Saturday, October 29, 2011

Recipe: Cranberry-Smoked Turkey Breast - Done!

She is DONE!!!

Well, the thermometer beeped, anyway!

It looks and smells positively HEAVENLY!!! I hope it tastes HALF as good as it looks and smells, right?!!

I have wrapped the turkey in heavy-duty aluminum foil. It didn't *quite* fit into the pot I'd set-aside, so I wrapped it up in a towel and plopped it into an aluminum pan, and inverted a second aluminum pan on top of that (to help retain the heat and let the Goodness soak-throughout...).

We'll slice into it a bit later....

Jeez... Smoking a Turkey Breast turned into a 3-day ordeal! I sure hope it's worth it!!!

Although - in the meantime - this did end up being a semi-productive day. I ended up mixing up a batch of Kiln-Wash and applying it to the floor of my kiln, as well as 3 kiln shelves. And I did another "test firing" (empty-kiln firing) to help "set" the kiln wash.

Idea behind kiln-wash is that it protects the kiln floor and shelves in the (hopefully unlikely) event that glaze-ware breaks/falls over during firing. Kiln wash will prevent the glaze-ware from fusing to the kiln and/or shelves. Of course, the piece will still be ruined - but the kiln will be protected!

So, while the turkey was smoking, I mixed up the "wash" and brushed it on the shelves per Sheffield Pottery's instructions. I probably could have gone straight to a bisque-firing - but I was worried because I've got underglaze on "both sides" of all of my greenware - and don't want to risk "stickage!" So I did a Fast-Glaze, Cone 018 Firing Profile (appx 1200* F). That should be enough to get the kiln-wash to adhere to the shelves, then I'll feel more comfortable about adding coat #2, and greenware, for a bisque-firing...

All Told: I think that today was Semi-Productive! Hopefully, tomorrow will be as well. I want to get out in the "original" shed - purge it, then re-load it in a semi-organized fashion, so we've got "space" to store all of our "Summer Furniture!"

One year, we actually rented a storage locker for the Summer Furniture. All-told, it cost MORE to store our sh*t than it would have to just Freecycle (or Donate) it, and buy NEW the following year (Ooooops!). Oh, well!

Anyhooooooooo.... Whenever we hack-into the Turkey Breast, I'm sure I'll post more pictures and commentary! Stay tuned.........................

* * * * *
Post-cooking Aftermath: Appx 1 hour later... The turkey breast is freaking orgasmically delicious!!! Seriously! I wouldn't change A THING!!! It is moist and tender and delectably delicious! I am actually surprised that the "final product" isn't pinkish - nor does it taste cranberry-y. It is just plain tasty!!! I am stunned and amazed - but it was TOTALLY worth all of the effort!!!

So - if you've got an Electric Smoker, just go-right-ahead and make this recipe, verbatim! You probably don't have to "stretch it out" to a full 3-days (like I did!) - 2-days oughtta suffice! - but I can most-definitely HIGHLY RECOMMEND this recipe. It really-and-truly *is* delicious!!!


Recipe: Cranberry-Smoked Turkey Breast - Day #3 (Or: "Is there a Conspiracy???")

As I type this... We are in the Final Stages of Smoking! But it wasn't easy "getting here!"

So... Where we left off yesterday - I was soaking Apple-Wood Chips in an aluminum pan:

They kinda ended up soaking for over 24 hours :::sigh:::
Not sure if that's gonna be Good or Bad!

I wrapped up the wood-chunks in aluminum foil and poked holes in the foil. Put one big Foil-Chunk in the Smoker box, on top of the heating element, then stuck the others "between" the elements (I'm pretty sure aluminum foil *on* an electric heating element is probably a Bad Idea).

Foil-wrapped wood-chunks, in the base of the smoker...

I went to plug it in so it could pre-heat. Stuck a nekkid Meat Thermometer on the top-rack to see how it was doing.

Well, ummm, it didn't do *squat!*


Well, upon further investigation, I determined that the electric heating element was - for lack of a better word - "Toast!" Every time I plugged it in to the GFCI outlet, it tripped the breaker. Boo! I tried a more heavy-duty extension cord, and got the same result. Double-Boo!

