There was a ripple of excitement on the Internet last week. There’s a writer at The Takeout named Gwen, and she was recently at her friend Julie’s, looking at Julie’s old family recipes. She noticed several recipes by a unknown someone named “Buggy”. Buggy had a recipe for a burrito-style beef casserole; it intrigued Gwen, so she shared it with everyone. People on message boards, Reddit and Facebook picked up on the recipe… so I decided to give it a try.
The recipe is at the link, but it’s pretty damn simple: brown a pound of ground beef; when done, drain, add taco seasoning and water per the package instructions. While that’s going on, mix a 16 oz. can of refried beans, a cup of Bisquick\Pancake mix and ¼ to ½ cup of water in a large bowl. Make an even layer of the bean & Bisquick mix in a greased 9-10″ pie plate or oven-proof skillet. When the beef is done, pour it over the bean & Bisquick layer. Then pour a 15.5 oz jar of your favorite salsa over that, then top with your favorite shredded cheese. Bake at 350F for around 30 minutes.
Do that, and you end up with this:
So… how is it? Meh. It’s not bad. It’s food, and it’s fairly tasty. But I ate it without any kind of emotion whatsoever. Ya know? Like, when I make Mom’s Tuna Casserole I feel a wave of childhood nostalgia. When I make Cracker Barrel’s hash brown casserole I almost feel like I’m cheating the system. I don’t feel anything like that when making Burrito Bisquick Bake. It’s just something to stuff in my face on a Tuesday night.
Would I make it again? Sure. Why not? In fact, the reason I made it in the first place was because I already had most of the ingredients on hand, which is how 70s casseroles worked. But the jury is still out as to whether this would make my regular rotation.
I hit the spice aisle at Walmart the other day for chili powder, when something caught my attention:
Yes, it’s Tapatío powder. How is it?
Well, it tastes exactly like Tapatío sauce. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “expert analysis, Jim”. But hear me out: the fourth ingredient in this stuff – after salt, red pepper and garlic – is “vinegar powder”. And once the powder hits your tongue, it instantly rehydrates, so it tastes just like the sauce… albeit a slightly crunchy one, since the other crystals don’t melt at the same rate as the others.
So, I guess the market for this is anyone who wants the flavor of Tapatío sauce without the moisture that comes with it. Rimming margarita glasses with this instead of salt might be cool. I’m not a big fan of spicy popcorn, but sprinkling this over a bowl of popcorn would probably work a lot better than actual liquid sauce. It would also work with sandwiches being made ahead of time, like for a picnic or a tailgate – the powder has all the flavor, but doesn’t make the bread soggy. And I guess the powder might travel better – it can’t leak into a backpack, and since it’s not a liquid it’s TSA-friendly, right?
So that’s cool. But aside from the practical uses for the powder, I just don’t see a taste difference.
For decades, PC makers like Dell, HP and Lenovo have allowed third-parties to install trials and demos on new PCs. It’s all about money: the margin on most consumer computers is razor-thin… so if Symantec is willing to pay an OEM $5 per PC to install a Norton Antivirus trial, most PC builders are only happy to oblige. While an annoyance, this isn’t a big deal. After all, most of the time it’s easy to uninstall this junk, or wipe the hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows without the bloat.
But it’s much more difficult to get rid of this sort of thing on smartphones. In some cases (looking at you, Facebook), you can’t really uninstall the software; the best you can do is disable it. But sometimes you can’t even do that. This is especially irritating since phones tend to have much less storage than a PC, and resetting your phone only brings all those apps back, with no way to uninstall them.
Or is there?
You can use ADB to uninstall most any app on your phone. It requires a couple of apps and some command-prompt work… but it can be done.
But before we get into the how of it, it’s important to know what you can uninstall. To be honest, I played around with alternate ROMs and rooting and all that stuff, but it’s been several years. But back then, the “rules” were this:
1) If the app you want to uninstall was available on the Google Play store, you can absolutely delete it… because you can always reinstall it from the store if need be.
2) Some apps – like the built-in email, calendar and SMS apps – should be left alone or, at most, disabled. This is because some third-party apps use parts of the default apps, and by uninstalling them, you can break the third-party app. Here’s a weird example: I owned a phone where the Samsung SMS app controlled the settings for Amber (and other) alerts. Since I prefer Google’s SMS app, I deleted the Samsung SMS app from my phone without thinking, and thus could no longer control those types of messages. I looked hither and yon on the Internet for a legit version of the original Samsung SMS app, but couldn’t find it. Thus, in order to get the app back I’d have to reset the phone and start all over again.
