Buttery Cheesy Breadsticks

-A.J.

Buttery Cheesy Breadsticks:

170326 breadsticks

These don’t skimp on the butter or the cheese — the butter weight is 25% of the flour weight.

The recipe:  600 g AP Flour, 150 g room temperature butter, 300 g refrigerator water, 12 g kosher salt, 1 tsp instant yeast. (1+ cup of Grated Pamesan is applied to the dough sheet in step 5, below.)

  1.  Add the flour to the work bowl of the mixer. Add the butter and break it up into the flour with your fingers.
  2.  Add the other ingredients (except the Parmesan) and mix on low speed for 8 minutes.
  3.  Refrigerate, covered, for 1-3 days.
  4.  Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  5.  Roll out the dough on parchment paper to 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. It should come out to a rectangle around 10″ x 15″. The parchment paper will make it easier peel up the dough in step 8.
  6.  Spread the grated Parmesan evenly over the dough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to sort of mash it into the surface of the dough.
  7.  Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough across the short dimension into pieces 1/2″ wide and 10″ long.
  8.  Twist the individual slices and place on Silpat lined baking sheets. I was able to fit these onto two baking sheets.
  9.  Let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
  10.  Bake for 20 minutes at 400 F.
  11.  Let cool on a cooling rack.

The finished weight of the breadsticks is somewhere North of two pounds — seven people wiped these out in no time. The nice thing about this recipe is that it will hold in the refrigerator for a few days, then be ready to eat in about an hour.

I’ll be making these again. They were a big hit.

The 2017 Bracket Of Peril!

-A.J.

The 2017 Bracket Of Peril is here! The prize, as always, is a whole bunch of nothing!

Link Here.

Group Name:  Cheap Seat Eats

Password:  TakeMeOut

170312 moncrief

Recommended Game: Darkrock Ventures

-A.J.

Title:  Darkrock Ventures

Darkrock Ventures

Game Type:  Worker placement. Think Agricola, except that the theme is mining in outer space instead of farming in the Dark Ages.

Number of Players:   1-5. I’m guessing it’s best with 4.

Complexity of Rules:  Low-Medium. The rulebook is awful. Much more on that in a moment.

Time to Play:   The box says 30-45 minutes. We’re usually running over an hour, even with only two players.

The Concept:  Each player represents outer space mining interests. The object is to make the most Credits by the end of the game, since Credits double as Victory Points. Each turn a couple of dice are rolled. Players then take turns placing workers either on mines, or on bases that offer other advantages, such as bonus dice, dice manipulation, more crew, or increased space in your cargo hold. More dice are rolled, and the player(s) that can manipulate the dice to make favorable outcomes receive resources. The resources can then be “exported” for Credits. We haven’t played with the optional “Hostile Alien” cards yet, though I’m of the suspicion that they’ll mostly just increase the “luck factor” and drive me nuts.

Photo from the BoardGameGeek site.

Photo from the BoardGameGeek site.

Why I Like It: It has an outer space theme, and I’m a sucker for those. It involves risk management/estimation too, which is another plus. Once the rules are understood the game moves fairly briskly, and with low downtime.

Having said that:  The rule book is among the worst I’ve ever seen, period. We learned a lot more about how to play from just from watching a guy do a walkthrough online. The rules feature minimal pictures and illustrations, and the graphics are poorly thought out and not very informative. Many passages are poorly or ambiguously worded. And no, I’m not being too harsh. I get the impression that the developers taught the play testers how to play and didn’t force the players to learn by using the rule book.

Other issues:

  • Worker placement covers up information on the board.
  • The “Captain” meeples are very similar in size to the “Crew” meeples — we’re going to add stripes to the Captain meeples so that they’re easier to tell apart from the crew.
  • If the player cards were larger the game would feel less fiddly.

I know that’s more than a few negatives, but it’s an enjoyable game with a fun theme, and it was a holiday gift so the price was right. It does feel like the game was rushed to market though.

Recommended.

BoardGameGeek page here.

The Salad Table Wears Trellis Bling, Or, More Posts Obliquely About Peas

-A.J.

