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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

3/6/2012 - Last post on Blogspot

As the notice above says, we're moving over to Wordpress. All the past blogs and comments are already there and waiting for you. Say goodbye to those stupid word recognition hassles every time you want to comment on a post. Also, be sure to sign up to receive future blogs via e-mail and save yourself the hassle of having to check over and over to see if I've written anything new.

Be sure to change your bookmarks to reflect the new address. This address will continue to be alive but this is the last new blog that will be posted here.

By the way, I'm still working on making the new page look like I want it to. If you have any suggestions of features you'd like to see, please let me know. Just add them to the comments of any of the blogs and I'll get them.

I managed to move the ClustRMap to the new site intact. However, the 80,000+ pageviews could not be moved as that's a Blogger feature. Wordpress has the same feature but we're starting from scratch numbers-wise.

Okay, see you at the new home of YodersAfloat.

3/6/2012 - Bread and a rug

Out in front of the Telcel (phone company) office, there is usually a tiny little old lady stationed right by the front door selling something. I had to go to the office to renew my banda ancha card and, on the way out I decided to stop and find out what she was selling. She told me what it was but I hadn't a clue what she said. I told her I didn't know what she meant, so she opened up the basket and inside were these little golden loaves. She told me again what they were but all I got was that they were made of corn and she made them. I was feeling pretty flush since we had just left the fruteria where we bought a large cucumber, a yellow and a red bell pepper, eight good-size shallots, and about a dozen limons for 20 pesos (about $1.65) so I decided to splurge and spend the 30 pesos on one of her loaves. Got it back to the boat and cut into it.

Lulu and I each tried a piece. It was so good. It's a very moist, sweet corn bread of sorts. Didn't need any butter or anything on it and it was so moist that it was easy to eat even with nothing to drink alongside. We ended up eating the whole thing. Decided I need to go back and get another one, maybe tomorrow, and try harder to find out what it's called. This stuff would go great with coffee in the morning or even for dessert. If I can find out the name, we can probably find a recipe somewhere. Not that we begrudge the little old lady her money, but she won't always be available.

Lulu went to the dentist to get a tooth looked at. She felt like she'd chipped it and was worried that it might be a good spot for a cavity to get started. The dentist checked it out, smoothed the rough edge down a bit and told her that, if she was pretty sure she could keep it clean, it shouldn't cause any problems at all. Cost for this service? $0.00 pesos or about $0.00 US. That's right. She wouldn't take any money.

After we took our groceries back to the boat, we headed back downtown to see the big cultural sale and craft show. It's a yearly event. Artisans from all over Mexico gather under tents and sell their wares for about a week. We looked at a lot of handicrafts. We also sampled about 6 different kinds of mole, the uniquely Mexican sauce made primarily of chocolate and chiles. There were about 6 booths selling mole base in either solid or powdered form as well as other spices.

We also found something we've been looking for for awhile. We wanted a rug to cover what little bit of floor we have. We'd seen boats with Oriental rugs that looked really cool. But we needed what essentially amounts to a short hall runner. We thought it'd be kind of cool to have a Mexican rug rather than Asian and today we found it.

It's wool and the colors are all vegetable dyes. And it goes really well with our woodwork and, at about $50.00 (US), it wasn't too bad of a deal either.

On another tack entirely, I have to tell you about the tequila we bought last week. We had gone to the beach on the north end of town (Cerritos) for a late lunch at The Last Drop. I had heard that they make their own tequila so I figured we needed to give it a try. We each ordered a shot. It was amazing! It was a smooth as a timeshare salesman's line and as sweet as the deal he's offering. Absolutely no bite at all (unlike the timeshare guy's deal). Tasted like no other tequila we've ever had. It was so good that we bought a liter to go. The waiter just held a water bottle under the spigot on the barrel and filled it up. Here are the three amigos:

Mayorazgo, on the left, is the main tequila we've bought since we've been down here. Under 100 pesos and tastes as smooth as tequilas costing twice as much. Next is Los Osuna which you may remember from the blog about the tour of the Los Osuna agave farm and distillery. On the right is the water bottle filled with The Last Drop's house special tequila. This one is the best of the three as far as I'm concerned.

I cooked up some Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion a couple nights ago and we had enough for two dinners. It's a really good recipe. You ought to try it at home. Tonight Lulu's making a vegan dish: Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Cucumbers, Red Peppers, and Basil. We're loving the recipes we've been using from Serious Eats and The Homesick Texan.

