Website Updates for the New Year

And with the New Year, comes some long overdue technical updates that need to be made to this blog. As you’ve probably noticed over the last month or so, I haven’t been posting as often as in the past. It basically boils down to that I’ve run out of hard drive space in my hosting package. And with the previous post on the sunflower seeds, it used up the last of the free space available in my package. So to even keep this blog going I’ve already had to delete out archive files from other websites I run (which I really didn’t want to do) just to keep this site up and running.

I’ve already put in my order for a package upgrade. So hopefully I should be all done with the site upgrades over the next week. And then I can get back to business as usual with this blog.

Cyber Monday – Sunflower seeds from BIGS

What a deal, what a deal.

I was just about to head out to the local truck stop, to see what kind of sunflower seeds they carried from BIGS. But when I checked out BIGS website on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, they happened to be running a Cyber Monday special for free shipping on all orders over $10, plus they tossed in a free gift with your order (a branded plastic cup filled with sample bags of flavored sunflower seeds.) So what I ended up ordering was there variety bundle (2 bags each of 6 different flavors, for a total of 12 bags), a bag of the Jim Beam Jalapeno flavored seeds, and a bag of the Jim Beam Barbeque flavored seed, so 14 bags in total for ~$21.89 with free shipping.

So other then being a great deal, in both the cost per bag, and the free shipping. But they ended up shipping the sunflower seeds by FedEx no less, instead of the USPS.

Now you might be asking yourself, “Why would someone buy 14 bags of sunflower seeds off of the Internet?”. Well it boils down to this…..I finally found a brand of sunflower seeds that I like, and BIGS are kind of difficult to find due to limited physical distribution (truck stops, random convenience stores, etc), hence the large internet order.

Many moons ago, the only brand of sunflower seeds that I knew of was from David’s. And the seeds from David’s really didn’t do it for me as a snack food, since I only saw the “original” flavor on store shelves, plus the seeds were tiny as well.

So on a cross country road trip last year, I happened to pick up a couple of pouches of sunflower seeds from GIANT and from BIGS, and it totally changed my perspective on the world of sunflower seeds. But between GIANT and BIGS, I really took a liking to the seeds from BIGS. With the deciding factor being that the seeds from BIGS came in a zip-top pouch, which was a big bonus in my book. Out of all the flavor listed below, I’ve only had the Jim Beam Barbeque and the Frank’s Red Hot before this large purchase, and I enjoyed both flavors.

So as I mentioned above, I though that I would take the full plunge, and order up the 12 count variety pack, that way I would get to try 5 other flavors that I haven’t tried before. And I also tossed in a bag of the Jalapeno seeds, since I haven’t seem them before. And if some of the flavors work out, and others don’t, no big deal (pun intended). I’ll only be out a couple of bucks, but at least I would have gotten a chance to try some different flavors for a change.

Shipment List Breakdown:
1 bag –  5.15oz Jim Beam Jalapeno Sunflower Seeds by BIGS
1 bag – 5.15oz Jim Beam Barbeque Sunflower Seeds by BIGS
2 bag – BIGS Zesty Ranch flavored Sunflower Seeds
2 bag – BIGS Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing flavored Sunflower Seeds
2 bag – BIGS Vlasic Dill Pickles flavored Sunflower Seeds
2 bag – BIGS Sea Salt and Black Pepper flavored Sunflower Seeds
2 bag – BIGS Original Salted and Roasted flavored Sunflower Seeds
2 bag – BIGS Sizzlin’ Bacon flavored Sunflower Seeds

First Snow 2010

Not to be confused with First Blood, but this past weekend was the start of somekind of “blizzard” to hit the Midwest. Which is kind of ironic, since last Friday it was 48F with only some light rain. But then on Saturday, it went from nice to ugly, with a mix of freezing rain, some light snow and very strong winds. I was kind of enjoying this mild winter so far, but as usual, mother nature had to spoil a good time. Welcome to the start of winter, and plenty of shoveling to come.

Four legged visitor for the next three weeks

So listen to this. My folks came out to visit me during the first weekend in December, and they brought along their cat, Misha. You might remember her from a long time ago, in this post.

Well needless to say, when my parents left for home on Tuesday morning, Misha went into hiding in the basement. My folks spent about an hour trying to find her, but Misha just didn’t want to be found. So they ended up having to leave her behind until they come back for Christmas. So basically I still have Misha for another week and a half, before my parents show back up to claim her.

