Archive Page 2

Next stop, purple

You know how when you need something at a store, and then you think of other things to get? Well, my trusty charcoal chimney (as seen in my post Old Tube, New Life a few years ago) had finally rusted to pieces. I’d fixed it a few times over the years, but now the tray was shot, and charcoal could fall right through the sides. But this is not the object at hand.
So I went to smile.amazon.com, and found a stainless steel one that should last for decades for less than twice the price of the rustable one. And while I was there, I needed some low discharge NiMh batteries for our home phones, and a solar light for the garden.
And, well, another pocket camera. I’ve been complaining about my latest one for quite a while. I figured that it was time to stop whining and bite the bullet and buy a replacement.
I’ve been using Canon PowerShot Elph cameras since 2008, collecting a series of them as I burned little dark areas on their sensors by shooting too close to the sun, cracked displays, dinged cases, and chipped lenses. I keep the old ones around because some older models have niceties that they removed from newer cameras.
Like the SD1100IS has built in time-lapse video.
The Elph 110 has 240fps video (used in this video) and 30fps burst mode (good for getting shots of dancers).

They all are pretty much of a size, so I buy them in different colors so I know which one I am grabbing at a glance. I have silver, pink, gold, and black ones.

The time has come for purple. And today’s object at hand (a Canon Elph 360 HS) came in the mail today, and matched the shirt I had on.
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Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

chickpeasIn our previous episode, our hero was left holding a can of beans. What, our parsimonious person wonders, will I do with these chickpeas? In my previous post I used aquafaba, the juice from canned garbanzo beans, in a manner learned from All Things Considered. I was wondering what to do with the beans themselves, when it occurred to me: Gluten Free Gingerbread! We have a holiday family gathering to which I usually bring cookies. But several members on my wife’s side of the family have medically diagnosed Celiac issues; they must stay gluten free. And then there is that one thin Vegan that seems to be in every family nowadays. I aim to please.

So I did some Googling, and found hints of what I wanted to do, but not one recipe for ginger cookies using canned chickpeas. So I decided to invent one by mixing a few found recipes with the knowledge I gained from my mother and Harold McGee. Plus some experience with a food processor.

But American “Gingerbread” is actually more like the base layer of German “Pfefferkuchen” in that the flavors of cloves, molasses, nutmeg, and cinnamon mostly hide the ginger note. I like the taste of ginger; I like to feel the burn.

So here is my apparently weird, but rated successful even by non-vegan, non-gluten-free friends, recipe:

  • img_3368One can Garbanzos, drained, rinsed, set in a colander.
  • 1/2 c rolled oats (you can use quick oats, or gluten free oat flour)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder (or 1 tsp baking soda plus 1 tsp cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional, I think it boosts the flavor)
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c minced candied ginger
  1. Put the oats and powders in a food processor with a sharp blade. Mill till powdered and mixed. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Dump in garbanzos, sugar, oil. Mill till dough. You will need to scrape it down a few times. If using vinegar, add it about halfway through this step.
  3. Fold in the ginger candy. I used a separate bowl for this to avoid chopping it any finer.
  4. Spoon and press, or roll and cut. I used a fork to press and raise crispy ridges on this first try. Next time the plan is to roll it to 1/4″ and cut holiday shapes.
  5. Bake at  350ºF for 30 min for crispy cookies. Try 20 minutes if you want soft centers. INRS

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Vegan Meringue “Wasps Nest” Cookies

chickpeasI was listening to All Things Considered and I overheard a chef discussing vegan cooking. One question piqued my interest: “What do you use for eggs?”

“Aquafaba,” is the answer, “Chickpea juice from canned garbanzo beans is a direct substitute for egg whites.”

My adult nephew is currently vegan, and one family holiday favorite was a meringue cookie that I’ve made since childhood. Here’s the story behind those (indented so you can jump to the recipe if you are so inclined).

In my family, we celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas as Advents. This meant family gathered for some special light meal (latkes, or fondue, smorgasbord, etc) followed by special goodies: Imported German cookies (“Pfefferkuchen”), home made special seasonal treats, etc. My German mother used traditional recipes from an old cookbook. Not only in German (and thus requiring a gram scale) but printed in German Gothic script.

