Plated Week 2

This week’s recipes were OK. There were parts of each dish that were hits and misses.

Roasted Shiitake Bibimap w/ Sweet Potato and Pickled Cucumbers
This was a big one, for me at least. I don’t like mushrooms. I never have. I am incredibly good at detecting mushrooms in food. I can tell if you used cream of mushroom soup in a recipe, with those tiny tiny tiny mushroom spec of yuck.
Choosing a dish that had mushrooms as a main ingredient was a BIG DEAL. I was prepared to eat them and even if I did not like them, because part of using trying plated is expanding our culinary borders, and while I am never going to try a fish dish from them, I figured I could give non-white-button-mushrooms a shot.
We liked the dish. The mushrooms and sweet potatoes in the hoisin-like sauce were pretty good, and the rice vinegar pickled cucumbers were great. My egg frying skills are decent as well so that was fine. The rice was a bit bland. And so very starchy. I had to rinse the rice after cooking as well due to the amount of starch gunking it up, which of course meant the beef boullion cube I put in the water with the rice was basically useless. I had some scallions on hand, so I diced those up and stuck them in some rice vinegar also and we put that in the rice to help it out. Everything but the spinach was pretty good. Shmoo found the spinach to be very blah, and I thought it was on the bland side and just ok, and I had added some sesame seeds to mine to help it out a bit. (There was more oil than I needed so I cooked it in Sesame oil provided as well instead of just olive oil so there wouuld be more flavor but it just wasn’t very flavorful. Bland bland bland.)

Steak au Poivre w/ Crispy Fingerling Potatoes
This was good. Sort of. Again, hits and misses. Shmoo really loved the way the potatos were done. I thought they were tasty as well, but my favorite was the sauce for the steak, even though the dijon mustard that was supposed to come with that recipe was missing. I just stuck some normal mustard in there and made do, but it did bring up an issue I’ll mention down below. The spinach was, again, super bland. I had hopes that it would be better and that maybe it was just what it was paired with on the first dish, but nope, it was still very meh.

So, the thing I have now experieced is an ingredient being left out. This can be problematic.

Even if you have the proper ingredients on hand (as I would have if they had left out a bibimbap ingredient) you don’t really know how much is the correct amount because the recipes don’t give you amounts. You have the ingredients from the dinner kit pre-measured, so if you are trying to replace one or duplicate a recipe, it’s basically your knowledge and guesstimate from when you did make it, or a random guess based on the instructions.

Additionally, you may not have the correct ingredient on hand. We did not have dijon mustard. We have spicy tabasco mustard, and I have mustard I can mix up with mustard powder. Neither of which are dijon. No, I cannot pardon you because I do not have any Gray Poupon, etc. That being said, we did just fine.

Sunday night’s dinner was taking the good parts of the plated dishes this week that we liked and doing them our own way. Or my own way since I am the cook! We did beef tips in a sauce that was a riff off of the poivre sauce, and I did some non-fingerling potatos with that same method. I also pickled some cucumber in rice vinegar for our salad. Overall, it was a great dinner, and I liked trying the different takes on food we’d normally cook.

Plated, & Plated Week 1

So, shmoo and I have started doing Plated as of last week. We are also in a group imessage chat that’s basically being treated like an IRC conversation amongst the group, and it’s been going on for about a year now.

When we mentioned doing Plated in that chat, there were a lot of questions there, and generally everyone that hears about it has questions and hey, so did we, so I decided it would be good blog post fodder since I’m not really a speedy knitter/spinner/crafter person as of late.

First, why we chose Plated over other services out there:

    1. We liked their plan options better. You can sub 2 to 5 meals a week. The other contender only had 3 as the lowest option. We are doing 2 (except for the first week, which was 3) meals a week. You can also pause your subscription with no penalties, which I don’t believe you can with some of the others. This is a great thing for when you are going out off town or whatever, or have holidays or people coming into town, etc.

    2. We knew someone using the service already who liked it. One of shmoo’s co-workers uses the service and has for a while. She gave us the starter coupon so we could try it at no cost.

    3. I have food allergies, and they (Plated, not my allergies) list each of the ingredients clearly for their meals, and the environments where the food is produced/gathered/packed?? so that if I have food concerns I can address them ahead of time or just choose something else.

