Sunday, June 19, 2016

Cooking - Quick Poached Eggs

Poached Eggs
I love a poached egg but I can never seem to cook them properly when I drop the eggs into hot water.  This is my cheater version of poached eggs.

4 oz mason jars
Start with a couple of 4 oz mason jars.  Spray them with non-stick cooking spray.

Spray with Non-Stick cooking Spray
Add eggs to the jars (one egg per jar).

Add eggs
Put enough water in the pan so that the water comes half way up the side of the jars.

Heat the water
Heat the water using low to medium heat.

Put the egg jars in the pan
Add the egg jars to the pan and put a lid on the pan.

Cook
Cook the eggs until they are as done as you like.

Test for doneness
Use a skewer or a knife to see if the eggs are done.  I wanted solid but not hard yolks so cooked these eggs on low heat for about 5 minutes.

Remove the eggs from the pan
 Remove the pan from the heat and remove the eggs from the pan.  Use a knife to loosen the side of the egg from the jar.

Loosen the eggs from the jars
I made egg salad, so the eggs got smashed!

Yum!

PRO TIP:
The jars may rattle around in the pan if the water is boiling hard.  Lower the heat and leave the lid on the pan.  The eggs will still cook and there will be less noise.



For more reciptes and cooking tips click HERE!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cooking - Mango Guacamole - Farmer's Market Special

Homemade Mango Guacamole
I'm a BIG fan of guacamole!  This recipe was born because I found avocado's on sale and I was tired of paying a fortune for avocado smash for breakfast.

This is less on a recipe and more of a group of unmeasured ingredients that I combined.

For this recipe you will need:

2 ripe avocados
1 ripe mango
1 small bunch of cilantro
1 small bunch green onions
1 roasted poblano pepper
1 lemon
salt, pepper to taste
hot sauce (optional)

Chop and combine all ingredients.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the mixture.  Mash together.  Refrigerate until cold.

To learn how to fire roast a pepper click here.


Cilantro

Green onions
Ripe Mango

Fire Roasted Pepper

Mango
Smash
Squeeze 1 lemon over mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yum!


Serving Suggestions:

Guacamole in a warm bread stick
Salad Topping

For more recipes, click HERE!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cooking - Fire Roasted Peppers

Fire Roasted Peppers
Making fire roaster peppers is quick and easy.  They also add a delicious smokey taste to recipes.  I like to roast poblano peppers, but you can use this technique to roast any kind of pepper.

Wash and dry your pepper.

Roast on gas stove
With fire set to medium heat, place the pepper on a gas stove.  USING TONGS, turn the pepper.

Not done yet
Roast the pepper until it is black on all sides.


Done!
Once the pepper is black on all sides, remove it from the heat and place it in a plastic bag.

place roasted pepper in a plastic back.

Seal the bag and allow the pepper to rest and cool for about 10 minutes.  The inside of the bag will steam up.



With the pepper still inside the bag, rub the pepper to remove the skin.


Remove the pepper from the bag, leaving the skin inside the bag.


Your pepper is ready to be chopped and used in a recipe!

PRO TIP:

The seeds in a pepper add heat.  For added heat, use the peppers and the seeds.  For less heat remove the seeds.  I like a medium amount of heat so I remove about 1/2 of the seeds.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Building a Rain Barrel & Self Watering Garden

My rain barrel
I built this rain water system a long time ago (like maybe 4-5 years ago).  I've been meaning to write a blog about it, but I never got around to it.

Well the barrel started leaking recently and needed a small repair.  That seemed like the perfect time to create a new blog.

Also, because the system has been in operation for several years I can tell you some of the pitfalls and mistakes to avoid.

It should first be noted that rain barrels are illegal in some parts of the country.  Please check local laws before you begin this project.

For this project you will need:

1 - 55 gallon barrel
1- 3/4" threaded faucet
3/4" drill bit
outdoor caulk
teflon tape
water diverter
2 feet of 1" tubing
Power Drill
Handsaw
Down spout Extenders (optional)
cinder blocks (optional)

Disclaimer:  I built my first rain barrel based on information that I found on the internet and trial and error.  Some of the things that I suggest may not work for your particular needs.  I encourage you to use what works for you and skip what doesn't.


