Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Belgium for Dinner

Although French fries are arguably Belgium’s national dish, for this week’s entry in Cooking Around the World, I made Belgian Liège waffles — the yeasted version of the deep-pocketed batter-based breakfast that we’re all familiar with. Unsurprisingly, these cakes covered in syrup, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce were a hit.

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: The True BBB

As I continue doing this thing where I cook a dish from every country, I’ve been looking for ways to speed it up a little. So this week, I made a meal out of the three B’s: Barbadian pigeon peas and rice, Bahamanian pineapple pie, and Belarusian draniki (pork-filled potato pancakes).

Our review of each was the same: fine, but I wouldn’t make them again.

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Fool me once, shami on you. Fool me twice, shami on paratha.

This week in my Cooking Hero World Tour, my taste buds are visiting Bangladesh. I made shami kebabs and paratha flatbread; we ate them together with lettuce and tomato like a taco or gyro. I liked it — it was like falafel and hamburgers had a baby, and I ate that baby.

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Cooking, Food, Maker, Woodworking

Cooking Around the World: Machboos and Maamoul, the original M&M

Bahrain is up next in my challenge to cook the national dish of every country, and I made chicken machboos plus maamoul cookies for dessert.

The chicken machboos was not too different from the many chicken and rice dishes that serve as national dishes for other countries, but it used some more fragrant spices like cinnamon and cardamom. I liked it, but it’s not my preferred flavor profile for a savory dish.

For the cookies, I took a shot at making my own maamoul mould. I carved a 1 3/8″ hole into a piece of walnut scrap with a Forstner bit and then scalloped the edges with a rotary tool. It turns out this was mostly a waste of time, since the cookies lost all detail during baking. This might be due to the dough being too dry, which it definitely was.

Sorry to anyone who was hoping to read about a Bahamanian dish this week; it has been postponed until the fresh seafood selection in southern Oregon can accommodate it.

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: From A to Zerbaijan

It’s been another week since my last passport stamp in my culinary world tour, and this week, I’m stopping in Azerbaijan for some baliq shashlik and tenbel pakhlava.

Baliq sashlik is a platter of fish fillets that were marinated in lemon and dill and then grilled on skewers (although I removed them from the skewers before taking the photo). I realized that this was the first time I have ever cooked fish in my life that wasn’t previously frozen and deep-fried, and it was, if I do say so myself, not bad.

Tenbel pakhlava is a sort of less time-intensive baklava — it has two thick layers of meringue-covered nuts plus three layers of pastry. This was fine, but I would still prefer baklava (although I’ll never make baklava myself). I may have undercooked it, since the center pieces were pretty gooey, but the edge pieces were nice and crunchy.

That’s the last A country — there are only approximately 25 letters to go!

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Tafelspitz, Bratkartoffeln, and Sachertorte. Gesundheit!

Tonight’s meal in my series of national dishes was Austrian from start to finish. The main course was Tafelspitz (beef cooked in broth) served with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes with bacon and onion), and dessert was Sachertorte, a Viennese chocolate cake.

I have yet to get the hang of cooking beef via all-day simmering in liquid — it always comes out very very dry, but the broth and carrots from the soup were good. The potatoes were great; it’s hard to mess up potatoes cooked in bacon fat.

The Sachertorte turned out ok for how involved of a recipe it was, but my glaze was closer in consistency to hardened Magic Shell than it was to fudge. I must have cooked it to a higher temperature than it was supposed to go.  As the Austrians say, c’est la vie!

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Put Another Keshi on the Yena, Mate!

Week six of my world-famous every-nation cooking challenge united in matrimony the two countries most likely to be next to each other in an alphabetical list: Aruba and Australia. The main dish came from Aruba, and Australia supplied dessert.

I made keshi yena from Aruba — it’s a casserole that is traditionally cooked inside an Edam cheese rind, but I had a heck of a time finding Edam. Even my local cheese monger didn’t have any in stock, so I used Gouda instead. My wife and I liked it, but the salty/pickly taste didn’t fly with our kids.

I made Australia’s allegedly famous Lamingtons for dessert. They are cubes of cake rolled in chocolate icing and then coated in coconut (and optionally filled with whipped cream). They tasted exactly like Mounds bars, so just buying a pack of them would have saved me two hours of kitchen time.  Does Australia know this one simple trick?

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: I Gotta Have My Gata!

Week five of my journey around the world in a flavor-powered balloon brought us to Armenia, where we sampled both a main dish and a dessert: lula kebabs (ground meat mixed with onion and spices, cooked on a skewer) and gata (a flaky pastry akin to a croissant with sugar between its layers).

The kebabs were not too different from long meatballs or sausages made from ground beef. My kids were surprisingly receptive to them; this is a surprise because they are never receptive to new food. I think it helped that they were on long metal spikes.