Yes, I could order a replacement element, online, for appx $40 (with shipping). But I've got a ready-to-smoke Turkey Breast in the fridge RIGHT NOW!

So, off to Home Depot I went...

And I immediately encountered THIS:

Eeeeeek!!!! NNNNNOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thoroughly traumatized, I pressed ahead... Made my way to the Grill Aisle - hoping to find "just" replacement parts.

No such luck :-(

I ended up buying a completely new Smoker Unit for $69.95 - just so I could use the heating element in my OLD smoker. Sh*t!

So now I have a Brandy-New Smoker (although I stuck with the OLD smoker for this endeavor - just popped-in the new element). "Hello Freecycle!!!"

Finally managed to get the thing pre-heated!
(and actually, I'm surprised it heats this high!)

And *finally* managed to get Da Boyd into the Smoker (Yayyy!!!)

I put minimal liquid in the "water-pan" (appx 4-5 oz of cranberry/pomegranate juice + 4-5 oz of water). I did leave the water-pan in it's "normal" position (about 2/3 of the way "down" in the Smoker).

All told: It took just-over 3 hours to cook the breast to an internal temperature of 165*. We are hovering right around 163* now and I probably *could* remove it- but I'm gonna leave it in 'til the electronic thermometer beeps. I did "sneak a peek" at it and it looks positively luscious!

Once I hear the beeps, I'll pull the breast out, wrap it in foil, toss it in a pot with a lid and let it "set" for appx 1 hour (to continue heating up and juicify all of the Goodness!).

Mmmm, boy! I hope it tastes good enough to warrant all of this freaking WORK!!!

Stay tuned for updates........................

Friday, October 28, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due...

These are the websites where I got my "inspiration" for the Electric-Smoked, Cranberry Turkey Breast:

Good info on Electric Smoking of Turkey here.

Good "General Info" on smoking Turkey Breasts here.

A specific Cranberry-Smoked Turkey Recipe here.

And a Quirky Turkey Rub (that I didn't try - but it sounds damned interesting!) here.

As usual, I ended up "smushing together" info from various websites to come-up with My Creation (which may, or may not, turn out Fan-Freaking-Tastic!).

Just wanted to share!

Recipe: Cranberry-Smoked Turkey Breast - Day #2

I *did* say I was posting this in damn-near Real-Time, didn't I?!

Well, my plans for Turkey-Breast-Smoking got a little Bufoobalized when DH awoke with severe back / kidney pain this morning. We made a quick trip to the E/R (which ended up taking ~5 hours). No specific diagnosis, unfortunately (it wasn't kidney stones, anyway). But it seems it's not gonna be Fatal!

Anyway, it blew a big ol' honkin' hole in my day! As we drove home, I figured I was gonna just take the *entire* day off (we can take sick-days for tending to sickly family members), but somebody scheduled me for an afternoon meeting (and I had a veritable boatload of emails when I got back!). So I ended up working almost a full day...

I did manage to sneak out for about 20 minutes to dig-out and clean-up the smoker...

Looks like crap on the outside - but the bugs/spiderwebs/old, charred wood-chunks got cleared out of the inside!

The Turkey was supposed to "brine" for appx 12 hours. Ended up being a helluva lot longer than that!!!

Nevertheless, when we got home, I removed and "flipped" the breast over (since it was wanting to float in the brine, and the top-portion wasn't getting saturated adequately!). I let it soak for another hour-ish while I prepped the wood-chunks (details below)...

On the Plus Side: It *did* thaw out! (in fact, I moved it from the garage to the fridge before we left for the hospital).
On the Down Side: When you over-brine a turkey by soaking it in cranberry-juice, it tends to turn a bit pink!!!

So, when it was all said and done, I took the breast out of the Zip-Lock Baggie, rinsed it off in the sink then tamped it dry. Then I spritzed it with Spray-On Canola Oil and hit it with a dry-rub...

