Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stew

I always feel a little bit like a hippie and a little bit like I've stepped into the past (sometimes it's almost medieval and sometimes it's anywhere pre-1980) when I make stew.  It's the using of fresh raw vegetables, peeling them and dumping the skins in the compost pile, I'm sure.  It's one of my favorite foods, and so easy to make, it's silly to consider it a 'recipe', but here goes (;

Ingredients

2 packages of stew meat beef (you know, where they've already cut it for you)
2 small onions, peeled and large diced
half a dozen carrots, peeled and large diced
a bunch of celery (believe it or not, but that's actually what you call it!) large diced
roughly a dozen potatoes (depending on size), peeled and large diced.
a large sploosh of vegetable oil
fresh minced garlic to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Get out your big stew pot and put the meat, onions and garlic in it.  Turn on medium high heat, and add the vegetable oil-- enough to make it easier to brown the meat.  Then season with salt and pepper.  Periodically stir the meat to help brown it.  While it was browning, I peeled the rest of the vegetables.  After the meat is evenly browned and the onions are starting to go clear, turn the heat off.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir so they're distributed evenly in the pot.  Then add enough water to cover everything, put the lid on the pot and turn the stove on the high.  When it starts to boil, turn it down to low and let it cook for a minimum of 3 hours.  It's ready to serve then, but you can continue cooking it for up to another 3 hours if you want to.


Serve and enjoy (:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hello, my name is Janin and I have an addiction

Okay, I actually have two, but they're related in two ways:  They're both games on facebook, and both from PopCap:  Zuma Blitz and Bejeweled Blitz.

I've been playing Bejeweled Blitz since 2009.  I even have an art related video to share about it in just a moment.  When I took Time and Space in Fall 2009, one of the projects was to make a video from pictures of something that happens in 60 seconds or something that you do every day.  For me, Bejeweled Blitz actually fit both of those requirements.  So here's the video I made for class:



I was quite proud of my score at the time: 358, 900.  It was my highest.  I was proud of the video as well...but I didn't realize there are programs out there that let you just record your screen while playing a game, so I got a deserved B on the project.

Here's my latest screen for Bejeweled Blitz:






Easily twice my score from 2 years ago, though Bejeweled Blitz has undergone a lot of changes since then that make it easier to play.  What it isn't showing is that I have 1,784,300 coins to buy special powers.  The first time I saved up coins to a million, I wanted to know if the game would let me do it.  Obviously, it did.  The second, I did it because there's an option listed for 'share coins'.  I didn't realize until after I attempted to share them that you don't actually get to use coins that you've earned, but that they want you to spend real world money on game coins-- and that's not something that I'm willing to do, no matter how much I like my friends.

My husband Mark constantly teases me about this game because he doesn't see the point in playing it.  For me, it's a combination of things: 1.  Trying to beat my friends for first position ((:  2.  Trying to beat my own score.  (I'm still trying to reach 1,000,000.  It hasn't happened yet, but I'm getting closer.)  And 3. Trying to make matches as quickly as I can.

Earlier this year, PopCap released Zuma Blitz.  It's right up my alley because it's a combination of speed and matching-- with the added bonus of adding additional time if you play it right.  It's -much- easier to reach a million.  But it only has 80 levels.  Once I'd completed all 80, I wasn't as interested in playing it.  But recently, they added an option that allows you to start back over and work your way back up to 80.  It gives you a special blue box around your picture.  And today, I reached level 80 again.


Still have the joy of competing for first spot and still get to do the major wracking up of 'mojo' that isn't being used.

The only thing that I haven't mentioned about my addictions is that periodically (when I get bored with them or when real life gets busy) I completely give them up for months at a time.

I can tell I'm coming up on another break.  I suspect I'll reach both reasons within the next week or so.

...I can already tell my game friends are getting ready to celebrate (lol)  (;

UPDATE!!:  Not half an hour after posting this, (with the help of special boosts), I broke a million on Bejeweled Blitz!!

(Now I'm thinking I should have blogged about this ages ago (;  )

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Infomercials and commercials

So recently, Mark and I were watching television and a commercial came on for the new Harry Potter Wizard's Chess set.



It says you get the first 2 pieces for $20, with free shipping.  Then each 2 pieces after are $15 (+$6 shipping).  It's really subtle.  You look at it an think, "Wow!  That's really cool!" ...What you -don't- think is... you know, at @$21/2 for 15 more pairs, you're actually going to spend well over $300 for this chess set...

So my boys watch commercials all the time.  My youngest, for his upcoming birthday wants the Cars 2 Video Game for xbox360.



He also wants The Color Splash Speedyway that he saw on television.



Fortunately for me (and for him), these are really the only 2 things he wants for his birthday.

But the ones that always make me both laugh and cringe are when my children watch infomercials.  For six months, I had to fend off my children trying to get me to order one of these.



And every time this commercial comes on,



my children tell me about how their beds give them back pains and aches and how they wake up more tired than when they went to bed in the first place.

Recently, we've started seeing these



and my youngest tells me about how his neck hurts when he wakes up and he has to flip all over his bed because his head gets hot, and it's his pillow (and needing a new bed) which is why he -never- goes to sleep (contrary to all the pictures I have showing otherwise (wink)).  (Although, I'll admit, this one looks like something I might try...)

When Your Baby Can Read came out,



my oldest kept trying to get me to get it for his little brother (even though he was already 2 and could talk).  It's another of these 'free trial offer for only $15, and another not mentioning what the real final price is.

I'd considered getting my boys the MUZZY Language set,



another 'try it free!' program....until I did the math and realized it would cost over $200.

On the one hand, this is a minor rant to how easy it is to target commercials to children.  It makes me feel better to know I'm up to the challenge to (usually) say, 'No.'

But it also provides me the opportunity to teach a VERY valuable lesson:  That what you see and what they say are not always, and even, not USUALLY what the actual final price you end up paying is.  When 'free' actually equals $200 ...it's not very free, now is it?

And in most instances, it's not even worth it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Korean Stir-Fry and My first attempt at Wontons

This spring, my friend Carrie had me try wontons again.  You know the ones-- deep fried and filled with cream cheese.  And for the first time ever, I liked them.  So when I was visiting with my Mom in Missouri and we went to the Korean restaurant, I had them again.  Yup.  Definitely like them.

So earlier this week, I went to the local Korean grocery store for supplies.  To make tonight's Korean Stir-Fry, first, I made pulled pork two days ago....although that was actually just to make pulled pork barbeque, so I'll share that recipe as well.

Pulled pork

Get a pork shoulder and a deep baking dish.  Season your meat as you will (I used garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper).  Seal the baking dish with tin foil.  Bake over night at roughly 200.  I put it in at 6 pm the night before and pulled it out at 7:30 the next morning.  Then you separate the meat from the fat and the bone and 'shred' the meat with a couple of forks.  I like to mix mine with barbeque sauce and horseradish before putting in on a kaiser roll.

So, back to the Korean Stir-Fry (;

Ingredients
Pulled pork
Cellephane Noodles
Shredded carrots
Shredded zuccini
Whole button mushrooms (Okay, that's probably -not- what they're actually called, but they're the little ones, not shittaki or anything)
Beansprout Kimchee
Spinache Kimchee  (Rinse both of the Kimchees to take off the majority of the spice, or don't if your family likes their meal spicy)
Sesame Oil
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Salt
Pepper

Prepare the Glass Noodles as directed on the package (It general reads-- bring water to a boil, boil for 5 minutes, then rinse under cold water twice before mixing with other ingredients).

In a Stir-Fry pan, heat the Sesame Oil-- you can start out with about a tablespoon or so, but you'll need to add a little more as you cook to make sure you have enough to lightly coat everything.  When it's warm, toss in the pork, season with the spices, then add the mushrooms.  When the mushrooms begin browning, add the carrots and give a couple of stirs.  Then add the zucchini.  Just before adding the noodles, stir in the kimchees.  It was easier for me to put the noodles back in the pot and dump the rest of it on top of them and stir them in from there.

Wontons

Like the Korean Stir-Fry, I wasn't going from a recipe.  You can probably tell since nothing comes in measurements (;  I was shopping at Wal-Mart the other day and saw Wonton wrappers and figured I'd give it a go.  When I headed over to the cream cheese section, I saw these new little containers labeled 'for cooking'.  My family adores garlic, so I got the garlic seasoned cream cheese.

I use a fry-daddy.  One of the best and frequently used purchases Mark and I have every made.  We keep ours filled with Canola Oil.

I like to get set up-- a plate for making the wontons on and setting the finished ones off to the side, and a bowl of water.  Then you place a single square of wonton wrapper on the plate, put a spoon drop of cream cheese in the very center, then dip your finger in the water.  Run it along an 'L' (2 edges that join in a corner) of the square.  I usually have to dip my finger in the water again before doing the second side of the L . Then fold the dry side over in a triangle to the wet sides and press down all the way around the edges.  If you don't put too much cream cheese in the center, they won't leak out.  After you've sealed the edges, gentle pick up the corners and put a small press in the center to fold the two ends together.  Press them together.  There are pretty comprehensive directions here if mine are unclear (I headed there looking for a good picture of what they look like (lol)).

Once the oil is hot and you have at least 8 made, gently put them in the oil.  They don't need flipped over or anything.  They sink, then rise.  And they're done -very- quickly.  Get them out with a metal straining spoon when they turn golden brown, and put on paper towel to drain a little bit before serving.  My guys and I enjoyed them so much, I'm fairly certain I'll be making more again later this evening (:

And enjoy!