Many of these rich recipes used an excess of egg yolks. My mother, having been raised in an economy significantly worse than the U.S. Great Depression, hated to waste anything. So she found a recipe for meringue cookies to use up the egg whites. They were slightly chocolate and filled with almonds, and named Wespeneste (Wasp’s Nests) for their resemblance to the spiky, papery, chunk-filled objects.

So these not-at-all holiday-esque cookies became a holiday tradition.

So here is the Vegan (and gluten-free) variation on this recipe:

  • 1 Can Aquafaba: Juice from 1 can of chick peas (approx. 2/3 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1c sugar (cane, beet, coconut, whatever)
  • 1/3 c cocoa (more or less)
  • 3/4 c toasted almond slivers (or chopped roasted almonds)
  1. img_3360Whip the aquafaba to soft peaks, preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Slowly add sugar while whipping
  3. Sift in cocoa while mixing slower (slower to prevent clouds of cocoa covering the counter and causing coughs)
  4. Continue whipping to firmer peaks.
  5. Fold in almonds
  6. img_3366Spoon onto silicone pad, aluminum foil, or parchment on a cookie sheet. Anything oven safe and peelable.
  7. Place in oven, multiple racks any location.
  8. Turn oven down to 225 (note: Assumes gas oven; electric may be fine to turn off, INRS)
  9. Leave in for an hour (less for chewy centers, more for what my little brother calls “‘Splosion cookies.”) These are meringues; the oven is not so much to bake as to dehydrate.

The firmer the peaks when whipping, the more the cookies will hold their shape. Also, this temperature combination sets the outer shape and then lets the interior settle, leaving a hollow area. It makes them more fun that solid meringues.

img_3367

But here I am with a can of beans. Now what? The answer came to me:
Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

What’s a Chick Pea?

chickpeasThis and the following two posts are about a legume. First, a minor reminiscence. Then a couple of unexpected cookie recipes. Basically three posts in which The Object at Hand amounts to just a can of beans.

Back in 1970 my parents took us kids to visit our grandmothers for the first time. We were living in familial isolation in the middle of the U.S. and my two grandmothers were in northern Europe and the Middle East. This story originated at the southern branch of the family.

One food that was new to my mother and us kids was “tahina hatzelem” (my best guess at spelling a foreign phrase I hadn’t heard since childhood.) It was decades later that I learned that in the U.S. this sesame and eggplant paste is known by its Arabic name: “Baba ganoush.”

But back in 1970: We had returned home and my mother wanted to make it. She had no trouble finding the eggplant and sesame paste. But it took her weeks of trolling all the grocery stores to find chick peas. She would search the aisles, and then ask someone. No one seemed to have ever heard of chick peas. Until she went to one smaller market, and a stock boy with an Spanish accent (near as my German accented mother could tell) overheard her ask the manager. After the manager said they didn’t have them, the stock boy suggested that she ask for “Garbanzo Beans.” The manager lit up, and told her where to find them. My mother was both amused and appalled at the absurd name; she felt that foods should have polite and respectable names.

But every summer from then until I moved out (and probably after that) my mother would make a batch of this yummy dip, liberally topped with paprika. This is my earliest association with the Garbanzo.

Recipe 1: Vegan Meringue Wasps Nests

Recipe 2: Vegan, Gluten Free Ginger Cookies

Chemicals are Missing

I happened to look at a tube of sunscreen slash bug repellent sitting on a windowsill in my home, and the absurdity of its claims have promoted it to today’s Object at Hand.

ChemicalFree1

The front proclaims, “Chemical Free!” This baffles me. If the constituents of the contents are found on the periodic table, it has chemicals in it. Outside of brief existences in high energy locations, like the Large Hadron Collider impact zone, everything on Earth is chemicals. Even the dissociated plasma in arc lamps is chemical in nature.

But maybe they consider “chemicals” to be things with known chemistry, as opposed to the generally unknown complex chemistry of plant products. But there on the back is a typical list of somewhat unpronounceable, organic and inorganic, mostly synthesized, molecules. Chemicals.

I am sure we paid for this stuff, so they were not free. I am sure that the tube and everything inside is made of chemicals, so “free” could not mean “absent.”