Coated with dry-rub... Looks a bit better!
Dry Rub:
  • 2 TBS McCormick Grill-Mates Chicken Rub, to which I added:
  • 1-1/2 tsp Rubbed Sage
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic (dried - ICK!)
  • 1 tsp Thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground Allspice
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika

(I totally cheated with the "add-ons!" This was actually a McCormick "Recipe Inspirations" package for "Apple and Sage Pork Chops" that was on-sale at the grocery store).

Prior to rubbing the bird, I grabbed a few chunks of Apple Smoker-Wood and tossed 'em in a large aluminum pan, filled with water. I wanted 'em to get nice and wet so they'd smoke like crazy... The wood should soak for appx 20 minutes. Then you wrap the wood-chunks in heavy-duty aluminum foil; poke some holes in the foil; toss the foil-wrapped wood-packets into a smoker box (Metal box with holes in it - you could just as easily use a disposable aluminum-foil pan); then put the woodsy stuff directly on top of the electric burner in the smoker.

Anyway, The Plan was to pre-heat the smoker to "as high as it would get" (evidently, my Brinkmann Model is notoriously under-powered - but whatEVER!), then plunk the wood and turkey breast into the smoker for appx 3-4 hours (with a meat thermometer - duh!).

The Reality was: My Afternoon Meeting, while very productive, took waaaaaaay longer than anticipated. So No Turkeys were Smoked today. Boo!!!

Sooooo... Turkey Breast got bagged in a new Ziplock Baggie, and tossed in the fridge. I think I'll be firing up the smoker (and - hell! - maybe even the KILN!) tomorrow...

Stay tuned................................

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recipe: Cranberry-Smoked Turkey Breast

Okay... This post is gonna be in "almost-real-time!"

With Thanksgiving coming, I figured I wanted to start "Messing with Turkeys!"

A couple-three years ago, I bought a Brinkmann Electric Smoker and - to be perfectly honest - it hasn't seen *nearly* enough use! So I figured I'd futz around with a Turkey Breast - just to see how it comes out!

For ACTUAL Thanksgiving, I will probably drag out my propane "Oil-less Turkey Fryer" (aka "The Big Easy" - which, to be honest, I really like it a LOT). It is actually more like a convection oven - but is still WAAAAAY the hell easier/cleaner than traditional roasting! And yes, I will post my T-Giving Preparations this year!

Anyway - in the meantime - I've decided I want to play around with the Brinkman Electric Smoker. It's GREAT for ribs and pork roasts - but I've yet to attempt poultry in it...

Tomorrow, all that's gonna change! I am smoking a turkey-breast, by golly!!!

Sooooo.... This evening, I ran over to the grocery store and procured a small-ish (~8#) turkey breast. Frozen-solid, unfortunately:

It does include the bones and also has a built in, pop-up, meat-thermometer (which I will be removing prior to cooking). It has also been "injected" with some kinda brine... But I hope to offset that with my OWN brine!

Here is the brine-bag:

Turkey-Breast Brine:
  • 2 gallon Zip-Lock Baggie, filled with:
  • 8 cups of water
  • 8 cups of "Natural" Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice (sweetened w/Stevia - *not* High Fructose Corn Syrup!)
  • 1 cup of Sea Salt
  • appx 1 cup of Splenda "Brown-Sugar Blend" (50/50 Splenda + Brown Sugar)
  • 2 TBS of McCormick Grill-Mates "Chicken Rub."

The primary ingreeeediments!

Nekkid, Frozen-Solid Turkey Breast (Hide the Children!!!)

I mixed up the liquids + spices and salt in a large Zip-Lock Baggie. Made sure that the salt and Sugar-Blend-Stuff was thoroughly mixed-in with the liquid. Then I plopped the Turkey Breast in the bag...

Like thus!

Now, since the breast is frozen solid (it actually came with a gravy packet - but it is "iced-in" - inside the bird!!! Nights/Early mornings around here are now in the low 40's, so I decided to stick the whole thing (bird, bag, pot and all!) in the garage. Hopefully, overnight, it will be able to thaw (but not give us food-poisoning - I hope!!!).

Tomorrow morning, I will rinse the bird off and fire-up the smoker.... I will post subsequent updates, as they occur (tomorrow!!!)...

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Second Home" Wild Hair...

