» Archive for October, 2011

MinuteRant™: Turn off your recirculation feature

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 by admin

It’s a beautiful, rainy fall day here in East Tennessee, sort of cool-ish, and it drives me up the wall that so many people don’t understand what their “recirc” buttons in their cars do for them.

Lots of people are turning on their windshield defrosters to cope with condensation inside the car on this rainy, somewhat cool day. But if the number of people I see driving around with COMPLETELY fogged-up windows is any indication, very few know how to use their heating/cooling systems in their car properly. It’s dangerous to drive when you can’t see out your windows, people. And if you use your defroster (or heater, or air conditioner) with the recirculate feature enabled, that means your car is only going to pull air from inside the cabin to heat or cool it.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘recirc’ is a great feature when you’re trying to cool off the interior of your car or warm it up quicker. But please realize that when you recirculate the air in the car’s interior many times, you’re also recirculating moisture from your breath, from your sweat, and from your rain-dampened hair. So that super-humidified air, while lovely for plants and for your skin, makes for poor driving visibility, vis-á-vis those foggy windows.

So if you have a button on your car’s dashboard that has a little arrow chasing itself around in a circle, please make sure that button is NOT in use all the time. K, thanx, bai.

Burning the split-pea-with-ham soup

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 by admin

I like to make food from scratch, partially to prove to myself that I can, but mostly to save some money. Today I put a pot of split pea soup on the stove, with garlic and onions and carrots and a wonderful, meaty hambone that I’d saved from our Christmas ham last year. Mmmm.

This should have resulted in enough satisfying food to last us for at least two meals. And because the ham bone was essentially ‘free’, the split peas were purchased on clearance for 50 cents a pound, and carrots, garlic and onions are not terrifically expensive, this really should have been a mondo-affordable meal.

I had everything set up and simmering, and because I wanted it to reduce a little bit, I turned the burner up to medium instead of medium low; I then proceeded to the Batcave, where I became engrossed in Facebook. Bad idea. The peas were already cooked by then, and everything was starting to thicken more than I thought, so without me there to stir it every several minutes a layer of ham chunks and peas scorched themselves to the bottom of the stockpot.

Several minutes later I was pulled out of my computer stupor by the barest whiff of burning; I hurried out to the kitchen, and (gasp) saw wisps of smoke (not steam) spiraling up from the surface of the soup. I hurriedly ladled off the bulk of the soup, and hoped I was in time–there was only a seven-inch scorched spot in the middle of the pot–but it was too late. Even though it looked wonderful, the soup was permeated with burnt-ness. Sigh.

Like the kids on Hell’s Kitchen, I tried to brazen it out; I hoped it wasn’t really that badly burnt. Unable to tell if the burning smell was from my nose or from my tongue, I tried it out on the Pumpkin, but after a few spoonfuls I had to admit that it tasted primarily of scorch.

“It’s got a smoky flavor,” The Pumpkin said thoughtfully, after rolling a spoonful around on his tongue. He’s such a good guy.

I replied, “Yeah, it’s smoky, but it’s smoky in a bad way, like ‘Who’s burning leftover construction material scraps in their leaf pile?’, not a good smoky-ham taste.” So I devoted a half-hour to flushing this big batch of soup down the toilet. It takes quite a while to flush three quarts of soup, ya know.

It’s probably not as big a deal as I make it out to be. After all, what was I out, maybe two or three bucks for the electricity for the range, and the veggies, and the 50-cent-bag of split peas? My time is another matter, but I’m incapable of calculating the cost of that, so I won’t include it.

I think the greatest disappointment is not having two wonderful meals of soup, from that beautiful, meaty ham bone, and the loss of having two meals which cost us next-to-nothing. When you’ve been working really hard to be frugal and save money, one of the things that can make you feel cosseted and indulged is a tasty meal, and if you make a lot of food from scratch, it’s possible to have wonderfully satisfying, nutritious sustenance for very little. So the more food I can make for the least money, the greater ‘kick’ I get.

Except this time, I gave myself a kick right in the seat of my pants. Dangit.