It also says it is the #1 Natural Choice. As opposed to, a super-natural one? Anything found in the known universe is a part of nature, “natural”. We’ve even discovered natural nuclear reactors, and any chemical that can be synthesized in a lab can be found somewhere in nature. Turns out, space is full of wacky, complex organic molecules. So, on what scale do they order how “natural” a product is?

To complete the absurdity, it has a banner: “Quantum.” That word means, the smallest divisible unit. Generally, something so small that it requires great sophistication to detect the thing or the difference. Is this referring to the smallest tube they sell?

And after all that, the package doesn’t even clearly state what it does, for how long, or how it is supposed to work. A trite triumph of marketing form over functional content.

In the Thick of it

Embossed Card

How many of you remember those old, carbon-paper credit card receipt machines? Revel in the solid “Ka-chunk chunk” sound as the cashier strained to run the slider back and forth, and the waste can full of booklets of carbon paper pulled from the right side of the sandwich of receipts. As a kid I was allowed to take some of those carbons home from stores, to play with fingerprints, and to use for stenciling. Back then, folks didn’t worry so much about identity theft.

But have you even seen one of those machines in the last decade?

Today’s Object at Hand is a new debit card, complete not only with a magnetic strip (tech from the 1970’s) but also a somewhat secure chip (based on the late 1990’s tech now considered obsolete in Europe). And, what is this? It still has the 1950’s legacy support of embossed information! Why, you may well ask, do I make a point of this?

I like a thin wallet. The embossing increases the thickness of each card by 50%, and the friction to drag it out of a wallet pocket by noticeably more than that. It wears out the pocket or adjacent cards faster, as well as frustrating the user when too many get packed in there. And it serves no (expletive) purpose. Well, little potential purpose.

Had I a flat card, and needed to purchase from some Luddite (who also does not take cash, or checks, and has neither the free stripe reader or the cheap chip reader available to anyone with a smart phone), they would be forced to hand write my name and card number on their multi-part receipt form. I’d happily do it for them.

Fortunately, I could walk in to my bank and get a flat version of the card this morning. All the same information at 66% of the thickness. Happy ending 🙂

Socket To Me

Or: All Your Base Are Belong to Edison

As I was putting up lights for the Solstice/Yule/Christmas season this year, I found that my porch light would not work right. I had unscrewed the bulb to screw in an outlet to power the porch-hung wreath, and could not make it work. I had replaced a (CFL) bulb a month earlier, and suspected that the fixture rather than the bulb was at fault. Now, I was sure of it. So I used an alternate source for the season.

P1060115But then we had a warm day in January, so I set up a ladder and took down the light. Yes, I first identified the right breaker (that took a few tries) and shut off the power.

The fixture seems to be from the 1940’s or 50’s.

IMG_0649I had put a dusk-to-dawn sensor on it in 1990. Birds had nested upon it, and insects apparently made themselves at home behind it.

So down it came, and I worked out how to disassemble it. The screws were rusty, but functional. It needed a good cleaning.

But as I took it apart, it became apparent that the problem was not the wobbly nature of the light socket, but rather that a tubular rivet in the interior of the socket had fatigued away, failed. This was the critical problem. Here you can see the two rivet positions for the Edison base shell, one without a rivet. The missing side is the one to which the neutral power line connects. So the light worked if I pushed it in to touch the rivet, and only then.

IMG_0656

So what to do? I hate to replace something that can be fixed. Fortunately, I am a bit of a hoarder. I had saved the light fixtures from a burned out, water damaged ceiling fan a decade ago. I found this remnant and pulled out its socket. See what the rivets are supposed to look like:

IMG_0676

The iffy news is that the wires on the “new” 1980’s socket are a bit corroded. But my experience as a tinker and my degree in electrical engineering led me to think this was not a real issue. With CFL’s and LED’s it will never be carrying as much power as it was designed to.

The good news is that the holes, indents, and threads of the 1980’s socket matched the mid-century light fixture. A perfect fit.

IMG_0675

So the true Object at Hand is the late 1800’s designed electrical screw-socket to mount light bulbs (generically known as an Edison Base) that are still made from ceramic and brass.


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