Okay, I'm gonna try to squeeze in another post before it gets too chilly out here (Yes, I'm attempting to enjoy our simply-lovely October weather at the Tiki Bar and *trying* not to get depressed over the fact that our "nice days" are numbered!)...

So Friday, after the JB show, we hooked up with an old High School Buddy of Hubs. Ted and his wife, Sue. They live in Chandler, AZ. They live in a simply Drop-Dead-Gorgeous, Straight-Out-Of-HGTV Custom Home that *they* designed. Their home is in a gated community and... Well... As soon as we walked up to their front door I was feeling like we are TOTAL "White Trash!"

But... AZ real estate and CA real estate are completely different animals! And the AZ real estate market has totally "tanked" whereas *our* market is still (mostly) hanging in there. I'm sure that "in it's day," Ted's house was probably worth $1M+. Now? Less than half of that! Our house? During the heyday, it was worth appx $650K. Now, it's closer to $400K. :::sigh:::

Nevertheless.... We are not "under water" (and I'm not sure Ted can say the same thing, to be honest). We never have been and never will be (DH bought *before* the boom!).

Anyhoooooo.... We spent a most pleasant afternoon with Ted and Sue. Just kickin' it by their pool (with integrated spa, waterfall, fountain, yada-yada) and built-in outdoor kitchen. During the heat of the afternoon, we hung-out under their covered patio. It was freaking AWESOME!

And that got me to thinking: I freaking HATE California Winters. And yes, I know, California winters don't hold a candle to East-Coast and/or Northern Climes. But I am a professed "Wimpy California Native" who believes that "Snow is for VISITING!" If the mercury dips below 60*, I start whining!

So anyway... I ended up finding myself surfing the AZ MLS listings to see what housing was like. I'm sure it's no Big Secret, but the housing market has pretty-well tanked in AZ (as well as Las Vegas, NV - where my sister lives, currently).

It just kills me to hear my sister say she "can't find anything" - housing-wise. Seriously! I mean, the Vegas Market is probably damn-near identical to the Greater-Phoenix Market. And it's no huge secret that we both "made out" pretty "OK" with mom's estate. There is absolutely NO reason why *she* couldn't afford to buy herself a house - for CASH - and live quite comfortably. Particularly since (in Vegas, anyway) she's already got someone who wants to rent a room (which would certainly cover her utility expenses).

But the thing is: *She* would want to live in a house like Ted's (actually - come to think of it - at 3200 SF, Ted's house is probably "too small" for her liking!). But if one dials-back one's expectations, there are *definitely* some very nice houses to be had in the $100-150K range (actually, there's stuff for *under* $100K! But - to be fair - I don't know that I'd want a house in an under $100K neighborhood).

But Sis wants something in the 3500-4000 SF range (5+ bedrooms, 4+ baths, with a pool, granite countertops, 3+ car garage, in a gated community, yada-yada) for under $200K.

Not gonna happen!

And, interestingly enough, as we were chatting with Ted and Sue - who built their "Dream Home" from the ground-up, right?! - they are already talking about wanting to down-size because the house is just "too much to maintain!"

Soooooo... Oops - I've wandered off-track again! ANNNNYWAAAAAYYYYY.... My "expectations" are not all that lofty, to be perfectly honest. The whole idea of having a place where winter isn't so damned WET and GRAY and COLD (okay, maybe still cold - but not WET!), well, that seems kind of "appealing" to me, right?!

Added Bonus: Since I telecommute fulltime ("Oh Gawd PLEASE don't let me lose my job!!!!"), I don't really have to concern myself, too much, over the economy and job-situation, right? And since houses CAN BE HAD for $100K... Well, Hell!!! *I* could live here!!! Or - at the very least - keep it as a Second/Winter Home, right?!

So... I surfed the MLS and am looking at a couple-three different communities: Casa Grande (appx 40 miles south of Phoenix), Apache Junction (30 miles-ish? East of Phoenix), Chandler, and maybe others... I want to be far enough "off the beaten path" to avoid gridlock at Rush-Hour (and ohhhhh yes - they *do* get traffic! Nothing compared to the Bay Area, but still!), but I still want access to Life's Conveniences.

