Thoughts of a geek

17 April 2010


Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:37 pm

I have posted a number of recipes on this blog before, but as I have recently had a few people ask for copies of various recipes I thought it might be worth making a post with a number of my favourite recipes all together in one place. So, here are a few recipes which I make fairly often and recommend. I have provided each recipe in PDF format for easy viewing or Krecipes format for importing into that software. If you would like a copy in a different format just let me know by posting a comment below.

First up is a basic banana cake. It is fairly quick and easy to make, hard to go wrong with, and only needs one mixing bowl. Download: PDF, Krecipes

Apple Scotch is a dessert that I often make to take if I am invited to visit somebody for dinner, as it is fairly quick to prepare with a food processor, I can carry it without too much trouble, and it can sit in the fridge for a while then be cooked quickly in the microwave just before we are ready to eat it. It is especially nice served with vanilla or chocolate icecream. Download: PDF, Krecipes

Another dessert that I often take to people’s places is a microwave steamed pudding. It is also quick to prepare, and takes only 3 minutes to cook. When I am bringing it for dinner at someone’s place, I mix and microwave the wet ingredients in a large jam jar, mix the dry ingredients in a plastic pottle, then bring them, my ring tin and some golden syrup in my backpack. It then takes just a few minutes at my destination to finish the preparations by mixing the two and putting everything into the ring tin, then I can just microwave it and have it ready to eat in very little time. It is even better served with fresh hot custard. Download: PDF, Krecipes

Another good dessert, less portable but easily scaled up to feed lots of people (I made it for 40 once), is this chocolate fudge pudding I got from a chocolate cookbook I have. It is a little bit different to most chocolate self-saucing puddings, with a more fudgey texture that I prefer. Download: PDF, Krecipes

Moving on from desserts, I will leave you with a few favourite muffin recipes.
Orange muffins: PDF, Krecipes
Double chocolate muffins: PDF, Krecipes

I think that will do for now. Feedback is welcome, as always.

4 November 2009

Rubgy, a safe technical topic, and baking

Filed under: Computers, Me, Recipes — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 10:33 pm

Continuing on from my last post taking suggestions from Twitter, today I will be blogging about topics suggested by people on Facebook.

Allan Chesswas: Rugby

Here in New Zealand, and elsewhere I hear, some people like to run around a field jumping on each other and chasing an oddly-shaped ball. This activity seems to be more popular among boys than girls. Many other people like to watch them do so. Several of my flatmates are in the latter set, and one in the former. I have never seen the attraction of either activity. The running around does at least provide decent exercise, but at significant risk of injury. Watching seems even more pointless, and frequently people do so (via television) instead of partaking in more interesting and productive pastimes such as good conversation, programming, baking, listening to music or even reading. This can be something of a frustration.

Donald Gordon: Safe technical topics which no one will be offended by.

Well. Most of my ‘recreational’ programming of late has been on Fridge. Fridge is a co-operative honesty system for snackfood which originated in Memphis. The Memphis Fridge is something of an open secret, used by graduate students and their friends. The basic idea is that certain people buy pre-packaged food and drink in bulk. Everyone who uses fridge has an prepay account which they can put money into by putting cash in a drawer and crediting their account, and then they can use this balance to buy the food and drink. The software keeps track of users, money, the various items stocked, markups to make up for lost or damaged stock, various statistics, and so on.

I have made a few minor contributions to the Fridge software in the past (such as adding a QIF export feature to allow users to import their transaction history into their personal accounting software), but my substantial work on it now began with interfridge. Interfridge was an idea that I and others had some time ago, last year I think, to allow users on one fridge to use that account on another fridge. This was motivated by the fact that both Memphis and Innaworks (where I currently work) run the Fridge software, and several of us use both fridges from time to time. The idea of interfridge was that I could visit Memphis, login to their fridge with my Innaworks fridge account, and purchase items from Memphis just like any Memphis user.

At some point Donald wrote some notes on his ideas of how interfridge should be designed. I finally got around to implementing this (the server side in PHP as part of fridgeweb, the client side integrated into the Java fridge client) using a protocol on top of HTTP. After much discussion with lorne, Chris Andreae and Stephen Nelson and several iterations changing the protocol to fix potential security holes pointed out, we came up with the interfridge protocol that is now in use between Memphis and Innaworks.

