Jim Learns About Induction Cooktops

I’m learning about induction cooktops. I know I’m way late in the game. The house we bought a little over two and a half years ago came with an induction cooktop. It’s the first one we ever had; we always used gas or electric stoves.

The main topic here are the noises including clicking noises we heard when using the induction cooktop. I say “we” but I should say Sena because I am allergic to kitchens.

I had to search the internet about induction cooktops. I found out way more than I wanted to know about them. I guess I can summarize that in a few lines:

Induction cooktops:

  • They work using electricity, not gas. They generate energy from an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface which transfers energy to the magnetic cookware, which causes them to heat up.
  • They’re more energy efficient than gas.
  • The electro magnetic field (EMF) they emit have not been shown to increase the risk for cancer.
  • Although some chefs say hard anodized cookware won’t work on induction cooktops, they will if the bottom of the cookware has a ferromagnetic surface (meaning it has iron in it).
  • You can tell most of the time if a pan will work on induction cookware by holding a magnet up to the bottom of it and checking to see if the magnet sticks. If the magnet sticks, you’re good to go.

I finally checked that last point about magnetism by suddenly realizing that we had a magnet. It happens to be the magnetized lid for the space holding a deck of cards and pegs on our large cribbage board. It stuck to the bottom of one of our new KitchenAid hard anodized pans.

The old pans we had clicked a lot and there are reasons for the variety of noises you can hear. Most of the websites I noticed which describe this problem also have videos about which don’t have audio. Many of the websites say that some clicking is normal. Others will make an effort to identify the cause for the noises.

Our new cookware doesn’t make any noise at all. And they heat up very quickly. You don’t need to crank up the heat and can keep the power level pretty low.

The sound of screaming is probably from the extraterrestrial you’re trying to fry. Don’t do that.

Chef Jim Makes Pizza!

It had been around 3 years since I actually made a pizza (see YouTube video “The Path to Pizza.”)  rather than just sticking a frozen one into the oven. Yesterday, Sena and I put together a video of me (with more than a little coaching from the boss) making a whopper pizza.

Sena bought a new pizza pan for the occasion. In fact, she got a few new cooking pans, saying firmly it was high time for a change. We used to call the old pizza pan “well-seasoned.” But it was out with the old and in with the new.

Because I’m a guy, it was safer to let me use a ready-made pizza crust mix. I was sort of used to that, anyway. It’s a Great Value brand and it was pretty good—after Sena jazzed it up with a few things like a little sugar, sea salt, garlic powder, and Himalayan Pink Salt preferred by all the Yeti chefs.

We used Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil spaghetti sauce, which I understand is legal.The spices we used were garlic powder, basil, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, along with a couple dozen other things. You use what you like.

Sena also “suggested” different kinds of cheeses (“I woke up feeling the cheesiest!”) There was a shredded Italian variety made up of 3 different cheeses including parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, romano, and asiago. and we topped that with a different brand of provolone. Sena really likes added provolone.

I Offered to Make Dinner But…

Yesterday I offered to make dinner, but Sena made a counteroffer I couldn’t refuse. She made a special dish of big meatballs (which she did not allow me to juggle) and potatoes. She makes an out-of-this-world sauce that she must have got from Extraterrestrials back in the early 1980s. The image from pixabay doesn’t do it justice, but we ate it too fast for me to get a snapshot.

I can’t remember the last time she made it; it has been years.

As a matter of full disclosure, while I did offer to make dinner, “making dinner” for me is sticking a frozen pizza in the oven. I might throw a light salad into the bargain, but the whole affair is a far cry from actually making the pizza dough and getting my hands dirty. That almost never happens unless the moon splits in two.

I will occasionally add a little extra provolone to a Jack’s Pizza, a brand which tends to be a little light on toppings. My favorites are the Screamin’ Sicilian and Lotzza Motzza. I don’t need to add anything because they’re already loaded. Sena goes around to all the grocery stores in town when they have reduced prices, but restrict you so you can buy only 2 at one store.

Also, I’ll prepare soup—if I can figure out how to open the can.

I can’t give away the recipe without incurring some form of special punishment which might involve sharp objects and a chase across the state. It includes a lot of butter, for which she used creamery butter sculpted in the shape of a Christmas tree. There are unspecified amounts of ketchup, brown sugar, and a variety of spices which are probably not native to this planet. She keeps them in a locked drawer from which loud growls erupt if I get too close.

Even if I knew the recipe, if I tried to make it, the dish would end up tasting a lot like pizza.

Pancakes Come Alive Today!

After several decades of making pancakes flatter than a pancake, Sena made light and fluffy pancakes this morning. What gives?