I'm only "dreaming" right now. But it's scary to think how EASY it would be to "pull the trigger" and make it happen! I could, very easily, write a check for a $100K 3BR/2BA 1800-2000 SF home; hit the local IKEA and buy a couple thousand dollars' worth of furniture; fix my car's A/C and drive her out there, park her in the garage (on a battery-tender, of course!), and Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom! "Second Home!"

We could maintain "Dual-Citizenship!" CA in Summer and AZ in Winter. Not quite "Snowbirds" - but maybe "Rainbirds!"

Of course, I think "Gardening" would be out of the question. Summers would be waaaaaayyyy too hot and winters - surprisingly - get COLDER than we get here! (Chandler is Zone 8. San Jose is 9B - Who knew?!!).

Anyway, it's just another one of my "Wild Hairs" that I am chewing on, at the moment... No clue if it will turn into Reality, but it's kinda fun to Dream, right???

AWOL in AZ... Jimmy Buffett Show!

Mac McAnally and Jimmy Buffett performing "Pirate Looks at 40"

Oops! Went AWOL again. Sorry 'bout that!

We had a brief, weekend sojourn in Tempe/Phoenix/Chandler/Peoria, AZ. See? Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers did *not* do any shows in California this year (B@stitches!).

When they posted a last-minute AZ show, I turned to DH and said "You've got Southwest Miles, right? Let's GO!"

And so we did!

So Thursday, 10/20, we awoke at zero-dark-thirty and headed to the airport. Boarded our Freebie Flight (and were surrounded by wriggly, shrieking infants!) (Thank Gawd it was a short flight!). Arrived in PHX, took the Shuttle Bus 450 miles to the off-terminal Rental Car Garage, picked up our Ford Focus Weenie-Mobile, then checked into Candlewood Suites in Tempe.

First thing we needed to do was procure Margarita-Fixin's. No, actually, the FIRST thing we needed to do was EAT, so we went to Joe's Crab Shack. Now there's something rather ironic about traveling TO THE DESERT to eat crab. I actually suffered a bit of a moral dilemma/guilt-trip over ordering Dungeness Crab! (Seein' as how San Francisco is, like, FAMOUS for Dungeness Crab!). Anyway, the food was delicious - and Joe's Crab Shack looks like a TOTALLY fun place! I wish we had one closer to home!

SECOND thing we needed to do was procure Margarita-Fixin's! Now, one would think that a veritable metropolis such as Tempe would have an abundance of Grocery Stores. Not so! At least not where we were staying! So we relied on Bertha (Hubbie's GPS) to direct us to the nearest grocery store. He plugged in "Safeway" and, well, let's just say that GPS's aren't entirely fool-proof (meaning that us people operating said GPS are the "fools" in that statement!).

It was kinda reminiscent of P's and my "Adventure" with trying to find the airport in Texas. P's GPS directed us to a Military Airbase which - "technically" - IS an airport! (I'm just super-relieved that we allowed a WHOLE lot of time to drive back to the airport!!!)

Well, as we were following Bertha's directions, we entered a *very* industrial area and I was thinkin' (but not saying) that "this doesn't look like the kinda neighborhood for a grocery store!" Sure enough! Bertha was directing us to a Safeway "Distribution Center" with big-rigs galore!

We *did* end up finding an Albertson's - not too terribly far from where we. And - since there aren't an abundance of grocery-stores, they seem to "make up for it" by having MASSIVE grocery stores. Hell, I practically needed the GPS to make my way back to the checkstands!

Anyway, I raced through the store (DH was waiting in the car) to pick up everything we needed (including a couple of beers for Hubs). Selection of silver tequila was rather limited, so I opted for the 1.75L of Sauza. Picked up a couple jugs of Fresca and a bottle of Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice. I already had Splenda and coarse sea-salt back at the room.

After that, I was totally jonesin' for a Rita. So as soon as we got back to the room, I opened the fridge only to discover NO ICE!!! (AAAAAACCCCKKK!!!). Called the front desk: No ice machine either!!!!

Opened up my Tequila, Fresca and Lime Juice bottle - only to discover that the Lime Juice had gone BAD (ahem - it was BROWN! ICK!!!!).

