The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista group gasket or steam ring seal: the $2 DIY fix

Full disclosure: Amazon reviews rejected an abbreviated version of this post, even though I never once mentioned cock rings in my Amazon review, so here I present a very chatty and robust discourse because… I can. You can click away, speed read, or skim the upper paragraphs if my witty repartee gets on your nerves and wastes your time. ūüôā I know what it’s like to desperately need a cup of espresso right f’ing now. I get it. Read on for the super-cheap and easy fix for the Cafe Barista’s failed group gasket or steam ring seal, apparently all too common, that Mr. Coffee arbitrarily refuses to sell replacements silicone seals for (which is total bull$h1t, imo).

We bought a Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista in 2015. In general, given its price-point and features and overall low maintenance, it has been a reliable source of quality espresso for 3+ years.

cafe barista

The Frother
(skip this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

It’s only real problem, aside from, eventually, the steam ring, which is an easy fix that I’ll get to in a moment, has been the frother. We quit using the automatic milk frother after about a year because it was such a hassle to clean the container. To be honest, my husband would have gladly continued using it, but I was tired of cleaning the fat scum and occasional sour milk and he definitely wasn’t maintaining it for himself, so I hid the damned thing. I had undiagnosed advanced cancer and wasn’t feeling too great. By the time I dug the milk container back out, after chemo and radiation, it wouldn’t froth milk anymore. Maybe it’s just an o ring that needs replacing. I don’t know because life is short and I still don’t have the time or energy to clean out that nasty milk container. I have concluded that a simple, old-school steam wand is the way to go and these automatic frothers aren’t worth the troubles they present. There are too many potential points of failure.

We knew we had a problem when…
(skip this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

We knew the quality of our espresso was flagging a bit and it sounded a little weird when it was brewing (like its owners), but didn’t undertake an investigation until the morning the golden liquid that keeps our semi-ancient hearts beating failed to be deposited in our cups. When hot water burbled out the side amid a flurry of grounds, we identified the point of failure as the head group gasket or¬† steam ring seal. See how it is completely missing on the top there?

steam ring seal

 

This silicone ring is not connected and is simply sitting around the metal sieve or infuser. You can use a bamboo skewer or a small screwdriver to slide in between the two parts and lift the silicone ring out.

upside down cafe barista

And we were like: oh, yeah, no problem, silicone o-ring. They probably sell that as a cheap replacement part on the Mr. Coffee site. Seems logical, no? NO! Thing that is obviously going to fail sooner or later, nah. Buy a whole new machine, yeah! It was a Saturday and we live 30 miles from the nearest tiny town, so we weren’t even sure we could find an open hardware store, much less some sort of espresso machine emporium, like I know some elite fancy-pants have access to 7 days a week. We then spent several hours online attempting to locate a viable replacement. Not to be had. Eventually, I could not face the rest of the day or–horrors!–the prospect of the next morning without espresso. I think it’s pretty obvious by now, but it’s not like I can just trit-trot down to a an espresso shack or bar or salon or lair or whatever you privileged folk call these sort of places. It is a 30 mile and 45 minute drive to my nearest espresso dispensitorium. And I’m cheap anyway.¬† Desperation setting in, and the clock running out (the welcome mats at local-ish stores roll in quite early), I leapt into my Prius, trusty freckled male side-kick of 26 glorious years riding shot-gun, turned on my radar detector, and floored it into town.

The Fix
(read this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

The helpful hardware people at Crescent City Ace Hardware (a man, but Ace seems to be trying out the gender-neutral pronouns, which I applaud) found us several rubber washers that were close and, eventually, a rubber “waste shoe washer” interior diameter 1&3/4″ and outer diameter 2&7/8″ that was very close to the original ring we had dragged along with us. We grabbed a few washers in other sizes too, but didn’t need them.

waste shoe washer

Yes, it is a rubber washer. I’m in California. If they thought this would be intended for use near food it would have a Prop 65 warning on it. But it’s supposed to be for a bathtub, which hardly anybody eats these days. My entire Wal-Mart store has a Prop 65 warning slapped on the front of its building, so does the new Delonghi Magnifica fully automatic espresso machine I bought. It sort of takes the meaning out when you over-use that sort of warning. Or, shoot, maybe everything is cancer causing. Doesn’t matter, I’ve already had chemo and external pointed and full torso as well as high dose internal radiation. The rest of you, I suppose you should make an effort to be properly horrified by the Prop 65 stickers.

