Saturday, November 28, 2015


Pasticho is the Venezuelan version of lasagna. It borrows a bit from different Mediterranean cultures that emigrated to Caracas in the last century. Rather than a tomato based sauce and Ricotta cheese it uses a Bechamel sauce. Sort of an evolution of the Greek Pastitsio that is actually made with tube cannelloni pasta. The aroma of nutmeg and cream sauce make it very distinct.
As a kid I remember it was one of my favorite meals . We used to buy it from this deli that made it in little take home aluminum trays so you could cook it at home. The stuff we had then was made using spinach pasta sheets. As I was unable to find any of that here I opted for regular no-boil lasagna pasta sheets.
I start by browning about a pound and a half of ground beef, and flavor it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a touch of allspice. You can get creative here and some include celery or onions and leek. Add an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce for moisture and a little bit of water so it don't get too dry.
Then in a separate sauce pan you make the Bechamel sauce. You start by making a rue. Melt about 1/2 a sick of butter. Once it is melted, start adding about a half cup of flour slowly, a little bit at a time and keep stirring it with a whisk to cook the flour for about 4 minutes on medium low heat. Keep whisking it, DO NOT walk away from it as it will burn if you leave it for 30 seconds. Meanwhile you have about 3 cups of whole milk warming in another pan. Add salt pepper to taste and about a teaspoon of nutmeg, and a quarter teaspoon of clove to your rue and keep whisking it. Then start adding hot milk slowly to the rue and keep whisking on medium low heat. . .
Till you have a thick white creamy sauce like so . Try it and adjust spices as needed to suit taste.
Now you are ready to build your Pasticho . In an oiled 8x8" Pyrex dish start layering your sheets of no boil lasagna with a bit of your browned meat and a bit of the Bechamel sauce .
Sprinkle each layer with a bit of shredded mozzarella cheese and keep layering until you run out of ingredients or space. I added a couple of small sliced tomatoes under the last layer of pasta as I came up short on meat.
Pop it in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour to 40 minutes.
And dig in

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Easy bread making

As winter comes on I am back to using the oven and fresh baked bread is back on the menu . No knead bread is an easy, quick, simple and no hands solution. Yes hands free, as in I never touch the dough with my hands until it comes out of the oven.

The recipe calls for:

3 and a 1/2 cups of flour. (Bread flour is best but all-purpose will work too)
2 cups warm water (if cold it will take much longer)
2 teaspoons salt
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
In a suitable warm bowl mix the water salt and yeast and then add the flour . Make sure the bowl is warm before you start . If it is cold it will take much longer to get the bread to rise .
Mix ingredients with the straight handle of a plastic spoon until they all come together in a soft mix that will hold the spoon upright. A bout two minutes time mixing. Then cover with plastic saran-wrap and place in a warm draft free location to rise for at least an hour and a half to two hours.
After about an hour and half . . .
It will have doubled in size and look like this.
Beat it back down with the spoon handle for about a minute until it pulls away from the bowl.
Pour the dough in a suitable oiled loaf mold . I sprinkled mine with sesame seeds cause I found some in the cupboard . Then cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it stand for about a half hour in a warm draft free place while you heat up your oven to 400 degrees F. Front burner of the stove is a good spot to let it rise.
After a half hour it will look like this . Pop it in the 400 deg oven for 40 minutes .
and enjoy .

Friday, November 20, 2015

New life for an old vaccum cleaner

Last week when Annie went to use the vacuum cleaner it started making funny noises and smelling a bit odd , like something was getting way too hot inside . So it was time for some exploratory surgery .
Dug into it and found the top bearing on the motor was toast . Seals were gone and it had a nice blue color indicating it had severely over heated . Not surprising as we have owned it for about fifteen years and we bought it used .
After removing the bearing from the rotor shaft and dissecting it I found these assorted cooked bits .
I pulled the lower bearing as that one was quite stiff and hard to turn indicating it was near failure as well . A quick run to the local hardware store provided me with two new bearings . The 608-S bearing with a 22 mm outside diameter and a 8mm bore is one of the most common out there, found on just about every roller skate and skate board ever made . The new ones are marked Z instead of S and have a stainless side seal instead of the Viton rubber of the old ones . All I can find on the web is that the Z indicates a 35 thousand rpm and a higher temperature rating which should be good enough for our need .
Careful reassembly using a small socket to tap the inner race of the bearings on to the rotor shaft without damaging it , gets it back in place where it belongs .
Reinstall in the machine , reinstall the stator and . . . .
. . . reinstall the other plastic bits
And voila , back in working order , and much better than spending three hundred dollars on a new ghost busters look-alike machine . Like Red Green said ; if you are not handsome, you might as well make yourself handy .

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A quick sidding job

The cedar clapboards on the south side of mom and dad's house were getting a bit long in the tooth after thirty five years of cycling in the weather. Especially at the bottom where water splashes back on them from the ground. The clapboards were weathered cracked and very brittle. So it was time for replacement before water got in to the framing and became a structural issue.
At first I thought I'd try only replacing the lower half but I was unable to get to a good stopping point without splitting the next row up while pulling the nails out of the brittle clapboards.
So I stripped the whole wall and started over.
The west end of the wall also needs replacing, but It might be a bit more complicated as the deck buts against the wall a bit tighter and I might need to remove the deck boards and some framing to get to the bottom three rows of clapboards. Fortunately on the part I did I had enough of a gap to work.
Two days of fussing and seven hundred dollars worth of red cedar clapboards makes it look new again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A ten dollar Pearl

It has been four years since we had to put our last cat down and we have been thinking about another pet. So we went to the Kennebunk animal shelter yesterday to see what they had for dogs, and as usual the great majority were Pit-bull mixes. Though some Pit-bulls are OK if you get them young and train them right, so many at the shelter have behavior and personality traits that we are just not willing to cope with. So we looked at cats instead and found an eleven year old female with a very friendly disposition.
Meet Pearl.
She is really very much a people cat. Last night she came up on the couch and laid on my hand on her own.
Made herself comfortable in no time flat.
Due to her advanced age she had been passed up for younger cats, and after spending a couple weeks at the shelter they were eager to get her placed. So for the measly sum of ten dollars she was ours.
She is very gentle and loves to be around people. Last night she even slept on the pillow with me.