So I quickly made ANOTHER trip to a "closer" Grocery Store (which turned out to be a Mexican Market - but whatever!). Bought a bag of ice and a pound of fresh limes (Yayyyy!!!).

It was an ordeal, but DAMMIT, I *got* my Sugar-Free Margarita!

I figured I wanted to get my buzz-on *before* we left for the show because I didn't want to "pay the ransom" for High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup 'Ritas at the show (although I did end up ordering a couple once we got there!).

Anyhoooooo.... Hubs did NOT want to do the Tailgate thing (:::::GASP:::::). And it was probably just as well because we'd pretty-well run out of time for getting to the parking lot early. Plus we couldn't tailgate "properly" without Willie, the Tiki Truck!

So, the show was FREAKING AWESOME! I actually really like their concert venue - a LOT. It is much more "Patron-Friendly" than Shoreline Amphitheatre. Not nearly as "steep" - in terms of steps to climb. And it's WAY more "open" meaning, when you go out to the concessions to buy another beer (or High Fructose 'Rita), you can still HEAR the show.

And People in AZ seem to be a lot friendlier, in general, than California peeps. JMHO....

It was a fantastic show and a great experience. And I got my Jimmy Buffett "Fix" for the year, so Life. Is Good!

There's more to yak about, but I'll post some "Wild Hair" (Second Home/Retirement) stuff in a separate post...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recipe - Sunset's Brandied Cranberry Short Rib Stew

Okay... Credit where Credit is due: I found the original recipe in a Sunset Magazine at the Doctor's office. I also found it online here.

It really intrigued me, so I decided to make it myself today. Trouble is: I don't have a suitable stove-top-to-oven dish, so I had to modify it for my crock-pot.

Here is the Final Recipe - as I adapted it (or would adapt it, next time I make it!)

  • 4 lbs bone-in beef short ribs (orig recipe called for 6#, cut into 2" pieces) (I used 4# - and no, I didn't make the butcher cut them into 2" pieces, mine were appx 3-4" long)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 TBS oil (I used Olive Oil in the pan, and spray-on Canola Oil on the squash)
  • 3 lbs kabocha squash (1 small squash was about right)
  • 2 medium onions - coarsely chopped (orig recipe called for "finely chopped)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (orig recipe called for 4)
  • 1 square of semi-sweet baker's chocolate, chopped
  • 4 cups beef broth (orig recipe called for 5 - but I ran out of room in my crock pot!!!)
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries (Craisins) (Orig recipe called for 1/2 cup dried and 1-1/2 cups fresh. Fresh were waaaaay too sour and I will omit them, next time I make this!)
  • 3 TBS candied ginger (found dried, sugared ginger chunks in the Produce Section of my grocery store - I minced 'em)
  • 1 TBS finely shredded orange zest (I zested one organic orange - no clue if it ended up being 1 TBS!)

First, I poked holes in the kambocha squash and nuked it for appx 5 minutes (to facilitate slicing/peeling 'cuz it was one HARD sumb*tch!). Then I sliced it in half - across the equator - scooped out the seeds and goozy innards, then sliced it into 2" wedges (meaning the chunks were 2" across the fat end).

I have a combination microwave/convection oven so I lined the convection tray with aluminum foil and preheated the convection oven to 450*. Once it was heated, I pulled out the tray and arranged the squash wedges (bigger chunks on the outside). Spritzed 'em lightly with Canola Oil (since I ran out of sprayable Olive Oil), and cooked em for 15 minutes 'til they were starting to soften and kinda-carmelize...

While the squash was cooking, I tamped the short-ribs on paper towels, hit 'em with fresh ground sea salt and pepper, then I tossed 'em in a large pot on the stove and browned 'em on med-high heat in olive oil (took 2 batches). Once they were browned, I tossed 'em in the crock-pot (which was already set to "high" heat).

Next, I sauteed the onions 'til limp, using the same pot and oil that I'd just used for the meat. After they were limp-ified, I added the flour and continued cooking 'til everything was golden brown.

