Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dinner is HARD! But I love it so....

One of our resolutions last year was to eat better so we decided to cook more and rely less on eating out and "instant meal" solutions like frozen dinners, etc... As a result of that decision and Jess' dairy allergy that's also meant some extra time spent planning ahead by making a menu for the week and doing a large grocery trip for ingredients. If we don't plan and stage ahead of time we end up in the nightly cycle of trying to decide on dinner and shop while hungry. That's never a good place to be:
"What do you want for dinner?"
"I dunno. Food."
"What kind of food?"
"Food type food...."
"Food type food flavored food?"
"For the love of God and all that is holy: Please use a damn noun?"
"Healthy, delicious, wholesome and nutritious food-type food flavored food!"
Things don't get better from there.

Planning a week's worth of food and then shopping for it takes a lot of time and energy on a Sunday (about half a day all told) but I think it's very much worth it. We get to eat some wonderful tasty food that's not horrible for us and we've been trying to add at least one new thing each week so there's a tad of excitement too. We also get to talk about our weekly schedules as part of figuring out how much cooking time we'll have in the week and setup a general plan for (both food and non-food related). Good food and togetherness it's pretty darn good to me.

The weeks that we do this we generally are also more prepared and can help each other out with life stuff in addition to having some time to cook in the evening. It also means that the majority of the things I buy at the store tend to be fresh ingredients: veggies, fruits, meat, etc.. which always makes me happy. This also has the side benefit of freaking people at at the store; a few times I've had people comment on my fresh/pre-prep ratio. Counterculture though nutrition? Sure, I'll take it!

I know it seems hard sometimes to make the time to plan a menu, do the shopping, and then cook but I highly recommend it. It's rewarding on a number of levels and a time saver too. Maybe lots of people do this and I'm just crazy? Judging by the other people at the store, possibly. Then again, At the Kinko's today there was a man trying to buy some boxes and was really kind of angry that there wasn't someone there to help him the moment he walked in the door so perhaps I'm not the best judge.

This weeks' menu:
  • Sunday: Stuffed Peppers (modified Joy of Cooking recipe -- more tomato and lemon)
  • Monday: Leftover Stuffed Peppers (tight schedule for Monday, so leftovers rock)
  • Tuesday: Mushroom Barley Soup (How to Cook Everything -- prep time is a tad long, but doable and hearty enough to make it worthwhile)
  • Wednesday: Catfish Poached in Ginger Sauce (How to Cook Everything -- new for us, but is super easy and sounds tasy.. serving with udon noodles and fresh scallions)
  • Thursday: Roman Chicken (we made this once before, flavor was good but we kind of screwed up the execution, redemption time for this one)
  • Friday: Unknown... We may go out, or we may have a craving for something, we generally leave one day a week as undecided in case we need to punt for a pizza.
If you haven't noticed, I recently picked up an older copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman which is a wonderful fabulous terrific awesome book that's full of win. Get it. Read it. Cook it. I love Joy of Cooking because it really is the de-facto reference for the home cook and when I have a oddball question like "How do you field dress a rabbit?" it's the thing I turn to first. But How to Cook Everything really edits cooking from something that seems daunting to something that seems natural. It's the mid-70's S0Ho to Joy's Upper West Side on The Park.

Also, I seem to be missing New York tonight. Not sure what that's about. Probably Luis Villa's dent about lunching at Union Square Cafe a while back. Rat bastid.

Lastly: WTF does Corn Syrup now have a lobbyist group and friggin' commercials on TV now?

Long time, No Post

Random Braindump because I haven't posted in a while.

The new job is doing well so far but still learning workflow and systems. I'm the on-call at the moment which has proved highly interesting. I am enjoying things so far and as an added bonus it's raised my interest level in actually participating in FOSS again.

Made baked eggs to go with corned beef hash last weekend. I overcooked the eggs a tad but they were still tasty as well as easy. I have no idea why I haven't done this before. I'm going to try to work that into menu again this week, or possibly upgrade to huevos rancheros.

Made Chile Verde again on Friday too. Still damn tasty.

Work has given me a Dell Dimension E6400c. It's very nice looking. Linux doesn't work on it well due to hardware newness. I'm running F10 on it now and the i915 and ALPS drivers cause major pain (OOPSes, video IRQ gets disabled, random noise in the input stream for the trackpad generates clicks and repositions the pointer). I'm hoping to punt back to CentOS 5.3 when it comes out which should work but have less "features" -- 5.2 didn't have any knowledge about the ICH8 chipset in this thing so no wired or wireless networking.

I also got roped into giving a presentation on SELinux at the Milwaukee LUG meeting in February. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by!