3) Lastly, if you don’t know what an app does, leave it alone. Deleting “Facebook” or “Google Slides” or “Dropbox” is a no-brainer; deleting “Android Services Library” is just asking for trouble.
So, having said that… how do you delete this junk off your phone?
The first thing you need is to download and install an app called App Inspector from the Play Store (be sure to get the linked one, by a company called Projectoria, not the identically named one by a company called UBQsoft).
Once installed, open it; it will scan all the apps on your phone. Tap each app you want to uninstall and note the “package name”:
So, the package name for Chrome is com.android.chrome. Scroll through App Inspector and get the package names for the apps you want to uninstall.
Once you have a list of what you want to uninstall, you need to enable Developer Mode on your phone if it hasn’t been enabled already. To do this, go to Settings > System > About Phone. Rapidly tap “Build Number” 7 times – you’ll know you’re getting close when your phone starts saying “only 4 more taps to developer mode”.
The next step is to install Android Debug Bridge, commonly known as ADB. If you’re running most any version of Windows, you can watch this video for the complete how-to:
Here’s the webpage mentioned in the video, with written directions and the ADB link.
One last prep step on your phone: enable USB debugging. Go to Settings > System > Developer Options and enable USB debugging. BE SURE to turn this option OFF when you’re done.
So… you finally ready to uninstall this junk? Cool! Connect a USB cable to your computer, then connect your phone to the cable. The first time you do this you will probably have to wait a few seconds while Windows installs the driver for your phone. You will also get a prompt on your phone asking if you want to allow USB debugging. Tap “Always allow from this computer” (if you wish), then tap “OK”:
If you don’t see this prompt, check the notification area. If you still don’t see it, disconnect and reconnect your phone a couple times until you do.
Now, open a command-prompt in your ADB directory. In the YouTube video this was C:\ADB; on my computer it’s C:\Program Files (x86)\Minimal ADB and Fastboot. Once the command-prompt is open, type ADB shell. You should get a different prompt, like this:
Type the following at the prompt EXACTLY as shown below:
pm uninstall -k --user 0 [package name]
then press ENTER. So, like this:
You should get a SUCCESS message if the removal was successful. The above pic is from me trying to remove the Kindle Special Offers app from an Amazon tablet.
Here’s the command-prompt from when I (successfully) deleted a bunch of junk off my old Samsung phone:
Note that in this case, instead of entering ADB Shell and typing the uninstall commands, I did both at the same time… which is something you can do if you prefer:
adb shell pm uninstall -k --user 0 [package name]
If you’re curious, the apps I uninstalled are (from top to bottom):
– the Samsung web browser
– Google Docs
– Google Duo
– Samsung App Store
– Google Play Movies & TV
– Samsung SMS app
– a Tracfone downloader (which allows you to download the service-specific app, like Total Wireless or Straight Talk)
– Google Photos
When you’re done, just unplug your phone from your computer, close the command-prompt on your PC, then turn USB debugging OFF on your phone. I always reboot for good measure, but this isn’t 100% required.
Boterkoek (Butter cake) is a delicious treat from The Netherlands.
My favorite thing about it is its texture. It’s dense, but not hard. You’ve had pound cake before, yeah? You’ve had shortbread before, yeah? Boterkoek is somewhere between the two: not crunchy like a cookie, but solid enough that you can pick up a piece and eat it like a brownie, no fork or plate needed.
What’s more, the denseness of the cake means that it keeps for quite a while, so long as it’s kept in the fridge. I had a two-week old slice for dessert tonight and it was as good as the day I baked it!
But the best part of boterkoek is, anyone can make it. Trust me – I’m the worst baker in the world, and I can do this:
1 cup good butter, softened
1½ cups white sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon almond extract
2½ cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 electric mixer
1 small bowl
1 medium bowl
1 large bowl
1 fork or whisk
2 round 8″ cake pans (or even better, glass pie plates)
NOTES: Take the butter out of your fridge a few hours before you want to make the cake. Also, this is a terrific recipe to splurge on some nice European butter. Cultured butters from Ireland, France and Finland are readily available near me, and at Lidl and Aldi they’re competitively priced, too. Take the hint. Lastly, if you only have one pan or pie plate, fear not: later, when dividing the dough in half to make two cakes, simply put one half in a zip-top bag and put it in the fridge – it’ll be good for a couple days. You could probably freeze it too, but don’t quote me on that!
1) Preheat your oven to 350F.