Then I tossed in the minced garlic and chocolate. Stirred it around and continued cooking for another minute or two. Then I added the broth and brandy - brought it to a boil. Then I added the dried cranberries, minced ginger and zested the orange. Let it keep boiling for a minute or so, then I poured the whole mess into the crock-pot on top of the beef.

I covered the crock-pot and let it cook on "high" for appx4 hours.

Well... Hell! I've still got squash in the nuker/convection oven! Turns out that doesn't need to get added 'til later, so I wrapped the chunks up in the aluminum foil and stuck 'em in the fridge (in other words, you don't need to prep the squash right away!!!) (but it's not a bad idea b/c kambocha squash is a real PITA to peel!!!).

Once the meat was starting to soften up a bit (although it hasn't yet reached the point where it "falls off the bone"), try to schlorp off some of the fat. Honestly, this dish did get incredibly greasy! I used a turkey baster to suck off the top layer of liquid and fat, and splooged it into a "grease separator" kinda measuring-cup-pourer thingy. Let the liquid set for a couple of minutes and poured it (sans grease) back into the crock pot.

Okay, at the four-hour mark, add the (now somewhat-chilly) squash to the crock pot. The original recipe also called for adding fresh cranberries at this point - but to be perfectly honest, I think fresh cranberries are waaaaay too sour. I *did* add 'em (and also added more Craisins at this point). But I think I'd omit the fresh cranberries next time. Anyway, dump the squash into the pot and let it cook for another hour...

After close-to 5 hours, I ended up removing the individual beef chunks and cutting the meat off the bones, cutting the meat into slightly smaller chunks and returning them to the crock pot (Mmmmmm! Beef Bones! Dogs are Orgasmically Happy!).

To be honest - other than the too-sour cranberries - I think this stew is freaking DELICIOUS!!! It smelled heavenly and somewhat-exotic while it was cooking. And it definitely *doesn't* have that "Crock-Pot Beef-Stew Flavor" (You know what I'm talking about!!!).

We are getting ready to sit down for dinner, momentarily... I'll report-back on how it was!

* * * * *
Aftermath 10/17: It was *quite* tasty. Like I say, it didn't have that "crock-pot beef stew" flavor - which was nice... I'm not a huge fan of anything "chuck" related, but this was definitely tolerable.....

Go ahead. Try it! I *think* you'll like it!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bathroom Reno Pictures

Okay... I'm making good on my promise to share photos of the Bathroom Reno Adventure...

I'm keeping my "commentary" to a minimum, right now, because I am seething mad at the moment (See the last photo. I'll save my "final commentary" for later!).

Sooo... Let's look at pictures, shall we?

In true HGTV fashion, I give you the bathroom "BEFORE:"

Ugly brown diamonds and "framed" El Cheapo Home Depot shower-door

The "reason" for the remodel.
Leaky tub and water-damage seeping up under the vinyl floor.
The underlayment, once again, was pure "gush!"

Similar damage at the foot of the tub.
FWIW I think this is the 4th (and - hopefully - FINAL) time that we have to replace the floor!

Matching Brown-Diamond Vanity.
It wasn't "horrible" - but a lot of the tiles were chipped/cracked and it just looked kinda "dated."

Ewwww! Speaking of "dated" - I absolutely HATED this brass "Hollywood Light Bar" fixture over the sink. It gave very good light, but it was just unspeakably ugly!!

Day #1 of Demo. "Buh-bye sink!"
(It looks kinda lonely and sad here - but "BUH-BYE!!!")

Demo-Crew, ripping out the old tile countertop...

Vanity tile is gone!!!
Guess I'm gonna be brushing my teeth in the kitchen!

Tub Tile is going...

Vinyl Floor is going...

Sheetrock is going...

Temporary Facilities.
I think the toilet paper hanging off the foot-peg of my Harley just kinda makes this shot Super-Classy!

Drywall is gone and innards are exposed.
We have determined that the tub is not level - Boooo!!!

Water-damage at vent pipe from old roof leak

And another view...

More leaky-roof damage toward the base of the tub
(we had the roof replaced a couple-three years ago).

Damp, but not rotten, floor at foot of tub. This is from the uneven tub leaking.

