January 10, 2015

Chicken & Chickpea Tagine

A very tasty dish from North Africa. It’s a braise, cooked with low moist heat. The name comes from the pot it’s traditionally cooked in, but a Dutch Oven or other heavy pot with lid works fine.

You can up the spice level to your liking, or reduce (or omit) the Cayenne pepper to make it milder.

Makes 4 servings.
  • 8          Chicken thighs
  •             Salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 2 T       Olive oil
  • 2 T       Butter
  • 1          Large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4          Minced garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp   Grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp   Ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp    Ground ginger
  • 1 tsp    Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp    Ground coriander
  • ½ tsp   Ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp   Cayenne
  • 2 C       Chopped tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 4 C       Chickpeas (drained and rinsed if using canned)
  • ½ C      Raisins
  • ½ C      Chopped dates
  • ½ C      Pine nuts (don’t toast them)
  • 1          Vanilla bean (slit, strip, & add the seeds or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  •             Chiffonade mint, cilantro, or parsley for garnish
  1. Season the Chicken with Salt & Pepper
  2. Heat oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken, 4 to 5 minutes per side until nicely browned. Remove
  3. Add butter, onions, and a pinch of salt. Sweat the onions over reduced (medium low) heat until soft (5 to 10 minute)
  4. Add garlic and spices. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  5. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, raisins, and vanilla and bring to boil. Add more water if dry, and salt to taste.
  6. Nestle the chicken back into the sauce.
  7. Cover and adjust the heat in 5 minutes so the mixture simmers steadily. Cook until chicken is very tender, 45 min – 1 hour.
  8. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  9. Serve over Couscous and garnish.
Variations: Omit the chicken to make the dish vegan. Sweat the onion in vegetable broth to make the dish added fat free.

This is the recipe that Bill prepared on his 2007 Audition for Next Food Network Star.  This is before we went to a Plant Based diet.

October 26, 2012

Bill & Mary's Oatty Bar Recipe

We developed this recipe as a great snack (or even meal) while riding our bikes or hiking.  They're simple and easy to make, taste great, and they follow our lifestyle diet.  They're Whole Food, Plant Based, with no added fat or sweeteners.

  • 4 - Ripe Bananas - mashed
  • 1 Cup - Fruit Puree - e.g. mashed ripe pears, Unsweetened Apple Sauce, etc. your choice.
  • 2 Cups - Blueberries - frozen is fine.
  • 1 Cup - Chopped, Toasted Raw Almonds
  • 1+ T - Vanilla Extract
  • 1+ T - Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp - Ground Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp - Kosher Salt (optional for hot days)
  • 6 Cups - "Old Fashioned Oatmeal" - the 5 minute kind, NOT instant.
  • ¾ to 1½ - Cup Water (optional if mix is too dry)
  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Combine bananas and fruit puree and mix to combine.  You can use a potato masher if starting with whole ripe fruit.
  • Add the Blueberries, Almonds, and Seasonings and mix to combine.
  • Add the Oatmeal and mix to combine.
  • At this point the mixture should be very moist, but not wet.  If too dry, add water and continue mixing.
  • Pour mixture into an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish lined with Parchment paper We don't use any oil or spray - you don't need to do anything fancy with the parchment, a wrinkle won't hurt, we just push it down into the pan, make sure that the parchment extends above all 4 sides of the pan.  You can use a bigger baking disk if you like a thinner, chewier bar.  
  • Distribute the mixture to an even thickness and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 350 F.  It's done when the center of the pan is firm.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely.  We generally leave the pan on a cooling rack for about half an hour, then lift the contents out by the parchment and place on a cooling rack.  After another hour or so, we flip the bars onto the other side and peel off the parchment.
  • When cooled to room temperature, you can cut the bars with a sharp knife. We generally cut in half and then in half again, each way to make 16 bars. If the middle four are still too moist to hold together, pop those back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes at 350.
  • Too Dry - next time add more fruit puree and/or cut down baking time (but don't go under 30 minutes)
  • Too Wet - pop back in the oven at 350 F.  Next time, increase cooking time or cut down on fruit puree and/or water.
  • Think it needs something else?  Try a little ground clove or other spices. This also pretty much works with any ripe fruit or fruit puree.
Let us know what you think and if these work for you!