However, we realised along the way that fridge really could do with being improved in other respects. Currently, the Java client talks directly to a PostgreSQL database which holds all the user, stock and transaction data. This means that the client must include the database password, which is really not a good thing to be giving out to all and sundry. A much better design would be to have a trusted fridge server which talks to the database, and then have the client perform all operations via the server. With an appropriately-designed protocol, this means that the client need not be trusted, and so anyone can write their own client to use with the fridge. I have thus begun to design and implement a fridge protocol based on the interfridge protocol (it can do everything the interfridge protocol can do and more, so will replace it when it is done). For this I scrapped the custom RPC protocol which I had been implementing for myself on top of HTTP, and went with XMLRPC to take care of all the details of procedure calls, encoding and decoding in a standard way. There are various implementation of XMLRPC available for many programming languages. I should note that the documentation linked above does not include all of the API currently implemented in the code, though it will eventually. I am currently still in the middle of designing it, implementing and documenting it at the same time.

As it currently stands, the fridge server has methods to login, check a user’s balance, transfer an amount to a local or remote (i.e. interfridge) user, make a purchase at the local fridge (I still have not yet decided the best way to handle interfridge purchases in the new scheme), list the current stock, and list other fridges with which the fridge is peered. I am writing a client library and simple command-line client in Ruby to test this as I go. The command-line client implements all the features just mentioned. I have not yet done much on the Java client, but that will come at some point. lorne has just started work on an iPhone client, which should be cool.

Felix Shi: You can always blog about cooking weird and wonderful dishes 😀

Weird and wonderful? Not sure about that. I made a batch of muesli and a chocolate cake on Sunday, as I mentioned. The weekend before I baked two batches of muffins (apple and sultana for the Skyline walk on Saturday, banana chocolate chip or something for a picnic on Labour Day with gringer, ja and xyzzy).

I am afraid my cooking of late has not been terribly interesting. Suggestions are welcomed, as are visitors interested in consuming baking. As always.

1 November 2009

Walks, muesli and sheep

Filed under: Me, Recipes — Tags: , , , , , — qwandor @ 11:12 pm

Well I asked the Twittersphere for suggestions of what I should blog about, and sure enough the Twittersphere obliged. So here goes.

fibby17: some of your more interesting recent walks?

Well, let me see. The most recent walk to speak of was the Skyline walkway. This is a walk I had been meaning to do ever since a group of us walked up to Mount Kaukau early last year and some passer-by pointed out and recommended to us the Skyline Walkway. I finally organised it for Saturday 24th October 2009.

Charlotte, Frith, Chris Nimmo and Hannah came. I was hoping to have more people, but they were otherwise occupied or pulled out or did not turn up. We (except Chris) took the train out to Johnsonville to start the walk, except that the train was really a bus. We were amused when the driver offered a lady a free ride near the end of the route and she asked him how the buses were that day, to which he replied something along the lines of “Good, but I am a train today.” Chris was to meet us at the start of the track but after looking up his cellphone number on Facebook and a few SMSes and calls back and forth he said that he would meet us up Mount Kaukau instead. We made a start, with a little initial confusion about where the track actually went.

After a little while we made it up Mount Kaukau but found no sign of Chris, and he was not responding to SMSes or phone calls. We waited and ate a little, and finally made contact with Chris and he turned up about an hour after we got there, with wet hair and shoes and a number of scratches. Apparently he had somehow taken a wrong turn and decided that the best solution would be to bush-bash his way up another side, via much gorse and a stream. After a little while longer for him to recover we raced onwards down the other side, shortly to detour off the track to climb a little rocky knoll, admire the view and take photos. We came across a full possum trap beside the fence, into which Hannah insisted on looking, only to be predictably disgusted at the possum’s head inside. There was also another older dead possum to the left. The detour completed we continued on along the proper track, talking a little about possum shooting for fun and profit.

At around 1:00 pm we stopped for lunch (people’s own packed lunches plus the apple muffins I made, chips and scroggin brought by Charlotte and Frith respectively). Lunch was followed by a lovely lie down in the sun, enjoying the view and watching two people bike past in opposite directions. I did not envy them.

By and by we continued on, narrowly avoiding the wide road down to a certain suburb (Or was that before lunch? My memory fails.), and taking turns to flick the track markers as we passed them. We later stopped at the remains (just a chimney) of an old house, and discussed windfarms. After a while more walking we reached the end of the track at Makara Hill Road, and headed down to Karori Park to lie in the sun and rest for a little while. Our plans to play in the playground were thwarted by the large number of small children already doing so. Children really should be banned from playgrounds, it seems quite unfair to the rest of us. We wandered back along Karori Road, some buying icecreams and such, and people went their separate ways one by one.

All in all, good fun and good company. The weather turned out really well too, overcast to start with and sunny later, but a nice breeze so as not to be too hot. Photos can be found on Facebook.

