Monthly Archives: October 2011

Crap, it’s NaNoWriMo time again?

Where does the time go? I mean seriously, that just happened. And now it’s happening again.

Now I have to decide whether I’m going to take a stab at a NaNoWriMo book this year. On the one hand, the answer should be “No, I need to finish the book I’m on.” On the other hand, the answer should be, “Yes, I’ve been wanting to take another stab at it for years and this looks like a pretty good year to do it.”

I guess I’ll see. It’s not like I don’t have a half-dozen ideas in the I-could-totally-start-that-now stage.

Hmmmm.

I really hope my dreams aren’t trying to tell me something.

Last night’s dream: I dreamed that the dream I was having had a writer, who was outside the dream (in the fashion that creators are generally outside their works). However, the illustrator was a character inside the dream, and had no existence in the meta-dream in which the writer existed. She was jealous of the dream’s main romance plot, so she locked the writer up in a cell in order to force him to rewrite the dream with one of the characters falling in love with her instead.

As if I don’t already have enough worries about characters taking on lives of their own.

On an unrelated note, Kat wants me to issue a clarification to yesterday’s post. Summer and I were vibrating like hyperactive gerbils: she went into a sugar coma and slept for several hours. I hereby blame my misrepresentation on vibrating like a hyperactive gerbil.

Also, cookies!

I swear this isn’t just spontaneously a food blog. I’m sure I’ll blog about something else soon.

An old Lifehacker tip pointed me to Recipe Matcher, a site where you can type in what’s in your pantry and be directed to recipes that use those ingredients. Given my current goal, this is really freakin’ cool. And it pointed me to a ridiculously simple peanut butter cookie recipe: all you need is peanut butter, sugar, and an egg.

These are really tasty.

A few notes:

  • I took pictures. I swear I did. Apparently the sugar high from these things was so intense that it hit about fifteen minutes ahead of time, because all the pictures look like they were taken by a hyperactive vibrating gerbil.
  • The recipe doesn’t say to grease the pan, and I assumed that the oils from the peanut butter would keep the cookies from sticking. This was correct.
  • These cookies are really, really soft and crumbly, especially right when they come out. I thought I hadn’t cooked them long enough at first (I went for the low end of the cooking time), but as it turns out I nearly burned a couple of them.
  • These cookies are incredibly rich. I accidentally made myself sick on them, and it didn’t take long at all. Also my whole family is vibrating like hyperactive gerbils.

Belated Stewe Followup Post

Right! So the stewe was delicious.

It was savory, had a nice mixture of textures, and some stuff that doesn’t apply to all stews as well. The bits of zucchini squash were especially good. I almost didn’t notice the apple in there, but appreciated it when I did. There was a slight spicy aftertaste – this is not a spicy-hot dish, my wife had no issue with it, but the taste was there. I’d recommend it. I’d do it again, but given how I tend to experiment with dishes like this, I don’t think this exact stew will ever come out of my kitchen again.

Here, have a before-and-after-cooking shot of the crockpot:

Our plan had originally been to eat dinner around six or seven, or whenever depending on when we got to go look at a house, but looking at the house got postponed and we got hungry. In the end we ate about 4 PM, the stew having crocked for about 5 hours.


Current Music: Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel. This has been stuck in my head for about two and a half days now, and I think I may forfeit my life if I play it again sans headphones near my wife any time soon.

Okay, so this weeke’s stewe is actually kind of a variante.

When I was writing up supper last night, there are two things that completely slipped my mind. First, our crockpot is broken. The last time we tried to use it we checked in at the several hour mark and discovered that it was still cold — well, you know, room temperature really. Not hot, is the point. The other thing that slipped my mind was that, yesterday being Thursday, that makes today Friday, which is (1) the day Summer and I usually go over to my aunt’s house in the morning and (2) the day we’re all eating dinner at my aunt’s, what with her going on a trip tomorrow and all. As it turns out my aunt was planning a roast for dinner, but since we still don’t know exactly when today we’re going to get to look at a house we’re interested in it would be difficult to time the roast correctly.