2) Put the sugar and butter in the large bowl, then use the electric mixer to cream them. Don’t know what “creaming” is? Watch this:
You don’t need a stand mixer to do this – any electric hand mixer will work, you just have to move the mixer around in the bowl.
3) Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then add almost all of it to the butter and sugar (we need a tiny bit for the last step, so save a little). Mix for a few seconds with the mixer until incorporated, then add the almond extract and mix for a few seconds more. Put the mixer aside and use the spatula to scrape as much dough off the forks as you can.
4) Add the flour and baking powder to the medium bowl, and stir well with a whisk or fork to mix.
5) Slowly add the flour to the dough, adding a little bit, then stirring with a heavy-duty spoon, then repeating until the flour has been incorporated completely. As a warning, the dough will look very dry.
6) Grease the pans (or use Pam, if you’re lazy). Put half the dough in each pan or pie plate and press it into place.
7) Remember the leftover egg? Brush it across the top of the cakes. If you forgot to save some egg, just beat another one and brush it across the top of the cakes. Don’t go crazy though: a little bit is all you need!
8) OPTIONAL: You can put sliced almonds on the top, if you wish. It’s also traditional to drag a fork across the top of the cake, creating a design a bit like this:
9) Bake at 350F for around 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and delicious!
Let cool completely before serving. Keeps amazingly well in the fridge – just take a piece out just as you sit down to dinner and it’ll be delicious by dessert time!
Carbonade flamande is a classic Belgian stew. I must admit that, even though I’ve been to Belgium, I didn’t have carbonade flamande while there – I was too busy eating all the mussels in Brussels! But I saw the dish in an episode of Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations and just had to try it! I did a test run a couple months ago, and have tweaked the recipe slightly. Try it out some time – you just might like it!
1-2 DAYS BEFORE
The first thing we need is… gingerbread. Yes, gingerbread. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense later. If you’re really motivated, you can google “Belgian grandma gingerbread recipe” and make it from scratch. If you’re not quite up for that, you can call around to local bakeries and see if they have any. But if you’re lazy like me, you can just go to your local grocery store and pick up a box of Betty Crocker gingerbread mix:
It couldn’t be easier: just dump the mix into a large bowl, add one egg and 1½ cups water, and stir with a whisk for a couple minutes until the batter is smooth. Then pour into a greased 8×8″ glass pan and bake for around 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean:
Let the gingerbread cool completely, then cover with aluminum foil.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
The night before you want to make the stew, you need to make the marinade:
You can be super lazy and buy 3 pounds of stew meat, but for best results use 3 pounds of chuck roast instead. Cut a block off the roast, cut the block into cubes, then cut those cubes into bite-size cubes, trimming any excess fat as you go.
See the red plastic container in the above picture? Yeah, that wasn’t big enough for the meat and marinade, so I put the beef cubes in a gallon-size pitcher, along with 3 crushed cloves of garlic, two bay leaves and two 11.2 oz. bottles of Belgian ale. I used Gauloise, a blonde ale available at my local Lidl. It’s not the best Belgian beer you’ve ever tasted, but at $6.49 for a four-pack you can’t go wrong. Of course, if you have a preferred brand, you can use that… especially a sour Belgian ale, which is the traditional beer for this dish.
Put the meat + marinade in your fridge until the next day. The pitcher actually worked out really well – it was roomy, and the waterproof seal made it easy to turn the pitcher over and mix everything up, which is something you should do a couple times while marinating.
IT’S STEW TIME!
The next day, drain the beef but keep the marinade! Seriously, the liquid is important, so don’t throw it out:
Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in a French oven and brown the beef in small batches:
Why small batches? We want to fry the beef, so that it’s golden brown and delicious. If we threw all the beef into the pan at once, it would steam instead of fry, and we don’t want that. So take your time and do it right!
While the beef is cooking, stack 4 slices of bacon on top of each other, then cut into pieces. Also, slice three medium to large onions.
I totally spaced on taking pictures here, but once the beef is done, set it aside and drain any water in the pan. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, then remove. Leaving the bacon grease in the pan, cook the onions for about 10 minutes, until decently caramelized.