The gata is perhaps my favorite new dish so far. Sweet but not too sweet, so I can still eat way too many at once without feeling sick.

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Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Folding Dog Gate

I built a folding dog gate to stop our labradoodle from walking on the carpet when her paws are muddy. It’s based on one my wife saw on Pinterest, but this specific design is mine.

I modeled it in SketchUp first to make sure that I had the hinge layout correct. I wanted it to rest against the first railing baluster but still fold up without extending past the edge of the first stair. This is why there’s a short panel against the wall; otherwise, the folded-up gate would extend 10.5″ outwards from the middle of the first stair instead of 10.5″ from the back of the first stair.

I built it out of red oak, using bridle joints for the panel frame corners and square tenons in round holes for the balusters. (Square tenons are easy to make on the table saw, and round holes are easy to make on the drill press. Round tenons or square holes are both very difficult with the tools I have.)

I ended up painting it white, but I originally thought I might stain it, which is part of the reason I used oak. The other reason is that it will likely get banged around quite a bit, so a softer paint-friendly wood like poplar would show more dents and dings.

The location where I wanted to mount the gate didn’t line up with a stud, so I made two brackets out of oak that screw into the two nearest studs, and then the gate is attached to those brackets.

I’m happy with the end result, but I’m curious to see whether the hinges are able to withstand the weight of the gate without sagging.

If you want to make your own, you can download the SketchUp plans I made. Your gate may need to be a different width based on your stairway width.

Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Antigua, Bahama, Come on Empanada

In the fourth week of my “world food tour,” I teamed up two of the top eleven countries that start with A: Antigua and Argentina. Antigua provided Caribbean butter bread, and Argentina brought the main course: empanadas.

I used’s recipe for empanadas and this recipe for butter bread, although I combined techniques from a couple other recipes I had read previously. The empanadas were not much different taste-wise from standard ground beef tacos, but the hard-boiled egg slices were a surprisingly nice addition. I didn’t find the butter bread much different from any other white bread I’ve made… maybe I didn’t use enough butter.

What’s your favorite Antiguan/Argentinian food combination? Leave it in the comments below!

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Algerian/Andorran Fusion

Week three of my “cook a dish from every country” challenge saw the classic combination of Algerian and Andorran food that we all love. I made Cannelloni Andorrana (a lamb and pork-stuffed pasta) and Algeria’s maaqouda (potato fritters).

For the pasta, I used a combination of recipes from around the Web: I made the pasta filling from onions, ground lamb, ground pork, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and pepper, feta, cream cheese, and an egg.  I used half a lasagna noodle for each roll, and I covered the rolled up noodles in a basic bechamel. After covering with mozzarella, I baked it for about 20 minutes at 400º.  I’m not used to the earthy flavor of lamb, but I liked it, and it did well with my family.

For the maaqouda, I followed this recipe from 196 flavors exactly, and they turned out great, although I should have added more salt to the “dough” before frying.  They’re basically fried mashed potatoes, so it would have been hard to mess them up.

What’s your favorite Andorran/Algerian food combination? Leave it in the comments below!

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Tavë Kosi from Albania

In week two of my “cook every country’s national dish” challenge, I made Albania’s tavë kosi. It’s cubed lamb shoulder covered in rice and then baked in a yogurt sauce; I also made pite në tigan, a fried Albanian flatbread.

While I didn’t care for the tavë kosi (the lamb was quite tough, and I don’t generally like yogurt-based sauces), the pite në tigan was very nice — sort of a cross between naan and a tortilla.

The photo I took was not very appetizing:


CNC, Maker, Woodworking

I Built a Mid-Century Modern Nightstand

When I was tasked with making a  31″ tall nightstand for my mother-in-law that would fit in a 9″ wide space next to her bed and provide drawers and a shelf. I decided to use the opportunity to try a furniture style I haven’t tried before: mid-century modern.

From what I can tell, “mid-century modern” basically means it can look however you want, but the legs MUST be tapered and they MUST be splayed at about a 7º angle, so I opened SketchUp and designed a nightstand with tapered legs splayed at about a 7º angle.

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Cooking, Food

Cooking Around the World: Kabuli Palau from Afghanistan

In an attempt to broaden my culinary knowledge and my family’s palate, I’ve challenged myself to cook the national dish from every country (or something close to it). First on the list: Afghanistan.

I made Kabuli Palau (a.k.a. Qabili Palau or Kabuli Palaw); it’s chicken topped with rice topped with sugar-glazed carrots and raisins (and traditionally, slivered almonds, which I omitted).

I followed this thorough recipe and video from Afghan Culture Unveiled. It was a hit with my family, which was a surprise to me; our kids don’t usually like the meals that my wife and I like.

Which delicious destination will I visit next? Nobody knows (except me)!


Endonyms, Programming

Introducing The Endonym Project

An endonym is a name that people give to the area where they live. For example, you might live in a city that is officially named “Brooklyn Heights,” but you and all of your neighbors call it “The Heights.” This is an endonym.

