Monday, October 4, 2010

Blast from the Past: Pressure Cooking


I know, I say “pressure cooker” and you think (1) dangerous explosions, and/or (2) gray, flabby, over-cooked food.

It’s true, I witnessed a spectacular pressure cooker explosion back in 1968. Aunt Dee left me and my cousin Judy home alone, with vague instructions to “watch the pressure cooker”.

What’s to watch? We watched cartoons instead. Two hours later the pressure cooker went “BOOM”! We ran into the kitchen to find it had blown its lid, bashing a cantaloupe-sized hole in the ceiling and splattering green beans all over the walls.

Judy & I were in deep doo-doo for that one.

So I never considered trying a pressure cooker myself, until I moved up here to the high mountain desert. At 7,000 feet we have some unusual cooking “challenges” – my worst one being that I couldn’t cook beans. Seriously! I could not make a decent pot of beans up here.

My neighbors all advised pressure cooking to solve the high-altitude bean problem. And that’s when I discovered that “modern” pressure cookers are vastly improved over my Aunt Dee’s mid-century model. They’re electric, they’re digital, and they promise explosion-proof operation.

CuisinartPressureCookerOkay … I decided to try pressure cooking.

After reading the reviews I purchased a Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, shown here.

I’ve used it for almost a year now. And I have to say, this was probably my best purchase of 2010.



Top 5 Reasons to ♥ Electric Pressure Cookers

1. Dang, they’re fast! I’m talking 10-minute potato soup (although that project did make milk come out its nose), or a 40-minute brisket for 8.

2. They’re programmable. Punch in your settings and walk away (cartoons, anyone?). You don’t have to “watch” them, or adjust the heat, or anything. When the cooking cycle ends, they’ll automatically switch over to Keep Warm mode.

3. Yes, a pressure cooker IS the best way to cook beans. No, repeat NO, pre-soaking needed. And you can season the beans during cooking, even add a little salt, and they’ll STILL cook up beautifully.

4. They don’t heat up the kitchen. This past summer was the hottest of the century, so I really, really appreciated not having to turn on the oven, or even the stove burners, for weeks on end.

5. They don’t use a lot of juice. It’s about the same wattage as a hair dryer, and the actual cooking time is short, so the energy consumption is way less than a standard oven, or even a slow cooker.

Plus there are serendipitous benefits. For example, I’ve discovered that my electric pressure cooker makes the best stocks imaginable – chicken, beef, pork, vegetable, whatever. And it’s now my go-to method for ribs: cook ‘em with pressure, finish them on the grill.

Best Pressure Cooker Cookbooks

I’ve since acquired a number of pressure cooker cookbooks, and of them all I recommend two to get you started:

pressurecookergourmetVictoria Wise’s Pressure Cooker Gourmet

From the first chef at Chez Panisse, this book is all you need to convince unbelievers that you can cook delicious food in a pressure cooker. (I started with her Brined Pork Roast & Figs, a revelation.)

This one’s also available in a Kindle edition.




Any of Lorna Sass’s pressure cooking cookbooks are great to have on hand, but I especially like her Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker. Her substitution charts are pure gold when it’s time to convert your favorite traditional recipes to the pressure cooker.


Bon appetit!

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mad at Apple–iPod Touch Battery Drain


ipodWell well, looks as if the latest OS update to my iPod Touch included a battery killer.

Before the update, my Touch battery would easily run all night, with at least a 50% charge left in the morning.

Since I downloaded & installed the iOS 4 update last month, the battery can’t make it through the night. I wake up to a completely drained battery, a dead-in-the-water iPod, and … no alarm.

Scrounged around on the net & found this cNet report on the battery drain issue. Glad to know it’s not just me, or my iPod, it’s caused by changes Apple made to the OS.


So now I’m keeping my Touch in Airplane mode. I only turn on WiFi when I actually need to check email, then try to remember to turn it back off again as soon as I’m done.

This at least keeps my Touch alive overnight, but the battery life still isn’t anywhere near what it was before iOS 4. As in, maybe 2 days intermittent usage as opposed to the 4 or 5 days I used to get.

Thanks a lot, Apple!

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Monday, June 14, 2010

Belize City Attorney Gunned Down

I was horrified and saddened to learn that a prominent Belize City attorney of my acquaintance, Rodwell Williams, S.C, was ambushed and gunned down in a Belize City parking lot near his law office at 8 pm on Monday, May 31.