Luckily, these problems all contain the solution to one another. My aunt and I just got done throwing a stew in the crockpot which is heavily inspired by the aforementioned Greene Beef Stew: she didn’t have any brown sugar on hand and didn’t really want to add any, nor did she have seasoning salt, but on the other hand she had some other stuff she wanted to use up before she left. The final ingredients list looks about like so:


Greene Beefe Stewe – Wade Porke Variante*

  • 1 lb boneless pork sirloin roast, cubed
  • about a dozen baby carrots, sliced (I made sure the total carrot volume was about right)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 yellow potatoes, diced
  • about a third of a really big red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced (This was probably equivalent to 2 normal cloves; we had another clove that would have brought the equivalent total up to 3, but it was moldy so we didn’t use it.)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (used to brown meat)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 3 cups beef bullion & 1 cup pork bullion
  • 1 small zuchinni squash, chopped
  • 1 red and 1 green sweet pepper, chopped
  • 1 small Red Delicious apple, cored and chopped

The stew is now sitting in the crockpot, making my aunt’s house smell really good and patiently waiting for us to end its life sometime around six or seven tonight. I have a great picture, but since the cable for my camera is at home, you’re just going to have to imagine it. Or wait, I guess. You could do that.

In the meantime, worry not, I intend to make actual Greene Beefe Stewe next week, since my aunt has been so kind as to offer me the use of her crockpot during her absence.


*I totally asked permission to do this to the stewe’s name, because it makes me giggle. It also makes me giggle that the words that actually have e’s and the names are the same. It’s entirely possible that I’m easily amused. Or short on sleep. Those look a lot alike.

Sandwich Post Imminent

Well, for some value of “sandwich post,” anyway.

Kat and I have been, as Kat puts it, “flexing our frugality musclesҸ” lately. Part of this is because we’re looking into buying a house*. Part of this is because we had several startlingly large electric bills in a row. Fuck you too, Arkansas weather.

Luckily it’s been quite nice out for a couple of weeks now, so we can just pop open the windows and the front door, set up a fan, and leave the temperature control off. Since our primary monetary drain over the past few months has been air conditioning, this means that we must turn our attention elsewhere for savings. I’m choosing the pantry, for quality of life reasons.

You see, Summer has this really adorable habit of going back and forth between my desk and the pantry, bringing one or two items over to me each trip. If I sit down for an hour or so, my desk becomes the depository of the entire bottom half of our long-term food storage. Not only does this eventually result in a very cute game in which I try to put things in the pantry faster than she can put them on my desk, it also calls my attention to just how much stuff is in the pantry that never gets used.

This in turn reminds me of a tip I’ve seen featured a couple of times: Base your meals around what’s in your pantry to save more on groceries. This seems like sound advice, but I’ve never gotten around to motivating myself to take a cursory examination of the pantry with meal plans in mind. Luckily, with Summer’s help I’m able to complete a total inventory of the bottom half several times a week – indeed, sometimes twice in one day. So, my tentative goal now is to plan out meals that use relatively little new food from the store and instead empty out the pantry before Summer does. Since I kind of want to blog more frequently than I am right now, this means that you, the reader, receive the high privilege of partaking vicariously in my culinary mistakes. You’re welcome.

With no further ado . . .


Pantry Prettification 001

“Arguably Some Sort of Southwestern Dish”

Today’s victims:

  • 1 can of whole kernel corn (~15 oz), drained
  • 1 can of stewed sliced tomatoes (~15 oz), drained
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of chives? I think? I would have measured if I’d known I’d be blogging about it at the time, but I just eyeballed it.
  • About 1/2 pound frozen boneless chicken thigh strips. See note regarding chives.
  • Shredded cheddar, to taste.
  • Something starchy, to taste. I recommend rice and/or tortillas. Potato chips would be frowned upon. Pocky is a nonstarter and, frankly, I’m disgusted anyone would actually suggest it.

Something resembling directions:

  1.  Combine everything but the cheese and the something starchy in a large skillet. Cover.
  2. Cook on about medium-high or so for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is no longer illegal to serve.
  3. At some point during this time period you should probably prep the starchy stuff.
  4. Serve the results on, in, under, or in the general vicinity of the starchy stuff. Sprinkle some cheddar on top if you want to.

Aftermath:

In this case, the starches in question were some instant rice and some tortillas. The instant rice wasn’t nearly as bad as non-instant-rice-advocates have led me to believe.


Summer skipped her morning and afternoon naps in lieu of conking out about an hour before dinner time. Here we see her temporarily awoken to enjoy the vegetables of my labors. Apparently she liked it. As, in fact, did Kat. I actually thought the end result was a bit bland, but I was expecting that anyway due to the whole not-drowning-it-in-salt thing**. Still, it was tasty. I made my wraps with rice inside and decided to add ranch dressing, and the end result was actually rather nice.