Bill and Mary

June 13, 2012

Memo’s (Bill’s) Pancakes

We developed this recipe a few years back when we changed our lifestyle diet (see: Our Lifestyle Diet). It was so good, we got it on the menu at that Vallarta Yacht Club. It has no added fat or sweetener and no artificial ingredients.

This recipe can be used to make either Waffles or pancakes can be frozen and reheated in the oven, microwave, or toaster. When used for pancakes, it is especially tasty when you add small berries (blueberries, Marionberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, etc.) to the mix.


  • 1 - Very ripe Pear, Peach or Banana, mashed (or about 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce if you don't have ripe fruit) 
  • 2 Cup - Water 
  • ½ Cup - Uncooked Rolled Oats (5 minute Oatmeal, not instant) 
  • 1½ Cup - Whole wheat flour 
  • 2 tsp - Baking powder 
  • 1 tsp - Cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp - Nutmeg 
  • ½ tsp - Vanilla extract to taste (optional) 

Mix together the mashed fruit and water. Add dry ingredients and mix, leaving lumps in the batter.


Cook on a waffle iron, according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Pour ½
 Cup of batter into a hot, nonstick pan (you may need a quick shot of a nonstick on the pan spray). 

When bubbles rise through the middle of the pancake and break on the top, flip the pancake and cook until browned underneath. (Note: Test the pan before cooking the pancakes by throwing a few drops of water onto it. If the water jumps around and then disappears, the pan is at the correct temperature.)

Top with more fruit, or preserves.

We warm some blueberries (frozen is ok) in a pot and make a quick compote. Great with coffee.

This recipe takes less than five minutes to prepare, not including cooking time.

You must leave lumps in the batter. Waffle or pancake batter which is too smooth will spread out very thin on the waffle iron or pan, and the result will be a rubbery, tough cake as you will have mixed enough to develop the Gluten in the flour.

The batter doesn't freeze well but can be refrigerated for a short time. Waffles can be made in large quantities and frozen for future use; this is a good option if your waffle iron is small!

Pancake suggestion: Put small slices of Pear, Apple or banana onto the top of each pancake before flipping, and dribble a small amount of batter onto the pieces of fruit. Finish cooking the pancake according to the recipe.

As shown, recipe makes roughly four waffles; the number of pancakes will vary according to size.

June 11, 2012

Annoying Malware Infecting Yahoo, AOL, & Microsoft Email Accounts

There's an annoying bit of Malware that's been going around for over a year now that affects Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft email accounts. If you get a very short email from someone only a link and possibly a bit of text saying something like "Wow, you've got to see this".  When you get such a message - DON'T CLICK THE LINK! 

It is a nasty bit of Malware - apparently built into a bit of Javascript - that sends messages to everyone in your online address book to propagate itself by sending out the infection email to your contacts. It also affects folks on Service Providers that use Yahoo as their infrastructure: e.g. sbcglobal, att, etc.

I receive dozens of these emails (from different people) a week. Basically, I recommend that the infected parties:

  1. Change their email password
  2. Do a deep anti-virus/malware scan of the computer you were on when you clicked this link. If you don't have a good anti-virus scanner, I recommend the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. It's available at: http://filehippo.com/download_malwarebytes_anti_malware/
  3. Clean out your browser cache, cookies, and history. The easiest way to do that on an ongoing basis is to use CCleaner on a regular basis. It's free and available at: http://filehippo.com/download_ccleaner/
  4. Don't click on any links like this in the future. Beware of any message that doesn't contain some personalization to convince you that it actually came from a real person and not a Malware robot. To be extra safe, I recommend that you install "Web of Trust". It's free and available at: http://www.mywot.com - It's no substitute though for "safe surfing" practices - avoid promiscuous link clicking and attachment opening!
  5. (Optional, but nice) Send an apology to the folks in your address book.
  6. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Switch to a safer email provider. I recommend Google's Gmail. AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and their supported domains are highly insecure and are prone to break-ins. Gmail is a lot more secure, faster, safer, and still free. Easy to switch to and use, but has a lot more features. You can set a "Forward" in your old account's options so all your new mail will be forwarded - so you can take your time letting your contacts know about your new email address.
If you'd like more info, let me know :-)

