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Chicken, sausage, and mushroom jambalaya, the harissa version

Filed under: Cooking and Drinking,Food — jet @ 20:09

I’m guessing that every “rice culture” has a version of this dish.  At Mintt they have a great selection of biriyani, the Indian version of this dish.  Jambalaya is similar to Korean bi bim bap but different in how it’s prepared.

So this is a riff on a classic Cajun dish, jambalaya.  It’s tweaked to remove a couple of things I don’t like and I’ve made some other changes based on what I can find at the grocery stores here in Pittsburgh.  I like spicy food (Tabasco is on the table next to salt and pepper), but I’ve never really gotten the level of spice you find in a good biriyani.  Until I discovered harissa and gave it a try.  Wow.

One of the interesting things about jambalaya is that we cook the rice in the pot with the rest of the food.  This moves flavors from ingredients to rice as the water boils in the oven, it’s not like boiling some rice and dumping chili on top.  (What I just did for dinner while I’m writing this…)

To make this you need a cast iron dutch oven.  I have a vintage 10 1/4 quart #8 oven, but you can find plenty of new ones on amazon at decent prices.  The main difference between vintage cast iron and a new one, say, a Lodge, is that the newer one was probably made in a factory and weighs more than the vintage one.   (How to prepare and care for cast iron is going to be a different post that probably pisses off just about everybody.)

This makes about 6-8 servings depending on other things you put on the table.  I eat a serving after I cook it then stick 5 more in the freezer in plastic containers, each one is an easy meal to microwave while I’m working.


  • 1# chicken cut down to bite-sized pieces. I usually use a breast and a thigh.
  • 12 oz of andouille sausage sliced to 1/4″ pieces.  Trader Joe’s sells a good, pre-cooked chicken andouille sausage
  • large white onion chopped down to 10mm pieces
  • 15 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Tabasco
  • 2 cups long grain rice.  I prefer Zatarain’s.  Louisiana long grain isn’t like Indian basmati rice, it’s more fluffy.
  • 4 cups water
  • can of diced tomatoes, I’m good with 12-14 oz
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 oz “baby bella” mushrooms, quartered. I like these a lot more than the generic brown, canned mushrooms.
  • 1 teaspoon Harissa, I use the Trader Joe’s brand but there’s always amazon.
  • olive oil or avocado oil


  1. Set the oven to 200C (400F).
  2. In the cast iron pot, brown the chicken with as little oil as possible, then move the chicken to a resting place.  If you are using uncooked sausage, brown it at the same time.  Don’t try to cook the chicken all the way through, just the outer skin.  This is a “dry” dish where the rice soaks up all the water, so you want the chicken to be moist.
  3. In the cast iron pot, saute the onion and garlic on med/low heat.  You don’t want to brown it, just break it down a bit, this takes about 5min on my stove.
  4. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, and Tobasco.  I use about 10 “dashes” of Tobasco, cook another few minutes, at most 5 or 6 min.
  5. Add the chicken, sausage, rice, and water; crank up the heat, and wait for it to boil.
  6. Kill the heat and stir in the mushrooms and harissa.  (TODO: try adding the harissa in step #4.)
  7. Put on the lid, put it in the oven, let it cook ~45 min.
  8. When removing from the oven BE CAREFUL.  It weighs at least 5 pounds and is hot enough to give you a nasty burn.

Let’s talk about food

Filed under: Cooking and Drinking,Drinks,Food — jet @ 20:04

Inspired by needing to create a thesis for an interaction design class that might be taught remotely this fall and Alton Brown’s “Quarantine Kitchen”, I’ve created new topics on food and drink.  “What do I have and how can I use it?”


GA Tech and UL on consumer FDM printers and fume hazards

Filed under: digifab,E3D Printers — jet @ 10:44

They have a poster and abstract on their site, paper coming soon:

When I got my first 3d printer, a Cupcake, I gave myself nosebleeds by printing in my home office in the winter. “Duh, don’t breath ABS” took about a week to figure out.  I haven’t had problems with Edge fumes printing near an open window; now it’s time to do some 5 hour prints with the window closed. I suspect my mild asthma will be the canary in the coal mine on whether or not it’s time to build a fume extractor.


Spring project: Rescue honey bee swarms around Pittsburgh and Forest Hills

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 23:37

Drue and I are trying a project this Spring to trap honey bee swarms. Bees reproduce by swarming, about half the hive takes off on short notice and goes looking for a new hive. They need to find a new home within a day or so after they swarm, they can’t transport food to survive on while they are swarming from one hive to a new space. The real problem is that on average, only one in six swarms survive in urban environments. If they can’t find a new hive and start foraging for food within 48 hours after they swarm they will probably die of starvation.