Monday, March 5, 2012

3/5/2012 - Molcajete

Okay, let me just start by saying that, at the moment, I'm less than impressed with molcajetes. This may, and probably will change as I gain experience but right now....

But first, let's start with the seasoning process. As I said before, molcajetes are made from volcanic basalt. Beware of the cheap-o imitations made in whole or in part from concrete. These will never get properly seasoned. Seasoning basically consists of getting rid of all the grit that's going to slough off when you start grinding two volcanic rocks (the molcajete and the tejolote) together.

I checked Google to find out what the seasoning procedure was. I found a couple of youtube videos showing how to do it. Some folks opted for the industrialized easy way out and attacked the bowl with a very stiff wire brush on an electric grinder followed by a rinse with a high pressure washer. This would probably do the trick in a relatively short time. But these kitchen tools have been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years and this approach just seems kind of, well, disrespectful. Other, more traditional methods were primarily geared around grinding uncooked rice to a fine powder as many times at it takes to have the rice powder not come out gray looking from the pumice dust. This could be just a couple times or as many as eight times, maybe more. After the dry rice procedure, rice mixed with a little water is ground up, forming a paste. When the paste stays white, you're ready to go.

I was just about to break out the rice when I found an even more traditional method. Lesley on The Mija Chronicles explains the right way to season a molcajete as well as the way she did it (aka: the wrong way). In this method, you start by grinding cracked corn to dust (4 times), then dried beans (4 times), then dry rice (4 times), and finally rice and a bit of water (3 times). This made sense to me . It's sort of like starting with 60 grit sandpaper and working your way down to 220 grit.

So, armed with my grains, my brush and my stone-age tools, I got to work.

First the corn:

After about 20 minutes I had a couple tablespoons of fine cornmeal.

Repeated this 3 more times and then, the beans:

The beans were harder. Probably because their round smooth shape made grinding them difficult. Once they broke open they were somewhat easier.

Again, I repeated this procedure 3 more times. Each time took about 20 minutes. Finally it was time for the grain that most instructions started with, the rice:

Repeated this 3 more times and then it was finally time for the rice/water slurry. For some reason, I didn't take pictures of this step but I'm sure by now you can imagine what it looked like. The final step in seasoning a molcajete is actually seasoning it. Everyone agrees that you grind up garlic and salt. After that, some recommend coriander, some oregano, some other stuff. I used what was on hand: garlic, salt and oregano. And, as long as I was grinding up the stuff anyway, might as well make some salsa, right?

I wasn't following any actual instructions for this. I just sort of had a vague idea that you put the vegetables in the molcajete and ground them all up together. So, I coarsely chunked up a couple of jalapeños, three tomatoes, an onion, and a handful of cilantro. To this I added some salt and started grinding.

Well, it didn't go quite as I hoped. Whenever we're in a restaurant down here (I almost said a Mexican restaurant), the salsa Mexicana that is served is obviously just cut up with a knife. Salsa Mexicana is what we commonly refer to in the US as Pico de Gallo. It's simply raw tomatoes, chiles, onions, garlic, and cilantro chopped up and mixed together. And it's chopped up with a knife, not a molcajete. I'm pretty sure I now know the reason for this. It's all about the skin.

In the few salsa-in-a-molcajete procedures I saw on youtube, they started with roasted vegetables. This is only partly to impart a char flavor. The bigger reason is that roasting the tomatoes and peppers under the broiler until they're blackened, and then letting them steam inside a bag for a few minutes, makes it really easy to peel the skins off. Why do we want the skins off? Because they're freakin' tough, that's why. I ground and I ground my raw vegetables in that molcajete and still the skins held together. Finally, on Lulu's suggestion, I dumped the whole mess in the string-pull food processor and chopped it up properly. But, hell, if I was going to use the food processor, why bother with the molcajete at all. No good reason, that's why.

So, my first molcajete experiment was a bust. Next time I'll roast and skin the vegetables like I'm supposed to. And maybe up the tomato to jalapeño ratio too. Either that or just make some quacamole. That shouldn't be too tough to grind up. I am happy to say that I haven't found any grit in the salsa yet.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

3/3/2012 - Let's get caught up

Okay, I had planned to wait until a couple of projects were finished so I'd have a complete story to tell. But it's just taking too long so I decided that I'd just go ahead and blog anyway.