More wet floor action at the head of the tub. It looked like it was starting to rot, but it didn't go clear through the sub-floor, so AKB opted to "treat it" rather than "replace it."

This had been replaced, previously, when the last LOSERS worked on the bathroom leak.
("No Commentary! Shut UP!" ;-)

Countertop is GONE!
But the toilet's still there (whew!)

"Let there be light!!!"
New fluorescent light fixture with super-quiet fan. Definitely needed that!

New light fixture over the vanity.
I like how there are little squares embossed in the glass...
(goes nicely with the mosaic tiles)

They did level the tub. This is front-to-back (as you're facing the tub)

And side-to-side.
They put in shims under the tub, then CEMENTED them in.
So the tub shouldn't "settle" any more...

New drywall and plumbing!

Nifty New Niche!
We couldn't "center" it on the tub because there were support beams behind the studs.

Electrician was here...

And he wired in an "extra" wire for me. I want to do under-cabinet lighting (like a strip of LED's or something) to shine down on the backsplash and use as a night-light.

Treating the sub-floor with some stinky Copper-Green stuff.
It's supposed to stop rot and deter insects...

Mud going up on the tub walls...

Muddy Niche...

Mud at the base of the tub (and it covers the base of the tub so there should be NO LEAKS!!!)

See how thick the mud is, behind the tiles?

Tiles going up... Pretty!

And Accent Strip - Prettier still!

Tiles up - but no grout yet.

Tile "patch" between the light fixtures on the Medicine Cabinet...

Better picture of the Tile patch

Tile floor prep. Waterproof membrane with chicken-wire on top of that.

Oh noooooo!!! No Toilet for TWO DAYS!!!!!!!!!!

Muddy floor...

Floor tiles going down...

Tub is grouted!!!

Floor is done! (I really do love this floor-tile!)
Originally, I thought I wanted the floor-tile to be set on the diagonal.
But - seeing how the "pattern" is diagonal - it ended up making more sense to go with the tile set "square."

Blue paint on the walls - very soothing!

Tub fixtures starting to go in...

New "Euro-Style" Shower door (that I schlepped home from Lowes)

Two shower heads. One is a big, square "rainshower" head (Delta Dryden, if you're interested)
The other is a multi-function Euro-Style Hand-Shower (Grohe Euphoria).

Our brandy-new Toto Toilet
I've heard rave reviews from ppl about these toilets and, so far, it seems they're All Right!
Super-Low-Flow and doesn't plug-up when you use more than 4 squares of TP. In fact, I haven't had to use our plunger ONCE since it's been installed!

Week #3 and the counter is still nekkid - and we still don't have running water :::sigh:::

But we do have cool-lookin' lights!

Yayyy!!! FINALLY!!!! We have a quartz countertop!
(Caesarstone Buttermilk - which is purchase-able "by the foot")
(as opposed to "by the slab")

Close-up of counter-top with my mosaics laying on top. I don't think it's gonna clash.

We are ALMOST there!!!

Sooooo close to completion!!!

Pretty new faucet!

Backsplash Mud going up...

Super-thick (which is good!)

Mosaic Backsplash - SUPER pretty!
(still needs grout, though...)

Mosaic backsplash in the afternoon sun
(It is grouted, here)
Droid pics really don't do it justice - it is super shimmery and pretty!

This photo was taken well-over 24 hours after the last time the faucet was used...

Contractor is eager to receive his final payment, but...
The pretty sink faucet DRIPS! No, no a lot - but that's not the point!

The latest update (and I'm not posting my FULL opinion - YET!) is that *I* have to go deal with Delta Faucets MYSELF and when/if they choose to send me new cartridges/o-rings/new-faucet/whatEVER, then he'll send someone out "No Charge" to fix it.

Ohhhhh am I holding back a huge rant here, folks! (There's Yelp, and Yahoo Local, and Angie's List for that, I suspect...). Seems to me that if one spends over $10,000 for a bathroom remodel, then expecting a non-leaky faucet isn't entirely outside the realm of "reasonable-ness."


I *am* holding back some of the Final Payment until this is addressed. And that's ALL I'm gonna say about THAT!

View my page on Meet the Phlockers