Regardless, my husband claims the first shot he drank after installing our new waste washer shoe tasted like “an innertube.” I’ve seen the man sit next to fresh cat crap and claim he couldn’t smell a thing, so I am not impressed. He claims that subsequent shots were fine. Whatever. I say this only adds to the robust flavor of the espresso. But for you fancy-pants out there, you might want to run your $2 rubber washer through the dishwasher to… probably to release more lead in accordance with the Prop 65 warnings that every damn thing has lead in it, or on the off-chance that it reduces the innertube-iness of your espresso. Or not. Maybe you like the taste of rubber. And that’s for you to know and me to not know or contemplate at all. Ever.

the parts

This is how it looked after we removed the original silicone o ring (sitting atop the inverted machine here) and replaced it with a waste shoe washer and enjoyed a few espresso shots because we thought we were going to f’ing die by then if we didn’t get some caffeine pumping through our veins. People do not take caffeine addiction seriously enough. It is no gosh’durned joke, people! The washer slides in place and the lip in the machine where the portafilter connects pretty much holds it in place.

And here’s what it looked like after a few days of use:

steam ring

And another view:

fixed

My husband informs me he has purchased a “caffelat” silicone group gasket from Amazon for $8.50. It will be here in a few days and I will, maybe, update this post when and if it arrives and works. Or doesn’t. He asserts at this time that had the first shot with the rubber washer not tasted like an innertube he probably wouldn’t have ordered this gasket because subsequent shots were “fine.” Oh, if only the probably-a-silicone-cock-ring I found stuffed in the bottom of a drawer had worked I wouldn’t have had to drive into town and eventually order a $500 fully automatic espresso machine. Wah wah. If only…

So there you have it, the most self-indulgent and at times disgusting narrative you are likely to come across on the internet concerning a $2 waste shoe washer to make espresso flow forth from a Cafe Barista machine once again and into your life.

Would it be better if Mr. Coffee / Jardin / Sunbeam had replacement gaskets? You bet! But you do not have to throw your Cafe Barista away just because they don’t.

 

Grandma Sue’s Sweet and Sour Sauce

My mom used this sauce on country style pork ribs. Her recipe specifies not to buy the shoulder cut because it’s tough. She browned the ribs in an electric skillet (my husband’s mom also loved to use an electric skillet. It must have been a 1960s thing) and then cooked them the rest of the way with the sauce on.

There were times when every window in our house was open in a, mostly, futile effort to rid us of acrid smoke when the ribs weren’t quite fully cooked but the sauce was already burning. Whether this was a consequence of a too-hot electric skillet, inattention, or a logistical planning mishap, I disenjoyed it so much that I fully cook my pork separately and add the sauce on later. It works for ribs, as a dipping sauce, or on shredded pork (leftover from a roast) served over rice. No burning or smoke involved!

My mom’s original recipe includes most of one side of an index card of cautions and caveats about evaporation, adding water, frequent checking, the variability of cook times, and methods for determining whether the pork was fully cooked (she never used a meat thermometer–who needs such fancy things?). ¬†That was my mom. She flew by the seat of her pants, even when she was cooking ribs. I loved her so. ūüôā Scans of her original recipe are below.

Grandma Sue's Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Servings: n/a
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp chopped garlic
  • pepper (white or black) to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and reduce sauce to desired consistency.
  3. Serve as a dipping sauce, or brush onto pork ribs 5 to 15 minutes before they finish cooking, or combine with pre-cooked shredded pork in a large skillet and brown-up over medium to high heat.
  4. Enjoy!

