New project in the backyard

bricksPicked up a number of fire bricks, and some insulation brick, in preparation for building a pizza/bread oven in the yard.
Not sure 100% exactly what style I’m going to build – brick or cob/earth oven – but I came across this deal that was difficult to pass up.

With what I have here, I should be able to have a cooking surface almost 36″ in diameter. If I decide to go the brick oven route, I can get more of the fire brick – shouldn’t need any more of the insulation bricks.

Found an article on building a clay wood-fired oven – the approach used for the base may not be as permanent, but I like the simplicity. The materials are largely from a building supply – so pretty easy to get hold of, at a price.

Here’s my list of stuff I’ll need to buy:

  • done – 30 fire bricks ($36)
  • done – 30 insulating bricks ($30)
  • 20 cinder blocks (abt. $60)
  • 5kg pail of cement (abt. $17)
  • 6 bags of jointers sand (abt. $66)
  • 175kg clay
  • wheelbarrow

Here’s the list of other tools/equipment I’ll be using:

  • tape measure
  • large tarp
  • old kitchen knife
  • 5 gallon pail(s)
  • rubber boots
  • newspaper

Espresso machine maintenance

Andreja Premium schematic with non-standard control box.
Andreja Premium schematic with non-standard control box.

While I plan out what I’m going to do regarding the intermittent control box behaviour in my espresso machine, I decided that it would be helpful to update the electrical schematic for it – especially since its using a non-standard control box.

The control box is actually one that is normally used in the Isomac Tea – a very similar machine to the Andreja Premium.

I figured that I should do some other maintenance on the machine – having received a few grouphead gaskets from Espresso Planet, I figured I would replace that first.  Last time it was replaced was a couple years ago, and it was a bear to remove, so I’m going to try and replace it  a little more frequently.

This was also a good time to clean the shower screen – which was quite plugged up.  Replacing the grouphead gasket more frequently will allow me to clean this more frequently as well.

A new cookbook!

smith_familymeals_pbI won a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s new cookbook called “Family Meals” from Simplebites.net last week – and the book showed up in my mailbox today.

Had a quick browse through – the raman noodle quick lunch and the broccoli tofu are on the menu later this week – and there are many more great looking recipes that I’ll be trying out soon! Thank you again SimpleBites!

Checked out Amazon, and they’ve got a great deal on it – list price is $32.00! Click on the cover to the left to order a copy.

Raspberry Pi + Andreja Premium?

My Andreja Premium has been providing reliable service for the last 7 years – but just recently has been a little temperamental.  Seems that the controller is overheating – and so for the past couple weeks, I’ve been running the machine without its stainless steel casing, and the controller sitting beside the machine.

The controller was actually replaced once before, and it’s a fairly expensive repair – it was around $400 to replace the controller and descale the boiler. Don’t really want to spend that again – just to have the controller get wonky a few years later again.

A couple things I’m considering:

1)  Building a teak outer shell, with larger cutouts on the side to mount perforated stainless steel panels, as well as on the top.  Would also extend the wiring to that the controller is mounted where the water reservoir used to be (added the plumbing kit shortly after buying the machine)

2) Building a teak outer shell as above, but instead of using the same controller, use a Raspeberry Pi, and  do the iSpresso mod, adding the following features:

  • Programmable PID Controller for precise boiler temperature control
  • Programmable Pre-soak time, wait time, and brew time
  • Controllable from web browser, iPad, iPhone (Android coming soon) on WiFi network
  • Schedule allows programmable on / off timing for each day of the week
  • LCD readout for system status, toggle buttons for operation
  • Smart Connect for easy set-up to your WiFi network

Not sure if this mod would be easily ported to the Andreja or not, or if this would even increase the reliability – but it sure looks interesting!

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Sites for reference :

UPDATE: 2014-08-30 – Picked up some bubinga to construct a new shell frame – I liked the look of the wood more than the teak – it was also $20/bd ft. vs. $50/bd ft. :) Still need to get some perforated stainless steel

More pizza!

Didn’t take any pictures, but made up a pile of pizza last night.  Tried a different dough recipe that was really good – and used bread flour, which I think is a little finer than standard flour.

Also, made a stop in at the Italian Centre grocery store up on 51st Ave, and bought a bunch of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, pepperoni (was something very similar anyway), a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and roasted peppers.  Along with some basil from my little herb garden, and some mushrooms we were making some margherita pizza’s as well as some various combinations.  They were all a hit – and levelling my BBQ seemed to improve the heating of the Bakerstone pizza oven – was getting just into the flame zone :)


Would be nice to be able to cook 2 or 3 pizza’s at a time – might have to look into building a cob or brick wood fired pizza oven next year! — Although, that might just make it a little more work watching and turning the pizza – one at a time might be enough – lol

Pizza!

Pizza & beer - is there a better combo?
Pizza & beer – is there a better combo?

Received a very cool gift from my mom – a pizza oven that sits on the barbecue grill!

It’s a Bakerstone Pizza oven.

Tried it out earlier this week – and it works great! The dough is easy to make – just takes a little time – so it is necessary to plan ahead a bit.

For the first pizza’s, I was really winging it – and created my own sauce using crushed tomatoes, lots of garlic, olive oil from Evoolution, and some lemongrass mint white balsamic vinegar (from Evoolution as well) – and it tasted great!  Going to try a more traditional neapolitan style pizza sauce next time :)

2014-07-28 18.44.57

2014-07-28 18.45.03

Murphy strikes the Jeep – again!

Northstar Ultra High Performance AGM batteryWell, I’m just about to pull the trigger and buy a new bumper for the Jeep, and this past Friday I go out into the torrential downpour only to find the Jeep is dead. Completely dead. No dash lights, no odometer, nothing.

Over the weekend, I pulled the battery (a Northstar ultra high performance one that I purchased a year or so ago from Battery World – read -“not cheap!”) and hooked it up to a charger, and after a few hours, the charger displayed “bad”.  Tested with a multimeter and something discharged the battery down to nothing – but no idea what.

Hopefully can get the battery replaced and all will be good in the world again!  If that doesn’t fix it – then I’m afraid my bumper budget will get swallowed up in troubleshooting and fixing an electrical problem!

Update:
Things are looking promising I think – Battery World has the battery now and are testing it, and recharging it.  In the meantime, they gave me an Optima Red Top to throw in the Jeep and see how things go.  With the Optima, the Jeep fired up – which is encouraging.  I ran the Jeep a little while – checked the voltage while running – which came out to 13.8 volts – which I think is in the right neighbourhood.  Tried this morning, and the Jeep fired up again as well.  Fingers crossed – hopefully Battery World calls back soon!

New closet

Moved back up to our bedroom now that Tracey’s foot has healed up and gotten much better – we’re not sure that we’re thrilled about the upstairs/downstairs routine again, but the space is definitely nice!

One thing we decided to fix right away was the lack of closet space – so I made up a couple cabinets that I mounted along the length of the bedroom, added some 1.5″ dowelling between them, and we now have about 15 feet of closet!  Everyone’s happy!