Here’s what we want to do — place “swarm traps” at places near the parks and other areas where swarms are likely. A swarm trap is basically a transportable bee hive with desirable (to a bee :-) characteristics of a good home. If we catch a swarm, we wait until it’s dark, plug up the openings on the trap, then bring it home to put in an empty hive or give it to a fellow beekeeper who has an empty hive. The swarm has no food, so they need to go to a hive with food as quickly as possible. We might feed them during the pick up, that’s only possible in the dark.

Swarms are relatively tame. I helped a friend fetch one out of a tree last summer and the bees were really happy after we put them in a hive-like container. We literally scooped them off the branch with our hands and put them in a box, it was kinda like cleaning up Legos. With a trap, they even do the “put them in a box” work for us.

Here’s what we need to manage a swarm trap:

– permission from the land owner to place the trap on a tree about six feet off the ground. We just ratchet-strap it to the side of the tree, it shouldn’t damage the bark.

– a way for someone to check the trap every day during daylight hours for a new swarm. It can be us or someone near the hive who just takes a look once a day.

– access to the trap after dark to retrieve a swarm, preferably in the evening an hour or so after sunset.

Here’s what we *don’t* need:

– a permit from the city. This isn’t a “beehive”, it’s a “trap”, and the land owner won’t be keeping bees.

– help installing the trap or retrieving it if it’s with swarm. Bees are pretty gentle creatures but it took us a few weeks of practice before we were comfortable handling them in a way that doesn’t make them cranky.

If any ya’ll are interested in hosting a swarm trap, let us know, and we can work out the details in person.  Swarm season usually starts in April/May, but last year’s warm winter had it start so early we had a hive swarm the second week of April.



Western PA Beekeeping Meeting

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 16:04

Just home from the Western PA beek meeting and I learned a lot more this year than last.   Some of it good, some of it helpful in retrospect.

Feral Swarms

The best talk was a tutorial on catching feral swarms. I had no idea this was a “thing”, but the guy giving the talk lives in western Ohio and caught 64 swarms in two months. He constantly bought new hives and ended up with three different yards with 15-20 hives in each, all feral swarms. Primary cost: hives and 2700 miles on his truck.

Feral swarms aalso, it turns out, have amazing genetics relative to package bees from the south (duh). One swarm built 17 frames in a double deep in two weeks, he put on two mediums, those were built in two weeks, then by the end of the flow he had 2 mediums and a deep full of capped honey.

One yard of feral swarms produced 550 pounds of honey from eight hives. That’s 70 pounds her hive, I’m happy if I get over 40 from a hive.

So, hey look, we own two acres of wooded land a mile from here, and that land is within a couple miles of forests and wooded parks. I wonder how many traps I can put up, and more importantly, where I’d put all the bees.  I also have friends who live within a mile or two of the two main wooded parks in Pittsburgh (The City of) and will ask them if I can put swarm traps on their property.

Traps are easy to make out of 1/2″ plywood, two sheets and some 1x2s will make 5 swarm traps.  Just make it the size of a deep, removable lid, 1 1/2″ entry hole, and ratchet strap it to a tree as high as possible.

Dying Hives


It hit the upper 40s today so we cleaned out the three hives that deaded out during winter. It will be 70F in Tuesday and we don’t want any bees rotting/decomposing in the hives. (10 years ago we had 2′ of snow on the ground around this time.) We recovered maybe 10 or 15# of honey and fed the surviving hive a pound of protein patty. It’s going to be warm enough for them to do cleansing flights starting tomorrow but there’s no food out in the wild.

One thing I overheard at the meeting was that it was so cold in Ohio that bee clusters couldn’t survive going and fetching honey from other parts of the hive.  The bee cluster generates warmth by the bees dislocating their wings(!) and vibrating their wing muscles.  It should be close to 90F in the top of the hive, so it’s normally safe for bees to leave the cluster for food then return.  It’s possible that it was so cold last month that our hives suffered the same fate — the cluster ran out of fuel and it was too cold to go for more fuel.


Another hive down

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 15:56

Lost another hive, one with plenty of food remaining.  Not sure if it was mites, disease, or just too damn cold for small cluster of bees.


Two hives down

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 22:10

Here we are, six days later, and we’ve lost two hives. The first hive was the knee-biter hive and started off with relatively few bees and a few days ago they were low on bee count. I suspect they just couldn’t form enough heat for our unusually cold winter. The other hive had 2-3x as many dead bees as the othe rhives when I cleaned them out, so
maybe they tripped over a number-of-bees-for-heat problem or got hit hard by mites.

I added 3-4k of fondant to each of the remaining hives. Next decent day we’ll move all the uneaten fondant to the surviving hive and prep the dead hives for nucs.