The Barrel
55 gallon Barrel
Depending where you live, a barrel may be hard to find.  Make sure you use a food grade barrel.  Some specialty supermarket markets use 55 gallon barrels for olives and other imported foods.  If there is such a store in your area, check with them first.  You might be able to get a barrel for free.  I purchased my barrel off craigslist for $10.  

The Diverter

Rain water diverter
I did not think that I would need a diverter.  Turns out I was VERY, VERY wrong!!  Fifty five gallons seems like a lot of water.  When it comes to rain, it's not!  If you run a downspout directly into your rain barrel, a light/medium rain can fill the barrel in less then an hour.  The rest of the water will spill onto the ground near your foundation.  That's just asking for a basement flood!

The diverter sends some water into the barrel and the rest to your downspout.  Having a diverter will cause your barrel to fill more slowly, but it will also prevent floods.  Once the barrel is full the dirverter will stop sending water to the barrel.

Diverters are available in Home Depot in some areas.  I purchased mine online from Amazon.com. For about $20.

The Faucet
 
Threaded faucet

Once the water is in the barrel you'll need a way to get it out.  Make sure that you buy a faucet that is threaded on both ends.  You'll want to thread it into your barrel. You'll also want to be able to attach a garden hose to get the water out.  There is a wide variety of faucet's available from hardware stores in the plumbing aisle.  Cost is $6-$10.

Putting it all together!

Drill Bit
The first hole you'll drill will be the hole for the water spout.  Keep in mind you'll want the hole high enough so that you can attach a garden hose, but low enough to get as much water from the barrel as possible.  Any water that is below the spout will not come out of the barrel.  I suggest that you make your hole 6-8" from the bottom of the barrel.

Choose a spout location

Thoroughly clean the spout area.  Wrap the threaded end of the spout in teflon tape and thread it into the hole.

Teflon tape on spout
These pictures were taking while I was repairing the broken spout on my barrel.  Here are a couple of spout options that are available.

Old spout on the left.  New Spout on the right.

After the new spout is installed, caulk around the spout for extra leak protection.

Caulk around the spout
Because my spout is fairly close to the ground I tend to use a lot of caulk.  The lawnmower and the kids are likely to bump against the spout which could cause it to loosen or leak.  Allow the caulk to dry for AT LEAST 24 hours.

While the caulk dries you can work on the rest of the barrel.  Just be careful not to bump the spout.



 Place the rain barrel where you want it to be in your yard (near a down spout).  If necessary, elevate the barrel using cinder blocks or a barrel stand.  Because the filled barrel will be VERY heavy, make sure that is it on as steady a surface as possible. 

Installing the diverter
Using a handsaw, cut the gutter to install the diverter.  The diverter slides on and no tools are necessary for installation.  (I cut the gutter in the wrong place and used a flexible down spout extender to fix the problem). The bottom piece of the gutter slips on to the bottom of the downspout. 

   

Using the 1" bit, drill a hole in the top of the barrel.  Attach 1 end of the tubing to the diverter and the other end should slide into the barrel.



 That's it - You're DONE!  Now, you just have to wait for it to rain!

Self Watering Garden




After the caulk has dried for at least 24 hours, attach a garden hose to the barrel.  


I run a soaker hose into my garden beds.  Be sure to leave enough slack in the hose so that it lays flat on the ground.  In time the grass may grow over the hose and secure it to the ground.

Grass secures hose to the ground.
In the spring, during the rainy season I leave the spout from the water barrel off so that the barrel can fill.  Later in the summer when there is less rain, I open the faucet enough so that the rain water drips from the barrel into the soaker hose and onto the garden.


PRO TIP:

Mosquitos LOVE water.  To prevent mosquito larva from forming in your barrel, add mosquito dunks.  These little discs last for approx 30 days and are available at hardware stores or online.



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Help - My Bathroom Sink is Leaking!!!

Leaky Faucet!
Regular readers of this blog know that I've dealt with a LOT of leaky faucets.  Too many leaky faucets!  Those adventures are detailed here.  When our bathroom sink began to leak I knew immediately that I would need to replace the cartridge.  If the fixture was ugly, broken or otherwise unpleasing I would have replaced the entire fixture.  That would have solved the problem.  A new fixture is about $80.  A new cartridge is $11, so the choice, for me, was clear!

Step #1 - Find the make and model number.

Finding the make and model number sounds easy enough, but it's not.  You see faucet makers don't print the model number on this product.  The model number is typically printed on the box, but since this faucet came with the house, I don't have the box.

Lightly embossed on the front of the faucet are the words "American Standard".

Identification Picture #1

Identification Picture #2
  I took 2 pictures of the faucet and called American Standard Customer Service.  (A quick google search lead me to their number).

The nice lady at American Standard took one look at my pictures and said "oh, that's a #2904".  She is, apparently, a faucet savant!  Replacement cartridges, she informed me, are $25/each.

Step #2 - ASK ABOUT A WARRANTY!!!

Honestly speaking, I've never paid for a replacement cartridge in my life!  Before now they were always covered under the warranty.  My kitchen faucets came with a lifetime warranty.  The warranty on this faucet is only extended to the original purchaser with a receipt.  That's not me, so i'd need to pay.

Step #3 - Shop around for the best price!

American Standard customer service gave me the part number for the new cartridge.  After a few minutes of shopping around I found that a company called Zoro.com had the best price ($11/each).  Since I wasn't sure which faucet was leaking, the hot or the cold, I bought 2 cartridges.  Turns out both were leaking, so it's a good thing I bought both!

Plumbing parts people
It took about 2 days for the parts to arrive, which is about what I expected.

Now, the repair!!

For this job I needed a wrench, flat head screw driver and a pair of pliers. 

Tools for the job
The wrench is probably optional for people with strong hands.  I needed it to loosen the cartridges.

The cartridges arrived with no instructions, thank goodness I already knew what to do!

TURN OFF THE WATER UNDER THE SINK!!!


Remove the cap.
Remove the cap that covers the screw on the handle.
 
Cap removed
My handle is held in place with a flat head screw.  Remove the handle screw.

Remove the handle screw

Handle Screw Removed
Put the cap and screw in a safe place (like a cup or bowl).

Keep small parts safe!!
Putting the small parts in a safe place has saved my sanity on MANY jobs!  The last thing you want is for something to go missing!

Lift off the faucet handle
Lift off the faucet handle and add it to the "safe place" bowl

Add the handles to the "safe place" bowl.
Now you're ready to remove the cartridge.



Take a top view picture of the cartridge BEFORE you remove it.  This step will be important later.

Say Cheese Cartridge!
I used a wrench to loosen the cartridge.  

Loosen the cartridge
Once it was loose I was able to remove it by hand.

Remove the old cartridge 
I like to compare the old parts with the new parts so that I can understand what wore out.

Old Vs. New

Old vs. New
My new cartridge came with a plastic casing around the bottom that needed to be removed.


Screw in the new cartridge


Take a look at the picture you took of the old cartridge to be sure that the newly installed piece looks the same as the old piece.  Hand tighten the cartridge, then use pliers to tighten in 1/2 a turn.



Movable piece

There is a small movable piece on the top of the cartridge.  The location of this piece determines the position of the faucet handles when the water is turned on or off.

The picture that I took earlier was to see the location of this piece.  The old piece was installed at the 11 o'clock position.  If I install the new piece so that this notch is in the 11 o'clock position I know that my handles will be straight.



I tired over and over again, but could not get the cold cartridge back in the right position.  I decided to deal with it later.  The good news is that the sink no longer leaks!  YAY!!!!

The bad news is that my ice maker stopped making ice this morning!  UGH!  Thank goodness I know how to fix it!