Once the onions turn brown and delicious, add 1½ cups of beef broth to the pan and scrape off the fond – the dark brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan – with a wooden spoon. When you’re done with that, you should have something like this:
It’s finally starting to come together! Add the marinade, beef and bacon to the pot, along with several springs of thyme:
Now… we could cook this on the stovetop for a couple hours. But I don’t wanna do that. The whole point of using a French oven is so that we could put this in the oven. So do that: put the lid on your French oven and cook the stew in your oven for around an hour at 325F. It should look like this:
So… remember the gingerbread? If you used an 8×8″ pan, cut the gingerbread in half, then cut it in half again, then turn each piece on its side and cut those in half. What we’re aiming for is four pieces of gingerbread, each about the size of a slice of bread. Put a total of two or three heaping tablespoons of real French Dijon mustard (don’t cheap out now!) on some of the slices… or divide it between all the slices, it doesn’t really matter. Just spread the mustard on the bread, as if you were making a sandwich.
Add a tablespoon of packed dark brown sugar to the stew along with a handful of parsley and stir well. Then add the gingerbread slices, mustard side down:
Put the lid back on and return to the oven for another hour, stirring the stew every so often. You’ll end up with something like this:
I’ll grant that it doesn’t photograph well, and might not look that appealing:
But trust me, it’s damn tasty! The beef was outrageously tender without being “mushy”, and there’s just something about the interplay between the ale and the gingerbread that’s just soooooo goood! You might find the sweetness from the gingerbread a bit too much – if so, some salt & pepper should fix that right up.
Carbonade flamande is traditionally served in a bowl with Belgian-style fries or roasted potatoes on the side. But there’s nothing stopping you from serving this over rice or egg noodles if you want.
Wow! For the past couple of years, I’ve started my “albums of the year” post lamenting that it had been a “down year”, and that I had trouble even finding 10 albums to put on this list. No so this year – 2018 was an embarrassment of riches!
Part of that is due to the rise of French pop music. For decades, French pop was an easy target of ridicule for English speakers. And for good reason: French acts were often fronted by dudes who looked more like a Little Caesar’s manager than a pop star, wearing a leather Member’s Only jacket, chain-smoking and singing English lyrics phonetically. But bands like Air and Daft Punk changed all that. Thereafter, French music could be as cool as the coolest bands from London or NYC. And it shows in this list.
It was also kind of fun that this year’s top three albums had a fight to the death for the #1 spot. The past couple of years have been fun and all, but there was always a clear front-runner for the top spot.
Below are my ten favorite albums of 2018. The list comes directly from my Last.fm stats; I have, however, tinkered with the order a bit. After the list are a few honorable mentions, followed by the raw data from Last.fm.
My Top Albums of 2018
10) CHVRCHES – Love is Dead– How the mighty have fallen… in a way. 2015’s Every Open Eye was my #2 album that year, barely missing the top spot to Purity Ring’s insanely great Another Eternity. So the hype machine was in full gear when “CHV3” was announced in January. But the album came out… and it was “just OK”. All the elements of what makes CHVRCHES great are still there – everything just feels slightly “off”. I saw them live in October, and the set list was heavy on Love is Dead tracks. It was a good show… I just don’t have the connection to this album I had with their first two.
9) Public Memory – Demolition – Robert Toher – performing as Public Memory – is a Brooklyn-based musician who creates music that’s… kind of a beautiful, yet gloomy, mix of early Clan of Xymox atmosphere with the tribal beats Dead Can Dance sometimes played with. The 2016 debut album, Wuthering Drum, was fantastic, if dark. This album follows up on that nicely. OK, so it probably isn’t the kind of thing you’d put on at a party. But it’s a solid – beautiful – effort.
8) NONONO — Undertones – Like a lot of people, I discovered Swedish band NONONO thanks to their 2013 hit “Pumpin’ Blood”. I kept my eye on them as they put out a good single from time to time – enjoyable, but nothing to write home about. Imagine my surprise when Undertones came out earlier this year and it was a solid all-around album. Don’t get me wrong – it won’t change your life… but it’s absolutely worth checking out on Spotify!
7) Grand Blanc – Image Au Mur – Grand Blanc arrived in my life in a big way earlier this year when I discovered “L’amour fou” from their 2016 album Mémoires Vives. Then, out of nowhere, Image Au Mur showed up! This album may lack a banger like “L’amour fou”, but I think it’s a better album as a whole, more coherent and cohesive than Vives. And the songs that should be hits – like “Los Angeles” are pretty tight. But my favorite track from the album is this tune that almost reminds me of something The Raveonettes would have done a few years ago:
6) Metric – Act of Doubt – Metric is one of those bands where I like a song of theirs every few years, but never seem to like their entire albums. They’ve tinkered with their sound over the years, but they seem to be in a good (confident!) place with Art of Doubt. It’s new, yet familiar, and for some reason, the whole thing clicks with me in a way that their previous albums – even the ever-popular Synthetica and Fantasies – simply did not.
