August Goals

For August, I’m hoping for a 12 Goal sweep.  A lot of the goals I’m not too worried about: the kitchen ones, outing, books, and movies (though I do want to spread them out more).

I got some online instructions through Amazon I’m hoping will help me with the bass and guitar.  As for the others, if I can simply keep to the schedule I’m going to come up with, I should be fine.

Also kind of excited about eggplant.

  • Bread: Pizza Crust
  • Vegetable: Eggplant
  • Cheesecake: Cinnabon (or some sort of cinnamon).
  • Outing: Mill City Museum
  • Book: Jules Verne (got a couple to choose from; may do more than one).
  • Movies (* denotes one I haven’t seen since I was much younger):
    • Sound of Music*
    • A Man for All Seasons
    • In the Heat of the Night
    • Oliver*
    • Midnight Cowboy
    • French Connection
    • The Sting
    • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Classical Guitar: 10 x 20 minute practice sessions (minimum)
  • Bass Guitar: 10 x 20 minute practice sessions (minimum)
  • Blog: Article on writing combat
  • Free: Add 20,000 words to my book
  • Free: Bike 160 miles (I am really enjoying the challenge of this one, and without a Warrior dash to take me down I should be able to do it).
  • Free: Organize my apartment.

July Review

July did not go as well as June did.

Five Successes – Salted Caramel Cheesecake, Slaughterhouse Five, Como Zoo, 8 Movies and trying to be a Vegetarian for a week.

Three Partial Successes – Summer Squash, Scones and 20 minutes of exercise.

Three Started – Acoustic Practice, Blog articles, and Biking

Not Started – Bass Practice

I can procrastinate with the best of them, and despite my calendar I built up at the beginning of the month (which worked for June) I procrastinated right out of July.  The biking, however, was failed because of bike repairs and then recovery from the Warrior Dash.

A note on 20 minutes of Exercise: While trying to do 20 minutes every day may have been too much, I did discover that I enjoy Yoga.  I’m hoping to add that to my exercise routine, especially when winter comes and I’m not biking as much.

Free Goal: My time as a vegetarian

My goal was to spend seven days as a vegetarian.  Why?  Well, a number of reasons come to mind:

  • Try out the new confidence with vegetables.
  • Avoid the cost of meant
  • Cut the extra calories
  • And, just to see if I could do it.

In the last two weeks, I’ve only had one meal which I knew I was having meat, and two which were surprises (I’ll explain below).

In all honestly, switching to a vegetarian plan was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  My breakfasts are often cereal or some baked good, I had some plans for homemade meals, and the Minneapolis sky-way has more than enough options to explore.  Every once in a while, I had some cravings (pepperoni and hot dogs were the most common), but I did not succumb.  As I said above, I had one meal I knew I was having meat in, and that was after I finished the Warrior Dash.  I thought that warranted a burger with bacon and blue cheese.

So what did I learn?

Vegetarian food can be very delicious…

I’ve discovered that I enjoy vegetarian burritos.  The local taco shop makes a decent one.  I also tried Chipotle’s sofritas (spiced tofu).  Not bad.  Pasta without meat can be pretty good, though considering how much cheese I add I shouldn’t be too surprised at that.  There were a couple of recipes I didn’t get around to trying, but there’s no reason I can’t attempts them in the future.

…but it isn’t always

A recommended vegetarian sandwich at a chain shop was very difficult to get through; not only was the bread thick and rough, but the filling wasn’t very good.

Beware bacon!

Both instances of unexpected carnivorous meals happened because of bacon.  The first time, I ordered a salad without realizing that it included bacon bits (which, someone pointed out to me, might not have actually been bacon).  The second time, little bits of bacon were in a soup.  That time, I’m sure it was bacon.

It is amusing to consider that bacon has become so prevalent that it is used as a garnishment in many meals.  It was the one meat I thought I would have cravings for over the week, but it wasn’t.

Post-Try considerations

As I sit here, at lunch, eating a piece of Pepperoni and sausage pizza, I reflect on my experiment.  I’m definitely glad I did this.

