Lunch In A Box Is Back From Hiatus

by A.J. Coltrane

I often used to go to It’s a website featuring tips and ideas using bento boxes. It got me excited enough about the process to buy a bento box for myself.

She’s now back from a four year “break”, with a few new posts since May. The archives are worth a look if you’re at all interested.

Late edit –   This Top Tips Link is a great place to start.

Container Garden Update — September 14, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

September 15, 2013 post here.

35 pounds of stuff today, 47 pounds for the week(!) We’re now over 200 pounds of produce for the year.

Today’s harvest. It mostly covered the dining room table:

140914 harvest

Tuesday looks paltry by comparison:

Continue reading Container Garden Update — September 14, 2014

A Quick Weeknight Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

A big disadvantage of preparing a two-hour dough is that it’s not enough time for enzymes to liberate natural sugars from the flour. The flavor suffers as a result, and the color is rarely as nicely carmelized as seen on longer-rise doughs.

Last week’s Batali dough got me thinking about adding sugar, or honey, to a quick mid-week pizza. The formula below is influenced by that last recipe, omitting the wine but increasing the water content:

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
AP Flour 400g
Water 260g 65
Salt 9g 2.25
Honey 1 TBP
Instant Yeast 1.5 tsp
Olive Oil 1 TBP

That’s a lot of flour — the same amount as goes in the No-Knead breads, or even two medium size pizzas. For a single pizza I’ll more often use 200 or 300 grams of flour, scaling back the other ingredients as needed. This was a thick pizza:

140909 pizza

Chopped fresh tomatoes, mozz, basil. The crust was finished with an herbed olive oil. (A post on that later, it’s a nice local producer. We purchased the oil at the farmer’s market.)

The recipe:

1.  Knead all ingredients at low speed for 10 minutes. Let rise two hours. Preheat oven to 500F.

2.  While the oven is preheating, halve the tomatoes across the equator and squeeze out the worst of the juice. Chop the tomatoes, basil, and mozz.

3.  Very lightly oil a pizza pan, apply the stretched dough. Top the dough with the chopped tomatoes.

4.  Bake for 10 minutes. At the 10 minute mark sprinkle on the mozz.

5.  Bake for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and strew on the basil. Lightly brush the crust with olive oil.

The pizza would have been improved by using somewhat less flour, and possibly by swapping out the AP flour for Bread flour. Marinating the tomatoes in garlic would have been good too.

I was fairly happy with it overall. I think it’s the “right track” for quick weeknight dinners.


The New ESPN “Odds And Info” Page

by A.J. Coltrane

ESPN has what I think is a new page — “Odds and Info”. It’s on their front page tab right above “Poker”. Clicking through takes you to a page called “Chalk”, which is about as neutral a name as they could have picked so as not to upset the squares.

The funny thing is that when I stumbled onto it yesterday the tab and page were both named “Betting.” Maybe ESPN instantly got complaints?

Two thoughts:

1.  It’s going to continue to get harder to gamble on sports as information becomes more widely available. That process has been going on since the 1980′s — it’s always been a matter knowing more than the general population. Back then a copy of the Sporting News was enough. Not anymore.

2.  On September 5th, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that legalized sports gambling was “inevitable” [ESPN]:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes expanded legalized sports betting in the United States is “inevitable,” and the league is open to participating in it.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit on Thursday in New York, Silver said that he understood that cash-strapped states will pursue legalized sports betting and that the NBA can benefit from it.

“It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada,” Silver said, per “We will ultimately participate in that.”

It’s a change in tune for the NBA, which in 2012 joined the NCAA, NFL, MLB and NHL in suing New Jersey over its efforts to bring legalized sports betting to its casinos and race tracks…


“If you have a gentleman’s bet or a small wager on any kind of sports contest, it makes you that much more engaged in it,” Silver said. “That’s where we’re going to see it pay dividends. If people are watching a game and clicking to bet on their smartphones, which is what people are doing in the United Kingdom right now, then it’s much more likely you’re going to stay tuned for a long time.”

More than $3.6 billion was wagered on sports at Nevada sports books in 2013. The American Gaming Association, citing the National Gambling Impact Study, estimates that as much as $380 billion is wagered illegally in the U.S. annually.

Silver seems to think that legally allowing gambling will be good for the NBA, attracting more eyeballs to the telecasts. Given what fantasy football has done for the popularity of the NFL, he may be right. It certainly won’t lead to *fewer* people watching the NBA.

My guess is that ESPN is very quietly trying to get ahead of the curve, or at least not get left behind. Between Silver’s statement, the New Jersey lawsuit, and this new ESPN page, it seems like we’re near a tipping point for legalized sports gambling in the USA.

Something else to help keep me entertained in my retirement!

Container Garden Update — September 7, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

September 8, 2013 post here.

The garden looks quite a bit different this year. The Gypsy peppers are much riper:

140906 Gypsy

The white stuff is diatomaceous earth. The bugs didn’t attack the Gypsy peppers so maybe it’s helping.

Continue reading Container Garden Update — September 7, 2014

Recommended “Game” — Untappd

by A.J. Coltrane

Drink beer, receive badges!

That doesn’t sound like an “enabler” app at all, does it?

From the Untappd website:

Explore Nearby Popular Bars & Beers

Not sure where to grab a pint? Untappd shows you popular bars nearby and what’s on tap.