    4. We liked their different recipe options the most out of the services we looked at.

Other things of note, but not necessarily factors on trying a dinner service, just things we’ve noted this first week:

    1. I already know how to cook. This is not a problem for our household. But I get tired of trying to think of new things and we like ethnic foods quite a bit.
    There’s something very pleasing about the idea getting to try a new recipe or technique I haven’t done before or cook something in a new way without having to research it and gather all the little bits and bobs together to make it and it keeps me from being bored or burnt out cooking dinner every night.

    2. Portion control. Part of the problem with cooking at home is portion sizes. I don’t weigh things when I cook, and I don’t want to. And generally I cook a large enough amount to last a night or two, and maybe some lunches. But that means we don’t always eat an appropriate amount. For me, this is a way to learn more appropriate portion sizes by working with them regulary and seeing the outcome of those smaller portions, i.e. we aren’t hungry, there aren’t tons of leftovers to deal with, we aren’t eating more than we should.

    3. The App is quite nice and possibly better than the website for choosing what you want for the week.

Now the part you’re probably more interested in. What we ate and what we thought about it.

Week 1 Recipes:

Cheesy Black Bean Burritos w/ Pico & Guac

Thoughts:
This was good, I would make it again with a few minor tweaks. We were suprised about how much we liked it, especially since it was meatless. While I don’t mind not having meat in a meal, shmoo totally does, but it wasn’t an issue for this one. I did have an issue with the instructions on the amount of diced red onion. It has you dice the onion and “divide” but doesn’t give you any guidance on how it should be divided. Halvsies? Quarters? Should there be some left over when it’s all over? What? It was’t like it was a huge onion or anything, and my dice wasn’t large, so a little confused about them then saying how many tablespoons to use of the divided onion in each side dish didn’t really address that I had divided the onion, nor use all the onion. I just threw it all in the dishes one way or another and ignored the tablespoon directions, and it was fine, but it irked me. We did throw a handful of corn chips each onto our plates to eat all the guac and pico that went with the burrito, because there was no way we were just going to eat that straight.

Seared Steak w/ Italian Street Corn & Basil Pistou

Thoughts:
This was good. I would make it again, likely with several tweaks. I thought the portions were going to be an issue, but they weren’t. I thought there wasn’t enough red wine vinegar for the Pistou, but there was. I thought the recipe used too much olive oil for no good reason. It had you cook the steaks, then remove them and wipe the pan. Why woud you wipe all the steak goodness from the pan? That’s just wrong. So I didn’t. But that meant I didn’t need as much olive oil as it called for to cook the corn either. And there was mayonaise for the street corn dish. And it was this fancy stuff. Ugh. No. It did not please me to use it, but I did. I think it would have been better using my standard plain-doesn’t-really-have-a-flavor mayonaise instead. To be fair, my family has used Duke’s mayonaise for 4 generations now, so it’s pretty ingrained, and over all al small thing.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Thoughts:
This was OK. This was the first dish we didn’t eat all of. I could see it being really good with a few minor changes however, and will likely try to make it again with those changes. I think adding some chicken, more peanutbutter for thicker sauce, subbing regular coconut milk for the lite stuff, and chicken stock for the veggie stock would be a big improvement. I’d like to see a little more heat spice-wise as well. I think adding in some lentils or chick peas would be nice, and I’d like to add some cumin (not ground) to the rice to go with that cilantro and give it a more peppery scent over all. It wasn’t a bad dish, and we liked the flavors in it, I just think it could come together and be an amazing yet pretty easy dish to create with these minor tweaks.

Overall thoughts on first week:
We liked it enough to keep doing it.
These dishes use more fresh herbs that I am used to and I think I like it.
The only ingredients needed/not provided so far have been salt, pepper, and olive oil. I approve of this, though I did put steak seasoning on the steak and things like that. I have a cabinet full of really nice seasonings and spices and I am going to use them when appropriate.

Next week:
Roasted Shiitake Bibimap w/ Sweet Potato and Pickled Cucumbers (we’ll need to supply 2 eggs for this one)
Steak au Poivre w/ Crispy Fingerling Potatoes

Fuzzy Lightning

Bolting is finished! It only took 18 months and 4 days to do it. That’s not to say I was knitting that whole time. I wasn’t. For instance, I started the cast off back in September, and was just under halfway through it, and it sat there for months because I hated that fuzzy shit I was using for the edging. Don’t get me wrong, I like how it looks, I just didn’t want to knit with it. At. All.

Most of the details on it can be found on Ravelry as usual. Specifically, here. And now I am onto other things. I’ve had a sock started in waiting I’ve got to work on, a mistake ribbed cowl cast on for simple mindless knitting, I want to cast on a double knit hat, and mug cozy. I’ll be impressed if I managed to get all 4 of these things done by this time next year, but we’ll see.