I don’t think I could go full vegetarian for long, but I’m certainly willing to try several days a week.  Not only is it (probably) healthier, but it should cut down on expenses, as meat has been consistently one of the more expensive items on my grocery list.

About the only annoying thing was group events.  When we get together for gaming or whatnot, we sometimes order food, as many groups do.  I lucked out that when we did, we ordered Chinese food (where we each got our own thing), but I worried about having to order a pizza just for me, or having to avoid eating with my friends.  In the future, I’m giving myself a pass for social meals.

I’ve made the comment to my friends before that there is a difference between knowing something (intellectually) and Knowing something (making it a part of your life).  This experiment showed me that vegetarian food could be really good, which I knew, but had not experienced.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open for vegetarian options from now on.

Two Sauces: Mushroom and Hollandaise

I did manage to get two more sauces done before the end of the month.

20150622_184216 First was a Mushroom Sauce recipe, a ‘Quick and Easy’ recipe that is basically mushrooms and onion in a broth of stock thickened with butter.  It turned out pretty well.  I had it with Chicken (though I found it as a steak sauce).

Second, and most importantly, was my attempt to make Hollandaise sauce.

I love Hollandaise sauce.  It is a favorite of mine, and I always seriously consider the dishes that come with it when I go out to eat.  When I’ve made it at home before, it’s been one of those packs you milk and butter to, but never have I tried making it from scratch.

20150625_180905The recipe I found was pretty simple.  I actually had all the ingredients at home already, so it was just a question of giving it a shot.  So I made the sauce, along with oven roasted asparagus and salmon.

It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste much of anything.  When I used it on the asparagus it tasted like a more buttery asparagus.  The cayenne and white pepper just sort of disappeared.  I brought the leftovers in for lunch the next day, adding a bit more seasoning, at which point the sauce went from bland to ‘far too spicy.’  Obviously, this will require a lot of work.  Maybe I’ll try to find a different recipe before I try again.  But I don’t want to give up on either recipe.

Recipes: Three in one night

For whatever reason, I felt the need to just cook up a storm last night.  Today, I’m looking at the piles of dishes I need to do, but last night, I was well fed.

Recipe One: Farro Salad with Fava Beans (Kind of) – Vegetable Goal

20150606_184326I say kind of because I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.  First off, I used spinach instead of Kale, because I was buying spinach for another recipe.  Second, I completely forgot to get Farro.  Third, my garlic was bad, so I substituted garlic salt, which was my best choice under the circumstances.

The result was pretty salty, but not bad.  I’m going to buy some more spinach and mix it in to try and dilute the saltiness.  And, later one, buy the actual ingredients I need to be able to make it right and proper.

 

Recipe Two: Bacon Spinach Feta Muffin Loaf – Bread Goal

20150606_183352 I debated making this as either 12 muffins or one loaf, but went with the loaf because reasons.

In truth, I forgot the onion for this recipe (I needed two, I bought one, and used it for the third recipe).  I’m also not sure I baked this one all the way.  True, the knife went in and came out clean, but the dough was just not 100% firm.  Solid, but spongy.  20150606_193120

Still the result is incredible, and I’m glad I pitched in a few extra bucks for the thick, black peppercorn bacon.  I’d make an effort to cut the spinach into smaller batches, or even use less spinach.

Definitely a recipe to make again…when bacon is on sale.

Recipe Three: Slow Cooker Red Thai Chicken Curry – Sauce Goal

This one started first and finished last (‘Slow Cooking Takes Time’ – Captain Obvious).

20150606_221519A friend of mine has made this several times and sent me the recipe.  She still makes it better.  I actually followed this recipe all the way, so at this point it’s just practice.  Luckily, the almost intimidating mass of ingredients are largely things that’ll last for a number of batches, so all I need are the veggies, meat and coconut milk and I can try again.

Maybe on a stove-stop, next time.

Recipes – Roasted Asparagus and Pan fried Tilapia

20150508_215848Friday night I went for two goals in one.

I picked up some asparagus from the store and drizzled it with olive oil and kosher salt.  Roasted in the oven for about thirty minutes, turning the stalks every five minutes or so.  I had some Parmesan on the side, just to try out.