Two Belize City men were charged with the assault, Ricky Valencia, 27, and Akeem Thurton, 18. The attack is widely rumored to have been a “contract hit” paid for by a Belize City businessman recently defeated in court by Mr. Williams.

Mr. Williams was initially treated at a Belize City hospital for a single shotgun blast to the abdomen, and was later transferred to a Miami, Florida hospital where he is recovering.

Mr. Williams, Senior Counsel and law partner of Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow, had been previously attacked on April 15, when a “projectile” was fired through the windows of the Barrow & Williams law office at 99 Albert Street in Belize City.

This latest armed assault is just one of more than 100 reported shootings in Belize City this year, where the death toll climbed to 30 as of August, 2010. According to The Economist, as reported on Belize’s Channel 5 News, “Belize is the world’s murder hotspot”, with a 2009 death rate of 32.7 per 100,000 persons country-wide.

The Campaign to Stop Human Trafficking in Belize confirms that relative to its size and population, Belize outranks all nations in murder.  “The latest statistics show Belize with 97 murders for a population of 320,000.  To put that into perspective, metro Toronto has 41 murders for the same period, but for a population of 2.4 million people.”

While violent crime statistics are higher in Belize City than in the rest of the country, crime throughout Belize has steadily risen over the past two years, says the Overseas Security Advisory Council.

“Major crimes in Belize (murder, rape, robbery, burglary, theft) increased in 2008 by 8.1 percent from 2007. The murder rate within Belize has continued to increase on an annual basis by five percent since 2003; the number of murders in 2008 (103 homicides) has now more than doubled those reported in 2000 (47 homicides) and represents a nationwide murder rate of 34 per 100,000 persons.”


Rodwell Williams Shot, Amandala, June 1, 2010

Rodwell Williams SC shot in street attack, The [Belize] Reporter, June 4, 2010

Two charged in shooting of Attorney Rodwell Williams, The Guardian, June 10, 2010

Belize is world murder capital, Belize Channel 5 News, September 7, 2009

Canadians Boycott Belize Tourism, Murder Capital of the World, Betty Phillips, July 23, 2010

Belize 2009 Crime & Safety Report, Overseas Security Advisory Council, August 17, 2009

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Derby Duck! My Favorite Roast Duck Recipe, That Is



Well, we didn't have a Kentucky Derby party this year, but we did have a Derby duck.

Not exactly traditional, nary a mint julep in sight, but festive all the same!

When we find duck at a nice price - in Albuquerque usually at TaLin Market - we love this recipe for "Roast Duck with Honey-Chili Glaze". It's delicious, easy to follow, uses ingredients I almost always have on hand, and seems foolproof.

I originally got the recipe as a magazine clipping from my mom, so I have no idea who wrote it, or even what magazine printed it. My little clipping is now creased and stained, and I just know I'll lose it eventually. And of course I've made some minor modifications over the years ... so I thought I'd share it here. That way I can always find it, and there's also a chance someone will recognize it - I'd like to give full credit!

Roast Duck with Honey-Chili Glaze

One 4-lb duck

Rub Ingredients:
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 T. fresh, minced)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Glaze Ingredients:
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dark rum

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a V-shaped roasting rack - I like the 13x10" Norpro rack shown at left - in a roasting pan with sides at least 2" deep.

Wash and drain duck, removing neck and giblets for another use.

In a small bowl, combine rub ingredients. Rub duck with the mixture, inside and out. Cover wing tips with foil to prevent burning. Put duck, breast side up, in rack and roast for 20 minutes.

Dial back the oven to 350 degrees F and roast 45 minutes more.

Remove duck from oven (leave oven on), remove foil from wing tips, and let duck rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Pour off hot duck fat.

In a small bowl combine glaze ingredients. Baste duck with glaze mixture, then return bird to oven. Roast 15 minutes more, brushing with glaze every 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, let rest 5 minutes before carving.

* * * * *

The recipe's author is obviously a health-conscious saint, tossing out all that rendered duck fat. Not me! I keep it in the fridge for future roast potatoes or hash browns, because potatoes sizzled in duck fat are sublime. In fact, I usually roast some quartered Yukon golds along with this duck, tucked around the edges of the roasting pan. Bliss!

Also: you can make a faaabulous stock from the duck carcass and neck. I freeze the stock for my next batch of gumbo.

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Friday, March 26, 2010

Foster Dog Graduation Day


Mork_1Today’s the big day for our one-year-old foster dog Mork: he’s ready for adoption!