Happy Holidays and what have you!

Jeep Update, Summer 2016

jeepfront2016

This year’s summer jeep update took a bit longer to get to than last year, for a number of reasons.

We went camping on Memorial Day weekend this year and the hard top stayed on for that. Then the leftovers from tropical storm Bonnie (that hit while we were camping in the Outer Banks) made it rain for another week and a half straight, so it was mid June before the hard top came off.

Then, there was some bimini top drama. I had ordered a new safari style bimini top for this year because I wanted more shade in the back of the jeep, and better protection from rain blowback because I always keep the windjammer at least halfway down. (For those who don’t know but want to, the bimini is the roof panel, made of cloth. It’s only the roof and nothing but the roof. The windjammer is the “rear window” like panel.)

I spent the extra money to get the nicer Besttop Bimini top, and then it was on backorder, and then it got here, but it didn’t fit the jeep quite right and I didn’t understand why. I had read up on the top, I know I got the right version, etc. etc. (Jeep Wranglers are like Lego for adults. Just as pricey, and certain sets don’t work with other sets.) It turns out, what they don’t tell you is that they designed this for soft-top users, and soft tops have a door surround. And this fancier top hooks into the door surround. You don’t have to have the door surround, but if you don’t, it allows all the water ever right into the jeep. So I went back to my old bimini top (that only covered the front seat) while we figured out what we wanted to do. I had to decide whether to sink more money into the surrounds and knobs for this top, or if I just wanted to send it back and get the cheaper Quadratop safari bimini that would be like my current 2 seater one, but longer.

jeeprear2016

After some discussion, shmoo convinced me I wanted the door surrounds. He really liked the way the Besttop fit into the channels of the door surrounds and felt like that would be better water protection. It was a hard sell for him. I resisted for several weeks. I figure if you are going to take the top off, you’re going to have to deal with some water problems, that’s just part of owning a jeep and making choices like having no top. But I also like having a dry ass when I arrive at work, so he managed to talk me around.

While waiting on the surrounds to arrive, we also did some spot painting on the jeep’s rack where it had rusted. We scraped, rust-primed, and then painted the spots that needed it and finally, Finally, FINALLY took off that wooden valence. Upon removal, I promptly notified Bruce it had been removed. :)

nomorewood

The jeep has also had some other work done on it since last summer as well. New bumpers with a wench. New wheels & tires. The old rusty rock rails removed and new side steps put on, and it’s been lifted, so it’s SUPER TALL now as well. I’ll be honest, I could do without the super-tallness, but it was required for the wheels I wanted, which remind me of daisies, but in a subtle way.

I’m very happy with it now (not that I was unhappy…). I still don’t have the spray on bedliner, but there’s always next year.

Climb – Jane Richmond

Holy shit I actually finished a knit! Two if you count them as individuals.

After a long ban from homemade socks, shmoo managed to wheedle himself back into my good graces when I said I was knitting socks because I wanted a small project for our traveling, and my current shawl I’ve been working on for the past year is just too damn big to be drug around everywhere now easily.

So, he got socks.
If you are intersted in more than the photos, the Ravelry link is here:
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/soapturtle/climb

If you just want to see them, then I got you covered.

sockscolor

socksdone

Game Review: The Long Dark

Shmoo and I play a game called The Long Dark by Hinterland Studio Inc.
It’s still in beta on Steam, and is multi-platform.

Shmoo bought the game for me a few months after he got it, because I used to constantly yell at him while he played that he was going to die because he wasn’t taking care of himself properly and it stressed me out. Mostly, he just wanted me to stop yelling at him.

Basically, as an online friend said when asking us about the game…”so it’s an eaten by a wolf sim?” Yes. Yes it is.

Funny things we’ve learned about Canada and survival:

Canadian flags are impervious to weather, wind, and geomagnetic disaster, also, they are always flapping perfectly in the wind, even if there is no wind. I am not even sure a nuclear blast could take out a Canadian flag.

Canadians drink a lot of soda. A lot. Summit Soda. Stacy’s Grape Soda. Orange Soda. It’s all soda, all the time!

You can’t freeze your food outside to preserve it, even though everything outside is frozen or on the way to becoming frozen. Because reasons.

You can’t take a car hood/trunk and make a sled out of it to tote all your heavy shit around. Also because reasons.

Standing beside a fire in your warm clothes doesn’t cause hyperthermia, even when the “feels like” temp gets up to 130(F) and you’ve been standing beside it for several hours.