One plan is to do “walk-away splits”. Wait until the healthy hives have capped brood including capped drones, then split each hive in half. Don’t worry about where the queen is, just split the brood and nurse bees between the healthy hive and the empty hive. The hive without a queen will start raising virgin queens ASAP, and that hive should have brood within six weeks (if I’m doing the mental math correctly).

The hive with a queen will now have a half-empty hive and no real reason to swarm. The queen can lay lots more bees and the hive can build a lot more honey.


Winter Check of Bees in Pittsburgh

Filed under: Beekeeping,Pittsburgh — jet @ 23:53

Surprise 64F day today so we checked the hives. The nuc with the $$$ queen has bees, but I’m not sure enough to survive the rest of the winter. We rearranged all the fondant in the hives so they could continue to “eat up” in the fondant over the next few freezing days; we’ll check them again this Saturday.

Last year we got blindsided by the strange Winter and early Spring and the hives swarmed before we expected. We think our frames were honey bound, they had enough fondant that they didn’t eat the honey then the
queen had no place to lay. This year we’ll check weekly (if possible) and switch from fondant to syrup as soon as possible.

Another thing we’ll try is flipping the top and bottom deeps and frames. We can pull any honey leftover and extract it then replace those frames with built frames so the queen has plenty of room to lay. If they’re getting syrup until the first pollen hits we should have lots more eggs and fresh bees at the start then Spring honey.

Fingers crossed, thumbs held.


Blocking the mount of a UF2 Bootloader in OSX (and maybe Linux)

Filed under: Arduino,Hacking — jet @ 00:04

I’m really liking Adafruits “Metro Express” version of the Arduino Zero.

Except for one thing.

The UF2 boot loader.  Every time I compile and load a sketch I get a whine notification from OSX about how I’ve unmounted a volume without the proper Steve Jobs NeXT dance.

The fix is actually pretty simple — tell fstab to stop mounting the filesystem in the first place.  Apple has one solution but it needs a few tweaks for the UF2 boot system.

I'll use Adafruit's METRO as an example.  

First, use diskutil to find the UUID of the METRO:

$ diskutil info /Volumes/METROBOOT/
 Device Identifier: disk3
 Device Node: /dev/disk3
 Whole: Yes
 Part of Whole: disk3
 Device / Media Name: Metro M0 Media

Volume Name: METROBOOT

Mounted: Yes
 Mount Point: /Volumes/METROBOOT

File System Personality: MS-DOS FAT16
 Type (Bundle): msdos
 Name (User Visible): MS-DOS (FAT16)

Content (IOContent): None
 OS Can Be Installed: No
 Media Type: Generic
 Protocol: USB
 SMART Status: Not Supported
 Volume UUID: CA043DAF-C1C3-33CC-A5C4-A4B0D2BFDE85

Total Size: 4.1 MB (4096000 Bytes) (exactly 8000 512-Byte-Units)
 Volume Free Space: 3.5 MB (3530240 Bytes) (exactly 6895 512-Byte-Units)
 Device Block Size: 512 Bytes
 Allocation Block Size: 512 Bytes

Read-Only Media: No
 Read-Only Volume: No

Device Location: External
 Removable Media: Yes
 Media Removal: Software-Activated

Virtual: No
 OS 9 Drivers: No
 Low Level Format: Not supported

Now, use vifs to change the fstab file:

$ sudo vifs

and add this line to the end of the file using the “Volume UUID” field to replace [Volume UUID]

UUID=[Volume UUID] none msdos ro,noauto

save and quit, then run

$ sudo automount -vc

to update your mac with the new fstab file.

This should stop the device from automounting under OSX and make the METRO work like a “normal” Arduino.



E3D Silicone Socks Change PID Settings

Filed under: E3D Printers — jet @ 21:00

Getting ready to put E3D’s “Silicone Socks” on my E3D-V6 and thought, “hey, my kitchen oven mitts are silicone and I can handle 450F pots out of the oven, I wonder how much insulation the socks provide and does it change the PID?”

Two PID tunes later, one without the sock, one with, both starting from a room temp 22C V6 and using the g-code “M303 E0 S240 C8”

Without sock:
p 26.95 i 2.45 d 74.19

With sock:
p 32.75 i 3.54 d 75.8

Which makes sense — p’s change means there is more error (heat loss is lower than bare metal), i’s change is the accumulation of previous errors.  The derivative, d, stays roughly the same because p and i have similar changes in value.  (I did poorly in calculus and am trying to explain this to people who wasted a semester and failed Calc I trying to understand how derivatives work.)

What this implies is that the V6 extruders will heat more quickly thanks to the insulation and will cool more slowly after a print finishes.  I can’t think of any prints where I changed the temperature of the print head during a print so this should “just work” after I update the PID values in Marlin.

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