What a sweetheart he is. And he’s made great progress during his stay with us.

When he first arrived, he couldn’t even climb stairs. Now he races up and down the yard for the sheer joy of running, and he can jump two feet up onto the back deck.

He gets along with all our dogs, and even the cats. With his happy personality, I think he’ll fit right in with any pet household.

So, this morning he has an appointment with the groomer to make him all sleek & shiny. Then it’s show time!

We don’t know yet whether he’ll be at Animal Humane’s “Main Campus” (615 Virginia St SE, 505-255-5523) or their new Adoption Center (9132 Montgomery Blvd NE, 505-323-PETS).

Either way, the foster coordinator is sure he’ll be adopted right away, he’s that cute.

If you’re looking for him, remember, his shelter name is actually “Angelo”. We’ve just been calling him Mork.

Animal Humane of Albuquerque is located at 615 Virginia Street SE, and their main phone number is 255-5523. Their Adoptions Department is open 7 days a week from 10:00am-6:00pm (but closed for the lunch hour from 12:00pm-1:00pm). Their website is .

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Monday, March 22, 2010

Speak Up on Health Care Reform!


"We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things."
--President Obama

I have been most bitterly annoyed by the series of TV commercials run on my local channels bashing the Congressional health care reform efforts. Many of these advertisements were sponsored by “fronts” for the insurance companies, and I find all of them deceptive and inflammatory.

According to CNN, over $57 million has been spent on advertising that tries to influence the health care debate. And remember, a lot of this money comes from the insurance premiums we pay now.

The average American pays over $1,000 per month for employer-sponsored health insurance, and as much as 1/3 of that goes to “administrative fees”, which includes advertising. I think that’s obscene.

So I was even more annoyed this morning to hear Sen. John McCain opine that Americans oppose health care reform 2-to-1. He failed to cite a source for his estimate.

I don’t believe it’s true, but if it is, then I think it’s important that all of us who do support health care reform take a moment to express our support to our representatives in Congress.

I am proud to say that both New Mexico Senators, Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall, support health care reform. And my District 3 representative, Congressman Ben R. Luján, voted for it last night.

I have written all three to express my support.

If you don’t know who your representative is, or don’t know how to contact them, it’s easy to find out. Visit the following website, enter your zip code, and you’ll get the names and contact links for your Representative and your Senators:

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists

P.S. Wondering what the immediate benefits of the health care reform bill will be? After President Obama signs the bill, these 10 changes take effect immediately [source]:

  1. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage.
  2. Free preventative care for all.
  3. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states. Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay.
  4. Children will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until their 27th birthdays.
  5. No child under 19 will be excluded from plans because of preexisting conditions.
  6. Adults with preexisting conditions will be able to start shopping online for a plan in a national high-risk pool while waiting for insurance exchanges to get started.
  7. Small businesses can deduct as much as 50 percent of employees’ health benefits for tax purposes in 2009 and 2010.
  8. It will fill in the “donut hole” of Medicare prescription drug coverage with a rebate.
  9. Insurers will have to post their balance sheets online, listing administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
  10. And you can no longer be dropped from your insurance plan just because you get sick.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snow Day at Sedillo Hill 03/15/10


We’re always amused when Albuquerque TV reporters set up their cameras on Sedillo Hill – our highway exit – to report on snow storms. They’re always kitted out for an Everest ascent!

But of course we do get considerably more snow than down in Albuquerque. Here are the results of last night’s snowfall …





Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
(Sedillo Hill), NM

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meet Mork! Our New Foster Puppy

This week we received a new foster from Animal Humane of Albuquerque, a rescued one-year-old, 8-pound male dog that they think is probably a Maltese-Yorkshire cross.


His shelter name is Angelo, but we’re calling him Mork. Doesn’t he look like a “Mork”?

Mork is a brave little guy: he was only a little alarmed by our resident household of four 70 – 140 pound dogs, and is intrigued by our 5 cats (4 of whom are also bigger than he is).

He loves sitting in the sun on the front porch, and for inscrutable reasons of his own hates inkjet printers, barking at each document as it prints out. It’s the only time he barks, I’m happy to say he’s not a yappy dog at all.

He’s recovering nicely from his little operation two days ago, and working hard on the finer points of house-training. Our coordinator at AHA believes he’ll be ready for adoption in about two weeks!


Animal Humane of Albuquerque is located at 615 Virginia Street SE, and their main phone number is 255-5523.

