All posts by Ray

Pour-overs again :)

While our espresso machine is undergoing some maintenance, I’ve pulled out the Hario V-60 and an old electric President’s Choice (PC) burr grinder (about 20 years old).  I don’t like changing the grind setting much on my espresso grinder – a La Cimbali Jr. grinder, since the adjustment from espresso to a grind setting suitable for pour over requires a couple minutes of spinning the adjustment dial.

The PC grinder was a bargain  at only $19.99, but was fragile, and created a huge amount of static resulting in a mess every time it was used.  It does still work, but alignment pins in the hopper have broken, and the lids to hopper and the grinder prompted me to find an inexpensive non-manual replacement.  Main requirements were price (< $100 CDN), little to no static, and uses a burr grinder.

After some Googling, grinders such as the Baratza Encore come up – here that’s around $200 – so scratch that.  I ended up on Amazon, reading through reviews, and perhaps tossing the dice a bit, but ended up choosing this one – a Shardor Conical Burr Grinder (CG855B).  Thousands of ratings with an overall score of 4.4/5 stars.

It was only $79, and a $10 coupon was available on top of that!  There are a couple even less expensive ones, but I liked the grind adjustment setting, and the fact this model specifically includes mention of being anti-static.

Once I received it, I was amazed.  It’s noticeably quieter than my old one,  was easy to adjust, and no static at all!  And the uniformity of the grind was a huge surprise.  For fun I even tried grinding for espresso – and while it did the job and worked, it did bog down a bit while grinding.

We will see how long the grinder lasts, but so far it’s a winner.  Nice and uniform grind, easy to clean, and no static!

 

Canelés – they really aren’t that difficult – you just have to wait :)

After seeing these delicious looking pastries, I had to give them a try – apparently they are a challenge to make.  To get started, I bought a canelé pan on Amazon – one of the non-stick carbon steel varieties, and a bag of what was advertised on the Amazon site as food grade DIY beeswax pellets.  Printed right on the bag, yet not mentioned on the site was a warning, clearly stating the product is not edible.  Not sure how anyone could say something that is not edible could possibly be food grade.  Oh well – back to Amazon it goes (keeping the pan though!).  As I discovered, it doesn’t really seem the beeswax is even necessary.

So, after watching a number of different YouTube videos, and the recipe recommended by my future son-in-law, I mixed up the batter.  I simmered the milk with couple dried up vanilla pods, along with some real extract for 10 minutes or so as per the Taste of Artisan instructions – from there I deviated, mixing the flour, eggs, butter, sugar and rum all together, and then adding 1/3 of the simmered milk (pouring through a fine strainer), and whipping until smooth.  I then added the rest and continued stirring until mixed thoroughly.

The next evening I heated up the oven to 475 F, took the batter out of the fridge and gave it a good stir – being careful not to incorporate any air.   I then just melted some butter, and brushed the butter into 8 of the 12 pan cups, then ladled batter into each of the buttered cups – filling them to about 3/4 full.

Into the oven for 15 minutes at 475 F, after which I lowered the temperature to 375F, for another 45 minutes.

Afterwards, I took the pan out of the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, then flipped the pan over – dumping the delectable delights onto a wire cooling rack – they all popped out perfectly, and none of the dreaded “white butts” commonly referenced on Youtube and various other websites.

 

 

 

The next evening I cooked up the rest of the batter, making 12 more pastries (a little smaller than the first ones – but cups were still about 2/3’s full).  Again, these popped out of the pan with no issues and no “white butts” as well.  Just nice and crispy on the outside, and nice and custardy on the inside!

Chef’s Plate experience

A few weeks ago, we decided to give Chef’s Plate a try.  As the primary cook for the household, I found it tiring trying to come up with ideas of what to make for dinner, and also the challenge of trying to get the appropriate groceries for the week.  As a result, we fell back on take out, and also found ourselves throwing out a lot of food gone bad.

After the initial trial period where you get a bunch of meals for really low prices, we get a two 4 serving meals a week.  Sometimes we just go with what they offer, other times we go into their website and pick our meals.