Second, I picked up two pieces of tilapia.  These I cooked in a pan glazed in olive oil.  The fish I sprinkled with kosher salt and mixed peppercorn, flipping every few minutes to keep it from getting burned.

The result was very tasty, especially with the red wine.  I might have used too much salt on the tilapia, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the dish.  I just hope I find equally useful recipes for other types of fish.

Free Goal: Ethnic Food – Korean

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Between work and hanging out with friends, I made a detour to a Korean restaurant in Minneapolis to try some Korean food.  I told the hostess that I had never tried Korean food, and if she would recommend anything for me.  After asking about my level of spiciness, I ended up with a healthy meal of Dolsot Bibimbap.

The earthenware bowl sizzled for ten minutes.  I couldn’t name all the vegetables involved, but it tasted great.  I may have been a little disappointed in the small amount of Beef involved, but it was very little as I ran through the bowl.

The side dishes were equally fun.  Kimchi, sweetened potatoes, seaweed, cucumber and fish strips.  I even added some of the hot paste to mix things up a bit.

I’m interested in learning more about Koran cuisine. I’m even more interested in earthenware bowls.  Perhaps homemade kimchi is not to far in my future.

Free Goal: Ethnic Food – Thai

20150409_185836I mentioned to a friend of mine I wanted to try Thai food; she told me I had.

I didn’t realize Thai food could include curry.  And I fully admit this is a ‘stupid American’ moment, but that’s one of the reasons to try new things.  Even if that includes a surprise.

During a writing night she made this red curry based dish, with rice and a chutny side.  Thankfully she put the cilantro to the side.  Holy crap was this good.  I seriously need to revisit this and learn how to make it myself.

We also discussed other Ethnic dishes to try.  Hopefully, they’ll turn out as awesome as this did.

Video Game: Tomb Raider (2013)

TombRaider2013

Lara: They’re killing people…I don’t know who they are.  I had to kill some of them, I had no choice.

Roth: Can’t have been easy.

Lara: It’s scary how easy it was.

I tried the original Tomb Raider games way back when, but never got into them.  I only got this one because it came with the new 360 I purchased when I moved.  And I have to admit I was impressed.

The plot is pretty simple: you and your friends are shipwrecked on an island south of Japan.  An island inhabited by deranged cultists and ancient magics.  Getting off the island is no simple task, and soon you are in a fight for your life.

Did I enjoy the game?  Yes.

What did I like: This is not the Lara Croft who lives in a mansion and seeks out ancient tombs with confidence.  This is a young Lara Croft who has not yet awaken to the dangers, either mystical or human, that she will deal with in her chosen profession.  The growth of the character in accepting the mystical of the world around her, and the actions she’s willing to take to survive, was very enjoyable to play through.

Besides the main character, I enjoyed the interactions with and between the secondary characters.  They all had their own personalities and goals, and they did not always get along with each other or with Lara.

And as a history major, I must admit I enjoyed the history of the island as portrayed in the game.  Much of it was ancient Japanese, with great castles, tall houses, and artifacts from the time when this island was a kingdom in its own right.  More modern artifacts, from dairy entries of a Marine who landed on the island to crashed aircraft, rusted tanks and Japanese bunkers all tell the tale of the island through the centuries.

What I did not like: Lara kills a lot of people.  Video game violence is not something I’m unused to, but this still bugged me for two reasons.  First off, she goes from ‘innocent survivor’ to ‘commando’ pretty quickly.  Her actions did not match the emotions and dialogue of the character very well.

Secondly, I bugged me that she was not allowed to find ways around bad guys.  If your character is meant to be a thinker, forcing the character into violence limits the possibilities.  This reason probably stems from my enjoyment of the Mass Effect series, where most problems have several possible solutions, not all of them violent.   And since this is not a First Person Shooter, but a puzzle solving game, I would have liked to see more puzzle solving that gets Lara around the bad guys.  Instead of through them.

I don’t know if this game has much replay value.  I got all of the challenges and historical relics, the journal entries and tombs.  It might be fun to play through and take a look at the foreshadowing (if there is any), but if I did it would probably not be a thorough grab-everything play through.  Still, it was fun to play the first time, and has me paying attention to the franchise.