January 30, 2011

New Sandy Bridge PC

*Update* (9 Mar 11) OK, Well that went faster than I thought. On Friday I got the notice about the replacement motherboards being available. Filled in the Paperwork, the replacement was shipped on Monday, got it at 1 PM on Tuesday and did the transplant. It only took about 2 1/2 hours. Computer fired back up with no problems. Packed up the old board and got it to our local UPS store in time for the 4:30 PM Pickup. Newegg.com (our board vendor) rocks! Total cost to us, $0 (not counting 7 miles worth of gas to get to the UPS store)! 
I've also updated our Bill of Materials to show our system as it now is.  Click Here to see the "As Built" Bill of Materials

*Update* (1 Feb 11) Well it seems that Intel has a bug in their P67 & H67 "Cougar Point" Chipsets for their new line of "Sandy Bridge" series CPUs  Click here for the Geeky Details.  As a result, all boards with these chips are being recalled and replaced.  Also, all the distributors have stopped shipment of new motherboards containing these chips.  So the system I'm building is basically unaffected as I ordered everything before the shipping halt. I did however upgrade to the ASUS Maximus IV Board, which is a slightly higher priced "Enthusiast" Board, but has sufficient SATA III and non-Intel SATA II ports to meet our needs now and in the foreseeable future.    The vendors have also promised to exchange the motherboard with an upgraded one when Intel ships the "fixed" chip in about the April or May timeframe.  So it will cause me some extra work to swap MOBOs, when the new ones are available.

It seems that around $2,000 is a sweet spot for "Non-Extravagant",  "Enthusiast" PC builds. 
Back in 2009 when I built our prior PC (see our July 2009 Core i7-920 SFF PC Build article), the entire build totaled $2,208.70
The parts we ordered for this build totalled $2,295.89 (if we bought everything from Newegg.com, our favorite vendor).  We didn't though,  we bought some parts on Amazon.com (click here to see their prices on our build parts).  It turns out that we can buy from Amazon using our Prime account, get two day free shipping.  Note that not all the parts are currently available on Amazon - so I've made some substitutions.
Prices on Amazon  were lower for some items and Newegg's were lower for some others, so we bought each part where the net cost to us was lower.  Another useful thing about Amazon is that you can now use American Express Membership Rewards Points to buy items, since we had a pile of those, this PC only cost us a few hundred dollars.  If we paid for everything (no points) we would have saved about $200 by buying some parts at Amazon. 
If you do buy any of these parts from Amazon, please use our link above - then Mary and I will earn a few bucks commission (thank you!).

In our June 2009 PC, the CPU we used was the Core i7-920 Nehalem 2.66 Ghz processor which cost $280.  At the same time, the absolute top of the line was an i7-9xx (I forget the xx number, Intel changed that part soon after) and it cost just over $1,000.  In early January 2011, Intel launched the "Sandy Bridge" family of processors and now the top of the line i7-9600k can be purchased for $330. 
Today (Jan 30, 2011), the top of the line i7 Gulftown Part is the i7- 980x and cost $999.99 - it has a Passmark CPU Mark rating of 10,466.  The i7-9600k's rating is 9,331.  Not bad for a part that's 1/3rd the cost!  Just for comparison, the 2009 i7-920 has a CPU Mark rating of 5,554.  Moore's Law Rocks!
Video cards have come a long way too.  The Radeon HD 4890 card from 2009 cost $215 and has a Passmark G3D Mark rating of 1,941.  Our new Radeon HD 6950 cost $290 (Amazon) and has a G3D Mark rating of 3,038.
Hard drives improved too!  Our storage drive is now 3 TB (instead of 1.5) and instead of a fast hard drive, we've moved (in speed, not size) up to a 120 GB Solid State Drive for our boot device.  The OCX Vertex 2 120 GB SSD drive is really fast.  Our Western Digital 300 GB VelociRaptor drive in our 2009 system has a Passmark Disk Mark rating of 758, our new SSD Drive's rating is 1,712, Wow!
Click Here to see the Bill of Materials for the parts that we're using to build our new PC.  Drop me a note if you have any questions or see me on Facebook!
  • The Zalman CPU Cooler is not currently available on Amazon, so I've substituted the Cooler Master Hyper 212+.  It performs nearly as well, is less expensive, and would have been our backup choice.  We looked at water cooling, but (in my opinion) it wasn't worth the expense or bother for the incremental cooling it provides.
  • I've used the Passmark Ratings for speed comparisons above.  There are lots of measures of performance,  different benchmarks can report different results (your mileage may vary!).  I've used them solely for rough comparative purposes.  You can access all their benchmarks at http://www.cpubenchmark.net/
  • Building your own PC isn't too difficult, but if you're a N00B, you should review the outstanding resources online on how to do it before you proceed.