I’ve always wondered about how well-defined the geographic boundaries are for endonyms that aren’t tied to specific locations.  For example, how far east do you have to go from Minnesota before the people who live there don’t say they live in the Midwest?  Do Wisconsinites consider Ohio to be in the Midwest? If so, do Ohioans?

To explore this idea, I’m building The Endonym Project. It’s both a tool for collecting endonyms and a place to display them.

To share your endonyms, just click the big pink button on the homepage, and you’ll be shown a map and a text box. The map will be centered on your general location. If you have a name for the area shown in the map, enter it in the form. Otherwise, click “I don’t have a name for this area.”

After each time you share an endonym, the map will zoom out and ask you for a term for the larger area — lather, rinse, repeat.

When you’re finished, you’ll be given a link to the map of endonyms.  This map collates all of the terms submitted on the site and displays them instead of the official map labels.  The more frequently an endonym is submitted for an area, the more prominently it is displayed on the map.

If there are more endonyms that aren’t being shown because you haven’t zoomed in far enough, the map shows red/yellow/green heatmaps.

So far, I’ve collected 3,386 endonyms. Add to that number by trying it out yourself, and let me know what you think.

Google Chrome, iOS, Mozilla Firefox, Programming, Reenact, Safari

Reenact is back on iOS, baby!

Five years ago, I wrote an iOS/Android/Firefox OS app called Reenact that helped you reenact photos.

Four years ago, I abandoned the apps in favor of a web app that only worked in Chrome and Firefox.

Today (zero years ago), I’m happy to announce that the web-based version of Reenact works in all major browsers on all major platforms, now that Safari on iOS supports camera sharing.

The web app can be pinned to the iOS home screen and works as well as a native app would. It doesn’t require Internet connectivity either; all of the image manipulation is done on the client side, and none of your photos are uploaded to anyone’s server.

Go ahead, give it a try!


She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy Now That It Has a Fresh Coat of Paint

I repainted a toy pedal tractor that we bought off of Facebook Marketplace to give to my son for Christmas. Actually, I repainted a toy pedal tractor TWICE because the cherry red spray paint that I used the first time never dried, so I had to scrub it off with mineral spirits and sand the body of the tractor back down to bare metal before using apple red spray paint the second time around.

To add insult to injury: just as I was finishing up, I tried to spray a little black paint onto the bolt I was about to use to attach the seat, and the top of the spray paint can exploded, sending dots of black paint all over the freshly painted rear wheel. I did the only thing I could do: had an aneurysm and then photoshopped the before-and-after pictures to remove the black speckles (jk LOL!).

Looking at these photos, I see that I also fixed the orientation of the front wheel.

The tractor itself is a AGCO Allis 9815 that was made by Scale Model Toys in Dyersville, Iowa some time in mid-90s, according to my Googling.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots:

Maker, Woodworking

I made some picture frames (banana for scale)

I made some picture frames for my sister to put her daughters’ school photos in. I’ve included some bananas for scale.

The frames are walnut with red oak inlay and a chamfer around the inside edge. The inlay strips were added after the frames were assembled.

I finished them with a couple coats of clear spray enamel and knocked it down with steel wool in between coats.

The contents are held in with some large plastic washers. I didn’t include a sawtooth hanger on the back because I hang 99% of all of my photos with 3M velcro strips, and any hardware on the back of the frame usually gets in the way.

Christmas, CNC, Maker, Woodworking, X-Carve

COVID Christmas Ornaments

Inspired by a picture my wife sent me of almost this exact same thing, I made some COVID-themed Christmas ornaments for the family members I won’t be seeing at Christmas this year.

You can make your own too, if you have an X-Carve; the Easel project is right here.

CNC, Woodworking, X-Carve

How to use your router to install your router lift for your other router

I bought a JessEm Rout-R-Lift II router lift for my shop. It needs to be recessed into a workbench, but it doesn’t come with a template for cutting an appropriately sized hole. You can buy an MDF template for $27, or you can do as a I did, and make your CNC router carve the hole for you.

I created a project for Easel, the CNC design software used by Inventables’ X-Carve CNC router, that will carve the opening for you. It leaves a ledge for the leveling screws and tabs for the mounting bolts. Here’s what the resulting carve looks like mounted in the wing of my table saw:

I drilled the holes for the mounting bolts afterwards and added threaded inserts.

The router lift fits perfectly in the opening. On my test carve (using a 1/8″ straight cut bit), it was snug on all sides, but I switched to a 1/4″ bit to speed up the final cut, and it left about a millimeter of play in both directions. The snugging bolts take care of that though, so I’m very happy with the fit.

That said, absolutely do a test cut before trying this on any material that you care about.

Inventables Easel Project: JessEm Rout-R-Lift II Template