5) Sexores – East / West – It’s kind of a strange cultural imperialism that I’ve never really thought much about South American music. I guess I assumed that South Americans all listened to some form of tejano, samba or pan flute music, depending on their proximity to Mexico, Brazil and Peru respectively. And I even thought this knowing that Morrissey is strangely popular in Mexico. That’s what makes it so surprising (to me) that a band like Sexores should come from Quito, Ecuador… yet largely sound like so many other European bands I love. Check this out – they could be any hip band from Brooklyn, London or Stockholm. The rest of the album is equally great, too:
4) Pastel Ghost – Ethereality– Vivian Moon, founder and sole full-time member of Pastel Ghost, makes lush, ethereal, sumptuous, diaphanous, otherworldly, gossamer electropop. The music kind of reminds me of an “angelic Ladytron”, a kind of breathless electronic heaven that should be more popular with the people who chose the music for TV, movies and commercials. One track in particular, “3NDL3SS”, sounds like something that, had it been used in an iPod commercial in 2008, would have caused hundreds of thousands to google “synthy song in iPod commercial”. My only complaint is that, while the album as a whole is tight, it does tend to get a bit “samey” in the middle. It’s still fantastic though!
3) The Perfect Kiss – Filter – And now… the Battle Royale for the album that will reign supreme in 2018! Have you ever wondered what a synthpop album would sound like if it were made with modern recording styles and production techniques, but on vintage equipment? Well, wonder no more: British writer and producer Joe Moore teamed with vocalist Holly Vanags to create one of the best albums of the year, all on circa 1985 equipment. It sounds both modern and retro at the same time somehow, and influences seem to come from all sides. Listen carefully and you can hear CHVRCHES, OMD, Visage, Yazoo and Human League. It’s terrific, and nothing shows it off more than the lead track, “Glitches”, which is my second favorite song of the year!
2) Therapie TAXI – Hit Sale – Every so often an album comes along and seems to perfectly capture the time in which it was made. I call these “zeitgeist albums”, and the difficult thing about making one is that they’re almost impossible to make on purpose. If you tried to make an album about 2018 you’d have songs about Brett Kavanaugh and #MeToo, and that album would sound as dated as a Capitol Steps album five years from now. All this is a wordy way to say that Therapie TAXI’s debut album – Hit Sale, a bi-lingual pun, since it means “dirty hit” in French and “selling out” in English – perfectly captures 2018 in 46 minutes. It’s songs about Tinder and Uber and drinking too much and ex-boyfriends – and some songs are so profane they make even me blush. But here’s the thing: to call this album “catchy” is a gross understatement. THIS ALBUM HAS MORE HOOKS THAN A BASS PRO SHOP. I don’t speak French. I look up the lyrics (in French) and translate them into English. I still can’t really sing along, even though I’ve heard some of the songs a hundred times. But I just. can’t. stop. listening. It’s THAT GOOD, folks!
1) You Drive – You Drive – Ya ever have an album pop-up out of nowhere and just GRAB YOU and refuse to let go? Welcome to 2018’s album of the year! You Drive is two people. One is Matthew Steven Pusti, who records under the name Makeup and Vanity Set, and who did the soundtrack for the excellent Atlanta Child Murders podcast, Atlanta Monster. The other is Jasmin Kaset, daughter of noted country\Christian songwriter Angela Kaset. They do electronic music together. It’s awesome. End of story. I love every song on this album – it’s only been out since August, and it’s already #2 on my all-time albums list! But nothing quite captures their song like the opening track, “New”:
With the caveat that “EPs and singles aren’t albums”:
Clara Luciani – Saint Victoire Computer Magic – Danz Den-Mate – Loceke Farao – Pure-O Fickle Friends – You Are Someone Else Future Synths – Now Korine – New Arrangements Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears Train to Spain – A Journey Julia Holter – Aviary Geowulf – Great Big Blue Still Corners – Slow Air Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy Peine Perdue – Tokyo En Morceaux Cœur de pirate – En cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé
Lastly… it’s a single, not an album.. but I’m SO HAPPY that Postiljonen has a new single out, with a new album to come in 2019! I love you guys SOOO MUCH! Bring on the new year!
OK, so it took a bit longer than “a couple weeks”, but I have completed the move of my “pretty pictures” companion site from Ello to Twitter. I’ve added a link to the “Social” linkbar at the top of the page, but here’s a direct link: