Friday, November 21, 2008

Hide and Seek 2.0

Now that the weather's getting colder and rainier, indoor Hide and Seek has become a popular after dinner activity in the BigKat household. Even PrincessKat participates sometimes (and let me tell you, you have not seen cute until you've seen a teeny-tiny 2 year old run behind a coffee table and flop on the ground with her hands covering her face while her big brother is counting).

Well, today, me and the boys came up with a new and improved version of Hide and Seek. We called it the 'Monster Treasure Hunt'. Here's how it works...

First, the Monster (me) gathers up his treasures (3 balls, not too big. Like a kid sized soccer ball). Then he goes upstairs to hide them. The Monster puts them in places that they are fairly easy to see, but also near a potential Monster hiding spot (like in front of a closet). When he's ready, he tells the Treasure Hunters to start counting. While the Treasure Hunters count to 20, the Monster hides near one of the treasures.

When the Treasure Hunters are done counting, they head up the stairs. Their job is to find the treasures and bring them back down. So they search around until they spot one. Then they have to go get it...

Now this is the funny part because they don't know if the Monster is near that particular treasure. And if the Monster is nearby, they don't know exactly where he's hiding. This makes the Treasure Hunters quite nervous as they approach the treasure. Almost like Indiana Jones going into a booby trapped room to get a gold statue. And it is absolutely HI-LARIOUS to see a 6 year old pushing his 4 year old little brother into a room to go get the treasure while he hangs back in the hallway where its safe.

Well, you've probably figured out that the Monster's job is to scare the daylights out of them when one of them gets near the treasure. Then everyone runs screaming down the stairs and gets chased around the kitchen several times for good measure. When the Monster catches LilKat1, his job is to tickle him. LilKat2 prefers not to get tickled, so he just gets hugged and kissed.

At the end, when all the treasures are found, you repeat the whole thing all over again. And again. And again.

Anyhow, if you're finding that your games of Hide and Seek are growing a little bit stale, I highly recommend this new, exciting thrill-packed version.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roasting Coffee

At lunch today, I roasted some coffee using the Heat Gun/Dog Bowl method. I tried this once before, but this time, I took pictures!

First, the equipment...

This is the bowl I used to roast in. Ok, so it isn't really a dog bowl. It's just a regular stainless steel mixing bowl. The dog bowl that I got is too big for the small amount of beans I used in the roast. But Heat Gun/Dog Bowl is more fun to say than Heat Gun/Mixing Bowl (and you get more useful hits when Googling).
You can see the beans in the bowl in their unroasted, green state. The beans are Guatamala Huehuetenango: 'A classic acidic Huehue flavor profile with berry accents and mild floral aromatics'. Whatever that means...

Here's the heat gun I used. The blue thing is my Nomex barbecue mitt (in case I needed to grab something that was hot)

Here's my watch. I use the stopwatch to time the roast. But I think I need to get  a new watch. Part of the minutes don't display sometimes. The other night, someone at basketball went to look at my watch to see what time it was. I had to explain to them that they could use my watch, but it was set to display military time, and I hadn't set it back from Daylight Savings time. And part of the minutes were broken so you kind of had to figure out what number it was trying to say. So they made fun of me.

This is my bean cooling rig. Hot beans go into the colindar. Shopvac sucks air through the colindar and out the bottom of the box. Keep stirring the beans until they're cool.

This is the outdoor cat that helped me. He thinks he's our cat. But he's not.

Now, the roast...

I did this pretty much the same as last time. Start the roast on the low setting for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Here's a picture of me starting to roast the green beans.

After 5 minutes, I switched to the high setting, still stirring constantly. At this point, the beans are smelling nothing like roasted coffee at all. It's more of a grassy smell.
At about 9 minutes, it hit the 'first crack' stage. That's when you start to hear popping noises, kind of like a campfire.
At about 12 1/2 minutes, it hit the 'second crack' stage. At this point, you start to hear sounds kind of like when you pour milk into your Rice Crispies. I let it stay at this stage for a couple of seconds. Here's a picture of the beans right after I turned the heat gun off.