The quality of the ingredients has been great.  I find their meat quality to be better than anything I can get from our local grocery stores.

A couple times we ran into issues – one week they didn’t deliver until a couple days later, and another time they had omitted the primary ingredient (no salmon for a salmon chowder).  Both times their customer service was very responsive and resolved the issues to our satisfaction.

The box of 2 four serving meals costs around $70 – so each serving is around $9.  About half of what we would spend when ordering out.  The preparation times on the meal cards are reasonably accurate – and are usually around 30 minutes – so not far off from a typical wait time for a DoorDash order.

The meals come with a letter sized card that details what ingredients the meal includes (and qty), and step by step instructions for the preparation.  The cards are great – we save them (and save the repeats for family and friends).  I find them useful for meal ideas without a kit.  The one thing that can be a challenge is finding the appropriate spice blends they use in most of their meals.  These are often the ‘magic’ that makes their meals.  The do provide ingredient lists and recipes for many of their blends (but not all) over on their Facebook page.

The meals are packed in a medium sized  box with each meal individually packed in it’s own recyclable or biodegradable bag.  A third insulated bag contains a well sealed ice block along with any perishable ingredients from either of the meals.

I have a hard time throwing out the boxes – it doesn’t feel right.  Instead, we’ve been saving them.  Having a bunch of uniformly sized boxes is helpful to get things organized.

Secure your home network

Our home networks are become busier places.  Working from home, more wi-fi enabled light bulbs and switches, home automation, tablets and smartphones all add to the complexity.

Shortly before the pandemic, I had upgrade my service to fibre and gigabit bandwidth.  With the new service came a new modem/router, and a very dumbed-down management interface that provides minimal control over the network.

My previous service provider provided a modem/router that ran in bridged mode, so I was able to bypass their router and use my own router.  The router has a very rich management interface, so I wanted to keep using it.  It also wasn’t that old.

So looking at the devices on our home network, I was able to divide them up into 3 categories:

  • work computers
  • family computers, tablets, and phones
  • home automation devices, Google Home or Mini’s, and a couple appliances

I wanted to set things up so that family computers couldn’t see or access anything else on our work computers, and also isolate the home automation, Google devices, and assorted wi-fi enabled light bulbs and switches from everything else.

One function my router was missing was the ability to create VLANs.  I purchased a small Netgear managed gigabit switch to to do this.  I connected one of the ethernet ports of the service providers router to the Netgear switch, and another ethernet cable from the provider router to my router.

Basically, I use the service provider router to provide a guest wifi network, and use it’s ethernet outputs to connect my own router and a managed switch.  The managed switch provides 3 VLANs for work computers and our home automation hub.  My router is configured so that our IoT devices operate within it’s guest network, and the rest of the router is use for family computers, printer and phones.

In Canada, we have access to an excellent DNS service, called Canadian Shield.  It provides an additional layer of security for the family – and I have my router configured to use it.

Of course there are also the standard things needed to ensure your home network is secure:

  1. Make sure any default passwords have been changed on your router – and use STRONG PASSWORDS.
  2. Set your router to update it’s firmware automatically.  Most manufacturers are pretty proactive to get their firmware updated as new threats and bugs are discovered.  Make sure the manufacturer is proactive and providing timely updates – and if it isn’t, seriously consider purchasing a new one from a manufacturer that is proactive.

 

Homeseer update

Things have been rocky lately with my Raspberry Pi running Homeseer – over the past couple weeks it was randomly stopping to respond.  This began after attempting to update the system to the latest stable version (and being lazy I forgot to do a complete backup!).

After reflashing the micro SD card at least 4 or 5 times, I bought a couple new SD cards to use.  Tried a couple more times and I thought I had things back, but 2 days later it all halted again.  Enough with the Raspberry Pi.

I decided to get a license for HS4 Standard, and run it on an older Windows 10 workstation I have.  The installation was a breeze – although I did have a hiccup when adding the interface – was a bit of a guess choosing the Sigma UBZ interface (I have a Homeseer SmartStick +), and then the COM port (1 or 3).

Service is up and running nice now, and a couple events set up – just have to work on them more and get my garage door events rebuilt and running again.