Project #1: Molcajete

I've written before about molcajetes although, in those cases I was referring to a restaurant offering. A molcajete is actually the bowl or mortar of a mortar and pestle. The pestle is a tejolote. The restaurant offerings are soups that are served boiling hot in a preheated molcajete which then retains its heat and keeps things boiling for a long time after it hits your table. But, a molcajete's first job is to grind food up. They are used for making all manner of things but seem to be primarily used for making salsas and guacamole. It's said grinding the seeds of the tomatoes, peppers, etc. releases flavors not found any other way. A blender just doesn't do it. After doing some reading about them, we decided that we really owed it to ourselves to get one and try it out. They're fairly easy to find in Mazatlán and are also fairly cheap, costing about 1/2 of what they go for in the States.

Molcajetes are traditionally made from basalt. They are hand-carved from this volcanic rock. This creates a bowl that is nice and rough for grinding but is also prone to release sand and grit as the equally rough tejolote is rubbed over the interior surface of the molcajete. Since no one wants sand and grit in their salsa or guacamole, the new molcajete has to be seasoned before it's used. Since that's quite a process and, since I took pictures during the process, the details will have to wait for another blog. But, as of now, our molcajete has been seasoned and is just waiting to make its first batch of salsa.

Project #2: Lifelines

While we were getting the new diesel jug carriers installed, I had a good chance to look closely at our lifelines. I wasn't particularly happy with what I saw. The plastic-coated stainless steel lifelines are probably as old as the boat (36 years last month). The coating was cracked and broken in lots of places and I spotted some hairline cracks in some of the end fittings. Besides, they didn't fit with the jug carriers the way I want and, as currently configured, as soon as the gates are opened, the remaining lifeline goes sloppily slack. I decided I needed to fix this.

It worked out well that Lulu was going up to the US because none of what I needed for the lifelines is available in Mazatlán, at least as far as I can ascertain. So, Lulu brought me back a bag full of new cable and lots of fittings and the tools to install them. More on all that, with photos, when I'm finished. I got started today for whatever that's worth.

Dock Party

Not really a full-fledged party, but yesterday we had a nice little dock potluck. Steve (s/v My Vice) and Merick (s/v Spica) went to see the shrimp ladies and bought something like 3 kilos of large, cleaned shrimp and a kilo of lobster tails to share with the rest of the dock. Steve had just bought a new Weber portable gas grill and was anxious to use it. Everybody brought something to share. There was a rice dish, a really good salad, and some sausage hors d'ouvres. Lulu made a potato salad and I made a green chile hominy casserole that I got from the pages of the Homesick Texan. Steve and Merick skewered the shrimp along with hunks of green, red, and yellow bell peppers as well as onions. It was an excellent feast and everyone got full long before the food was gone. We're in a really small marina so it's easy to have this sort of thing without feeling like you're excluding anyone. Next on the agenda: Mike and Melissa on s/v Tortue are planning a corned beef and cabbage spread for Saint Paddy's Day.

Our dockage is paid up through the end of March. We're hoping to head back over to the Sea of Cortez sometime in the last week or so of March. I've started watching the weather sites just to see if I can get a handle on any patterns that are happening. Right now, we're undecided as to whether or not to go to La Paz. There's really nothing there we need, at least at the moment. We'll see Keith and Kay (s/v Chamisa) somewhere in the Sea so it's not super important to go to LP to see them. However, Mike and Melissa from the Little Cunning Plan are blog followers and planning to be in La Paz in early April and it would be fun to meet them. On the other hand, we can save SO much money by bypassing La Paz. Just not too many places to spend money up in the islands. Oh, what to do, what to do? I'm sure we won't really know what our final decision is until we are actually underway and getting close enough to have to decide. After all, it's just not that important right now, is it?

Blog move

Being fed up with Blogger's crappy spam filter and equally fed up with its CAPTCHA program that requires you to interpret words that are barely readable and which, by the way, apparently are readable by spambots as evidenced by the fact that a couple of spam comments got through even after I turned the word recognition program back on, I've decided to follow Tate and Dani's (s/v Sundowner) advice and switch my blog over to Wordpress. I've already migrated all the existing blogs (except this one) over. I also tried to send all the comments over but only got the ones through January 2012 before Wordpress just quit moving them. Or something. Now, I'm working on getting the new site looking like I want it to and I'm not devoting huge amounts of time to it yet so it could take a week or two. One of the coolest features of Wordpress is that you'll have the option to enter your e-mail address and get notified of any new posts. No more running to the Yodersafloat site only to be disappointed when all you see is the same thing you saw yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that....

