2010-06-29

Microwave popcorn for CHEAP - the secret the popcorn companies don't want you to know!

Did you know that the popcorn kernel doesn't care how it gets hot? Yep, that's right. This is the big secret that the companies making microwave popcorn don't want you to know. You can make microwave popcorn for about 1/10th the cost - and it's healthier because you control what ingredients go into it.

While of limited use on a boat, with power constraints, this is blog-worthy, and comes via our good friends the Knutson's.

OK, back to the popcorn. It's really simple, but it'll take a few batches to get things dialed in.

Here's all you need:
  • Popcorn. Just your regular bag or container of raw popcorn kernels.
  • Small paper lunch bags. Cheap, and you can use them more than once. WARNING:  Many black inks have metal in them and MAY start a fire in the microwave - OK, they WILL start a fire. Please don't reuse bags with printing on them!
  • Cooking spray. We just use a generic supermarket brand which is very low fat and low calorie. You can even skip this, if just making plain popcorn.
  • Topping. Whatever you want to sprinkle on top. Salt, Garlic salt, Pepper, Cajun seasoning, मसाला, Plain. It's up to you.
The basic cooking procedure is really simple:
  • Spoon popcorn into paper bag. (Exact amount will come from the dial-in procedure).
  • Fold over the top of the bag and stick it into the microwave.
  • Start the microwave.
  • Stop the microwave once popping is complete.
  • Pour it into a large bowl.
  • Spray on some cooking spray, and shake. Repeat.
  • Sprinkle on some topping, and shake. Repeat.
Seriously, it's that easy. And don't throw the bag away, you can use it for 2 or 3 batches most of the time - use it until the bag splits!

Now comes the dial-in procedure.

This will take a few batches, but it's no big deal, and once you find out exactly the right amount of popcorn and time for your microwave, it'll work perfectly every time.

We start with 3 tablespoons of popcorn per bag, and use the microwave's built-in "popcorn" program to start with, otherwise start with 2:30 or so and adjust upwards or downwards as needed. Pay attention to the sound of popping in the last minute or so of the cycle. If it's still popping when the microwave is done, then you need less popcorn, or increase time. If popping stops, then stop the microwave before it burns, and you'll need to reduce time, or use more popcorn.

The dial-in procedure is that simple - either add more popcorn, increase time, or reduce the time - and after a few batches you'll find the perfect setting for your microwave.

Maybe you'll find a second batch is needed (wanted?), but that's no problem either - since this is so cheap you'll just make 2 or 3 bags without thinking about it. Put any un-popped kernels back in the bag, along with your regular dial-in amount and cook another batch.

That's it! That's all there is to cheap microwave popcorn, at about 1/10th the cost of "microwave popcorn" sold in the stores. And you choose exactly what you want to put on it - not only is it healthier, but you will come up with awesome things to sprinkle on top that the popcorn companies would never think to sell!

2010-06-20

Half Moon Bay trip Day 6

Our final day of vacation :-(

We got some good sightseeing in on the final sail, back to the marina.

Watching all the tourists get off the ferry to tour Alcatraz is always interesting, watching how many people they cram into the ferries. We'll be touring Alcatraz in a few weeks, so we'll be one of those people, taking video from the other side!

There were several warships visiting San Francisco, which we really enjoyed. First, we passed three Japanese ships. Second, was the USS Bunker Hill CG52, and finally a visiting Russian warship. Got some good video of all the ships, which were really neat to see.

There's some funny video in this clip of how to exercise teenagers and dogs at the same time - with Jacob kayaking circles around the boat, and Ginger chasing him around and around on deck.

Oh, and I can't forget to mention Ginger and her "sleeve". It was a bit cold out in the pacific, so Chris cut up an old sweatshirt making the dog a makeshift bit of clothing, which we referred to as her sleeve. She was a bit self-conscious about modelling her new wardrobe on video!


2010-06-19

Half Moon Bay trip Day 5

Our trip back into San Francisco Day started out a bit frustrating, as a stopper knot came out of one of the lazy jack lines, leaving it whipping around the topping lift - leaving no choice but to pull it through the sheave. Now, somebody (Jacob?) will need to go up the mast to re-rig it. Just one more, of several, jobs to do up the mast. After that, we spent an hour or two pretty much bobbing around in no wind, but eventually got the boat in it's groove and settled in for a nice sail north.

As we came across the southern part of the bar, winds continued to build and we saw the fastest boat speed yet in our boat - 11.6kts as we rode the flood in, pushed by the high afternoon winds! This was a lot of fun and a bit tricky in the quartering waves. Most of the run in the gate was at a solid 9-10kts until we turned the corner, getting in the wind shadow of the Marin Headlands.

Chris took great video of our high-speed run down the channel and under the Golden Gate Bridge. We anchored in Richardson Bay again for the night.