I've been using First Gen Intel Core Duo 20" iMac with Elgato EyeTV as the primary TV lately so I can watch a few channels in HD. It's been a 50/50 experience so far. I like having HD, I like some of the timeshifting features, and I like the program guide. It's a much more pleasant experience than Time Warner's Mystro cable box which has a painfully slow program guide, takes 5 minutes to boot, and crashes weekly. How they can make something without a hard drive take 5 minutes to boot is truly beyond me.

On the downside, the Elgato doesn't have twin tuners, so you can only watch/record one thing at a time and there's a enough of a delay that it makes using the Wii very hard. Also, the provided remote sucks and on-screen controls when using the Apple Remote (which Jess has dubbed "The Tic-Tac") are a tad clunky.

All in all it's made me just hate television providers even more. All I want is about 30-odd ClearQAM channels in unencrypted form and I'm willing to pay for the service, why is that so hard for cable companies to provide?

I'm still waiting for the HD TV market to settle down a bit. There's a glut of cheapo 720p displays out there but 1080p displays are starting to become more prevalent and similar at the feature base. My back-of-the-envelope trending makes me think sometime this summer will be the time to buy. Then I can re-evaluate the media situation again.

Loving 24 so far, waiting for Heroes to return. Somehow I missed out on BSG, which makes me think I need to Netflix the whole thing.

  • TabKit is a wonderful, wonderful thing. If you use a lot of tabs in Firefox: get this now.
  • upgraded to Laconia 0.7 this week. It's got some bugs but overall is very nice (groups, Twitter OMB integration, and a new look).
  • Super happy to have a smart president again.
  • Craving Nutty Bars, can't have them thanks to the poison peanut pandemic.
  • I derive an unhealthy amount of pleasure from Passive Aggressive Notes
  • Milwaukee is cold in the winter. I knew it would be, but damn, I can't wait for spring.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chile Verde FTW!

Of late I have been craving Chile Verde. It's one of the few things I really was missing about living in Oklahoma. I've never made it before, but today I decided to bite the bullet and make some. Pork, Tomatillo, Peppers, Yum.

I suspect there's a few places in Milwaukee to get good Chile Verde, but hey, I was in a mood. Also, Jess generally doesn't like Mexican food. Probably because she falls in the intersection of "dairy allergic" and "thinks cilantro tastes like soap" which makes most stops at Mexican restaurants a less than pleasant experience. Since I can swap out the cilantro for Flat Leaf Parsley when I make it I figured this might be a way to have my cake, eat it too, and learn something new.

Mmmmmmm...... Cake. But I digress.

The recipe I followed was from Hot Sauce Blog and it was really good. I found a few others but almost all of them involved a pork shoulder and took a few hours which I didn't have -- this one took about an hour and a half or so including prep. In retrospect using a pork shoulder probably would have been better in terms of the texture of the meat, so maybe next time I'll find a slow cooker method. Regardless it was really good.

I did make some variations to the recipe to note:
  • Dialed down the Jalapeño from 4 to two. Next time, two Jalapeño and two Serrano peppers.
  • As mentioned, swapped the cilantro for flat leaf parsley.
  • Served with rice and tortillas. The rice helped thicken the sauce a bit without needing to pick up a big thing of Masa flour.
  • Added some oil when browning the meat.
  • Added salt and pepper at various steps of cooking (meat, onions, at simmer)
  • The pork tenderloin I got was nearly free of fat, so instead of draining the juices from the resting pork I added it back to the pot. All flavor, all good.
  • Since the meat was both lean and the sauce was thin, maybe next time I'll quickly dredge the meat though some flower before browning so it'll thicken during cooking and have a better chance of browning without overcooking the meat.
  • When the onions were done and it was time to add everything together, I added half a cup of the chicken broth to the onions first to deglaze the pot. Since I don't have a food processor and was using a blender, I used a cup of the broth to rinse out the blender to get all the peppery goodness poured into the pot.
  • Omitted the Jalapeño powder because I'm trying to save a buck and didn't want to spend money on it. Also, I'm a tad chicken when it comes to super spicy food.
  • Served with a squeeze of lime juice.
The result was fantastic. We were were planning on having the leftovers for dinner tomorrow but Jess is now thinking lunch instead because she "doesn't want to wait a whole 24 hours for more."

Cake, Ice Cream, and a Pony.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

National "Clean Up Your Computer" Month!

Random Linkdump: The League of Professional System Administrators has fine idea: make January National Clean Up Your Computer Month.

I'm a big fan, if only because for me I tend to stash data in random places throughout the year. Making January the time to catalog, clean, purge and back up everything seems like a smart thing to do, along with changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, seasoning the cast iron skillet and making lists of things you'll never do but will depress you anyway new year resolutions.