Sandee’s (Authentic 1970s Hippy) Granola

My parents owned a fabric store called the “Polyester Palace” in Redlands, California during the early 1970s, back when making your own clothes was still considered groovy and I was just a wee nipper. The gas crunch and spiraling cost of synthetic fabric production, among other factors, led to the demise of it and a sister store in Yucca Valley (how I hated the drive out to that hell-hole of a desert every day!). One of their customers, Sandee, and my mom discovered their mutual love of health foods and raw vegetable juices, so Sandee graciously shared her homemade granola recipe with my mom. Its sugar content was a wonderful change from my steady diet of raw veg juice, Ruskets, and whatever unsweetened cereal mom found in the Loma Linda SDA stores. I ate this stuff like ice cream because, well, there was no ice cream in our house.

I have been looking for this recipe for years and my daughter recently located it, tucked away in one of my mom’s metal tins. It ain’t like today’s convenient panoply of granola offerings that you can pick up at your local grocery store. It has a groovy, early 1970s, earthy aesthetic, but it sure brings back childhood memories for me.

Sandee's Granola

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of rolled oats
  • 2 cups chopped nuts
  • 1 cup weat flour
  • 1/2 cup mixed flours (soy, rye, wheat germ, Brewer’s yeast, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil (I would guess at that time whatever passed for “vegetable” oil)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water

Preparation:

  1. Combine dry ingredients.
  2. Add oil slowly mixing well.
  3. Add water [mixing thoroughly].
  4. Sprinkle mixture onto greased cookie sheet [or parchment paper].
  5. Bake 4 hours at 200′ or until golden brown.
  6. Serve dry as a quick snack or with milk or applesauce for a breakfast cereal.
  7. [Cool completely and then store in container or zippy bag until use].
  8. Enjoy!

Aunt Carol’s Lefsa

Norwegian lefse is probably one of those food items that has many variations and whichever one you grew up eating is the “right” recipe. Other recipes just don’t taste quite like you expect. My Aunt Carol toiled for days to make her holiday feasts and her lefse was the centerpiece that knit every other item together. This is her recipe, cut down for everyday use.

Aunt Carol's Lefsa

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of mashed potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 3 tsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients. Go easy on the salt. Knead to form a ball.
  2. Heat griddle to 400′ or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat (about 8 on electric stoves).
  3. Grab a ping pong ball sized ball of dough.
  4. Using a floured pastry cloth and roller cover, roll out dough ball to 1/8″ thick round.
  5. Cook on griddle until lightly browned spots appear.
  6. Place each cooked lefse on a barely damp cloth and cover with a barely damp cloth.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

 

Grandma Sue’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Grandma Sue's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 20 oz can pineapple rings
  • maraschino cherries
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 325′.
  2. Place 1/2 cup of butter in medium sized cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or glass baking dish and place in oven until melted. Remove from oven.
  3. Add 3/4 cup brown sugar to melted butter and mix.
  4. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer on top of butter and sugar mixture.
  5. Place maraschino cherries into holes of pineapple rings.
  6. Beat 2 eggs in a mixing bowl.
  7. Mix in 6 Tbsp pineapple juice.
  8. Mix in 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  9. Mix in 2/3 cup sugar.
  10. Mix in 1 cup flour and thoroughly combine all ingredients in batter.
  11. Spoon batter into pan with pineapple rings and spread to cover fruit.
  12. Place pan into 325′ oven and bake about 45 minutes.
  13. Remove from oven.
  14. Let cool for 3 to 5 minutes, then invert over a large sheet of parchment paper placed atop a cutting board.
  15. Enjoy!

Betty Crocker Bake-It-Easy 2 BC-1692 bread machine instruction manual and recipes

Here is the instruction manual for the Betty Crocker Bake-It-Easy 2 BC-1692 in pdf format.

Betty Crocker Bake-It-Easy 2 BC-1692 bread machine instruction manual 

And here is a scan of the Betty Crocker Bake-It-Easy 2 recipe book in pdf format:

Betty_Crocker_Bake-It-Easy_2_recipes

I inherited my mom’s bread machine, but misplaced the instruction manual. I spent a few hours trying to locate a copy online to no avail. While searching I noticed that other people were also looking for the manual. My daughter located the manual and the recipe booklet in one of my mom’s tin boxes, so I decided to scan the manual in for posterity.