Cooking 85 lbs of bear meat in a fishing hut during a blizzard is totally normal, as is shooting a bear twice, having it maul you almost to the point of death, and then finding it freshly dead on the road the next day after you’ve recovered some.

While I’ve always been of the (admittedly biased) opinion everyone in Canada knits, there’s actually not one fucking knitting related item in TLD. Items appear to be knit graphically, but then you repair them with cloth, so that’s just not so.

Actual game tips:

Start on Pilgrim, unlock all the zones. Get a feel for the basics of the game.

Condensed milk is your friend. high calories, long shelf life, low weight for what it offers.

Never pass up a cat tail. You can eat them, and use them to start fires. They are super light weight.

Birds mean dead bodies. Dead bodies mean you should go check for loot. Also did you know you can store shit on a corpse? It’s apparently a container.

Food poisoning won’t kill you, it just makes you weak (assuming you are at 100%). You don’t even have to medicate it, just go sleep it off. (Also, you sometimes get Food Poisoning from food you don’t expect to give it to you.)

It’s best to shoot a wolf just after he’s taken down/eating a deer, and then you get the skin/meat/gut from both. Doing it this way saves ammo and it’s easier to aim.

The best set of maps we’ve found:
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=530202531

Things we’d like to see added:

An auto-run button. My dog sleeps on my desk while I play. Our cat sleeps on my husband’s side. Sometimes it’d be nice to be able to allow my hands to rest and perhaps move an animal while I was walking straight in the game.

A sled/contraption for moving a lot of gear from zone to zone. You don’t necessarily want to stay where you start out.

Trash cans or the ability to trash things/clean up things like random trash in the floor etc, because seriously, it bothers me. (I won’t even begin to start on the dead bodies that just stay in the buildings with you, cause you know, breathing in decay isn’t bad for you. Nope nope nope!)

Also the ability upgrade/change items (like the bed) by pulling mats/blankets from other places (housing groups, cabins, etc).

Beer! (This is shmoo’s suggestion.)

Final thoughts:

It’s a beautiful game. The graphics are lovely and often you just find yourself stopping a moment to enjoy them.

I know the point of the game isn’t to become another Minecraft and that’s not the end goal of the game designers, but really, if my survival is on the line, I’m going to use all the skills I have to keep myself going, and I feel like currently a lot of those basic common sense skills are too limited.

That being said, we both have a lot of hours /played on this one, and it’s been well worth what we’ve spent on it, and it’s not even done yet. The final version is supposed to have a story mode that explains what’s gone wrong in this region of Canada and why you are stuck there surviving. I know we are both looking forward to that being complete.

Not an inch.

So I didn’t spin a damn thing for Tour de France/Fleece.

I knit instead. And I almost managed knitting every day for a while. But then I stopped and have only randomly picked it up here and there.
I am working on Stephen West’s Bolting.

It’s been to several baseball games this summer and overall is pretty good travel knitting. It doesn’t really take a lot of attention and I can knit it without looking at it or the pattern when watching the games, but it does take just enough to not be a total snooze.

The only other crafty thing of interest is that shmoo got me a fancy ball winder for our anniversary. (It’s a month early, but his gift is also, so it works out!) I love it. It’s awesome and a huge improvement over the Michael’s $14.00 w/ coupon winder I was using. I am not resisting the urge to wind everything I own. :)

I thought I had other stuff to post about but I keep forgetting it so nothing is getting posted. Maybe I should make a point to post when I am thinking about something instead of doing it later and thinking I’ll remember do actually do it.

Online Sheep and Wool.

This year MSW hit the same time it always does… the first full weekend in May.
The problem with that of course, was I was still pretty tired from the tonsil surgery, and we had Senators/Baysox games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and I knew I would not be up to all 3 games and MSW.

So instead I had a mini woolfest of my own online! It took several weeks to get all the items in as some were on back order, and now I can’t be bothered to take photos of them because I put them away as I got them, but I’m still going to list and link them here for you to pursue if interested.

First I picked up the pattern and a yarn kit for The Joker and the Thief Shawl. I got color option #3, Bloom.

I also picked up 3 skeins of Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Stovepipe and Rozetti Wicked Fur Yarn in #104 Zebra from Paradise Fibers, which is now in the process of becoming a Bolting, the pattern for which I bought a few years ago and just never made. This particular yarn combo was inspired by this version I found on Ravelry.

I stumbled across bone dpns as well on the Fringe Supply Co. website and ordered a pair of US size 4s along with a Etta-Billie Skin Balm in Bergamot-Ginger.