2010-06-18

Half Moon Bay trip Day 4

It was overcast and a bit chilly in Half Moon Bay. We hung out at anchor relaxing, though Jacob kayaked Ginger to the beach a couple of times.

Half Moon Bay is great, we are looking forward to spending a bit more time here in September on our trip down to Mexico.


2010-06-17

Half Moon Bay trip Day 3

Finally the weather has improved enough to go out. Actually a little too improved as winds were light so it was a slow trip down, at 3-4kts for a most of the trip. With our ripped main, we were limited to 2nd and 3rd reef for the entire trip, which made sailing a challenge in light airs.

We timed our trip out the gate with an ebb tide, but still cheated by motor sailing until we got to mile rock or so, as we dodged big ships. I forgot to charge the video camera, so the battery died right as we got to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We made it in to Half Moon Bay just fine, and had no trouble finding plenty of room to anchor - I expected more boats to be here, but we were really glad there weren't all that many. The entrance to Piller Point has some nasty reefs, but it's really not difficult during the day - you just have to pay attention to your charts and the nav aids.

At the entrance to the breakwater we came across a couple of Laser sailboats stuck on the rocks along the jetty, who signaled they needed help. We contacted the USCG over VHF and stayed on scene until the Pillar Point Harbor boat came and rescued them.

2010-06-16

Half Moon Bay trip Day 2

We had planned on heading out the gate and down to Half Moon Bay today, but we decided to wait a day due to predicted high winds and large, steep, short interval waves across the bar and offshore. The forecast looks better for tomorrow, so we just hung out on the boat for the day and during the afternoon fueled up the boat at the Clipper fuel dock, then anchored out at the mouth of the bay so we could get an early start without worrying about being grounded. It's significantly more rolly at the mouth, and the waves tend to be on the beam.

Most of Richardson Bay is very shallow, just a few feet deep. One of the advantages of having a shallow draft (just under 4 feet) is that we can anchor in places many other sailboats cannot. And when the tide grounds us, we remain upright, with our two hulls supporting us.

Ginger, who isn't a fan of sailing, found a new "safe place" by sleeping in the kayak. I think she was disappointed when we had to lash it back on the rail. See the video for this, it's pretty funny.


2010-06-15

Half Moon Bay trip Day 1

The first day of our trip was a sail up to Sausalito, anchoring overnight in Richardson Bay. Due to tides (and a large chunk of concrete in the water behind our slip), we couldn't leave until mid-afternoon, but we like staging overnight in Richardson Bay anyway, so we can time going out the gate with an ebbing tide the next day (more on that in the next post).

The trip up was uneventful and easy, and we were once again impressed with our Manson Supreme anchor which sets quickly, even in Richardson Bay grass (weeds?), and holds well.

2010-06-03

Update on a few items

1. Our 60# Manson Supreme anchor is great - now to be fair, Bay mud is not challenging, but the thing dug in and stopped the boat cold - instantly. Our Fortress always skipped along a bit.

2. The Bullet2HP high-power WIFI worked surprisingly well! It saw 30+ access points off China Camp, and I was able to hit an open one to submit a yotreps location report. Quite nice.

3. Good thing we are getting new sails soon, as we blew out our main coming back Monday! 3rd reef sailed us home, and possibly 2nd is still usable. Although the sail was old and starting to rot along the leech, I think I overtightened a batten - one that kept falling out of it's car so I give it a bit extra - but hey, it didn't fall out! :-) The sail tore out all the way from the leech line to the mast. Ouch. As ourfriend Jeff said, "Freakin' S.F. Bay sailing -- shows no mercy."

4. Really enjoyed Jacob's new kayak over the weekend - an OK Caper. At only 45 pounds, it's easy to move around and lash on the lifelines. But it's still wide and stable, and long enough to be a decent paddler. Ginger loves going for rides on it. Good bit of gear! We picked it up used, a former rental, from one of the local Kayak places.

5. After the winter's maintenance of a valve adjustment, new injector, new starter, and water pump, our Fischer Panda generator is starting right up instantly. Happy to have it working reliably again.

6. After going back and forth a bunch of times on various designs, we're going with 3x Kyocera 135Watt panels and a Blue Sky 3024iL controller. I was looking at a bigger array, and fancy Outback controller but it would require beefing up the davits, and that's not happening right now. This will keep the boat alive (freezer, fridge, autopilot, maybe TV or bit of watermaker) and we've got the generator to top off.

7. We are doing the Baja Haha for sure! We've also learned a former beercan race crewmate Craig has signed up, so good there will be somebody we know! Now I'm stuck on trying to come up with the witty+publishable things about the crew and boat they want. I'm not sure what part is harder - being witty or making them publishable :-)

Thanks to workmate Ian who took the two pictures above as we went under the San Mateo-Hayward bridged heading up to China Camp for Memorial Day Weekend. Poor suckers stuck in the building at work! :-)


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