It turns out that baking soda vs baking powder is touted as a real game changer. She’s used baking soda for years and she was never satisfied with the outcome—although I want to be on record as having always gladly eaten them.

Today she added baking powder with pancake batter mix that, curiously, had baking soda in it which was clearly for leavening. I don’t know anything about cooking, but leavening is what makes things like pancakes light and fluffy. She also added an egg, which was not called for but which she did anyway.

However; for leavening, baking powder is evidently preferred over baking soda by cooks. But then again, you can use both. On the other hand, one reference on the web said you can make fluffy pancakes without baking powder. Eggs are another way to make pancakes fluffy. Even though the pancake batter mix Sena always uses has buttermilk in it, which is also needed to make acid which reacts with baking powder-her pancakes didn’t come alive until today.

Baking powder, according to the experts, is baking soda which is bicarbonate soda, a leavening agent by itself, but is also supercharged with other agents that maintain leavening. This can be a powdered acid like cream of tartar, which doesn’t react with dry sodium bicarbonate. Other agents that make the ingredient part of the label for baking powder apparently include a mini-chemistry lab store: sodium aluminum sulfate, calcium sulfate, and monocalcium phosphate. It also has cornstarch to maintain leavening.

So, if you don’t have baking powder you can combine baking soda with cream of tartar, or use self-rising flour, or egg whites.

What made the difference this time for Sena’s pancakes? Was it because she used the baking powder instead of baking soda, and adding the egg? It pays to read the box.

A comment about advertising: the pancake mix Sena uses says it’s “complete.” The ingredients relevant for leavening include baking soda, sodium aluminum sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, buttermilk powder, dried egg whites, egg yolk powder.

Sound familiar? That’s baking powder. OK, all that prompts me to ask the obvious question. If the mix essentially already has baking powder and the other leavening agents in it, why were Sena’s pancakes flat and chewy until today when she added baking soda? Not that I mind flat and chewy; I’ll pretty much eat anything, even my own cooking. Don’t report me to the public health authorities.

Obviously, extraterrestrials are involved.

Make Perfect Poached Eggs-In Your Dreams

I’m the worst person to let loose in the kitchen, but I’m still trying to learn how to poach eggs. Sena gives me some supervision, but stays within shouting distance because we want to avoid kitchen fires.

I searched the web for guidance as well. Poaching an egg probably requires advanced college degrees in chemistry, physics, and biology. But they won’t help you poach eggs unless you abide by a few basic rules and sacrifice a fatted calf to the God of Poaching.

I do OK cracking eggs—as long as you don’t mind eating a few eggshells. I could probably learn how to crack an egg with one hand (like a badass according to one article), but I want to avoid exposing my fingers to salmonella as much as possible. I’ve seen those videos. The inside of the egg including the yolk pretty much explodes all over your hand. Like a lot of men, I’m pretty fastidious in the kitchen. I’m not sure why professional cleaners in Hazmat suits storm the house occasionally and occupy the kitchen for a few days.

That’s why it takes me several hours to poach what are supposed to be “3 minute” eggs. I save some time by cracking the eggs with your standard drill driver using a carefully chosen Phillips head bit. Always keep your tools next to the slotted spoons and spatulas drawer next to the cooktop.

My poached egg yolks are always either so hard they break your molars or so runny you can drink them from a glass—a small juice glass is fine.

I guess the freshness of the eggs is important. I’ve never tested them by dropping them into a pot of water to see if they float or sink. If they sink, they’re probably OK. If they float, you should throw them away. If they levitate out of the pot, you forgot to take your prescription medication.

Now, it turns out there are two opposing camps on the vinegar issue. Some say this will fix the wispy whites problem. Others say avoid vinegar at all costs because of the risk of explosions. I recently tried adding a few drops of vinegar to the water in the saucepan. I’m ambivalent about it because I still got the wispys although the whites did seem a little firmer. But that’s probably only because I cooked them too long—again.

I think I have better luck putting the egg into a little bowl and then slipping the egg into the water in the saucepan. I do this very gently—always wear a helmet. Sometimes the white parts still scatter all over and even outside of the pan, covering the cooktop, getting all over the floor, flooding the dining room and clogging the electrical outlets. Hey, it’s time for corn flakes!

I don’t use ramekins, which sounds like sheep from another galaxy. I didn’t even know what those were until I looked it up on the web. They’re little bowls.

You can even buy an appliance called an egg poacher. They cost around $32 at Amazon. If I buy that, then I might as well buy an egg cracking tool. It’s called an EZ Cracker Handheld Egg Cracker and it costs $10.