If you want to take a look at what's there so far, and maybe get your bookmarks adjusted, the new site is at www.yodersafloat.wordpress.com (didn't see that coming, did you?). Even after I make the move, I'll maintain this site and include a link to the new site and maybe even an automatic redirect. The worst thing about the move is that I suspect I'll lose all that information on my ClustRMap. I'll include a ClustRMap on the new site but I doubt I can migrate the statistics across. Be a shame to look at a naked map for awhile.

Water Filter Followup

I replaced the 50 micron filter in the pre-tank filter with a charcoal element. Did this primarily to keep any chlorine that might be in the dock water from entering our aluminum tank. I've been drinking more water lately and, after going through a charcoal filter, a ceramic filter, a colloidal silver element, and finally another charcoal filter, I've got to say, it tastes pretty darn good and looks crystal clear in my recycled bottles as well. To the folks who've asked or wondered why we don't just run dock water through our reverse osmosis watermaker, there are a couple reasons. First, we'd have to be really sure of our charcoal filter since chlorine is anathema to RO membranes. You could ruin a $500 membrane really quickly if you screw up. Also, a membrane only has so many gallons that it's good for. I'd rather save mine for filtering salt out of sea water and, thus, save myself from having to schlep water of unknown quality in jerry jugs back to the boat when we're anchored out and not tied up to a dock. And finally, RO watermakers are incredibly inefficient in their use of water. Our Spectra Ventura 150 makes 6.5 gallons of water per hour. But, for every 6.5 gallons going to our tank, 90 gallons goes to waste. Now, when the waste stream is a concentrated salt brine going back into the ocean, that's one thing. But when the waste stream is made up almost entirely of what had been drinking water, well, I just can't be that wasteful. I mean, geez!, what next? Going to flush your toilet with drinking water? I mean, REALLY!


You've heard me complain before about how hard it is to get good sausage in Mexico. Well, that's not really fair. After all, they have lots of different kinds of chorizo and that's good sausage. But it's not what I want all the time. On a pizza, I want Italian sausage (maybe chorizo sometimes, but...), for breakfast, I want sweet, sage-y sausage (again, maybe chorizo sometimes). Well forget it. There's a guy in La Paz who sells these concoctions but he seems to think they're made of filet pignon (clever, neh?) or something for as much money as he wants. Well I finally decided to take the pig by the snout and make my own. Conveniently located right next door to our favorite produce stand is a little carniceria (butcher shop). I stopped in and asked for a half kilo of cerdo molido (ground pork). Then I scoured the internet for good sausage recipes and found several to try. I must say that so far, both the Italian and the breakfast sausages have been successes. Oh, they could both use some minor spice tweaking but my fist efforts at both were quite tasty. Maybe we've overcome another minor Mexican obstacle.

Cobb Cooker

After Steve (My Vice) bought his new Weber, he consented to sell us his old Cobb Cooker. I was planning to buy one of these when we were in the States this summer but now I don't have to. And, for the price of cleaning it up a little, we saved a ton of money. Don't know about the Cobb? Check out their website. I'll report on it later in the season after I've had a chance to use it a few times.

Okay, there's probably something I'm leaving out but I think that's enough to chew on for a couple days.

Buenas noches, amigos.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2-29-2012 - Blogging

So (don't you hate how the new speech mannerism is to start every answer or explanation with "So...") we've got this laid-back lifestyle: no weather worries unless we're making a passage, enough income as long as we don't get stupid, no lawn to mow, few bills, cheap food, etc. So what nags at me? I'll tell you what nags at me: not keeping current on this blog. I know how it is as a reader because I read other folks' blogs and I'm always a little disappointed when I check in and there's nothing new. It's a weird sort of responsibility. Wasn't so bad when I first started and it was just a few family and friends reading the blog to keep track of us but now, if I can believe that Cluster Map deal, I have a LOT of readers and they're all over the world. Now I feel like I need to stay at least somewhat current, not to remain "popular" or anything, but to not disappoint you all. So, let me just say that I'm sorry I've been so hit or miss about blog updates lately. I'll try to do better. Believe me, it eats at me in the middle of the night.

For the record, it's not like I've just been ignoring my blogging duties. I've started the process of moving the whole thing over to Wordpress on advice from Tate. I actually moved all the old blogs a couple days ago. Most of the comments made the migration as well although they seem to have ignored pretty much anything comments made in February. Now I need to customize the page so that I like the way it looks and then I'll make the final move. The URL will be similar to this one and I'll maintain this site, at least as long as they let me with little to no activity on it. Once I move, I won't add entries to this site but it'll still be here with a link to the new site so we'll be easy to find.

Besides that, I've been working on a couple of new posts but they all involve some sort of project and I'm hoping to complete the projects before I post them. One of these might be ready tomorrow. Hint: it involves food (now there's a surprise). Another one has nothing to do with food and is all about the boat. Now there's a real surprise!

Other than that, it's good to have Lulu home again and she's as glad to be back as I am to have her back. When she got here she had long pants on and a long sleeve shirt. She pulled up her pant leg to reveal longjohns! She said that she gave up her borrowed down jacket reluctantly at the very last minute at the Cedar Rapids airport. Geez! I'd about forgotten that it was still winter up there. Here we are starting to make plans for our spring and summer in the Sea of Cortez. Planning on heading out the end of March. And they're getting snow in Oregon? My sister reported 100 mph winds off the central Oregon coast a couple days ago, my Mom reported snow in Eugene, our daughter Cody said there are 5 or 6 inches of snow on the ground at her house in the Silverton Hills. Egads! Now I remember why we came down here (as if I ever forgot) and are awfully happy to be here.

So, with that, I'll bid you all adieu and get on with the day so I'll have something to write about.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2/25/2012 - About those weird comments

If you read the comments following some of the blogs, you may have seen some strange ones if you got to them before I deleted them. They generally sound like someone for whom English is not their first language, being complimentary about how interesting and well-written my blog is. Very nice except the thing is, it's all SPAM (and not the kind I like with fried eggs).

I was led to believe that Blogger had a pretty good spam filter for comments. So, I decided to turn off that annoying word verification deal you get when you try to post a comment. I hate that thing. Especially now that they use two words which are almost unreadable. But, unfortunately, I immediately started getting inundated with spam. The Blogger filter caught some of it but it's such a piece of crap filter that on a given day, I might receive 5 comments, all worded almost exactly (and in some cases exactly ) the same. Two would get trapped in the filter and the other three would get through. I'd like to see the algorithm that allows this. Must be something like:

some stuff is in the comment sometimes
divert to trash sometimes
don't sometimes

Anyway, I'm sorry to say that I've had to turn the word verification back on. If it's any consolation, Blogger gets a ton of complaints from bloggers about this current verification program they're using. I don't know that they actually give a crap, but at least they get complaints.

Oh, and guess what? Lulu gets back tomorrow. YAY!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2/21/2012 - Taco Salad

What's for dinner? Well, folks, tonight it was steak taco salad, a recipe I picked up from the folks at Serious Eats .

This is what it was supposed to look like:

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

This is what mine actually looked like:

Now there are a couple of reasons why mine doesn't look as good. The main reason is because I'm not a food stylist. Next, in the recipe, he used those pretty slices of steak. I couldn't find the same cut at our little Santa Fe market so I got some other cuts. Nice pieces of beef but very, very thin so it was virtually impossible to cook them to carmelized perfection on the outside and still be medium rare on the inside. Also, although those slices are pretty, they'd be a pain in the butt to eat without a knife so I cut mine into bite-size pieces and tossed them with the rest of the ingredients. Also, the dressing. The recipe calls for salsa mixed with sour cream and I did that. It was pretty. But, after removing my steaks from the pan, there was no way I could let all that crusty, spicy goodness that was stuck to the bottom of the frying pan just get washed down the drain. So, I poured a little cheap red wine in the pan to deglaze it and this resulted in a rich, brown sauce that I added to the dressing, turning it into an ugly, lumpy brown liquid. Looked like hell. And, it added a bit of a withered look to my salad.

However, the damn thing tasted great. I got to use up a red bell pepper that had been hanging around a little too long (not called for in the recipe), a dab of sour cream that has been lurking in the bottom of the refrigerator, and most of the salsa that I made a few days ago but haven't eaten. AND, there's enough left over for dinner tomorrow night (maybe lunch, too).