Sous Vide – Tuna

Tonight, I made dinner yet again.  This time, I only made one dish Sous Vide, Tuna following this recipe.  Differences this week:  I bought a Cambro 4.75 gallon container with a sliding lid to cook in and an Ikea pot organizer (which fits inside the Cambro, allowing me to keep the bags separated).

I’m not having much luck with proteins cooked Sous Vide.  Perhaps it was that the Tuna I cooked was a flash frozen Tuna from a local warehouse club.   It was Ahi Tuna, and the color didn’t look as red as I expected.  I think it was more of a brown, but perhaps that was from the freezing process?

I set my Anova to 115 degrees, as I wanted it to be a little firm, but not to the point that it’s dry.  I think my Tuna steaks were around 1 inch thick, giving me a cook time of 30-45 minutes.  I took the first piece out around the 45 minute mark and proceeded to sear it.  I probably took the last piece out between the 50 and 55 minute mark.

What I ended up with, though it was only cooked to 115 degrees, looked much closer in color to the 130 degree image from the Serious Eats article.

I thought that perhaps my issue was with the Anova itself.  Perhaps it was not accurately reading the temperature of the water, making it heat it up another 10-15 degrees above the expected temperature?  I tested that theory by firing up the Anova after dinner and placing a large mercury thermometer in the water bath.  It showed about 109, matching the Anova.  A few minutes later, when the Anova had reached 115, the mercury thermometer also showed about 115 degrees.

So, since the Anova is operating as expected, I can only conclude that I either overcooked the Tuna by going to 45-55 minutes and should have removed it at 30 minutes, or that it was a quality issue with my Tuna itself.  Another potential issue that I just thought of…  Perhaps my intake and outlets of the Anova are getting partially blocked, making the Anova overheat the water?

My choices of sides seemed to go well this evening, though they were not Sous Vide, so I am not going to go into them here, at this time.

Not sure what I’m going to make next Saturday.

September 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Going both barrels

Since I had just bought my Anova, I figured I’d try to cook an entire meal using it.  A main dish, two sides, and a dessert.

Main dish:  Boneless Chicken breast
Side #1:  Garlic Cheese Risotto
Side #2:  Carrots
Dessert:  Individual Cheesecake

Yes.  All four items made Sous Vide.

I started Friday night by making the Cheesecake.  I basically adapted a recipe based on one I found on-line (linked in the Will it Sous Vide article on Skillet.  Spoiler: Yes, it will!).

My adapted recipe made 8 individual cheesecakes in mason jars, with some graham cracker crust mixture left over, I believe.

Saturday came.  My plan was to pre-cook both the Risotto and the Carrots placing them in the fridge, then cook the Chicken.  When the Chicken was ready, I’d take it out and start finishing it, dropping the Risotto and Carrots into the water bath to warm up.

Risotto – I followed this recipe pretty closely from the Sous Vide supreme website.   Everything looked pretty good when I took it out of the Sous Vide and placed it into the fridge, though I didn’t look too close.

Carrots – I followed this recipe pretty closely from ChefSteps, except I didn’t use the fancy seasonings they suggested during the finishing step.  (It too went into the fridge and was warmed back up while finishing the chicken).

Note:  Since both of these cook above 158 degrees, I double bagged them in Ziploc freezer bags.

The Chicken – Serious Eats is another great looking resource for Sous Vide, so I followed their guide on Chicken, though my chicken breast was boneless.  I chose the 150 degree temperature, as I figured that would be a good start for my family.

Results

When I pulled the chicken out at the 2 hour mark, I took the temperature with an old meat thermometer.  It measured in the low 140s, I believe.  Being new to sous vide cooking, and still be concerned about salmonella, I moved the Anova up to 155 and put it back in for about 30 minutes.  I was able to then finish it a skillet, browning both sides a little.

When we ate it though, I was surprised that it seemed dry.  I was expecting something more moist than we are used to, but I am not sure what happened.  Perhaps my old meat thermometer needs to be retired and replaced.  Perhaps the extra 30 minutes was the issue?  In any case, it was not what I expected.

The risotto, well, it did not turn out well at all.  It’s like the rice broke down.  The flavors were there, but it was just wrong.  This may have been due to the reheating I did.  Perhaps it was the ingredient – the grocery store Arborio rice?  I’ve not tried again to see if it’s better when eaten fresh, or if perhaps 45 minutes is a few minutes too long.