Then it's on to the cooling rig to kill the cooking process. Turn on the Shopvac and stir the beans until they're all cooled off. There's probably a way to cool these beans even faster, but I just happen to like the little box thing that I made.

When you roast coffee, you end up with a lot of 'chaff'. This is chaff.

And in the end, we have freshly roasted coffee!

Mrs. BigKat is going to let the beans rest for a while before trying them out. Hope they taste good!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Eats

One of my favorite food shows is Good Eats with Alton Brown. I've not only made a lot of the recipies on his show, but also tried out several of his goofy cooking techniques. Here are some of my favorites:

1) Pulled Pork - I actually made the flower pot cooker from this show. It still ranks as one of my most fun cooking experiences. Not only was it the first time I'd had pulled pork, but I also got to make the cooking vessel using pots I'd bought from Home Depot. Kind of a 'Wow! This is the best thing I've ever eaten!' experience mix
ed with a splash of 'Hey! I can't believe this really worked!' I have since moved on to other cookers, but I will still make sure to brine my pork shoulder any time I make pulled pork. I think it makes that much of a difference.

2) Scrambled Eggs - Seems like a pretty simple dish, right? I mean everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs! Well, apparently, I didn't because when I followed Alton's techniques, my eggs came out a million times better.

3) Individual Peach Upsidown Cake - These are unbelievably good...They're the perfect thing to make during peach season. And they're easy too. Me and Mrs. BigKat will work together to make these. One of us will work on putting the butter, brown sugar, peaches, and crystalliz
ed ginger in the cups. The other will mix up the batter. Everything is assembled in 15-20 minutes. 
Then just pop them in the oven (although our cooking times run longer than those stated in the recipe). Like I said, too easy! Probably doesn't require the crystallized ginger if you don't happen to have it on hand, but it does add a bit of sophistication too them and works quite nicely with the other flavors.

4) Hamburgers - I will always choose to grind my own meat for burgers now. It makes a huge difference.

5) Beef Jerky - Best beef jerky ever! I wish flank steak was not so expensive, or I'd make this all the time. It is seriously difficult for me to stop eating it. It's just that good! I don't have a box fan (I wish I did though! It looks fun!), so I use my ceramic cooker at a low temp to dry the meat. The result is probably a bit different than what you get if you dry it Alton's way, but it still tastes great.

Here are a couple of things I've tried that did not turn out so well:

1) Skirt Steak - I love the marinade he uses. But you can definitely skip the whole putting the steaks right on top of the charcoal thing. If you're dead set on trying it out, for
 goodness sake, make 
sure you use lump charcoal and not briquettes. Otherwise, you're going to be eating a nice pile of ash with your meat. My suggestion, if you're worried about flare-ups, just go with a nice hot cast iron pan.

2) Acid Jellies - These sounded like they were going to be so good. They were very easy to make and looked great coming out of the pan. Unfortunately, they never really developed a sugary crust on the outside. They just were kind of slimy. Too bad.

I have more good and bad experiences. I'll try and put some more up another time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I wanna Pop

Apparently, brand name carbonated beverages have bumped up in price recently. As a result, I've had to change brands of pop (that's what people in Oregon call soda, although Mrs. BigKat still refuses to do so. She even tells our kids not to say it!).

I used to drink primarily Pepsi products. Now, I'm drinking this...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas Shopping Part II

My boys love wearing costumes. So my great idea was to head to Target after Halloween and grab all the cheap costumes I could so we could give them to the boys at Christmas.

Well, it was a good idea, but the costume area after Halloween is a huge MESS! Parts of costumes are tossed here and there. If you find something you like, you have to search at the bottom of the display for the matching mask/hat/whatever. Not easy! There were some Star Wars costumes that I wanted to get, but couldn't find all of the pieces. Same with Transformers.

But in the end, I walked away with 2 Human Torch costumes, 1 Mr. Incredible costume, 1 Spiderman costume, 1 policeman costume (with muscles!), and 3 NASCAR costumes for about $35. I also got myself a costume for $5 in case I ever need to be Pontius Pilate in Sunday School.