Moving to Tumblr

So, maintaining a blog is a pain, so I am moving my regular blog over to tumblr's platform. Eventually I will be converting this site to be a source for longer articles, projects and other content not suitable to a blog, but for now, you can find my new home at: blog.decultured.com

Baked Jalapeno Poppers - Christmas Appetizer

Holidays in my family are often centered around a meal, and they are always done pot-luck style. I look forward to those events, since I love to cook and it gives me an opportunity to prepare things that are impractical to make in small batches at home. A recent trend of mine has been to take dishes that are common at potluck gatherings and make them better, and for Christmas this year I chose to prepare Jalapeno poppers, but a little differently.

Since I have been working diligently towards weight-loss (to much success!), I decided to bake them rather than deep-fry, and use lower fat neufchâtel cheese in place of the traditional cream cheese. Additionally, I added a variety of ingredients to the filling to make it more interesting. As a final change, I made two batched, one with Jalapenos and one with mini-bell peppers, so there was a less spicy variant for family members with less heat-tolerance.

To start, I made a mixture of andouille and chorizo sausages, pickled red onions, chopped almonds, garlic and shredded radish and mixed it with the neufchâtel cheese. I chilled that while halving the peppers and cleaning out the seeds and veins. Next, I stuffed the peppers with the filling.

Just before cooking, I dredged them in egg and rolled them in panko bread crumbs that were mixed with some paprika and cayenne pepper. Finally, I baked them in the oven at around 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and then browned them for a bit under the broiler on high.

I served them with a raspberry chipotle sauce I picked up at Whole Foods. I sadly don't have any pictured of the final product, but they were a big hit, and several people asked me for the recipe.

Quick Benchtop Tool Table Build

I have a small but growing collection of benchtop power tools in my garage shop. Since it is only a narrow one-car garage, benchtop tools allow me to make the most of the limited space. However, I have found that moving them off and on to my work bench during a project was getting to be a pain, and was not really an option for the new planer I recently purchased. So, I decided to build a smaller work table out of some 2x4s and a spare shelf I had in my garage.

I did not draw up any plans for this project before starting since it is such a simple build; instead I eyeballed the size I wanted, made some quick sketches and notes in the shop, and got to work.

I first planed some 2x4s square, more as a test of the new planer that I was anxious to try out than out of necessity, but it did make everything fit together nicely. Next, I cut it to the lengths I would need, 4 Legs, 4 wide cross supports, and 4 narrow cross supports.

For assembly, I used a new Kregg pockethole jig I picked up rencently and used long 2.5" weatherproof screws to hold it together. Like the planing, this step was not necessary, but I had just picked up the jig and wanted some practice with it before working on a more serious project. It could more easilly be assembled as easilly with 2" wood screws straight through the boards, and might have even been stronger that way, though the finished project turned out plenty sturdy with the addition of a little wood glue.

Finally, I again used the pocket hole jig to attach the top. For this application, the jig worked wonderfully and allowed me to have a firmly attached table top without drilling through the top. The tabletop is a spare plywood shelf I had sitting in the garage that I trimmed down on the table saw.

The finished table turned out great. It's stable, sturdy and just the right size and height for the tools I plan to use with it. It should get a lot of use, and it's small footprint fits well in my narrow workspace.

Homemade Copper Laptop Stand

I built this about a year ago, but thought it might be worth sharing. At work and home, I mostly use my laptop hooked up to an external monitor, speakers, mouse and keyboard. I enjoy the portability of the laptop, but where available I prefer the greater screen real-estate of a large monitor, the feel of a clicky mechanical keyboard, and the tracking of a wireless laser mouse. Before, I usually set the laptop flat on the desk beside the monitor, but wanting to free up desk space I decided to build a stand that held it vertically. Having sweated copper pipe before for plumbing projects, I was itching to build something using the technique. I sketched out a design, picked up some parts from the hardware store, and this was the result.

Rocky Mountain National Park

I recently drove to Colorado for the second time this year. The official purpose of the trip was to visit SparkFun for their Exciting Xbee classes over the weekend, but I could not resist spending a couple days in the mountains while there. Rocky Mountain National Park is absolutely beautiful this time of year, and the weather could not have been better. I brought along my Canon Rebel T2i, and was fortunate beyond describing to see many incredible things to view and take photos of. Some came out quite well, and I narrowed down the 1000+ I took over the trip to a handful of the best. Some are embedded here in small forms, but you can view the full gallery at this link.