I read in a comment elsewhere that General Mills was the manufacturer of this bread machine and might still have a few old copies of the manual they might be willing to send out. You may want to try contacting them by phone if you want the original manual.

If anyone wants the accompanying recipe booklet scanned in as well please let me know here in a comment.

Happy bread making! ūüôā

Light lemon sorbet

Light lemon sorbet

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1¬†cup¬†sugar
  • 5/6 to 1 cup fresh lemon juice (or Sicilia brand squeeze)
  • 2 & 1/2 to 4¬†cups¬†water
  • tiny pinch or sprinkle of salt

Preparation:

  1. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in microwaveable pyrex or other borosilicate container or 4 cup + measuring cup.
  2. Microwave sugar and water for 3 to 5 minutes, until all sugar is dissolved into a clear syrup.
  3. Add 5/6 to 1 cup of lemon juice and a tiny pinch of salt to syrup and stir until combined.
  4. Add 1 cup of water and stir. Taste. Continue adding water 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until sorbet has the level of sweetness and tartness you prefer. I like mine at about 3 cups water total. Add more lemon or sugar if you add too much water.
  5. Place sorbet mix in a freezer-safe plastic container, cover, and place in freezer.
  6. Stir sorbet mixture after an hour or so.
  7. Once fully frozen, serve and enjoy!

Snappy ginger cookies

Snappy ginger cookies

  • Servings: 10 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 3 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white (or black) pepper
  • 2 to 4 teaspoons cardamom
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour

Preparation:

  1. Add all ingredients except flour into a large bowl and combine until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Add in the flour one cup at a time and thoroughly mix.
  3. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Using a butter or cookie scoop or melon baller (easiest and cleanest) or spoon (messy) drop cookies onto parchment paper at least one inch apart.
  5. ¬†Bake at 350′ for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are browned and no longer gooey in the middle.
  6. Serve.
  7. Cookies may be kept in refrigerator for a week or so, but should be allowed to return to room temperature before eating.

Actual bananas custard

When my husband was an toddler¬†his pediatrician forbade¬†his mother from feeding him any more¬†bananas, due to unexpected¬†weight gain. I guess he really never lost his taste for¬†bananas. And, really, has never looked happier than I saw him tonight dipping my “Too-damned-many-bananas banana bread” into this banana custard. Oh sure, maybe when a kid or two were born and possibly our wedding (I don’t honestly know about that¬†personally because I was on the verge of passing out with terror the whole time, but I’ve seen photos), he may have looked happier. He described the experience as “bananatopia.” I think that says it all. Anyway, so far, our general practitioner hasn’t pulled me aside and insisted I deprive him of bananas.

Actual bananas custard

  • Servings: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:

  • 6¬†ripe bananas
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground vanilla bean (or vanilla paste¬†or¬†extract)
  • 3¬†eggs

Preparation:

  1. Peel 6 ripe bananas and liquefy in a mixer or food processor.
  2. Add in 2 cups of milk and combine.
  3. Strain resulting mixture through a medium or fine strainer into a pitcher or large bowl.
  4. Discard remaining banana pulp in strainer.
  5. Return banana and milk mixture to mixer or processor.
  6. Add in 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons vanilla and thoroughly combine.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 whole eggs and set aside.
  8. Place banana mixture into a medium or large saucepan.
  9. Constantly, or at least frequently,¬†stir over medium heat (6.5 on my electric, ceramic top stove)¬†until mixture reaches at least 170′, or boils. Use a cooking thermometer to check temperature.
  10. Reduce heat to low.
  11. Spoon about a cup of the hot banana mixture into the bowl of eggs and combine. Now pour the egg and milk mixture into the saucepan. Tempering the eggs with the heated banana and milk mixture keeps the eggs from instantly cooking into appalling egg blobs or streaks when they hit the hot custard. Adding eggs now, rather than at step #6, probably prevents the eggs going grainy or lumpy, but you could live carelessly.
  12. Cook over low heat, stirring often, possibly constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the custard begins to thicken. Do not cook above 180′. Over 185′ the custard may curdle.
  13. Pour into individual serving cups or large bowl.
  14. Serve warm or chilled.