The carrots were a surprise hit.  Everyone who had them really seemed to like them.  The flavor seemed to be concentrated.   Though I went to the farmers market to try to find nice carrots, it looked like they just had monster carrots, so I used the normal ones my wife gets from the grocery store, and they were terrific.

The cheesecake was also well liked by everyone, which I pretty much expected.  I mean, it’s cheesecake – what’s not to like?

Final Tally:  2 winners, 2 losers

So, for cooking the protein, what Sous Vide is supposed to excel at, Sous Vide failed me, or perhaps I just failed.  Perhaps I should have trusted the technique, but it may have been a bad idea to try chicken as my first Sous Vide protein.

Risotto looked promising, but my result was disappointing.  I do want to try this again, as a method to cook risotto via Sous Vide would be great, as it is normally a labor intensive process.  Unfortunately, I think that the time-insensitivity that Sous Vide is famous for probably doesn’t hold true with rice.

 

September 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide Cookery – Intro

My day job and the sort of things I enjoy doing in my free time seem to be technology based.  I’m not very into sports anymore, and I’ve slowed down on my woodworking, as it’s a pretty expensive hobby.  Relative to stress, it was recently suggested that I should get a hobby, so I’ve chosen one.

I’ve enjoyed cooking breakfast for my family on Sunday mornings for years.  There are also a few other meals I cook from time to time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a great cook, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of cooking a good meal and seeing my family enjoy it.  I’ve recently read a bit about Sous Vide, and thought that sounded like my kind of cooking.  More relaxed and laid back, not the critical to the second cooking like you see on reality cooking TV shows.

My wife was on-board, as I offered to cook dinner on Saturdays.

I spent a little time reading about it.  And my wireless carrier sealed the deal for me, when they stopped allowing contract extensions to get you a subsidized iPhone.  My iPhone replacement budget category provided the seed money for my new hobby.

Enter the Anova Precision Cooker, a device that is relatively inexpensive ($199), easy to use from display of the device, and connects via Wi-Fi to you phone, allowing control and such there.  The Wi-Fi is not entirely necessary, but it’s a nice addition.  You could save $20 and get the Bluetooth only version, and you’d probably be perfectly happy with it.

Before deciding on the Anova, I read about the Joule also.  It sounded very much like the Anova, with one big difference.  From what I can tell, it’s controlled through your smart phone only, so there are no manual controls on it.  I read this good comparison article and had planned to get the Joule.  It appears as though they have only recently started shipping the Joule, and they are apparently sold out of their initial batch. Basically, both of  these units are very good, and they are right there on price too.  Since the Anova was much more readily available, that’s the one I bought.

My impression of the Anova were basically in-line with what I had read about it.  I did a quick test and spent a little time planning my first Saturday night meal.

 

September 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

Trying nYNAB again

It’s been almost 9 months since nYNAB hit the scene.  Not too long ago, I got an email from them letting me know that migrations were supported and inviting me to try again, so I took them up on the offer.

Migration…  Yes, it works, but because of the differences in the way YNAB4 handles things, your budget probably won’t look quite right when you migrate.  The best move may be to migrate your data in, so you have the data saved for the future, but then to do a fresh start.  I spent some significant time looking through my budget trying to figure out when things started to “go wrong”, but ultimately went to the current month and adjusted things there.  Don’t forget to check your hidden categories.  Even though they show a zero balance in YNAB4, because of the differences in the way things work, you may actually have a balance showing up in some of your hidden categories, which you’ll need to negate so you can budget that money elsewhere.

So, I spent some time looking around nYNAB.

Goals – I really like this new feature.  One thing I will miss from YNAB4 is the ability to go out many months in advance to see when a debt would be extinguished, make sure a savings goal will be met by a certain date, etc.  Goals basically gives you some of that ability, but in a simple and elegant way.

Age of Money – Mine shows up as 46 days now, but hit a peak of 91 days back in June.  I’m not sure this metric really tells me very much.

Credit Cards in nYNAB – I agree that the way they are handled now is more correct than before.  It makes sense that when you spend money on a credit card out of the Grocery category, for example, the money hasn’t actually left your account, so nYNAB moves it to a category to pay down your credit card.  Even though I have no issue with handling it in YNAB4, I sorta like this change.

Super Fast Reconciliation – If you check the boxes for all your cleared entries, hit the reconcile button, find that the number nYNAB is reporting matches your account, one more click and you are reconciled.  Easy and Fast.

I still have two issues with nYNAB.  I think I could actually live this one:

The Red Arrow to the Right.  I use this in YNAB4, and while I do agree that the YNAB team is right – your category balances aren’t right when you do this (as you are effectively borrowing from other categories)…  Well, I’m a big boy and I can handle it.  You can probably also “work around” this by subtracting the amount from the next month (in the same category), then budgeting that amount in the current month to “balance” it out.  One good thing about this “work around”, is that it does reinforce each month which categories you need to concentrate on fixing.

This one, however, is something I just can’t seem to get past:

Future Transactions in nYNAB.  Each month, I get envelopes for donations to my Church.  The envelopes are dated, and I write out checks for these envelopes, and put that information into YNAB.  In YNAB4, these transactions immediately impact my Tithing category and my Checking Account balance.  In nYNAB, they don’t impact anything until the date of the individual transactions.  I know that, in reality, that money is still in my account, but I’ve already committed to spending it.  For that reason, at the very least, I think it should immediately come out of my Category balance, and I’d rather it come out of my account balance as well, just as it does with YNAB4.  When I pay bills via my bank’s electronic payment service, those are all dated at least a day or two out as well.  If I’m paying a bill where they must mail a check, it’s probably 4 or 5 days in the future before it can be paid.  Say I’m paying a doctor bill, and I send a $100 e-payment for it, 4 days from now.  Lets say the Medical category balance is $125.  At that point, I have committed to spending $100 from Medical, which only leaves me with $25 left in Medical, though nYNAB doesn’t make that obvious.  If my wife is out and she decides to spend money from the Medical category, she may look at the mobile app and see $125 available, so she could easily overspend, since there’s really only $25 left.

If they could simply allow me to turn on an Advanced feature to make non-recurring future transactions take effect immediately, or even on a per-transaction level, allow me to right click on a transaction and “Apply Immediately” to the budget and account, that would even work.

Come on, Jesse.  The way YNAB4 handled future transactions was the right way.  Bring it back, even if only as an option.

In the web app, if you select a category, there’s a section of the screen that shows X Upcoming Transactions, and “Available after Upcoming”.  If there was the option to show the “Available after Upcoming” value on the main budget screen, instead of just the “Available” column, I might be able to meet you half way.  Give us some option there…

 

August 27, 2016 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

Eero – Features

Speed test

The IOS app has a built-in speed test that seems to use Internet connected servers under the control of Eero.  This appears to be a speed test from your gateway Eero to servers managed by Eero.  It doesn’t let you test your raw WiFi speed, which would be nice, so you can see exactly how good your coverage is from a given device at a given location.  So far, I’ve not been terribly impressed with their implementation of a speed test.  From my IOS device, connected to the Eero wifi network, I can run the Ookla speed test app, and get pretty much max speed from my Internet connection, but the results shown in the Eero IOS app are routinely much lower than my ISP actually provides.  I believe they are working to improve this.

Connected Devices

The IOS app gives you a nice list of Connected Devices, along with devices that were recently on your network.  You can see a nickname you’ve manually assigned for each device, or the hostname for some (such as Macs and IOS devices), along with a guess at who makes the device based upon the MAC address.  A downside here is that some devices use “Private” MAC addresses, which they aren’t supposed to do, making it harder to identify them.  It is nice that you can give them a Nickname once you figure out what they are, though.

Guest Network

I had the opportunity to try out the Guest Network feature this weekend.  The IOS app has a “Guest access” section.  Pop over there, hit a toggle switch to enable it, and you have a second SSID up and running, which is segmented from your normal network.  This is perfect for sharing network access with people who aren’t often at your home, and who you don’t want to have access to devices on your network – Just the Internet.  When you hit the “Share guest network” button, it brings up the familiar IOS interface so you can send it in an iMessage or an email.  In my case, I just looked at the pre-generated password and typed it in.  If you want to share your main network, there’s a button for that too.

Family Profiles

This is a feature I like, but it doesn’t do as much as I expected…  You can create a family profile for each of your kids and add their devices to their profile.  There’s a pause button next to each of them, allowing you to pause the Internet for each profile with a tap.  You can also set a schedule… The initial one defaults to the name “Bedtime”, which is 10 PM for my girls on school nights.  When a device is paused, if they attempt to browse to a website, they get a message indicating it’s paused, so they aren’t just left staring at a spinning icon, wondering why the website isn’t loading.  That probably only works for HTTP sites, but it’s a good start.

Another good use for this feature is to help identify devices.  Create a profile called “Unknown”, and place a single device that you’ve been unable to identify into that profile, then pause it.  At that point, look around and figure out what can’t access the Internet.

I really did hope for more with this feature, however.  When I read that Eero added “Family Profiles”, I think I expected content filtering.  The ability to set a content filter for each profile, so you can block your little ones (and yourself!) from bad things on the Internet.  Ideally, you’d be able to create your own customized list of categories to block with some sensible defaults, assign each Family Profile with a content filter profile, and have some way to see what is being blocked and by which profile.

I do understand that some companies don’t want to do content filtering.  No method is perfect, but having some method to guard against little Suzie ending up accidentally reaching a porn site would be a good thing.   A few years ago, if you went to show your kids the White House web page and, out of habit, went to “.com” instead of “.gov”, you might be surprised at the kind of site you reached.  Some level of content filtering would stop some accidents like that.

Why not get a dedicated content filtering device, like a Circle?

An Eero engineer on the reddit Eero forum basically warns against using a Circle with the Eero, due to the fact that it uses ARP poisoning to intercept traffic.  It sounds a bit on the messy side, and like it may not always catch everything.  I did read one customer who seemed to indicate it was working well for him, but I’m skeptical.

Perhaps they could partner with Circle?  Update their hardware to work something like Circle does…  The Eero would be the perfect place to control it.

Other Alternatives to Circle?

I do believe there are a few other devices that could be your Internet router, then run Eero in bridge mode, allowing the router to do all the filtering.  One that looks pretty good is the torch router, but at $249, it’s pricey, especially considering the money spent on the Eero system.  And the torch router includes Wifi, which we don’t really need with the Eero.

August 16, 2016 at 8:43 pm 1 comment

Eero – A few weeks in

I’ve been running with the Eero Wifi system in my home for a few weeks now.  I did have an issue where the IOS app stopped seeing devices as they connected and disconnected from my network.  Ultimately, I seemed to have fixed it, though I’m not entirely sure how.

My troubleshooting basically consisted of disconnecting the switches from each other and the power from all the Eeros, booting up my main Eero and waiting until it was online, then attaching each switch, one at a time, finally adding back the other Eeros.  That’s the basic idea at least.  I ended up taking a few switches out, as I didn’t need them with the improved WiFi coverage.

My network consisted of daisy-chained Ethernet switches…  Not the best design – It would have been better to have a central switch and home-run a CAT5 from each of the rooms to the central switch.

Anyhow, my network was basically like so:

Living Room: Two switches
Bed Room: Two switches
Den: Two switches

LR was linked to BR with a CAT5 cable, and BR was linked to the Den with a CAT5 cable.

Since each room now has a wire attached Eero access point, I took the step of removing a switch from the Bed Room and Den, giving me fewer overall hops.

Anyhow, I think this problem has been fixed now for a little over a week.

Other than that issue, which seems to be resolved now, it’s been pretty great in terms of WiFi coverage.

 

August 16, 2016 at 7:49 pm Leave a comment

Eero surprise

I just had a surprising discovery about my Eero.  I made a mistake!

On Thursday evening, I installed it in my home.  First, I attached it to my cablemodem, as instructed by the iPhone app, then I attached two more units to my network in other parts of my home.  Everything has been working well since.

I remembered a day or two ago thinking about that main Eero unit.  I didn’t seem to remember attaching it to my primary ethernet switch.  But I must have, right?  It’s been working fine.

Tonight, I was in the living room where the main Eero is, and I looked at it, only to find that it had a single ethernet cable attached, which runs to my cablemodem.  It was not physically connected to my network at all!

As it turned out, at least one of the other Eero units has been connected back to the main Eero using the wifi mesh.  And my network has been working very well.  We’ve been streaming Netflix, stream shows on the AppleTV from the cloud, playing an MMO game, etc.

So, congratulations Eero – the fact that my entire network was connected to the Internet across your wifi mesh, and I didn’t notice… Well, that’s great!

I did correct this issue this evening by adding a cable from the main Eero to my primary ethernet switch.  I understand that some lag was introduced in an MMO game for about 20 seconds or so when I attached it, but it seemed to adjust to the network topology change and keep right on going.

July 24, 2016 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

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