has recalled them in the past, but not now for some reason. I wonder how many people will have to die before they decide to do the right thing. Actually, they have quietly released an improved adapter as a response to the widespread complaints, but haven't actually recalled any of the old ones. In fact, the original adapter that came with my MacBook Pro shorted and cause black marks on the connecting pins and on the port in my computer. After twisting their arm, Apple replaced both the adapter and the power supply (inside my computer), though I had to send it in twice.

Now, there is the question of proper usage. Apple touted the ability to yank the cord from the MacBook Pro, but many users may have thought it was acceptable to pull out the plug by the cord as standard procedure. It is, of course, not proper usage. However, in efforts to make everything smaller, Apple designed the plug to be very small which makes it relatively hard to grab ahold of to unplug. I have always been very careful with my adapter, but it still failed. So even through normal and correct usage, the adapter is still a failure. Apple needs to redesign it and recall all of the failed ones before someone is seriously injured or killed.

By the way, a new adapter is $79 from the Apple Store. Since Apple has a patent on the plug, no third party substitutes are available. The customer reviews on the adapter are terrible. I left a review today on the Apple Store stating how terrible it is, and it's currently under review for posting. I also thinks it's totally unethical to charge $79 for something that will inevitably self destruct in a short period of time. Apple won't sell just the plug; you have to buy the entire transformer and AC cord. What a wasteful throw-away society we live in. If Apple really wanted to separate themselves from other unethical corporations, they would repair these adapters at little to no charge. I can envision landfills pilling up with millions of these faulty adapters that could have been repaired with a 50¢ plug.

I, for one, will not give Apple my $79. I will be searching ebay for a broken adapter to repair. Also, I will be in contact with Apple demanding a new one. Tomorrow, I will take it to the Apple Service Center in Peoria and demand a replacement.

I also DO NOT recommend leaving it plugged in while you are away or sleeping! I will never again leave mine plugged in, which means that I will have to implement a new alarm clock system. Sadly, I will miss the Alarm Clock program that wakes me up with songs from my iTunes playlist.

Sorry there are no pictures on this post. I'm simply too angry to go take them. Please enjoy the links to other photos that people have been so kind to post.

Bad Apple, Bad...

P.S. To Apple: I will be awaiting my cease and desist letter that you so love to mail out while you sweep these things under the rug.

EDIT: Apparently, Apple is replacing some adapters that melt even after the AppleCare warranty is up (which the adapters weren't covered under anyway). Hopefully, they will provide me a new one tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Na Na Thai Update

Yesterday, Becka took some photos while we ate at Na Na Thai in Bloomington. She is very good with a lens and managed to capture some of the exceptionally brilliant light coming in through the window. The food was delicious as usual, and we were pretty stuffed when we left. I really wanted to try one of their salads, but the waiter informed me that they were not entree salads - though they were priced only about a dollar cheaper than the entrees.

Becka had the Kang Pa Curry with chicken, which had a very prominent basil flavor. It was based on a red curry without coconut milk. It was very tasty, but unfortunately, not attractive enough to feature here. I had the Pad Se Ew with shrimp which was pretty sweet and a bit boring. Many of you probably know that I'm not a huge fan of sweet, but I was able to add tons of red chili sauce which contributed complexity to the dish. Broccoli was a major component of the dish, including the leaves, which I'm not fond of. All in all, I enjoyed it, but probably won't order it again. We also had Chicken Satays and Thai Egg Rolls. The satays had been marinated in a decent sauce and were seared nicely. They came with a nice Cucumber Salad and a Peanut Sauce that was bit thick and gravy like. The Thai Egg Rolls were filled very meagerly with chicken, carrots, and transparent mushrooms. It seemed as if there was more wrapper than filling, but they were still delicious, crispy, and greasy. The filling was very flavorful and the dipping sauce was excellent - sort of a Thai Sweet and Sour sauce.

Thai Egg Rolls

Cucumber and Red Onion Salad

Pad Se Ew with Shrimp

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bare Bones Pad Thai

Tonight, I stopped to pick up a few of the remaining ingredients I needed for Pad Thai. I just happened to be at Walgreens and couldn't help but wonder why peanuts and cashews are always so cheap there. They are usually 2/$5, plus they offer the lightly salted variety. After that, I stopped by Cub's and picked up some bean sprouts.

I took about 25 minutes to assemble the prep work and wait for the noodles to rehydrate. When I found out the "seedless" tamarind paste I bought at the Asian market actually had seeds, I went ahead and supplemented my sauce with two whole tamarind pods since it was only slightly more work. Unfortunately, I was lacking a few key ingredients: scallions, dried shrimp, cilantro, and salted cabbage, yet it was still delicious. My Pad Thai sauce consisted of tamarind, water, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, palm sugar, and some habanero powder. Even a bare bones Pad Thai has a hell of a lot of ingredients.

The Pad Thai Mise en Place: (Clockwise from the left) Crushed Peanuts, Rice Noodles, Peanuts, Bean Sprouts, Sauce, Noodles in Water, Fish Sauce, Peanut Oil, Eggs. (On the board) Tofu, Limes, Bean Sprouts, Palm Sugar, Chillies, Tamarind.

Notice the sear on the tofu from my new wok!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

State of the Fermentation

I am pleased to report there is good news on all fronts. Tonight, I made 6 gallons of wine using Bergamais grape juice from California. It will be very similar to a French Beaujolais, but can't be called that because the French have exclusive rights to the name. Anyway, I plan to age all 30 bottles on toasted oak, and possibly spice a few.

The Warpharin Ale has finished clearing and tastes superb. It finished at a modest 1.010 (two points better than expected) making the ABV 4.84%. It will be a lovely session beer - perfect for those marathon band practices. The beer has a medium malty character with a nice hop presence, but low in bitterness. The color is a rich amber. Also, brown sugar lightens the body somewhat giving it a "snappier" feel.

The Winter Warmer has been happily aging for a couple of months, but still needs a good dose of spices. I'm still debating what to spice it with...

The Bergamais just prior to pitching the yeast.

The Warpharin Ale (front) and The Winter Warmer (back)

Hydrometer reading on the Warpharin Ale

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowl Spread '08

Becka and I created a nice spread to take to a Superbowl party today. Unfortunately, my immersion blender decided to let me down just as I was about to blend the hummus. It simply wouldn't turn on, so Becka processed the mixture with a potato masher. It was a bit rustic, but very delicious. I substituted habanero powder for cayenne pepper which added a nice fruitiness. We also assembled a plate of Cappocola and Prosciutto ham; Manchego, Stilton, and Romano cheeses; and Dates. Not pictured were fresh Kalamata olives and Crustinis.