And no MSW would be complete with out some sort of purchase from Signature Needle Arts. Since I wasn’t going to be there to find them in the main barn, I found them online and picked up a pair if US 5 dpns.

And that is the sum total of my Online Sheep and Wool fest. :)
Tomorrow Tour de Fleece is starting up, and I am still undecided on how much I am going to participate, but I am least going to try and get in an hour or so for the first day. After that, no promises!

Topless, The Official Welcome of Summer

I know the calender disagrees, but we officially consider it summer once the top comes off the jeep.

I have hard top and I didn’t start taking it off until last summer, which was the first summer we had a garage. Last year it was difficult, took forever, made us cranky and sun-burnt, and took several days. This year it was easy. I did everything we did last year in less than 3 hours, and that includes cleaning it all before putting it on, and then cleaning out the inside of the jeep. Some of that was just having done it before and knowing how to do it now without having to read pages of instructions, and some of that was just better prep and wiser decisions.

It’s relatively easy and affordable (in jeep terms, because after-market stuff is pricey) to get your jeep to look this way, so I am listing everything I’ve put on it/done to it here. Basically, everything we’ve done is available on quadratec.com, and that’s where we’ve gotten it all from, but it’s been over a period of years, not all at once.

Bimini, Windstopper, and Bed Cover set:
If I had this to do over again, I’d pay the extra twenty bucks for the Bimini Plus top, and it’s possible that in the future I’d buy the plus top alone, but this is a great set. When I originally priced this out not long after getting the jeep several years ago, it came up to around 600 bucks, and this “QuadraPac” is $230.00 and includes all the little geegaws and windshield and tailgate channel crap you need because you don’t have it if you have a hard top.

SunScreen:
Even when I take the bimini off, I like a little shelter from the sun. We are pale people who work inside with computers and sometimes extended trips in the sun can hurt you if you forget sunscreen. The jeep might be moving, but it’s like you’re sitting still in the sun.
I have layered this sunscreen under the bimini top so it’s already in place if I take the bimini off. All I have to do is fast the side wraps and snap the two out front snaps and I am good to go.

The Rack:
We got this rack used from a friend who had a 3rd kid and traded their 2 door in for a 4 door. As much as I like having a rack and I like this one in particular, I think it’s insanely priced and it wasn’t super easy to install.
The friend we got it from is the source of the wood on it also, because his wrangler was a soft top and said the wind noise was an issue, but the wind deflector for these garvin wilderness racks doesn’t come with the super expensive rack and it also is rather pricey for what it is.
He did however spend the money on the hi-lift jack mount for the rack (also stupid high for what is two brackets and some bolts):

Hi-Lift Jack:
Because you want to be able to change a tire if you need to and wranglers are pretty tall for normal jacks.
And the handle keeper helps keep vibrations and rattling down once it’s mounted.

A hardtop and door storage rack:
Seriously, it’s pricey, and shmoo said the assembly was a bit of a bitch, but it’s so worth it because you don’t end up shoving your top and doors around the garage and constantly fighting with them when they are in the way. This was easy to put the hard top onto, it holds the freedom panels and the doors securely so they don’t bump and rub each other, and the two rolling racks are designed to slide together to take of less foot-print. The only real problem I have with this rack is that it didn’t come with the cover it’s pictured with, and that’s another $165.00 if I decide to get it. But, when I ordered this back in early March, Quadratec did throw in some quick release mirrors with it, which work better than the old cheapie “I took the doors off and just need mirrors to be legal” mirrors, and they fit over the rack side mounts, which was a concern.

Future plans? Oh yes, I have them!

I need a tire cover, and I’ll probably crack and just order one that I am OK with, since the one I feel in love with is someone else’s custom wheel cover and I am not sure I could get our cat to co-operate.

Larger plans include having the carpet ripped out and spray-on bed-liner put in, so that when the rains happen, it’s just not a big deal and any water that gets in the jeep will just roll right on out the drain holes and there won’t be stinky carpet afterwards. It’s ideal having this done in the summer after I’ve already taken off ALL THE THINGS so I don’t have to pay someone else to remove/put back ALL THE THINGS.
I’ll pull off my soft-top stuff and remove my E-kit and tools before we take it to the bedliner place, and then all they should have to do is remove the seats and rip out the carpet before tackling doing the liner, which will save me some money.

After that I feel like I’ll be done until next year, when I’ll try to convince myself that I NEED this cargo netting somehow.