Discover What Your Friends Are Drinking

The best recommendations come from your friends, so find out where & what they drink.


Share What & Where You’re Drinking

Share reviews, ratings and photos of the beers you drink with your friends around the world.


Drink New Beers, Unlock Badges

Expand your palette by trying new & different beer styles and unlock achievements along the way.


master-badgeUntappd has a fun “game” element to it. You get badges for drinking different types of beer. You get badges for drinking multiples of one type of beer. You get badges for drinking beer at odd hours. At one point my traveling companion got a badge for drinking on the ferry. “Ohoy Matey!” It makes casual beer drinking a potentially entertaining surprise.

Untappd has a lot of other neat features too. It’s a giant crowdsourced look at what everyone is drinking, and where. You can search by brewery — right now I can see that people are drinking Night Owl at the Elysian. It functions as a journal of what you’ve been drinking — it allows for comments and ratings, and you can save pictures too. We’ve shown this to a few people, most of the time they’ll cackle, then download it as fast as they can.

Highly recommended, and free!

Batali’s Pizza Dough, Again

by A.J. Coltrane

I thought I’d try Batali’s pizza dough recipe from “Italian Grill”. As it turns out, I’ve already blogged about his Food Network recipe here, and here. I compared it to other recipes I was familiar with here.

First off, the two recipes — “IG” is from his book “Italian Grill”.  “FN” is from the Food Network website.

Ingredient Batali (IG) Batali (FN)
AP Flour 3-1/4 cups 3-1/2 cups
Water 1 cup ¾ cup
Wine ¼ cup white ¼ cup white
Salt 1 TBP 1 tsp
Sugar 1 TBP 1 TBP honey
Instant Yeast 2 tsp 2 TBP
Olive Oil 2 TBP + 1 tsp 1 TBP + 1 tsp

There’s one striking difference. Doing the math — the “IG” formula comes out to ~18 grams of salt, somewhere in the range of 4-5% of the weight of the flour. That *has* to be a typo, as the finished product would be borderline inedible.

Next — Converting the “IG” formula to weights and comparing it to the pizza pictured below:

Ingredient Batali (IG) This One
AP Flour 390g 400g
Water 236 200g
Wine 59g white 40g rose
Salt 18g 9g
Sugar 1 TBP 1 TBP
Instant Yeast 2 tsp 2 tsp
Olive Oil 2 TBP + 1 tsp 2 TBP + 1 tsp

The table above assumes 4-1/2 ounces of flour per cup measurement. (The King Arthur Flour website was used for that conversion.)

This is one instance that I’m super glad I used a scale for measuring the salt, rather than following the recipe.

As a matter of fact, unless I’ve completely screwed up the conversions, the Batali “IG” formula is effectively a 75% hydration dough. (236+59)/390 = 75.6%. It’s possible to get a dough that wet on to a grill without mishap, but I’ve tried it. It’s really tricky. I used a 60% hydration at least in part to avoid a circus.

Tomatoes marinated in garlic, oil, and red wine vinegar, then grilled and mashed into a paste. (Roma and Glacier tomatoes.) Finished with mozz and Basil.

Tomatoes marinated in garlic, oil, and red wine vinegar, then grilled and mashed into a paste. (Roma and Glacier tomatoes.) Finished with mozz and Basil.

The Verdict:  Batali’s Food Network recipe is a winner. The “Italian Grill” recipe needs… help. Plus the editors not to screw it up.

I feel like I’m dissing the X-Man. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find that “Singles” scene on YouTube.)



Container Garden Mini Update — September 2, 2014 — Gravity, Dangit!

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

Alternate titles:  “Dominoes!”   or …  “Total Carnage!”

We chose not to add any supplementary support to the tomato cages this year. Last year, everything was fine, why wouldn’t it be this year?

Because today it got windy. Then it got really windy. Windy enough that I went to the back window to check on the plants…

I watched the garden as the wind howled from a strange direction. The zucchini trellis toppled over. It struck the nearest tomato cage, which collapsed into the next cage…:

140902 carnage

Then 10,000 houses lost power.

With help, we lifted everything to vertical. I tied the cages to cinder blocks, then installed the pvc supports that I had thought were important last year, but not this year…

Another view:

140902 carnage2

We lucked out — everything landed on everything else. I doubt we lost more than a couple of pounds of produce, though it’s going to be “fried green tomatoes week”. We got a full sheet tray of not-ripe fruit. It seems that none of the vines snapped, though we’ll know for sure soon.

It’s raining freakishly hard tonight. The thunder just made the cats scatter. The peppers were looking bedraggled after the wind, we’ll see what we have left tomorrow. It could have been much worse.


Container Garden Update — September 1, 2014

by A.J. Coltrane

Previous post here.

September 1, 2013 post here.

Last year the yield was 64 pounds in the month of August. The year it was 95 pounds of produce for the month, including 20 pounds yesterday, though looking at last year’s pics - it may be that this year’s plants are closer to “done”. Yesterday’s harvest:

140831 harvest2

A closeup of the basil. It fills the box, but it’s only 3/4 of a pound — though that’s around $50 retail:

140831 harvest2 basil

One of the two midweek harvests:

Continue reading Container Garden Update — September 1, 2014

The New No Knead Page

by A.J. Coltrane

Try saying that three times fast.

By request, a new page for the No Knead Bread. Scroll up, it’s the tab on the right-hand end.