Notes: This recipe was adapted from a number of sources; however, the two most influential recipes were “Jen’s Favorite Cookies” Banana Pudding recipe and “Epicurious'” Creme Anglais recipe. ¬†“Crafty Baking’s” Custard Problems and Solutions was invaluable for determining that, no, I really did not want to mix cornstarch and eggs in a banana custard. You could use 5 or 6¬†egg yolks instead of the 3 whole eggs. I didn’t because a) I wanted a more jelly-like custard, ¬†b) I am incredibly lazy, c) I am shockingly cheap¬†tight¬†thrifty¬†economical, and d) if I tried to store egg whites in my fridge there is a 100% likelihood that they would spill everywhere even if I put them in a hermetically sealed jar, inside a locked pirate trunk, and I swallowed the key.

Too-damned-many-bananas banana bread

IMG_20151028_185953Since I have come to grips with the fact that Allrecipes may, in fact, never publish my recipe submission and because my husband has access to an ongoing supply of very ripe, inexpensive bananas I present here a recipe that uses 5 bananas per each 9″ x 5″ bread loaf. Though not as visually pleasing as drier breads I think this is made up for by the flavor and texture. And toasting helps, of course.

The flavor and mouth-feel reminds me of a banana pudding, but it maintains its cohesion as a bread and is pretty marvelous toasted with butter. How this recipe worked, I don’t know, but it does. I read a lot of recipes trying to find one that used 5 or 6 bananas per loaf that wasn’t a soggy mess and most, maybe all, seemed to have a lot of ingredients and/or a whole lot of steps. I just couldn’t see going through all that for a loaf or two of banana bread. I’m really stuck on the concept that¬†simplest and most efficient approach is also the most elegant and durable, in life and in cooking.

Too-damned-many-bananas banana bread

  • Servings: 2 9
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 10 very ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground vanilla bean (or substitute vanilla paste, or, in a pinch, extract)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350′.
  2. Grease two 9″ by 5″ bread loaf pans. I use a canola oil spray.
  3. Line a sturdy baking sheet with tin foil or parchment.
  4. Peel and dice bananas into mixer bowl.
  5. Starting mixer on low speed, blend bananas until smooth.
  6. Add baking soda, salt, and vanilla to bowl and combine.
  7. Add eggs and blend until thoroughly combined.
  8. Add sugar and combine.
  9. Add nuts now if you intend to use them.
  10. Add 1 cup of flour at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  11. Pour equal amounts of batter into each loaf pan.
  12. Place loaf pans on baking sheet.
  13. Bake in oven at 350′ for about 70 minutes, or until loaves are set firm, browned, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. I get a perfect loaf at exactly 75 minutes in my current¬†oven. You may need to tent your loaves with tin foil to prevent them from getting too dark, depending upon your oven.
  14. Cool about 15 minutes.
  15. Invert loaf pan to remove banana bread.
  16. Slice and serve warm with a light topping of butter.

Notes:

I like to use ground vanilla beans because they don’t add any fluid to a recipe and they provide a distinct and beautiful flavor during longer baking processes. ¬†Many recipes use butter, oil, or various dairy products to create a moist loaf. The bananas have so much moisture that the trick here is to not compound that¬†problem by adding in more. My family puts enough butter on the finished product that I am afraid to add any more to the batter.

You can also substitute fresh sliced or diced apples in this recipe (about 4 cups), with some ginger and cardamom or cinnamon, and a cup of pecans and the recipe still works just fine. I found this out when our apple tree finally had a bumper crop and I was willing to try almost anything to not waste them. Cider and applesauce are easier, but apple-pecan bread is a real treat.