Each year when we grow peas I push some stakes into the ground and add trellis netting. It never looks awesome. The peas usually do well until the sunny days kick in. At that point their pots dry out quickly and the peas suffer.

Attaching the trellis assembly to the salad table is an attempt to address those issues:

170303 trellis salad table

It’s the same Ultomato stakes and netting that was used last year. The netting just happened to almost perfectly wrap around the North and East sides of the newly seeded salad table. I used cable ties to attach the stakes to the table. Quick and easy.

It’s a sturdier build than just pushing the stakes into the ground. As an added bonus, the pea pots are spread around the shady sides of the salad table. They should be relatively protected from the sun, and therefore cooler.

Here’s the line of pots on the North side of the table:

170303 peas from the back

Once they get a bit taller the plants will poke out above the salad table. That’s the theory anyway.

All in all, combining the trellis with the salad table makes for a cleaner and more compact solution, and the peas aren’t as crowded this year. Hopefully it works out great.

————-

Two other thoughts:

We’re getting a lot of mileage out of the pea trellis.  Here it is stuck into the soil at the edge of the walkway almost one year ago. After the peas were done we attached it to the lemon cucumber trellis for extra support.

The clamp light rig seems to keep the soil near the lights around 78F. No need for a heat mat. The other good thing is that the clamps can be attached to the top bar and pivoted to face downward. Lots of room for vertical growth:

170303 lights

 

No more posts about peas in the immediate future. Probably.

———–

Finally, one inspiration for the title of this post — From the album More Songs About Buildings And Food; Talking Heads version of Take Me To The River:

 

The Peas, Nine Days Later

-A.J.

The peas nine days later:

170224 peas

Crazy, huh? They’ve spouted and grown between 6 and 10 inches tall in just over a week. If you look closely you can see the roots poking out of the bottom of the rolls. (The empty looking pots have recently planted dill and cilantro seeds. They should make an appearance sometime in the next week or so.)

Today was their first day with time outside. I left them outside for a couple of hours after work. The temperature was in the mid-forty degree range, and I didn’t think it’d whack the peas.

Hopefully the weather will be decent enough in the next few days to plant them outside. The forecast calls for night-time temperatures in the 20’s tonight and in the 30’s until Wednesday, possibly with some snow mixed in. We may just have to take our chances, since I don’t think the peas will fit in the current setup for another week — they’ve already grown almost to the top of the lighting rig.

That, and the toilet paper rolls are really beginning to show some mold. My inclination right now is not to use toilet paper rolls the next time around and instead use some of the reusable plastic “pots” we’ve gotten from nurseries over the years.

Previous “toilet paper pots” post here.

 

Starting Seeds In Toilet Paper Roll “Pots”, And The Improved Lighting Rig

-A.J.

Over the winter I came across a blog post that recommended using emptied toilet paper rolls as mini pots for starting seeds. It looked neat, clean, and easy, and it seemed like a great way to use up a free resource. The author simply cut the tubes in half, placed the smooth (uncut) side down in a baking dish, and filled the tubes to 1″ from the top with damp soil. Seeds were placed on the soil and buried to the appropriate depth.

I could have been neater about it — here’s what I wound up with when I planted peas:

170215 rolls

When I added a little water many of the rolls immediately  began to unravel. Right now I think they have enough integrity that when the seeds sprout I’ll still be able to plant the plugs without too much drama. As it is, added water needs to go on the bottom of the dish, otherwise all the soil would wash out of the tubes.

I also did some tweaking on the lighting rig. It’s now smaller, at about 20″ x 8″:

170215 seed rig

The lights are now nearly touching each other, and the light is much more concentrated. The lights themselves are around 1-1/2″ above the soil. It’s very bright, if only in a small space of 16″ x 8″. That’s enough room for direct light on about 15 paper roll tubes. The dish could probably hold 25 tubes or so. It seems like a good compromise that doesn’t totally dominate the counter top.

The first time I tried the lighting rig (version 1.0) most of the plants wound up leggy, partly because the lights were a ways apart, and (I think) partly because I needed to leave the lights on for more hours than I did. This time I’m targeting ~16 hours a day. 16-18 hours seems to be the consensus on the interweb. We’ll see. Assuming this works we’ll start beans and Brussel Sprouts the same way in a couple of months.

Recommended Game — STOP THIEF!

-A.J.

Title:  STOP THIEF!

170206 Stop Thief

Game Type:  Deduction/reasoning.

Number of Players:   2-4

Complexity of Rules:  Low

Time to Play:   30 minutes. Usually less

The Concept:   [From the inside of the box:]

ELECTRONIC COPS AND ROBBERS. Featuring the ELECTRONIC CRIME SCANNER.

A crime is being committed…but where?

In the jewelry store? The bank? Where will the thief strike next? You and your opponents are licensed private detectives. The thief you’re after is computer controlled and completely invisible. But you can hear him! With your ELECTRONIC CRIME SCANNER you can eavesdrop on the thief whenever he moves on the board. You can hear him in the act of committing a crime. You hear him, too, as he opens a door, crosses a floor, breaks a window, runs on the street and escapes on the subway. Each sound you hear is a clue that will help you track him down. You’ll need all your skills of deduction and logic to follow the thief and corner him. Then you can call the police. With luck, the police will arrest the thief and cart him off to jail. Sometimes, though, he escapes from them. At other times, he’s just not where you think he is! If you can catch this thief, you’ll earn a large reward. If he gives you the slip, he’ll rob again…and again…and again…

Why I Like It:  First of all — Wayback Machine! Our copy still has the original 1980 price sticker from the department store attached.

170206 Stop Thief2

There are numbered squares on the game board. When it’s your turn you press the “C” (Clue) button on the controller and the Thief moves from square to square. Each movement is represented by a distinctive noise, such as a window breaking or a door opening. By process of elimination you attempt to figure out the Thief’s current location and send the cops to arrest him. We’ve always played it without the Sleuth Cards since they make the game too easy. (“Tips” given by the cards tell you exactly where the Thief is, and what’s the fun in that?) Without the Sleuth Cards it can really be a challenge to find the Thief.

I loved this game at the time and I still love it. It’s also nice that we really took care of it when we young and never stored a battery in the controller. Almost everything is near-immaculate.

Great fun!

BoardGameGeek page here.

GNOIF: GNOIF Gets Lucky

-A.J.

GNOIF #26 recap — GNOIF:  GNOIF Gets Lucky (Wealth/Luck/Asian Themes (Chinese New Year))

Games That Got Played:  Code Names (Deep Under Cover), The Dragon & Flagon, Hanabi, Incan Gold, King of Tokyo, Lost Cities Board Game, Seven Dragons, Ticket to Ride Asia, Ticket to Ride Europe.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Avalon – Resistance, Five Tribes, Get Dr. Lucky, Mottainai, Tiny Epic Kingdoms.

The crowd showed up early and stayed late. Altogether it was more than ten hours of gaming. We played a bunch of looong games with a few short games as spacers in between.

An early evening game was The Dragon & Flagon. Think D&D bar fight. People were throwing mugs, chairs, and lightning at each other. Generally silly and definitely fun.

I really enjoy King Of Tokyo. To requote from the GNOIF #24 Recap:  “I enjoy it quite a bit. Players play as big, stompy, city-wrecking monsters, and the object is to dominate Tokyo and beat up everyone else — think Gozilla vs Mothra vs Kong. It’s fast and violent, and there’s an element of “chicken” to it. Good fun.”

It’s also possible to “upgrade” your monster. I went with Poison Quills, which in the right circumstance allows for more damage dealing. My opponent on my left purchased an “Extra Head”, which she used to roll an extra die and deal out terrible carnage. She won.

Later in the evening the gaming broke into two groups — one group focused on Ticket to Ride and the other on Code Names. That’s the nice thing about offering a range of game lengths and complexities — there was something for everyone.

Thanks to those who played!

 

New Seeds For 2017

-A.J.

Last year’s post was titled “Too Many Seeds, Probably“. While we did manage to use up some of the inventory, not everything was consumed. Still, I wanted to try some new things. The list:

SP783/L Escalade Spinach Organic – Escalade
HR1114/L Garlic Chives-Nira Organic – Nira Garlic Chives Organic 1/2 gram
ON557/S Guardsman Onion – Guardsman Onion Seeds
OV580/S Joi Choi Pac Choi – Joi Choi Pac Choi Seeds
BN039/S Maxibel Bean – Maxibel Bean Seeds
BN062/L Midori Giant Bean Organic – Midori Giant Bean Seeds Organic

The left column is the Territorial Seed catalog number. The thinking behind the “new stuff” –

Escalade Spinach Organic:  We used up the last of the spinach packets, so it was time for more.

Garlic Chives-Nira Organic:  Rick Bayless loves garlic chives, and it sounds like something we’ll love too. As an added bonus, slugs don’t mess with alliums. We should be able to seed them about “wherever” and have success. (Rick grills them. He then dices the garlic chives and adds them to many different dishes.)

Guardsman Onion:  Replenishing the scallion supply. We planted the last of these seeds in the fall.

Joi Choi Pac Choi:  A Chinese Cabbage variety that’s supposed to grow faster and be more bolt resistant than regular Bok Choi. We’ll see. Because it’s a Brassica the cabbage moths and aphids will come after them. We’ll likely grow the Joi Choi with Brussels Sprouts, cover all of it with tulle, and dose with Neem Oil (wikipedia link). In theory that should work to keep the bug population down. In theory.

Maxibel Bean:  A french/filet bean. Think Haricot Vert. The slugs may like these too much to be worthwhile. I figure we can try them in a few locations and see what shakes out. No trellising required. So long as the slugs don’t decimate the plants we should get something. Super fresh Haricot Verts have the potential to be awesome.

Territorial Seed Company picture.

Territorial Seed Company picture.

Midori Giant Bean:  An extra-early maturing Edamame. I love Edamame. No trellising(!)

————–

I see now that everything that’s really “new” is either indestructible or potential slug/pest bait. So it goes. We’ll know how effective Neem Oil is by the end of the season.

 

A Crackly “Bar Pie”, Sorta

-A.J.

I recently came across The Pizza Show (Vice Network, part of their MUNCHIES series). It’s a fun and informative show, and it’s less.. guarded than the programming on some of the other networks — it’s more relaxed and it seems less scripted and far less premeditated. Recommended.

The show featured a “bar pie” at one point. A “bar pie” has a thin, crackly crust and is traditionally square cut. (As opposed to the triangular slices seen on most pizzas.)

Which inspired this:

170111 bar pie

There’s no red sauce, so I’m hesitant to call it a pizza — it’s really more of a flatbread thing. It came out nice and crispy/crackly. The toppings are spicy salami, pesto, and feta.

As I’ve “discovered” over the years, it’s important not to work the dough too much when the target is a crispy or crackly end result. Working the dough encourages gluten development, which is the arch-enemy of crispy. (Digression:  Perhaps not surprisingly there’s a Queensryche-meets-death-metal band called Arch Enemy. Meh. Nothing new to see here, other than the female lead singer doing death shouts. I’m guessing that’s the “hook”. (YouTube link))

The recipe:

  1.  Combine 300g AP flour, 180g water (60% of the flour weight), 6g kosher salt (2%), 12g olive oil (4%), and 1 tsp yeast in the mixer.
  2.  Mix for 6 minutes.
  3.  Stretch and fold the dough (once from each direction).
  4.  Lightly oil the mixing bowl. Rub the dough ball around in the oil in the bowl. Cover and let rise 90 minutes.
  5.  Preheat the oven to 500F for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
  6.  Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. The diameter will be around 12″. Transfer to a baking sheet and let rest 10 minutes.
  7.  Dock everywhere except the edges of the flatbread pizza with a fork. Brush the edges with olive oil. Top with the salami.
  8.  Bake for 8 minutes. Top with the feta.
  9.  Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and let rest a minute or two.
  10.  Dollop pesto over the top of the pizza.
  11.  Eat.

—————

For posterity —  The first pass at Hamelman’s Pain Rustique. It could have gone better in a number of ways. The fatal issue was that it was vaguely underbaked.

And all of the other problems were caused by some variety of user error:

170111 Pain Rustique