You want perfect poached eggs? Look in the want ads under Poachers for Hire. Don’t call them if their ads show snapshots of wild animals.

Back in the Saddle Again

This is just a short update on how phased retirement is going. I’m back in the saddle. Last Friday I went back on duty on the Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry service. I’m at 50% time. My step counter today shows about 2 miles and 17 floors—a slow day. That’s fine with me.

Colleagues pass me in the hall and say, “I thought you were retired.” They don’t look happy when I tell them I’ll be fully retired in June next year.

But I’m a little happier. It’s taking a long time to get used to not being a fireman, which is what it means around here to be a C-L psychiatrist.

How’s the cooking going? Miserable but getting better, in a way. I can deal with things like “Just Crack an Egg,” which my wife, Sena got for me, as a sort of sympathy gift, I guess. I can handle it. And I made an omelet the other day, my first ever. The kitchen was not filled with smoke and it was edible.

How’s the exercise routine going? I’m still at it, 20 minutes every day, along with my mindfulness practice.

As I was giving my usual orientation remarks to the new trainees coming on the service this morning, I caught myself saying “I do it for the juice” when telling them why I do this schtick. I’ve said that to a lot of residents and medical students over the years.

I guess I should rethink that remark and the mindset that makes me say it so often. Pretty soon, I won’t be chasing all over the hospital anymore— “for the juice.”

I’ve been trying hard to find something else for the juice. Sena and I’ve rediscovered card games we haven’t played in over 20 years: Pinochle and Gin Rummy. I lost track of time playing Gin yesterday, I had so much fun. We just celebrated our 42nd anniversary. It was magical.

I’m probably going to be OK.

Over the Double Rainbow

We saw a double rainbow while out for a walk during a gentle rain. I know they’re not rare, they form because light bounces off raindrops, and all that. I’m not after the science angle here. I’m just hoping this was a sign of good luck to come. I’m pretty sure I’ve probably seen a double rainbow before. I just can’t remember when. And I doubt it was as striking as this beauty was.

Double rainbow!

These days I’m wondering what’s over the rainbow or the double rainbow. Going for a walk the other day helped me put things in perspective—at least for a while.

Out for a walk in the fall

My life is slower when I’m not on service in my role as a general hospital psychiatric consultant. And I’ll be fully retired in June. I just came off service earlier this week, when I was going at my usual fireman’s pace. Things seem to move so much faster nowadays.

I’m on service at 50% time now. That feels a lot different than the previous two years, when I was at 65% time. When I’m on, I’m going at a dead run. When I’m off, I just mosey along. It’s a little jarring to go from 0 to 90 and back again every so often—even though it’s less and less often.

I don’t mind telling you, I get a little bored sometimes. It helps to do something different every once in a while. I hadn’t made a pizza from scratch in over a year and a half. I guess it’s not completely from scratch. I’m still better at just sticking a frozen one in the oven.

Make that pizza!

A Beer Called Ruthie

Ruthie is a good name for a beer. It’s a craft brew made by Exile Brewing Company in Des Moines, Iowa. It was named the official craft beer of the Iowa State Fair this year.

Who needs a tray?

There’s a cute picture of Ruthie on the bottle pouring beer into a couple of glasses balanced on her bosom. Where else?

It turns out that Ruthie Bisignano was the owner of Ruthie’s Lounge in Des Moines, open from 1950-1970. She was nationally famous for this kind of serving style. She was married sixteen times to nine men, by her account, according to a Des Moines Register clipping from 1988. This was the year my wife, Sena, and I moved from Des Moines to Iowa City in a U-Haul truck so I could start medical school.

Exile was established in 2012 and they serve community healthy living awareness as well as beer and food. For example, they started the Ruthie Breast Cancer Campaign in 2018 and for every case of pink-labelled Ruthie beer sold, a dollar was donated to Susan G. Komen Greater Iowa. They have a well-balanced attitude toward health and life—sort of like the well-balanced way Ruthie served beer.

We noticed that one of the menu items was something called Mexican Rarebit.  It reminded me of a Gomer Pyle episode back in the 1960s. If you’re not a baby boomer, you might not know anything about this old TV comedy involving the stormy relationship between a naïve Marine private and his grumpy drill sergeant, Vince Carter. It ran for 5 seasons and, while it was one of the few programs my mother liked, Sena hated it mainly because of Gomer’s over-done North Carolina hick accent.

Anyway, one of the episodes was “Gomer the Welsh Rarebit Fiend.” In it, whenever Gomer or Carter ate what Gomer always sounded like he called “Welsh Rabbit,” they would sleepwalk and switch personalities. An article on the web about the episode showed many snapshots from it, one of them including a sign on which was printed “Psychiatric Unit.”