Their Adoptions Department is open 7 days a week from 10:00am-6:00pm (but closed for the lunch hour from 12:00pm-1:00pm). Their website is .

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quarreling with Qwest Over the “Digital Divide” in New Mexico


Our local TV news station, KOB-TV, reported last night that $10 million in federal stimulus money will be used to bring broadband Internet service to rural residents of the Penasco Valley in southeastern New Mexico, a service area of approximately 4,700 square miles.

While I’m happy for – and envious of – my fellow rural New Mexicans who’ll finally get high-speed Internet, I bitterly resent that we American taxpayers are footing this bill on behalf of Qwest, the telecommunications giant which holds a virtual monopoly over most of the state of New Mexico.

Ten years ago Qwest was awarded this monopoly, and in return agreed to spend $788M to upgrade New Mexico’s rural telecommunication infrastructure, including high-speed Internet access.

A decade later, Qwest has failed to honor this commitment, with more than $200M in upgrades unperformed, amounting to more than 25% of their contractual obligation. And outside of the metropolitan areas of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Qwest has simply not provided high-speed Internet access.

“As a state, New Mexico sadly falls towards the bottom of the list” of Internet availability in the US, says Senator Tom Udall. [full text here]

The arithmetic seems simple: Qwest owes us 20 times the amount of this $10M federal stimulus grant. Were Qwest to honor its contract, at this rate broadband Internet could be provided to over 94,000 square miles of rural New Mexico (remember, the entire state is only 121,593 square miles). Then these ten million US tax dollars could be spent on other equally urgent projects in New Mexico.

I live in the East Mountains, a semi-rural area only 20 miles east of Albuquerque, our largest city. But I cannot obtain high-speed Internet from Qwest. All Qwest offers us is dial-up. As Comcast does not offer us cable service, either, I pay almost four times the national average to access the Internet.

Of course, even if we could get Qwest’s Internet service, I’m not sure we’d want it at the service level Qwest provides New Mexicans. In state, Qwest is notorious for outages like last December’s multi-day, multi-county lapse, for example. This failure, the third in three months, was traced to one of Qwest’s DSL DS3 circuits, known as a “big pipe”. DS3 big pipe failures like these “almost never happen in other Qwest states,” according to Jane Hill, president of CyberMesa, a Santa Fe telecom reseller who depends on Qwest’s big pipes for her livelihood. “The lack of Qwest investment in home phone lines and major circuits is taking its toll on the New Mexico economy and on future investment in the State.” [full text here]

Of course there are those who argue that Americans who choose to live in rural areas simply don’t deserve high-speed Internet service, as does the author of the Errors of Enchantment blog. Perhaps he’s right; and perhaps we don’t deserve electricity, either. Maybe we should all move to Albuquerque, leaving the crude oil, natural gas, cattle, goats, apples, pecans and chile peppers to tend and harvest themselves.

“Deployment of broadband supports job creation and rural economic development," says US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “opening new opportunities not only for homes and businesses, but for community institutions such as health facilities, libraries, public buildings and community centers." [full text here]

So you’d think in a state that just posted the highest unemployment rate increase in the nation, access to high-speed Internet would be a top priority for our elected officials. Not so. In our last legislative session, two pro-Qwest / anti-consumer bills were introduced and only narrowly defeated; quoting NM Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks,

SB 37 [sponsored by Sen. Carlos Cisneros] was a fast-track to complete deregulation of Qwest prices, service quality, and in-state investments; and HB 107 [sponsored by Rep. Roberto Gonzales] was a cleverly disguised, unjustified rate increase for Qwest, Windstream, and the rural monopoly telephone companies.” [full text here]

Qwest’s decade of performance in New Mexico under regulatory constraint has been abysmal; can you imagine how bad it would get if it were completely deregulated, as Senator Cisneros proposed?

While Qwest continues to seek rate increases - both openly acknowledged rate increases and hidden price hikes, as in the case of HB 107 - it has failed to provide service to rural New Mexicans, and at the same time reduced its costs by reducing service quality, refusing to expand service areas and laying off employees.

Rather than rubber-stamping the price hikes and deregulation demands issued by Qwest’s lobbyists, it's time for our legislature and Public Regulatory Commission to hold Qwest's feet to the fire. Obviously Qwest must be forced to deliver the $200 million dollars’ worth of telecommunications upgrades it contracted to provide over a decade ago. 