So far its been a mixed bag with Misha, since she is still in her “man hater” mood, and keeps hissing at my all the time. A couple of times she let me play with her, but that has only happened twice. Most mornings I get to find out what “trouble making” she got into the night before. For some reason, one of her favorate things to do, is grab the toliet paper roll from the bathroom and chew it up in the middle of the room. But in general, she likes to chew almost anything (posters, speaker cables, clothing, etc.), which is very anoying. Personally I can’t wait until our time together is over with.

Picked up Aug/Sept 2010 Wine Club Shipment from Domaine Carneros

I received this wine shipment a few months ago, I just kept on forgetting to post anything about it (in case you were wondering, the sparkling was a 2004 Late Disgorged Brut and the red was a 2008 DomaineCarneros Estate Pinot Noir.)

Personally I’ve gotten to a point in time after this post, that I’m going to be posting less often on the wine shipments. Since there really isn’t anything compelling in each shipment to continue as normal on the bi-monthly posting cycle. So unless I get some bottles that are really interesting, you won’t be seeing these wine posts as frequently as before, of course excluding the once yearly Magnum Society shipment (picture included.)

So on a bit of a lighter note, a few weeks ago was the release date for the 2010 batch of Beaujolais Nouveau out of France. And seeing how the nouveau always sells out quickly, I made sure to swing by Costco a day or two after the release, and I picked up a whole case of the stuff, while they still had it in stock. And boy was it a deal at Costco, at $7.99 a bottle. And the case that I did pick up, is only half for me, since the other half was already promissed to my folks, for when I see them after Thanksgiving. And at $7.99 a bottle it’s probably one of the best value plays in the red wine market for the rest of the year. So Cheers.

Chicharrónes (Pork Rinds) – v2 – November 2010

I’ve made chicharrónes once before with JRR and it came out semi-successfully, only because we really didn’t know what we were doing when we tried to make them the first time around. So this time around, I took some tips from the Momofuku cookbook, and talk about a totally different end result.

So a little bit of the back story on the first batch of skins. After me and JRR were done butchering half of a pig, we had a couple of bags of skin to divide up between all the butchered pig buyers. And from what I remember, from the first time that I made these with JRR, we didn’t remove all the fat from the skin before frying the fresh skins in hot oil. What a mistake! Since when the rind puffed up in the hot oil, any spots on the skin that had fat remaining were chewy as hell after frying (think jerky). Which really isn’t the desired effect you’re going for with pork rinds.

The major problem with this ad hoc prep system the first time around, is the remaining fat on the skin, since hand trimming isn’t the ideal solution to this fat problem. So after plenty of back and forth with JRR on how to remedy this situation. I think he finally mentioned something about Momofuku having a technique for making chicharrónes. So with that, I was off to the local public library to check out a copy. And it turns out that the tips in Momofuku for making chicharrónes are pretty cleaver. But the major point of the technique is how to prepare the skins before frying them up. And it basically encompasses boiling the pork skins for an hour, then chilling them in an ice bath for ~15 mins, which then enables you to scrape all the remaining fat from the surface of the skins (I used a bench scraper for this task, instead of the back of a chef’s knife.) So with that bit of major prep work out of the way, Momofuku recommends to dry the skins out in a food dehydrator until brittle. Then you can store the dried skins until you want to make up some chicharrónes on demand.

Talk about the difference between night and day for this new batch of chicharrónes. Light, puffy and crunchy, it’s like I almost pulled the chicharrón from a bag that you would get at the grocery store. And topped with just a light coating of Frank’s Red Hot after cooking, talk about a real treat for any pork lover.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the actual cooking method used, and surprisingly it’s not in the fryer, but in the microwave. Yes you read that correctly, cooking pork rinds in the microwave, instead of deep fat frying them. Somehow I stumbled upon this cooking concept while randomly surfing the internet for tips on prepping the skins. You might be able to see it in the pictures, but there is just the lightest of fat coating still on the skins after being in the dehydrator. And for some reason, when you microwave the skins on HIGH for about 1 to 1:30 mins, that light coating of fat kind of “fries” the chicharrónes in the microwave. So you get the speed of the microwave (in case you want a quick snack), but you also get the frying action as if they were deep fat fried, without any of the mess associated with setting up the deep fat fryer.

What a relief in gaining the tips from the Momofuku cookbook. For a while there, I was worried that I would have a couple of bags of pork skin sitting in my freezer indefinitely. But seeing how I now have a successful technique for processes these pork skins. I now just have to find a free weekend to process all the skins in the freezer, and finally regain some of my freezer space back.