There are more walks I could talk about, less recent. Walking around the outside of the Karori Sancuary in the rain comes to mind. Oh, I guess the Interface geocaching trip could count too. Those were both a while ago though. There have not been enough walks lately. Come walking with me!

Anyway, it is late and I should attempt to sleep, so I will not say more about these walks just now. If you want to hear, talk to me. Not that I expect to sleep much even when I do try; sleep has proven particularly hand to find lately. This is most unsatisfactory.

yomcat: Burnt Muesli.

Yesterday afternoon I baked a cake for my flatmate Stevie (who turns old today), and also some muesli for myself. As the cake was on the middle of the oven I put the muesli on a shelf below it, almost at the bottom of the oven. I normally cook the muesli on the middle shelf. I was surprised to find that the muesli seemed to get more burnt on the top than usual (not badly, but noticeably); I had expected that it might get burnt on the bottom, being closer to the bottom element and all. A little discussion on Facebook ensued:

Matthew Kiernan: is there an element near the bottom?
Andrew Walbran: Yes. But I would expect it to get burnt on the bottom if it is near the bottom, not on the top.
Matthew Kiernan: maybe the tray isn’t absorbing heat very well, and convection is carrying the hot air over the top of the tray.
Andrew Walbran: It still surprises me; I would expect the radiant heat to be more of a factor in burning the top, and that would surely be stronger when it is higher up in the oven.
Matthew Kiernan: sounds right, I suppose it would depend on the oven setting – grill vs bake, and I suppose fan forced air is always a factor
Andrew Walbran: Yeah, it was on fan bake. I should also note that it is an electric oven.

Clearly I have an exciting life.

simon_w: sheep.

Well, there were no sheep on the walk mentioned earlier in this post, but there were some cows. We walked right past a couple of them. Oh, my flatmates were watching TV a short time ago and there was an advertisement for sheep. For this place I think, a (live)stock market. Apparently wild venison mince is marginally cheaper (or was it marginally more expensive?) at Moore Wilsons than lamb. Richard is planning to make us some venison burgers sometime soon. I hope that it will be on a night when I am home for dinner (hint hint). Oh, and electric sheep is a very cool screensaver. If somewhat addictive. It is named after the Philip K. Dick novella, of course. I do not think I have read it, though I have seen Blade Runner. Perhaps I should get back into reading books. shoeshine was recommending a certain novel to me the other day (I do not have the name in front of me on this machine yet, and it escapes my mind; apparently character-driven sci-fi set in some sort of post-apocalyptic future from memory).

Tibi placet?

24 July 2009

Microwave mug steamed pudding

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , — qwandor @ 10:02 pm

Following on from the chocolate mug cake, I wanted to try to make other cakey things similarly. One obvious candidate for adaptation was the microwave steamed pudding which I like to make. With a bit of scaling and changing a few ingredients, I managed to make a microwave mug steamed pudding. Again, it is quick and easy to make with a minimum of dishes, and just a single serving, so you can make it for yourself without having a whole lot left over.

Have a look at the recipe (Krecipes / PDF), and try it! Please let me know how it works and what you think.

29 June 2009

Mug cake

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , , , , — qwandor @ 8:33 pm

You may have eaten a cup cake, but have you tried a mug cake? One of my aunts, Kristine Hornblow, sent me this recipe recently, and I recommend it as it is particularly quick and easy to make. The whole thing is made in a mug, cooked in the microwave, and can be eaten straight out of the mug too, so no other dishes are required.

Anyway, have a look at the recipe (Krecipes format or PDF), try making it, and let me know how it goes.

1 March 2009

Pear and cinnamon muffins

Filed under: Me, Recipes — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 9:51 pm

I decided this afternoon to make some muffins, did not have the ingredients for the flavours I normally make, but found a can of pears in the pantry. So I created these muffins, based vaguely on a recipe I have for orange muffins. They taste pretty good, so I recommend making them. Here is the recipe: Krecipes format, RecipeML or PDF.

As it happens, I have made a batch of muffins each day for the last 3 days. The first batch had frozen raspberries, raspberry jam, a little cinnamon and some dark chocolate (62%, I think), and was constructed based on a recipe for cheese muffins. The second was banana chocolate chip mostly according to a recipe I have, though without enough chocolate. Both could have done with more sugar, and both had to be made with UHT goat’s milk and olivani rather than normal milk and butter. They were alright, but I think this third batch today was the better.

14 June 2008

Microwave steamed pudding

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 10:26 pm

I made this for dessert tonight, and my flatmates liked it. Maybe you will too. Here is the recipe in Krecipe format, or as a PDF. I recommend serving it with fresh hot custard.

Create a free website or blog at