Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cranberry Sauce

A little late for Thanksgiving, but I thought I would throw up my cranberry jelly recipe for anyone interested.  It is perhaps the easiest thing to make for Thanksgiving and it is tasty enough that you’ll want to make all the time – if you can find cranberries

Its to hard to remember what goes in it...

It’s to hard to remember what goes in it…


Cranberries – 1 lb

Sugar – 1.5 cups

Water – 2 cups

In a pot, boil the 3 ingredients till all the cranberries have popped, about 5-10 minutes.  Mash well and bring to a simmer or low boil for 10 minutes.  Chill.

Chilled and tasty

Chilled and tasty.

Yep, that’s it. And it is so much tastier that the canned variety.

Jasmine with the rest of thankgiving (Capon, Mashed Sweet Potato, Stuffing,Kimchi, and the Cranberry sauce)

Jasmine with the rest of Thanksgiving (Capon, Mashed Sweet Potato, Stuffing, Kim-chi, gravy, Rowan berry jelly, and the Cranberry sauce).


Go Board Boxes

About year ago I started learning Go and we even did a blog post about the Go board that Jasmine made.  Since then I have made some boxes for the pieces so I thought I would put it up as well.

You’ll need a strip of 1/8″ thick poplar about 1 1/2″ long and another piece 3″ wide.  For tools, the only things you need are a Miter Box saw, some sandpaper, wood glue and clamps.

Do a hand sketch to decide on the number of sides and length; I used 8 sides and 1.5″ long for about a 3.5″ diamter box.  Your cutting angle is 180°/ # sides so I cut to a 22.5° angle.  After cutting, I sand very lightly to clean the edges.

Cutting poplar is no sweat at all

Cutting poplar is easy. I clamped on a board stop to get identical cuts without careful measuring.

Sand delicately to avoid rounding the edges

Sand delicately to avoid rounding the edges.

Take the pieces and line them up beveled edges touching, small side down.  Tape them together, glue them together and roll them up into a polygon.  After they are taped into shape, clamp them and then wait a day for the glue to set.

Tape the piece together and test fit (adjust if necissary)

Tape the piece together and test fit (adjust if necessary).

After the glue is dry clean up the inside with chisels and sandpaper.  Afterwards, trace out and cut out the inner diameter of the box on another piece of wood, test fit it and then glue it into place.

Don't make fun of my bad cutting, a little sanding and it is good to go.

Don’t make fun of my bad cutting! A little sanding and it is good to go.

Bottom is glued, begin the finishing

Bottom is glued; begin the finishing.

Finish however you want.  I just sanded everything down to 220 grit then applied some boiled linseed oil.  I think it might look best sanding down to 400 grit and then lacquering.  For the black box, I used 6 sides, glued the base on the bottom, and then stained it.  I think it looks better with the base inset so that is why I gave you those directions above.

All finished, that is some fine woodworking ;)

All finished, that is some fine woodworking ;)

Go play a game

Go play a game.




Fruit Cake

It’s a bit early for the holidays, but if you want good fruit cake in time for Christmas, ’tis the season. When Lloyd first suggested that we make fruit cake several years ago, I thought he was crazy. Then he told me that a friend of his had soaked it in alcohol for a couple of months before eating and it was pretty good that way. So we gave it a shot and it has become a tradition ever since. Here’s how we make it:

WARNING: Some planning ahead is required! :)

We start off with the Betty Crocker Yellow Fruitcake recipe. We have an old version of this cookbook from the ’70s – before Low Fat! and Microwavable! decorated the pages – and I’m not sure if it’s in the new versions so I’ll reproduce the highlights here.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 9 eggs
  • 16 oz candied cherries (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 15 oz golden raisins (about 3 cups)
  • 12 oz candied pineapple (about 2 cups)
  • 4 oz candied citron (about 2/3 cup)
  • 4 oz candied orange peel (about 2/3 cup)
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 8 oz blanched whole almonds (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 oz pecan halves (about 2 cups)

Grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans and split batter evenly between the two pans. Bake at 275 degrees F for 2.5 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

The first thing you’ll notice about this recipe is that there’s a lot of candied fruit in there. However, if you’re soaking the cakes in alcohol, candied fruit is a poor choice as it won’t absorb the alcohol. We use dried fruit since it has much better absorption properties. That being said, we also make a few other changes to the recipe. First, we use butter for the shortening as well and melt it in the loaf pans so that they’re pregreased when I add the butter to the mixture. The rest of the first 8 ingredients are kept the same. This results in a batter that looks like this:

It's pretty obvious where the recipe name came from at this stage.

It’s pretty obvious where the recipe name came from at this stage.

Make sure to use a big bowl since the dried fruit will take up a lot of space!

Once the batter is done, we determine what dried fruit to add by going to a store that sells dried fruit and grabbing whatever sounds good that day. The only things we always add are dried pineapple, which we both love, and crystallized ginger, Lloyd’s favorite. We learned the hard way that if you add both of these things (or are not a huge fan of large pieces of ginger) that you need to cut up the ginger into small pieces. Otherwise, the ginger is very easy to mix up with the pineapple and is quite overpowering when you get a big piece.

These pieces won't be mistaken for pineapple!

These pieces won’t be mistaken for pineapple!

We follow the recipe for the amount of nuts to add, but the amount of dried fruit to add is determined based on what looks about right. I think of the batter as the glue that holds the tasty stuff together. That being said, we’re also thinking about switching to three loaf pans because I add so much dried fruit. When we’re done adding the dried fruit and nuts, the batter looks like this:

Lot's of fruit and nuts in this batch!

Lot’s of fruit and nuts in this batch!

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake. Once the cakes are done, let cool completely on the counter. Next, apply alcohol. We use brandy as our alcohol of choice. I add about a shot to each cake, pouring very slowly and evenly over the top of the cake. Then cover and place the cakes in the fridge. I continue adding the same amount of alcohol once a week until the cakes are moist. This results in rather alcoholic, and tasty, fruitcake. Enjoy!

Lexington Reservoir Park (N37.20 W121.98)

Finally got some time off of testing this weekend so Jasmine and I continued our effort to go to all of the parks and open spaces in Santa Clara County.  This week it was the Lexington Reservoir Park which is a little bit out of of the baylands up into the Santa Cruz hills.  It is a pretty cool lake, only open to non-motor boats, and it seems to be full of rowers most of the time.  The hiking was in nice and pleasant environment, mostly in a scrub forest, but the hills were fairly brutal (2000 ft incline over 4 miles).

Apparently don't walk you dog in CA in >80 deg tempertures?

Apparently don’t walk you dog in CA in >70 deg F temperatures?

The resevoir

The reservoir looks pretty cool from up the hill.

Hill is steep! Jasmine is still smiling though :)

Hill is steep! Jasmine is still smiling though. :)

Its a hazy day in the Southbay

It’s a hazy day in the South Bay.

Manzanita trees!  One of my favorites.

Manzanita trees! One of my favorites.

Mountain Ash (Rowan) berries.  You can make jelly from them... If only I could fine some :)

Mountain Ash (Rowan) berries. You can make jelly from them… If only I could fine some. :)

The locked entrance gate required some jumping over

The locked entrance gate required some jumping over.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (N38.44 W122.51)

We got invited up for a weekend camping trip up in Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park near Sonoma by some of our friends.

It’s a pretty cool park and the other advantage is it is in wine country so we took advantage of that to go up to Iron Horse Winery in Sebastapol. It is our favorite winery in the greater Sonoma/Napa area and you can’t say no to a place that makes their own sparkling wine.

We give love to the bay bridge, but the San Rafael Bridge isn't to shabby either

We give love to the Bay Bridge, but the San Rafael Bridge isn’t too shabby either.

Iron Horse Tasting room

Iron Horse Winery tasting room view.

The campground was pretty nice for car camping. Jasmine and I get spoiled by mostly camping on wilderness permits in the middle of nowhere with no one around, but it is cool to hang out it friends at a car camp site occasionally.  The main draw is an observatory on site which is pretty cool on dark nights; as there was a half moon it was pretty bright but full of shiny dots in the sky in any case – next time I’ll plan it so there are some planets up in the sky.

Grass lands by the observatory

Grasslands by the observatory.



We woke up early the next morning and went for a nice 5-6 mile hike in the morning up Vista Trail and Bald Mountain Trail and got some really nice views.  We saw lots of random wildlife: deer that weren’t afraid of people, some wild turkeys, a bunch of random birds and a hawk or two.

The bush framed the deer

The bush framed the deer – sounds like the punchline to a bad joke.

The phone camera has a nifty HDR mode

The phone camera has a nifty HDR mode.

Bottom line is it’s a really nice park to go to with kids or for day hikes, but I think I would skip camping out there again.

A dangerous fording

A dangerous ford.

The Vista trail lives up to its name

The Vista Trail lives up to its name.

Broiled Mackerel

I love oily fish and Mackerel might be my favorite of all. My two favorite ways of preparing it are salt and vinegar curing (saba) and, as I will show below, grilling it.

I am Mackerel.  Hear me ROAR!!

I am Mackerel. Hear me ROAR!!

This is a very simple recipe. All you need is mackerel and salt.  You do need to pick out good mackerel; look for clear eyes and shiny skin with minimal scuffing on the skin.  There should also be no smell or a slight salty ocean smell.

Gut the Mackerel and clean all over with cold water.  Dry the fish thoroughly.  Slit the length of the fish several times on both sides.  Sprinkle the fish with salt inside and out and wait 40 minutes.

I am Mackerel.  See me absorb salt.

I am Mackerel. See me absorb salt.

Get your oven set to broil or your grill as hot as it can get.  Rinse the fish to remove the excess salt then cook for ~10 minutes or until done.

I am Mackerel.  Taste my oily flesh!

I am Mackerel. Taste my oily flesh!

It is a very tasty and simple preparation that gives you a real taste of the Mackerel in all its crispy oily goodness.  It is also good with a little vinegar or soy sauce dipping sauce.