How else can the rural citizens of New Mexico ever hope to bridge the "digital divide"?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Info Update for Sandia Stitch ‘n Time



Our Sandia Stitch ‘n Time needlework group – not just for knitters, but also crochet-ers and cross-stitchers and needleworkers of all sorts - meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at the East Mountain Library, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled for March 13 and March 27.

I’ve moved our schedule updates and postings from my old website to my new Facebook business page, .

You don’t have to be a member of Facebook to see this page! But if you are a Facebook user, click the “Fan” button and you’ll get meeting updates automatically.

Map of East Mountain Library location in Tijeras, NM:

Map picture

For more information about other programs at the East Mountain Library (1 Old Tijeras Rd, Tijeras, NM 87059) in Tijeras, including hours and directions, call (505) 281-8508 or 311; TTY users call Relay NM or 711; or visit the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library website

Hope to see you there,

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quick Fix for Canon Pixma ip1500


Thought I’d share this quick tip for resetting your Canon Pixma ip1500 printer.

Mine occasionally refuses to power up, especially after a power outage, and I’ve found this weird little routine that will fix it:

How To Re-set a Canon Pixma Printer

  1. Unplug the power cord.
  2. Open front of printer.
  3. Hold down the Power button.
  4. Plug in printer (still holding down Power button).
  5. Close the printer cover (still holding down Power button).
  6. Now release the Power button.

Awkward, yes? But effective!

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What’s for Dinner"? Emeril’s Boudin with Jambalaya Grits


First let me confess that although I love both Cajun & Creole food, I was never all that fond of jambalaya. (I prefer Étouffée.) Guess that means I’d just never had a good recipe for jambalaya?  So I was thrilled to find Emeril Lagasse’s Boudin with Jambalaya Grits recipe on the Food Network site.

Not only did Emeril’s recipe sound quicker than Étouffée, it sounded equally tasty. I’d never thought of making jambalaya with grits instead of rice; I do dearly love grits. And I didn’t mind skipping the roux.

So I made this recipe and we absolutely loved it, but I want to note some caveats, quibbles and modifications here.

1. First of all, it’s going to take most home cooks way more than 30 minutes to get this dish on the table. There’s a lot o’ chopping involved, but also I think there’s a problem with the instructions. If you’ve ever cooked real grits, by which I mean stoneground grits rather than instant grits, you know for darn sure they ain’t gonna cook “tender and creamy” in the 4 to 5 minutes Emeril advises.

He fails to specify “instant” grits in his recipe, but by golly that’s what he means. Shame on him, instant grits are an abomination. If you actually own a box, throw it out or feed it to the dogs. If you can’t find stoneground grits in your local grocery stores – that’s certainly a challenge here in New Mexico – then you can get them online. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Once you’ve got real grits, adjust your cooking time in this step to about 25 minutes.

2.  Emeril calls for 1 cup veal reduction. Aw, c’mon! If you seriously want to pursue this, has a recipe for veal reduction; just add 9 hours to your cooking time.

However, not having a ready supply of veal reduction doesn’t mean you should just skip it. That meaty flavor adds a lot to the finished dish, which I think would otherwise backslide into the bland register. Instead, I substituted a cup of good homemade beef stock, brought it to a boil with the milk, and dropped in 3 or 4 beef bouillon cubes. Perfect.

3. I did try poaching then pan-searing the boudin. I think this was pretty much a waste of time. Since you don’t eat the casing, why sear it? (Unless it’s because it looks so nekkid without a little browning, but do you care, really?) I got equally good results by microwaving the boudin, piercing the casing first to prevent explosions. You can deduct 15 minutes from your cooking time, and have 2 fewer pots to wash.

4. Original Creole Seasoning 17 oz.And no, I didn’t bother to make Emeril's ESSENCE “Bayou Blast” Creole Seasoning. Making it from scratch would add another 15 minutes to your prep time.

But you do need Cajun or Creole seasoning of some sort; use whatever you’ve got.

My personal favorite is Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, shown here. And I can even buy this in New Mexico.

5.  And my last quibble: what’s up with the “Spoon the sauce over the sausage and serve” direction? What sauce? Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find any sauce in that recipe. Fortunately, we didn’t miss it.

But hey, it was delicious and I’d certainly make it again, even for company. Thanks, Emeril, this one’s a keeper!

Designer, kNotes for kNitters
Creator, Happy Hands Hand Creams for Fiber Artists
Sandia Park, NM