Of course, that piqued my interest since I’m a retiring psychiatrist. I didn’t remember that part of the episode. I searched the web and discovered that Welsh Rabbit was the original name of the dish, which is a simple dish of mainly melted cheddar cheese on toast. I admit I don’t understand the etymology of the name. Somebody either couldn’t catch rabbit or pronounce it.

However, it’s been associated with causing vivid nightmares, especially if you eat too much of it late at night. Maybe it’s the mustard.

In fact, there was an early 20th century comic strip called “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend” by Winsor McKay. It was about spectacular dreams caused by eating Welsh Rarebit. The dreams often portrayed Freudian themes including phobias. Some speculated they might have inspired iconic movie creatures like King Kong.

Anyway, Exile’s Mexican Rarebit sandwich involves ground chuck in a spicy queso, bacon, and corn salsa. I wonder if the recipe calls for beer, which might be another way to enjoy the Ruthie. The web site doesn’t warn the diner to avoid eating it just before bedtime.

You can find a lot of different recipes for Welsh Rarebit, limited only by the cook’s imagination.

Sena just returned from the store and among the items was cheddar cheese and pumpernickel bread.

I made what we’ll call Ruthie Rarebit today—with a heck of a lot of coaching from Sena. The recipe was pretty traditional:

A stick of butter, about a tablespoon of flour; aged cheddar cheese, about one and a half cups, enough for both of us; a small carton of whipping cream; about a teaspoon of dry mustard, half of a 12 ounce bottle of Ruthie Gold Lager (could as well have used the whole thing); salt and pepper, a little paprika and cayenne pepper.

Toast a couple of big slices of bread (we used pumpernickel) with a little olive oil in a pan. Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan, add about a tablespoon of flour, a bottle of beer or ale, whipping cream, add the cheddar cheese, and keep stirring. Pour it over the toast and add whatever else you want on top.

Ruthie Rarebit

No Welsh Rarebit recipe calls for rabbit—that I’m aware of, anyhow. I’m not expecting any nightmares tonight. In fact, I think it might be as helpful for sleep as melatonin.

See how it’s done!

Can Jim Learn to Cook?

First, thanks so much for the Likes from the cooks out there on yesterday’s post “Back on the Wards”! I have not yet had a chance to really dig into your recipes, but I’m definitely interested. There was also a Like on a previous post (“Mindfully Retiring from Psychiatry”) from someone who devotes a part of her website to great cooking as well. Thank you!

I used to know how to do at least a little cooking. I got a recipe for Shoo-Fly cake from a guy I used to work with eons ago when I was working for consulting engineers as a land survey assistant and drafting technician. I lost that recipe a long time ago.

Anyway, moving right along to how my second day went back on the wards—it was busy. My step counter logged 2.4 miles and 21 floors. I did sitting meditation this morning and didn’t fall asleep. And when I got home, I exercised. So far, so good.

My exercise routine is about 20 minutes every day, and I modified it from something I found on line. It’s based on the latest recommendation calling for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, which works out to about 22 minutes a day. I do about 2 minutes of deep breaths, pass out briefly, and then 20 minutes of thumb wrestling (see the fitted sheet folding video in my post “Back in the Saddle—So Soon?”).

The residents asked me the dreaded retirement question today. What are you going to do? I can’t just keep saying “I don’t know” or “I’m working on it” or “I’ll be finding exciting new adventures in my unstructured time.” I think I got that last one from a retirement web site. I guess there’s a rumor that after I retire, I’ll end up just coming back to work. That happens to a lot of retirees, although right now I don’t think that’s going to be my path.

I could look for a good Shoo-Fly recipe or somebody could just send me one.

Back on the Wards

I was back on the wards today. It was pretty busy in the hospital over the weekend as usual. Mondays are almost always days when psychiatry consultations are pretty heavy, and Fridays are about the same. I got 2.3 miles and 17 floors on the step counter today.

I’m trying out adjusting my exercise and mindfulness practice—mindfulness in the morning and exercise in the evening. Since I get up pretty early anyway, I tried the yoga this morning and after the day was done, I did my exercise routine. It might be hard to stay awake through sitting meditation tomorrow morning. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

In my off-service time, I’ve been trying to work on cooking—sort of. I’m fair at best even with frozen pizzas. That’s a shame for someone who used to make pizza.

Home-made pizza I made–not that long ago.

I’m just OK with microwave popcorn. On the other hand, I managed not to ruin Jiffy Pop popcorn. Remember that?

%d bloggers like this: