Other Stuff

Today I won't be talking about a recipe. In this case a kidney recipe. Today I will be talking about human kidneys, so if you are only into recipes, today is not your day. Today I want to talk about something that is extremely important to me: kidney transplant.

It just happens that I have two birthdays: one that celebrates when I was born (I know...it should be a World wide festivity) but also I have my second time around birthday. Five years ago I received a kidney from a diseased organ donor. Today I am alive thanks to that person and I must honor that.

My donor (and I will use "my" with the outmost respect) died unexpectedly and I was given a chance to live my life back to where it stopped 14 years prior. Those were 14 long years of which I spent 7 in dialysis. I have to be honest: dialysis is a great way to keep people going but is not a walk in the park. When I thought that the long 7 years in the  kidney failure clinic was though as I was feeling worst as days past; dialysis took over and yes, I did feel way better but obviously never as I did before the whole ordeal. I had a terrific team of professionals who looked over me in the two stages.  99% of the time I found compassionate and caring people who understood what I was going through. The 1% is not worth mentioning. All my doctors still know me by my name. Most nurses do. I am lucky that way. Now I am taking care by another terrific team who make sure that I keep my kidney healthy and my spirits high. My own family doctor was with me the whole ordeal. He was and is great.

I can't forget -not even for a second- what my family went through. When my world was collapsing in front of my eyes, my family was next to me and they suffered because they love me. My son was a small kid, now he is a man. My wife did everything to keep me going, and I mean everything.  Obviously life didn't turn the way I planned, but at the end, I have a good life. I am very close to my family and they are close to me. I am lucky.

Today I am 5. It has never been a moment when I don't think of the person who gave me more time to enjoy life. I promised I would do it for the two of us and I try very hard to keep my promise. Today somewhere there is a family who is remembering a loved one gone. Today I am celebrating life. Still today is hard to understand for me. Is there a word to say thank you for something like this? I don't know it but I know how I feel: that is the word I want to use.

During the 19 years (today) when I started this long ride I have talked to people, I have listened to people and I have read what they have to say about organ transplant. People are funny that way; most people say they are in favor of donating their organs but only 30% do the proper paperwork, that is, 70% of those good intentions never become a reality. Nevertheless they think about it. They approve it. They want to be part of it. There is also a group of people who are totally convinced that organ transplant is wrong and shouldn't be allowed. Furiously they defend their beliefs and are ready to steamroll anyone who is in favor. I hear them, I listen to them and I read them but I don't understand them. I am sure they have their reasons and I respect that. What I don't respect is what is said about the whole issue. I recall that I was fresh out of the surgery room when I received a call to congratulate me (highly appreciated) but short after the same person sent me a letter saying that he/she was taking his/hers name of the organ donor list because -I quote- "we are not replacement parts". It hurt so much. I love that person but his word choosing was poor and the result was hurtful. Unintentional harm I want to believe.

Life at the end. People at the end. I don't believe that there are good and bad people. I strongly believe that there is people. Just that, people. Today I celebrate 5 years and I want to share my feelings with you all. Donate if you feel is the right thing to do but, if you don't, please think twice before attacking the ones who are in favor. We are people same as you are. Try to understand and walk in our shoes. If that alters the way you think...great and if it doesn't...great too because everybody is responsible of their own destiny. My destiny was altered by the generosity of someone else. Today I celebrate 5 and I celebrate life.

Let's have a Margarita and have a good laugh. Let's enjoy a good meal. Let's do something kind. Let's try no to harm others. Lets be people but let's be good people.

Red Tomato Marmalade

Cooking Time: 120 Minutes   Makes 3 pints (1.5 Kg)

3 limes
1 kg Firm, ripe tomatoes*

4 Cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 Tsp Coriander seeds, coarsely crushed

57 G Pectin Crystals (1 box of Certo or similar)

* The original recipe I found called for the tomatoes to be peeled and seeded, but I decided not to do so to preserve the pectin that the fruit naturally has. And…also it called for lemons instead of limes… but I like limes better than lemons.

Cooking Instructions

1. Thinly peel 2 of the limes and slice the peel (julienne) in thin strips. Squeeze the lime juice of the 3 limes.

2. In a non-corrosive pan, place the tomatoes with the sugar, the lime rind and the lime juice and slowly bring it to a boil, mixing now and then so the lime-sugar covers the tomatoes.  

3. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat to medium-high, keep mixing until the tomatoes break and their juices start to combine with the lime-sugar mix. Skim the foam that forms on top.

4. In about half an hour or so, the mix will be all blended (you might see some tomato chunks…just break them with the wooden spoon to incorporate). Bring the mix to a boil and incorporate the pectin and the juice of the remaining lime. Stir like crazy so  all incorporates well. Add the coriander and mix until incorporated.

5. Using your candy thermometer we’ll watch the temperature so it reaches 105 ˚C , therefore we  will continue stirring until the water evaporates (it takes me about an hour of stirring and watching to get the consistency of jam). 

6. To know when the jam is ready I use the “wrinkle” test, that is, I put a saucer in the fridge to cool and when I think that my jam is ready, I pour a teaspoon of the jam on the saucer and run my finger through it…when the jam separates and stays separate….then I know that my jam is ready).

7. Pour the jam into a square glass mold (the ones we use to bake Lasagna) and allow it to cool overnight. The next morning it should have the perfect consistency, then proceed to ladle into the jars and seal.

6.Enjoy!… This jam should have a shelf life of 2 years…but mine didn’t make the weekend.

Home Made Butter Test

Yes, sometimes I spend a bit more than I should because of my cooking habit. The current wife doesn't help either. I cook...she eats. The circle of life.

One of the most expensive ingredients is always butter. Good butter though. Until now: the so called wife found a device that claims to make butter in 3 minutes. She thought it would be a great idea that I make my own. This would be the first step; then the cow, but we'll talk about this in another time.

This device comes from a company called Chef'n (I do not a commission not free product...bummer) . The small box claims to make butter in minutes and it claims to included recipes.

We went and bought whipping cream and I manage to find one with 36% fat content, which is best but not necessary. This is what happened:

First I tried the room temperature cream (1 cup) with a Tbsp of honey. Shake it, shake it, shake it baby...3 minutes...4 minutes...5 minutes... then I followed the instructions and poured cold water to get rid of the water and stuff. The cold water took away the whole thing. FAILURE. I trowed as a sign of desperation and... an accident: the wife was on the way and the butter maker hit her head. You could hear screams a block away... it was me running for my life. 

Hours later and once peace came back home we decided to try with only half a cup and no honey. Just butter. Shake it, shake it... and in exactly 4 minutes the sound of the liquid moving stopped and we did the water cleaning process. Ha!...butter.

So, the contraction works. 4 minutes and you get the most expensive butter you can buy (the cost of the cream vs the cost of a bar of butter...), but it is quite good. The butter is soft, great flavor and, as a bonus, you build muscle.

The cost is not an issue if you compare it with the cost of growing potatoes in a potato bag. I think each potato is worth about $2.50 each. But the wife likes to play farmer and I am such a pleaser.

Conclusion: Chef'n butter maker works and delivers great butter, soft and flavorful. The recipes that are "included" are actually two lines printed on a side of the apparatus. That is just a sad marketing scheme and hopefully soon they will fix that and, at least post some on their website.

 Jesus Ketchup!

So... who doesn't like ketchup?

I mean, besides me because the current wife puts ketchup pretty much on everything, from scrambled eggs or rice to lentil soup and Jello. I knew she was weird when I married her but she is getting weirder by the minute (and I still love her. Go figure)

In any event. Today I learned that H.J. Heinz Company is buying Kraft foods thanks to the street smarts of a Brazilian (yes...Brazilian) investment firm called 3G Capital who owns pretty much half the food brands you use everyday. 

If you ever wonder where babies come from... well, this is not the place to find the answer (honestly I don't know...mine just happened ), BUT if you are sometimes wondering where the food you eat comes from, then I don't know either, but what I know is that most likely most of the food you and I consume, organic or not, with a cute name or not or with a vibe of independence... probably the product comes from one of these food giants:

Uniliver (Becel, Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, Flora, Hellmanns, Maizena, Red Rose, Bresler, Frigo, Kibon...) 

Pepsi Co (owns of course all Pepsi beverages, Tropicana , Aunt Jemima, Gamesa, Lipton, Sabritas, quaker Foods, Aquafina, Walkers....etc)

Dole (4 of every 10 fresh fruits or veggies items you buy come from them)

General Mills (a zillion cereal brands, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, La Salteña, nature Valley, Green Giant, Haagen Dazs...) and Cascadian Farms -all organic food-...)

Nestle ( 8,000 brands!!!!...Nesspreso, Abuelita, Buitoni, Carnation, Fancy Feast -my cats have to eat too, you know-, Gerber, Maggi, Milo, The Body Shop, Loreal...)

Kraft (now owned by Heinz) ...(Back to Nature, all sort of cheese shapes or forms...or not cheese, El Caserio, Jell-O, Lacta, Oscar Mayer, Planters, Ritz, Cadbury, Nabisco, Philadelphia...) 


I only buy the "good food"... you know... the good one....

Garden of Eati'n?...Hain Celstial (another big one)
Cascadian Farms (General Mills)
Kashi... Kelloggs
Bocca Organics....Kraft
Odwalla ...Coca Cola
Stonefield Farms....Danone
The Body Shop...Nestle
Naked Juice...Pepsi
Burt Bees...Clorox
Honest Tea...Coca Cola

So... the only solution I can think of is... don't think about it and don't get ripped off by buying something with the phrase "organic", "gluten free" -or the latest craze-, "natural" unless you know better. 

And...just because something comes from your local market or Whole-foods or something like that...doesn't mean that it doesn't come from China or one of the mentioned companies...  

Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Slices

Two things in life that I really like are dark chocolate and candied orange peel. Many many times the current wife and I share store bought orange slices with chocolate and... they never last. Then I learned how to make my own and they are fabulous! ...but they don't last either.  I would lie to you if I tell you that we fight for the last piece. I fear her... she always gets the last piece. Life.

When on vacation this Christmas we bought a box of chocolate dipped orange slices, which honestly I have never seen or try. I know... sad, but that is the absolute true. The wife and I really really liked them, so I came back home determined to make them happen. I did. I guess once you have done the peels, then the slices don't look that hard to make.

Just to try I only made one orange. The slices were not even, buy next time they will. In any event, they turned out to be really tasty. I'm hiding the last one under my pillow. I outsmarted her!

So... here I am, sharing with you my new discovery. Next time I will make two or three oranges. I will just keep them in the fridge until  one hour prior to consumption, I'll take them out to allow them to be room temperature which is their best state. They won't last....if the wife is around...

Dark Chocolate Covered Orange Slices

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 6 servings

2 Cups of water
1 Cup of sugar
2 Tbsp Clear syrup (corn syrup)
1 Large Navel orange
1 Cup of 70% Dark chocolate bits

Cooking Instructions

1. In a large  heavy pot -the larger the better- bring the water to a boil.
Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. 

2. Reduce the heat to medium low (or the sugar will crystalize) and add the syrup. Stir until incorporated. 

3. While the water is boiling, wash and scrub the orange (you can do more than one: just modify the water and sugar proportions).

4. Slice the orange (1/8 “ slices). Discard the bottom and top.
Place the orange slices in the sugar mix and bring it to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then turn the slices -carefully- and allow it to keep boiling for another 5 minutes.

5. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, turning the slices every 10 minutes, just making sure that they don’t break.

6. Eventually you will have almost no syrup left and the white part of the oranges will look a bit translucent. Remove the slices once the syrup barely covers the bottom part of the slice.

7. Put the slices on parchment paper and allow it to cool a bit.

8. Preheat the oven to 200˚F

9. Put the parchment paper on a cooling rack and put the cooling rack on a cookie sheet. Place the oranges in the oven and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes or so, turing the slices every 10 minutes. Eventually the slices will look a bit dry. Remove from oven and allow them to cool for one day.

10. Next day we are going to temper the chocolate: Take a heat proof bowl that will fit on top of a pot. The water should never touch the pot (heat should be medium high)

11. In the bowl put 1/4 cup of chocolate and allow it to melt completely ( at 105˚F the chocolate is ready for the next step), then reduce the heat to low. Stir occasionally.

 12. Add 1/4 cup of chocolate and incorporate without heating or just heating when necessary. Stir to incorporate.  Once fully incorporated we’ll add the last 1/4 cup of chocolate and stir until melted, stirring constantly until you get an even silk looking chocolate.
Remove from heat and dip each orange slice and place them on another clean piece of parchment paper. Do not allow the chocolate to cool or to become more dense!…always keep a balance between warming up the chocolate and dipping the oranges.

13. When you have finished dipping all slices, then allow them to cool for 30 minutes, then place in the fridge and keep them there for at least 1 hour.

14. The slices are ready! I keep them uncovered until they are gone, that is, half a day.

15. Enjoy!

Some of my early viewers have expressed interest on cooking Chiles Rellenos...BUT... they want to know how to cook canned beans (I cook them from scratch, which I will post later). Obviously in a contemporary world people don't have the time to be in the kitchen all day (somehow seems that I do) and they resource sometimes to some canned products. This is a very easy recipe to do and the final product will taste almost as good as the home made. Promise.

Canned Beans Mexican Style

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes   Makes 8 servings
1 Can of Black Canned Beans 540 g (I use Unico brand...you choose your favorite) 

4 Tbsp Canola Oil (you can use Olive oil)
1/2  Large Onion, sliced
1/2 Garlic Clove, sliced
- Rosemary  
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp of Salt OR personal seasoning (like a Knorr beef or veggie cube)

Cooking Instructions
1. Open the can (I have heard stories...)
2. In a medium size casserole we are going to sauté the sliced onions and the garlic until the onion becomes a bit translucent. You can add a bit of rosemary here.
3. Once the onion is translucent, lower the heat and add the beans. Stir to get an even mix with the onions and garlic. If you are not using the beans for a special dish, here you can add cooked chopped bacon -not dry bacon!-
4. Add the 1/2 Tsp of cumin and stir.

5. Add the seasoning cube here or the salt (I use seasoning)
6. Cover the casserole, lower the heat to simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes.
7. Now we are going to give the beans some texture: with a kitchen masher mash some of the beans so the clear bean liquid becomes a bit more dense. Stir until you get the texture.
8. Enjoy!

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Yes, I am one of those few guys who actually believe that hard boiled eggs are not as easy to achieve as one would think. Most people (including the current wife) swear that such egg is a matter of boiling a raw egg for...who cares...15, 20, 30 minutes. At the end a hard boiled egg is just that: a hard boiled egg.

I am not part of that group of misguided people. A hard boiled egg can be underdone or overdone. Can be soggy or can be dry...that means that there is a science to achieve the perfect hard boiled egg. I have been trying to make my point with the wife but she just doesn't get it... if someone else makes it for her, then is a perfect egg. Ouch!

To make my point I have decided to illustrate my point. I did an experiment that consisted in hard boiling 3 eggs, all room temperature (that is important) and removing them from the boiling water at different times. This is what I got:

First: same size and all ROOM temperature (that is important because the temperature exchange has to be the same). I numbered them.

Second: I boiled them at different times: I removed egg number 1 at 11 minutes and right away I put it in ice water to stop the cooking process. I left egg number 2 for 13 minutes and cooled the same way I did with the first one...and egg number 3 was in boiling water for 15 minutes, cooling it down the same way.

As you can see, the three eggs do not look the same. Let's look at them with more detail:

The yolk in egg number 1 (11 minutes) was a bit soft. So what you will say... well a "soft hard boiled egg" will result in affecting anything you do with it, for example, if you use it for a egg salad the end result will be mushy and soggy. It is a bit underdone, no doubt (in the right half you can see how it wants to melt out of the egg white)

Egg number 2 (13 minutes) was in its prime. The perfect consistency: not soggy nor dry. When you use it you will achieve a better result when doing, for example, a potato salad.  A perfect potato salad, a perfect pascualina is always welcome.

Egg number 3 (15 minutes) is definitely dry and therefor anything you cook that asks for a hard boiled egg will result  dry and chewy (a dry egg salad sandwich is horrible...!!). You will always know that you over cooked an egg when the rim between the yolk and the egg white presents a gray tone. If it has it, then you better eat it with salt...unless you are not as picky as I am....

Now...if you couldn't care less...then at least admit that there is a difference. Try it. Once you note the difference you will not come back to the dark side. Promise.

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