August 29, 2010

Product Recommendations

Mary and I have added a site with the products that we use and recommend.  Follow this link to get there.

We will only be posting those items here that 1) we recommend and 2) we can refer get you a discount on through Amazon.com.

April 22, 2010

Where Have We Been? Check us out on Facebook!

OK, so Mary and I aren't posting that frequently on our website anymore. It's because most of our activity these days is on Facebook! We will still post new interesting items here too, particularly the longer posts. But for more frequent updates - check us out on Facebook! See the links below.

Just make sure that you also send us an email or include information on who you are in the Facebook request as well, particularly if we're not really close friends, so we are reminded who you are and how we know you!

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Sunny Mexico

So why aren't you all down here visiting?
Warmest wishes for a Happy Holiday Season from Mary Mack & Bill Finkelstein on Raptor Dance.

Picture taken in Tenacatita Bay, by our very good friends Karen & Bill on the Moody 44, Miela

September 16, 2009

Our Tasty Multigrain Bread

Our Finished Loaf
We love multigrain bread. Unfortunately, our local bakery stopped making our favorite bread.

So we started to play around with a substitute recipe using the ingredients on the label and came up with this great tasting, low salt, no fat bread.   It tastes great and is good for you too!

We make it in our Zojirushi BCC X20 bread machine on it's basic Wheat Bread setting.   This is a 2 pound machine and this loaf weighs just over 2 pounds.

You could also make this machine by hand, but our bread machine does such a great job we let it do it's thing.

You really need to use a scale to measure most of the dry ingredients as volumetric measurement of flour is too imprecise.

If you don't create a perfect loaf, refer to the troubleshooting guide in your bread machine manual.  Since we don't use salt, the ratio of wet ingredients, dry ingredients and yeast needs to be pretty precise.

To start, add to your bread machine:
  • 6 T - Unsweetened Apple Sauce (this substitutes for fat)
  • 2 T - Malt Extract (mainly for flavor, we buy it at a home brewers supply store)
  • 1 - 12 Oz Beer (we use Negra Modello)
  • 1 T Lecithin
  • ¼ tsp Ascorbic Acid (the Gluten, Lecithin and Ascorbic Acid reinforce the structure of the bread)
  • ½ tsp - Salt (controls yeast raise)
  • 1½ tsp - Active Dry Yeast
Next add the dry ingredients:
  • 230 Grams - Whole Wheat Flour
  • 230 Grams - Dark Rye Flour
  • 60 Grams - Millet Flour
  • 60 Grams - Vital Wheat Gluten
Start up the machine and when the bread machine indicates it's time for add ins, we lightly toast these ahead of time on the stovetop in a dry skillet:
  • 2 heaping T Caraway Seeds
  • 3 heaping T Flax Seeds
  • 3 heaping T Millet Seeds
  • 3 heaping T Sunflower Seeds
We like this bread in sandwiches or just toasted.  Enjoy!

January 3, 2009

Barra de Navidad

Hi everyone!
We arrived in Barra de Navidad New Years Eve and had a great celebration.
After checking in at the Marina and Hotel, we spent a little time at the pool and then went out with our friends Ed and Cornelia Gould from SV Acapella.  Our first stop was the roof top bar at the Alondra hotel for a great view of the sunset.  Then off to restaurant, Mexico Lindo.  They have great Mexican food at very reasonable prices.  Later we went to the hotel Disco but turned in early.  The midnight fireworks woke us up - so we wished each other a Happy New Year and then promptly went back to sleep.
Our favorite Barra de Navidad restaurant was closed for New Years, but we did get there on Friday night.  Profumo di Sole is run by a great young Italian couple and they make great food.
We'll work on taking more pictures and getting them up on the website soon!
We're back on our regular emails, but Internet is expensive here, so we're only on about 1 hour per day.
We want to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Warmest Regards,
Bill & Mary