Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My New Food Obsession and the Coop!

I've been a member of Cooking Club of America since 1999 and occasionally get "picked" to do product testing before it hits the market.  Of course, in the 12-ish years I've been doing this, I can still tell you everything I've gotten to test (because there really aren't that many)!  I got a stoneware baking set that was heart shaped (1 large casserole and 2 ramekins), my sister's cat jumped on the box while we were on vacation and broke the casserole dish and one of the ramekins and I had only used them once!  The other ramekin was lost in a move, but they were really cute and worked great!  I've got two or three food items, Magic Chef seasonings (a sugar blend and a seafood blend), a bag of Croutons, and there may or may not be another...I'm never very impressed with the food items.  I got a fridge freshener thingy, oddly enough called "Refrigerator Fresh"!  I have had this thing for somewhere between 8 and 10 years and it is still going strong in my fridge!  Of course, I generally tend to forget it's there so it doesn't get rinsed every 6 months like it is supposed to...but it is an awesome product that's fairly cheap too!  I have to admit I had to google it to find the name...I found them for sale on Amazon for $3.50!  What a deal!  I have also gotten an adjustable measure set, one is round and perfect for measurements from 1 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons of wet or dry items and the other looks a little like the Pampered Chef adjustable teaspoon/Tablespoon measures, but mine is double sided and measures from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 1/4 Tablespoons...a very handy kitchen gadget!  I use the measures any time I need to measure more than one item, no dirtying half the measuring spoons!

My latest "test product" though, I was less than thrilled with...I was selected to test a new online cooking school.  I kept putting it off, but I finally went an started my 2 week trial.  While I really don't think it is worth the proposed price of $400 (I'm rounding), I was actually happy with the videos!  I don't think they did the "how to make stock" ones very well...I think they could have been more specific with them.  The egg videos though, oh my!  I have found a new love for eggs!  Big shocker there...I started a flock of three hens just get their eggs!  I discovered I've been frying my eggs "wrong", but won't be changing my habits...I really should call them Basted eggs though, lol. 
I watched every one of the egg videos the other day (there were 6 of them) and learned how to Poach eggs too!  My other half won't go near a poached egg though.  I may have been the reason for this, about 5 years ago I was making an Easter Breakfast for the whole family and decided on an Eggs Benedict recipe I found in one of my cookbooks.  I had never in my life poached an egg or made Hollandaise sauce!  The meal was horrible!  The poached eggs were more like hard boiled eggs that just happened to be boiled sans the shell...yuck!  And my Hollandaise sauce separated and was just gross!  Well, after watching the video (twice), I decided to give poaching one more shot!  It also helps that I have found a new love of soft- and medium-cooked eggs, hard-cooked poached eggs are just wrong!  So, yesterday during Lunch I tried my hand at poaching.  The first egg (top left of the photo) was the first egg, the water was boiling too hard when I put the egg in and the white turned out "funky" because of that!  I cooked the first egg to Medium.  The second egg, the water wasn't boiling quite so hard, so it formed perfectly in the pot!  I cooked the second egg to Soft, so I could test and see what I preferred.  I did the same "doneness" test on some Fried/Basted Eggs on Easter...I now prefer my Fried/Basted eggs at soft-cooked, but I actually preferred the medium-cooked poached egg!  Six months ago I wouldn't go near an egg that wasn't hard-cooked!  They say your tastes change when you reach 30...I guess mine just needed a little extra time to catch up, lol.  My lunch eggs were served atop a bed of sauteed Mushrooms and Onions, and I actually used Chicken Broth instead of plain water for poaching, yum!

I even made poached eggs again this morning for breakfast!  This time I cooked them all to medium, had the water at just the right temp, and every one of the eggs came out beautiful!  I sauteed up the last of my mushrooms, along with a few thin slices of Tofu (one serving) in a little Bacon fat, everything tastes better with Bacon!  I will probably skip the poached eggs for the rest of the day...but I will more than likely have them for breakfast again tomorrow!

Hopefully I'll get an actual product to test soon!  I also recently joined the National Home Gardening Club.  It was $12 and they are basically run by the same magazine though as far as I can tell they also have a magazine, I just haven't ever gotten one!  They promise product testing as well, but so far all I have gotten is a few seed packets (Baby's Breath and Cosmos), which they have now sent me 3 times and a small packet of "Timed Release" a plant food, but it isn't a large enough sample for anyish) or spend my time to send back!  They sent me an email saying they received the book, then a snail mail letter telling me I either had to pay for the book (by some date that was a day or two after I got the letter) or send it back to them...I ignored that letter since they had notified me that they had the book at that point for 2 weeks prior to getting the letter!  Besides that book, the only correspondence I get from them is emails and snail mail trying to convince me to "take this once in a long time" opportunity and become a Life Member!  (This is a limited offer not given to just anyone...yeah right!)  I am starting to regret sending them my $12...but we'll see what happens in the future.

I got busy again today on the coop (and really need to charge the batteries for my drill now)!  The girls officially have a pop door hole now!  Of course, I didn't think to measure the space before I cut it the hole is only 8.5" by 9"!  Or at least the piece of wood I cut out is those dimensions...I still need to do a large amount of sanding on the actual opening to smooth out all the large caliber drill holes!  I may need to cut through the crossbar at the top of the current hole to make it large enough for the girls when they are full-size, it would be great for right now as is, lol.  Just means a bit more nailing/screwing so that cutting that board doesn't effect the rest of the coop!  I'm done with it for today though, I need to go buy a new paint brush and some sand paper to finish the coop with (the brush I used the other day went in the trash, there was no saving it for another day).  I may pick up a "touch up" roller to do the inside with, the whole roller is only about 4 inches wide, but they work great, we used one when we patched holes in the master bathroom when we took out the old towel rod and such, the plastic of the packaging plays double duty as a small paint tray too!

Next stop, finishing up the painting so I can get the run up before the girls take over the house!

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