Tomorrow I cheat and don’t hardly use anything from the pantry at all, because I’ve been wanting to try the recipe for Greene Beefe Stewe. Eventually my food pictures will look as pretty as that, and my plan for world domination will be complete.


Ҹ EDIT: Kat informs me that “flexing frugality muscles” is a term she obtained from the blog Mr. Money Mustache. It’s pretty neat. You should go check it out.

*It turns that in today’s housing market, we can get a very nice three-bedroom house with a yard in town and pay about $100 less on the mortgage (including taxes and insurance) than we’re paying in rent on our 2-bedroom apartment with a crappy deck that the apartment management keeps promising to fix before I fall through it again. Given that “get a house” is one of our major long-term goals and I’d kind of like Summer to have a yard to run around in before she grows up, this seems like something of a no-brainer.

**I’ve been trying to do things to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure. A couple of years ago Kat and I had to get blood tests done when we applied for life insurance, and my results arrived with a complementary exorcist. I didn’t get the preferred rate.

Heinlein and McKinley

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, which feels nice. Reading is something that often falls by the wayside when I’m doing a lot; being a full-time housespouse with a two-year-old and writing a novel manages to keep me pretty busy. I should say that reading books tends to fall by the wayside – I’m always up to date on my webcomics, and I sample a lot of blogs. Usually I spend some of my free time playing various games, but that’s been pretty thoroughly squashed by books lately.

Since setting my reading goal for 2012, I’ve read Fahrenheit 451, Stranger in a Strange Land, Ender’s Game, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy clean through. I also finished Wuthering Heights and the Tao Te Ching (the edition translated by Ursula K. Le Guin). The latter two aren’t on my list, but I was reading them at the time. I’ve already come to realize that I’m not going to be able to stick to the list for a whole year – I don’t want to wait that long to read Mansfield Park, and I’ve been meaning to reread the Harry Potter series . . . my reading habits are just too spontaneous. Earlier today I started reading the Wheel of Time series again, then accidentally stopped by the library and picked up Starship Troopers and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. I’m probably a third of the way through the latter and should really be going to bed right now, but I’m in a talkative mood.

I finished Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land a couple of days ago, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to say about it ever since. I feel like I have to say something. Luckily, I went back and read Jo Walton’s review of it on Tor.com*, and she pretty much nailed it. In short: Fantastic premise, problematic treatment of female characters, homophobia that may or may not only be on the part of the characters. On a more personal note, polyamory doesn’t bug me, but organized religion wigs me right out. Nothing personal – it just makes me uncomfortable. I’m glad to read that his other works are less problematic; I hope to read quite a few more of them, and I want them to be better than this. It’s a good book, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I picked up Sunshine today for basically two reasons: it’s on the list, so I’ve gotta read it some time in the next 14 months; and the only thing I really knew about it is that it’s vampire fiction. And generally speaking, I really like vampire fiction: when I was younger I read a lot of Anne Rice and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. I even liked the Twilight books alright pretty much until I started encountering the fandom at large, though I do have my issues with . . . well, pretty much all of the characters. I remember liking Alice, though not why. It’s been a few years. I’ve lost a lot of sleep since then. Moving on.

The salient point is, I started reading Sunshine today, and it’s fantastic. Granted I’m only a third of the way in, but I pretty much love everything about this book. I think part of this is a reaction to the two new books I’ve most recently read, Fahrenheit 451 and Stranger in a Strange Land- both of them are very much concept books, without much in the way of relatable characters. Sunshine has a bit of concept – the setting is a very interesting take on urban fantasy, so far – but the characters are truly fantastic. And now that I think about it, so’s the plot; it’s covering a lot of ground and keeping the story on high without really being noticeable, which is pretty much the best kind of plot.

Right. I feel like I had more to say when I sat down, but I suspect that I’m rapidly ceasing to make sense. In my defense, I got stuck reading a good book and now it’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m not used to being up at 1:30 any more. I go to sleep at nine in the evening. Pity me and stuff.


*I’m one of those people who enjoys reading reviews, but only after I’ve experienced the work being reviewed. My starred items list in Google Reader is full of Tor.com reviews of books I’m going to read some day.

A Relatively Calm Morning

I apologize if the resized images kill anyone. WordPress is being stupid and I’m tired of fighting it today.


Hi, Summer! Whatcha reading?


Oh.


Oh God.

The funny thing is, I actually took it from her and put it back on the shelf once. She really wanted to ‘read’ this particular book. She sat there with it for about ten minutes, saying “E I M” over and over and occasionally turning a page one direction or another.